Children, Chores, Housecleaning and Homeschooling

This post  is for my dear friend Andrea, and also for Molly, who asked in the comment section of this post (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/03/this-week-in-our-december-waldorf-homeschool/#comments) when and how I got housecleaning, baby care, dog care done with homeschooling.

Great question!  Many of you know I have an eight-week-old, so the answer is this:

One person cannot do everything.

There has to be priorities.  I have been involved with La Leche League for years, and one of the things I have heard repeatedly is “people before things.”

You cannot homeschool and do beautiful main lessons and extra lessons, tend to a nursing baby, cook everything from scratch, make all your children’s clothes, tend to yourself and your husband – and do it all and not be crazy!

Forging close and intimate connections with your children, rediscovering the creativity from a child’s perspective, having the time to play a board game with that eight-year-old, being outside with a preschooler learning to ride a bike,  all takes time.  Children are only small once.  Yes, things still have to “get done”, but we also need to realize this period of time is a SEASON.  It will not be this way forever.  I love gardening, cooking, baking, needle felting and I love my house to be clean – but warm connection with my children is more important right now than those things.  This can be very difficult for those of us who are used to doing everything by hand and having everything a certain way!  Do not treat your children as if they are an intrusion in your work; treat them as the precious gifts they are!

I detailed my housecleaning routine here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/11/housecleaning-and-homeschooling/

and will be happy to tell you where I am now:

My morning routine is essentially to grab a fast shower if I didn’t take one the night before, cook a warm breakfast for everyone, throw laundry in and then either run the vacuum cleaner or clean the bathrooms (and if the baby is in the sling it may not be me getting down on my hands and knees to scrub the bathroom  floor!)

We typically go outside and go for a walk or a bike ride and jump rope and then come in and start school.  We then come in and prepare a snack.  School begins and we work in increments of about 20 to 30 minutes and take breaks where the children play and I either make food for lunch or dinner ahead of time or switch laundry or do diaper changes.  After school is finished, before lunch and quiet time, we pick up any toys that are on the floor and clean up the school room.  After lunch and quiet time is when we do any other focused chores (see original housecleaning/homeschooling post).  I plan in preparation time before dinner where we clean up the house again and also prepare food.  We have been home a lot, so we are here and can work slowly and stop with these breaks and be okay with that.  I am also lucky in that my husband is generally home at night and can help with dinner dishes and anything else I really need.  In fact, I am really lucky this month as he has a whole four weeks of paid paternity leave right now!

Baby care happens all the time – the baby usually falls asleep in the sling during our morning movement, and then sometimes he stays in the sling or I can put him down in the co-sleeper for a nap.  He usually takes another nap late morning in  my lap whilst I am homeschooling.  After lunch, we lay down together for another nap and then he takes his fourth nap somewhere in the later afternoon (many times the children are  playing outside in the yard by then).  Some days he is awake a lot of the day, some days he is growing and sleeping a lot.  He nurses on demand, and tends to fall asleep fairly early at night.   We co-sleep, and I try to go to bed by nine so I can be refreshed the next day.  Nursing at night does not usually wake me up, and we may get up once or twice to change diapers but usually he goes right back to sleep after that.  This season will pass, and we will soon be into a more mobile, teeth-getting stage that I am sure will be more challenging.  But, having a basic rhythm  really does help at this point.  Temperament also plays into it as he is a fairly laid-back little guy.  He is held most of the time :) because he will only be this little once and I so love him!

The dog gets walked every night by my husband (she used to get walked by the kids and I in the morning as well, and we will go back to that once the baby is bigger).  I have the kids clicker train her during some of the breaks, and she plays in all the kids’ games (which sometimes involves her getting dressed up in tutus, poor dog!)

The main thing is to not get too excited about it all, it will all get done eventually.  One has to be patient and realize that again, this is a season, it won’t be like this forever and it is okay that  things take longer than before.

The other things that have helped me include the following:

  • To have my children have an early bedtime.  The time after they go to bed is the time I do any last minute cleaning up, folding of laundry, gathering things for homeschool the next day. 
  • To have a quiet time after lunch.  When you homeschool and are with your children all day long, it can become important to have some space and a little break mid-day.
  • To build in time of cleaning up throughout the day, and to generally think ahead regarding food preparation.
  • To really consider what is absolutely essential – for me, it makes me crazy to have things not picked up.  My flat surfaces have to be cleaned up.  The bathrooms can’t be dirty and there cannot be mounds of dishes in the kitchen sink.  So those things are top priority so I can function.
  • Enlist help. Don’t be afraid to ask your spouse to help you, and don’t feel resentful that he cannot read your mind and know what you want done!
  • Less is more. Rotate the toys and don’t put so many out.  Limit access to art supplies that require your assistance.
  • Work in small chunks of time that have stopping points.
  • Keep in mind realistic expectations for each age.  Children under age 7 typically need more than a verbal directive to do something; you usually need to be there to physically help as well.  Don’t verbally ask them to do something while you do something else and then become frustrated they are not doing what you asked!  At the same time, repetition builds habit so do involve your children!

Just a few thoughts,

Carrie

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11 thoughts on “Children, Chores, Housecleaning and Homeschooling

  1. Thank you Carrie. You are such a light for me! The words that I needed to hear right now “(people before things, this is a season, one person can not do it all”, “priorities”–a reminder of the question “What is essential,” “treat your children as the precious gifts that they are.”)

    I am definitely that person who is trying to make beautiful crafts with my children, cook all our food from scratch, tend to my husband, and even make their clothes (thankfully not all of them, but some of them lol!). I am finding strength in developing household routines so that I know that we address all of the needs of our household, but we can relax our standards and not do everything to the highest standard.
    I have been praying daily for strength and confidence in order to lead my household. I mentioned once that I sometimes feel inferior to preschool in the fun department. I suppose many homeschooling parents wrestle with questions of adequacy vis a vis schools. God has been giving me my answer slowly the past few months. It is this: I will never be “good enough,” on my own. But by God’s grace, I am more than enough, more than I ever imagined. In other words, our house, our homeschool, my parenting, is never going to live up to my pre-conceived standards. I am completely flawed, yet I can surrender to God and He will carry my family. It feels good to acknowledge my imperfection and to let God help. I know this is Christianity 101, but I feel it in my BONES now. Sort of the ultimate answer to “one person can not do it all.’

    • Molly Oh yes, that is a huge homeschooling lesson….We must have a bigger Power to rely on. Homeschooling forces inner development, spiritual development like nothing else!

  2. At approximately what age is it appropriate to require children to help with chores? There are certain things I expect, like if I hand her dirty clothes, I expect my four yr old to drop them into her hamper… but there are times when she still balks or ignores me (like refusing to take the clothes, running away, although this is happening less and less lately – it never happened until she was about three and got worse until recently). Is it realistic to add one age-appropriate chore each year? Obviously these would start out very easy, like my four year old sets the table (which means I usually put out the utensils and then she puts them at the correct spots at the table – she doesn’t do plates or cups).

  3. Hi Erin, Waldorf works with children early (3 or younger and up) on practical work, but it is done together with little expectation that a child will complete it all alone, unless it is something simple such as you described with silverware for the five and six year old. Seven year olds even have a hard time with chores because the are like cats with bright shiny objects and easily distracted. Eight is better, ten I have heard is quite distractable again…I think modeling, doing the same things at the same t imes each day, and as they get over 9 consequences for chores not done (see Kids Are Worth It)..Before nine you are laying the groundwork, working together, singing , being happy in work, but I would not turn it into a battle at the early age of 4…The reallistic expectations posts for four might help, it says essentially what percentage of a task a four year old might complete independently, which I can’t recall at this moment…:)
    It is coming, but ot all takes time. A fouryear old’s consciousness is not ours….:)

  4. My sister called the other day and mentioned this idea of trying to have a more “zen morning”. I know where she is coming from but it’s a lot easier said than done in our house. All 3 want different things for breakfast and lunch, and there’s always at least one laundry crisis.
    Lots of times we are grasping at straws just to make it out the door in time.
    So we did finally try this organic instant pancake mix, called Batter Blaster. This went well and everyone ate with no complaints. Victory! They tasted pretty good too.
    Anyway, just wanted to share.
    Stay warm everybody.
    -S

  5. Pingback: Children and Chores « The Parenting Passageway

  6. Pingback: Rhythm–Part Four: The Eight Facets Of A Healthy Family Culture | The Parenting Passageway

  7. am just starting out with homeschooling i have 6 kids which two are grown and out and i have granbabies now four that live at home and one iam homeschooling while others go cuz of ashma and he has a hard time with separation from me . so iam trying to juggle the house four kids and grandbaby one homeschool while i am trying to deal with my health issues but glad to read your story and i hope i can pull this off cuz i dont get much help from anyone with chores so if you have any ideals it would be great . Before i had health issues i could do all this no problem but am fighting RA and energy level is down sometimes .. so thank you again for the encouragement.

    • Dear Ang,
      That is a lot to deal with! I think Flylady might be perfect for you — http://www.flylady.com — If you sign up for their daily emails, you will get a lot of encouragement…Having RA can make things difficult since you need to conserve the energy on your joints. I don’t know how old your grandchildren are, but certainly if you establish rhythm and routine, everyone in the family should start to know what needs to be done at what time. Making expectations clear is really important, and having “all hands on deck” when you cook dinner so someone can be helping you, someone can be setting the table and these duties can be set.

      Best of luck and health to you!
      Many blessings and thank you for reading,
      Carrie

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