Edmonds Kind of Play: Adventures in home schooling and Zoom learning

Jennifer Marx

I started this week riding the high of a successful “Lunch and Learn” routine we had going in the first two weeks of our time at home. These “Lunch and Learns” — named after a midday event at my husband’s office — were planned to not only teach the kids some useful life skills, but to also get them some face time with their dad since he’s hidden away in his office (read our bedroom with one of our kid’s desks shoved under the window) most of the day. Day One of what was to be only a month at home included teaching the kids how to unclog a drain and was planned only because that drain happened to be clogged. I was at the helm of Day Two, brushing off my skill of knowing how to fold one kind of fancy restaurant napkin and passing it on – this lesson was over quickly. After that, our Lunch and Learns mainly became our time to do the Mo Willem’s Lunch Doodles, as it was easy and fun and a nice way to be participating in the same thing at the same time, plus, Willems has a calm yet super funny way about him that has been so helpful to me. We did give the kids a chance to teach us something and not surprisingly, they chose Fortnite. I learned how to run around as a banana wearing a suit and pick up weapons and get eliminated because the controller has too many options. My counterpart however, came in second in our battle furthering his status as the fun parent.

Knowing this week would be different with the new Remote Learning, I adjusted my expectations and my plan was to take some of the wackier ideas floating around social media and add those in with some easier-to-tackle ideas to mix up our Lunch and Learn routine. I wanted to be able to report back on our success or lack thereof. On the docket, making a bagpipe out of our two recorders, a plastic bag, some tape and disassembled pens and a construction paper horse that walks – thinking we’d eventually make the cardboard dome I’d seen online once our garage filled up with delivery boxes – after taking a full look at the steps it feels clear that we will not be doing this, but at this point, who knows? That is not even close to how this week has gone, and from what I can tell from my social media feed and my text messages, this third week and the addition of remote learning has been, well, a lot.

The plan for Monday was to take a page from the Double Dangerous Book for Boys (which is for everyone and is accessible via ebook at Sno Isle Libraries) and learn how to tie a tie. I should add that we got that book from the Edmonds Bookshop on the last day they were able to have their storefront open. We made an order over the phone and the books showed up at my door in the brown paper bag, with the trademark bookmark that I always look forward to when buying there. I have seen two posts in the last couple days with people who have ordered online and gotten the same brown paper package and bookmark dropped off on their doorstep. You buy books from them online at EdmondsBookshop.com and have them “delivered directly to your doorstep,” all you need to do is make an account by clicking “Log In” near the top of the page and adding your name and email address. On Monday, we ended up watching a video on how to join a Zoom meeting and then did a family Zoom meeting that descended into chaos  — this Lunch and Learn wasn’t even at lunch, it was after dinner.

I felt confident about our ability to get onto the Zoom call scheduled for my elementary-age student as we’d done a trial run, had the link to the meeting, and prepared as asked. Fast forward to what can only be described as three-plus hours that resembled a movie scene where people are trying to cut the wires on a bomb with a countdown clock nearing zero. Due to what is believed to be a glitch in Google Classroom that only a small portion of the class is experiencing, we couldn’t click through to the meeting in one step. On Tuesday, I was on the phone with tech support (techsupport@edmonds15.org or call 425-431-1211 if you are having issues or need to get a Chromebook for your student,) as well as with other parents, getting a flurry of texts from other parents, and trying everything a million times from different computers, accounts, rooms. My favorite quote to come out of this scene was “Mom’s reaction does not match this situation” but, you know, most of us don’t have what my pediatrician calls an “emotional reserve” at the moment. The school librarian saved the day, and I was able to share the work-around with those of us experiencing the issue — 100% of whom are parents I am on a ‘text me’ basis with, furthering our bond now that we’ve been through the great Zoom link glitch of 2020.

We did get to the “How To Tie a Windsor Knot” page of the Double Dangerous Book for Boys book by Tuesday and that was nice, though frustrating. The upside of this installment is there is now a 10-year-old at my house who wears a tie with a t-shirt, it definitely helps take the edge off. Wednesday was another episode of parents play Fortnite, featuring one parent that wasn’t me. At this point in the game, I don’t remember what we did Thursday — for context, as I type this, it is still actually Thursday.

Remote learning was a bit of a rough transition for all of us at my house and from what I see, it has been similarly tricky for others as well, on either side of the Zoom meetings. My sister-in-law is a teacher in Southern California and she told me that this is about the hardest she has ever worked and that it took multiple 18-plus-hour days to pivot to the kind of online learning they are doing in her district — this is in addition to packing up her classroom as students won’t be back on campus for this school year. As we all adjust and adjust again, I have a few fun, light activities that we’re enjoying or looking forward to, to share with you.

The one I am the most excited about is “Dav Pilkey at Home.” Pilkey, the author and illustrator of Captain Underpants and Dogman, will have a new drawing video each Friday morning, 5 a.m. Pacific plus “downloadable activities, conversations about books and creativity, and tips for kids and families to create their own characters and act out scenes from Pilkey’s Dog Man book series.” Besides being big fans of his books, Pilkey is a bit of a hero at our house. Having been diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD as a young student, he created Captain Underpants while being sent out to the hallway by his teacher — a story that delights my dyslexic student and is frequently retold. You can find links to the weekly video on the websites for Scholastic and the Library of Congress.

@TussenKunstenQuarantaine via Instagram

One of the best things I have seen while staring at my phone has been the movement to recreate art with items from your house. Two of the earlier sources of this movement are a Dutch Instagram account @TussenKunstenQuarantaine and accompanying hashtag of the same name, which is apparently Dutch for “Between art and quarantine” and @CovidClassics, which is “four roommates who love art… and are indefinitely quarantined.  No filters, no edits, just us and the stuff in our house.” This is my kind of content — it’s silly, funny, and light and something you could do at home too. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles and The Frye Museum in Seattle, always a great place to visit, are inviting followers to recreate art from their collections as well. A friend of mine’s sons were assigned this as a part of their new remote learning, and the results were so fun to see.

Parent Leaders for the Edmonds School District have been sharing some good stuff on their Facebook page. They have recently posted a Move 60! activity calendar for this month, the latest emails and updates from the district (with a full inbox it’s nice to have them showing up in more than one place), and a link to a roundup of animal livestreams from King 5 – there are puppies, kittens, eagles, and even the Seattle Aquarium otter cam.

The Edmonds School District is observing spring break next week. While meals will still be served, there will be no remote learning.

— By Jennifer Marx

Jen Marx, an Edmonds mom of two boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time.

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