Change of Attitude

My wife (Grammy) and I (Grandpa) have now taken a different attitude toward dealing with COVID-19. We are just as frustrated and stressed by social distancing, missing gathering with family and friends, and feeling vulnerable as everyone else. Nobody wants to be labeled “vulnerable”, at least I don’t like it. Especially, when it is a fact, so we are taking the precautions seriously.

We also share the stress of our younger daughter in struggling to keep our grandson, “Buddy”, on a path of learning without an education system accommodating his autism. Our daughter and Grammy have done a lot of study on how the autistic brain works and Buddy’s, in particular. We have been quite frustrated with his school district and their apparent lack of emphasis on special education needs, in general, and particularly during this pandemic.

Recently Grammy had an epiphany that we needed to adjust our attitude and rather than rail against the school district and the pandemic, we need to take some control of the situation. We (Grammy and Grandpa) have been on this planet for over six decades, are educated, and have plenty of life experience to share. Grammy is an artist and reader, a very creative person. She is transforming our dining room (not used much during COVID) into a classroom and bought supplies. Yesterday she scoured the web for appropriate books. We have an excellent WiFi network and technology, so the hope is to make our dining room a place for him to go on a routine basis for his on-line schoolwork and additional learning with Grammy and Grandpa. Consistency and routine are important for kids on the autism spectrum.

My role, the fun one, takes us outdoors and on the water. I have a science background, once being an organic chemist and always a lover of nature. Can’t say I know a lot about plants, but birds, fish, and other animals have been an interest since Mrs. Thompson’s fourth grade class. She was my favorite teacher and an avid birder. Growing up in a rural area was also influential in appreciating nature; it was our playground. I also grew up with father that passed on a passion for being on the water with a fishing rod. We had easy access to one of the most beautiful of the Finger Lakes, Keuka Lake, where he also grew up. Being around and on this lake my whole early life was quite impactful, though I never gave it much thought until I went to college where there was no view of a lake on a daily basis. After marriage and move to a city I became an avid, no fanatical, fly fisherman. To be consistently successful at fly fishing or any fishing, for that matter, you need to understand the aquatic ecology of the fish you are after, be it trout, salmon, bass, etc. In other word, you need to understand the science.

With all of that as background, the actual point of this blog post is a shout out to grandparents. We know a lot of “stuff” that we have learned in your work life and leisure life that we can share with our grand kids to enrich their education, which is challenged now by on-line school. We have the opportunity to help our grandkids who can’t return to on campus learning. Now I suppose the older kids can adequately learn many subjects on-line, but other things require hands on experience, like science. So, initially, my science lab for Buddy will be a 16′ Lund prowling the Columbia, Yakima, and Snake Rivers.

Buddy and I have started weekly forays out on the Columbia on Friday’s in August, getting off the water before it gets too hot. The start of the school year should coincide with cooler weather allowing for longer trips. In this classroom we will be learning about fish, birds, aquatic plants and bugs, boat mechanics, and navigation.

I will admit to being somewhat skeptical of home schooling; that teaching should be left to the professionals. However, after spending everyday with Buddy for his first seven years, I’m reminded just how much a kid absorbs from simply talking with them and listening to them. Our challenge, of course, is Buddy’s autism, so third grade will be a learning experience for all of us. Hopefully, the school will step up with the special education support we will need. In the meantime, Buddy and I will explore local rivers and study as many fish as we can catch. Soon there will be migratory birds with hawks, water fowl, and sandhill cranes moving through our area. I hope it will instill in him a knowledge and appreciation for the natural world.

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