Abcarian: What could go wrong with home schooling?
I started the week determined to become the perfect home- schooling parent. What could possibly go wrong? My great-niece, who lives with me, would work on her laptop. I would work on mine. We would break for lunch, then resume our work until 3 p.m. or so.
In preparation, because I am on top of this thing, I rearranged the living room to make it look more like a classroom. Down came a favorite painting. Up went a big, white dry-erase board. Here, on this blank slate, I would create the perfect home-school schedule.
“Your New Classroom,” I wrote in blue ink.
Under that, I wrote, “Read 20 minutes X 2.”
“Art + creative time.”
“TV, but only educational.”
“Beach?” (Gotta have PE.)
I keenly felt my responsibility to oversee the academic development of this child who moved in with me 14 months ago, lest she fall behind and become the kind of fifth grader who hangs around the alley smoking, doesn’t get into the “right” middle school and is consigned to a life of minimum-wage work.
She had attended four schools in two years, so she needs stability. I will not allow this disruption to throw her off track. Getting her through fourth grade with flying colors will be my victory garden, my Rosie the Riveter moment, my Rocky on the steps.
What I forgot to factor in was that I am used to working alone, that she likes to sing at the top of her lungs while studying, and that I would have to do my best to keep her away from her 91-year-old great-grandfather, my father, who lives by himself a few steps from our apartment and pops in several times a day.
My dad, who was once warned by the FBI to stop illegally downloading movies on the Pirate Bay, has been having some trouble remembering the finer points of the technology he had once mastered. I am his on-call IT person, which can be a bit stressful as I am hardly a techie.
Adding to our household’s natural tension, my father first reacted to the concept of social distancing as if it had been foisted on him by terrorists rather than an insidious new virus.
“I’m not going to let this change the way I live my life!” he told me angrily when I handed him a big container of Clorox disinfecting wipes and begged him to stay away from Costco, his happy place.
A day later, he appeared on my doorstep, a convert to the new reality. “Don’t worry,” he said, handing me the newspaper. “I already wiped it down.”
“Don’t let him in!” shrieked the fourth grader, who was lying on the couch with her Chromebook.
“Honey,” I told her, “we are protecting him from you, not the other way around.”
She seemed deflated, then went back to her laptop, where she was not watching “Math Antics,” or anything else remotely educational, but a YouTube series called “Toy School.” It’s nothing but a long commercial in a cutesy disguise. Every once in a while, she puts down her laptop and runs over to her birthday wish list to jot down another toy.