The Day They Let the Fifth-Graders Work From Home


This is basically what it looked like, except with slightly less unhinged stock-photo joy.

Island Packet — I am lucky enough to work from home, which is pretty great. I don’t have a commute, or problems with the printer, or cubicle-mates. My wardrobe is usually somewhere between “daily jeans Friday” and “Jimmy Buffett concert.” I work on porches and eat a lot of waffles on the clock. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had a lot of jobs where waffle consumption has been this acceptable. Pretty much just this one and that one summer I robbed a Waffle House.

But working from home works because I’m 39. I can segment my time, establish a block here for working, a block there for lunch, 10 minutes here to change the laundry, 10 minutes to run to the coffee shop. I can do that because I’m old. I’d have been terrible at it in fifth grade.

I bring this up because my 10-year-old was home on Tuesday for what is known in his school as an “E-Day.” You might think the “E” stands for something critical, something so extraordinary as to warrant parents taking the day off. Like “Evacuate the school!” or “Excused! You’re excused because you’re sick.” But no. The “E” stands for “electronics,” and it’s a day — a mere two weeks into the school year — when kids are supposed to stay home and learn.

There are going to be three more of these things too.

For E-day, my son got a bunch of homework from his teachers — everything from math to typing to P.E. — and finished it using his school-issued laptop. All day. On the laptop. In the house. Riiiight here. In the house. Across the table. Talking about dragons. All day. In the house. Needing drinks pretty much constantly. Did I mention this took place in the house? And dragons. He was in the house — in essence, working from home, like Dad.

Naturally, I betrayed nothing but enthusiasm about the idea. “This’ll be great!” I lied beforehand, already starting to predict the number of times I’d have to stop him from telling me about the life story of some Lego ninjas, which of course I know already. “I can help with your math homework and state capitals,” I promised falsely, knowing actual jack squat about Common Core lattice-math and the capital of Vermont. Does Vermont even have a capital? Does it need one? Vermont is like six houses big, isn’t it? I feel like we could slash away a good chunk of that national debt if we removed Vermont’s needless capital.

Oh, and then my big kicker: “You can work at the table with me.” For a lot of kids, going to work with Dad would be exciting, specifically if said dad was a lumberjack, or fireman, or the Ultimate Warrior, or really anything other than what I am, which is a guy who sits in his own kitchen and regards his MacBook for eight hours at a time. “Come on in, big guy, I’m drinking six cups of coffee and listening to some jazz station while writing about you!” just doesn’t have that ring to it, you know? (On the plus side for him, the pre-guilt of being such a wanker compelled me to obtain him donuts, which seemed to please him.)


Related, sort of


But really, an E-Day? Did any of you have E-Days when you were in school? NO, you DIDN’T, because you’re all old. The idea of “working from home” when we were all in school plainly meant one thing: not working from home. I’d have killed a whole “E-Day” on Double Dragon II for the Nintendo, maybe with a bit of fantasy baseball thrown in. No, I didn’t have a girlfriend in high school, why do you ask?

I mean, what kind of crunchy granola backpacking Teva-wearing hippie enclave do I live in? School from home? Back when I was a kid, we called that FAKING SICK! And we WATCHED “THE PRICE IS RIGHT!” And we SUDDENLY GOT BETTER WHEN OUR FRIENDS GOT HOME.

Besides, schoolchildren are, by definition, supposed to BE AT SCHOOL. That is why we send him there in the first place. Because I cannot TEACH HIM AT HOME — mostly due to the skillful way I am juggling Starbucks runs and making waffles. These are crucial demands on my time, people; earning 185 stars for one free coffee doesn’t happen on its own.

Worse than all this, if my kid starts thinking he can do school from home, he’s going to grow up to get some sort work-at-home weirdo.

Oh wait.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

10 responses to “The Day They Let the Fifth-Graders Work From Home

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