As mentioned in my previous post, we entered into 2020 with a lot of plans. In fact, I had a three phase spreadsheet lining out the deadlines we would have to meet to move back to the U.S. in summer 2021. The action items included deadlines for construction on our outdoor kitchen, steps for a soft opening this summer, and finally a hard opening toward the holidays. The Universe looked at my detailed spreadsheet and laughed, crumpled it up, and spitballed it into outer space. Like all others around the globe, we just had to throw our hands up and accept our complete lack of control. Instead, we had to focus inward on the only things we could control. For me, that meant doing my best take care of my family and educate my kids in these unique circumstances.
In February, we received the news that the only international school in Pedasi had decided to close. This was a huge blow personally and to our community. After a lot of people worked tirelessly to get a school to come to our small town, it had only lasted a year. While the school was never perfect, it was our best educational option. BC and I spent most of February stressing about where to send the boys. Our options were few and all had major cons. Plus, the boys are very different and had very different needs. We decided to split the kids. We sent PJC for his final year of preschool to a local public school about 20 minutes away. We knew the teacher personally, and she has an amazing reputation. It also would give him a year to really solidify his Spanish. Plus, all of his “crew” was going there. For AJC, we decided to send him to an international “jungle” school. This school has the perfect blend of academics, project based learning, and outdoor exploration. It’s also in English. While we really want AJC to learn Spanish, he shuts down with it in an academic setting- then he doesn’t get the Spanish, nor the academics being taught. The main con for that school is that it is sooooo far away, almost an hour and a half. I resigned myself to my fate of being constantly on the road, but I did not like it.
PJC actually did get to start school for about a week.
There were a few tears his first week, but look how cute he is in his uniform! He and the teacher fell in love with each other after a couple of days. AJC never had a chance to start his new school. A week or so into PJC’s school year and a couple days before AJC was supposed to start, COVID arrived in Panama. Almost within days of the first case, they cancelled all school. All that worrying about where to send them and resistance to homeschooling, and turns out, we all had to become homeschoolers. At first they said school would only be closed a couple weeks. Naively believing we only had to fill the cap until May, our close knit group of parents formed a co-op. For the week we rotated between houses, teaching different classes. Activities included nature hikes, egg drop experiments, palm leaf weaving, Spanish classes, bamboo fort building and much more. I was amazed at our creativity and collaboration, but man, it was exhausting. We called it Corona Care Homeschool.
Corona Care Homeschool didn’t last long either. Thanks goodness- it was too much to coordinate. Within a couple weeks of the first Covid case, Panama announced a complete quarantine. That meant that everyone had to stay in their home except for six hours a week that you could leave for essentials (your time was assigned by id number). Children couldn’t leave their homes at all. Beaches were also closed. We felt very privileged considering our large yard, pool and beautiful view. We couldn’t go to the beach, but at least we could look at it. We decided to co-quarantine with our close friends that lived within walking distance. They sent their daughter to my new homeschool in the morning, and our kiddos went to their house in the afternoon. This way each adult got a break, the kids got a change of scenery, and they at least saw one other child. We also alternated taking each other’s kids on Saturday nights so couples could get in home date nights. Overall, the system has worked really well.
I never wanted to be a homeschooling parent, but this left me no choice. I knew I had to become super structured because we were probably in this for the long haul. Luckily the school AJC was going to start somehow seamlessly transitioned to zoom school. It has been going unbelievable well, and I am so thankful for the teacher’s effort and expertise. To fill in the gaps, and to keep Parker and our friend busy, I created “Cool School” (AJC named it, because I’m so cool, obviously). We do art, literacy, and numbers every day around a central theme. The themes change every two weeks. So far we have done units on the ocean, Frozen, Africa, and the Arctic. There is so much to explore, and the kids have been such great participants. Thank goodness for Pinterest, or I would truly be lost.
How else have we been keeping busy. Hmmm…I don’t know, but somehow the time passes. AJC has actually been thriving in his creativity. He wrote a whole story about dragons that he and BC turned into a movie. AJC also started a comic book series and has done a lot of drawing. PJC has been being his crazy self. Between BC’s work and my new teaching job, we haven’t had time for much else. Our construction is paused. We have no idea when it can start again. We also have no idea if tourism will bounce back in time for us to open this year. It looks like all our deadlines will be pushed back, and we have no idea when we will return to the U.S. The hardest part has been not being able to plan because we have no idea what the world will look like when this is all over. Panama is slowly starting to relax some regulations, but we are still in full quarantine. I think it will be a long haul to our new normal. In the meantime, we are embracing the slowness and the time to bond together with our family and those close to us. We are holding on to the hope that the Universe is better at making plans than we are and the result will be better than we could have ever controlled.