The last day of school is something to celebrate. My grandson, Henry, just finished third grade. For him and so many children, as well for as their parents and teachers, this school year has been like nothing we've ever known.
In second grade, before the pandemic changed life as we knew it, Henry loved school.
He loved reading and math and science and, most of all, the wonderful feeling of learning new things. He especially loved recess, playing tetherball on the playground with his friends and eating pizza in the cafeteria.
But last fall, children in California, as in most other states, didn't get to "go" back to school. Instead, they stayed home with their parents or other adults, and took part in "distance learning," using computers to connect with their teachers and classmates.
In third grade, Henry missed being in class with his friends. But he still loves school. His "distance learning" teacher did her best to give him and his classmates all they needed to be ready for fourth grade. But it was done with a computer. No human touch. No tetherball. No pizza in the cafeteria.
His parents kept his mind engaged with books, outings and hours of conversation, while his body stayed busy climbing trees, building forts, riding his bike or playing with cousins and friends in their "bubble."
It was different. Not perfect. But together they made the best of it. Good schools teach lots of good lessons, nonetheleast of which is how to make the best of whatever life may bring.
Recently, Henry's school offered two options: Parents could send their children back to class (with masks and social distancing) or let them finish the school year at home with distance learning.
Henry's parents decided to let him finish third grade at home. His mom teaches in a different district and needed to be in her classroom. His dad had been home for Henry's online school hours. But his work schedule changed, so I got to fill in.
I arrived at their home at 7 a.m., when Henry's mom had to leave for school. The boy was still sleeping. She told me to wake him by 8:30 a.m. to eat, get dressed, brush his teeth and turn on his computer by 9.
Minutes after she left, he came out of his room grinning, gave me a hug and said, "Hi, Nana!"
I offered to make breakfast but he wanted to show me how he makes his special scrambled eggs. They were great. He talked nonstop and taught me a lot about the habits of seals and things to make with duct tape.
By 8:58 a.m., he was dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, sitting at his computer. He looked good.
Then his teacher came online to greet the class, and Henry's last day of third grade began.
I sat behind him, far enough not to seem nosy, but close enough so he knew I was there.
I couldn't see the faces on his computer or hear all they said, but I heard lots of laughter and questions being asked and answered. It sounded like the classroom of a good teacher who liked her students and shared in their joy celebrating the time they'd spent together and a well-earned vacation ahead.
The class usually ended at 2 p.m., but this was a short day and they had better things to do than stare at a computer. So at noon, they all cheered and shouted their goodbyes.
Henry shut his computer and lifted his arms in victory like a runner crossing the finish line. And we went out to celebrate.
Do you know a student or parent or teacher or friend who is crossing the finish line of this marathon school year? Tell them congratulations. Their hard work and perseverance is a shining example for us all.
My mother called life the school of hard knocks. Let's hope it's taught us that we can take whatever it may bring and make the best of it — together.
Sharon Randall is the author of "The World and Then Some." She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924, or by email at [email protected].