Socializing from a Distance

Well, hello, world beyond my front yard.

I’m writing this from our third week of sheltering due to COVID-19. Our state’s stay-at-home order has been extended to June, so it looks like this is going to become a way of life for a while.

I think that many people assume that we homeschoolers are just carrying on as usual. But we know that isn’t true. While the school shutdowns didn’t completely upend our daily lives, our own calendars were wiped clean—no co-ops, no teen game nights at the library, no church or youth groups. Homeschoolers put in a lot of effort to build networks and stay connected. Social distancing leaves most of us at loose ends too.

Of course, some of us already keep a little social distance between ourselves and the rest of the world. We like staying busy at home. But a little can go a very long way. Once everyone began isolating, I no longer had my extroverted friends luring me out and about. And since everybody else is in the same boat (albeit sitting six feet apart from each other), I’ve begun finding ways to stay connected.

1. Text, Messenger, Email, etc. I’m already a big fan of texting. Darren and I did most of our dating over email and Instant Messenger (may Google rest its soul). These days, when a friend comes to mind, I make an effort to pick up my phone and dash off a message. I also venture into the perilous waters of Facebook, dodging the controversial posts, and make a point to engage on personal ones.

1a. Phone calls. I’m including this one because I feel like I should. The fact is, I don’t like phone calls. I relate to the meme that says, “I’m sorry I didn’t answer when you called; I don’t use my phone for that.” But if you do like phone calls, by all means, call people! Just, um, realize that I might not pick up.

2. Video chat. When I was in fifth grade, I had to write a paragraph about how technology would be different in “the future.” I wrote that telephones would have TVs attached to them so you could see who you were calling—but a disadvantage would be that you’d have to fix your hair before you made a phone call. My teacher thought it was adorable. Well, who’s laughing now? As the whole country seems to have discovered, video chat is the way to work, do school, and go to church in a time when we can’t meet face-to-face.

3. Help your kids connect online. I’m going to say it: now is not the time to be limiting screen time. My kids chat with online friends nearly all day. Now that the sheltering time period has been extended, I’m looking into games we can play with faraway cousins via video chat.

4. Make family time. I know, I know. There’s too much family time going on right now. But I mean more than just jostling around together in the same house. I mean consciously spending an hour or two together, before separating with earbuds and separate screens. With all outside obligations lifted, our family now has time to play board games. (Our favorites include Celestia, Settlers of Catan, The Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and Terraforming Mars.) Darren and I can take a walk in the middle of the day, and my girls and I are catching up on Season 2 of Netflix’s Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Other families are hiking together, reading aloud, and sitting down to family dinners for the first time in ages. We’re all stuck at home, so we might as well enjoy the benefits.

5. Interact at a distance with neighbors. Each morning, I write a poll question on a whiteboard easel and set it up at the edge of my yard. People can vote by dropping rocks, sticks, or whatever else in the provided buckets. In the evening, I count the votes (and wash my hands afterward). I write the results, come up with a new question, and return the easel to my front yard. We get about 15 votes per day from neighbors who seem to enjoy it as a part of their new daily routine.

6. Use our advantages to help others. This pandemic is hitting all of us in different ways. I’m in the category of people who didn’t immediately feel the impact of the shutdowns. While I have to plan carefully when to get groceries, I don’t sit with a churning stomach wondering how to buy them. As the isolation measures settle in for what looks like a long time, Darren and I are taking a look at what we can spare to help others—whether that’s mailing a check to friends, giving to our church to be distributed into the community, or simply setting aside money to use for local businesses.

This pandemic is a new experience for most of us. Even those of us who enjoy staying at home are feeling the uncertainty and frustration. It helps my peace of mind to find ways to remind myself, and those around me, that even that while we’re separated, we’re all in this together.

—Sara

Photo credit: iStock, following image courtesy of author.

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