My Top 5 Tips – Thriving in Homeschooling and Homemaking

We are starting our third week of homeschooling this week and I was reflecting on the fact that I have been homeschooling for ten years (I am counting my oldest child’s six year old kindergarten year forward to ninth grade this year).  I was trying to think the other day of what really helps hold everything together for me as a homeschooling mother in terms of also being a homemaker, since as homeschooling families we are moving in both overlapping circles continuously.   When children are smaller, the academic demands are less and I think easier to work into homeschooling, but as children get older these arenas become more separate in some ways.  After some thought,  I found five things that help me homeschool and make a home:

  1. Accept some mess will happen…If you look at my house on a homeschooling day, yes, it may have papers and colored pencils and clay and main lesson books and projects in both our homeschool room and in our breakfast nook. Our high schooler tends to work in the breakfast nook, and the other children tend to work in our homeschool room so that is why we have two places.  The garage, where we do a lot of movement, can also get messy.  However….
  2. Accept that mess can be cleaned up within a half hour window.  That is sort of my barometer.  Can everything be tidied up within half an hour?  If it can, then the part of me that is extremely sensitive to visual clutter rests a little easier.  Everything everywhere just doesn’t work for me.
  3. Do things as promptly as possible and have a rhythm.  For me, the prompt part means doing dishes after we eat, sweeping up when the puppy drags in mud and grass on her paws, throwing in a load of laundry every morning, etc.  Of course, having a rhythm really helps with many of these pieces. What day do we change the sheets on the bed, clean the bathrooms, dust?  At what points during the day do we tidy up and clean up?   I cannot always free up hours on end to these things consecutively, but all of  these things can get done within in the course of the week.
  4. Elicit help. All members of the family can help, and i notice the more upper level grades I am teaching and the more subjects I am teaching, I  simple need more help because I am spending more time teaching and then older children may have activities they need to be driven to after teaching is done. I need everyone to pitch in and help, and at this point, our older two students are adept and independent in many areas of housemaking.
  5. Think ahead and streamline. For me,  things such as menu planning; sitting down and figuring out doctor and dentist appointments and field trips for two to three months at a time; deep cleaning at various points in the school year actually ends up saving me time in the long run.

I would love to hear your best tips for homeschooling and homemaking together.


3 thoughts on “My Top 5 Tips – Thriving in Homeschooling and Homemaking

  1. My high school drama teacher used to say back stage after a show, “Clean as you go! Clean as you go!” I think of that often, and it serves me well (when I actually employ it!). Dealing with big messes right when they happen, and having a daily and weekly rhythm for all the rest, as well as a back up plan for when things don’t go according to plan, keeps things on an even keel most of the time.
    Back to “Clean as you go!”…my daughter and I give the bathroom a quick wipe down every day after we brush teeth and hair, make the beds and put away clean folded laundry (from the day before) when we are getting dressed, and do one cleaning chore in the kitchen before making dinner. We sweep high traffic areas (entryway, bathroom, kitchen, dining room, and hallway) every other day, plus when messes happen, and the remaining house cleaning is just once a week for a few hours, focusing on whatever needs it most.
    In the late afternoon, I wash dishes and make dinner, and my daughter plays and weaves in and out helping. When she was a toddler, I would set her up with a sensory activity, such as playdough or soapy water or feelie goop, etc. on a tote on the floor next to me in the kitchen. Now that she’s older (six), she is mostly playing and roaming farther away from my side, but I find that it still “grounds” the afternoon to have the sensory activity. Plus, what a great tool for cleaning!!!–when there’s soapy water all over your floor, you’ll keep “floor towels” handy and the floor will get mopped! When there’s orange feelie goop (cornstarch and water) all over your floor, you’ll sweep the floor! And when there’s playdough all over the tote, counter and table, you’ll scrub them down! (All with a little helper, of course!) It can be tricky to balance producing dinner and cleaning up simultaneously, but I’ve always opted for this, because it makes the bulk of the afternoon so enjoyable and peaceful.
    Oh, and my daughter LOVES to scrub the kitchen sink. Begs to scrub the kitchen sink! I haven’t done it in years! It was quite the catastrophe when she was two, but she loved it so much, that I couldn’t help but be a good sport about it. And now I love it, too!
    Now that she is playing more with toys, dolls, setting up forts and scenes, etc., it’s a little more challenging to clean up before dinner. It used to all just be right under my feet in the kitchen, and I could bounce back and forth between stirring the pot and mopping the floor. 🙂 But now we have a bit too much of “everything everywhere” and so I’m finding my way through that. She isn’t quite old enough, and doesn’t have enough stamina left at the end of the day, to clean up toys completely by herself before dinner, and she’s way too tired and fussy for it to work after dinner. I know the crock pot can help a lot with pre-dinner craziness, but I’m more of a broil the meat/fish and steam the veggies kind of cook, sooo pre-dinner clean up is a bit of a stumbling block for now, but we’ll find our way through it! I think I just need to build it into our routine to pause the dinner prep at some point, clean up, keep a few toys or one activity out that she can continue with, but the rest of the toys are done for the day, and then go back to finishing dinner.
    For me, if there are certain things I can’t handle (as in, be a good sport about) my daughter doing or helping with, I find a balance between my peace of mind/need to get things done and her learning experiences. For example, I really can’t handle having her “help” me wash the dishes on a regular basis, so I set up her tote several times a week with dish tubs and some dishes for her to wash and a drying rack, while I am washing dishes at the sink. She experiences actually washing dishes at the sink a few times a week when we bake; we wash up the mixing bowls, etc. right away as soon as whatever we’re baking goes into the oven.
    It’s definitely a lot to juggle. Whenever something isn’t getting done or things are falling apart on a regular basis, I go back to basics and write everything out and re-balance our rhythm. As someone who worked outside the home for 20 years before starting a family, I have a tendency to try to do WAY more than can actually be accomplished in a day. Writing things down helps me think about how long things really take, how long transitions take, etc.
    Thanks for this post, Carrie!

  2. These are great, Carrie, thank you! I can share a few things that come to mind, though I’m still in the learning curve, that’s for sure 🙂

    1) Taking the time on the “front end” (younger years) to really teach how to do the different chores (and let them practice, even when it’s not pretty hee hee!) will pay off as the years progress, so do take that time. My nine year old knows how to clean the bathroom, fold and put away laundry, start a load of laundry, etc. and it’s wonderful!

    2) If you can get meals and laundry in a rhythm, you’ve got about 50% of your housekeeping right there.

    3) And related, have a strong mealtime rhythm – whether that be what you eat, who sets/cleans up the table, what we always do before or after the meal, etc. – mealtime and bedtime have stayed our daily anchors through many of life’s upheavals!

    4) Striving to keep an attitude of giving towards these daily chores – there are definitely times where the monotony can feel burdensome, but I have observed that when I begin to feel resentful of my time being used in these (seemingly) “meaningless” tasks, that attitude rubs off on everyone else! It really is a gift we give to our homes, our families, and one that – as we model the joy, or, at least, giving the gift with love – I think over time, the children catch on and care about keeping our space lovely and our things picked up and all those good things 🙂

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