How to Hold a Pencil: The truth of online learning during the quarantine

It seems like forever ago that we all said, “Screens are bad!”


Allison Lane

3 years ago | 3 min read

It seems like forever ago that we all said, “Screens are bad!”

Oh yeah? That was yesteryear. This is now. And our kids now spend 10 hours on screens each day. Still, our 3rd and 6th graders are not enjoying our daily schedules. I can’t imagine why.

7:30 a.m. WAKE UP. You’re tired? Dangit, we’ve been up since 6. Brush your teeth and hair. Try again. Get dressed in clothes you did NOT sleep in. Feed the dogs. Yes, give them water too. All living things need water. Stop fighting.

8 a.m. EAT breakfast. Why we have to point this out, I’ll never know. If we didn’t, they’d skip it and then — 12 minutes later — complain they’re hungry. Nice voices, please.

8:30 a.m. RUN 3 laps to the bus stop, through the woods, and back to our cul-de-sac. We time the kids for their P.E. logs. It might be chilly, but you’re only cold because you’re dressed for a tropical get-away. No, we can’t go on vacation to the Caribbean. Yes, I know your friends went on a cruise. That’s their family. This is ours. It’s 40-degrees here, put on some clothes.

9 a.m. PREPARE for school. Laptops ready. Pull up Google Classrooms. No, not in your beds. Get paper and a pencil. Yes, you have to take notes.

9:15 a.m. START with Social Studies and Language Arts. Instruction starts with YouTube videos. I spend 10 minutes adjusting the kids’ internet access to allow viewing outside Google Classrooms. Unfortunately, Youtube access also provides hours of Ariana Grande and Fortnite videos.

9:30 a.m. My hubs and I make something to eat, and head to work. aka our separate corners.

11 a.m. CHECKPOINT. While the kids walk the dogs, I peek at their desks. No notes have been taken. None. The 6th grader doing Math 6/7 now has an “out” for not showing work. Effing multiple choice. The schoolwork is ALL online. Even art doesn’t require our 3rd grader to show the art. Just to type their steps into a file. wtf? I REHEAT my oatmeal breakfast and reposition the kids. This time, take notes.

12:30 p.m. ASSESS situation. No notes are taken. 6th grader submitted Social Studies, cutting/pasting 3 answers from the article. 3rd grader watches all the videos over and over and over. I REHEAT my oatmeal breakfast. Again.

12:55 p.m. LUNCH. Reheat pizza from yesterday or maybe from the day before yesterday. Who can keep track?

1:30 p.m. RESTART SCHOOL DAY. Where are the pencils? Everyone has forgotten how to sharpen a pencil. Or hold a pencil. Or what a pencil is for. (sigh)

2:45 p.m. CHECKPOINT. 3rd grader (gifted artist) is sketching artwork onscreen, with lines and scribbles. 6th grader says his desk chair hurts his back. Yup, me too. He’s watching YouTube videos of Simon Bolivar.

4:15 p.m. LAST DITCH. What have we done today? Videos. 3rd grader now types 90 words a minute and has discovered a dictation app on Google Classroom. 6th grader discovered back door to Roblox, allowing for offline access. I am getting better at 3rd-grade math. Hubs taught our 6th grader to do calculus in his head. I am the butt of all math jokes.

5:30 p.m. EAT what’s put in front of you. So glad that the hubs and I decided to go vegan in January. #note to self: before a nutrition detour, learn which ingredients are needed to cook in that genre. e.g. Beyond Beef is the best plant-based ground beef. Knowledge gleaned from many concoctions. Everyone now expects jasmine rice with every meal.

6:30 p.m. MANDATORY SIBLING INTERACTION, non-screen. Stratego. Connect Four. Actual talking. Stop fighting.

7:30 p.m. KID WASHING. Take a bath or shower. Your choice: bath or shower. Try again. We consider installing a revolving door on the bathroom. We vow to facilitate effective hygiene protocols, complete with shampooing to the scalp and rinsing conditioner from the hair.

8 p.m. KID READING TIME. No reading is accomplished, despite 20 books grabbed from the library on the last day before quarantined. Faint squabbling overheard. Stop fighting!

8:20 p.m. KIDS WASHING, ROUND 2. Brush teeth, neglected in the KID WASHING period. We vow to facilitate oral hygiene skills training with red chewable tablets from the 80s, and the dreaded step 2…. FLOSSING.

8:15 p.m. WINE O’CLOCK. We enter whack-a-kid hour as they pop up from their bedrooms. We peek at Google Classrooms, realize none of the work done today required pencil and paper. We vow to facilitate actual writing skills with letters to Grandma and Aunt Nancy and Aunt Cory and each other.

9:15 p.m. DOG WALKING. Shuffle around, getting tangled in the double leash, MacGyvered to accommodate lunges from our 80 lb dog and 11 lb dog as they pursue a herd of quiet deer and one confused mangy fox.

9:45 p.m. COLLAPSE INTO BED. Put my pencil and paper on my bedside table, in case I am struck by brilliant parenting tactics to deploy tomorrow. Fingers crossed.


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Allison Lane

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