Plague, Part 13, Update 3/16/20

Adventures in homeschooling and work from home begin. And I’m already extremely pissed off.

First a general update, as of this morning. The numbers of cases are exploding in all the towns in the area, include the town where my folks live.

The governors in NJ, NY, and CT are all working together to shut everything down. This level of regional cooperation between state government is unheard of. And super welcome.

The buzz… NYC is going to get really bad, very soon. Friends in the city are self-isolating for five days and then having family drive in, scoop them up, and then getting the hell out. DeBlasio didn’t shutdown the schools and the bars fast enough.


Steve and I are frantically tapping away at our keyboards. Jonah is taking a history midterm. And Ian is doing gym class on the switch with his Ring Fit.

Teachers have sent me super long instructions for homeschooling my kid, and I have flipped out on them.

I am not homeschooling my kid. NOT. I don’t have the credentials. Nobody is paying me. And I have a job of my own to do.

One therapist asked me to sign a form saying I provided him with speech therapy and some links on how to be a speech therapist. Then she asked that I sign a form that I provided him with his state mandated therapy. Fuck that. She’ll have to work in the summer, so he gets his legally mandated hours of therapy. Tough.


We’ve been cooking lots of meals at home. Recipes to come.

39 thoughts on “Plague, Part 13, Update 3/16/20

  1. Well, one of the benefits of living in a poor school district is….parents are not receiving these emails. (I’m going by what I’m hearing from friends with kids still in school. The entire district gets free lunch, since the number of kids who wouldn’t qualify is so small it isn’t worth the paperwork for the district—they feed everybody. A friend posted that her IEP meeting will take place via online videoconferencing.)

    There is no homeschooling expected to take place here. Most kids don’t have reliable internet connections (yes, cellphones are ubiquitous, but data plans aren’t. Kids use free wi-fi when they are in pkaces that have it, and those are closed now). And households with computers just tend to have one, which is a problem for parents with more than one kid. If educational software is anything like the software we used for apprenticeship classes, it isn’t cellphone compatible anyway (when I taught, this was an issue for my guys, most of whom lived in small towns without adequate-speed internet. If they had laptop problems, they couldn’t do the lessons).

    I am back visiting at home for a couple days, ostensibly to attend and take minutes at my union meeting. The women’s meeting was postponed, no word yet on the regular union meeting (probably waiting for instruction from the I.O. on how to handle that—we are already being advised to handle union elections in June by mail).

    I was not prepared for the level of panic in Illinois. I am relatively isolated working long night shift hours. I advised my daughter to stock up a few weeks ago in anticipation, but…wow. i mean, this is the midwest. Every time a major snowstorm comes in there is a run on the stores. But this? There was no meat department. No eggs. No soups, no pasta. No TP or paper towels. I was glad to find cat food and litter. I’ve never seen anything like this.

    I’m debating whether or not to just drive back before roads close. The Omaha area does not look like this. Grocery stores are still functional. Illinois is a mess.


  2. Laura said, “I am not homeschooling my kid. NOT. I don’t have the credentials. Nobody is paying me. And I have a job of my own to do.”

    And furthermore, kid is BIG. If kid can’t figure it out on his own, it’s too complicated.


  3. “One therapist asked me to sign a form saying I provided him with speech therapy and some links on how to be a speech therapist.”



    1. No shit. I read this to my daughter, who received speech therapy through Early Intervention. She was appalled. She completely approved of Laura’s answer.


  4. We have at this point a second week of spring break, with no school work expected. Nobody really knows what happens next. I expect that school will come up with something for the big kids to do at home if the cancellation gets extended. (I think that our senior is basically “done” academically as a high schooler. I would like to see her make some progress on her AP Physics 1 and AP Calculus A, although the former is going to be a tall order at home.) Hopefully they keep the make-up work fairly moderate for the little kids.

    We were told in the fall that our 1st grader was having issues with reading, math and handwriting (which is essentially the whole ball game in 1st grade), so I have had a home education program going for those three areas for quite a number of months. We were mostly doing reading at home during the fall, but added math and handwriting to the schedule over Christmas break. We have been working on those three areas ever since and the 1st grader has done an enormous amount of reading on natural history (so we have “science” more or less covered?). I currently have her working on Kumon’s Addition workbook, Kumon’s Simple Subtraction and Kumon’s Lower Case Letters. Over the course of a day, I have her do usually 2 pages of each workbook plus a morning and an evening reading session with me, with a “break” on Sunday of just reading. It wouldn’t be adequate for an entire school year, but it’s fine as a stop-gap. Unfortunately, the public libraries are closed until the end of the month. The college library is open, has a children’s section, and I’m planning on going there for books as soon as possible.

    With any luck, the 1st grader (who has a lot of trouble with sitting still and paying attention) may wind up ahead of where she would be if the school year were proceeding normally. (We’re investigating stuff, but coronavirus is probably going to gum up the process.)

    The 9th grader got the fixings for a raised bed garden (he has been asking for this for months) and got it planted toward the end of spring break. He’s showing the 1st grader some stuff from the backyard under a microscope right now. He also has a neighborhood running buddy to run with twice a week. The 12th grader made chocolate/coffee mochi with almond paste filling this morning, with some help from her siblings.

    Nothing is utterly terrible–I just wish I had more toilet paper. I managed to buy two single rolls today.


      1. Thanks!

        I also decided today to order some AP test prep workbooks if our school cancellation is extended.

        Between that and Khan Academy, she should do well no matter what.

        (I hope school doesn’t go nuts with regard to make-up work.)


  5. The virus is all over my area of the country right now. We’re basically homebound for weeks. If any of my blog readers have a little more wiggle room for time, not only stock up your pantry, but do other stuff, like get haircuts, while you can. Fill your cars with gas and take out money from the ATM. Actually, gas and money aren’t huge issues here, but haircuts are already a problem.


    1. I was glad I had withdrawn money last week. The electronic payment system seemed to be overwhelmed. Being able to pay cash for groceries was very convenient.

      If all meetings are virtual, and no one sees your hair, does it even exist???


    2. Why cash? I’m actually liking the credit card payments — our grocery store lets me put in my chip card and then I have to touch nothing.


      1. It’s convenient to have a back up method of payment. The internet is slow at times, in normal times, in our area. I don’t know what the effect of everyone in the country going online will be.

        I also want to not have every purchase I make become part of my Permanent Record. I discovered that my credit score was lower than my husband’s, which made no sense whatsoever. Then I realize that I do most of the shopping, so I “use” more of my credit. Paying for some things with cash gives some anonymity.

        My husband ordered powered milk for our Pandemic Supplies. (Sold out at our local store.) That meant, of course, that the AIs decided I had a baby in the house. Maybe a grandchild? Anyways, very creepy how suddenly I was seeing ads for baby supplies. Although, if I had a grandchild, I would be urging them to shelter with us, so it’s a logical assumption, but wrong, and creepy.

        Today was Lasagna, Chicken & Chocolate Chip Cookie day at our grocery store. Empty shelves: Lasagna ingredients (ricotta, mozzarella, lasagna noodles, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, sausage.) No chicken to be had. Flour, most eggs & chocolate chips sold out. And, of course, the eternal, toilet paper.


      2. The ATM at Port Authority seems to be serviced regularly. It’s never run out of cash, but yesterday morning it was out of paper for printing receipts, which deficit was addressed by lunchtime.


    3. Laura said, “like get haircuts, while you can.”

      Yeah, I did that for the 1st grader last week.

      It already felt dicey, but she needed a haircut BAD.


    4. My hair looks stupid. For sound late-capitalism reasons, I hadn’t had any time for a cut during February or the first part of this month. But I’m hoping with the quarantine beard, it will balance out.


      1. Speaking of late capitalism, Amazon is hiring:

        “In addition to the additional 100,000 new roles we’re creating, we want to recognize our employees who are playing an essential role for people at a time when many of the services that might normally be there to support them are closed. In the U.S., we will be adding an additional $2 USD per hour worked through April from our current rate of $15/hour or more, depending on the region, £2 per hour in the UK, and approximately €2 per hour in many EU countries.”


      2. I think all hair problems of any kind should be blamed on late capitalism. Or neoliberalism, maybe.


  6. I am a legal secretary, and was sent home from work last week with a laptop, printer, and box of office supplies–the entire office is working from home, but with a rotation of individuals to be the one person in the office each day of the work week. This is to be decided one week at a time, so I am for certain at home for one week; they will decide about next week and let us know by close of business Friday.

    My household has food and supplies for 3 weeks, because we started in December – we always lay in 2 weeks’ worth in case of flu, and this time only had to add a week’s worth which I started in February because I was paying attention. No kids in this household. I would recommend checking with your library about e-books rather than going to a physical library if you can. There are also good websites with free downloadables for home schoolers-this website has a few links in the lower right:


  7. Ok, we are at the epicenter. I was publicly talking about my worries to come on Feb 27th on the Bernie thread here, and I had started talking about it earlier. So, these worries have been on my mind now for 3+ weeks. It is fascinating how much has changed and how much changes from day to day.

    Our schools closed on the 11th and will reopen no later than April 24th. There are no plans now for “home schooling”. They are calling whatever they offer supplemental learning. The district is concentrating on providing food. A local district started with remote learning and then paused it because legal access issues were raised (as you have pointed out, SPED children have rights).

    He has asked me to get Ijeoma Oluma’s “So you want to talk about race” and Annad Giridahradas’s “Winner Take All.” He has plans to do informal lessons in Kannada, with my parents (and my sister, who is a teacher whose schools closed for two weeks). They will set up a regular Skype session. He is currently taking 3 AP classes, and he will continue work on those using whatever online resources he finds & take practice tests. I don’t know if the AP tests will happen, but he’ll do the learning anyway. We are working on a scheduled time for physical activity.

    I’m perfectly willing to help my child learn (which isn’t hard, since he doesn’t need much help). For us, it means providing some structure, which we are still working on. At this moment, he’s reading. I’m not worried and would generally be annoyed at remote zoom lectures (though kiddo says he’d be intrigued if it allowed him to interact with classmates).


    1. That, is, I’m willing to help my kid learn because it doesn’t require any special skills and is easy (and, I have the time to do it). Others do not have that set of luxuries.


    2. Here in MA, the Dept. of Ed. has basically told districts they cannot require instruction, impose deadlines, etc. for equity reasons. Which I get, BUT that doesn’t mean equity issues go away. For instance, they’re recommending that districts create extended learning opportunities that are available for optional use. Any guess as to who is going to use them? Ultimately, I guess the question for me is does making learning optional during this period help address issues of inequality or make them worse? IDK how to solve this problem – I am not sure anyone does.


  8. On another note, college kid is home. I am happy to have her here. The travel went smoothly. She’s happy to have a house again (though would have preferred it be only spring break). They have nothing due for the next two weeks (though she does have some extracurriculars with meetings). She will finish the school year and I expect there won’t be anything I do for that.

    She is taking a class on refugees, and her teacher used the rushed leaving as a teaching moment: “Collective displacement – time to pack your bags and go, ordinary plans and gestures all in abeyance, and some uncertainty as to how we will conduct ourselves and what the separations will mean, what borders we cannot cross, and those that we must. “


    1. Cranberry said, “Residents ordered to shelter in place for 3 weeks.”

      A lot of San Franciscans don’t have a place.


  9. I was just out early voting in IL, and ran into several friends there – one trying to get a ballot for her daughter to vote since she is self-quarantining when she gets back from overseas tonight. Things here in my town are still fine – grocery stories reasonably well stocked except tp, people out and around, everyone preparing for the restaurant shutdown. Got cash and light bulbs and extra dish soap and chocolate. I thought yesterday was my last day out, but since I wanted to vote anyway I decided to do the shopping as well.

    One of my parents’ elderly friends (87) has a husband with Alzheimer’s and she feels like she needs to keep taking him out of the house for his mental health. They go out to dinner almost every night and will probably keep doing that if restaurants stay open. Some of their other friends have also been slower to self-isolate. I think so many of them have serious health problems that they may prefer to risk it and die sooner rather than later. The 80s are a very strange time.


  10. Today was my big laying-in-provisions day.

    We just ordered several weird commercial toilet paper rolls from an office supply store that rhymes with Tables, because that’s what was available. Amazon seemed to have no toilet paper delivering this month. We also got ear thermometer covers and a 10-pack of basic surgical masks. (Husband was reluctant about the latter item, but I told him that it was an anniversary gift to me, and what if one of us gets sick and needs to be out in public? Husband says that mask sellers have been banned from Amazon, but there they were. Delivering in April, but I don’t think we’ll be done with this stuff by then. Anyway, it was just $13.)

    I was in the grocery store this morning. They had a 2-unit limit on toilet paper, which meant that (by the time I got there around 9:30), I was able to get two rolls (!) of toilet paper. Hence our eagerness to mail order a larger stash…

    I got a large bag of picture books from the college library children’s section, which is extremely outdated and almost never visited by actual germy children. It turns out that I am entitled to a marital share of my husband’s 200-book faculty allowance. WOOHOO! On the other hand, I expect the college library to close any day now (the public libraries are closed at least until the end of the month). Ebooks are great, blah blah blah–but the 1st grader is at an age where it’s really nice to have some physical picture books.

    I also wimped out this evening and ordered 11 paperback books (about $60 worth) for the 1st grader (largely National Geographic readers and Let’s Read and Find Out Science), mostly arriving at the end of the week. I’ve been scraping the barrel of our home book collection for a while.


    1. Hmm, I stopped in the Duane Reade on the way to work this morning. As one would expect, they received deliveries yesterday, and they have toilet paper in abundance. I really don’t understand the Great Toilet Paper Panic.


  11. At least some k-12 teachers will be working extra hard. My husband works at a private school and is being asked to have private online conferences with all of his advisees and their parents, which he’s spent all week scheduling. Then their ongoing schedule will be synchronous instruction all morning with students working on their projects/homework in the afternoon, but he will also have an open conference call they can join in all afternoon to ask for help. The school day will be same length. Given the tech learning curve and the need to create new materials it’s been harder for him, not easier (except the end of sports—he was a spring coach too, but he enjoyed that).

    I have a hs senior with an IEP. We’ve already been notified she will receive counseling via telehealth. The instruction right now will just be homework but they’re still hoping to return in two weeks, which won’t happen.


    1. None of my son’s classes involve synchronous instruction. There are zero conference calls. Zero one-to-one interactions. Just lots of worksheets and long, long written instructions that aren’t tailored to his special needs. And I am expected to help him with all this, with zero compensation, while I have to work, too? I’m livid.


    2. Our private school (the one my kids went to, but no longer do) is offering a similar schedule, which is still being tweaked around the edges. The teachers are working hard, especially on planning.

      Another teacher I know is participating in the food outreach for the district where she teaches 2nd grade.

      Our school district (10th grader) is doing what slnoonanj describes, no official instruction, some supplemental learning opportunities, no evaluations. As I said, this all works for me. My son just handed me a schedule, a book list (which I ordered on Amazon), and a list of different activities he hopes to work on during the period. Tomorrow, he’s supposed to review & make suggestions of deliverables (the first, which he has promised for tomorrow is an essay on the book he just finished reading). Others might include a language blog, and specifics for his AP test preparations.

      And, all that shows the inequities, because, as slnoonanj worries, my son is likely to come out of this with at least as much learning as he would in school. I really hope that there no mandatory summer school.


    3. I do wonder what equitable solutions would look like and would like to hear examples. How could more equitable learning opportunities be provided?


  12. That’s terrible. Our hs might be the same. They haven’t even started yet—tomorrow—so I don’t know. I hope they at least have virtual office hours.


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