Q&A: How do you manage homeschooling and homemaking without the house falling apart?

How do you manage to homeschool, take care of your house and have young children without the house looking like a toy store, art store and grocery store blew up? -Jessica

Great question, Jessica!

I think many people have this unrealistic picture that I just sit around in this perfectly clean and organized home and do geography lessons, hands-on science experiments and read for hours on end with my three children with nary an interruption or mess.

Truth be told, we have plenty of messes. There are days when I never make it out of my pajamas and it seems like while I’m cleaning up one mess, the children are in the other room making an even bigger mess.

I love being a mom. I love homeschooling. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Not by a long stretch. There are days when I want to pull my hair out. There are many days when I feel so overwhelmed with the responsibility of training and raising three children. There are days when I just want to give up and give in.

But, I’m slowly learning and growing as a mom. Learning what works and what doesn’t work. Learning to rely upon the Lord more. And, most of all, learning to let go of my expectations and my perfectionism.

There are many moms who are much farther along in their mothering journey who likely have much more wisdom to share, but here are a few things I’ve found to be tremendously helpful:

1) Accept the Fact That It Will Be Never Perfect

One of the quotes from The Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family that I loved was, “Embrace the Chaos”. This has helped me so much.

Children are being raised, trained and nurtured in our home and this means that it’s not going to be perfect — or even close. Messes, spills, sticky peanut butter fingerprints are inevitable. When I let go of perfectionism and accept that this life of mine isn’t going to be all neat and tidy all the time, I’m a much more relaxed and cheerful mom.

2) Ask God for Patience

Many days, I feel overwhelmed and incapable of doing this mothering thing. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it forces me to my knees on a very regular basis to ask the Lord to help me. I try to start each day with time reading God’s Word and praying asking the Lord to please give me patience, love and joy as I teach and care for my children. I need His help and grace every moment of every day!

3) Have a Plan

I’m not a fan of rigid, regimented schedules. They just don’t work for this fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl.

A routine, however, is a lifesaver for me. Having on paper set blocks of time for our main priorities in each day has been very beneficial to me. We get more done, life is more organized and instead of having to worry about what we’re going to do next, we just do the next thing on our routine list.

We’re always tweaking our routine (and that’s the beauty of it!), but here’s how our summer schedule currently looks for us:

I wake up sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. I read my Bible, pray, read for 10 minutes from my current book, exercise, blog for a bit, take a shower and get dressed.

Our day “officially” starts at 8 a.m. Sometimes the children wake up before then and, if so, they have free time until 8 a.m. At 8 a.m., we have breakfast, read our Bible devotional together and work on our Bible memory verses.

8:30 all the children take baths, get dressed and get their hair fixed.

9:00 is chore time. This is when I do the bulk of the house cleaning. I have daily chores that I do on a daily basis (clean the kitchen, wipe down the counter tops, clean up my room, etc.) and day-of-the-week chores that I do once a week.

The girls are responsible for their room and bathroom, plus they help out with emptying trashes and vacuuming. Once they get their chores done, they can play until 10:00.

10:00 is homeschooling time. We do My Father’s World, Math, Reading and Penmanship (we’re already finished with History, Art and Science until the fall) around the kitchen table.

Kaitlynn and Silas listen in and work on busy bags, coloring, bean-scooping, etc. I have a big tub with activities that I rotate for them to do. They usually only stick with one activity for 10-15 minutes, so I stop and get them set up with something else as needed.

Kathrynne usually doesn’t finish up all her work during this time so she’ll work on finishing it up after lunch.

11:00 is read-aloud time (during the school year, we bump this time to the afternoon and continue homeschool time here). I read a few picture books and then a few chapters from our current read-aloud book. The children often play with Legos on the living room floor while I read. I’ve found that they seem to listen better when their hands are busy.

11:45 the children can go outside to play in the backyard while I switch the laundry, make lunch and check in on blogging stuff.

12:30 is lunch time. If we’re still in the middle of an exciting part in our read-aloud, I’ll often read again during part of lunch.

1:30 is quiet time. Silas goes down for a nap, Kaitlynn reads books in her room (usually falling asleep) and Kathrynne reads or plays quietly (or finishes up her school work). I do most of my blogging during this time. In the fall, Kathrynne will be working on finishing up her homework during this time, plus reading.

3:00 (or whenever Silas wakes up) is snack time. If the children have all their chores and Kathrynne has all her school done done, they are free to play until dinner. They sometimes play very nicely, other times, it’s complete chaos… we’re still working on that. :) I get dinner made, pick up, fold and put a load of laundry away and finish up any blogging/computer tasks if I have time or need to.

6:00 is dinner time. We usually take our time around the table, talking about the day, getting into rousing discussions, etc. Dinner sometimes lingers until 7:30 or later. After dinner, we quickly clean up, the children get their jammies on and teeth brushed and then we have our family Bible Time. After that, the children go to bed.

8:30 is our time as a couple. Sometimes, we have an “at-home date night” complete with a movie and some sort of treat. Sometimes, we both have projects to work on so we’ll just hang out in the same room with our laptops (the glamorous life of both being self-employed!). Other times, we just talk.

10:30 to 11:00 is typically lights out. Yes, we’re “early birds” like that — and sometimes I konk out soon after the kiddos go to bed! (I’ve always wished I could be one of those people who thrives on 5 1/2 hours of sleep. But alas, I’ve learned need at least 6 1/2 to 7 hours every night — preferably a little more! — to function well.)

4) Focus on One Habit at a Time

It’s so easy to want to change our homes and selves overnight. But that’s entirely unrealistic.

We all have areas we need to grow and improve in. We all have things we want to instill in our children. But none of us can do it all at once.

One thing I’ve found to be very helpful is to make a list of all the areas I want to work on and then just choose one area to focus on for three months. Instead of trying to get up earlier, make healthier meals, exercise, read more and learn how to knit all in the same month, pace yourself and pick the highest priority goal first. Once you feel like you’ve somewhat mastered it, add in something else.

Slow and gradual improvements tend to be much more long-lasting — and much less exhausting!

5) Give Yourself Grace

Superwoman is a myth. No woman does everything and every woman has her areas she struggles with.

Having a plan for our day has helped me tremendously, but nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan. There are always unexpected interruptions, messes, children with bad attitudes and many, many disruptions to each day.

I used to beat myself up that I wasn’t as organized and efficient as I wanted to be. But I started realizing how unproductive this was as it only served to discourage me.

I’m slowly learning to give myself grace. When I’m tired, I’m learning to choose sleep over a spotlessly clean kitchen. When I’m feeling burnt out, I’m learning to let myself not worry about blogging or laundry for a few hours and just go do something fun with the children, with my husband or with a friend.

Life is meant to be enjoyed and savored not run through at breakneck speed. Take time to stop and smell the roses, even if it means fewer things get crossed off the to-do list!

I’d love to hear suggestions from the rest of you on balancing homemaking and toddlers (and homeschooling, if you do that, too!). I’m constantly learning and would love to hear your ideas!

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Comments

  1. Daniela says

    Thank you very much for this much needed encouraging mesage. I am a young mother of 5 children (all 8 and under) . I have a hard time accepting that the house will not be spotless clean (at least for a while). My husband reminds me all the time that I may be pretty close to a superwoman, but I am not, and that is something I need to remind myself over and over again. I like the idea of having a schedule to go by, but with a 6 month old, a 24 month old and an extremelly active 4 year old, it’s not very doable. Thanks for the insight and great ideas.

  2. Ericka says

    I am sure others have posted replies similar to mine, but I also wanted to express MY thanks for being honest in your posts. I have been visiting your site nearly every day for years and appreciate the godly wisdom, savings, and ideas. Unfortunately, I am not a SAHM YET, I so desperately long to be home with & homeschooling my children. I’m praying for that blessing to come within the next year (before my son is in kindergarten). Thanks for sharing your life and hard work. God bless!

  3. angie says

    Off and on we struggle with our boys sitting at the table during mealtime
    (ages 4 and 2). I’m just curious if your kids sit at the table with you and Jess nicely and without getting up during the 6 – 7:30 dinners you reference? If so how do you do it? :) thanks — been following your blog from the times when being frugal wasn’t hip.

  4. Dawn McKinney says

    You were way more structured than I was with my 3. I had more of a free form way of homeschooling. But everyone has their own way, and each state has their own law. We are lucky that WA has the least constricting homeschool law in the US, where the parent has pretty much 100% control over the children. The only basic two rules there are here is you need to be a certified homeschool “teacher”, (obtained in one or two nights of an awesome class), or have an Associates degree (in anything), and have the child tested yearly through an SAT or Individual Assessment test. That’s it. I got my kids the Bob Jones University Homeschool curriculum, and let them have at it. I was active duty military at the time, also had a farm and ran two businesses off that farm. The kids also helped with those businesses and farm chores. The consistently scored at or two grades above their school level every year. Definitely homeschool if you can, but know what your sate laws are, and stand your ground. The rewards are incredible for you and your kids.

  5. Joanna says

    What a blessing this post was! Thank you times a million for your honesty and encouragement!

  6. Noah says

    I would love to hear what you have in the various busy boxes. Working on that for myself as I start homeschooling next year.