Is remote learning hurting my kid?

The school year kicked off and it’s nerve wracking.

Many classrooms are empty and our living rooms have replaced them. Our kids are sitting in front of a device all day, and they aren’t physically interacting with anyone.

They’re remote learning.

And we, parents, are wondering, Will our kids remotely learning anything?

And let’s face it, it’s scary. At least, it’s uncertain. And many of us are worried, and concerned. My wife and I are, too.

Worried about our kid being on a device all day

Our first grader just started school and he’s constantly on a device. There’s a school issued iPad sitting on his desk as I type this. And he’s staring at it right now. He has been for hours since the beginning of last week, all day every day, for like five hours a day.

And my wife came to me, worried, and said, “Should he be on that thing all the time? I’m concerned that it’s hurting him.”

I paused. And thought. And I realized I’m on a device all day every day. I’m on my phone right now, typing feverishly on it to clarify my thoughts around my kid being on a device. So I’m on a device talking about my kid being on a device. I know—meta.

But, I’m not watching YouTube or playing candy crush or whatever. I’m writing. My device is rarely used as an entertainment portal to get lost in. If I’m not writing on it, then I’m reading or doing some other kind of learning on it. I use it as a tool to produce good for myself and for others. And that’s exactly what my son is doing, too.

A device can be a learning tool

He’s engaging with kids his age, talking with them, learning social skills. He’s getting lessons on social studies, English, science, math. He’s drawing on his iPad, taking photos of his work to show others. He’s breaking out into small groups to talk about what they’re learning, listening to book readings, building relationships. This remote learning seems to be making an impact on him.

I get why some parents would be scared. (I have been one of them.) Over the years there has been a lot of talk about how kids can become zombies and irritable and get ADD from devices. And there was also this article that talks about how parents being distracted by their devices are also contributing to the problem. (I’m probably one of those, too.)

But after thinking about this, I realized that the issue isn’t about usage but use. And, as I see it, for five hours a day, my son is using his iPad as a tool. And so are all of the other kids in his class. Just because he’s on device for lengthy periods doesn’t necessarily cause him harm or make him a poorer student. On the contrary, it’s actually improving him and his mind and his social skills. He’s even learning ways to make connections digitally and how to deepen them, which will only serve him well as interactions become increasingly digitized. That’s something many of us Gen-Xers or older never learned in our youth. I think this generation may even be stretching their EQ (emotional quotient) in ways that we’ve never seen before.

Socialization and blue light and homeschooling

I do wonder about his ability to socialize in the physical presence of people. Will he know how to handshake properly if and when that ever happens again? Will it be firm enough? Will he know how to look a person in the eye, not the screen eye or camera eye? Will he know how to stand in the presence of strangers and present himself well? Those are all questions I’m asking. You probably are, too. And the truth is, we don’t know. All we can do is teach them what to do around us and wait and see.

Blue light, the light emanates from the screen, is also another concern. Researchers aren’t sure if they are as harmful as some may suspect. But it may be good to be careful nonetheless. We bought these blue light blocking glasses (affiliate) for our son. They aren’t cheap. But they were the best we could find. We wanted to err on the side of caution especially since, as I said, he’s looking at a screen every day for five hours a day.

A family we know decided to pull their kids out of school because they didn’t want them wearing masks or sitting in front of a screen, all day. So they’re homeschooling. And that’s a perfectly viable option. In someways I’d like to do the same. Last year we saw our son do rather well while he was under the my wife’s tutelage. But we decided to go full remote learning because our extroverted son needs more interactions than what he’s getting from just his parents.

And it’s working, I think. He seems to be doing well. He’s enjoying the classes, most days. It’s a little early to say he’s flourishing. But he could be. He seems to be. We’re hoping he will. I’m wishing the same for your child, too.

Parents, remember this in remote learning

But the biggest thing to remember, parents, is this: we’re all making due with a terrible situation. We’re all making lemonade out of the lemons. And whatever direction you go, it won’t be perfect. I mean, no one has the perfect solution for educating kids in normal life, let alone in a pandemic. So, take it a little easier on yourself, take a breath, keep moving forward, and know that you’re doing the best you can for your child. In times like these, that’s the best we can do.

And, listen, since the beginning of time, parents have been worrying about their kids. I’m fairly sure that all of the Neanderthal parents were worried about how their Neanderthal kids would handle this or that change, like the discovery of fire or the Ice Age, or whatever. Those parents might have even been concerned about how the sun reflected off of the rock tablet their prehistoric child was using as they were making a cave drawing on it and sat them under the shade of a tree to block the ferocious light from their little cave-person eyes.

You get it. Parents worry—no matter what Age you’re in. It’s a part of the job description for parenting.

But if your kid is learning and, more importantly, learning how to learn, you’re going in the right direction. Whether with an iPad or a paper notebook or chalkboard or a stone tablet, the whole point is that they are growing as humans. And when we are directing them on that trajectory, we’re doing the right thing.

Parenting is a tough business. Full stop.

But parenting in a pandemic is something else entirely. It’s like survival of the fittest. It’s our ice age. Some could liken it to warfare. But whatever you’re calling it, if we can help our kids find pockets of goodness and growth, you should be feel good about it.

Remote learning isn’t perfect, but I think it’s going to be far less harmful than we fear and far better than we hope. We, parents, will need to supplement that learning and stay with our kids in this process. But, I believe, it will work out.

I mean, look at far we’ve come from Neanderthal Man.

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Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Headlines about vaccines are splattered all over the media these days. We, all of us, are on our toes with expectation, waiting for one to work. But we may be reaching. And even if one works, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

When I was younger, before this pandemic, I never thought about vaccines. When my doctor told me they needed to shoot something into my body, I quietly submitted to the demigods of science and medicine and let them medicate me, even though I hate needles (and still do).

Be Cautious With Medicine

But now that I have kids, I’ve developed a newfound caution towards medicine. I don’t believe everything I hear from institutions, especially when they haven’t been thoroughly tested. Before I make a decision when it comes to medication or healthcare, I thoroughly research it.

I became more cautious after researching home births. I discovered that a woman’s body is, more often than not, perfectly capable of, and designed for, giving birth without medical intervention. Yet, healthcare systems would have you believe that babies are only best born in a hospital, without telling you that they are revenue-centers for healthcare systems.

I’m not saying medicine is nefarious or that the people who work in the field mean to hurt or take advantage of their patients. I don’t think they do. I think they mean the best.

Nor am I saying that vaccines are bad. They’re not. Clearly, they save lives and have been incredible innovations for humanity. I’m supremely grateful that I didn’t have to worry about contracting polio when I was a kid on those sweltering summer days when I dove and splashed in the neighborhood pool. But just because vaccines are good doesn’t mean there isn’t risk here. There is, especially for new ones.

History of Vaccine Failures

You see, there have been problems in the past. Not just little hiccups. I’m talking about people getting the disease from a vaccine that it was supposed to keep them from getting, like polio. True story: in 1955, The Cutter Incident happened.

Cutter Laboratories developed a vaccine for polio and 250 people, instead of getting inoculated from the disease, got infected. So hundreds were crippled for life when they thought they were getting a preventative measure. Some even died.

Yes, that “incident” led to some reform. Additional protocols like better regulatory measures and a way to get compensated for being harmed by a vaccine were created. But still. People died—kids died.

But even with those improvements from the Cutter Incident, problems with other vaccines still occurred, even as recent as 2013. Here are some of them.

  1. Simian Virus 40 (SV40) – 1955–1963, 10-30% vaccinated with this polio vaccination got this virus, which looks high.
  2. Swine Flu Vaccine and Guillain-Barré Syndrome – 1976, where a “small” fraction one out of one hundred thousand got this serious condition .
  3. The latest one occurred in 2013, where the manufacturer was concerned that there might have been “glass particles” in the vials for their HPV vaccine. I’m not exactly sure what all of that means, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want glass particles shot into my bloodstream.

I’m not saying that there’s a conspiracy with all of the vaccines that had issues listed above. That’s not the point. I’m sure they were meant to help people, solve the problem of some sickness whatever it was. But not all shots are silver bullets.

What Does This Mean for the Covid-19 Vaccine?

These days, many seem to think that once someone pops out a vaccine for Covid-19, we will be dandy, all good—saved. And the multitudes will rush to get injected with it.

But I wouldn’t.

And now, we have a vaccine-race.

This week I read that Russia has developed a vaccine and that President Putin is even ready to inject his daughter with it. But does anyone really believe that?

And all of this is going so fast, maybe too fast. It’s been predicted that the vaccine will take at least a year to develop. But if history proves anything, it shows us that we have no idea how long it takes to make a vaccine. This website says historically it has taken 10-15 years. And HIV/AIDS still doesn’t have a vaccine even though researchers have been working on one since the early 1980’s. In 1984 it was declared that a vaccine would be available in two years. That declaration didn’t quite pan out.

But let’s say scientists beat the odds for this new crisis, and the Russians or some other country or company makes a working vaccine. My question is, Can it be trusted? Humans err. Especially when they rush things. I mean, when I rush a blog post like this and publish it without being thorough, it will have typos and errors. Even when I am super careful, there are often still issues. And they might hurt your wordsmithing sensibilities, but not your body, your well-being. But the Cutter Incident proves that errors with vaccines can cause significant damage.

This Worries Me

So that doesn’t just make me cautious. I’m concerned. What concerns me is our willing acceptance of a new vaccine. This worries me for you, your family, your kids, your friends, and for mine and me. This whole vaccine business is not risk-free, and it certainly isn’t guaranteed. Yes, it’s a worthwhile venture. But it’s venturing into unknown territory. And just because it’s a worthy cause doesn’t mean I’m willing to sacrifice my loved ones for it by jumping into line to get pricked right after they open the gates to everyone.

Now there are risks on either side. If you don’t get vaccinated, there are risks for getting the disease. But if you do, there will be a risk of getting the disease, too. Neither is certain. And there isn’t enough data to know for sure which way is best. I’ll admit I’m not a statistician. So if you’re playing the odds, don’t go by my words. I’m merely pointing out that there’s risk.

Closing Suggestions

I suggest that we need to temper our expectations for this vaccine and not allow our emotions to be swayed back and forth by the headlines. And if, by some miracle, a vaccine gets developed and passes clinical trials, be cautious. Just because it passes trials doesn’t make it completely safe.

But I do know this. I can’t control the vaccine nor the pandemic, but I can control how careful I am. I can wear a mask, socially distance, quarantine as much as possible. I can hope, and pray.

You can too.

Stay well, friends.

Lots of love,
John

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You can survive this time

Sometimes authority is wrong. In America, it’s woefully wrong about the pandemic.

Everything is not ok. It’s not safe.

I’m not trying to be a fear-monger. I’m just telling you the truth.

I don’t want you to get sick. I don’t want you to spread this disease to your loved ones.

Look, our leaders are failing us. When leadership fails, we must lead ourselves.

When governments fail to use reason, data, wisdom, we must self-regulate.

We must stay informed and help, encourage, challenge, and bless each other.

I’m not saying this time is easy. No, it’s terrible. It kick-you-in-the-face challenging. It’s “unprecedented.”

We must use our minds, stay calm, and not rush into a world that no longer exists. It’s not safe.

But I have hope. I believe this will pass. It will be safe again. But it’s just not now.

In the meantime, practice caution, call friends and family, eat delicious food, read books, binge a show, learn a new skill, occupy your time with healthy, socially distanced activities.

And when you get through this, you’ll be stronger than ever.

Stay well, friends.

Love,

John


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The pandemic isn’t over

It’s a matter of life or death. What is? This: Who you’re listening to. Don’t listen to the stories, the ideological frameworks, the politics, businesses, even your own urges.

Everyone has their agenda; campaigners want to win campaigns; businesses want your money; government officials want to be voted back in office; you just want everything to feel ok. They, and you, are all biased and want something from you. Don’t heed them.

This week we had a school official reach out to us to get our child to come to a meet and greet at his new school, to meet his new teacher, which would be incredible—if it weren’t for the virus ravaging our world population. And the school official emailed repeatedly, asking us to come into the classroom with other kids. Yes, it would be a smallish group, but still indoors with others. We asked if we could do it out of doors. She said no.

We didn’t listen to her.

You shouldn’t listen to them either.

You should listen to the data.

And the data is speaking loudly. It’s saying this.

The virus is alive and well.

And it’s dangerous.


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Good Grieving

It’s good to grieve. We should.

Because, you know, the new normal is too new and it shouldn’t be normal, and in general things just suck right now.

I won’t visit my mom to avoid any chances of getting her sick. But I visited a friend while standing over six feet away from him and thought that it was “intimate.” Every day I’m wondering if I got this virus and dreading that I might give it to my wife and kids. This “normal” sucks.

But I haven’t lost anyone I know. So there’s that. It’s a blessing, really. Also I haven’t gotten sick.

But there’s a strange guilt or feeling of unworthiness or sadness because I’m healthy. And it’s odd, and twisted, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Now we live in a world where those who aren’t sick feel guilty for feeling well. That’s sickening.

Then there’s the other side where those who do get the virus are shamed. They are seen as other, lesser, leper. Not only are they physically ostracized, they are emotionally as well. Loneliness kills like a killer virus. And those who fall ill shouldn’t be ill-treated.

This pandemic is sick. And it’s making us sicker than we want to be. And we’re getting desperate, even our governing officials are, too.

Just because the government is trying to open the economy doesn’t mean customers will just stroll into restaurant and grab a burger. Too many people are still afraid. And it will take more time than we think before we all feel safe again. This is not the time for desperation. We need discernment during a fight: Winning doesn’t mean we’ve won. Reaching a peak in a crisis doesn’t mean it’s peaked. When we can smell victory is when we must be most vigilant against defeat. By letting our guard down now is when we are most vulnerable to stray punch that can knock us out. This war isn’t over. We are not yet safe from this enemy.

Speaking of safety, just the idea of not worrying every time I touch some random piece of plastic or a shopping cart or whatever outside of my house or domain that I haven’t wiped down with a sanitizing wipe multiple times will feel like heaven. I mean liberty from the stress of wondering if there are invisible little bugs, on some random surface someone accidentally sneezed on, trying to kill me and stop my lungs from working would be AMAZING!

But that world is gone and it’s a longtime before we get it back.

So I grieve. I grieve for the world, for those who’ve lost loved ones, those who are still fighting for their lives and those who are on the frontlines fighting to keep others alive, for the loss of hugs and handshakes and restaurants and meeting strangers and flying in planes and touching things without wondering, “What if…?”

There is much to grieve. Let’s do it together.

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Grow today

Just because a pandemic is driving us all crazy doesn’t mean you can’t grow today.

Try something new: Learn a new language, an unfamiliar musical instrument, paint a painting, write poetry, code, cook a strange dish, blog. Anything. 

Yes, it will make you feel like you have a dunce hat on, unsure of yourself, a beginner.

Beginning is awful. You’re almost always terrible.

And sucking sucks.

But starting is valuable. You might feel like an idiot, but it’s one of the smartest things you can do. 

You’ll make connections you never made before, discover new ideas, see life afresh.

Focusing on that novelty will occupy your mind helping you de-stress (one thing we all need these days). 

If you keep at it, eventually you get joy out of what you’re learning. It adds to your life, your skills, your work, the world.

It will make you better than you were before.

That’s worth it.

You’re worth it.


Want coaching?

I’m only taking on a limited number of people, like 3. But if you’re interested, contact me and let’s set up a time for a video call.

Whether it’s in business, career, relationships, life, I’m here for you.

The first thirty minute session is free.

If you want to proceed after that, I will provide pricing.

I hope to connect with you and reach new heights together.


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The frontlines of COVID-19—A love letter

To the nurses, EMTs, physicians, staff who are on the front line of this war, thank you for risking and sacrificing health, safety, comfort to ensure our health, safety, and comfort. You even sacrifice time with your family so we can be with ours. You are exposed so that we can be protected.

You are heroes.

An EMT we know goes to and fro, sirens ringing, carting people back and forth to hospitals on the bloody edge of this pandemic. And when he’s not saving lives, he allows himself to see his kids and wife from afar at an outdoor playground once a week or two to limit the possibility for him to expose them to the virus. And to remind them of his love he records himself singing to them and sends the videos to his daughters.

Sacrificial acts are everywhere.

They harmonizes with the melody of these times, coupled with the dissonance of pain and agony as an aria of heroism crescendos before us in humans performing extraordinary acts everyday, like this EMT.

In New York City, the eye of the storm, we know a world class surgeon who, repaired our baby’s cleft lip and palate, with his seven-figure hands, insured and well manicured, trained in plastic surgery to perform delicate carvings, is now caring for patients struggling for breath, drowning above water.

Now this surgeon answered the call to be on the frontlines because staffing is low from his colleagues getting COVID-19, so he stepped in to fill the gap, exposing himself to the threat.

He has children, a family. He has a great career. Nonetheless, he dives into the trenches. Even though he doesn’t show it, I’d imagine that he has fears. But he charges into danger anyway.

Many are jumping into it, risking much, risking all, to help their patients, them, us, me, you.

This isn’t about title, position, money. It’s about doing what must be done to save lives, stem the tide, help people.

Another friend is a nurse in Queens, and a new mother. We just saw her post a picture on social media. She looked like a warrior, masked, armed, ready to battle this invisible enemy who masquerades in human form, using our bodies as vehicles for its mayhem. And she’s at a Queens hospital attacking it with all of her wits, energy, body, spirit, soul.

To my friends, to strangers, to all who are fighting where the fight is bloodiest, fiercest, most dangerous, we salute you.

We honor you. We love you.

For the courage, valor, duty, honor, love that beats greatly in you, we acknowledge you.

You are the best of us.

You don’t just live to stay alive. You’re spending your lives to save ours.

If there is a silver lining in all of this darkness, it is this. It provides the world a backdrop for people like you to shine and radiate.

So we see you, and by your light we see.


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