Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Last Day Of Primary School

First Day at Kindergarten, aged 3 3/4
Can you believe it? I'm the single mum who just had a baby on my own. Only apparently that was almost 12 years ago and that baby just left primary school.

I'm the friend who dropped out of social events in the evenings because she had a baby/toddler/little girl at home. Only now there's no little girl at home. Only an almost teenager who looks remarkably like a young woman.

I look at the school opposite our house and down the road and it's no longer our school after eight long years.

I took DD to the kindergarten when she was still 3. It was two year groups together and the twins who 'adopted' her were almost 6. She was tiny and a bit like the mascot of the kindergarten.

In 1st Grade I had to take her into the classroom every day and wait for the bell. Some days the Headmistress had to prize her off me saying, "A kiss from Mummy and in you go." What she meant was - off you go Mummy and be quick about it.

By 2nd Grade I was leaving her at the school gates and watching her run inside.

In 3rd Grade she wanted me to stop half way down the road and let her walk the last bit with her friends. I watched until she'd gone through the school gates.

By 4th grade I only had to see her across the road.

In 5th grade she went by herself, carefully crossing the road as I watched from the balcony and waved. She got her own front door key for the days that she arrived home before me.

In 6th Grade I often had to go to work early, leaving DD to lock up and go to school. Three times a month she was the supervisor for the crossing guard.

I tried to send her to bed tonight. I don't know what I was thinking. "Good luck with that," she replied, "No school until September remember."

I remember.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bat Mitzvah Perfect - R2BC

The Judean Hills
View from the Bat Mitzvah girl's garden.
Reasons 2B Cheerful are indeed 3 this week. The linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum as always. And here they are.

Bat Mitzvah Party
We went to a Bat Mitzvah party on Friday. It was a perfect gathering of a few families in the garden, a bagel brunch, dessert, some singing, some praying, some performances in honour of the Bat Mitzvah girl. Then the adults went home and left the Bat Mitzvah girl's friends for a sleepover.

They have a small pool in the garden and they put up tents for the girls to sleep in. I had a small glass of wine on my balcony at home and slept in my bed. And DD was delivered  home today. It was the perfect Bat Mitzvah celebration imo.

We talked about how corona has caused many events to be scaled down and it's sad when it means that family from far away can't be there. On the other hand, a more modest celebration can be extra special and meaningful in its intimacy and hygge.

Semester End
I have one more week of school and two more weeks of college until this semester is over, including grading the exams. During that time I still have to set up my summer online course ready to start on July 15th, but that's a new beginning. I love the ending. When every pupil's report card is written, most students have their final grade (because there are always some with extensions), I can almost close that door on a job done and relax.

Tomorrow morning I'm starting a meditation programme facilitated by a friend on facebook, and based on 21 Days of Abundance by Deepak Chopra. You can find it on You Tube and do it yourself but I'm looking forward to the guidance, commitment, and energy gained by being part of a group.

I've done a programme like this but different, before, #Breakthrough with Devorah Sisso. That time, although motivated, I came up against a brick wall in lesson 5 out of 6, when I had to write my aspirations for the future. You could ask the universe for anything you could imagine. And I was paralysed by the chasm between what I would love and what I saw as realistic.

I read The Secret. I watched the movie. I read another book about letting grace into your life. I did a course run by a fellow blogger called LifeCircle. We have a roof over our heads, we have food to eat, we have our health, and we have friends, so maybe they all worked. Otoh, I didn't get my yacht in Monaco or my Chateau in Provence so maybe I didn't do it right?

Anyway, I'm ready for another bash at being one of the world's amazing women so I'm giving it a go. Obviously I'll let you know how it turns out. I may be writing from my poolside suite at an exclusive spa or I may be writing from this dining table still piled high with stuff waiting to be put away. Or something in between.

Have a great week.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

From One Day To The Next - R2BC

The lettuces on my window sill are doing well.
As soon as I plant them outside the birds get them.
Maybe I'll stick to the hydraponic approach inside this time. 
I didn't have any Reasons 2B Cheerful on Thursday when Becky published the R2BC linky on Lakes Single Mum. I didn't have any big reasons not to be cheerful but there was nothing particular to write about. By Friday God had provided me with three R2BC - because the world is running so smoothly he obviously had time on his hands to sort out my petty niggles. 

Dinner With Friends
We used to do this every few weeks. Friday night dinner with another single mum at either their place or ours. A friend for me and a friend for DD. Nothing grand, just company and good simple food. But then corona happened and we stopped doing it. So last night we walked over to their place and caught up, ate far too much, and had fun. (I need to get my place in shape so that they can come to us in a couple of weeks.)

The Home Front
Talking of getting my place into shape, I saw the funniest meme on facebook. Of course the funniest ones are the most true. 

Is my house clean and tidy? - No
But are we having crazy fun times making memories? - Also no. 

A friend told me yesterday that when they got the notice that it would be back to school and work in two weeks in their State of the US, he panicked because they'd not done any the things he'd planned to do during lockdown. That too. 

School Changes
Talking of going back to school. DD had one week of the two day arrangement and her school decided that they're all going back on Sunday - full normal schedule, full classes. 

My school was a nightmare because when they were splitting the classes teachers got put in wherever they were needed. The English staff got shuffled around (at least we're still teaching English) and now we're with classes we've not taught all year. I don't know any of the kids' names, I'm taking over specific remedial programmes for the weaker students (who are also less motivated) and I have no idea how these programmes work, and all in masks with no breaks because every teacher is on playground duty and lunch duty three times a day because of staggered break times. And if you found that long sentence difficult to read and take in - that's how I feel all day in school. I honestly didn't know if I could do it for another three weeks. 

The primary school teachers union had agreed with the government to continue school until July 12th instead of the usual June 30th. Meanwhile the middle and high school unions were still saying they want to finish on June 20th as usual, instead of continuing until June 30th. Then yesterday afternoon the labour court sided with the teachers. Middle and high school students are suddenly and abruptly finished for the year (except those taking public exams over the next month) and us littlies have only a week and a half to go. 

Hooray! I would have been happy to teach for the extra couple of weeks but I can't do this babysitting lark whilst pretending to teach. And K - 4th grade are getting free summer school until August 6th.

The Summer Holiday
Talking of breaking up from school, obviously we're not going anywhere this summer but what plans I have for us whilst stuck at home for two months. LOL. See R2BC 2 above. #procrastinatingoptimistsyndrome  No seriously...

Sick Note
I got a sick note from my doctor for the two weeks that we were in enforced quarantine. So I'll get paid for the full month of June and not just for the two weeks I went back to school. Hooray again! 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Unschooling Happened

Real homeschooling would involve trips to Kew Gardens,
learning photography, about plants, and Chihuly. 
Unschooling is a thing. Really. And it's allowed in places where homeschooling is legal, which is in most of the world these days.

Unschooling is leaving your child to his or her own devices in an information  and experiential rich environment and trusting that they will educate themselves. Perhaps with some gentle guidance and a few rules like only educational screen time during the day, a certain amount of out of house time, obligatory chores that promote useful skills, etc...

The rich environment could include books; the internet; the library, museums; available adults who are willing to engage; group activities like scouts, a choir or orchestra, swim team; family experiences like travel, camping, religious rituals and celebrations, cooking, gardening; play with other children; a part time job; and anything else that provides stimulation and opportunities to learn anything at all.

The coronavirus lockdown is nothing like homeschooling. It's temporary, we're not set up for it, we can't use the library, museums, go on nature walks, etc... There's distance learning from the schools, and regular parents have their own work to do. It's a sad but true fact that only families in which one parent can do flexi-hours from home, can do homeschooling. Most families don't have this choice.

Most important of all, there are at least seven different methods you can adopt for homeschooling and/or combinations thereof. It can take a while to explore the options and see which method works best for your family. For example, recreate a classroom at home and follow the national curriculum with textbooks and a weekly schedule. Co-op learning with other families and each parent teaching their field of expertise or passion. The Charlotte Mason method of real literature and learning till noon followed by outdoor pursuits in the afternoon. Place Based Learning uses the local environment, community and culture. Remote online learning. Umbrella or theme based learning. You get the picture, it's not just staying at home and working through the textbooks.

Despite all this, a lot of unschooling by default has taken place over the last three months. In our home I had lots of online teaching going on. DD also had some remote lessons but also a lot of free time during which I wasn't available to occupy her. Add to this that she's an only child and I'm almost dying of guilt as I write this. I admit that there was far too much screen time and not enough no baking, balcony gardening, art, teaching her to sew and knit, playing the recorder or piano, learning a foreign language, board games, jigsaw puzzles, or reading aloud.

All of the above were mentioned by various mother friends on facebook as a job well done. I let it go and put my trust in the theory of unschooling. Largely my trust was misplaced but I was surprised by some definite indications of unschooling success.

1. DD suddenly got interested in world affairs. She became obsessed with the corona numbers and statistics. She listened to Trump's daily media briefings in order to analyse how vague and ignorant he sounded. She told me about the murder of George Floyd before any of the protests had spread around the world. She gave me an hour by hour update as events unfolded in the US. She knew all about racism and white privilege, and started expressing strong opinions about the racism in various tv series and movies she watches.

2. She asked me to help her get rid of her lisp and stop saying f for th. I showed her how to place her tongue and she's been constantly practicing. It's almost perfect now.

3. She has been reading more, out of sheer boredom. And also because I say no treats until she's read a chapter in English and three pages in Hebrew. Ok, so that's not exactly unschooling, but I've noticed that more reading is being done without the bribe incentive.

4. She has decluttered and organised her whole bedroom, deciding what she wants to keep and what needs to go. She's started making her bed and hoovering the carpet because she likes a clean and tidy environment.

5. One day she wanted to make sushi so we bought the equipment and made it. We tried a few times with grilled salmon and tinned tuna - because I didn't trust the raw fish that was available. We don't love it but we know how to make it.

6. I've noticed an inclination towards documentaries on You Tube and Netflix. So far DD has watched the whole series of History 101 and Explained. She also chooses to watch Sky News Live at least once a day. And of course she doesn't just watch these programmes, she asks questions and we discuss them.

So we didn't do half or even a quarter any of the things I'd planned for us to do during lockdown. But it seems that a bit of unschooling magic happened. Not much but enough to renew my interest in unschooling as an alternative method of education.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

R2BC - In Limbo

I  was playing with a photo editing app.
This one seems to reflect how I feel atm.
It's not good and it's not bad. Sort of in limbo.
I'm writing my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week with somewhat of a heavy heart due to the way the long overdue and necessary fight against racism is playing out in the UK. This is not the post to explain - perhaps tomorrow if I dare. Today is R2BC day so here are mine. 

The linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum and recommended for anyone else who needs cheering this up weekend. 

1 Life of Brian
I made DD watch Life of Brian with me. She didn't fancy it but within five minutes she was screaming with laughter.

2 Big School
We signed up with DD's new school for September. It's actually called Middle School here but is akin to the American Junior High. We gave all the necessary information, chose Spanish as a third language (Hebrew is first, English second), and wrote the name of a friend she'd like to be in the same class with.

Now I sit back and wait for the list of things to buy, the bill for school extras, and the days and dates of meetings for each of us. I'm assuming that school will be back to normal by September but who knows?

3 Semi-isolation
I went back to my school on Thursday. It's extremely difficult with all the changes and physical restrictions and I'm also nervous about the virus. However, I want my salary so I went back. It's only another four weeks.

DD's school has been thoroughly disinfected after the whole school ended up in quarantine. Different year groups are going back on different days and learning in capsules (bubbles in the UK). DD gets to go to school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The other three days they'll return to distance learning.

Semi- isolation is better than full isolation I suppose. I'm still nervous.

4 The Virus' Demise
I heard a doctor on British TV who has studied all the evidence of past pandemics. He firmly believes that Covid-19 will burn itself out and just disappear. He says keep working towards a vaccine as this virus may yet come back for a second wave, or the burnout may take longer than the race for an effective vaccine. However, there were no vaccines in the distant past and every pandemic in history has burnt out and disappeared as suddenly as it came. You could look at this as a R2BC or you could retort with, "at what cost?" - you choose for yourself. I was encouraged.

Friday, June 5, 2020

R2BC In Isolation

The pink flowers are radishes and the yellow flowers are lettuce.
Grown from Kibbutz Alumim vegetables received at the beginning of April
Birds have eaten most of the lettuce leaves...
...I didn't have the heart to scare them away. 
There are, surprisingly, a lot of Reasons 2B Cheerful whilst stuck in quarantine, so here are some of them. Then if you fancy you can visit the linky on Becky's Lakes Single Mum for more R2BC posts.

1.10 days after DD's exposure to a covid positive pupil at school we are both still asymptomatic.

2. DD hasn't actually missed any school because although only 6 pupils from her class (but 83 pupils and 13 staff in the whole school) are in enforced quarantine, the Parents Association shut down the whole school. Well, it's open but only about four kids show up each day. I love it that when the government didn't close the schools because of the economy, the parents took matters into their own hands and closed the school for the health and safety of our children and families.

3. There's no online learning going on but DD's teacher has been holding a daily Zoom-in with the whole class, just to keep in touch and make sure everyone is doing ok. This is so important in case someone is struggling but also because not all kids have friends that they can call and chat with if it's not organised for them.

4. As soon as I let it be known that we're in isolation, loads of people sent messages asking if we needed anything. Three of my neighbours messaged me again today to say they are going shopping and please send a list if we need anything for the weekend. I know people are kind, but it's heartwarming to be on the receiving end once in a while - even though we didn't need anything. And lovely to be reminded of what lovely friends and neighbours we have.

5. I registered DD's quarantine on the Ministry of Health website on Sunday night and first thing Monday morning our healthcare provider called to give me instructions about isolation and testing. I was impressed by that.

6. I've not been able to do an online shop with my supermarket of choice for almost a year. When my credit card was renewed last year, the number was the same but the expiry date was obviously different. The online website couldn't deal with this wildly bizarre event. I called customer service a couple of times but kept being told that it was a problem with my credit card and I should call my bank. Bollocks to that because they accepted my card every week in the store. In the end I gave up trying to shop online.

This week I didn't have a choice. So I did the shop, my card was rejected because they already have the same number registered to another card (mine), and I called customer service. This time I had the inspired idea to go directly to technical support. I explained the problem, I suggested that all my card information needs to be deleted so that I can start again, and I emphasised that we are in quarantine so we need this shop or we will starve to death.

It took less than two minutes for the woman to make it all go away. She put the order through for me, gave me the order reference number, and sent confirmation to my email. Sorted. And the delivery came on time the next day. It was so easy I'm going back to online shopping big time. I think this R2BC ties for top reason with neither of us having coronavirus symptoms.

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy weekend. xxx

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

To Test Or Not To Test? - Not Even A Question

My Mum took this photo on her daily walk through
Stanmore Country Park.
We can only dream of such freedom.
DD's school is pressuring all the students to take a coronavirus test. Every day there's a message about it. First they said that no child will be allowed back into school without a documented negative result. Then the principal announced that she had been tested and how it only took a few seconds, it didn't hurt, it was just a bit uncomfortable. Next it was announced that all the teachers had been tested.

DD's teacher keeps texting me to ask if we've done it yet. And the class are meeting for daily zoom-ins where they're seriously pushing the testing.

DD is feeling the pressure and keeps asking me to get us tested. I keep explaining to her why we're not testing yet. I've also explained it twice to her teacher but I guess he's also getting pressure form above. So here's the situation...

Our health fund have called me twice and whilst they recommend that we get tested, it's not essential. It's more important for us to stay in quarantine where we can't infect anyone if we are corona positive.

The way they would prefer us to be tested is to get into a car and drive to an outdoor testing centre. We don't have a car. In order to go to a testing centre we would have to potentially endanger a driver - either a taxi driver or a friend. If either of us tested positive, that driver would have to go into isolation for 14 days. Or worse - s/he could become very ill. Or worse. I'm not prepared to ask anyone to do that for us when it's not an emergency.

If we show any symptoms, MADA (The Red Star of David) will come to us and test us at home. DD's teacher urged me to insist on this even though we have no symptoms. I understand that the school wants a full picture of the situation and I could probably make this happen if I were insistent. However, these testers in hazmat suits don't change their suits every time they visit a new home. They go from home to home where people have corona symptoms. I am absolutely not comfortable with one of these suits coming into my home when it has been around possibly tens of corona positive people. So we won't be doing that unless we develop symptoms.

If the school still needs a documented negative result we will go to be tested next Wednesday when we come out of quarantine .

Another valid point that was made by a friend on facebook, is that we owe it to all the people we were with over the weekend  (and the public at large), to get tested. Otherwise they could also be walking around with asymptomatic corona and infecting more people. It's a moral dilemma but in the end I decided that it was enough to inform them of the situation and they could choose to get tested themselves or not. I don't think they would thank me for sending their whole families into isolation for two weeks.

As for the public at large. Last week, before we started having more than 100 new cases a day and everyone thought it was all over, they came up with a great initiative to help the local economy. Each day one of the local shopping streets would be closed to traffic so that the cafes could spread outside and people could stroll and socialize (at a distance of course - hahahaha) and spend lots of money. Tonight they went ahead with this street party on one of the shopping streets near us. A friend posted about it on facebook and I could hear the music from my balcony.

I don't think my friends would be silly enough to go an event like this but if the virus spreads more over the next week, I wont' let it prey on my conscience when there are street parties going on around the corner.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

10,000+ In Quarantine - It's The Economy Stupid

Since yesterday and because of rampant corona cases in the education system, they changed the rule about which schools have to close. Initially it was if three pupils and/or staff tested positive. As schools with even one case were effectively shut (or shuttered - ugh!) by the parents associations and because the problem is bigger than they thought, all schools with any person testing positive have to shut and all the pupils and teachers need to be tested.

Today 36 schools around the country were closed, including DD's school. Around 10,000 people country-wide are in quarantine - and that's just the ones who registered but doesn't include family members who are quarantining with them, like me. 

We got a note from school saying that when they open, only children with documented negative test results will be allowed back. We don't know when this will be. For the moment they are urging everyone to be tested. I expect they will make decisions only when they know the extent of problem. 

Of course we all know that a negative test tomorrow doesn't mean the virus won't show up in another few days. Negative test results won't be a sure way to keep coronavirus out of the school. 

The government is adamant that they're not shutting (or shuttering - ugh again!) the whole education system because the problem is concentrated in certain hotspots. The main hotspot is in my area. They also mulled over the idea of shutting just middle and high schools - because that has least effect on the economy. Seriously, most parents will not send their children to the local primary school if it's not safe for anyone over 12 to be in school. That's just ridiculous. 

I am a bit angry because the original plan was to lift restrictions in phases with two weeks between each phase. The first phase was grades 1 - 3 in primary schools and 11- 12th grades in high schools. I admit that I was glad we weren't included in this experimental period. Then suddenly, after only half a week, they announced that all grades would return to school the following Sunday - just  one week after phase 1 began. 

There was talk about each grade going in for two days and having split classes and strict separation but they quickly decided that everyone could go back. IKEA opened, the shops opened, you could go to the hairdresser. It was all very quick and not according to the plan. One week after that the shopping malls opened, synagogues allowed up to 50 people, it was effectively all over. Except that they forgot to inform the coronavirus. 

I really wanted DD to stay home another week but there was no way I could stop her going to school. She's an only child and hadn't seen anyone in over two months! She was so excited to see her friends at last. Every instinct in me said that this was not a good idea but I couldn't fight the system and my 11 year old daughter.

So DD went to school. On the very first day she said no one was bothering with masks and the girls were all hugging each other. Then we had the hottest and longest heatwave for decades. 37-38C (around 100F) every day for five days straight. It was impossible to sit with the windows open and wear masks. We were officially told that the kids didn't have to wear masks at school during the heatwave. Well try putting that cat back in the bag a week later. 

And here we are in quarantine for 10 days only two weeks after the return to school. Us and 10,000+ other Israeli citizens. We could all stand at our windows and shout, "I knew this would happen!" or "We told you so!" It wouldn't make a blind bit of difference. It's the economy stupid.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

Enforced Quarantine: It Is What It Is

View from my window (not tonight)
Yes, we are in enforced quarantine until the 10th of June. Just as we started to socialise a bit, just as DD was getting back into the school routine, and the evening before I was due to go back to my school... we got the WhatsApp from DD's teacher.

First some background. A big high school in Jerusalem had a few students who tested positive to corona. They shut the school and set up testing for all students. The closest primary school decided to close for a few days - until the situation was clear, because more than a third of their pupils have siblings in the affected high school.

The official decision was that primary schools should remain open, even those with siblings in the high school. However, the parents committees of various feeder primaries, including DD's school, directed everyone not to attend until Tuesday (that's two days off) when the high school testing will be completed. The parents committees have a lot of clout. A few pupils went to school yesterday and overnight the number of cases at the high school went up to over 100. I heard that only 4 pupils turned up at DD's school today - those whose parents absolutely had to go to work.

Back to last night, DD's teacher informed me that one child in 5th grade had tested positive for corona and that DD had been in an art class with this child last Wednesday. Thus she has to be in quarantine until the 10th of June. I can't make her stay alone in one room for 9 days so we are isolating together in the whole apartment.

Before I did anything else we quickly collected up all the rubbish around the apartment and I took it down to the bins. Unfortunately it was too late to run to the supermarket. And it would probably have been illegal or at least morally wrong anyway, so I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision.

I had to register DD with the Ministry of Health, giving the reason for isolation, dates, and the name of our health fund. Then I WhatsApped everyone we saw over the weekend during two meals out with friends. They would only have to isolate if we test positive but I thought it responsible to let them know the situation.

I messaged both my work places. My school to say that I won't be returning in the morning after all. And my college to say that if they do decide to return to frontal teaching next week, I won't be available until Wednesday and that this won't affect my online lessons at all.

I also sent a WhatsApp message to my building so that the neighbours know not to come calling. And because I'd sat with one of them only that afternoon. We wore masks, mostly, but still.

DD was distraught. Her best friend is also in quarantine so they cried over the phone together. Then I ordered pizza because we needed cheering up.

This morning our health fund called to say that we don't need to be tested, but we can if we want to. If we develop symptoms they'll send someone to us for testing. We don't have a car so we can't drive to a testing centre anyway and frankly, I'd rather not know. We're not going to pass it on as we're isolating and so far we have no symptoms. If we were to be tested and it came back positive I'd be worried about it for the next two weeks and everyone we were with over the weekend would have to go into isolation. They all know the situation so they can make their own decisions about testing.

Meanwhile the numbers are rising steadily. So far almost 200 staff and students from the high school have tested positive. About 8 other local schools each have a smaller number of corona positive students/pupils or teachers. DD's school seems to have decided to stay closed for another few days.

Other schools around the country have also been affected -  mostly middle and high schools. The government is considering closing all middle and high schools again but leaving primary schools open. Good luck with that. Parents are freaked out and mostly voting with their feet if they have the choice.

And here is a confession. I was going to go back to my school today. They have very strict rules about masks and distancing. It's a mess because it doesn't really work but they're doing the best they can under the circumstances. After wearing my mask for 20 minutes while I chatted with my neighbour yesterday, I was reduced to coughing fits throughout the rest of the day. I have a 40 minute bus ride to and from school. And if I get sick, we have no immediate family in the country who can take DD in immediately.

I really really really didn't want to go back to school but all the teachers are putting themselves at risk and enduring extremely difficult and uncomfortable working conditions. I didn't feel that I could wimp out with a clear conscience. I was scared but felt pressured to conform. And at the eleventh hour, I was saved. At one point last night I jokingly called DD my little get out of work free card. I was joking but I'm now less stressed than I've been for a few days while thinking about going back to school.

Today I did an online supermarket order and not very much else. Don't think you're going to get amazing blog posts about cooking and crafting and all sorts of productive activities during our 9 days of quarantine. I managed to waste the past 2 1/2 months so I don't expect this small reprieve to be any different. It is what it is.