“Something to Celebrate,” June 8, 2021

The last day of school is something to celebrate. My grandson, Henry, just finished third grade. For him and so many children, as well for as their parents and teachers, this school year has been like nothing we’ve ever known.

In second grade, before the pandemic changed life as we knew it, Henry loved school. He loved reading and math and science and, most of all, the wonderful feeling of learning new things. He especially loved recess, playing tetherball on the playground with his friends and eating pizza in the cafeteria.

But last fall, children in California, as in most other states, didn’t get to “go” back to school. Instead, they stayed home with their parents or other adults, and took part in “distance learning,” using computers to connect with their teachers and classmates.

In third grade, Henry missed being in class with his friends. But he still loves school. His “distance learning” teacher did her best to give him and his classmates all they need to be ready for fourth grade. But it was done with a computer. No human touch. No tetherball. No pizza in the cafeteria.

His parents kept his mind engaged with books, outings and hours of conversation, while his body stayed busy climbing trees, building forts, riding his bike or playing with cousins and friends in their “bubble.”
It was different. Not perfect. But together they made the best of it. Good schools teach lots of good lessons, nonetheleast of which is how to make the best of whatever life may bring.

Recently, Henry’s school offered two options: Parents could either send their children back to class (with masks and social distancing) or let them finish the school year at home with distance learning.

Henry’s parents decided to let him finish third grade at home. His mom teaches in a different district and needed to be in her classroom. His dad had been home for Henry’s online school hours. But his work schedule changed, so I got to fill in.

I arrived at their home at 7 a.m., when Henry’s mom had to leave for school. The boy was still sleeping. She told me to wake him by 8:30 to eat, get dressed, brush his teeth and turn on his computer by 9. Minutes after she left, he came out of his room grinning, gave me a hug and said, “Hi, Nana!”

I offered to make breakfast but he wanted to show me how he makes his special scrambled eggs. They were great. He talked nonstop and taught me a lot about the habits of seals and things to make with duct tape.

By 8:58, he was dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, sitting at his computer. He looked good. Then his teacher came online to greet the class, and Henry’s last day of third grade began.

I sat behind him, far enough not to seem nosy, but close enough so he knew I was there. I couldn’t see the faces on his computer or hear all they said, but I heard lots of laughter and questions being asked and answered. It sounded like the classroom of a good teacher who liked her students and shared in their joy celebrating the time they’d spent together and a well-earned vacation ahead.

The class usually ended at 2 p.m., but this was a short day and they had better things to do than stare at a computer. So at noon, they all cheered and shouted their goodbyes. Henry shut his computer and lifted his arms in victory like a runner crossing the finish line. And we went out to celebrate.

Do you know a student or parent or teacher or friend who is crossing the finish line of this marathon school year? Tell them congratulations. Their hard work and perseverance is a shining example for us all.

My mother called life the school of hard knocks. Let’s hope it’s taught us that we can take whatever it may bring and make the best of it—together.


  1. Betty McNall says

    It’s been a tough year for kids and teachers! My daughter is a para at a middle school? Rough? Have 2 grandkids, girl in 5th and boy in 7th. 5th went to class 4 days 1 day at home! 7th a difficult one as he has N F and has special needs! Hopefully they can get into class this fall.

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    “Making the best of what life throws at us.” So true. We can sit and whine (would you like a bit of cheese with that whine?) or play the victim… OR we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off (some of us are a bit dustier than others 😉😉😉) and get to work. Free Will…. Our choice. Get out that sunscreen and have a blessed summer!

  3. Patricia W Marshall says

    Congratulations to Henry. Grandchildren are the best gift God has given us. My grandson Andrew graduated from Appalachian State college. His is going to be a school teacher. I am so proud of the man he has become.

  4. Marie Hartranft says

    Always love your columns! This column really resonated with me bkz I got to stay with 4 of my grandchildren during this pandemic. 1 did virtual learning and 2 home schooled. The youngest one was getting ready to go to Kindergarten this fall. All I can say is I am going to miss them so much when they go back to School in the fall. We made the best of things and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed having them. They are proud graduates of “Grammy School” lol. They taught me way more then I taught them. The other thing I learned is God bless all the teachers bkz I don’t know how they do it. Also just wanted to tell you I recently bought your book. I can’t put it down. I am almost done with it and am already wishing there was a sequel.

  5. Gail Tancreto says

    My grandson just finished 3rd grade as well with a year of “distance learning “. We were so blessed to have an amazing teacher who managed to be engaging as well as an amazingly talented person. I cannot even imagine the energy that she put into every class session. I feel fortunate that my grandson had this unique opportunity to grow and develop good learning habits that will help him for many years.
    Hats off to all of our fabulous teachers!

  6. Patti Peters says

    What a wonderful teacher! So many teachers could not deal with this, and who hurt the most? I really hope this all goes away and life for these kids returns to normal (as they know it).

  7. God bless Henry and all the kids this crazy school yesr.

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