If there was ever something to be thankful for, it’s for being part of this amazingly tight-knit Jewish community. Yes, that might be the reason why COVID-19 spread so fast among us, but it is certainly also the reason that after only two hours post isolation, I found myself part of an enormous group of parents navigating this uncertainty together. I found myself part of an army of parents fighting to rise to the challenge and get our children through this feeling safe, happy and empowered.
We are living through what will one day be in our grandchildren’s social studies textbooks. We are living through the COVID-19 Pandemic. Let that register for a minute. The COVID-19 Pandemic. What is a pandemic exactly? “A pandemic is a disease that is prevalent over a whole country or the world.” The. Whole. World. Wow.
Let’s just rewind for one minute to Purim, the day that my family experienced something amazing. Something life changing. We answered Shomrei Torah of Fair Lawn’s call to action. We delivered mishloach manot to the quarantined children of New Rochelle. To say that it was an uplifting, fulfilling and inspiring experience would be an understatement. Seeing and hearing the heartfelt, and teary-eyed, “quarantinees” express their thanks and appreciation for simply dropping off some games, toys and treats, really put something into perspective. When the going get’s rough, we must be there for each other—it’s all about community.
As we approach the end of week one in social isolation, we find ourselves experiencing a myriad of emotions. On the one hand, we are scared and nervous about everything we hear in the news and every WhatsApp message we receive. On the other hand, how can anyone not find our predicament incredibly inspiring? Everyday I am bombarded by tens of Zoom sessions, live chizuk concerts, kids’ yoga classes, science shows, stand-up comedians and parents’ support groups “going live” in order to help their fellow Jew. What is that?! How lucky are we to be part of this amazing piece of, not only history, but Jewish history?
What exactly does it mean to be living through this? For starters, it means that whether you are a die-hard believer, or not at all, you are now a homeschooler! A homeschooler. At first it didn’t seem so bad. The kids will be home. They will be “distance learning.” This might mean that they feel less stress or are less distracted by obstreperous classmates. This also might mean that they have some time to play before the sun goes down. In reality, we find that while it’s true—the kids are less stressed, and, yes, the kids have more time to play—we, in turn, are 10 times more stressed. We are running around trying to coordinate Zoom sessions and teleconferences—as if we don’t still work full time! What just happened? How did our lives suddenly become so chaotic?
There’s no way of getting around the fact that this is a stressful situation. However, I’d like to suggest that if we go about this a bit differently, a bit more positively, we can come out better for it. Imagine your son or daughter being able to learn without the distractions that sometimes come with the classroom environment. Imagine your child being able to be part of a social community that only has positive interactions. After all, there’s no time for bullying on a Zoom video chat. There’s no time for unnecessary chatter when you only have 30 minutes together. Wow, this distance learning might actually force us to make the most of our learning experiences. It might actually help us grow exponentially, because there is simply no time to waste.
When I find myself fretting and trying to make a schedule for every spare minute of my child’s day, I must remind myself to take advantage of certain things. Take advantage of the fact that, for the time being, my child is not in an institution, which by definition cannot cater to his/her needs alone. When we make our children’s schedules for them, we must ask them what they would like to learn. What have they always wanted to know about, that sadly was never part of the school curriculum for that year? Once you learn about that engineering activity, or musical instrument, or topic in math that your child had been longing to learn, schedule it! Just fit it in. The mere act of writing it down and giving your child’s desires importance will do wonders. How much more so when they actually get to experience learning and exploring their chosen topics. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade, you just turned yearning into learning.
As we push forward into our second week of quarantine and social isolation, please stay safe, healthy, happy and educationally in tune with your children, and of course continue to be an active and supportive member of our great community.
Tamar Hardy was a classroom teacher for 13 years and currently runs a private practice as a reading specialist. She holds multiple master’s degrees in special education and is a certified Wilson dyslexia practitioner. Tamar lives in Fair Lawn and can be reached at [email protected]