I paused today as I unplugged the cords to return my daughter’s computer to her room.
For 77 days, our magical, mercurial middle school stood strong, a testament to an experiment in homeschooling which I hope never to try again. As a sixth-grader, she had no major life events to check off, only the hard task of learning and working from home.
During that time, Google Meets with her classes competed against Zoom conferences with my work. Some days, tears and yelling matches won the day. Other days, I marveled as my daughter and I learned about the Middle Ages, or how to calculate the mean, median, and mode, or the 78 moons of Jupiter (depending on which science website she found). I do not know if I ever could be a teacher, despite my longing to do so someday.
As I shut down her learning center, she slept. More often than not, her evenings have consisted of Houseparty calls, FaceTiming, and binge-watching Netflix shows while group chatting.
While I haven’t let her pull any late nights, clearly I’ve allowed much more social media access to balance out our social distancing.
Trying to fit some family moments in between these social moments has challenged me, but family time remains as important. We bonded more during this time, yet we also argued more. No school and no sports took a toll on each us, but we also managed to find moments to connect with neighbors and teammates and friends. Resisting the human need to connect has not been easy during this pandemic, but my daughter managed it with aplomb and appropriate spacing.
My task of shuttering our school brought my thoughts to the present. I gathered school assignments I will save, storing them with other schoolwork collected over the years, her academic time capsule. I reminisced over the art projects she took on during this time, from glue-based sun catchers to oil pastel aliens to fashion drawings. I stood looking with some guilt at the projects we did not complete, such as the decorate-your-own-kite kits, assorted puzzles we never tackled, the ukulele that needs only to be glued together, and a few LEGO mini sets unassembled.
She had had a final trivia contest in two classes. She had turned in her last assignment, hoping it would also be the last home-based assignment she would complete.
A few days ago, with masks on, we drove to her real school to return textbooks and to retrieve her locker contents. Because we could not actually leave the car, a homemade sign taped to the door served as the only farewell we could give to our teachers, who have truly become part of our family. How could they not when I ask them to spend a large portion of each year with my daughter? They could not hug any students to tell them how much they impacted their lives. They could not utter words, except behind cotton masks. More than a few tears, as well as knowing glances with parents, filled their eyes. I know they’re hoping they never have to do this again, either.
An antiseptic end to the academic year left everyone empty.
Now, my mobile office in our kitchen is all that remains of our school year.
I canceled the daily reminders on Alexa.
I took down dry-erase boards.
I tossed out broken or stubby pencils and wiped down the table.
I let my daughter sleep through it because summer has arrived. There will be time for summer reading another day.