Time is Meaningless

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room)

Me: (resigned) Okay, smalls, the school has encouraged twenty minutes a day on each of your two learning programs to make sure you’re all caught up for the fall. I don’t want any arguing. You can play video games after your work. Capisce?

Gamma/Delta: (in cheery chorus) Yes mom!

Gamma: Can we have snacks?

Me: Yes, as long as you work.

Gamma/Delta: (wailing) WE’VE BEEN WORKING FOREVER WHY AREN’T WE DONE!

Me: Its twenty minutes of work, not twenty minutes staring and the screen. You’ve done one question! Finish the rest of the questions and you’ll be done!

Gamma/Delta: (moar wailing) THE CLOCK SAYS WE’VE BEEN HERE FOR THIRTY MINUTES WHY WON’T YOU LET US PLAY VIDEO GAMES!?

Me: (trying not to cry) You’ve only done two questions! You have to do all the questions in the practice session!

(dramatic music, fade to black, cut to White Girl Wine Commercial)

Helping the Revolution

(scene opens in cluttered dining room, Pandemic Homeschool in progress)

Carrot: Okay after you draw your picture, we have to write sentences.

Delta: (scribbles out a snowman) Done!

Carrot: Write “My snowman has long hair”

(twenty minute montage of this being attempted)

Delta: Done!

Carrot: (slightly frazzled) Okay, is your snowman a boy or girl? A he or she? Or is your snowman a they?

Delta: (thinks) My snowman is a they. Because snowmen can be boys or girls.

Carrot: Awesome. Write “They have long arms”.

(another twenty minute montage as Carrot sinks deeper into her coffee)

Delta: Mommy, this is my last one. Teacher says I only have to do two sentences, not three.

Carrot: (sigh) Honey, I am your teacher.

I feel seen

(scene opens in early morning kitchen)

Me: (muttering to self, running around first floor) Keys. Keys. Where are my keys? Wallet?

Husband: (from kitchen) THE BEST OF US!

Me: (finds keys, enters kitchen) What?

Husband: (sitting on stool, zipping up Delta’s jacket) Tell mom what you just said, Delta.

Delta: (bundled up, ready for school) You do the most work in the house.

Me: (surprised, serious) Yes. Thank you for noticing. Let’s get in the car.

Husband: Have a good day at school, Delta!

Future Engineer

(scene opens in pandemic homeschool)

Beta: Mom, check my eyes? The question says “look at the slide on page eleven and describe a negative feed back loop”. But the slide that talks about negative feed backs is on page ten.

Me: And?

Beta: What should I do?

Me: Ignore page number and answer the question. The question is about negative feedback loop. Do you see the slide that talks about feedback?

Beta: Yes.

Me: Then talk about negative feedback.

Beta: (thinks a moment) I’m going to tell the teacher its on the wrong page.

Me: (sigh) Okay. But also answer the question about the negative feedback loop and don’t wait for her to say “Okay, look on page ten for the information”.

Distance Learning: K Edition

(scene opens at cluttered table)

Me: (bent over stale coffee gritting teeth) Again, Delta. Makes the “N” sound? List or Note?

Delta: (wailing) But I don’t know!

Me: Delta. What starts with the letter “N”? List or Note?

Delta: I don’t know!

Me: (surrenders, picks up toddler, tucks under arm, heads for stairs) Well, I guess you’re too tired to do your work. Nap time.

Delta: NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

Me: (stops) What letter does “No” start with?

Delta: THE LETTER N!

Me: (drops child) Is it the same sound as List or Note?

Delta: NOTE!

Me: (points to laptop) Go over there and push the right button so we can finish this level and move to the next one.

Life is a dark room

(scene opens in apocalypse homeschool)

Me: (at kid table with Chromebook) Okay, this assignment is “Draw a picture about what you liked about the story and record talking about it.” Like the last four hundred videos we watched.

Delta: I don’t like anything.

Me: I know. But you have to stop submitting blank pages, the teacher doesn’t like it. Could you pretend? For mommy?

Delta: (fills in the page with a single color) It’s all black. I like black. (hits submit button)

Me: (sighs) That’s fine. Let me get some more coffee before the teacher emails me again.

Bard From Another Timeline

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room)

Alpha: (stares angrily into space)

Me: (notices this, takes off headphones) What can I help you with?

Alpha: (frustrated) I’m supposed to read these short stories and write something about culture and how it defines us. You can’t help me.

Me: (sips coffee) Tell me about one of the stories. Maybe I can help you break down some thoughts.

Alpha: You can’t!

Me: Try me.

Alpha: Well, one is about this girl who’s embarrassed to stand in front of a 14 year old man and her dad burps when he eats fish. See? You can’t help me.

Me: (sips more coffee) By any chance is the 14 yr old boy the son of the pastor? A boy she has a crush on? When they come over for dinner, she’s totally embarrassed by the way her Chinese family is eating, and about dies when her dad offers her fish cheeks as the best part of the meal?

Alpha: (stares)

Me: So, yeah, that story is called “Fish Cheeks” and I read it when I was in school. A hundred years ago.

Alpha: (stares louder)

Me: (slurps coffee) Wanna tell me about the other two?

Alpha: (pouts, gets up, collects headphones) I’m going to join the Zoom classroom and ask questions.

You Had Options

(scene opens in pandemic living room, kids strewn about for reading hour)

Husband: (comes in looks around)

Me: (takes off head phones) Reading hour ends at 2.

Beta: (looks up) Maybe picking a book about a fast spreading virus was a bad choice.

Me: (no pity) Hey, I gave you one about aliens and horses and you didn’t like it. This is all on you.

They know a thing, too.

(scene opens at cluttered table)

Alpha: I need help finding references on how alcohol affects the body.

Me: Look up Betty Ford Clinic.

Alpha: Says page is denied.

Me: The school laptop won’t let you look up Betty Ford Clinic? That’s absurd. You can look it up on my computer and use it as a reference.

Alpha: But she’ll think I’m making it up if we can’t pull it up on a school computer.

Me: Trust me, the teachers will know what the clinic is and who Betty Ford is.

Why I get nothing done

(scene opens in school office)

Me: (holding snack pack and water bottle)
School Admin: (enters with morose Gamma) And she broke her promise.
Me: (hands over gear) You weren’t doing your work?
Gamma: (sadly) No. It was hard.
Me: (sigh) We do things not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard.

(school staff collectively stare)

Gamma: That makes no sense.
Me: How else are you going to learn if you only do what you already know? Get back to class, behave yourself. Yo quiero tú estudias espańol.
Gamma: Sí, mama.

(cut scene, mother walks into the house, sees school binder on the floor, picks it up, sighs, swears, heads back to school)

Ich bin müde

(Scene opens in tossed dining room)

Me: (looking up from laptop) What are you doing?
Alpha: My German homework.
Me: On your Chromebook?
Alpha: I’m using Google Translate.
Me: (headdesk) Ohmigod. You’ve been doing all your homework with Google Translate?! I think we’ve just figured out why you’re getting full points on homework and failing every test!
Alpha: (explosively defensive) I’m an idiot when it comes to my tests. I don’t know shit and I don’t know why!
Me: Because if you don’t try to memorize the vocab during homework, you won’t remember it for the tests! This is what studying is! (points to the page) “ein Ei essen”. What does that mean?
Alpha: (sullen) Don’t know.
Me: (exhausted) Ei is egg and essen is food.
Alpha: (sinks lower in his chair)
Me: Remember when you threw down at the beginning of the year about how what a waste of time doing DuoLingo was because it wasn’t exactly what you were covering in class? I now officially know more German than you. Now I get to order flash cards so I can quiz you on vocab for an hour every night.
Alpha: (headdesk)
Me: Yes, I’m very excited about it too.

Not Worth the Risk

(scene opens at cluttered dinning room table, strewn with scribbled notes in a childish hand)

Me: (looking over outline) Okay, now explain to me again what this paper is about.
Beta: I had to take two colleges that had programs I want and compare and contrast them. I want to go to Engineering, so I picked Tuskegee University and University of Florida.
Me: (slight disappointment) No MIT? Don’t want to be a pirate?
Beta: (shrugs) These two looked interesting.
Me: Well, I’m okay with going to Tuskegee. It’s a historically black college, just so you know and aren’t surprised when you get there. But I’m never sending you to Florida.
Beta: Why not?! I like warm sandy beaches.
Me: Then I’ll send you to the Mediterranean. Florida has something called “Florida Man” and it is the embodiment of all that is crazy and unstable in the human psyche. Why it only manifests in Florida, no one knows. Maybe its in the water, maybe its swamp gas. There are so many other Engineering schools that I can – and will – send you.
Beta: Is Florida Man like Big Foot?
Me: Crazier. He’ll eat your face.