Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Q & A: Unexpected Homeschooling

Many of my friends find themselves homeschooling unexpectedly. Several have asked me for advice. 

I may have homeschooled for eleven years, but the last couple years have been so challenging that I don't feel like an expert. And, even though we have homeschooled for years, the inability to leave the house has changed our homeschool, too. 

But, I'll share a few of the questions I've been asked.

1. Laundry, meals, cleaning - now homeschooling—how do I keep up?

Remember, you didn't plan to homeschool. Give yourself grace.

I was able to do it slowly, first with a kindergartner, then a first grader, then gradually adding more students. You had to jump in with only a few hours notice. You didn't plan or train for this. It is okay. It won't be perfect. Your homeschool certainly won't look like a school classroom. 

Expect your house will look terrible after spending all day at home. Your laundry might not be finished by evening. That is okay. Lower your expectations for meals and cleaning if you have to. Homeschooling is what you were given to do, so be willing to adapt for awhile.

2. I'm in the last trimester of pregnancy. I was doing the bulk of my housework in the morning and spending the rest of the day on the couch. Now, with my mornings spent doing schoolwork, I can't keep up. How can I make this work better?

Pregnancy is tough. You might need to be even more creative to find a way to do school with you limited energy. Try having the children come to you. Stretch out on the couch or recliner and the children can come to you when they have questions. If you can pull a recliner next to the dining room table, or wherever you are doing school, so you can rest while keeping an eye on your scholars. 
If you find that your children are interrupting each other with questions every two minutes,  you may find it works best for each child to have a scheduled time to have a meeting with mom. They can save up their questions to ask you in their time slot. 

Hopefully if you stay sitting with your feet up as much as possible, you'll have enough energy to make it through the day. 

3. How much can I expect my children to help with housework when they are also doing schoolwork?

Children can often do more than you expect. And if everyone does a little bit frequently, it is much better than saving all the work until it is a huge job.

When my mom would get overwhelmed by work, my dad would tell her, "You are not using your resources," meaning her nine children. Please get your children to help, even though their help might not be to your standard of cleanliness. 

I found it worked best to have a short job for each child after each meal. It might be dishes, carrying out garbage, sweeping the dining room floor, tidying the living room, or sorting laundry. They kept the same job for months, because I couldn't handle chore charts that change every day or every week. They had the same job, at the same time, day after day after day so they learned to do the job without (too much) reminding. Yes, they get sick and tired of it. Yes, they complained. But eventually they learned to just get the job done in a few minutes so they could have time to play.

If your children are home all day with you, the house will get messier. I found it much easier to vacuum under the table every single day instead of saving it for a big cleaning on Saturday. It is far easier to give the toy room a quick pick up every day after lunch then waiting until the job was unbearable. Try to catch jobs when they are still small tasks.

4. My two-year-old can trash the house while I help the other children with their school work. Help!

Toddlers are a common challenge for homeschool moms. 

Here is a list of things that have I've tried with various children through the years with varying degrees of success.

  • Save some special toys or books that can only be played with during school time. The dollar store might yield some fun new toys. Or try Legos. Or puzzles. Or playdough. As soon as school is finished, put the toys away until the next day. 

  • Assign an older child to play with the toddler for a half an hour, then switch to another child. This is especially good mid-morning when a wiggly eight-year-old needs a break too. A half hour of pushing little  brother on the swing outside can be good for both of them. This gives you undivided time to work with another child. 

  • Most toddlers love to have books read to them which is great reading practice for children of all ages. Some preschoolers like audio books, though others will get bored quickly. But it might give you ten minutes of quiet.

  • Consider letting your preschooler wash the breakfast dishes. They might be soaked, and you might have to mop up the kitchen floor afterward, but it might keep them entertained for an hour while you help with math.

  • If you have a child that destroys the house when you back is turned, give them one safe room to play in. Use a child gate to keep them in one room, ideally within eye-sight of your school corner. They might hate it, but they will eventually learn they have to stay and play in that room.

  • This might seem obvious, but utilize nap time. That might mean waking the toddler early enough that he is tired enough to take an early nap. Save the most troubling school subject for naptime. Or, alternately, your school student might like to get up early and do his hardest subject before breakfast when the house is quiet. This is working for my ninth grader this year. He likes to have most of his Algebra lesson finished before the other children wake up.

I'd love to hear your hints on making these unexpected homeschooling days successful.

If you want some more good reading...


  1. I've been homeschooling for 11 years also. One thing that I just recently started implementing again to help with the messy house is a "15 minute tidy" We set a timer for 15 minutes put on some energetic music and everyone picks up. We do this before each meal and before bedtime. Makes a HUGE difference.

  2. Great advice! Homeschooling for me has definitely been an unexpected adventure.

  3. Thank you for the helpful hints. I think I have it a lot easier than most homeschool parents though since I only have one child, and I've already been homeschooling her for the past four years.

  4. Hi Gina, As always I appreciate your kind gracious tone in this post. Many years ago that is why I subscribed to your blog after reading your post on bread making with your nephews. Hope you are safe and healthy.


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