With schools closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus and families abiding by Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order, Clintonville students and parents are accepting new normals related to work, school, extracurriculars, eating out and more – all together, all the time.
Even as state leaders ponder the reopening of Ohio’s economy, families have adjusted and adapted in as many different ways as there are families – even as the latest Internet memes about having kids at home all the time ring true.
Given schools are closed for the remainder of the academic year, families no doubt will continue to manage school, work and family life all under one roof.
Clintonville resident Marcia Meyer said patience has been key.
“As a household, we have had to learn to be more forgiving of ourselves and of each other,” she said.
“There are a lot of emotions during times of change and sometimes we have to step back and remember: This is happening to all of us. How we respond is the only thing within our control.
“We are all experiencing this from different perspectives,” Meyer said. “What was normal for us before this pandemic and stay-at-home order has shifted, and will likely shift again.”
Meyer, a nurse at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, and her husband, Chip, who works for Giant Eagle, were able to manage care for their 8-year-old daughter, Riley, a second-grader at Clinton Elementary School, in the first few weeks after schools were closed.
Then things changed again, when Chip Meyer’s doctor recommended he no longer work due to an underlying health issue. While on personal medical leave, he is working even more closely with Riley on a daily basis.
“During school work time, she needs direct supervision for most of the work, especially now that they are in an online platform,” Marcia Meyer said. “This means one of us with her during all of her formal learning.”
Jacqui Hoke and her husband, Ryan, are helping their 5-year-old, Ginny, a kindergartner at Ecole Kenwood, with her school work, as well.
The Clintonville couple also have a 2-year-old, Siggi, and a baby, Sal, born Feb. 6.
“I worry. I’m not a teacher. I can’t do, especially, the French immersion she’s missing,” Hoke said. “At the same time, I’m glad I’m not trying to homeschool an older student.”
Hoke said Ginny is “pretty focused,” which helps when also managing a newborn and another young child.
Ryan Hoke, who always has had the flexibility to work from home and now is doing so full time, often has to work “funnier hours,” Jacqui Hoke said.
She said as she prepares to return to work – if even from home – the family has to try to build even more structure into their daily schedules.
“I’ll have to carve out time from the kids” to work, Hoke said. “While I’ve been on maternity leave, the kids have kind of had my undivided attention. Fortunately, my husband can work in the same room while holding the baby and the other kids are playing or doing school work.
“I’m sure there are just some things you can’t plan for.”
Ray Bonini said his family has had to find space for everyone as he has transitioned to working from home, and his sons, 17-year-old Adam and 15-year-old Alex – a junior and freshman at St. Charles Preparatory School, respectively – are schooling from home.
“My plan was never to work from home. We have three coffee shops within walking distance, so if I wasn’t working in the office, I could get away. So I gave up any pretense of having a home office,” Bonini said. “Now we sometimes look like: one son at the dining-room table, my wife (Julie) on the other side of the dining-room table and me in the den 15 feet away.”
Bonini said he’s fortunate to have a job that allows him to work from home and from which he’s not furloughed or laid off. He also said having sufficient technology and Internet service has been crucial, allowing everyone to do their thing at once.
“We’re lucky both our kids are in high school. They sometimes need a little guidance, but mostly they just take their laptops and go do what they do,” Bonini said. “(Alex) especially, he’s getting a little taste of the kind of autonomy he’ll have in college.”
Still, taking a break from shared space is important, even under the best of stay-at-home circumstances.
“It’s more about everyone’s personal space, and making sure, at least once a day, to stop and get out of the house, go for a walk with the dog,” Bonini said.
“We live between the ravines, so when we get outdoors, which is every day, we’ll venture into Walhalla or Glen Echo, or walk the greenspace along the railroad tracks,” Jacqui Hoke said.
The Meyers have found getting outside a boon to everyone’s mood as well.
Bikes rides through Walhalla Ravine, early work on a family garden and playing with a neighbor girl from the safety of their respective front yards have helped keep Riley, whom Marcia Meyer described as an “energetic 8-year-old social butterfly,” occupied outside her school work.
“There is one home between ours, so this usually looks like two 8-year-olds yelling at each other from down the street, but it is something that allows them to stay connected,” she said of Riley’s socially distanced playtime.
Calls and video chats with friends and family help appease Riley’s social nature, Meyer said, as well as participating in the neighborhood’s Saturday porch concerts, for which Riley has taken to singing show tunes. (“Annie” is her favorite right now, Meyer said.)
Each of these three Clintonville families counts lessons learned among the unplanned benefits of staying home.
“We’ve all adjusted to the chaos,” Jacqui Hoke said, “and our house allows for both of us to find time to work away from the kids when we need to.”
Community has played a major role for the Meyers, with both parents in roles considered essential despite Chip Meyer’s current leave.
Neighbors, their church family and friends, and family from farther away have all offered help, encouragement and support.
“In a time of high stress, these acts of kindness make all the difference,” Marcia Meyer said.
“When we come home from a hard day, any one of those things serves as much-needed refreshment ... to keep going, and likewise keep looking for opportunities to do the same for so many others.”