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Sunday, April 12, 2020

Shelter in Place - CovidSchooling in California, USA

Sheltering in place. Photo provided.

A look at how parents, teachers and students around the world are coping with schooling during a global pandemic.


Elizabeth is a professional singer, household manager and self-acknowledged domestic goddess whose family relocated to California in 2017, after three years in Hong Kong. Her family bubble, under the golden state’s  Shelter in Place rules, comprises of her husband, 13-year-old son, and 12-year-old daughter.

Her family stays in close connection with many friends in Hong Kong so first noticed coronavirus via Asian media.

“I still get SCMP [South China Morning Post] and belong to the [Discovery Bay, Hong Kong] forums so the runs on toilet paper were what we saw, and honestly laughed at, first,” she says.

She had a solo trip planned to visit friends in March but, “no sooner was my ticket issued, it was cancelled”.

Schools in Hong Kong had closed by then and friends had left for “safer pastures” in South Africa and Australia, she says.

It’s surreal to think the disease in in the United States, she says, as no one she knows has tested positive or even been sick.

“I suppose that’s great news, it just makes it more difficult to personally connect with the severity.”

School has been cancelled for the rest of the US academic year, which runs through mid-June, with online learning put in place. It’s working for the most part, she says, but keeping up with communications from each teacher – her son has seven – and keeping assignments straight is sometimes challenging.

Her daughter has one teacher and one online learning platform so managing that is “exponentially easier”.

“I haven’t needed to keep up with her at all.”

Both children are “ok” with the situation but it is hard on them socially, especially for the daughter who is a social butterfly, their mom says.

Elizabeth is not doing anything differently per se, but laundry and dishwashing have doubled overnight.

Her husband is a busy executive with a global entertainment company. "My house has become his home office”, she says,  although she now understands what he is paid for, and is grateful for the continued paycheck. His days are longer than they would be ordinarily but the house is large and each has their own space and room to breathe. They recently turned the spare room into his office space so he can work undisturbed.

While sheltering in place, Elizabeth took part in a collaboration of 50 studio singers from around the US in tribute to the nation’s frontline healthcare workers. Each singer recorded their part from their homes.

“The piece was arranged by a friend of mine in Chicago and among the singers were friends from my days in college and Disney,” she says, referring to her time as a performer for the company.

In the offline world, her kids are doing their own laundry and dishes, keeping their rooms tidy, walking the dogs, taking out the trash, and other chores, and there are not that many day-to-day changes.

“It’s not a lockdown, no curfews, etc. We are free to get outside, go to the market, walk the dog, go to the doctor. We live in a small neighborhood with larger homes, therefore fewer individuals. The weather is very dry and warm and sunny during the day, cool at night. This allows us to keep doors open all day and use the sun and fresh air to our advantage.

“So far, our kids haven’t asked many questions. They’re smart kids and understand what and why.”

There are disappointments, she says, such as her daughter foregoing the lead in her school play and a planned trip to NYC, and her 12th birthday party.

“She understands, though. They know it isn’t forever. I think the biggest thing ‘we’ have learned, and I’m not sure it’s a good thing, is that you CAN completely avoid personal contact but maintain relationships online.

I’m an introvert, to be certain, but personal contact is important. It’ll be nice to hug again.”

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