Note: Since many of us are now homeschooling our children or are educators offering distance learning opportunities, I have helpfully included three questions within this post that could be adapted for middle school use in Language Arts and Math. They align to Common Core State Standards in the state of Washington. You’ll have to look up which ones yourself.
Early on during the COVID-19-induced pleas to stay home, stay safe, I caught myself listening to an audiobook, and silently judging characters who were gathering together in groups, not maintaining a safe social distance of six feet or more, and going out for non-essential activities. The story coming through my earbuds took place in the outer reaches of northeastern Russia, but this is a global pandemic – we must all be in this together, people!
A couple weeks later, still at home, staying safe, I imagined all the books that would one day be written by children and adults who are now living in these extraordinary times. Memoirs, biographical accounts, and scientific and historical explanations, but also the novels. Novels set up like this:
Main characters: Regular humans
Supporting characters: Politicians, medical/emergency personnel, essential service providers, instant YouTube stars, your child’s teachers, pets
Setting: Any place on earth, during the COVID-19 pandemic
Plot: Surviving the pandemic
The central conflict: Man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self, man vs. society, or man vs. fate (it’s all here in COVID19-land, folks)
Language Arts Question: Give one example of each type of central conflict that could take place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each of us are in the middle of stories right now that could fit in this framework. Maybe (hopefully) we have boring stories that have little chance of being published: woman stays home, goes to grocery store every two weeks, reads books, walks the dog, works and socializes on Zoom, and serves dinner to family every night (during which the central conflict of woman vs. teenager ensues).
Or maybe it will more of a page-turner.
The main character in my story is presently swimming along quite nicely in the early stages of the plot.
Let me explain. When I was a kid, I often overheard my mom tell relatives, other mothers, coaches, or church family, “Jenae is a homebody.” This was typically an attempt to explain or excuse my frequent absence (or confusing presence, in a corner, with a book) from playdates, sport activities, church events, and general revelry. Later, we all learned the word, “introvert” and breathed a sigh of relief that maybe I was normal (just not compared to my social, friendly, busily-involved family).
So when the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order reverberated here in the northwest and around the country, I couldn’t help but think: I was made for such a time as this!
It’s Day 20 here at home for our family, with at least a month (many are saying much longer) to go, and even the unending days of rain lining up on my weather app can’t get me down. John has started calling me the “Quaran-queen”.
I do realize that the people who were actually made for such a time as this, are not sitting at home playing Boggle, baking bread and biscotti, and reading Louise Penny’s “Kingdom of the Blind”. Thank you, medical, emergency, infrastructure, grocery, and other essential service workers! You are the true quaran-queens and quaran-kings keeping the masses from utter destruction.
Meanwhile, the rest of us have to (get to) follow orders by staying home. Here is a glimpse of what staying home looks like in my story:
Zoom. Like the rest of the world, we uploaded Zoom on every one of our devices and are connecting with friends, family, students and co-workers. Jack is our heaviest user. He chats away for hours with his best buds and cousins, participates in group LEGO challenges, and has no problem wearing pajamas to my sister’s Zoom Birthday Party. Through Zoom, we attend work meetings, happy hour, Zoom-Boggle games, Youth Group, and Bible Study.
The kids and I virtually meet with two other moms and their kids three times a week, praying and checking in with each other using Zoom and the Book of Common Prayer app. The app and its daily readings give us a structure, and our commitment to each other and to prayer provides meaning and connection during these strange days. Please let us know if we can pray for you. This is intentional and scheduled – if you tell us, it will be prayed for.
We are happily consuming hilarious COVID-19 creations put out on YouTube and social media, shared by our friends. Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show: At Home Edition, song spoofs, and Trump impersonations top our list of favorites. The creativity and art accessible through our screens is a genuine essential service.
Dinner together, every night.
Math Question: Using the screenshot above, what time of day does the Dryden family eat dinner during the quarantine? Please respond with the mean and range, rounded to the nearest minute.
Extra credit: What day of the week does Ellie help prepare dinner? How do you know?
Books, of course. The day before the libraries closed, we hit up two of them, filling our backseat with stacks of books. “We should go early in the day,” John said, “There might be a run on the library with it closing tomorrow.” (Our alarm, dear readers, may have been misplaced.) Our Libby apps are also full of e-books and audiobooks. We might run out of toilet paper, but not books!
Math Problem: Suppose the Dryden family reads at a consistent pace, and has read 34 books on Day 20 of the quarantine.
a. Create a graph showing number of days on the x-axis, and number of books read on the y-axis
b. Create an equation to solve number of books read on a given day of the quarantine.
c. How many books will they have read on Day 45 of the quarantine?
Other delightful daily duties include caring for our goats, dog, and garden. One day, our littlest and most anxious goat accidentally squirmed under the fence in a muddy spot. Because we were all at home, we spotted her from our living room windows, outside the fence with her three goat siblings looking on worriedly from the other side. Ellie and John cajoled her back inside to the safety and companionship of her goat family. Crisis solved!
And the action continues to rise…
Our dog is in raptures at all the attention and walks he receives from his adored family. His fluffy coat is equal parts therapeutically pet-able and nasty sponge for all manner of spring mud and yard debris. He is the first member of our family who will access professional grooming when this is over.
I planted peas and other early vegetables in my goat manure-covered garden, and other seedlings are starting on a table inside. Neither rain, nor hail, nor moles, nor viruses will prevent my family from eating green vegetables this summer! I shall prevail!
My little story so far is simple and sweet. It may start and end that way, or the plot may thicken. Others have stories that are neither simple nor sweet. And it is these stories that we must keep in mind, keep in our prayers, and do what we can in such a time as this.
Anxiety, loneliness, fear, suffering, and exhaustion are daily realities to many in this dystopian novel-come-true kind of story we are in right now. I hope that every character on our planet is able to work together to bring this to a conclusion with as little human and economic destruction as possible. May each one of us be brave, kind, wise, and funny too, just like my favorite literary heroes and heroines.
Pay attention to your story. Be the kind of person you like to read about. Do the thing you wish the main character or her sidekick would do. And share the story with your friends. Call your grandma, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face.
A closing prayer, which we recite in unison, three days a week with our dear ones:
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever he may send you;
May he guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm;
May he bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you;
May he bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.