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Every time I read another article (this is a good one) about it, or have another conversation with a friend, I wonder what would happen if we (meaning my family, as I am not in the habit of telling other people how to raise their kids) simply abandoned this whole distance learning online school business.

As it stands, Zeke has indicated–more through actions than words–that he is done with first grade. This does not mean he is done with learning. He loves to learn. And I haven’t even been trying to give him the “schoolwork” that his school posted online. But he does not want to sit and have lessons. The more I push, the more he resists, unless screen time is offered as a reward for completing a task. I simply do not have the time or energy to sit with him all day and teach him things. And I have no desire to fight with him about doing things he doesn’t want to do.

I feel so conflicted about this. We are overachievers living in a community where overachievement is highly valued. Honor roll is the goal, even if it isn’t stated. We are swimming in high expectations. Our children should excel. At the same time, there is a growing awareness of the costs to kids and families of this pressure to not only succeed, but be the best. Teen rates of anxiety and depression have skyrocketed, as has teen suicide. It might seem like a leap to go from a first grader who doesn’t want to do a worksheet to a suicidal college student, but maybe not.

I’ve heard about parents in local online groups who are complaining that the work produced by teachers for distance learning is insufficient, too easy, uninspired. These parents wonder what their children’s teachers are even doing, and worry that their children will fall behind. I feel confident that the children of these particular parents are the least likely to “fall behind,” whatever that means since every single kid is not in school right now. No other kids are leaping ahead in knowledge and skills when they’re at home. Of if they are, they’re probably the kind of self-motivated kids who would be learning stuff on their own anyway. When (please God, let it be when and not if) school starts again in the fall, every kid will have missed many months of school, and the teachers and administrators will figure out how to deal with it. I count many teachers as friends and I am sure none of them are sitting around treating this like an unexpected vacation. They are all trying to figure out what they can and should and are supposed to do to support the kids they were assigned to teach in September. They miss their kids. They miss being in the classroom, because they’re teachers and that’s what they signed up to do. Despite the good intentions of various school systems around here, my impression is that a lot of teachers are just winging it. No superintendent or principal was prepared for this and my sense is that they’re just telling their teachers, “do something! go forth and offer education as best you can!”

Zoe’s math teacher, thank heavens, has significantly reduced the pre-algebra workload. I am proud of Zoe for continuing to do her math, even if it’s not at as fast a pace as her teacher would have it. Zoe reports that most of her teachers are just posting simple assignments and doing a lot of virtual checking in with students. We get very sweet messages from her TA (like homeroom) teacher almost every day offering encouragement and help if we need it.

I would not suggest to anyone that they should stop making their kids do school if they don’t think that makes sense–if they feel like their kids need that daily structure, or if they were already behind and are using this time to catch up, or for any other reason that holds up in their family. But when I keep hearing from friends how stressful it is to get their kids to do their work, or how they have to take time off from their own already overwhelming jobs to help their kids with their homework, I wonder if it’s worth it. What would happen if we took it easy on ourselves and our kids?

I don’t know the answer. I do know that it requires a surprising amount of courage for me to consider finding out. I feel a strong urge to channel my inner Elsa–both the “Let It Go” Elsa from the original Frozen and the older, wiser Elsa venturing “Into the Unknown” in Frozen II. It’s a scary place to go, as you can see from Elsa’s facial expression. But she ends up where she needs to be.

When the motorized scooter was delivered to our hotel in Orlando, the scooter guy assembled it, and showed my parents what to do. My sister shared an instructional YouTube video with us even before the trip so we could familiarize ourselves with the assembly and disassembly process. Even so, the first morning of our adventure, after my mom drove the scooter up to my parents’ minivan, it took several adults several (10? 15?) minutes to take it apart and stow it in the back of the van.

When we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, we put it together slightly faster, but when it was assembled and my mom put the key in the ignition, there was a lot of beeping. So much beeping that it was clear that the scooter was telling us something. Like, “don’t drive me.” We took things apart and put them back together. Finally, we discovered that the lock/unlock switch was in the wrong position. It may have been Zeke who figured it out. We flipped the switch and the beeping ceased. The only sound was a cheer from everyone.

By the end of the week, we (and by we I really mean Randy, because he did the lion’s share of scooter assembly and disassembly, usually with some assistance from my dad or me) could transform the scooter in 30 seconds flat. But the real scooter master was the driver–my mom.

The dashboard of the scooter only has one dial, which goes from turtle on the left to rabbit on the right. My mom definitely preferred to rabbit away on that scooter. She zoomed through the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Legoland, Universal Studios, and Disney Hollywood Studios like it was a getaway car, deftly maneuvering through throngs of people, around couples and wayward toddlers and large unruly families like ours. She sped up ramps to the scooter and wheelchair accessible entrances to rides and attractions. She executed tight turns. She sometimes gave rides to the youngest members of our party, who could most easily fit on her lap, when they got tired of walking. She cruised through gift shops. She circled around to find the perfect shady spot to park in while waiting for others to go on roller coasters or anything fast or spinny that wasn’t her cup of tea. She did not, as far as I know, run over anyone except for the feet of some family members when we were standing around not paying attention to when she was ready to drive. Not really her fault. And she never crashed. She sidled up to a handsome young guy on a scooter to ask how long his battery lasted because hers seemed to be fading midway through the day. They compared notes companionably.

We noticed during all five days at the park that the scooter rental companies in Orlando are doing a booming business. And the drivers of the scooters are diverse. You might expect most of them to be older people with mobility issues, which certainly accounted for many of them, but not nearly all. The man my mom chatted with couldn’t have been out of his 20s. I wondered if he was a combat-injured veteran, but really he could’ve had any kind of condition that made walking long distances challenging. It didn’t matter. I also saw pregnant women driving scooters. I remember just walking through the National Zoo when I was nine months pregnant and desperately wishing I could flag down an employee driving a golf cart to give me a lift. The fact is that these parks are gigantic, and you often have to criss cross back and forth to go on the rides you want to go on when the lines are shortest, and you cover a lot of territory. If walking far is difficult or painful, as it is for many people, the scooter is genius.

Often during our trip as I watched my mom’s back as she zoomed away, I imagined how powerful she must have felt driving that scooter. She didn’t have to use a cane or be pushed in a wheelchair. She didn’t have to ask anyone for help. She didn’t have to hope that the rest of us would wait up while she took a break on a bench. She didn’t have to miss anything. And she could go fast. I don’t know when the last time would’ve been that she could get somewhere faster than the rest of us, but it’s been a while. Sometimes we would be standing around trying to figure out where our next destination was and suddenly realize she had sped off, and we’d have to run to catch up to her.

While we were on vacation my mom mused about how having a scooter like this at home would enable her to do things she hasn’t been able to comfortably or easily do on her own for years, like go shopping. She wondered why they don’t have scooters for rent at Tyson’s Corner. I wondered that too. While the concentration of people needing scooters would not be quite as large as at Disney, surely there would be enough to make it worthwhile for the mall to have some on hand. They rent strollers, why not mobility scooters?

I’ve thought about the power and independence my mom could reclaim if she had a scooter at her disposal all the time. But she couldn’t take it out of the car and put it together and then take it apart again and put it back in the car by herself. And if she had to have someone with her all the time to do that for her, she wouldn’t really have the independence that she wants. She’s not in a position where she needs a custom van with a scooter lift. She can walk. I don’t know the solution to this yet, but I feel sure it’s out there somewhere. If we did get my mom a scooter of her own, we would have to customize it so she could have her Diet Coke easily accessible and it wouldn’t spill, she could fit her purchases in a large basket, and there would be red flames painted on the sides because she loves speed.

One of the best parts of the vacation for me was seeing my mom go full rabbit on her scooter all through every park, knowing that she had all the power she wanted.

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