The Owl in the Living Room, and Other Scenes From a Year of Pandemic Homeschooling

Homeschooling during the pandemic was no walk in the park, but at least we managed to keep ourselves entertained

Brianna Conrey
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readNov 12, 2021

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Great horned owl specimen in a museum
Photo by Jeff Meigs on Unsplash

In retrospect, renting a taxidermied great horned owl for my kids was an obvious attempt to compensate for something.

Actually, it was an attempt to compensate for many things. First among them, of course, was Covid. By that point, October 2020, the kids had been cooped up with only their immediate family or masked caregivers for six months. Their only contact with friends was via video chat or occasional outdoor play dates, again masked. We had recently experienced disorienting losses of people dear to our family, not due to Covid, but conflated with Covid in our minds by the timing. On top of all that, just a couple of months earlier we had been temporarily displaced due to the raging wildfires in our region (luckily our home emerged unscathed). In short, everything was confusing, scary, and frankly depressing.

The biggest thing the owl was supposed to compensate for, though, was homeschool. Late in the summer, it had become clear that the public schools in our area were going to remain remote-only at least for the fall and probably beyond that. Remote schooling had been a disaster for both kids during the spring of 2020. My then-first grader cried every day before logging on to his computer, while my then-fourth grader revealed, to his later chagrin, that he enjoyed remote schooling because it was so easy and most of the kids just played video games all day. The truth was that neither I nor my ex-husband could stomach the idea of the kids sitting on Zoom all day, when we as adults couldn’t stand more than an hour or two at a time.

As a divorced, two-job family, we were not a natural fit for homeschool. However, several factors were in our favor. Both of us were fortunate enough to work remotely, with a great deal of flexibility surrounding our schedules. Our incredible former nanny, who had cared for the kids for several years when they were much smaller, was moving back to the area and agreed to help us. We were even able to sign up for an official “independent study” program through the school district to assuage my…

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Brianna Conrey
Human Parts

Family, relationships, and life after divorce with a twist of humor. Exploring happiness, creativity, and how to be a good person in a complicated world.