SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- With the threat of COVID-19 exposure looming, Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave orders last week that Illinois schools would be closed through the end of the month.
For students, that means a long vacation, but one with homework.
For parents, it means scrambling to find child care for those not working from home.
For parents working from home, it means juggling job demands with overseeing lesson time and keeping children occupied while practicing social distancing.
As teachers from most area districts spent what should have been their first day back from break preparing learning packets and online lessons for their students, parents were scrambling to figure out how to best continue lessons at home.
"I have a demanding job with a lot of deadlines," said Du Quoin mom Devan Vaughn, who is the director of advertising for Southern Illinois LOCAL Media Group. "I have people who work under me that I need to make sure to connect with daily. I also have to continue with my regular reports, section planning, etc."
Vaughn, who is usually running rapid pace between our newspaper offices and customer locations, is now at home supervising 13-year-old Gauge, a seventh grader, and 10-year-old Tach, a fourth-grader, with their lessons, while still trying to maintain her job duties.
She said she's spent about three hours "teaching," an effort that has opened her eyes to the profession.
"I feel like I have always appreciated my children's teachers," she said. "My kids have great grades and they do like school for the most part."
However, Vaughn readily admits that teaching is a job she wouldn't want to fill.
For Harrisburg Register editor Travis DeNeal, life as a teacher has two modes, Wilson and Madeleine.
Madeleine, says DeNeal, immediately commandeered the kitchen table to work on her homework.
The Harrisburg High School senior is an honor student.
"She's 'honors' just about everything," said DeNeal, a note of pride in his voice. "She has the most academically rigorous schedule she could take."
DeNeal said his junior high-aged son also picked up an online packet with content to be working on each day.
"He took a more relaxed approach," said DeNeal with a hint of laughter. "But, he's also not a senior getting ready to start college."
Also working from home per company mandate, DeNeal's main concern about balancing work with homework is whether or not there will be a reliable internet signal from his provider.
Both DeNeal and Vaughn say for their kids, learning from home doesn't seem to be a big deal.
DeNeal said that for Madeleine, this is just another change.
"Her class was born immediately before or just after 9/11," he said. "That was when the world changed.
Now, a couple months before graduation, we have this and are forced to take actions that are fairly unprecedented."
Vaughn's sons both said they like learning from home but would rather be going to school where they could see their friends.
DeNeal said his kids don't seem that upset and the same is true of others he's spoken to in Saline County.
For Vaughn, there is one thing she's discovered.
"I do NOT have the patience to be a teacher," she said, with a real emphasis on "not."
"I love my kids, but teaching is not my thing."
Learning can and should be fun but it doesn't always have to come from a book.
Parents can use this time to connect with their students.
"Bake, cook, draw, paint, compose, make the most of this," posted Johnston City second grade teacher Tim Kee on Facebook. "Use your imagination."
For those of us who drifted away from our January fitness goals (or never really started them in the first place), use a simple workout video -- there are hundreds on YouTube -- and "teach" physical education.
There are literally hundreds of websites that offer free learning opportunities, like the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, which has a Facebook Live event on its homepage at 3 p.m. daily, featuring an animal and activity kids can do at home.
Remember when Marcia Brady and her club of stuck-up girls were doused with Peter's volcano? There are online instructions for building one.
Rodgers & Hammerstein will host movie nights, starting tonight, with the showing of the 1965 version of Cinderella. This is a free YouTube stream.
Cornerstoneconfessions.com has a huge list of online music education games. Scholastic also offers a variety of lessons and subjects for all levels.
Or, step away from the internet. Have your kids read a book, one that you liked, and discuss it over dinner.
Have your child keep a diary of what is happening during this time in our country and the world.
Even the little ones can keep a diary through pictures. They will surely enjoy reading it 20 years from now.