The microwave beeps. I hear one kid asking me to check him in the bathroom to make sure he is clean, while the other kid is in full-pout mode, sitting in front of a workbook page where he’s been for the last half hour. He could just do the last two math problems, or we could turn it into an old-fashioned wild west standoff. Of course, it’s Option B.
It’s 5:00 pm and we have an hour left until Mama’s home. I pull the second meal I have made for the day out of the microwave and for the second time it’s rejected. They will just wind up having some third thing I can make after a sufficient amount of time has passed, likely a hotdog, because, well… kids. Wonder when I can pull out my laptop and get some work done? My deadline is coming up and I was supposed to have a powerhouse workday in the shuffle today.
This year I was a man of many hats. I was graphic designer, entrepreneurial business owner, cook, cleaner, dog-walker, and a hundred other things that I was used to. The big new nametag I added for this year during the pandemic was “homeschool dad.” I have been a stay-at-home parent before. I watched my oldest son during the day until he was 3, so I am used to the chaos of at-home parenting. I can honestly say, though, that it is not the same thing as being their at-home teacher. Holy cow! I am a changed man.
Near the start of the pandemic this year, we became increasingly concerned about putting our two boys into school for the upcoming year. They were going to be going into preschool and second grade. The ace in our parent-pocket was that my wife Amy had been a teacher for 5 years and is one of the smartest people I know. I had complete confidence that she would be a great teacher for them. With that in mind, we registered ourselves as a homeschool and prepared ourselves to keep them at home with us. Amy would teach and I would work from my laptop like normal. I would be backup.
Then, we got a phone call… we had both been offered positions with our local printer. If we were interested, they would like to hire either or both of us, on the spot, without an interview. They knew our level of experience with design, having worked with them for a couple of years, and knew that we could both do what they needed us to. Now, I love what I do, and my favorite client is Forsyth Magazines, so I was not willing to give it up. But at the same time, we could really use another income, especially during such uncertain times, when jobs were so hard to come by. So, I encouraged Amy to consider it. And she did. And she took the job. And all of a sudden, this artist dad had metamorphosed into a homeschool teacher. If you know me, you know that I’m not the first person you would point to as someone you would want to be an educator.
But with a determination I didn’t know I had, I pulled out all the stops. I did everything I could possibly do to make sure my kids learned as much as they could. I knew that what I could offer them would not be as traditional as a “normal” school curriculum, but I think we all knew that ship had already sailed. So, we turned every single thing we could into a lesson about history, science, math, and any other teachable thing I could cram in there. We also learned about cooking, and did lots of reading, while I also taught empathy and understanding for people. Some days there was too much wild spirit in my boys, so our classroom was just the great outdoors; other times, they needed their imaginations stimulated so our classroom was a tent in the living room.
As I reflect back on this year as a teacher, I think I was actually a learner much more than my kids were. My kids taught me who they are and showed me what they need. The days are full of all the crazy moments that I see on a daily basis, and a lot to manage, but also hold the richness that I treasure in my life. It is a full life.
As of a month ago my boys are in summer care and will shortly return to the rooms of a traditional classroom for their next grades. I know they will do great and I’m so thankful for the very hard, beautiful year we had together while I was their teacher.