How do I keep the house clean while homeschooling the kids? AND keep the family fed, and get my other to-do lists done too? This is the number one question I get in my inbox. Homeschooling and home management, how to fit it all into the days? How to homeschool, and do all the rest of life? How can I take control of my time, so as not to let this crazy life drive me crazy?
I don’t have all the answers for you and your specific life, but I’ll offer up some ideas I’ve found helpful that might be applicable to your life.
Teach Your Children to be Independent in their Homeschooling
Let your child fail forward. No matter if your child is a two-year-old or a twelve-year-old. They will want to try things, and if you’re in their way, you’re holding them back. Yes, stop them from stepping too close to a cliff, but let the child explore and challenge their skills. By trying new things and testing their limits they learn to overcome obstacles, fear, and develop a can-do attitude.
Be the encourager. You’re the cheerleader. Listen to the words that come out of your mouth when speaking to your children and give thought to how the child hears those words and your tone. If you’re afraid that your child will fail or get hurt, they’ll catch on to that emotion. A positive attitude will let your child know that you believe in him. Don’t be the reason your child holds back. Teach your child to embrace and press through challenges.
When your child holds back from a challenge ask him, “Why not?” Encourage him to think of the good things that will happen by overcoming the challenge, or even the worst-case scenarios and about how he would address those instances.
Ask him “What if…?” and think through scenarios and even do role-playing. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Usually it’s something to just laugh about. Teach him it’s through mistakes that we learn.
If he gets stuck with schoolwork, remind him to look back in the book to remember how to do a skill. Encourage him to “Look it up” or “Let’s look it up together.” Don’t do things for him, but give him hints and encourage him in his focusing skills. Remind him to reread the directions.
Trust that your child will do his schoolwork and chores without you hanging over him. He won’t be able to develop independence if you’re hovering. He’ll let you down. Accept it. There’s learning in that. Create a consequence for not doing his work. Rebuild the trust. Don’t compare him with his siblings, each person is an individual and works differently. Allow each one to develop his own way of learning and doing things. We like to think that our personal way is the best, when it’s not necessarily so. Allow each person to have their strengths and weaknesses and help them to identify them and work from that place.
Say “Yes.” So many times it’s easier for us to automatically say no when a child asks permission to do something. Creativity, imagination, and living outside the box comes with freedom. Let your children explore, and then work together to clean the messes that inevitably occur.
The Reward of Independent Children
You can walk away from children who are independent and change the laundry loads, brown the meat, change the baby’s diaper, or pick tomatoes in the garden. Reality Check: they may or may not have been completely focused on their work while you stepped out of the room. Be prepared for that scenario and talk with them about trust, goals, respecting others, or whatever the situation calls for. You’re teaching them life-skills in these things.
How to homeschool multiple ages at once? Table Time
Homeschoolers call it a variety of things, I’ve heard Circle Time, Morning Time, we called it Table Time. Table Time for our family was when we gathered together and did certain homeschool activities as a group. Particularly Bible, history and science. Afterwards, the children did their individual schoolwork. Over the years of doing Table Time, we added activities and took some away depending on our interests and things we were studying. Different seasons of life affected how much time we took for Table Time. The beauty in it is that you get to tailor it to your unique family and situation.
Table Time is a distraction free time
Nobody is to jump up and leave because they forgot (fill in the blank), including myself. Of course… babies and toddlers. Be prepared with things they can do during Table Time. When I had babies and toddlers, I prepared specific tubs of activities that they could play with only during Table Time. We did the same thing during Read Aloud Time. By keeping specific activities for special times, they were special and enjoyable for that reason.
After Table Time, a person may leave to do the thing they remembered, do their reading in their favorite reading chair, or stay at the table to do language arts for example. After Table Time, I can leave to change laundry loads or put a chicken in the oven, or gather my bill paying supplies to take to the table and work on while the children still at the table do their schoolwork.
Some years we did science or history projects in the afternoon while the littlest ones napped. I did home management tasks before or after these project times. This is how you incorporate home management into homeschooling. Tack a task on the beginning or the ending of an all-together activity. Write down a routine for these set times.
Phonics Time in Your Homeschool Day: How to Teach a Child to Read
Assign a certain time of day to teach reading to your non-reader. Be consistent.
This is the time of day when you must sit down with a child. No options. Put a reminder in your phone. No interruptions. Plan what the other distractible children in the house are doing during this time. Commit to it. Do a certain amount of phonics or reading practice with your child. Use a timer.
Make it enjoyable. If the child doesn’t enjoy the readers you are using, find another story series. Your child may get stuck and need time for brain development, it’s OK. Instead of the child trying to read to you, you choose an easy reader and read to him. Move your finger left-to-right under the words so that he understands the direction his eyes should move when he is reading.
Again, do a home management task before and after this activity. Keep a list of tasks you want to accomplish on a specific day and do those tasks as you move through the day.
How to Set Up Your Homeschool?
Having productive homeschool times is how we move forward efficiently effectively and can do the other activities of life. Sort your homeschool items by subject or person, whatever the situation calls for, and keep them organized in baskets, tubs, or on a shelf. Keep these baskets, tubs, or shelves near your homeschool area. Everything should be easy to grab, do, and then put away in its assigned place. Efficient movement keeps you and your family moving smoothly.
Have a set place for Table Time, Phonics Time, and Read Aloud Time. It shouldn’t take ten minutes to prepare for a school event. Have what you need in a basket or on a shelf right at the place that you’re going to be working at. Avoid the friction that clutter causes. You want to be able to call your people to the location and do the activity. When your family is finished, put everything back into the basket, tub, or on the shelf. Everything has a place, everything in its place.
If you have a designated place for certain activities and have the necessary supplies nearby you can move more efficiently and have a more effective homeschool. Then you can move on to the next thing, for your children it will be Chores, Free Time or Play Time and for you it will be the home management work, your hobby, or your work-at-home career.
Workbooks to help you think through your homeschool days and your home management work are located in the Free Resource Library.
Being deliberate with home management work, being prepared and getting your team together make our efforts more effective.
How to Be Deliberate in Your Home Management Work
When you do a task, just do it. Distractions will come, take care of it quickly, but let the distraction go and carry on with the original task that you were doing. You might need to go back to your To Do list or your Home Management Book to get refocused. That is the beauty of the Home Management Book.
Tell the family that at a certain time, chores are going to occur and all people are expected to participate. At the pre-arranged time, gather together, put on the music, set the timer and go.
How to Be Prepared for Home Management Work
Make an action item list for each room. Be ready with the supplies needed to clean a room. Create a chore closet or cupboard with the necessary supplies in a basket or tub for each assigned room.
Distribute the necessary room supplies to the person with the action list for the particular room. Perhaps it’s not a written list but a picture list. Take a picture of the room when it’s clean and put that with the action list and let the person know that their job is to make the room look like the picture.
How to Assign Rooms to the Home Management Team
Whether you are a team of one or two or five or eight, assign each team member an area of the house. Each team member is responsible for that area of the house. Be appropriate for the age and ability of the team member. Be appropriate for how often a room needs cleaned at your house. A front entry may need cleaned once a week but the kitchen floor needs swept twice a day. Each house and lifestyle is different so be thoughtful about how you live in your house and assign tasks to the level of cleanliness you desire in each specific area.
Have Fun With Your Life
Don’t make a clean house your idol. I’ve been with families that looked like they didn’t truly live in their homes and the children behaved as if they didn’t truly live. It seemed that they weren’t allowed to and when they did get to have fun it was painful for the mom. I’m sad for them. I love clean and organized. I think it makes life so much more enjoyable and allows us to be creative when there is a clean slate to get inspired in. Take that clean area and have a good time in it. Then clean up your mess. It will be OK.
This is the time of day when your children just go and be children. Be wild and free outdoors. Be creative. Go play hard, run, jump, climb. Play a game. Go with your children or set them free in you predesignated limits of space.
Free Time is what an individual child can do when he is done with his schoolwork and chores. We have a saying at our house, “We work before we play”. If I see someone doing Free Time activities before they should be then I follow up with that person. We aren’t perfect people at my house and we all tend to want to do a fun thing before work. It takes the effort of everyone in the family to devote the first part of the day to getting the work finished. We work before we play.
This is a timed interruption we will take during the school day to burn off the physical energy. It might be planned or somebody might be told, “Go run around the house five times”. We also use the Pomodoro technique of focused work for 25 minutes and then a five-minute break. Use the break to run to the bathroom, change the laundry loads, stare out the window, get a drink and cheese stick, etc.
You can do it! Home management and homeschooling can work together with planning and moving through the days deliberately.
Go get these two workbooks in the Free Resource Library. They will help you think through how you’re doing things in your house and help you identify what you can do to make your best days even better.