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Never in my decade and a half of being an educator and a parent would I have thought that we would be all remote for a good portion of a calendar year. Never would I have thought that all of the zoom meetings that I sat in and learned from as a business owner would become our ‘real life’ at home while our 5 year old learns Kindergarten from an ipad. Never would I have thought that our reliance on technology would be key in every profession, down to the insurance adjusters, contractors, and landscapers that we utilize in our community each day.
But, here we are. We are in the midst of arguably one of the largest life events that our children will experience in their lifetime and we are planning and doing it as we go. We are scraping together all of the grit and excellence that has always been inside of us and throwing it into the universe so that the bills can be paid, the children can learn, and life can resemble some sort of normalcy.
When I thought about Kindergarten when my daughter was just a baby, I imagined bawling my eyes out as I sent her on the bus, huddled with 10 of her closest neighborhood buddies as she smiled and couldn’t wait to tear into her brand new school supplies and get to playing and learning. I thought about the fact that she would be gone for an entire FULL day without me knowing everything that was going on. I thought about her reading her first words to me at night when something clicked at school and those site words found a thoughtful part of her being.
When I look at Kindergarten now, I choose to look at the glass half full. No, it's not ideal, but we are all doing the same crazy dance, and the teachers whose life work has been educating our littles ones have been turned upside down, yet they are doing an amazing job of making sure my kiddo knows what she needs to know. I am now in the room with my daughter as we simultaneously learn and work. I hear her outbursts, see her excitement, and watch her fidget. Literally, she fidgets for the whole 3 hour zoom call each afternoon. I kid you not, she created her own fidget out of a screw and bolt that she found somewhere on the first day of learning remotely. (more on that later) I get to see what she knows (which is surprisingly a ton more than I thought!) and what she loves to talk about. She loves rhyming, singing and drawing. She KNOWS her teacher is really Superwoman and even says it. Her excitement about learning is everything I have ever dreamt of as a teacher and parent, even though the avenue of learning is nothing I dreamed of in the last 5 years.
Teachers create magic for kids. Magic environments, magic stories, magic thoughts. I was a high school teacher, and I still made an effort to make my 48 minutes with students something magical and memorable. So here’s where I come in as a parent and the owner of the current learning environment. I need to make it magical. And magic doesn't have to mean an elaborate show with tons of bells and whistles. It can mean just that tiny little special thing that makes the day feel better than the last.
Back to the fidgeting. I read an article about unstructured playtime for kids and have been very conscious about letting my kiddos outside for every break time. Even with this, my daughter fidgets almost every minute in front of her ipad. She is too little to play with your typical metal fidget toys, nor do I need those hanging around the house with our minagrie of animals and playschool of children under the age of 5. We found Spike Toys Fidgets and pencil grippers earlier this year and haven't looked back since. She keeps the discs next to her workspace and the gripper lives on her sparkly purple pencil.
She has a pencil topper that gives just enough sensory input as she rubs it on her cheek and neck.
They are easily sanitized and also can double as a bath toy!
Plus, her brothers can get a hold of them without it being a choking hazard. Find them here for your elementary aged fidgeters.
We also themed her room this year with the Milo & Gabby line of bedding and accessories. It was a beautiful coincidence that I picked the Lola Bunny gear out for her last Christmas and then the backpack line this year. She has the Lola comforter and pillowcase plus a warm blanket to top off the look. Her room is her learning environment and it is all pink and all Lola. She has her backpack hanging off of the back of her chair, and we are teaching responsibility as part of her Social Studies curriculum by having her make her bed every morning. She has to keep it tidy because her teacher will see it. And it makes her happy. So happy to see her favorite things in her little “classroom away from classroom”. Plus, it is fitting as she is in the “lifecycles of animals” in Science class, making Lola our daily featured animal. Win and a win there!
So here’s to the parents who are scraping life together to help the teachers who are working around the clock to make sure our kiddos meet and exceed standards. Here’s to the Kindergarten and preschool learning pod teachers. Here’s to the innovative companies who make learning more accessible through product development. Here’s to staying healthy and safe. And most importantly, here’s to doing the best we can!