Quarantine Life: Bringing Back Pen Pals

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Quarantine Life: Bringing Back Pen Pals My six-year-old daughter is a super social creature. A bit too extroverted for my introverted husband and myself at times. She can talk to anybody, any time, for extensive lengths of time. When she’s not in the physical presence of family and friends, she’s asking for my phone so she can text long sequences of emojis to her favorites as an expression of her love.

As you can imagine, the COVID-19 quarantine is not going well for her.

She is desperately missing her grandparents, teachers, and friends. Facetime helps, but for a girl who craves connection every moment of the day, it can be a bit frustrating for her and overwhelming for us. Social distancing is the pits for our social butterflies. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, I’d like to suggest an old school solution:

Pen pals.

When I was 10-years-old, I had a pen pal who lived in Minnesota. I loved learning about her life up north, but mostly I loved receiving a piece of mail with my name on it. I’m not sure when we stopped sending letters to each other, but eventually, writing letters to a girl I’d never met gave way to passing notes in class and texting my real life friends. Letter writing is so old-fashioned, right?

Admittedly, this idea wasn’t mine. My best friend who lives in Memphis texted me (see the irony?) to see if my daughter would like to be pen pals with her own six-year-old. She asked a few weeks before the pandemic reached America, but we received our first letter from her on day three of quarantine. Y’all…the JOY on my daughter’s face when she received a letter in the mail with her name on it. She quickly sat down at the table to write a letter back.

As I watched my daughter enthusiastically write a letter to a little girl she had never met, an idea struck my stir-crazy mind. There are no limits on pen pals. My daughter can exercise her socialite muscle by writing any number of children. Additionally, school is closed for the foreseeable future. I’m apparently a homeschool mom now. What a wonderful opportunity to practice spelling, handwriting, and the art of letter writing!

For several days now, we have written letters to pen pals. Some are friends who live just down the road. Some are girls she has never met. Each offer a different opportunity to communicate with the outside world. We have made greeting cards out of card stock and filled them with pictures and stickers. We have written formal letters on stationary, signing her name in cursive (a long desired skill of hers). She has sounded out words and practiced writing in a straight line. She has learned how to address an envelope. None of these skills are on the kindergarten standards list, yet she has soaked them up in a way that is special to her little extrovert heart.

I know this pandemic is a weird time for everyone. Some of you love schedules with carefully planned homeschooling activities. Some of you love the freedom of spontaneity. No one is wrong. But if you have a little socialite who is struggling with social distancing, consider bringing back pen pals as a way to let them flex that extrovert muscle. It might end up being one of their fondest quarantine memories.

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I am a mama to two sweet babies, Caroline (3) and Colin (1). My husband and I, both UT grads, recently moved back to Knoxville because we are so in love with this area and the people in it. Although I am a full time stay-at-home mom now, I am a former 2nd grade teacher who is on a mission to continue learning about how children grow and learn with my own personal guinea pigs! In my spare time (LOL), I run an Etsy shop for embroidery monograms and appliques and help with the college ministry at Calvary Baptist Church.

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