Believe it or not, I’m enjoying this quarantine. I know, crazy, right? I myself am surprised at this realization, and I’ve come a long way since last week’s post about Grudgingly Serving my Neighbor. Having five kids home all the time, doing school work from home, effectively making me into a homeschool parent, doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. And granted, there are moments every day where I’m sure I’m about to lose my sanity, but that’s nothing new. Such is the nature of living in close quarters with different personalities and temperaments. But something is different with all of us home this time around. This isn’t summer vacation or Christmas break. The kids are still in school, but they’re *only* in school—no extracurriculars. There is no driving time, no before or after school practices, no track meets, no UIL competitions. In short, it comes down to this: our lives have been simplified.
For years, experts have been warning us about the dangers of over-commitment, of cramming too much into our schedules. We hear their voices and think, “Yeah, but what would you have me cut out? Each kid has his or her own activities, on top of my own commitments. People are counting on me!” We’re so programmed to multitask, to fill our calendars, to give our kids a variety of experiences and activities, that we can’t imagine how else to live. But now we can. And here are some of the benefits I’ve discovered about a simplified schedule:
1.) Better sleep. My kids no longer have to be up by 6:15. They get about an extra hour of sleep every night, which makes them happier, which makes me happier.
2.) Better devotions. When my kids have to get up at 6:15, it’s really hard for me to get up before that to have my own quiet time for prayer and Bible reading, which means I usually either rush through that time or skip it entirely. Now, I get up shortly after 6:00 and have a whole hour to myself before the kids start getting up. I feel better equipped for the day when I’ve had that peaceful time to myself for devotions, which also puts me in a better frame of mind to deal with the kids. Furthermore, the kids and I do a Bible reading, catechism selection, and prayer time together after breakfast, which we never do while school is in session, largely because we all leave at different times and are racing to get out the door. So making this a priority now is wonderful for all of us.
3.) More time. This sounds counterintuitive, because how can having all the kids home all the time mean more time rather than less? I’m saving two hours a day on driving time, besides the time I’d otherwise be spending at competitions and sporting events. That extra time makes a big difference, and if I manage the time properly, my younger kids can get most of their homework done in that time that has been freed up, leaving me time to work on my own stuff. Additionally, our house is a lot more peaceful in the mornings without the stress of getting out the door on time. There’s not the normal, “Get your backpacks and lunches! You’re going to miss the bus!” There’s a lot more grace in our house without that pressure every day.
4.) Better schedule. Research has shown time and again that people, and kids in particular, thrive on a schedule. I always have good intentions of establishing a somewhat predictable daily routine over summer break, but never really get around to doing it. Now I am forced to do it, and I can’t imagine why I didn’t do so before. I’m still tweaking it, of course, since this distance learning thing is new for us, but I have a set time for breakfast, morning subjects, free time, lunch, chores, afternoon subjects, and work time for me. This gives everyone enough structure to know what to expect, and when I need to shut myself in my closet office to work on my books, they understand and (mostly) respect that time.
5.) Better relationships. Admittedly, this depends on the day, but I’ve seen a lot of improvement in the way my kids play together. On Saturday, my youngest two played together the entire day with Legos. These two do not normally have a particularly close relationship, and usually they’re rather hostile to one another. But in the absence of school friends, and without the “transition time” of coming back home to discover a younger sibling has been playing with their stuff, my kids are re-learning how to get along with one another and appreciate each other’s company.
The benefits don’t stop there. As a society, people are reaching out more as well. Many people now have much more time on their hands, and neighbors are checking on each other, families are spending more time together, long-distance family and friends text or call on a regular basis, and oodles of encouraging articles and online resources are springing up. Audible is offering a large variety of free audio books for kids, Concordia Publishing House has a number of free worship, devotional, and online video Bible study resources, there are fun virtual field trips for kids, and certain companies are offering free online workouts, just to get you started.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t all sunshine and flowers. There are also very negative impacts of this pandemic. The economic effects are almost impossible to fathom yet at this point. Our country and many others around the world will be reeling from the ripple effects for quite some time. And one has to wonder at what point we’re doing more harm than good. Is destroying our economy and harming millions of Americans and businesses worth the potential benefits of limiting the spread of the coronavirus? What is happening to our constitutional liberties? According to the First Amendment, we have the right to peacefully assemble, but that has been taken away, albeit temporarily. What precedent is this setting for the future? I can’t begin to grapple with these questions, so I’ll leave that to people smarter than I. But in the meantime, I can at least be thankful for the unforeseen benefits I have already seen.
Let us not forget that God’s light often shines brightest during dark times. People are seeking for answers and comfort, and what better place to turn than God’s Word? Bible.com has seen a 36% spike in traffic over the last week, and many people who were otherwise “too busy” to attend worship on Sunday mornings are now participating in online worship. If anyone can bring good things out of a bleak situation, it’s our God.
It will take a while for things to return to normal. But maybe this glimpse into a simplified life has shown us that “normal” isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe we *can* cut a lot of our commitments out of our schedules after all. Maybe we can focus on our relationships more and our busy schedules less. Maybe we can spend more time in God’s Word and less on our to-do lists. Maybe we’re learning that less really can mean more.