As a mother of a child with cystic fibrosis, a part of me has been training for this pandemic for years. Every winter since my son, Vance, was born, we have taken extreme caution when leaving the house and inviting people over. The week before the “shutdown” I had already pulled Vance from school because he had another high fever and cough. After a week of blood tests, a lung X-ray, antibiotics, and increased nebulizer treatments (you know the drill), we were exhausted. Then the shutdown happened. I have to say, at first this made me feel less alone. We have had to isolate in the past while enduring that fear of missing out (FOMO) feeling we got while seeing our friends on social media living their ”best lives.” So, it was nice to have company. But of course, the inevitable happened: remote learning.
To be honest, I don’t consider myself a good teacher. I would say I am a good mother but teaching my child how to read -- no, nope, I was not born with that type of patience. But hey, I said to myself, “I can do this, I can make this so fun and so awesome. We’ll learn using nature and recipes -- this going to be great.” Well, my cute ideas lasted only about 45 minutes, and that was when I realized I was in trouble. The next few months were challenging to say the least.
But, like all CF families, we do difficult things every day -- usually before most people wake up in the morning. I knew we could get through this.
I know I am his mother, and that Vance is very smart and enjoys learning, but those three months of remote learning (aka “Did I miss his Zoom meeting?!”) were INTENSE. Vance finished first grade and although he is not quite reading the encyclopedia, he learned a lot -- and so did I. I wasn’t planning to have Vance or my other son, Hayes, go back to school in the fall, but when the reality really sank in all I could do was think … “how?” (Do you know that emoji with the straight mouth and wide eyes? That was my face for about a month.)
Then I realized the best thing I could do was act. Now my husband, Grant, and I are not “house project people.” We don't watch house project shows, and other than painting and when Grant fixed the garbage disposal, we typically call a professional. But since we are isolating now, we thought a family project would be a great distraction. So we decided to convert our messy garage into a classroom.
Part of the frustration of homeschooling was our dining room was the classroom; the table was covered in worksheets, random Legos, and broken crayons -- and we still have no idea where the pencil sharpener went. If we were going to homeschool again, we were going to be prepared. So, we hung sheetrock, spackled, sanded, painted, stained the floor, moved furniture like Tetris, decorated, and BAM we have a classroom! If you are wondering if this will change my teaching abilities, probably not; but getting into action has helped me feel in control, which is what I needed during this time. As CF parents we know we can't change what’s going on, but we can work on making the experience better. I must say, Grant and I are very impressed with our work, but it definitely has that DIY look.
Although it’s far from perfect, we have a space to learn, to bond, and to make the best of this, just like cystic fibrosis has taught us to do over the past seven years.
Now that we’ve assembled our homeschool space, here are some tips for making a space of your own:
- Use what you have: Do an inventory of your crafts and school supplies before you begin. I also hung Vance’s class picture from last year in his learning corner and his face lit up when he saw it!
- Bring nature in: We have a beautiful collection of seashells, a couple abandoned birds’ nests, and a few feathers we have found in our neighborhood. The boys are always so proud of these finds, but they often forget about them and toss them away after a few days. Instead, I decorated with these things and the boys love it!
- Have the family help: Hayes, our 3-year-old, begged us to let him help paint. Usually I would be a total control freak, but I wanted the kids to be excited about their space. Vance sanded down the rough spots and Hayes used the paint roller. Like most chores, their involvement in the project was short lived. However, when the room was complete both boys had a sense of pride.
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