This wasn’t the April article I intended to be writing. I was planning to either talk about our garden and spring plans (“April Showers”), or ponder the significance of arriving at a milestone birthday, or write up a retrospective of our time in Peru and what we were doing exactly one year ago this month.
But then, this wasn’t the spring I intended for us to be living either, and yet here we are. All events and most services have shut down, and our pace has slackened as our community and nation respond to the developing outbreak.
When the schools first closed down, I started seeing memes online about homeschooling going universal. “Welcome to our world,” veteran homeschoolers proclaimed, jumping in with advice and encouragement for those thrust suddenly into unexpected circumstances.
I also saw posts disputing the notion that “Everyone’s homeschooling now!” pointing out that self-quarantine is nothing like a typical homeschool schedule, where we have months to plan and gather materials, and places to go and friends to see. When it became clear that sheltering in place would last longer than a week or two, and the schools were not reopening this year, this latter viewpoint became more prescient than ever. Even families who are used to having kids around all day long can go stir-crazy when confined at home.
So what are we doing to combat the COVID cabin fever?
1. Counting our blessings. We have plenty of food in our pantry and freezer, and if we run low, we can still go out to fetch necessities: grocery stores and big box stores (and, curiously, liquor stores) are deemed essential in our state. I’ve read accounts of friends in other countries who are limited in how many people can leave their house on a given day. We have all necessary services—the grid hasn’t gone down yet—so we can communicate with others, even if we can’t visit in person right now. We are healthy, and everyone in our family is safe.
2. Enjoying the outdoors. We’re so thankful that spring is here, and that we have a backyard where we can run around. Since we can’t go to the park or library, or visit friends, we’re making the most of our own space.
3. Enjoying our indoors. This is the perfect time for spring-cleaning: it’s spring, and we always need to clean! I saw a humorous quote that said, “I kept thinking I couldn’t clean my house because I never had the time. Now I know that wasn’t the reason.” Funny! But whether or not we enjoy cleaning, the show goes on.
4. Planting our garden. Oddly enough, when I went shopping for seedlings, I could only find seeds, so we just rolled with it. Now instead of a six-pack each of pepper and tomato plants, I have several dozen little plants sprouting on our countertops. This will be our most robust victory garden ever.
5. Going full homestead. In the past, I’ve dabbled in a few crunchy endeavors, from homemade yogurt and sourdough bread to water kefir soda, kombucha, and sauerkraut—but never all at once. This is the perfect time to pull all my little probiotic experiments out of hibernation, because I have plenty of time to tend them, they rely on basic supplies like water, sugar, milk, and flour, and because we can all use more healthy bacteria boosting our immune systems.
6. Playing more games. There’s nothing like playing a cooperative game like “Pandemic” in the middle of an actual pandemic.
7. Connecting with neighbors. We are not in a complete lockdown, and while everyone is advised to stay at home, the more important guideline is to preserve a safe distance between individuals. So we can walk through our neighborhood and wave at our neighbors, and we’ve actually been talking more—from six feet away—than we typically did before. We’ve also turned to an online neighborhood forum, where locals share advice on which stores have what items, ask for help if needed, and plan “window bear hunts” for kids. It’s been incredibly heartening to see our community coming together to support each other.
Notice anything not on the list? School. We’re not ramping up our study times at all. Various kids continue to plod (or whiz) through their books, but I’m not assigning any extra work in the midst of all this down time. We happen to have all our textbooks on hand because school at home is what we do, but for all the parents out there stranded without a school-at-home plan, it might help to know that formal textbooks are not necessary. In fact I wrote about our experience learning without books last year, and sometimes I do feel that we learn more when we aren’t really trying to.
Is our world truly turned upside down? Our new normal looks remarkably like our prior normal, only more so. These are the things we were already doing—or going to be doing—at this time of the year: we’re just doing more of them. While we do feel the pinch of social isolation, the relative ease with which our family can slide into “suburban homesteading” should be an encouragement to anyone feeling overwhelmed by new routines and supply disruptions. We may face a learning curve, but we can do this.
At the end of the day, just being together, and being grateful for the time we have, may be the best silver lining this crisis can offer us.