By Becki Bowman
7:30 a.m.—I wake-up. But really, why? There’s nowhere to go or be this early. I can hear my younger kids talking and laughing in their room. It won’t be long before they come to get me. I’ll just close my eyes for a couple of minutes… zzzzzzzzzz.
8:05—“Mama?” My eyes open. My five-year old is standing over my face with her nose two-inches from mine. “Can you get me breakfast now?”
8:30—Breakfast has been eaten by all four kids. I run back upstairs to take a quick shower before the day officially starts. Did I take a shower yesterday? I can’t remember. What day is it anyway?
8:50—Dressed. Chose a professional top with jeans (got a ZOOM meeting today). I’ll add earrings to make it look more polished. But slid my feet into slippers. Who’s going to see them?
Do a quick email check on my phone. A couple of students asked questions. I send responses. A new notice for a ZOOM committee meeting today. I add it to the list. Brad’s Deals wants me to know that I can buy an umbrella for 50% off.
9:00—Time for morning movement. Shall we do Storytime Yoga or Joe Wicks’ workout? Joe will make us sweat. I just took a shower. Better go with the yoga.
9:10—Doing Storytime Yoga with four kids in my basement. Seriously, how does my five-year-old get her toes behind her ears like that? The lady in the video is way too happy. One of my kids appears to have fallen asleep while stretching on the floor.
9:35—Yoga is done. Get a quick drink. Because I’m in the kitchen, my always hungry seven-year-old asks if I’ll make her a snack. I say yes. The five-year-old shadow wants to know if she can have one too. Now the 10-year-old… oh geesh.
9:45—Snacks in hand, it’s time to start the first stretch of academic time. The 12-year-old is self sufficient and will work entirely alone for the next hour and a half. The 10-year-old just needs a gentle question of, “What do you need to work on this morning?” The five and seven year olds need direct and hands-on attention the entire time. Today, we’re counting money and working on long-vowel sounds with the silent “e” ending. English is weird.
10:00—ZOOM class meeting for the 10-year-old. Try to make sure no one else is using the internet so it doesn’t get too glitchy on the ZOOM call. I glance at his screen and see a dozen or so kids all bouncing around for the cameras. Some have pets with them. Some are still in their pajamas. Many have backgrounds of outer space and Minecraft behind them. The teacher keeps saying, “Does anyone have any good things to share?” I don’t think anyone is listening.
10:15—Still in academic time. Now the seven-year-old needs me to help her record a video showing completion of her math in SeeSaw to send to her teacher. Then we check Bloomz for the new teacher video, which wants her to use RazKids or EpicBooks to do her reading. After, she can practice more through Lexia. These are all apps from one teacher for one kid. On a daily basis, we also use FlipGrid, Google Classrooms, Summit Learning, Powerschool, Facebook, Kahoot, Prodigy, Elephant Math, Freckle, ABCMouse, Khan Academy and Scholastic Apps. Between my four children, there are 16 unique teachers. Keeping track of it all is challenging at best.
10:30—Quick check-in on my campus e-learning system to see if there are any new forum posts to respond to from my college students. One writes, “This assignment was fun. Thanks for keeping class interesting even after we moved online.” Messages like this give me fuel to keep going.
10:35—My 10-year-old needs help solving equations that involve dividing whole numbers by decimals. I try to explain it several different ways, but apparently none of those are the way his teacher explains it. He’s sure I’ve devised the long-division algorithm simply to ruin his entire life.
11:00—Academic time is over. Between four kids, 9 math pages were completed, two books and three chapters were read, an art project was created, a cello was played, and the Hansel and Gretel Opera was re-started seven times.
On to Creative Time. Today, we decide to make a sensory path with sidewalk chalk on the sidewalk outside. Every few squares, there’s a new activity for neighborhood kids: Hopscotch, walk a tightrope, jump on the letters of the alphabet. It takes us a full hour to fill nearly two blocks of sidewalk. By the end, my five and ten-year olds are racing bikes over the chalk, and the other two kids are yelling at them to quit. Time for lunch!
12:00 p.m.—The age old delicacy of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After helping the kids pile carrots and celery on the plates with their sandwiches, and pouring milk, I sneak away with my sandwich to get some grading done. Today, I’m reading ……… Every few essays, I pause to answer another email.
12:30—Chores. Everyone takes a different area of the house to tidy up. I assign the areas and take the television room for myself. There’s only a pair of shoes that need to be put away, and then I can hurry back to the grading that was only partly done.
1:00—Free time for the kids. Work time for me. This is a protected hour for me where I don’t help kids with anything. This is a time I can schedule meetings, make calls, grade or record lectures. Today, I’m recording a lecture.
1:02—Start again. I don’t like the way that one began.
1:03—Did I seriously just say, “Hey, guys!” to my GENDER COMMUNICATION class?!? Start again.
1:15—Oh *!#@&*. I realize that I’ve been talking very animatedly at my computer screen during the lecture, but the “mute microphone” button is selected. The video hasn’t picked up anything I’ve said for the last 12 minutes. Third time’s a charm, right?
1:22—Was that my 5-year-old daughter’s nude behind I just saw streaking behind me and running away on the camera? Oh heavens. I give up. I’ll try to record later. Maybe I’ll just work on some more grading.
2:00—Time for round two of Academic Time. This time the 12-year-old needs help making an annotated bibliography. The 10-year-old is working on a digital escape room. The 7-year-old has decided her arms are made of rubber and she can’t hold a pencil anymore. The 5-year-old is going to watch a Leapfrog reading video.
2:04—The seven-year-old’s legs are rubber too. Apparently she can’t sit up in a chair.
2:30—The seven-year old managed to write three sentences on a page. Her academic time is over. She joins the five-year old watching a video. I’m pretty sure it’s not the educational one I left on before. There are singing ponies on the screen.
2:45—Time for a ZOOM meeting with an advisee. Five minutes in, my five-year-old brings me an apple and a very sharp knife and wants to know if I’ll cut it for her. I am nowhere near a table. Her father is in the kitchen. I cut and talk about science class options for next year.
2:48—The seven-year-old saw the five-year-old’s apple and wants one too.
3:00—ZOOM meeting ends, and I hand off the computer to the 12-year-old for a ZOOM chat with one of her teachers.
3:05—I ask the 10-year-old to stop playing recorder while his sister is in her ZOOM meeting.
3:06—I ask the 10-year-old to stop running through the background of his sister’s ZOOM meeting with a blanket streaming out behind him.
3:07—I tell the 10-year-old that no, he can’t run through the background without the blanket either.
3:30—Time for outdoor adventures. We decide to put the newly honed bicycling skills of the 5 and 7-year-olds to work and do a geocache bike ride.
3:43—I scoop the five year old out of the pothole she tried to ride through and check her face for cuts and bruises.
3:49—The ten and twelve-year olds come racing back to where I’m still holding the accident victim with band aids and an ice pack. Sometimes they really are good siblings.
3:51—We decide we can ride some more, and have fun searching for hidden treasures.
5:00—Before we duck back into our house, we do a last run on the sensory path. Neighbor kids have extended it so it’s now three and a half blocks long. We arrive back home hot, sweaty, and thirsty. The kids are quickly shooed out of the kitchen by their father who is trying to make dinner.
5:01—I start a ZOOM call with a committee from work. Several people forget to mute their microphones after they speak, and there’s terrible feedback. I secretly keep muting their mics for them every time they talk. The next time they go to speak, their mouths move, but no sound comes out. I unmute them.
5:12—The 10-year-old sneaks into the room with a blanket over his head and sits next to me and reads a book under the blanket.
5:15—The 12-year-old comes into the room and tries to pull the 10-year-old out of the room. A tug of war over his arm ensues. I cover my video camera with my thumb as I dramatically point to each child and then make a slicing motion across my neck at them. They leave, bickering over whose fault it is that I’m mad.
5:30—Dinnertime together around the table. We try to make time for this every night even when we’re not in a pandemic. We go around the table telling our highs and lows of the day. We tell silly jokes and ask our Alexa to play a dozen different songs. In this moment, nothing could be better. Nothing is more important. This is what I live for.
6:30—Dinner is done, another round of tidy up has begun. The five-year-old quietly sneaks off to play a game on an iPad while everyone else is cleaning.
6:45—We play a round of the game Coup together. Great game! The ten-year-old wins. His sisters declare the game wasn’t fair.
7:00—The younger two kids brush their teeth. I do another email check and respond to a couple of messages on my phone while saying, “Keep brushing!” The girls and I read stories together. The five-year-old reads Go, Dog, Go all by herself. No one may help her with any words. She will read every—single—word on her own. There are 72 pages in this book.
7:28—Go, Dog, Go ends.
7:30—Bedtime for the littles. They think they need another cover. And drink of water. And maybe one more trip to the bathroom.
7:35—Lights out for the girls.
7:36—The five-year-old can’t find her favorite penguin stuffed animal. It was here just a minute ago.
7:39—The seven-year-old wants me to feel her wiggly tooth. She’s afraid she might swallow it in her sleep.
7:41—Am I sure she won’t swallow it in her sleep?
7:45—The seven-year-old really needs to know right now how the Coronavirus got on earth at the very beginning of it. Where did it come from? How did animals get it? Did God make it? How old is God?
7:49—The five-year-old would like me to know that she doesn’t have any bones in her lips.
7:58—The little girls’ room is quiet.
8:00—The two older kids and I sneak downstairs to watch an episode of Ugly Betty. While we laugh at jokes from 2010, I respond to several more emails and download student assignments to grade later. I listen to them giggle at America Ferrera dancing in a hotdog costume while I type up notes from the committee meeting I led earlier in the day.
8:50—Show’s done and the big kids get ready for bed and read for a few minutes while I finish emailing the notes to colleagues and I write up a list of the ZOOM meetings for the next day.
9:15—I tuck in the older kids after a quick check in. On the outside, they seem to be handling this pandemic thing pretty well, but I don’t know. How can it not be affecting them?
9:18—I check on the younger girls. Why is the five-year-old wearing goggles? I am sure those were not on her when I tucked her into bed.
9:20—I wander into my bedroom and see my husband. Oh yeah. I’m married. Was he here all day?
9:30—Time to really start work for the day. I sit down at my computer and re-record the lecture I tried to start earlier in the day. I do two more for next week. I create several online quizzes and write lessons plans. I email a few students who haven’t been logging in frequently and encourage them to come back to class. I read an email from a student who explains that his family was moving in the middle of all this, and he didn’t have internet access at his new home yet. I think about how lucky we are to have what we do during this pandemic. I grade some tests and updates the online gradebook. I like teaching, but I definitely liked it more when I got the compensation of the in-class interaction.
12:30 a.m.—I realize I haven’t moved my legs in nearly three hours. I stand up and stretch. I’m tired, but my mind is wired from working. I find my pajamas and pour a bowl of my five-year-old’s Lucky Charms for a snack. I sit next to my husband and watch an episode of Big Little Lies to unwind.
1:45 a.m.—I stumble to bed, already half asleep, and after one last check in on the kids, I turn off my light. I hear rain out the window and I realize that the sensory path will be washed away before morning. Tomorrow, we’ll wake up and there will be no evidence that today ever happened. I am asleep before I can form another thought.
2:00 a.m.—The five-year-old wakes me because she can’t find her penguin again. I walk her back to her room and find it’s right there… on her pillow. I tuck her back in and stumble back to bed to dream about doing it all over again tomorrow.