Sure, we’re facing a few extra challenges this fall — a global pandemic that has had us isolating for six months; an economic catastrophe sure to grow even more grave as we limp into winter; a West Coast on fire; and an unhinged president who, with help from his soulless loyalists, appears happy to leave much of the nation for dead.
But hey kids, who’s ready to learn?
My son’s school, like many others, will be starting this year remotely. Yay! My family, totally not sick of each other after six months in each other’s faces day after day after day after day, gets to spend yet more time in each other’s company! Who wouldn’t want a few more weeks of every-minute togetherness or — if things go badly, and there’s another spike in infections — another whole school year dear God no. But hey, we’ll make it super fun, fam!
For example, there will be way less yelling, as our household finally locates a civility that has heretofore eluded us (You’re welcome, neighbors!). I’ve been reading a lot of advice on how to do remote learning right, and it seems the key is setting clear boundaries, then respecting them. So simple!
No more threats to make him do reading or math. No more bribing, begging, dealmaking, crying, or scaring him about his future prospects. At regular family meetings, we will mutually agree — perhaps there will be freshly-baked cookies — on expectations and reasonable, proportionate consequences, and then it will all come to pass. Each day will be a festival of extreme order and productivity. The top halves of his outfits will be freshly laundered and not slept in. There will definitely not be an unmade bed, giant piles of clothes, random papers, and other chaos and decay strewn about just off-camera.
And when my angel’s schoolwork is done, there will be strict limits on his personal screen time, when he will access edifying content that will enrich his soul, and only after daily calisthenics (and, depending on what happens in the fall, exercises in foraging and falconry to prepare for societal collapse, should that happen).
No longer will his grown-ups turn a blind eye to his hours spent scrolling through the bottomless, soul-destroying well of junk that is TikTok just so they can please, please make deadline just this once. What kind of lousy parent does that — or is, say, doing it right now because this column is due in 42 minutes?
The current system by which his parents signal they are not to be interrupted — cries of “Working!” and “So help me God, buddy!” or, the frantic hand-waving-death-stare combo if they’re on a call — will be replaced with a system of cute cards affixed to the home office door: Green for “Come on in, honey;” Orange for “Come in but communicate nonverbally;” Red for “So help me God, buddy!” Also under consideration: a moat.
Ah, it will be glorious. And super calm. Because that’s how the best learning happens. To that end, I will absolutely get a handle on my resentment of parents with the means to start private education pods, hiring teachers and turning their basements or pool houses into darling little one-room schoolhouses that deepen inequality. Nor will I be consumed with guilt and rage about the kids at the other end of this messed-up spectrum — whose families are in crisis, whose parents can’t work from home or at all, who haven’t the technology, safety, or space they need to learn.
I will try not to think about these things, because it makes me want to throttle someone, and we’re all about serenity in our house, starting now.
It’s all going to be fantastic. I am so excited! Aren’t you?