During this era of COVID-19, preschoolers and their parents are trying to maintain something resembling normalcy within their socially distanced families.
Kolby Asbra’s co-op preschool class, which normally meets at Grace Church in Home, has been meeting virtually via Zoom. The kids’ faces display in a grid reminiscent of the opening credits from “The Brady Bunch.”
In April, their weekly meetings began with a favorite preschool song, which they would normally sing together while fidgeting on the colorful circle time carpet in their classroom.
“Open, shut them. Open, shut them. Give a little clap, clap, clap,” they sang.
The children grinned and giggled, excited to return to a little piece of their familiar preschool routine.
“It was pretty special,” Asbra said.
Throughout the Zoom meetings, Asbra’s class representative used the mute feature to allow each child an uninterrupted chance to speak, a virtual version of taking turns during morning circle time.
“Can you come over to my house? Wait. We can’t because of coronavirus.”
“There are many things that the kids learn by being in a classroom setting,” Asbra wrote in a message to parents when Gov. Inslee ordered schools to be closed through the end of the school year. “Many of these are things that you can work on at home, such as having conversations, making eye contact while talking, sitting still, waiting for your turn to talk.”
The virtual meetings give the preschoolers an opportunity to work on these skills in a group setting. During her turn, 4-year-old Tana Niles read an alphabet book while Asbra smiled and nodded from her own box on the screen. Another child raised her hand and introduced her stuffed bunny. Jackson DeMoss showed his friends how his transforming robot toy worked. The kids held up rocks they’d painted. Asbra showed them her painted rock too.
“It was very sweet,” she said. “I was on the verge of tears a few times. I really miss these kids.”The preschoolers miss her too
“Amelia has been having me send Kolby (Asbra) photos almost every day,” said Meghan Callaway. “She wakes up and asks, ‘Is the bug gone? Can I go to school today, Mommy? Please?’ ”
With activity recommendations from Asbra, parents try to keep up a preschool routine at home.
“I really missed having Nanette do the calendar at preschool and she needs to work on her numbers,” said Vanessa Lentricia. “After 14 she seems to jump and skip around, so I ordered her a calendar to cross out the dates and write special events.”
“On the chalk wall of her bedroom, we drew ‘Under the Sea’ with mermaids, fish, jellyfish, manta ray, coral and starfish,” Lentricia said. “She knows we can’t leave the house and go to school and we have class at home. Half of the dining room table is filled with a ton of stuff for her to do.”
During their virtual get-togethers, the preschoolers are as excited to share news as they are to show off their toys and their rooms. From her kitchen table, Amelia announced that she has a baby sister on the way. On the other side of the screen, Jackson held up a sign that said, “It’s a boy!”
While Asbra congratulated Jackson and Amelia on their future siblings, some kids missed the messages, too excited about seeing everyone’s faces to pay close attention.
“Can you come over to my house?” Addison Phillips asked, before catching herself and adding matter-of-factly, “Wait. We can’t because of coronavirus.”
Many children are able to play safely in their own yards on the Key Peninsula, but life without trips to the Key Center Library, the civic center, or Key Pen Parks can be hard.
“As we passed through Key Center, my daughter started crying. She was begging to see the librarians and DeeDee at the post office,” said one preschool parent.
“I’m worried how this is going to play out,” Lentricia said, “and what kind of impact this is going to have on Nanette emotionally.”
“I love my friends,” Nanette said through her computer screen. “I love my Teacher Kolby,” added another small voice.
“I’m struggling with the abrupt ending of our class,” Asbra said. “These kids are lucky to have great parents to distract them from any glimpse of the reality we’re in.”
After signing off, Amelia, whose dad works for Orkin Pest Control Services, insisted, “Daddy will take care of the bugs at preschool,” and begged her mom to take her to school.