Homeschooling by itself is a full-time job, and so is keeping house. Sometimes it seems when I focus on one, the other inevitably falls behind. Can you relate?
Making our house a home for our families and educating our children is such important work, probably the most significant thing we’ll ever do. Most worthwhile endeavors require a plan. As homeschooling mothers, we live where we work and it’s easy to default to thinking we don’t need to face the day with the same purposefulness we did when we worked outside the home, but when we think of what we do as homemakers and homeschoolers as our job, it becomes more natural to think about coming up with a plan for success. Planning can give us peace of mind, knowing that we are making an effort to do well.
Here are five ways to get on top of the demands of home and school:
1. Make a list and plan for completing household tasks
Make a list of what needs to be cleaned and how often for every room of the house. Break these lists into simple 10-minute tasks that include wiping down the bathrooms, vacuuming and washing floors, dusting, and straightening up by putting things back in their proper places.
Do at least one load of laundry every day. Come up with a rotation. Assign separate days for towels, sheets, and clothes.
Meal plan. Have a month’s worth of recipes or family favorites that you rotate every four weeks. Write grocery lists that go with each week’s meal plan, so when you’re ready to shop you can pull out the shopping list, inventory what you have on hand and what you need to purchase. Having a basic plan in place for keeping up with meal preparation will save time and eliminate the dread of having to come up with a new idea every night for dinner. Use the crockpot and bread machine, regularly!
Remember to think about making time for miscellaneous tasks as well, things like making phone calls to schedule doctor and dentist appointments, catching up on email, sorting through the mail and clothes shopping.
Make a project or goals list for each month. Some of the things you might put on this list are storing out of season clothes, weeding the flowerbeds, cleaning the basement, etc. Be realistic when adding items to this list, planning only one large project that might be accomplished in an eight hour day on a Saturday, or several smaller projects that might be worked on throughout the month.
Never underestimate the value of putting something on the calendar. More than a year after a move to a new house, our basement was still in disarray, so my husband and I put a weekend on the calendar one month, rented a dumpster, and with all hands on deck we cleaned out and organized the entire basement. It was nothing short of glorious! If we had not been intentional about getting the job done we would still be saying to each other, “When are we going to get that basement cleaned out?”
2. Make a plan for homeschooling.
It’s helpful to identify the large tasks required to execute a full year of school. You will need to choose and purchase curriculum, create a calendar (what days you will take off and how you will meet your state’s required hours/days of instruction), make an academic plan for the entire year to decide how much will be accomplished daily in each subject, make a schedule for getting through the school day (more on that below), and plan extra-curricular activities.
It’s also important to set up a system for record keeping for either your own reference or to report to the local school district if that is required in your state. This system might include keeping track of how many hours or days you have logged school time, a place to keep grades updated if that is how you choose to monitor your child’s progress, books and curriculum used for each subject and student, each student’s personal reading list (can include other books not included in the curriculum), or a list of extra-curricular activities that are of educational significance like field trips to historical sites, relevant volunteer work, or sports.
For high school students you will need to keep a transcript, which includes classes completed and grades and credits received. If your high school student intends to continue on to higher education you will need to schedule them to take the ACT, SAT, or CLT college admissions tests. Many colleges will want to see course descriptions for each class completed in high school. These should include a brief explanation of what was covered in each class, what texts or resources were used, and how a grade was assigned, including weights of grading categories, for instance 20% for class participation, 20% for quizzes, 30% for essays, and 30% for tests, etc. Also, as part of your student’s high school records to present to prospective colleges you might want to include a homeschool profile that explains the purpose and mission of your homeschool and your educational philosophy. Additionally, your student will need a resume that highlights any significant high school involvement in clubs, or accomplishments and awards. Here you might include sports teams, speech and debate club, or a ribbon they won in a writing contest. Finally, it’s a good idea to collect letters of recommendations from other adults that interacted with your student as a coach, teacher, manager, or advisor.
3. Make a schedule.
Once you have identified all the particulars required to keep up on home and school, you will need to create a schedule to get it all accomplished. This can be the tricky part. It really can feel like you are putting together pieces to a puzzle! You need to consider two things: first, what your monthly/weekly schedule will contain and then how your daily schedule will be arranged.
Begin with a blank calendar for each month. Add in things that happen every week, like church, a designated family night, music lessons, sports practice, etc., then add special events or items scheduled for that particular month. Once you have a clear picture of your monthly/weekly commitments that do not include school, then you can plan your Monday-Friday daily schedule and how you will order your school days. Hopefully, these monthly/weekly plans can be reused all school year with just minor tweaks as you go along.
Decide what time your school day will begin and end each day and be sure to stick as close as possible to that schedule regularly. This will help get your children used to a regular routine and will go a long way in keeping everyone on track.
Designate blocks of time to accomplish specific subjects and schedule in time for breaks, lunch, and to let little ones play and run around outside. Choose what subjects you will cover with each student. Some subjects like history or Bible may be completed as a family, with leveled assignments for different grade levels. Make time for family lessons, for students to work independently, and for you to have check-in time with each child.
If you are homeschooling a wide age range of children, it’s best to work with little ones earlier in the day while they are fresh. Older children can do their independent studies during that time and then you can use the late morning or early afternoon to check in with them. If there are some subjects that you will be tackling together as a family, such as history or Bible, it’s best to get those done earlier in the day as well.
Incorporate your cleaning lists into your day, fitting in small cleaning tasks here and there throughout the day. Break them into morning, afternoon, and evening tasks. For instance, put in a load of laundry every morning, switch it over to the dryer mid-morning, and fold and put it away during the lunch break from school. If you have time, do another load in the afternoon or evening. When your children are old enough to operate the washer and dryer themselves, assign them a laundry day and make them responsible for washing, drying, folding, and putting away their own clothes.
Save your afternoons for homeschool administration, correcting your student’s work, lesson planning, running errands, exercising or for getting ready for the evening routine that will likely include making dinner, straightening up the house, giving little ones a bath, and tucking everyone into bed.
Try to have a regular quitting time each day, so you have time to unwind. Spend time with your husband, read a book for the pure pleasure of it, call a friend, or watch a favorite tv show. It’s easier to get through the day if you know you can count on some down time in the evening.
4. Create a command center.
Find a wall in your house that can serve as a central place for posting calendars, schedules, and to do lists. Command center in my house is located on a prominent wall in the kitchen. I have a large bulletin board for posting the monthly calendar, our current Scripture memory work, schedules and calendars from where my high school students take outside classes, and my monthly goals and to do list. I also have a large whiteboard for posting important weekly updates or reminders. This is where I write my son’s work schedule, driving lessons, doctor’s appointments, or reminders for errands or phone calls. If I’m going out for awhile and need the kids to accomplish something while I’m gone, I’ll write it here too. Sometimes I write a Scripture or inspirational quote on the whiteboard too.
When I created a command center I was amazed at how much more on top of things I felt. This space enables me to see at a glance what the month or week includes and where I need to focus my efforts. As a busy homemaker and homeschooler it’s not necessarily the amount of things that I’m responsible for that causes me stress, but instead it’s the feeling of wandering aimlessly through my day, not knowing if I’m forgetting to get something important done. My command center alleviates this anxiety.
5. Enlist help.
As a busy homeschooling wife and mother, you will always have more to do than there are hours in the day. You will need to enlist the help of others. Think of yourself, not as the person who has to be the one to complete every task, but instead, you are the manager, the COO (chief operations officer). A good manager does not physically finish every task required, but delegates to the people they are directing.
From an early age, teach your children to be productive members of the family. If you have young children it’s a good idea to begin having them help you with little tasks like picking up their toys and helping you fold laundry. This will teach them that everyone in the family is expected to contribute to the household.
When it is age appropriate, give them each an area of responsibility. In our house, I assign each child two rooms in addition to their own bedrooms to maintain. They have to complete the cleaning lists for these rooms on a regular basis for the month. Once the month is over, they rotate to two other rooms of the house, this way, one child isn’t stuck washing dishes all year if the kitchen is assigned to them. Another added benefit of this system is that every child learns what is required to maintain every space in the house.
If your children are too young to be of significant help, then you may need to find others who can be. Is there a teenage girl in the neighborhood you can hire to help with cleaning or provide childcare while you tend to the house, or how about a college student who can run errands for you? Do your parents live close by and can they come over a couple mornings a week to help you with homeschooling tasks or to tend to the kids while you do the grocery shopping?
If you can afford to, it’s helpful to hire a weekly cleaning service or housekeeper. Even if you only have them come twice a month, it will give you some peace of mind knowing that your house will be thoroughly cleaned periodically.
For some families, hiring outside help is not an option. In this case, having systems in place for staying relatively caught up will be essential. Be careful how many outside commitments you make. If you are always leaving the house, running to too many activities, you will not have the time you need to maintain the household or to accomplish homeschooling.
It’s not easy to balance it all, but planning, organizing, and delegating can go a long way in helping you manage home and school. Remember, you’re not aiming for perfection. Peace comes, not when all is perfect, but when you are perfectly resting in the grace of God, getting the strength you need to meet the day, being purposeful, and maintaining the focus required to do well.