3 min read

We Run a Microschool Now?

Checking in after a week of this unprecedented experiment

You know the joke that gets made in almost every movie where some amateur climbs a mountain? The one where the person huffs & puffs and, like, really exerts themselves, and then they either look down or the camera pans out, and they’re just barely off the ground? That’s a little bit how this weekend feels.

We did it! (Self high five)

...we have to do it again.

The recommendations I made in this post have now been thoroughly stress tested, and they held up fairly well for us, but I wanted to share a bit more of what we’ve been doing to keep our heads above water...

•  The iterative process- my friend Leon Ayo shared with me these two mantras that he learned in the British military: 1) Pride, preparation, and planning prevent piss poor performance (I love this one so much), and 2) No plan survives first contact. No matter how well prepared you might have felt going into the week, something was off. Maybe you were overly optimistic about how much time your kids would actually want to spend on that great math app, or you underestimated your kids’ destructive capabilities when it comes to things like markers & colored pencils. Whatever it is, none of us got perfect 10s our first time out. But also, do we really have the time & energy to make massive changes? My wife & I have taken about 10 minutes each evening to quickly check in on what worked, what didn’t, and what we need to change. Small improvements each day accumulate over time. Speaking of...

•  The Menu Card - Day 1, we realized we might want a check list, Day 2 we realized that the checklist could act like a menu card, Day 5 we added a line to the checklist for things to be done at some point during the week instead of on a specific day. Each change took less than 5 minutes. We’re in a much better place today because of it.  (Here’s what the current version looks like)

•  Different ages, different needs: Yes, this one is stunningly obvious, but it’s one of those pearls if wisdom that shines ever more radiantly every time you take a look at it. The structure I had originally outlined works pretty damn well for my 8-year-old, forms a useful guideline for my 5-year-old, and is laughably inadequate for my 3-year-old (preschool teachers...why aren’t we letting them run the world?). At the same time, each of them is close enough in age to the next oldest sibling that we can bundle activities together - ie, the 3-year-old often just wants to be included in what her 5-year-old brother is doing, even if she’s doing the most minimal version of it. Zones of (roughly) proximal development for the win!

•  The Grab Bag - this is a tactic we introduced on Tuesday. It is literally a bag filled up with slips of paper that have different activity suggestions. Here’s the actual purpose it serves: the kids aren’t allowed to say, “I’m bored.” If they feel bored, they go to the grab bag and pull out something to do; if they don’t like the first thing they pull out, that’s fine - they can put it back and go for something else...ad infinitum. In practice, the grab bag hasn’t been used all that much. But no one has said they’re bored yet either (feel free to modify ours here).

So, with all of that we’re surviving. In addition, we’ve found some time to bake, we hung up a new swing, and we made some pretty dope paper airplanes. The kids seem thrilled. The parents seem exhausted, but we’ll soldier on and hope that maybe this week is just a bit better?

For your sanity, some links:

•  Everything I Learned About Parenting In A Crisis, I Learned From My Mom - all of the articles on what to do and how to do it (including this newsletter you’re reading right now) can feel like a bit much. I’d much rather have a good old-fashioned narrative about doing wacky things during bomb raids. The clarity that comes with time gives it an air of authenticity that it’s hard to capture in the moment.

•  Effective Immediately We Are Closing Our Homeschool - Gotta love McSweeney’s at a time like this.