Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 Shutdown Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 12

Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 12

Yes, we are on day twelve without school. I am counting the weekends, because weekends have no meaning when you know the kids won’t leave on Monday morning.

I’m not going to lie and say homeschooling is going well. We have already abandoned hope of any sort of educational advancement during these bleak times. We will be satisfied if the kids get out of this just not being dumber.

And please don’t get me wrong. Their teachers are doing a great job. At least, I think they are. I am basing that solely off volume of communications, not content. They are assaulting my inbox with email after email about this and that and the other thing. I would give you specifics, but I stopped reading the emails on Day 4. It was just too much. I have a life to lead over here!

We assume that our boys are reading the emails and doing the work, but it would simply be too much work for me to follow up. Instead, every once in a while, I just yell down the hall, “Did you get that email from your teacher just now?”

They say incoherent things back that I can’t and don’t want or need to understand, and I check the “homeschooled them” box for the day.

Son Number Three coughed yesterday morning. We quarantined him in the closet for the remainder of the day, not because we are worried about the coronavirus, but because he is very loud and we took the opportunity to mute him for a while. It’s our mental health that we’re concerned with, not the virus.

Meals are getting weird. In the before-time, when we had jam-packed schedules full of school and sports, we still managed to get an organized dinner on the table at least a few nights a week. Somehow, with all this amazing “free time” we’ve been given, dinner just can’t seem to bring itself together. We still have a fair amount of actual food in the pantry and refrigerator, but we keep pairing some snack mix with a can of olives around three o’clock, after the noontime cereal wears off. This pushes dinnertime out well into Cinema class (see below), which inevitably leads to popcorn for dinner, which is fine, because popcorn is a vegetable. Prove me wrong.

As part of my ever-evolving (some have called it lazy, but I can’t be bothered to argue with them) homeschool curriculum, I have added an Appreciation for the Cinematic Arts class in the evenings. This shelter-in-place seems to be the perfect opportunity to homeschool my kids about the magic of the silver screen in the eighties and nineties. Each night they enthusiastically tug at the duct tape binding their wrists and ankles as we watch another golden oldie, including, but not limited to, Groundhog Day, Adventures in Babysitting, The Great Outdoors, Fletch, Uncle Buck, Teen Wolf, Beetlejuice, Kindergarten Cop, Predator, and What About Bob.

They are loving it! Also, in order to properly scare them into staying home during this pandemic crisis, we showed them Outbreak. Highly recommended.

Even though we still have food, my wife keeps pestering me to go to the store. I don’t understand this, since I’m pretty sure I made my feelings on the subject very clear. I don’t want to go to the store. Last time I went I had to stand in line for an hour to get in, even though I wasn’t going to buy toilet paper. I don’t even like standing in line to go to things I actually want to go to. The grocery store certainly does not qualify for that list. Our corner gas station continues to sell milk, so I see no need to go back to that hellish line.

She showed me the grocery list she’s been compiling, trying to get me to believe we really needed things like green beans and broccoli, but I saw right through the lie. She’s almost out of chardonnay.

I don’t need to go to the store. I can wait her out. She’ll go. She might try to muscle though some pinot grigio for a few days, but she’ll crack.

I must sign off now and go get Weekend at Bernie’s cued up and ready for the nightly Cinema class.

Stay strong, people!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Just a Smidge Homeschool Schedule

I don’t want to brag or anything, but we are handling this new nationwide “distance learning” directive like a boss over here at Smidge Central.

Do we need the boys to leave the house to get their education every day?

Heck no! We can totally do all that stuff right here at home. A home that used to be much, much larger, as I remember it.

We spent the weekend coming up with our new homeschooling schedule – and by weekend, I mean five minutes on Sunday night over a couple drinks. The schedule has since been honed to razor-sharp perfection, and we are running like a Swiss watch over here on day three.

Since this has been such a massive win for us, educationally speaking, we just wouldn’t feel right keeping it to ourselves. So, we have decided to post our homeschooling schedule here for you to adopt in your own home.

The Just a Smidge Homeschool Schedule

From whenever you wake up until 8:00 A.M.
Reading time (we think – we are taking this opportunity to sleep in until 8:00 because that NEVER happens, so we’re not really sure what they’re doing, but we told them to read and we also really don’t care that much as long as they let us sleep.)

8:00 – 9:00
Culinary – boys complain about having to make their own breakfasts

9:00 – 9:30
Work Experience – boys complain about having to vacuum and do dishes

9:30 – 11:30
Classroom – boys complain that the assignments from the teachers are dumb and don’t make sense. I ask them if they read the directions. They say stupid things and then shut up after they finally read the directions. Repeat. I also use this time to attempt to figure out the logistics of expelling one or more of my children from homeschool. Does that mean they have to live in the backyard? If so, I’m totally fine with that. We own tents.

11:30 – Noon
Culinary – boys complain that they aren’t hungry for lunch yet, but they are lying, because they are boys and therefore always hungry. They make themselves cereal and chips.

Noon – 1:00 P.M.
Reading time – boys complain that they already read a ton before we got up and their books are boring and this is dumb and why can’t we go play since there is no school. They also complain about being hungry. They shut up once they actually open their books and get sucked back into the amazing stories that await them on every page.

1:00 – 2:00
Physical Education – boys go to the garage and mostly punch each other and put each other in headlocks while they are supposed to be lifting weights, doing pullups, or running around the block. As long as they stay out in the garage for an hour, we give them full credit.

2:00 – 5:00
Free Play, including one hour of screen time – boys always start their three-hour free play time with their one hour of screen time, because they have already figured out that the one hour will likely be extended indefinitely since it’s the only peace and quiet I’ve had all day and I need to get some damn things done around here!

5:00 P.M.
Guided Culinary – dinner prep with the boys playing active roles in all major food preparation activities. We are having cereal again because I just can’t anymore.

6:00 P.M.
Survival Skills – get away from me if you want to live. Also, make sure you get yourself to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s a school night.

Anyway, like I said, we’re pretty much owning this whole homeschooling thing. Use this amazing schedule with our compliments.

Best of luck!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Ask Smidge - The Viral Edition

As you know, America, and dare I say, the entire civilized world, is currently panicking about the coronavirus. Trustworthy answers are scarce, so naturally many of you have turned to the only truly trusted source for information left – the Ask Smidge advice column.

Our inbox has been overflowing with questions from concerned citizens, like yourselves, who just want straight answers about the dangers we face from this hideous, devastating, completely unique in every way, threat to our very existence.

You ask, we answer! (As always in a fact-based and completely non-controversial manner.)

What is the name of this thing? Is it the Corona virus, the coronavirus, the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19?
Curious in Coeur d’Alene

Dear Curious,
It’s all of them. It actually started as four different viruses that were all ganging up to take over the world. When they meet, they form a totally new strain. There are actually six million different strains now, they’re just not telling us. And speaking of names, Coeur d’Alene translates to “heart of an awl.” Love your city, but that name is kinda dumb.

Why are they calling it the “novel coronavirus?”
Confused in Carson City

Dear Confused,
They call it that because each day someone sends you a novel on how to wash your hands. They are considering renaming it the J. R. R. Tolkienvirus.

Why are people hoarding toilet paper? I don’t understand the connection between the flu and toilet paper.
Shopping in Sheboygan

Dear Shopping,
There is no connection. These people are also buying and hoarding paste as well as toilet paper. They are making large toilet paper forts inside their homes, then they sit in the forts and eat paste. And their boogers.

I have been to five stores and can’t find any toilet paper. What is the matter with people? And where can I get some TP?
Frustrated in Fargo

Dear Frustrated,
I feel your pain. The stores are all sold out, but the good news is that the CDC and the WHO (the band, not the health people) both recently endorsed looting and pillaging at this time, as long as proper “social distancing” rules are observed. Stay safe out there!

Why are stores sold out of soap? Shouldn’t this coronavirus thing maybe account for a small increase in soap purchases? Didn’t people wash their hands before this?
Soapless in Seattle

Dear Soapless,
No, most people are gross. This situation is many people’s first encounter with soap. Case in point, they tested a bunch of McDonald’s order touchscreens and every one of them tested positive for fecal bacteria. And boogers. If you see someone hoarding toilet paper and soap, you can have some fun by telling them that you heard peeing on an electric fence is the best way to become immune to the coronavirus. Enjoy!

I’m getting conflicting information at my local bar. Does the Corona virus come from Corona beer?
Switching to Pacifico in Pacifica

Dear Switching,
No, Corona beer does not carry the virus. Not the beer itself. The bartender who handed you the beer after eating at McDonald’s carries the virus.

Are the people who want their Instagram posts to go “viral” the same people who can’t understand why politicians can’t stop the coronavirus?
Wondering in Waikiki

Dear Wondering,
Yes. They are toilet paper fort-building booger eaters.

My stock portfolio is taking a major hit with this whole thing. What can I do?
Worried in Wichita

Dear Worried,
Sell everything and dump it all into any company that makes toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or soap. Hurry.

Should we continue to shake hands with each other? I want to be careful, but I don’t want to be rude.
Cordial in Cambridge

Dear Cordial,
No, stop shaking hands immediately. But not because of the coronavirus. Because half of the country is out of toilet paper and soap.

They just canceled school for an entire district near us, and our school district just canceled every non-classroom event, including outdoor sports. This is madness. What on earth are we doing? What has happened to common sense?
Frustrated in Fairfield

Dear Frustrated,
Don’t worry. We’re planning on holding a mandatory meeting of all school district administrators soon. We’re holding the meeting on a cruise ship.

What ever happened with the swine flu, the bird flu, SARS, MERS, that Zika virus, and acid rain?
Questioning in Queens

Dear Questioning,
What a great question.

Stay safe out there, folks. Wash your hands as often as you can with rum, tequila, or lighter fluid, and stock up on coffee filters and fast food napkins. (Just not the ones from McDonald’s!)

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Leap Year - Repost

We had a February 29th a few days ago. There isn’t supposed to be a February 29th. Not normally, anyway. It’s a leap year. The whole concept of leap year, and our calendar in general, is very strange. I have never agreed with how our calendar works, and I have decided that it is time to stop the madness. I hereby propose that the world adopt the Smidge Calendar.

Our current calendar is complicated. This stems from the fact that the earth takes 365.2422 days to go around the sun.  If we didn’t do the leap years, we would lose six hours off the calendar every year. That’s 24 days off in a hundred years. Not good. I mean, what if your birthday was in that lost month? No party for you. What if the lost month turned out to be October, and we lost Oktoberfest? Totally unacceptable.

A long time ago, Julius Caesar, a huge fan of Oktoberfest and birthdays, introduced leap years to correct for the 0.2422 day problem. Julius decided they would do a leap day every four years no matter what. That is actually too many, since the day fraction is 0.24 and not 0.25, so things started getting out of whack. Fifteen hundred years later, after people got tired of spring starting in the middle of summer, someone with a big brain and an abacus developed a formula. To be a leap year, the year must be evenly divisible by four. If the year is also evenly divisible by 100, then it is not a leap year, unless it is also evenly divisible by 400. Simple, right?

Well, that’s all fine and dandy, and I don’t really have a problem with the leap year math. It’s necessary. What is not necessary is having our months all different. Why have some months with 30 days, others with 31, and one with variable days? It’s too complicated. When I was a kid, my dad taught me a way to tell how many days a month has in it. You count on your knuckles. Start on the knuckle of your index finger as January. Count the months down your fist, landing alternately on your knuckles, and the valleys between your knuckles. When you get to your pinkie knuckle (July), start over on your index knuckle (August). If you are on a knuckle, the month has 31 days. If you are in a valley, it has 30, unless it’s February, then you have to refer to the complicated formula.

The knuckle trick is handy (get it?), but it shouldn’t be necessary. With the Smidge Calendar, you will never need to count on your knuckles like an ape again. My months will all have 28 days. Gone will be the days of not knowing what day of the week the 12th of March is. The days will always be the same number. The month will always start on Monday the 1st. Sundays will always be the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th. Simple and easy.

Holidays will always be on the same day. You will always know when Thanksgiving is going to fall, and with the new calendar, we can move some of the more flexible holidays to always fall on a Monday or a Friday. Boom, more three-day weekends. You’re welcome!

Now, with 28-day months, we'll need to have 13 of them, to make a year.  We’ll have to come up with a name for the new month. We'll make it fun and have a national contest, and pick the most popular submission. This will be a worldwide calendar, of course, but we'll retain naming rights. This is our idea, and everyone else can just get on board. It won't be a hard sell, due to the New Year’s factor.

Thirteen months at 28 days each only gets you 364 days. The all-important 365th day will occur on what is currently known as January 1st. However, it will be known only as New Year’s Day. It will not have a number. It will not be a Monday. It will simply be "New Year’s Day," and it will be a freebie. No work will occur. Nothing will be accomplished. It's a phantom day that doesn't exist on the calendar. Relax and enjoy!

Since we can't do anything about the 0.2422 day problem, we will continue with the current leap year formula, and any leap year will have an extra bonus day, known as New Year’s Weekend. Two totally free days every four years (unless the year is evenly divisible by 100 but not 400, obviously). Winning!

While you will be encouraged to do nothing on New Year’s Day and Weekend, inevitably, a certain amount of children will be born on these phantom days. This is where the Smidge Calendar also has a bonus financial planning aspect. Any parent having a child on New Year’s Day will get to choose whether their new child's official birthday will be December 28th or January 1st. This will allow them to decide which tax year they would like their new deduction and tax credit to fall in. Just a happy bonus feature of a new and improved system.

In fact, I don't mean to brag, but the Smidge Calendar has no discernible flaws. It's way better that the current random 12- month system. The only potential downside I can see is a slight long-term hit to the calendar industry, since calendars will now be reusable.

Now, before all you accountants out there have a conniption fit, screaming about financial quarters, please try to relax. We'll still have quarters, they're just 13 weeks long now. You're supposed to be good at math, so deal with it. Like I said, no flaws.

I anticipate immediate adoption of the Smidge Calendar as soon as the word gets out. The only thing left to do is figure out where to put the new month. I'm thinking between September and October. They always seemed like they needed to be separated a little more. We could call it Smidgetober. It would be a fun month. We could introduce Smidgetoberfest, the Oktoberfest pre-party.

Just food for thought.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!