Here at Reaching Higher NH, we’re learning how to cope with our “new normal”: working from home, while also learning how to step in to support our kids’ remote learning (spoiler alert: it’s a learning curve for all of us). Like so many families in New Hampshire right now, we’re working from home. We’re getting used to participating in conference calls while chasing our dogs or feeding our kids their lunch. We’re trying to juggle our writing and research with naptime, math worksheets, and science projects. 

Since many families are going through this, too, we thought it would be a good idea to share what’s happening in our own homes. How have our lives changed? What does life look like for us now? How have our children’s schools supported us in supporting our child? We’ll be rolling out these stories over the next few days, so be sure to check back often!

First up, is our Interim Deputy Director and Director of Policy and Practice, Liz Canada. Here’s Liz’s story:

In our house, we have two boys, a second grader and a first grader; they live here half time and with their other parent half time. When they learned that there would be no school for two weeks (that was the news last week – of course, it has since increased to three weeks), Big Brother said, “Hooray! All day Xbox!” So you can see how that’s going to go.

Their teachers are complete rockstars, and my partner and I are so thankful for them. As a former high school English teacher, I feel fairly equipped already in working with the boys on reading, and helping them pick out books that are reasonably at their level. But other than that? It’s hard to know what to work on, or how much, or even how.

Our elementary school uses a program called Seesaw, which – let’s be honest – I need to be able to understand in a helpful way. Before the school closure, the teachers used it to keep us informed with what is happening in the classroom and how to support learning at home. And now…well, now I need to figure out how to get their work uploaded in the right area of the app.

Yesterday, I worked with Small Brother on what compound words are – when I asked him to describe it later he said, “You take two words and smash them together to make a real word.” I think that’s a good start.

Big Brother is working on adding two-digit numbers – and the method by which he’s doing it is different than how I learned growing up. So, in order to not confuse him, I’ve asked him to explain his method to me. He was eager to explain, and then we were able to review the work together. Again, I think that’s a good start.

Both teachers have been in regular communication, even beginning over the weekend, with videos, notes, and encouragement for families. Our second grade teacher sent a video with a tent in her living room, a “fireside” to have daily fireside chats — just really personable and engaging for the kiddos to get to “talk” to her. Our first grade teacher has written a few times, emphasizing that she is here for all of the kids, and will be available during the day every day. They’ve both compiled so many resources for us to access, and really reasonable expectations – for the kids and for us. Both teachers have made it clear that they already miss the boys. We’re very moved by the love and care we are feeling from our teachers – this is unchartered territory for everyone, and we so appreciate their partnership.

Mostly, we’re going to try to stick to a routine in our home as we can – while, in our case, balancing working from home with many phone and video meetings. This will include reading a bit in the morning, working throughout the day on what the school sends, taking some outside breaks (weather permitting), building Lego ships, and trying to video chat with friends. And some video games, to be honest. 

Here’s one more personal story: yesterday, while I was on a call with our Interim Executive Director, Small Brother came over and said, “Liz! Liz! LIZ! We need you RIGHT NOW.” So I asked Charlie to hold on, put him on mute, and asked Small Brother what was wrong. 

“What’s going on, buddy?”

“We need help with the Xbox.” 

“Okay, bud. I just need about ten minutes. Okay?”

When I got back on the line with Charlie, and relayed the “issue,” he said, “Tell him we won’t even need ten minutes.” This is just to say that having a supportive and remote team is also really important. And we’ve been adapting our work to compile resources for educators and families, too, which you can find on our new Remote Learning page. We’re going to update that page regularly, too.

Our family is fortunate to have the resources to support our boys from home, and we know that the schools and districts across the state are doing everything in their capacity to support all students.

Okay, one more note: make sure to thank your teachers for all that they are doing right now. Let’s remember that many of them are parents and stepparents, as well, and so they are balancing supporting their students’ families from afar, as well as working with their own children at the same time. We are so lucky to have them.

Tomorrow, our Communications Director Christina Pretorius will write about what it’s like in her house these days. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all of our staff’s stories!