A Homeschooling Mom Looks Back on 2020

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As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

We have been homeschooling our kids since March of 2020, when schools closed down in Michigan. First, it was an inevitable decision. Later in the fall, we decided to continue this mode of learning to avoid putting the kids back in school.

My husband teaches them math in the morning, giving me a few hours of time for writing. In the afternoon, I teach them other subjects while my husband works on his doctoral dissertation. In the evenings, we have movie night, game night, and other family activities.

The journey was rough in the beginning, given our emotional stress during quarantine as well as their young ages (5 and 7) and high level of energy. Every day was full of their screaming, complaining about doing math, running around in the home, bickering with each other about toys. Sometimes we as parents also contributed to the noise and commotion.

We did, of course, go through short study sessions and outdoor time, but life was so different from when they were in school. The amount of stress to keep things in order was overwhelming. I so wanted some “me time” back.

Now, eight months after we started this homeschooling journey, a lot of routinized stability has set in. I realized to my surprise that our children have been the reason we survived the various sources of insanity of 2020. Now I can say with gratitude that they are the brightest light for me to pull through.

A new spiritual discipline I developed was something I call “little people watching.” I watch how enthusiastically they talk to each other about their stuffed animals. Not knowing how COVID is rampaging and electoral politics is surviving a crisis, their careless and joyful faces remind me of a law in God’s creation—in the long run, chaos will be conquered by shalom. That is why Jesus asks us to look at lilies and sparrows, not Solomon. Young children are so naturally in tune with that peaceful order of creation. Watching them play becomes soothing to my anxious soul.

Through homeschooling, I also have an opportunity to take a fresh look at things the way my young children observe them. Once we were studying cells and DNA, my 7-year-old son burst out loud with a strong “Aha!” at this new knowledge. His curiosity and enthusiasm at discovering God’s creation can be contagious to the rest of us.

We also enjoy “going around the world” by travel videos on YouTube. They are amazed at how many different cultures there are in the human community. Quite an avid reader now, my son always runs to us about a new finding with sparkles in his eyes. I see so much life in him, and that humbles me to know how precious it is to be alive.

The choice of voluntary quarantine and homeschooling is hardest when it comes to children’s friendships. These amazing budding connections and affections had to pause for so many months. Before bed, my children often tell me that they miss this friend and that friend at school the most. I tell them that friendship is such a wonderful gift from God, and you will need to cherish it when COVID is gone. Then we often imagine things by saying, “When COVID is done” (they created the phrase), followed by places we can visit and people we can hug.

Without my noisy young children, 2020 could have been a spiritual rock bottom for me. They showed me that life can still be abundant when it is stripped of layers of opportunities and exciting happenings. Life at the core of it is in a child’s heart. They showed me God’s grace in his incessant creation.

About the Author

Mary Li Ma, Ph.D., is a research fellow at Calvin University. She is a member of Plymouth Heights CRC church in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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