Recently a Home Joys reader asked some questions that I've received in various forms numerous times so I decided to share my attempt at an answer here.
Question: We homeschool too, and I was hoping for some feedback as to how do you try to keep schooling simple. How do you balance the housework (involve the kids in the housework) and the school work? I find we keep a nice house or do really well on our school work. I haven't quite figured out how to balance the two. Any ideas or suggestions? I am drawn to simplicity, but tend to make everything complicated! What about January....will you be taking a break from schooling since baby is due? - Joanne
When I read Joanne's question my first thought was - I have no answers. I have often told Ed that I'm either a good housekeeper or a good mom/teacher - I can't do both well.
But the fact is that I have to do both. I have to continue to teach and train my children even when there are dishes, dust, and laundry. I've tried to watch older moms, like my own mother, and learn some tips from them.
I'm not a naturally organized person - too impulsive and scatter-brained to have a detailed schedule but as my responsibilities increase I've been forced to learn to be better organized. Some days go smoothly and I think I'm getting the hang of it. Other days prove I have much more to learn.
I have no idea the ages of your children, Joanne, but I'll just share what works for us. Our first four children are ages eleven to six. We also have a nineteen-month-old toddler and a baby due in January.
How to keep schooling simple?
I try to evaluate our curriculum choices partly on how much teacher planning/teaching is required. For example, we have found Christian Light Education's math a good fit for us as the children can do much of their math independently. Right now all the children are doing history, science, and Bible together which means I only need to prepare one lesson for all of them. This probably won't work always but for now it is a good option for our family.
I've had to learn to be okay with not doing every craft project, reading every book, and completing every science experiment. It is especially dangerous for me to compare myself with other moms online who seem to be so much more creative and artistic than I. We try to focus on the basics, read lots and lots of books, and fit in the other things as we find time.
How do you balance the housework (involve the kids in the housework) and the school work?
You are right, Joanne, children are the key. My husband is always telling me that I don't expect enough out of my children. Or as my dad would say, I'm not utilizing my resources.
What has worked for me is to identify which areas of housework are my priority. What are the things that will drive me (or my husband) crazy if they are not done. The areas I chose are keeping up with laundry, washing dishes, sweeping the dining room floor, and picking up toys. I took those four areas and assigned my four oldest children a specific job after breakfast and after lunch that addresses those areas.
For example, one child may wash dishes at breakfast and vacuum the dining room after lunch. The next week all the chores rotate to the next child and he may sort laundry after breakfast and clean up the living room toys after lunch. Initially, it took a lot of training and encouragement for them to do their chores. We started slowly with only one new job at a time. But now they can (usually) do their chores without prompting.
If I get no other cleaning done, at least I know that those areas that most bother me are being touched. On the weekend I try to scrub the bathrooms and vacuum the whole house. (We live in a one-story house and it doesn't take long to vacuum. If we had a two-story house, I can almost guarantee the upstairs would not be vacuumed every week.) Sometimes it can go a long time (probably too long) before I scrub the kitchen floor, clean out the fridge, or dust the furniture but at least, with the children's help, I can keep up with what I consider basic housekeeping.
I find that I can fake a clean house as long as I keep the clutter of daily living picked up and put away. And it certainly helps with the whole family's morale to live in a reasonable tidy house. Not to mention being able to find their belongings.
I also find it helpful to streamline as many chores as possible. For example, I placed the dishes in a low cupboard so the children can put them away. This also allows them to set the table. A stool is handy in the kitchen so they can reach the kitchen sink and the drain tray. (We don't have a dishwasher.) If you find a task too hard for a child, look for a way to make it easier.
Another example: My laundry is in the basement. I placed two large plastic totes - one light colored and one dark colored - by the washing machine. Each morning one girl and one boy are assigned the job of taking the laundry from their rooms to the basement and sorting it in either light or dark.
I take care of the laundry sorting in my room and the bathrooms. When one tote is full (nearly every day) I throw that load in the washing machine and hang it out.
I'm in the process of training my oldest to do more of the laundry. On Monday, when I was laid up with a sprained foot, I hobbled down and got her started with the laundry but she then laundered, hung outside, and brought in all the Monday laundry.
Ed is probably right, I don't expect enough of my children. They can rise to the challenge when needed. But please don't get some crazy idea that we are perfect. I still hear lots of complaining - and if I don't keep inspecting, there is always someone who is trying to escape their chores and shirk their duty.
What about January....will you be taking a break from schooling since baby is due?
I have no idea. Really. I'm trying to work ahead on schoolwork so if we need to, we can take off. We probably will take little or no vacation over Christmas to save it for January. I want the freedom to be flexible over that time.
But with my last January baby I took very little time off school. I was spending my days on the couch holding the baby, I wasn't doing any housework or cooking, the children needed something to occupy them (or they start bickering) so it was easier to just do schoolwork. But I don't know how things will go this time.
What about you? Do you have any hints on how to simplify either schoolwork or housework? Or both?