If any part of homeschooling threw me for a loop in those first few weeks, it was my virtual inability to keep up with the housework!
I had been struggling before homeschooling!! You can’t have four children in the home on an almost constant basis and not experience a certain amount of mess and clutter and chaos. It comes as part of the package.
Then suddenly I’m homeschooling and confined to a schoolroom, (in our case, the kitchen,) throughout what used to be my most productive hours of the day. My morning and part of my afternoon were consumed with school and while I often tried to steal away to the other end of the house just to make a bed or to gather dirty laundry, many times I was needed back at the table before I even got to the end of the hallway!
“How am I supposed to do this?” I begged to know. “How do you possibly homeschool and maintain a home and keep clean clothes in the closet for the hubby and kids, all at the same time?”
Fortunately I was determined enough to keep trudging my way through those first few weeks of homeschooling until I did begin developing a system that worked. It wasn’t a perfect system, mind you, but it was a functional one–a system I knew I could live with. It wasn’t easy, but it happened. How ironic now that even while I’m enjoying all the liberties of a less-scheduled summer, I also find myself missing the structured routine of homeschooling! Believe it or not, I’m anxious to get back to school because I think it helps me keep my house in better shape!
So to the stressed-out homeschooling mom who can’t seem to get it all done or to the mom who’s considering homeschooling, but can’t get past the fact she knows her house is gonna suffer for it, I have these suggestions…
1. Learn to accept the fact you can’t have a perfectly clean house while homeschooling, particularly when there are very young children in the home.
Sorry. It’s just not possible. But that’s okay! In homeschooling you are doing the single-most important thing you will ever do for the future of your children. A continuously dirty home is not glorifying to God, but neither is a home kept spotless at the expense of time spent training your children. A perfect house, while pretty for the here and now, has no eternal value. Do your best to keep your home as clean and presentable as possible in an effort to honor God and bless your husband and children, but also keep your priorities in check.
2. Adjust your expectations for yourself. Find a “new normal” and learn to be satisfied with it.
Case in point; paper plates. Disposable dinnerware is fine for picnics and cookouts, but I hate using it in my home. Hate it. To me, a nice meal is one served on real plates and eaten with a fork I can’t break with my teeth! But I’ve learned that sometimes it’s okay to eat on paper plates if it’ll save me a little time and mess and maybe give me an opportunity to tackle some other task I’ve been struggling to get done. It’s not what I want, but it’ll do. I can be content with it.
If you can’t get all the laundry done in a single day like you could before, accept it and figure out another, less perfect schedule for the laundry. If you can’t seem to get a bathroom entirely clean in a single day, (which was another thing that drove me crazy at first,) then learn to settle for a clean shower one day and a clean toilet and sink the next. And, believe me, no one will contract a disease if it’s day 3 before you get to mop the bathroom, too!
No, it’s not perfect. No, it’s not the way you want it. But it’s okay! A lot of times our cleaning preferences are pretty ridiculous anyway. Is is reeeeally crucial that our mirrors are 100% smudge-free at all times or that all the towels be folded symmetrically and stacked in perfect alignment in the linen closet? We obsess over things that don’t even matter and changing it up a little isn’t going to hurt any of us. Not really.
3. When possible, bring your work to school with you!
Granted, you can’t bring the dirty toilet to class with you, but I discovered there were a lot of things I could accomplish as I homeschooled. I process a pile of paperwork every week anyway–mail and notes and check stubs and receipts–all of which can easily be toted to school where I can file and sort and trash between lessons and questions from the kids. I pay all my bills online, too, which is sometimes a lengthy process, so I often bring the laptop to the school table and do the work there. I’ve folded plenty of laundry at the kitchen table during school, too!
And incidentally, having school in my kitchen enabled me to have the cleanest kitchen I’ve had in years! When it was the room I was in the most, naturally it got the most cleaning!
4. Put those kids to work!
This has probably been one of the best lessons I’ve learned, not only for the way it’s helped me around the house, but for the way I’ve seen it developing a sense of responsibility in my children.
Our kids did chores before I homeschooled, but I realized I had to step it up a notch if I wanted to keep my house in some kind of respectable condition! Now my children each have fairly significant individual responsibilities assigned to them. Making beds and picking up toys is a given. Cleaning their rooms is their job, not mine. (Not to say there aren’t occasions where I help out a little, especially with my younger two, but it is chiefly their responsbility.) Every morning each of them is also responsible for cleaning a certain room of the house and for accomplishing other specific, age-appropriate tasks, not to mention they are “on-call” at all times to help Mom where needed.
Teaching kids to help out is not easy, which is exactly why so many parents today don’t do it! You have to show a child how to do a task and then supervise them several times as they do it and then stay on top of them to ensure it’s getting done! And sometimes they still don’t do it exactly the way we would do it! But that’s how they learn! And not making the effort to teach them isn’t doing our children or ourselves any favors. Kids need to learn that they each have a responsibility to make the home work and that their contribution to the family is very, very important.
It pays off, believe me. With a more tolerable house, yes, but also I think with children who are less selfish and self-centered and quite a bit more conscientious and dependable. Chores have become a habit with my children, to the point they often do them now without my even asking! And I chuckle sometimes at my girls, who see folding laundry as a treat because I usually let them stay up an hour later than usual so they can help me!
When it comes to maintaining a “house you can live with” while homeschooling, what works for me may not work for you. The key to success, I think, is simply finding a routine that’s workable, if not perfect, and recognizing that your house looks the way it does because you’re focusing on your children, not on your stuff. Stuff fades away. Souls are forever.
But someone else said it much better…
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. –Matthew 6:20-21