This has been an unusual summer, to put it mildly.
Prior to the pandemic, we very happily sent our kids off to fun and enriching summer camps each week, driving them all over town and a bit farther to allow them opportunities to play outside in unexplored spaces, wade in streams, make friends (both kids and counselors), learn about animals, tell new jokes, play games, construct glass art, sing songs, climb trees, and so much more.
This summer – other than one experimental day of outdoor art camp for my 7 year old (I was too nervous to continue) – we have been camp-free; or, as I’ve coined it, we’re “uncamping”.
So, my kids are at home – very occasionally hanging out with a few select quarantine-friends and family; biking and swimming; and spending a lot of time getting better at online gaming and virtual world construction.
I’m keeping our “schedule” (i.e., our “non-negotiables”) simple, flexible, yet semi-structured:
- go to bed and wake up at a “reasonable” time (so far not a problem, given their ages; I anticipate more challenges with this as they enter their teen years);
- eat three meals a day – including sitting down for a family dinner, which involves sharing “highs” and “lows” from the day;
- get at least a little bit of exercise every day, in some fashion (ideally outdoors);
- read for 20-30 minutes a day during DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time;
- treat each other kindly and help each other out when appropriate.
I’ve experimented over the summer with trying to add even more structure in:
“Let’s do some art!”
“Let’s do some math!”
“Let’s do some music!”
“Let’s do some science!”
But, the minimalist schedule outlined above seems to be as much as I can manage without pushing on everyone’s nerves (including – and perhaps most importantly – my own).
So, the art my kids do is on their own time and initiative, typically related to whatever online game they’re playing (i.e., designing new “skins” for their Minecraft avatars). The math they do relates to calculating how much online money they have left to spend on their games, how long it will take to save up for a certain coveted item.
It’s hard to blame my kids for wanting to spend time in virtual worlds that allow them maximum flexibility, autonomy, and interaction (not to mention flying and magic!), when the real world has severely curtailed that to an unnatural degree.
In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be back at work (thankfully, at home) while simultaneously overseeing my three kids’ online school schedules. Life will feel – and be – intensely exhausting and full once again.
For now, I’m appreciating this chance to sit and stare out the window, reflect on life, and know that my kids are managing their pandemic time in a way that makes sense to them.