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Not to brag, but I’ve predicted we’d begin the year distance learning since schools closed last spring. Just one of the many perks of having your brain set to Worst Case Scenario at all times. As I always do when my brain goes straight to catastrophe, I always think that by conjuring up the worst thing that could happen, that somehow prevents it from becoming a reality. When your expectations are low, you’re never disappointed. Or, if the worst thing happens, you can say I told you so. Schools remaining closed was definitely my worst-case scenario, and I tried to keep faith we had a chance, but, well, I told you so.
But, here we are. I actually feel somewhat fine with distance learning. I am going in eyes wide open this time, and I’m ready to fully embrace the suck. I spent the majority of the summer living in denial, but once we hit mid-July, I knew I needed to start figuring out a “classroom” space. Last spring, we did “school” at the kitchen table. It worked fine, but there was no separation of school and home. The two worlds blended into one and both were always a mess.
We are fortunate enough to have a loft space upstairs. We haven’t really done anything with it in the almost five years we’ve lived here, and now seemed as good a time as any to focus our efforts there and make a classroom.
When it comes to home design, I am champagne on a beer budget. I have a knack for always picking out the most expensive fixtures, tile, furniture- you name it, what I want is always out of budget. I knew I wanted custom built in’s in this room, but those are extremely expensive. I also knew that this space will probably ebb and flow as my kids get older. God willing, we won’t always need a classroom in our house. **knocks on all the wood** Going with a semi built in look was the compromise.
We used these Besta cabinet frames from IKEA, then used edge-glued pine board for a desktop. The stain is a combination of Natural and Warm Birch. The open shelving is designed to make things easily accessible, but they are compatiable with door. I may add those at some point, but I am in no hurry to go back to IKEA. These wall decals came super quickly and were the perfect colors. The chairs came in a two pack and are perfect for the height of the desk.
Designing a space that works for both Isla and Nolan is tricky. Their interests are so varied, and they both have very strong opinions about their favorite colors. So, I did what anyone would do. I just didn’t ask them what they wanted. I chose these muted colors, which included pink and blue for each of their favorites. There are two desk spaces for each, separated as far apart as I could manage. There’s also a reading corner, and the coffee table in the middle is the new home for all of our LEGOs. We’re still waiting on a few prints I ordered to come in, but a space is never really finished. I always like living in a space and adding things we love as we go.
Did my kids need a space like this to distance learn in? Absolutely not. Actually, I only have one kid who is going to be doing distance learning. Nolan still has a year of preschool left, but as anyone with more than one kid knows, you can never only have one of something.
I’m under no illusions that just because I’ve created this picture-worthy space, it will be smooth sailing from here on out. I’m certain I won’t make it two days before I have a full on breakdown and lose my patience. I created this space for me. Not because it would ensure a smooth experience in our digital classroom, but because it provided an outlet for my anxiety. When my anxiety spikes, I need to do and create. To dream up the design, search the Internet for the different pieces I added in, and then put it all together was something productive I could do rather than spiraling out of control.
By creating this space, I don’t have to sacrifice my kitchen table, and I can walk away from the mess after a day of being my Kindergartener’s executive assistant. I can spend the day in a (hopefully) calming space as I try to harness the last bit of patience and grace I have left to better serve my new student and support her hardworking teacher. Absolutely nothing about distance learning, or 2020 for that matter, is ideal, but by creating our distance learning classroom, I was able to make lemons out of lemonade.
Actually, lemonade is generous. I basically juiced all the lemons, only to find out we were out of sugar. I tried and got close, and it’s good enough.
This is the attitude I want to carry into the 2020-2021 school year. I don’t want to brainwash myself into thinking this will be “tHe BeSt YeAr YeT!!”, but I know it’s also not beneficial for anyone to consistently think of it as the dumpster fire it really is. I’m going to do my best to keep this combination of low grade optimism and starts and fits of perseverance. We owe it to these teachers and administrators who have been doing backflips since March to find a way to make this school year work. We owe it to our kids to plaster on a happy face and pretend like this is exciting and cool. We owe it to ourselves to try and believe everything we are telling ourselves, and that means trying to find a way to have some control and joy in all of this.
Whatever that looks like for you, I hope you find a way to carve out something for yourself this school year. I don’t know a single household where the moms aren’t the driving force behind distance learning. Whether that is juggling the schedule to make it work, procuring ChromeBooks, keeping up with the school corespondence, or whatever other new normal to-do is on your list. And that’s not a knock on dads. My husband is extremely involved, but this distance learning situation is just a fresh helping of emotional labor that by design us moms always take on. And, it comes a time where we’re already scraping the bottom of the barrel (at least I am). It’s an impossible ask, but what other choice do we have?
So here’s to taking care of ourselves, distance learning, incredible teachers whom we’ve asked the impossible of, wearing a damn mask, and voting for change so that maybe, just maybe we don’t have to do distance learning forever.