COVID-19 T.I.P.S. from a Country "There"

Image of Jill Stribling
Jill Stribling
This American in Spain is here to help America. Jill Stribling and her family give us TIPS on Homeschooling for Fun and preventing the spread of Coronavirus.

 I live in Madrid, Spain. I have been here for 18 years. I came for work and stayed for love! I am a business owner and my life is here now. So Coronavirus really tests the whole,

"..for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part...", right?  Grit, resilience, teamwork, empathy and creativity are necessary for survival right now!


Funny enough, I was sceptical too. As payback, Coronavirus has completely invaded my life:

  • I own schools THAT ARE NOW EMPTY buildingsIMG_9591
  • My kid's school has been closed for 2 weeks so I am responsible for Homeschooling for Fun (ASM can't save me from them)My kids looking for ways to pick on mom as we gear up for Homeschooling for Fun
  • NOW my personal life is complicated

On Wednesday, March 18th, I had to take my husband to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with Coronavirus and immediately quarantined. My husband went to the hospital the same day I that I had to ERTE (lay-off) 18 of our amazing TEACHERS. Total FEAR caused lots of tears and stress which I had somehow kept together before that day. It was probably out of shock and problem-solving adrenaline! IT honestly felt like the death of everyone and everything that I know. So many emotions pass daily. I think I just aged 20 years in the month of March, and the last days feel like it has been a lifetime already!

Madrid WAS in the eye of the storm. We are still peaking so the number of cases are out of control. We are a touristic capital so the city was already on warning before the cases began to rise. A couple of large events, a two-kisses greetings/goodbye, flu season and suddenly we were the newest bullseye. Thankfully, our health care is amazing, and great weather is around the corner so our death toll will be lower than in Italy. But the worst part is the people who are infected but they don't have symptoms. They are the ones spreading the virus. 

Why won't anyone take Coronavirus seriously until it is too late?

  • When the virus was in China it felt too far away
  • When it hit South Korea, same thing 
  • Even when it finally hit Italy 

Until it actually arrives in your country/state/city and you see the rising cases, and you lose a parent or a family friend, it is hard to imagine that something like this is even possible!

Spain and U.S.A. in Numbers

As of March 22nd, we had 24,926 cases (click on the link to see that is has tripled in 8 days) and we were the third hardest hit country in the world. But thanks to that American competitive  and individualistic spirit (and truthful information, unlike MANY countries), U.S.A has taken over the 1st spot and it is doubling cases almost every 2-3 days (when I started writing this post on March 22nd, U.S.A. had 14,000 cases and today it is 142,842 cases before America even wakes up. 

I am begging you AMERICA to listen, read and share

This virus knows no race, religion, socioeconomic status or political beliefs.

And Coronavirus is a metaphor for today's world problems!

COVID-19 is simply trying to interconnect a world filled with TERRIBLE Manners!

Thankfully, Spain is crossing political party lines to save lives. Our government has been proactive and incredible, especially for those of us with businesses and worse yet, school owners. They have opened up small business loans, laws to support businesses that cannot pay rent and employees without income coming in. The Covid-19 labor laws give laid-off employees a salary and the right to return when the companies reopen. Self-employed people are also protected. I hope that these politicians realize that the more debt (ICO loans) that we have to pay back, even at a lower interest rate will not help us in the future, especially when our economic activity has been forced to shut down. This shutdown is money that we will NEVER get back. Something REALLY needs to change because it is becoming impossible to make it as a small business, worldwide.

WE have been on "lock down" as a city for 19 days now but it's for the best for everyone to stay home-especially those who are NOT SICK

Quarantine has been interesting for all of us. My husband is in a hospital where there are 5 buildings, each 12 floors, with 24 patients per floor. He's an insurance broker so we took him to a private hospital. He said that it's incredible how contagious the virus is. The nurses who enter the room must be suited up with special clothes and upon leaving, they are undressed by another nurse, sprayed down and they have to re-suit up every time they enter and exit a room. It is hard for him to be locked away from the world, but now with Zoom it is a lot easier. WE laughed today when we talked because I told him that NOW I know how a partner feels when a woman is pregnant and everyone asks about the baby/pregnant mom but no one asks about how the partner is doing! I'm the one stuck on the outside, locked up and homeschooling our kids. That is the tough part! 

Virtual Preschool

T.I.P.S for Survival Over the Next Few Weeks:

I hope that parents will use this time to reflect on how we treat and pay teachers. The profession is simply not respected enough, worldwide! I bet even Finnish parents would to pay teachers more money right now to make this all go away! 

Until then, here are a few T.I.P.S. (Teaching Important Parenting Skills):

  1. It is time for adults/parents to slow down and refocus priorities. COVID-19 is showing us that the real problem with the PISA scores worldwide could be modern-day parenting styles. The criticism, the blaming schools, the outsourcing, and an overall lack of responsibility shows that today's parents don't understand that we're raising humans together. Welcome to the pressure, the constant demands and criticism. This feels just like a day in the life of a teacher
  2. It is hard to learn how to be a teacher in one day, right? So give us a few weeks before you send a critique of our daily online performance and the virtual lessons
  3. Remember that as long as teachers are sweating through your emails and your social media rants and daily demands for "more individualized attention" per child, they are unable to attend to the needs of children
  4. Admit didnt realize that this teaching business was so hard? Homeschooling with guidance is three weeks old and we still see a lack of compromising your lifestyles for your children. This virus is not going away so the sooner you dive into the role, the faster the time will pass 

I worry that if parent's don't step out of the shock-induced haze and responsibly homeschool children right now...

If they don't stop channeling "Coronavirus Life" frustrations at their teachers/schools...

Then the kids will have wasted this precious time at home! Homeschooling for Fun is your responsibility, parents.

And with our assistance, your kids will THRIVE and you will feel empowered!

If we work AS A TEAM, I promise it will be a WIN-WIN for everyone. And we might even see that kids that are less-scheduled, and have less-pressure will perform BETTER on REAL LIFE tasks! Maybe passing a test is not the end goal to success and happiness? Maybe "Soft Skills" are THE most important things to be truly successful. Emotional Intelligence is learned from the beginning of life (0-6) and it should be taught at home!

HubSpot Video

English for Fun Madrid Youtube Channel

Online S.T.E.A.M.M. Classes


19 Days Into "Lock Down" and Not ALL is Tragic

My day-to-day life is a lot slower now. I'm honestly enjoying a break in the stress and demands that modern-day parents and modern-day employees cause. Schools are NEVER about the kids anymore! I blame reality television and 24h access to social platforms (whatsapps, social media, etc.). There are no longer clear boundaries. The constant drama and the overall lack of respect for educational leaders is tough. Slowing down and not spending my day solving adult-induced problems is giving me a well-needed mental break!

I'm organizing a lot of closets and my windows are impeccable (the family joke is that if a pigeon doesn't hit a window and if a kid doesn't run into a glass wall, then I have failed). Lock down is an obsessive-compulsive person's dream because I finally have time to organize and sterilize the house and it's OK to get lost in the project. All these things I usually do when I'm avoiding a challenging project at work are now allowed, and even given priority. It's fun to have the permission to get distracted in cleaning out/sterilizing the refrigerator or sorting through photos. 

I'm also reconnecting  and doing fun things with my kids. Since I have all the time in the world and less stress, I am probably a lot nicer and more FUN!

HubSpot Video

WE film funny music videos daily to send to my husband in the hospital. Now we all look forward to them everyday!

It is MY business...

English for Fun started in the worldwide economic crash of 2008 and the educational company was the result of that financial crisis (and our need to survive with a 3 month old baby who is now 12). This COVID-19 situation has pulled the rug out from under all teacher and schools and it has put us at an economic disadvantage that we may never recover from. I feel that WE are being treated like second class citizens and I am not in agreement with the closure of schools because it hurts children. This new economic devastation has motivated me to help empower women and educators.

Virtual Teaching is OUR NEW REALITY and Schools Are Coaches for Interactions at Home

Luckily, we trained our company to work online with a digital marketing strategy back in April, 2019. We have been working digitally for a year and that transferred into making our classes virtual without losing a step. It will take schools at least a month to get the virtual "ball rolling" because many teachers FEAR tech but our team is all ready in action. Between working online for a year and the multi-generational staff, we are peacefully coexisting as either Digital Natives or Digital Immigrants. Us Second Language Digitals have tricks too!

This week we have taken our schools to Homeschooling for Fun online programs with: 

  1. Virtual Preschool (3 hours a day for parents who "jut need a minute" or who need to work while homeschooling)
  2. S.T.E.A.M.M. (Science, Technology. Engineering, Art, Math, Music) hourly programs online
  3. Work for Fun adult group classes
  4. Yoga for Fun family yoga classes
  5. Art for Fun family art classes

We run our programs using Zoom and we are growing in countries worldwide who are on "lockdown". As experts in the early years (0-6), it means we are patient, caring and kind (low affective-filter). If we can teach kids successfully, we can teach anyone! We have already started teaching group classes to kids in Japan, Hong Kong, Canada and South Korea. Hopefully we will get kids to learn with us in the U.S., U.K. and South American.

It's a personal goal to put all of our teachers back to work, and hopefully add some more, before we are able to reopen the physical campuses (closed until April 12th).


I knew things were about to get serious in Spain when we were given 24 hours to close all schools and prepare for lockdown (March 11, 2020).

YES, I Want My MOMMY! 

When visiting home and connecting in person is no longer an option, it is important to remind your parents that they have to be safe for us all. This is a photo of my mom, my two kids and me. When she is here, everything feels manageable.Parenting in quarantine can feel lonely and I always feel better when she is close. Plus here she does not drive and run all around the city so I know that she will stay healthy and safe. I worry about how seriously my family and friends are taking all of this in America. It feels like we are watching a train wreck getting ready to occur, and we are too far away to stop it. We plead with my dad nightly about social distancing but he thinks that at 72 years old, he should do whatever he wants, without realizing that his only child and grandchildren cannot even go there if we want to without quarantining for 14-21 days upon arrival. This is my dad, my son, my daughter and my niece the last time we saw each other at our airport goodbye in San Francisco.I am trying to help my dad understand that he needs to skip the cattle auction for the good of himself and others. I´m worried about my mom working at the local tax office where people may enter coughing and not using proper hygiene practices. Anyone dealing with the public is at risk. Overall, Coronavirus is highlighting the lack of Interpersonal Skills that adults have. I worry every time I see someone go outside without a mask or gloves because we are all potential carriers so not covering up is really irresponsible.

I think that anywhere where people have a "Fixed Mindset" it is a danger zone.

Madrid is the perfect example of this. It might be a big city but it is filled with many people who have never left, for generations. Northern Italy, same thing. Since they all know each other, they don't like change and they refuse to interrupt routines and habits, even if it is for the good of themselves and others. This is not a political problem and I think it is ignorant to turn this into one. Right now, we need to trust experts and to shut up and listen. Criticism is the easy and lazy way to confront our biggest FEARs. Using a political shield is exactly why the Coronavirus is here. This behavior is a mindset problem. I have little tolerance for people who have never studied or who have studied accounting, deciding that they are not going to follow the advise of REAL DOCTORS, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. The Baby Boomers are not know for thinking about others. As they age, they become even more set in their ways. Worldwide, they are the ones that continue to go out and live a "normal" life and they are not realizing that they could be putting others at risk. I keep telling my in-laws in Madrid that I will not open the door if they knock because they look for any excuse to go out and "save" someone and they do not think about the consequences of roaming around the city. Selfish people are selfish everywhere and while I don't really know what is going on in California, I can imagine that it's similar to what is happening here. Know that it is DEFINITELY NOT an overreaction to lockdown people in order to save lives. It is literally the only way and in Spain, since ADULTS stayed home, our lengthy cases have improved.

Want to be Trusted...Try ADULTING World! 

Each citizen has a responsibility right now to PROVE that WE are intelligent and selfless enough to follow the World Health Organization's guidelines. If WE can do that, the government doesn't get involved but that is simply not what is currently happening anywhere. WE are not acting like socially-responsible adults right now. That means that if WE are not going to respect ourselves, WE certainly can't respect others. Selfishness, greed and simply BAD MANNERS are why the coronavirus is here and it will hopefully wake us all up so we live like caring communities again.

Here is What We Saw in Spain 

When the local and national governments imposed the initial lockdown in Madrid, it was incredible. Everyone started acting like it was a holiday!

I saw from my bedroom window:

  • Kids in the plaza below my house "making out" (hello Covid-19 spread)
  • Teenagers joy riding on rental scooters
  • College kids having a "botellon" and instead of taking extra care of themselves they were getting WASTED
  • Parents getting together and having tapas while their kids played in the closed minipark
  • Elderly people getting together and using the night to talk to anyone who would listen on the street.

Finally, the government had to raise the level of seriousness and impose more restrictions because it was not being taken seriously and in those 3 days the number of cases in Madrid spiked by about 20%. 

COVID-19 Conclusions

We all need to stop being so selfish and we need to put care at the forefront of how we live right now. Especially because KIDS need  SCHOOL! If we do not want someone contaminating our relatives, we should not contaminate others. WE ALL have to assume that we have the virus and live to protect ourselves and others.

That means:

  • No get-togethers, not even with family
  • Cook for a few weeks
  • Use gloves, wear masks when you absolutely have to go out (to keep your germs in)
  • Lots of hand washing (40 seconds and with soap)
  • Sterilize like crazy
  • Telework
  • Make peace with homeschooling
  • Do NOT leave home unless it is absolutely necessary
  • Remember to brush your teeth (wait, that was for my kids) 
It is only a few months of extreme measures and the more humane, empathetic and compassionate we all are, the less people die!
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