Friday miscellany: Zoom Tetris

A while ago (not that long, but still) I wrote about “Activity Tetris.” I likened the logistical calculations necessary to fit everyone’s activities into the family schedule to the old shape-sorting computer game.

Well, that game has ended for now. But a new one has taken its place: Zoom Tetris.

All my children except the baby have virtual schooling sessions. I’m grateful for this; I know our school district and our preschool have worked hard to make some synchronous learning happen. I also know that within, say, the middle school, the teachers have coordinated to keep sessions featuring the same students from overlapping. But with four kids…well, we now have three daily morning Zoom sessions running simultaneously, with my middle schooler’s classes popping up around that at somewhat unpredictable intervals. There are now Zoom “specials” (Art, Spanish, etc.) plus a few extra-curricular activities delivered via Zoom as well.

We have a lot of devices in our house but…whoa.

We’ve wound up using my laptop, a second laptop we bought so we could have one that was not my husband’s work computer (which is owned by his employer), and my phone. We have used my husband’s phone too. If something non-Zoom needs to take place simultaneously, it can be done on the desktop computer that doesn’t have a webcam. So this works, unless multiple children have technical difficulties simultaneously…

Are you playing Zoom tetris at your house?

In other news: I changed my phone wallpaper to be this portrait shot of the blooming plum trees and wow, I wish I’d done this before. I was just using the default backdrop (because of my tendency to make do). Will this inspire me to change other things, like figuring out how to program my coffee maker or buying one that will have a cup ready for me at 6:15 a.m.? We shall see!

I really wish I had scheduled that hair cut I thought about in early March.

I’m reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction. I just finished Homo Deus. These have been borrowed via the Libby app from my local library. If you haven’t tried out Libby yet, you really should! I’ll try to post a belated “books read in March” post next week. Also an update on my post-holiday winter fun list, in case you were eagerly awaiting that one…

We had a family discussion the other night of in-home activities people would like to try out over the next month. I took that list and did some online perusing and am now awaiting shipments of origami sets, Stick-Lets (for fort building in the backyard), modeling clay, puzzles/mazes books, bubble wands, a “paint-by-sticker” book, etc. I’m planning to break out my Floret Farm puzzle soon.

Based on multiple people’s recommendations, we tried out the Cosmic Kids Yoga videos. Reactions are mixed; I can’t say that it’s targeted to pre-teen boys, but I’ve forced everyone to keep doing them and generally people’s moods are improved by physical activity.

A friendly reminder that I launched a podcast this week! Please check out The New Corner Office if you haven’t already.

19 thoughts on “Friday miscellany: Zoom Tetris

  1. Our school district loaned out Chromebooks to all students who needed one, and I am grateful. I felt a little guilty taking one because we do have the resources to get our child access to the Internet, but that would have meant one of the adults would have to hand over their computer or device every time kiddo had a meeting. Borrowing a school Chromebooks relieved that stress point, and allows her to stay logged in on one device. It has definitely made me really aware of how privileged we are that we have easy internet access, and I wonder about how families who don’t have access cope.
    My mother is here with us (was visiting from out of state, and now stuck here) and has been teaching the kids the outdoor games she played when she was younger. Who knew that a string tied to a tree could occupy the kids outdoors for so long! (High jump! Limbo! Jump rope! Acrobatics!). We have been doing lots of fort building too- definitely fun across the ages.

    1. @Diane C – I”m sure it wasn’t your mom’s first choice to get marooned but how lucky for you guys!

  2. We actually bought a low-end iPad so that my son can have “virtual preschool” while I sit next to him and … well, catch up on email and read blogs. The absence of a keyboard is really good for young and antsy hands.

    1. @Erica – we have my kid doodling to keep his hands busy. It seems like a better activity than throwing items off my desk.

  3. We don’t have enough bandwidth to do multiple zooms at once so our Tetris is more calendar based. I had a work meeting scheduled when my daughter’s class was supposed to zoom on Monday. So she didn’t attend. Our school is doing e-learning but hasn’t offered any tech to support us. We have two computers (one that I’m now remote working on) and two older iPads that they can do some spelling and math on. It’s been challenging but we’ve gotten into a routine. My younger daughter needed a break this morning and enjoyed a 15 minute cosmic yoga so thanks for that tip.

  4. We have a local non-profit that focuses on getting kids active and involved in sports. They did some indoor physical activities and challenges for kids on their Facebook page under their videos. All are meant to be done in tight quarters and with minimal/any equipment.

  5. We are right there with you! With 4 kids and 3 adults in our house it gets tricky. Plus I am doing video patient visits that require confidentiality so I have to be in a room alone with the door closed and no wandering in and out. We have a number of devices including iPads, laptop and desktop all with cameras. However, my husband did request a company issued laptop after just a few days home and we check out a Chrome book from our school. but this morning my 9yo was on zoom leading a virtual whole school assembly while my 6 yo was supposed to be watching the same assembly on YouTube live. Our trusty au pair donated her laptop to the cause. I have also started reading paper books for the first time in a long time. I am not reading on a commute so weight and portability are not such an issue and this frees up my iPad for Zoom-ing (this is a real word right?).

    The other taxed resource in our home during this time is our printer. We typically print a few pages a week, but now we are probably printing as much as 40 pages a day! I can already see there will be a run on printer paper and ink cartridges.

    1. @Gillian – yes, our consumption of paper has gone way up! Not toilet paper so much as printer paper!

  6. Yes! Our district is going to loan out laptops and I felt a bit guilty asking for one (since there are SO many students in need), but we tried to buy one and they are all sold out of inexpensive kid-friendly laptops everywhere! So we are on the list.

    We haven’t started on-line instruction, but the kids both have scheduled zoom meetings and do some typing, math, drawing tutorials, etc.. on screens and it is already becoming difficult to manage. Plus one kids’s social skills group and the other kids virtual play dates. I can’t imagine once actual instruction starts in a couple of weeks.

    Also have the “need quiet/private space for telehealth” issue. I’m using the basement for now, but our only desktop is housed there too (no where else to put it, we have a large desk down there) so the kids can’t use that when I’m down there. I need a desk so I can chart during the visit, so we ordered a small desk for our bedroom and once that comes, I’ll do visits there. Bonus, there are windows in the bedroom! And its much warmer! (negative, close proximity to cozy bed).

  7. We have 4 kids in Zoom school, which is from 8:30-3! It’s amazing in that it keeps them actively engaged and learning, and allows my husband and me to continue working. We panic-ordered 2 laptops for the 5th and 7th graders, and are now realizing that the 2nd grader needs one as well, since she’s old enough that an ipad is functional enough for her (time to type up that Landform report on Valleys and submit via Google Classroom). This is one are where if we can solve the problem with money, it’s well worth it for us to continue to be productive ourselves.

  8. I have done Cosmic Kids yoga with my daughters for years now and I had to laugh at the image of your pre-teen boys doing it.

  9. Well, no. But I only have one child. 😉

    It would be nice if I my daughter would hold her requests for my attention to times when it was convenient to me, but we haven’t gotten there yet.

    One positive thing that has come out of this is that I have realized that if my daughter’s school is ever a bad fit for whatever reason, homeschooling is a completely viable option.

  10. I am having the exact same feeling about not getting a haircut last month!

    As for yoga, I love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. She’s wonderful and she has some videos that are great for kids/all ages if you’re interested in trying something else.

  11. Yes, we are playing Zoom Tetris…3 boys, 3 schools! This was our third week home from school but first official week of “remote learning.” If academics are not taking a front seat at the moment, the kids seem to be learning some real-life skills like what to do when instructions or expectations aren’t clear, being flexible when plans need to change by the day (or by the hour), how to deal with tech obstacles, and good old sharing and being considerate of others. For example, please don’t practice the saxophone when your brother is having his math class!

    RE: programming the coffeemaker, have you considered getting one of your kids to look it up, figure it out, and then teach you how?

  12. It’s shocking to me that all of your school districts are requiring synchronous meeting with teachers. I run the remote learning program at a large Chicagoland high school and we specifically requested that teachers focus on asynchronous screencast lessons that students can watch at their convenience, coupled with Google meet office hours. The inequity of required synchronous meetings is deeply disturbing.

  13. Ooh, I’m envious. Our (ostensibly good) public school system started “virtual learning” this week, but — there’s really not much to it, it’s not strenuous or rigorous or even very time-consuming (for the kid) and the vast majority of it is not synchronous or interactive. In fairness, this is not of course what the school is set up for or trained to do, but compared to what I hear others are getting I’m — pretty unimpressed. We are exploring some (private) tutoring options (as an add-on, not an instead-of). But on the bright side, no zoom tetris has been needed.

  14. Thanks for the new podcast, Laura! I never intended to have a work-from-home job, but here I am… I have found working puzzles to be therapeutic and useful. It helps me get into the “flow” state mentally, and it’s good to have something to do with my hands. Agree wholeheartedly on the physical activity and have been working to do something daily, including the kids–bonus points for getting outside. I’ve also been doing a daily Bible study with the kids. We’re going through Proverbs, and each morning I’ve been picking a proverb for us to discuss. Yesterday’s was Prov. 14:1 “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” I enjoy reading your articles and blog updates–keep them coming!!!

  15. We use webex for work meetings and love zoom for any non-work meetings.. thanks to the awesomeness that allows upto 100 ppl at a time on a conf call for free.. please note Zoom has a vulnerability in their chat that hackers use to send malware to the system and get to your windows password and other stuff. Please be careful to not click on any link that may come through the chat functionality in zoom.

  16. We don’t have this issue with our only child who is a 16 month old whose only Zoom need is music class (makes me laugh that a toddler even has Zoom commitments!), but in general the need to be on camera for meetings has been stressful as my husband and I take turns working and chasing the little guy. I miss the world of conference calls where I could mute and multitask. 🙂

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