One.Long.Day. I’m of course referring to the past 13 weeks, and I’m sure you can relate. But we did have a lot of interesting moments in magical Week 13.
Let’s start with homeschool. Last week was the last week of “school”, and as I mentioned in Week 11, I’ve tried to cobble together a ‘Summer Camp’ and am terrified about what that’s going to be like. Here’s what actually happened.
I woke one morning a few weeks ago realizing there WAS NOT going to be a Summer Camp, and I panicked. So I did what I always do: I made a Google doc. I found 4 compilation articles with links to OTHER articles about online summer camps, most of which did not fit Ella’s age range. Then I stumbled upon a site (through one of those articles) called Varsity Tutors, which had FREE “Summer Camp” classes!
To get the girls excited about it, I handed Zoe an iPad and asked her to go through the whole catalog with her sister and write down the ones they were interested in. There were a lot. We in fact ended up with around 50 classes (combined) that they were wanted to take, and my work began.
I pulled up every course and looked at the times/days it was offered (some were one 1 hour, some up to 4 hours, some were every day, some were every other day, some were one week, some were a few weeks, and start times ranged from 6 am PT to 2 pm PT). If these girls ever doubt that their mom loves them, please pull up this blog post.
I then registered them for non-overlapping classes and got almost every single one of the ones they wanted. We opted out of the 6 am ones and made choices on overlapping times. These girls are signed up for 19 classes each over the next 9 weeks. Yes, there are 9 weeks of summer between the last and first days of school. I’m exhausted already.
I then made a tab for every single week and mapped out the time slots, adding in Zoe’s weekly singing lesson and Ella’s “reading time with Nina”. I added Dad’s game nights and my roundtables, the only protected times we parents get.
But you may be thinking what I was thinking: What if those “free” Varsity Tutor summer camp classes are terrible? Don’t worry. To hedge our bets, I booked a few classes during the last 2 weeks of school to test them. THAT turned out to be brilliant, since Ella’s “school” during those last weeks took her a maximum of 15 minutes to complete… Try entertaining a 5-year-old for 9 hours a day so you can work full-time. Wait, I don’t wish that on anyone.
For our first class, I signed Ella up for Bug Biodiversity, where she learned about ladybugs, spiders and bees, through lecture, song, dance and crafts. During “Lunch”, I signed both girls up for Fun with Yarn & String, a class with over 1,000 kids on a Zoom call learning to make pom-poms, the basics of crochet and finger knitting, and on the last day they missed macrame. Bummer.
To further hedge our bets, I tested a few classes (not free but cheap) on Outschool, which I highly recommend. Those classes were for Ella only, who literally had one activity (basically 5 minutes) of “school” each day during her last week. During Baby Panda Adventure Story + Art for Kids, Ella learned to draw this:
Isla is her bestie. I also signed her up for Mermaid (Literacy) Camp, which of course she loved. That class all week long and was taught by an actual mermaid; for day one, Ella brought her best mermaid outfit, too.
Yes, that’s a butterfly sandwich, and the screen you’re looking at is a live Zoom call, with the actual mermaid. Amazing, right? The 25-minute Spanish class we choose for Friday morning was a little less engaging. I sat outside to take a call and came in to Ella drawing, not looking at the screen. To which she responded, “I have no idea what they’re saying.” Fair enough.
With a few classes under our belt, I feel pretty confident we can craft a Summer Camp full of learning AND fun. During the first week of summer, Zoe is taking a class literally called “Happy Life” where they meditate, do yoga and learn ways to live healthy and happy. Remember, they selected ALL these classes. I’m hopeful.
Another notable moment during the last week of school was this: Ella read a 63-page book. No joke. My mom is magic. It was an old-school Dr Seuss book which he wrote under the pen name “Theo LeSieg” (the last part of which is his last name spelled backwards). Anyway, Ella was SO PROUD. I told my mom that I knew it was too long for her (it was not) and maybe they could just read the first 15 pages.
During their first session, Ella read 38 pages, her longest book ever, and at dinner she read them to us and insisted on reading more… But who doesn’t want Duck Feet?!
Though it may seem that a lot of these recent posts are primarily about Ella, it’s because she’s a lot of work, and Zoe has done a great job being (pretty much) self-directed. It’s not that we haven’t had our issues, we have, but that’s a blog for another day.
A big moment that happened with Zoe during her last week was the Minecraft class we signed her up for on KidPass that started at 6:45 am. We warned her that we were not going to drag her out of bed, and this one was NOT free, so she had to commit to it. She did. In fact, last Monday she was up and dressed at 6:15 am, ready for her class right on time. At 6:44 am, my sweet husband realized he had never received the Zoom link for the course… For the record, this was the ONLY class he had personally arranged.
Anyway, at 6:45 am, we were calling and emailing them, to no avail. That’s when I found out that KidPass is just a platform for other companies, and a coding company was actually hosting the class. I found them BOTH on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and reached out to beg for someone to send us a link. KidPass did get back to us at 7:45 (an hour after the class had started) to let us know that they were trying to reach the vendor, whose voicemail was full, by the way.
A very disappointed (but gracious) Zoe agreed to spend time poking around on Minecraft’s Java edition, which we knew nothing about, and then focused on schoolwork, as promised. At 9:45 am, after no remedy (and no more class), I decided to try the vendor one last time, and the voice I recognized from their full voicemail said, “Can you hear me ok?” Just imagine my face.
Let’s just say I got her into a different class for that day and also got the Zoom link for the following morning. Turns out she LOVED that class, and we could hear her talking and laughing loudly (oh, headphones) to the other kids on the screen. Phew.
On the last day of school, both girls had an all-class Zoom call. Ella’s teacher chose not to mute her TK students, who had not seen the FULL class for 3 months. Brave choice. Everyone survived, and we had a celebratory outdoor dinner on Friday night to wrap up the absolutely not awesome homeschool experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful for all that our school and teachers did to keep learning going in the most extraordinary of circumstances. I’m also thankful that we have our health, our jobs, our home and food on the table, luxuries I do not take for granted.
In fact, I’m trying to take nothing for granted. There’s a lot of work left to repair the economy, fight a virus, and move the world to a kinder, more accepting place. As we enter “Summer Camp”, I’m going to make sure we keep taking time to NOTICE what’s RIGHT in the world around us, and do the best we can.
Stay safe and well.