Three of Earth School: Norms for Abnormal Times

It was a difficult Monday afternoon. It was the Tuesday afternoon from hell. There were very big feelings among all participants. This is hard. We are tired. We have weeks and months to go before any part of life has any semblance of normal. However I’m willing to bet if we can stick it out until it’s safe to restart in-person school, virtual will become what feels normal.

In the meantime, we at Three of Earth School need to figure out how to make this not terrible. I’ve been making a list of coping norms for myself.

  1. Don’t yell at the children. (It doesn’t help and makes them yell more.)
  2. Small children are not the alpha.
  3. No chocolate before 10am.
  4. No wine before 5pm.
  5. Try not to yell at the children. Walk away and yell somewhere else.
  6. You can’t convince small children they are not the alpha. You are “just the grandmother.”
  7. No chocolate before 9am.
  8. No wine before 4pm.
  9. Ask forgiveness when you yell at the children.
  10. Eat chocolate any damn time you need it.

On Wednesday, determined not to repeat the Tuesday afternoon disaster, when class time was over (early on Wednesdays, not good), I sat them down on stools and we wrote our own expectations.

  1. Clean up the classroom when school is over.
  2. On Wednesdays, when the weather is stormy, movie and popcorn after school. [When the weather is not stormy, field trip. Or movie and popcorn. What ever.]
  3. Play music during clean-up.
  4. Go outside during morning recess every day, regardless of the weather.
  5. If you have big feelings, show Gigi in the book what you are feeling and practice deep breathing.
  6. Have quiet reading time after school every day (okay, except Wednesday).
  7. No running and screaming through the house like crazy people.
(The band-aid is the result of running through the house like crazy people after I threw up my hands and yelled, “Fine, kill yourselves.” Violating at least two of the not-yet-written norms. And then I had chocolate.)

During their movie on stormy Wednesday, Trolls World Tour (which they have seen before, and during which I read and napped), a teacher friend in another state texted that she was watching the local school board debate reopening schools, with big feelings on both sides. That advocates for teachers, both in her state and mine, are arguing for virtual school says a lot. That they are willing to do this hard thing to keep themselves and their students safe should not be taken lightly.

Virtual school is hard on everyone, I get that. I’m observing it and living it. I also get that my family is lucky. Both parents (one a teacher) are still working, and they can work from home, however hard that may be. They have a grandparent for help with children. But at some point this country simply has to have a common plan, based on science, with government leadership and help, if we are ever going to come out on the other side of this crisis. And we have to stick to the plan long enough to work out the kinks. We can’t keep quitting because we’re tired of the challenges.

I keep thinking about my family’s letters to each other during World War II. Four years of separation, rationing, fear, uncertainty, heartbreak. Life interrupted. Though not everyone was on the same page before the attack on Pearl Harbor, once the threat was clear, the leadership got clear, and the country fell in line and did what needed to be done to beat the threat. That was not weakness. It was strength.

And it’s what we need now. The threat is clear. Be strong.

As I write this, there have been 7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and 204,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 or causes related. In six months. That’s almost exactly half the American casualties during WWII in over three and half years, and nearly twice as many lives as those lost in every U.S.-involved conflict since (National Geographic). And the pandemic isn’t over. In fact, in the past week, 22 states reported an upward trend in new cases as summer ends and we move inside.

And the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. She stood for the rights of women, first her own, then everyone else’s. She stood for the welfare of the community.

All those advances, that made this country great, are on the line now. The threat is clear. Be strong.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen to side with the oppressors.”

—Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I just signed on to write postcards and mail them to people in swing states urging them to vote. Vote as if justice for all depends on it. Because it does. The right to vote is one of the privileges of being an American citizen. It’s less than six weeks until the official election day. Request a ballot by mail, fill out your ballot when it arrives and drop it in a vote box if available, vote early, stand in line in a mask if you’ve no other choice. (In fact, given the newest dire warnings, if I could vote in person, I would. I will be taking my ballot to the courthouse drop box.) And then know we will not have an outcome on November 3. These are not normal times. Be patient.

And if there is ever a time to be paranoid about your voter registration being active, it’s now. Do it here; it takes seconds.

My postcard.

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

—Interpretive Talmudic Text

If your stomach hurts more every day when you check the news headlines, like mine does; if you are increasingly terrified about our present and our future, like I am; if you are experiencing depression, remember: there is good news out there too. Look for the hope. And then keep fighting.

I have found many voices of hope in the past few days. I wish I had written them all down. It helped. It also helps to do something. Nothing is too small or insignificant. I’ve given money through Act Blue, both to a local candidate, Carolyn Long, running to unseat the current congresswoman in this red county and to national candidates for Senate and the presidency. I’ll be writing postcards this week to get out the vote. And I pledged here to “Choose Democracy” and commit to defend it. These are the norms for our times.

Those who rob of us liberty and justice (the president and his puppets) want us to feel helpless and hopeless. Stay strong! No one of us can do it all, but together we will persist.

There is no sugarcoating the dangers and darkness we live in. But I remain heartened that the majority of Americans do not want this. Trump is in danger of losing states that he should be winning handily. Yes, his base is energized and numerous. But so is the opposition. I have seen opposition parties in foreign countries channel the morality of their causes to bring great change. And most of those opposition movements didn’t have the strength, power, and resources of those who stand against Donald Trump.

Dan Rather (excerpted, Facebook)

Tuesday was a hard day at Three of Earth School, I won’t kid you. But we don’t get to quit because it’s hard. We listed our expectations—our norms—and Wednesday and Thursday went much better.

  1. Take heart.
  2. Imagine better days.
  3. Keep fighting back.
  4. Rest when you need to.
  5. Eat chocolate. Preferably with wine.

P.S. The family is also learning to expect the unexpected. Shortly after leaving for home on Thursday afternoon, they returned to Three of Earth Farm due to an accident on I-5 blocking all northbound lanes. They went for a walk in the woods, and Adrian the Brave got lost. The lost was found, they were rescued by Gigi in the Orange Butterfly Car in the valley, had dinner, and got home.

6 thoughts on “Three of Earth School: Norms for Abnormal Times

  1. This is how it is now–that the huge societal, even climate issues, and the most personal and familial issues are completely intertwined! Congress needs to attend the Three of Earth Farm, and we need to let the children loose in the halls of Congress and get those legislators involved in what it means to do on-line schooling while trying to work. So appreciating you and your scope of perspective and writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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