How my writing journey has helped my Corona transition

Oh man, ANOTHER post about Corona on another blog??

Uuuuugggghhhh.

I hadn’t actually ever intended to write about this time in our lives, but on Monday as I laid in bed, I couldn’t help but start to piece things together. And it turns out that my journey of growth through writing has been a serious help to me in this transition time.

For starters, I’m now crisis schooling my kindergartener. And really, the thing that kick started my thinking was reading a local news article about parents who feel like they ARE NOT making it when it comes to school. It’s overwhelming, it’s too much, everyone is behind. It’s a huge struggle.

And I’ve struggled, too.

I’ve struggled in creating a schedule that works. I’ve struggled to get things in on time. I’ve struggled to interrupt playtime to do school work. We haven’t TOUCHED the piano is weeks after starting piano lessons January. I’ve struggled to not “at least” my struggles to death.

“At least” I only have a kindergartener.
“At least” I’m only trying to school one kid.
“At least” I didn’t have a job before and so I can focus on the kids.
“At least” my husband still has a job.
“At least” we’re still making it.

And on and on, right?

I see that others are struggling in much deeper and more trying ways, but that doesn’t diminish my own feelings.

And I learned that through writing.

When I receive a critique, it’s hard. It’s overwhelming. It’s easy to want to throw in the towel and quit, to overapply the messages, to believe that there is no way I can do this.

That’s how I felt when we received our first batch of schoolwork and letters from the principal and her teacher and her phy ed teacher and her music teacher. Packets of paperwork. A tablet. Instructions on how to use everything.

The kids were SO excited and wanted to dig into EVERYTHING and I sat on the couch with my head spinning, feeling COMPLETELY overwhelmed.

I feel that when I look through manuscript comments. ALL THE PROBLEMS are right there in one spot. I see how they fit together. I see how the other person is right. I see the massive amount of work required to fix it.

But I do the same thing to start: I let myself feel overwhelmed. I let the feelings be what they are with no judgment. I try really hard not to “at least” anything. I’ve learned that eventually, that feeling passes and is replaced with “okay, how are we going to do this?”

And I/we take one step. The first step. Any step.

***

We’re a month into crisis schooling now. A month. And Monday is the first morning I set an alarm to get up. Before that, we were sleeping until we woke up. Or until a kid woke us up asking for breakfast. Or a dog woke us up whining. Or it was 8 am and husband had to quick throw on some clothes and log into work.

But before this week, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to commit to a time frame to wake up. I was tired. I was sick. Mostly sick. And still overwhelmed. Because we woke up late. We ate late. We got started on school late. We took massive breaks from 10 am – 3 pm. Because I was still tired. Still sick. Still overwhelmed.

And I really needed a nap.

I felt guilty, too. Like in my inability to get a schedule set, I was disrespecting her teacher. When we crammed another lesson in after supper because I couldn’t/didn’t get it done earlier, I was failing my kid. After all, it’s not like I’m working on top of this, trying to fit it into the nooks and crannies of our lives.

Even my writing has been essentially nonexistent since this started.

I had an idea in my head of how things would look, and they never looked that way. We didn’t get everything done in the first two hours of the day. I didn’t get a time to write after morning school every day. What I thought would be excellent progress on my book turned into stagnation.

Nothing was looking like I wanted. And I really wanted to give up.

Just like I really want to give up when progress on my book or story isn’t going how I want.

I want to give up. It’s hard. It feels too hard.

But one day, it doesn’t. At some point, the feeling breaks, and I feel ready.

And the biggest thing I’ve learned in my writing is waiting out the emotional storm until I’m ready. It can’t be rushed. I can’t expect myself to work the way I want until I’ve processed the blocks. Until I’ve identified the issues. Until I’ve worked through the truth.

Or sometimes, until I’ve kicked the cough that has destroyed my voice or allowed my body to heal from a really painful medical situation.

Because on top of everything else, I’ve dealt with those things. I’ve been couch-bound coughing. I’ve been dealing with nights of no sleep. I’ve been couch-bound in excruciating pain. I’ve been to the ER. I’ve had medications to apply and use. I’ve had to let myself heal from everything.

Life, writing, schooling, societal disruptions: nothing happens in a vacuum. It all happens with life happening around it.

And because I’ve learned to allow myself grace in my writing and revising, I’ve also been able to give myself grace (with the help of her teacher) as we navigate schooling.

Last Friday, we binged 3 teaching videos at bedtime and only because there was NO homework associated with them. And the reason we weren’t done? We’d been outside most of the day. The weather has turned and we are spending so much more time outside. Last week, I finally brought home a wooden train set with LOTS of trains that I bought off a friend closing her daycare. I’ve hardly seen the kids for a week.

Why?

Because they are building massive train tracks upstairs.

And so, school gets put off and put off. Play is so important.

The best part is that her teacher entirely agrees. When we really had to start think about school, we seriously considered homeschooling. Like, real homeschooling. Because I kept reading article after article about schools pushing academics earlier and earlier. About preschoolers being in classrooms with no toys and not being allowed to play or run or move. I heard stories of schools close to where I live who were testing first graders weekly. I heard of other nearby schools with other developmentally inappropriate curricula.

Education is super important.

But does my 4 year old need to understand how to read if he’s not interested yet? Does my 6 year old need to know how to sit still for two hours and work on worksheets? Do they need to have the love of learning stamped out before they realize how much fun learning really is?

And then we found our current school.

And they GET it. Preschool is almost entirely play and hands on learning.
Kindergarten is almost entirely play and hands on learning with maybe 2 worksheets a day (and these often involve cutting, gluing, coloring, and other hands-on things).
FIRST GRADE still has a fair amount of play-based learning.
Once kids reach second grade, play is mostly phased out, but there still aren’t rows of desks in a bare classroom.
Kids get morning recess, lunch recess, and many times when I picked my kid up at school, a class would be playing outside at the end of the day–a different class every day from the older grades.

You see, the school understands the importance of movement. The importance of play. They understand child development. They understand character is important. They understand that children don’t live in a vacuum either. Home life affects school life and they work to work with parents.

In this time of crisis learning, I have almost unlimited contact with her teacher. Another teacher checks in once a week to see how we’re doing. The superintendent has sent out a student workload evaluation survey and another is coming out this week so that they can adjust the workload of students if PARENTS feel they can’t manage it.

Throughout this time, the school has been so great at trying to finish up the year, but also understanding that every situation is unique and that school at home will look nothing like school at school.

Sometimes, the writing life also doesn’t look anything like we expect it to. Sometimes it’s collaborating on a short story in a brand new way. Sometimes it’s breaking apart a novel and trying to put something readable back together. Sometimes it’s scrapping an entire idea and writing something new. Sometimes it’s a terrible little story written at 11 pm to a prompt from four days ago. And just sometimes, it works out just like you want.

But not often.

And so I have to adjust. I have to give myself time to feel what I feel. I have to work through the issues. I have to give myself grace. I have to look at the positives. I have to not invalidate myself and my feelings. Sometimes I have to take a walk because it’s beautiful outside and the work will just have to wait. And then, when I’m ready, I have to act.

Writing and corona life aren’t so dissimilar after all. And without this writing journey, it’s possible that this transition would have been far more difficult than it needed to be.

But we’re making it, one day at a time. And I think we’ll be able to look back at this time and see the benefits rather than the stress of the unknown.