Marisa Howard-Karp, MS
March 17, 2020

A deep dive into backyard worms, or why we are actually doing just fine

By now you’ve probably seen those schedules meant for parents who are trying to teach their kids at home while school systems are closed because of the pandemic. Science. Math. Creative time.

[Image Description: A picture of a light skin middle aged woman with her hand on the shoulder of a light skin adolescent boy sitting in front of a laptop. In the background are brown cabinets. The two of them are sitting in front of a laptop screen.…

By now you’ve probably seen those schedules meant for parents who are trying to teach their kids at home while school systems are closed because of the pandemic. Science. Math. Creative time. Screen-free rest time in your room. You’ve probably also seen the version that involves your kids raiding the kitchen at 10 like crazed squirrels and then arguing for an hour about a 5-minute chore. I don’t know about you, but that second version feels way more realistic.

This is a first for me, and I would guess for most of you. I’m homebound with a teen and a tween and they are climbing the walls. Both of my kids have special needs. Our days routinely include significant anxiety and meltdowns. Sometimes I’m not even the one melting down. I am constantly working on self-regulation.

I’m anxious. I miss my friends and colleagues. I’m trying to keep my kids from seeing how close I am to quietly going over the edge. And last weekend I found myself the unwitting target of a parent on Facebook who told me that my attitude, meaning my apprehension about being able to do it all, was the real problem.

Hold up. Let’s give each other a little grace.

I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got. I don’t know anything about this woman, but I bet she is doing the best she can too. And we have different priorities. We are different people with different lives and different children. That’s fine. But I was stung by her words. I felt judged, and I came up short.

Then I stumbled on these words from my friend Elizabeth Miller, a behavior analyst and equity specialist at a special education collaborative in Massachusetts. She wrote:

I 100000% get needing some structure, but just know that you are NOT actually obligated to teach your kid things equivalent to what they would learn in school… If your kid wants to do a deep dive into bugs in your backyard or count the max number of cheerios one can eat one at a time during the day or just become a leading expert on Minecraft from playing it 9 hours a day… that’s totally fine for them academically. As long as you are keeping everyone alive and working towards keeping the community healthy through social distancing, you are doing what the schools need you to do.

Suddenly I felt like I could breathe again.

Keep everyone alive.

Work towards keeping the community healthy.

That’s it. The rest of it? Detail. We do more when we can, and some days we can’t. Keep doing the best you can, and ask for help when you need it. You’re doing great.

If you need professional support for your anxiety, many providers are now offering telehealth so you can get support without leaving the house. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect to a crisis counselor at Crisis Text Line.

  • Marisa Howard-Karp, MS

    Chief Operating Officer

    Marisa Howard-Karp has spent her career focused on improving access to health care and education, including 15 years providing professional development training to educators and social workers. As a parent and caregiver to four children with disabilities, she has been part of more than 40 IEP meetings (and counting) and has more experience than she wishes she needed navigating complex services and systems. She loves the work of making these systems easier for other families. She’s a non-profit lifer and a Georgia native who has made her home in the Boston area.

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