“Pop! Can you help me with this?” is the SOS call I heard this morning, loud and clear from a distance.
It’s the day before virtual school begins for everyone at Turquoise Trail Charter School (TTCS), as well as all public schools in Santa Fe, and I’m already getting distress signals from across the house.
Despite the tone of urgency, I arrive to find out Olivia has taken the initiative to attempt some advanced math problems, so that she can get ahead of the game. It requires knowledge of fractions and whole numbers and so I’m surprised to see that third graders are tackling this already.
Being that she doesn’t understand the rather simple equation, I explain it and then ask, “Did you learn this in class already?”
“No,” she replies, “I’m testing at a higher grade level, so I don’t have to do this work later. You can leave now.”
All but ten minutes later as I am writing this musing I hear Olivia Luz, again. “Pop! The boys just went poop on the rug!”
It’s all a perfect example of many of the disruptive moments that I anticipate in the next coming weeks and a poignant reminder of why my fellow Santa Fesinos with school children at home need to remember to BREATH DEEPLY.
Recently, I had the privilege to remind everyone in this same situation to remain calm and press on, when I talked on the radio with Chris Eide, head administrator at TTCS and radio show host Adi Gonzales at KSWV Suave Radio 99.9FM 810AM, who also has children at the school.
Although Chris reassured listeners the school was prepared for the daunting task before us, especially because it had established a successful virtual academy for students who are unable or choose not to attend classes in person, I served as the parental voice of reason, “Yes, the school may be ready, and for that we are grateful, but speaking on behalf of all parents - WE may not be…”
I’m the first to admit, that even though we went through a virtual year back in New York, circumstances have changed substantially for us. We’re in a new town, in a new home, living an extraordinarily different and often “inconvenient” life, and we’ve got less help at home while we establish and build Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms.
Moreover, there’s growing pressure from companies to bring employees back into the office, which will inevitably be stressful for parents with school children.
Throughout 2020 and for half of 2021, we were Uber lucky to have had the help of Super Luisa, our last au pair out of a dozen over the last nine years. She excelled so well at everything that moving our family across the country and her return to Brazil made our parting exceedingly bittersweet.
While she was with us she kept the kids engaged with their online classes, was always there to help with homework and made sure that they completed their assignments. With great confidence, Chelsea and I were able to focus on our day jobs and I was able to run the household, while mama served on the frontline day in and day out of the pandemic.
After moving here in mid-May and the kids starting school in August, we were able to adjust fairly well to Life without Luisa, especially since the kids were at school in person every day.
But now, I’m anxiously waiting to see how this all pans out, because the doctor is still working long hours and I’m still working from home remotely, which has been going well and smoothly - up to now. Because apart from occasionally having to check on the chickens and ducks, and let the dogs out every once in a while to relieve themselves, Ive been mostly working from home alone with few interruptions.
Thus, in addition to addressing the mostly unnecessary “needs” of my children, now I’ll have to make sure they’re fed, inevitably break up fights, often ask them to quiet down and deal with the educational and technical issues that will assuredly arise.
For example, today I picked up their Chrome books and upon returning home we immediately tried to set up their study stations, so that they’re ready to go at 7:50 tomorrow morning.
However, I immediately discovered that we didn’t have their “student IDs” to log in, which meant I had to spend some time reaching out to their teachers and school administrators. Luckily, they responded pretty quickly, and we were able to log in, but then came the connection issues.
Although we have a pretty good internet connection, considering we now live in the country, off a dirt road, far away from strip malls and buried fiber optic lines, I do expect things to run dial-up speeds sometimes, as they have been running for most of this morning.
With three people online and sometimes streaming simultaneously, it was bound to happen, especially since our average download speed is 20-25 MB. In Peekskill, we were running on the Autobahn of high speed highways with a 1 Gigabyte router, which is 40x what we have here.
Plus, not only is a full house impacting our network, but the fact that many students county-wide are likewise at home gaming, streaming and otherwise crowding the information intertube, is and will continue to cause a frustrating virtual work and school experience.
So, remember: BREATH DEEPLY, for we’ve only just begun.
It may not serve as much consolation for those who can read this missive, but in discussions I’ve had with school leaders I was told an estimated 15% of the 800 students will “go dark.” Meaning, they will not be present at all during this virtual period for a variety of reasons including no internet access, parental absences or lack of guardians to guide them at home, or any number other issues that prevent them from being able to easily join their classmates online.
So, although this situation may feel like quite a bane for many parents, it can also be seen as a blessing. For despite the inevitable frustration and struggle, when we compare our situations to those children and families that are far less fortunate, we find that we are damned lucky.
In whatever position you may be in with your children remotely learning once again, you’ve got little choice but to start by sparing your sanity by remembering - BREATH DEEPLY.