Republished with permission from lifesatrip.ca.
When the schools closed in Montreal, my wife and our youngest child moved to the countryside, where winter lasts till May and there are no close neighbours, forcing physical distancing. I followed soon afterward, just before the city was locked down.
It’s quiet and beautiful in the low mountains and, though my heart aches for the older (adult) child who remains in the city, it’s the safest place to be as the country and especially our province finds their way through the coronavirus pandemic.
We settled in and very quickly gave up on the idea of traditional learning at home, opting instead for a learn-by-living style of homeschooling.
"Mum, can you milk a giraffe?"
"I mean, not personally, but theoretically."
"And anteaters? Can you milk an anteater?"
Is this what unschooling looks like?
— Hayley Juhl (@HJuhl) April 15, 2020
— Hayley Juhl (@HJuhl) April 7, 2020
I started referring to my kids and pets as coworkers.
I began to complain that one of my coworkers spent most of her shift playing video games, but she soon ventured outside to pluck the giant icicles from the staircase. I imagined she was building a fortress of solitude.
The four-legged coworkers were living their best life, having us home all the time. One demanded constant food and attention, even though I threatened to report him to HR. Another spent most of her time sleeping on the stairs above the fireplace, or in the sunniest part of the kitchen. “I’m trying to work, but my coworker is using the hot spot,” I said. And don’t even get me started about the dog:
“This asshole snored through an entire Zoom meeting. It was highly distracting.”
Without formal schooling, my work and the virtual newsroom became the thing our lives revolved around. I set up a desk next to mine, and my little coworker made suggestions from time to time: “Mum, I have an idea for your newspaper. We can do a list of experiments with, like, ooblek, and we can test them to make sure they’re safe.” The next (very gloomy) day, she asked if she was scheduled for a night shift. I just wanted her to sleep through till morning for a change.
I talked to her about the importance of unions and (somehow) kept my cool when she went on strike one day. I waited it out, which I think is the management way of handling things.
You may have streamed too many press conferences if your 8-year-old demands you "stop listening to all the presidents!"
— Hayley Juhl (@HJuhl) April 1, 2020
We watched at least two press conferences every day, those of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault. The kids are convinced Trudeau is a Disney prince (“He just needs to shave and take off his jacket”), and I’m not interested in busting that myth.
“Not going thrifting is really hard for me,” I said to no one in particular a couple of weeks into our isolation. I generally shop at least once a week with my best friend and was feeling lonely and sorry for myself.
“We can do it here!” my sunny daughter responded. “I’ll put all the clothes I don’t want in a pile and you can go through it and see what you want. And you’ll have to pay me for it.”
I think that counts as learning about math?
That night, she had whipped cream on a Popsicle for dessert.