Letter to the Editor: The Beautiful Learning Opportunity of Now


To the Editor:

When they announced the kids would not be going back to school till April 4, then May 4, I had a small but manageable panic attack. Like most parents I thought, I am not prepared for this, what will I teach them, how will I keep them occupied, entertained. Thankfully our school system has done an excellent job at providing some daily structure and content for our kids. Beyond that though, it’s me, and my husband trying to balance work, fun, and enrichment. So, we did what any desperate set of parents would do we enrolled them in the school of life. 

Day 1 of life school was a bit of a mess. Lots of moaning and complaining about having to do life skills like make their bed, do their laundry, feed themselves, and take care of their basic hygiene. Once the moaning stopped the questions began, lots and lots of questions. How do I? Where do I find the? Is this really necessary?

 It became apparent, very quickly, that as much time and energy as we put into raising good, kind, and caring kids, which they are, they are also incapable of completing a lot of simple life tasks, or at least that’s what they want us to believe. Whose to blame, them, us, a combo?

 Living as a United States citizen comes with lots of privileges for which I am grateful for all. It also comes with a lot of demands. Our lives, along with everyone else offer little time to slow down (or so we thought), I mean we call everything from getting your kid to practice, to getting to work, to eating dinner out a rat race, this term does not conjure up feelings of calm.

So, when Corona hit, and the stay home order was put in place it was an opportunity for ALL of us to slow down, take stock in ourselves, in our kids, our parenting and our family. What we found is that we are so busy rushing from one activity to the next, working, getting through homework, and keeping up with our social lives that a lot of us are not really developing prepared kids. We turned the finger on ourselves first instead of blaming them for their inadequate life skills and decided to use this time within our own walls to at least make our kids better prepared for life. Something useful had to come out of the pandemic or so I hoped.

We started with a basic to do list. Each day everyone in the family was required to make a to do list. This alone could have been a social experiment, but we did not let it become one, as our approaches were all very unique, and that was okay as long as we were completing them, we were on track. Your day needed to include schoolwork, physical activity, something that challenged you, reading, something that inspired you, and chill time. I was shocked when reviewing my 12-year-old sons list I saw “Make Soup” as one of the skills he chose as his challenge. I am not talking homemade soup, just talking open the can, pour in the pot, heat and serve, soup. 

This can of soup moment, which is how it will forever be referred to in our house, got me thinking. Our kids, and I am sure there are others like them, are really not prepared for the real world. Yes, they are being prepared to excel at math, reading science and more but will they be able to find themselves out of that random paper bag we as parents are always referencing?  How did this happen? Having all the time in the world, I took a few days to think about this. Many questions arose….is there some bigger meaning behind Covid-19? Did it happen to perhaps teach all of us a lesson? or give us new perspective on the way we do things?

More questions followed but so did some answers. Is there a better way to help educate, inspire, and challenge our youth to be the best version of themselves? Is there a way to take these lessons from our time in quarantine and create an educational system that is more enriching, diverse in its curriculum and creative in its execution? I think yes, and the reason I think that is because it’s been happening over the last 3 weeks. 

I am pleased to share that during this time of quarantine, many of our community educators here in Manchester, are using their creative side, challenging kids to learn without walls. I noticed that without the pressure of MCAS, and school rankings, teachers are freed up to create and share some incredible content with our children. 

Since being at home I have witnessed my children create songs, at the request of their teachers, go outside and snap pictures of spring, even create art with fruit. This time of Corona Quarantine has accelerated our creative side and you know what it’s having some really positive results. I noticed the stress levels for both my kids have gone way down, schoolwork is less of a chore and more part of the creative process. They have been more open to try new things and expand their life skills into cooking, decorating and even philanthropy.

I am not advocating for the classroom or the structure that has served our students for so many years to go away but just like we had to adapt to this pandemic, perhaps this is an opportunity for educators and parents to adapt and perhaps even collaborate to help inspire a new way of teaching, learning, and developing.

During this time of crazy all I ask is for those who have the power to make decisions about how our younger generations are learning, consider a learning without walls approach, an approach that engages their creative side, connects concepts to life skills, and activates curiosity.

This pandemic has proven that together we are stronger than we are apart (even six feet), and perhaps that is just what we need at the end of this outbreak, more collaboration, more connection and more outside opportunities to help our students uncover new ways to learn within and perhaps unleash more “can of soup moments”.

Emily McCavanaugh


manchester, covid, quarantine, schooling, education, stay at home order, emily mccavanagh