At-home strategies focus on creativity, variety, planning
Phoenix Doran has been assembling hundreds of pounds of rocks and logs in his backyard so he can keep up with his powerlifting while the weight room at Liberty Bell High School is off-limits.
Doran, a junior at the Independent Learning Center (ILC), typically works out four or five days a week. He coaches physical education classes at the high school through an internship, but that’s also on hold.
So, Doran is improvising, using locally sourced materials — in the best Methow tradition. To maintain his muscle strength, he’s doing strongman training, a popular sport among powerlifters that uses stones and logs to simulate barbells and weights.
It’s not as simple as hoisting a bunch of heavy rocks — safe, proper training requires different types of stones for different muscle groups and movements. As soon as school closed, Doran started gathering flat stones for presses, round ones for lifts, and a variety of shapes for other maneuvers. He uses logs, about 12 feet long, for an overhead press.
With his heaviest rock, about 330 pounds, Doran does a stone-over-bar lift. Single rocks, weighing 40 to 90 pounds, fill in for a one-hand overhead stone press. Others can be toted across the yard in a farmer’s walk, where the lifter carries the stone close to the chest.
“The cool thing about this is it increases your balance. It’s easy to control a barbell, but not an oddly shaped rock,” Doran said.
Doran needs to collect some more rocks so he can build his training by 5 or 10 pounds each week. Gathering the rocks is its own endurance event. It took him half an hour to get the 330-pound boulder to his car.
“It’s challenging, but it gets the job done,” he said.
Teaching and learning
Sarah Schrock has been drawing on online opportunities from museums, aquariums and zoos, and local social media groups for suggestions about home schooling and educational activities to keep her two kids, ages 7 and 11, active and engaged.
“We’re just taking it day by day. At first, it was so new that people didn’t know how to start,” Schrock said in the early days of the closure. “Everyone was in this state of shock.” As they settle into it, Schrock is growing more optimistic about juggling kids and working from home.
With six kids, aged 1 to 12 — including some foster children — Kayli White is a pro at managing complex situations. “I’m not freaking out about it. I can only control what’s going on in my household,” she said, as everyone adjusted to being home. Even her youngest kids had been attending preschool.
White, who has a background in the medical field and daycare, started homeschooling her kids on day 1, building on her knowledge of science. “We’re trying to make everything a learning project,” she said. As they prepare their garden, they incorporate lessons on plants and photosynthesis. “Thank goodness it’s not winter,” she said.
Although teachers are sending home packets for academic enrichment because it’s not homework, it can be hard to maintain the same accountability, White said. She’s found that bartering access to video games for schoolwork is effective.
Jennifer Schumacher is “mixing things up” for her kids, ages 9 and 12. They’re prioritizing assignments from teachers and supplementing them with online activities where her children choose their own topics.
The school has helped by letting students check out laptops. “Our experience so far with access to assignments and the kids’ teachers has been fantastic!” Schumacher said by email.
“We make a schedule every evening at dinner for the next day and incorporate a lot of outside time,” generally keeping each study session to an hour, she said.
Art happens through planned projects as well as more spontaneous expression. White uses flowers and leaves to inspire her kids. Schumacher’s daughter is painting a mural in her bedroom.
While many parents are daunted by suddenly becoming teachers, they’re also concerned about the lack of ordinary social interactions for their children. As it sunk in for her kids that they wouldn’t be seeing their friends, it was hard, Schrock said. “The biggest concern is social isolation,” she said.
“This aspect of being out of school has been the most challenging for our kids. They miss their friends and, frankly, their Dad and I are not as fun to hang out with as their peers,” Schumacher said. Video calls with friends provide some relief, she said.
Parents are also grappling with how to explain the coronavirus to kids. Most have found that clear, calm explanations are best.
White posted hand-washing charts and taught the kids how to cough and sneeze properly. “We go for open communication, without scaring them. I’m not trying to create panic — just safe awareness,” she said. “Just communicating with them is the best way to not create chaos.”
“We’re not doing doomsday prepping but, with six children at home, we need lots of food and snacks,” White said. At the store, she taught all her kids to keep their hands in their pockets to protect themselves and others.
Schumacher’s kids want to know when life will go back to the way it was before all this. “I just have to tell them that this situation is just as new to me as it is to them, so I can’t answer that question,” she said.