Dear kids,

Now that we’ve all had a few days to adjust to the idea that school, for the foreseeable future, is going to be happening here at home, it’s time to gather ’round for a little chat.

Since everyone seems to be in agreement that this whole “social distancing” thing unfortunately cannot include teleporting your teachers into the living room, it appears I am now in charge of your formal education. No, it’s not the way we planned it, and Lord knows I’m not a teacher by training or talent, but here we are. 

All over the internet, well-intended people are sharing color-coded schedules for accidental homeschoolers like us. While I appreciate the sentiment and will do my level best to adhere loosely (operative word “loosely”) to that framework, there are a few important ground rules we have to cover first. 

So, consider this your syllabus, and let me be the first to welcome you to the School of Mom: Bringing Back 1990s Education Like It’s My Job (Because Apparently Now It Is).

Here’s what you’re going to need: 

1. Paper Bag Book Covers—For my first official lesson as your teacher, I’m going to teach you how to master this very important life skill. Plus, you won’t be allowed back in class tomorrow if you don’t have your book at least 70% covered in doodles, preferably some drawn by your BFF (given the circumstances, I guess your brother/sister will suffice). 

2. Trapper Keeper and/or Lisa Frank 2-pocket folderWhile I don’t anticipate you coming away from this institution with copious amounts of papers (I’m not even sure we have printer ink, tbh), we’re going to need to have the option. When I was your age, Trapper Keepers were a MUST because they were so easy to cart around in our tiny backpacks (har har) and they had VELCRO closures that made the most satisfying “thhhhwack” sound every time you opened it. Lisa Frank is just a given, and if I haven’t already imparted that to you by this point in your life, I’m definitely already failing. 

Two cartoon cats
Image via Amazon

3. Squishy foam-ish pencil gripsI know you all are fancy now with your mechanical pencils and such at school, but we’re going to use yellow No.2 pencils that are wearing squishy, foam-ish grip sleeves. They improve penmanship and increase test scores by 8000%. OK not really, but my classroom, my rules. 

colorful pencil grips on sharpened pencils
Image via Amazon

These will be my teaching tools: 

1. Overhead projector and/or chalkboard—I’ve been a parent long enough to have seen the evolution of teaching surfaces go from dry erase boards to those newfangled Smart Boards. But I’ve been alive long enough to have teachers who used actual chalkboards, and later, struggled to get transparencies centered on finicky overhead projectors. And let me tell you, nothing was more thrilling than being asked to take that marker and write an answer for the class. It was like magic! 

Retro overhead projector unit
Image via Reddit

2. Roll-down world map—I know you speak fluent Google Earth and all things digital, but we’re going to use the real deal. The roll-down world map (which never rolls down smoothly, so prepare to watch your mother struggle) has print so small we’ll be able to squint at it for hours. And given that the whole reason we’re in this pickle is a global pandemic, it’ll be extra relevant. 

Roll down world map
Image via Buzzfeed

3. Scratch-n-sniff stickers—We subscribe to the rewards system here. It’s better if your rewards smell like tacos or bubble gum or say something clever like “Berry Good!” 

Sheet of scratch and sniff stickers
Image via Reddit

 

Technology matters here, too!

1. OG Apple computers—Nowadays, we all carry mini-computers around in our pockets in the form of smartphones (yes, I know you’re still the ONLY one in your class without one, darling), but when I was in school computers lived in the lab we visited once or twice per week. The Apple logo used to be colorful, the screens were black and green with giant flashing cursors, and we had to struggle with floppy disks to load our favorite educational games. Speaking of which . . . 

2. Oregon Trail—Listen, my entire generation centers its identity around this game, so we’re going to be playing it, full stop. Yes, the graphics are lacking and admittedly, the whole dying of dysentery thing feels a little cringe-worthy given the state of current events . . . but I’ll be darned if you don’t make it from Independence, MO to Oregon at least once while under my tutelage. 

Old Apple II computer with Oregon Trail game
Image via Pinterest

3. Screen time, the old fashioned way—Nowadays, the phrase “screen time” is synonymous with iPads or smartphones. But in my classroom, we’re talking about the real deal: a 27-inch TV and VCR on a ridiculously unwieldy and large rolling metal cart. When I was in school and you walked in after lunch to find this monstrosity at the front of the room, you just knew it was going to be a good afternoon. We’ll watch a little Bill Nye, The Science Guy, perhaps, or maybe some Dragons, Wagons & Wax . . . the possibilities are endless. 

TV and VCR on cart 90s nostalgia
Image via Reddit

 

Lunch, recess, and other fun:

1. Rectangle pizza—Approximately 2% of my body is probably still made up of all the rectangle pizza I consumed in elementary school. Why is it square? Where do you get cheese in that plastic consistency? How does pepperoni end up micro-cubed like that? Nobody knows. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to eat it. 

90s school lunch rectangle pizza
Image via Pinterest

2. Four Square, Red Rover, merry-go-rounds, and metal slides—These are the games and potentially-deadly apparatus of my childhood, and it’s time you tried them. Sure, we could have broken a wrist or two playing Red Rover when the fifth-grade boys got a little too rowdy; yes, metal slides baked in the early fall sunshine to about 400°F and burned our legs—but retro recess was the best.

Girl sliding down metal slide
Josu Ozkaritz/Shutterstock.com

3. Sit & reach, climbing rope, and Running The Mile—When it’s time for gym class, I have some oldies but goodies we can bust out. Sit & reach is a torture exercise used to give you the absolutely meaningless measurement of what line you can touch on a box. Climbing rope will only serve to prove that one in every 35 kids is actually capable of this feat. And Running The Mile . . . well, that’s a dreaded rite of passage you can’t escape, but it’s going to build a lot of character!

Girl climbing rope at school
Image via Pinterest

Finally, the rewards are going to be great: 

1. BOOK-IT!—I want you to learn the value of reading and also the joy of pizza (see above) so I’m incorporating the Pizza Hut BOOK-IT! program into my curriculum. I don’t even remember the specifics about how this works other than we get to order personal pan pizzas (delivery only this time around, I guess) and wear a nifty oversized button. That’s good enough for me! 

Book it button Pizza hut
Image via Pinterest

2. Scholastic Book Fair—When the library was taken over for a few days each semester for the Scholastic book fair, all of us kids had a little more spring in our step. Of course, there were the tempting, unmarked/unbent books, but the book fair had Lisa Frank erasers and cool clicky multi-color pens and hologram bookmarks and so much more. We can set up our own version in the living room when we need a break, and hopefully you’ll understand a tiny bit more about your ol’ mom when you see the joy it still brings me. 

Scholastic book fair tables
JakeRazorClawson/imgur.com

3. We’re together—All kidding aside, kids, I know this time in your lives is a little scary. Your routine has been interrupted. All the adults around you seem anxious and unsure. You’re confined, for the most part, to our house and childhood quit feeling carefree almost overnight, which breaks your mother’s heart. But through all the upheaval and uncertainty these next few weeks and months may bring, there’s one thing you can be absolutely sure of: we will get through it—together. 

Here’s to a great waaaay-less-than-a-year in the School of Mom! 

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Carolyn Moore

Carolyn traded a career in local TV news for a gig as a stay-at-home mom, where the days are just as busy and the pay is only slightly worse. She lives in flyover country with her husband and four young kids, and occasionally writes about raising them at Assignment Mom