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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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  • I love seeing the 8:00 am Bible devotions together–this is how my youngest learned to read. She sat beside me with her Bible and pointed at almost every word as she read her chapter saying, “what is that word?” Then she skipped some, then many and eventually she asked only a few words. And today she is our Bible scholar–she even has a bachelor in Biblical Studies from Moody–and she loves to share her knowledge and discuss theology. So many fond memories–thanks for taking me down memory lane today. And having at least a rough schedule does make the day go smoother.

    • MK says:

      What an encouraging post! I’m so grateful you do not limit moneysavingmom to coupon deals and best buys.
      Do press on and know that your more personal posts serve your sisters in Christ out here who pray for you and want to do so specifically. Thank you for putting yourself out there for the glory of God.

  • kristi gough says:

    Thank you for this post. Although I don’t homeschool my five children, I often find myself discouraged and frustrated because I can’t do it all. I am very thankful and humbled that there are others out there that don’t have a spotless house and aren’t beating themselves over it.

  • Melissa Ceccofiglio says:

    I REALLY enjoyed reading this!! I have a 3.5 year old who will start VPK in the fall…I plan once that is done to home-school him for kindergarten (our state requires 1 year of state/government funded school before they can do a virtual school). I constantly struggle with my ADHD, and worry that adding teacher to my daily list of duties will stress me out more…but I like the way you have your schedule laid out and made me realize it’s doable!! Thank you so much for taking the time to type this up!! :O)

  • Jennifer says:

    There were so many good nuggets here, but the one that really struck me was having something for the little guys to do while you’re homeschooling.

    I’m more of a relaxed, unstructured play person for the little guys, but realized this didn’t work well last year when I had a 9 year old special needs child doing virtual learning on the computer, and a 3 year old and 1 year old.

    I would set the 9 year old up, then go do whatever I needed to get done and tell the babies “Okay, go play.” The result was they would wind up at the computer, bugging the 9 year old.

    Last year was a crazy year of changes for us as we faced the fact that we had a special needs child, brought him home to school and scheduled in doctor appointments and group therapy. Much of his schooling (and life!) was “just get it done”. This year I hope to be much more organized and fun with his schoolwork, and I’m also going to incorporate these “busy box” ideas for my little ones.


  • Brighid says:

    I’m on the other end of the homeschooling spectrum – I have teenagers! A couple of things that worked over time, knowing that needs change.

    When you have a baby, don’t expect to be on time. Your friends and relatives who have had children already know this.

    When you’re planning on an important-to-you visitor, consider hiring a cleaning lady for that short time. When I was 8 months pregnant and had a two year old, my husband’s grandmother was coming to visit. There was no way that I could get the house ready for this wonderful gracious lady.

    Even if your very active children don’t need a nap, you need the quiet time! As Crystal wrote, quiet time still needs to happen.

    As far as homeschooling goes, I’ve come to accept that in our home, it happens year round. There’s less to do in the summer, and I do planning for the following year during that time.

  • Crystal says:

    What a helpful and encouraging post! I stay at home with my toddler, have a work at home part-time job, and do often get discouraged that I am unable to do everything I would like. I agree that routine is key….and this post reinforced how important that is to continue. We have a second child on the way, so I know it will only get more challenging to get things done. I love your prayer of “patience, love and joy as I teach and care for my children”. I am going to write that one down and stick it to my bathroom mirror so I remember to include this in my prayers every morning! Your blog is such a blessing! Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Crystal,
      I have been looking for a wah position myself and am having trouble finding legit businesses. I was wondering what do you do? Thanks so much..

      • Debera Jackson says:

        I have a small business through Premier Designs. A Biblically based company that I average $50 an hour working. I have printed your schedule and going to schedule my 15 minutes a day of work in this. This business is based around a servant’s heart. is their website.

  • Becky says:

    Thanks–I may copy off you 🙂 I’ve been needing to get our routine in shape after our move!
    Two tricks for keeping playtime happy (mine are 2,4&5)–I rotate toys. For example, put all the toy food/dishes away out of reach and pull out the building blocks. I keep a variety out for creativity and options, but keep one or two “groups” to switch in when things are getting “stale.” 2nd, on days when bickering is a problem during that 4-5 dinner fixing time, I bring them in the kitchen and have them sit in one assigned spot with one or two toys or books. I tell them that it is because they were fighting and I need them to be where I can see them so I know what’s going on. They aren’t allowed to physically interact at all–no touching, throwing, etc. Often (not always) after ten or fifteen minutes they are ready to go back to playing more harmoniously. Sometimes they stay there till dinner-but I’m trying to communicate that bickering isn’t an option.

  • Denise says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have 5 kids – 2 school age, 3 toddlers, I homeschool, and we have a small farm. It gets crazy!! Thank you for making my life seem more ‘normal’! For us, art class is for everyone, as is phys ed, cooking, sign language, etc. If we don’t need a text book, everyone gets involved. We read together, Bible time together, plant the garden together, harvest and can together, we cook together. The kids have morning and lunchtime chores, so everyone pitches in. We have a ‘blitz’ everyday around 4:30 to try to get the house looking decent before daddy gets home. We make it fun. When the kids are in bed, it’s time to do the next day’s lesson plan. Its hectic, but I wouldn’t trade it, even on the days when I want to pull my hair out! Thanks again!

    • Amanda says:

      Oh Denise! I have two school age, two toddlers and am expecting my fifth within the next few weeks! I’m so glad to hear that this is doable. LOL This post was so encouraging, but seeing that someone is also doing it in a houseful of toddlers is so heartening!

  • Thanks for sharing this. Our boys are 8, and our daughter is 22 months. That huge difference in age has made me learn toddlerhood all over again. Hence, the post I sent you on Time and Toddler Management. I have to confess, that I do have the image of you sitting at your computer blogging, taking a break to home school your darlins, and then swooshing into the grocery store to wave your magical coupon wand and then share the deals with us.

    One thing that works for me is to do as much as I can the night before to make the next day easier-
    That is often my saving grace. That and I need a good schedule. Thanks again for sharing this glimpse into your life. I appreciate everything you share on your site. You’re a true blessing.

    • Sarah says:

      I completely agree, Carrie! I don’t know about others, but, for me, preparation is key! If I don’t prepare beforehand (usually each night for the next day), it likely won’t get done! I notice that as a theme in most areas of my life, as well 🙂

  • Dana says:

    You are a constant source of inspiration! I love visiting your blog to read what you have to say! I feel I struggle with most of these areas and, especially since summer is here without the structure of a school schedule, I have been feeling a little lost. I have found that when I go to bed knowing what I am going to do the next day, I get so much more done. When I wake up and don’t have a clear idea of what I am going to do, very little gets done! I will be using your schedule as a loose example to make one for myself. Thanks again for all you do!

  • Laurie says:

    thank you SO much for this. This has been a topic heavily on my mind as my 3yo is really interested in starting some school work. I know we don’t have to get heavily into anything now, but just knowing that a day is coming when I’ll have big one to school and little ones to entertain, and so often I already feel like I can’t keep up with kids and household! This is very helpful and encouraging to me. Thanks again!

  • AMEN! What an excellent post. I wrote one similar about a year ago because people ask me the same thing all the time. As a homeschool mom who also provides childcare and runs a virtual assistant business from my home and volunteers with numerous organizations, I have to say, I don’t do it “alone”…my family helps tremendously! Of course, having kids who are 16, 14 and 11 is a bit “easier” in that sense than when my kids were younger.
    Have a blessed day and enjoy your calling!

  • Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I have four kiddos and I am in the middle of an organization/scheduling overhaul. I am hoping to begin homeschooling my oldest 2 (one kindergarten and one preschool) in the fall and your schedule and tips are so well timed! As if God knew what I needed to read 🙂
    Thanks so much!

  • mariah says:

    This was well said. Our schedule, minus the homeschooling, looks very similar to this. I have 3 kids, 6, 4, and 2. I let my boys (the older ones) play batman legos on the xbox for a little bit after getting their chores done. boys are MUCH harder to motivate to clean up than girls. 🙂

    I’ve started a new system that I incorporate one hour of each day. For us, it works, because we aren’t super busy. It goes such as this:

    Monday- Maintenance Day-i.e. tighten screws under table, fix screen door, etc. and Zone clean (via

    Tuesday- Trim Day- Trim hair (once a month or every other week), trim nails, keep up with appearance day, basically. I also give my daughter and I manicures and pedicures this day.

    Wednesday-Wardrobe Day-re-organize each closet, move out clothes that are too small, ripped or stained, etc…soak stained items, iron clothes, polish shoes, etc

    Thursday- Tackle Day- I tackle all errands. Groceries, Goodwill run, Library, etc. (this is a half day)

    Friday-Filing, Finances, and Fun Day—I do finances, file away mail/flyers from the week, and choose a free or cheap outting for the kids for fun.

    Saturday-Siesta Day- We sleep in this day and take it leisurely, but we also do yard work or clean out garage if we’re in the mood.

    Sunday- Smart Day- We get ready for the week. Make sure all clothes needed through the week are clean, ironed, and hung. I make a menu plan, schedule in events that come up, and make sure our cell phones are charged up.

    This is, of course, is a guideline, some weeks operate this way, others get half the attention.

  • Jan says:

    how do your children go to bed so early and sleep in so late? my daughter goes to bed at 8:30pm (she is 6) and she gets up between 6:30am-7:00am!

    • Crystal says:

      I’m not sure. I guess we just have good sleepers around here. 🙂 If they get up before 6:30 a.m., they are grouchy, so I send them back to bed (or send them to get in our bed) until it’s time to get up.

      • Katie says:

        got blessed us with good sleepers too! If we have a good active day, I find all of them will sleep at least till 7am. They are 5, 3, & 2. We have a later bed time (around 8:30-9pm), but that is because they will all still nap (2hrs) if given lots of physical activity.

    • Angela says:

      My kids generally sleep 10-12 hours at night, which gives us a good strong day. No naps since ~18 months. :/

    • BethB says:

      Ha ha, I thought the same thing! I don’t homeschool and my older son has to be at school by 7:45. It’s not as tough as I thought it would be but it has shifted our wakeup time earlier. Even in the summer and weekends which is kind of a bummer but what are you doing to do?

    • April says:

      For us, early to bed = late to rise. I find that the later I put my kids to bed, the earlier they tend to get up and the crankier they are during the day. Thus, my 5, 4, and 2 year old go to bed no later than 7:30 pm and rise for the day between 7:00 am – 9:00 am. They all still take naps as well, although the older 2 sometimes nap every other day. Lots of sleep makes for happier, calmer kids at my house!

  • Dee Wolters says:

    My days with little ones are over, but as I continue in the home schooling journey your words ring true. I have 2 in college (home school grads) and 2 in high school. So, not too long ago they were all at home- in school. Advice from a great friend was to teach obedience before all else. Great advice! And love to be with your children. I do and miss them when they are away. With obedience learned it was easy to take them with me, everywhere, which I did: Grocery store, library, bank, Dr. appointments, etc. We even have taken them to business meetings: house closings, attorney appointments, etc. I always prepared them for what would happen and what I expected of them. I would also bring appropriate toys, coloring books, etc to occupy them during the boring meetings. I can’t tell you how many times people would complement us on the behaviour of our children. One time we even had an older couple we did not even know pay for our meal at a resturant because they were so impressed with the behavior of the kids- and they were all under 10.
    So in your home school journey, be in it for the long haul. The rewards are incredible and the time really does fly. My oldest 3 have been gone most of the summer: college internship, mission trip, college/ camps. I miss them dearly, but know that they are well prepared.
    Love them, hug them, read to them.

  • Your children sleep in until 8:00? WOW!

    When I had 3 little ones like you do, they were up at 5:20 every day, of their own accord. The longest sleepers slept in until 6:00.

    Something changed last year, and a couple of my earliest risers have started getting up between 6:00 and 6:30.

    I can’t complain; my mother said I would get up and jump out of my crib at 4:00 am every day when I was 1!

    • Crystal says:

      Not every day. It just depends. I have one who I usually have to drag out of bed. The others often get up sometime between 6:45 and 7:30 typically. If they get up earlier than that, they have to go back to bed. I guess they’ve learned they might as well sleep in. 🙂

  • Leighann says:

    I wish I could get my kids to go to bed earlier. Even the 2 year old refuses to go to bed before 10 p.m. If you put her in the bedroom, she’ll stay up until about 10:30 and go to bed on her own. If you wake her up at 6 a.m., she’ll nap at a good time and then stay up until after 10 ON HER OWN. Of course, they also usually sleep until about 9 or 9:30 in the morning, sometimes as late as 11, so it balanaces out (a little bit). However, it would be nice of the 2 yr old would go to bed around 8 because we can’t get anything done while she’s awake (we call her Hurricane Meghan).

    If you’ve got tips to make night-owl children go to bed early, let me know! But, she’s been like this since she was born (she slept through the night at 3 weeks, but “night” was from about 11 p.m. until 6 a.m.) so I’m thinking there’s no hope for it.

    • Crystal says:

      I have one child who loves to stay up late and sleep in late. I found that if I get her up every morning at 8, she’s much more apt to fall asleep earlier than if I let her sleep in. I can’t promise that it will work for you, but if you want your children to go to bed earlier, it might be worth a try.

      I also found the No-Cry Sleep Solution books to have some great ideas.

      • Adrienne says:

        Leighann, I would suggest you try to find the book “The Sleep Easy Solution” in a local book store, but currently has it on sale My husband and I were at a loss with our son, he was sick from the time he was 8 months-15 months, so his sleep schedule was all messed up (sometimes not going to bed until late, or waking up 3-5 times a night). We found this book (I believe through God’s grace we found it, we were about dead from lack of sleep!) It helped A LOT. We had him in bed, asleep (on his own!) by 8 and sleeping until 6, with a 2 hour afternoon nap. . .in 4 days (I swear!) 🙂 . We’ve even used it recently, when transitioning our son from his crib to a bigger bed. I’ve bought this book for all of my friends/family members for their showers, and the ones who have used it so far, also swear by it! Good Luck!!

    • Kristine says:

      I think some people are just night owls by nature. I’ve always been that way. No matter how early I go to bed, it’s very difficult for me to get up early. I’m always tired and have trouble functioning during the day when I have to get up too early. I can accomplish more when I stay up late and can sleep in a little.

  • Valerie says:

    Do you mean you are still homeschooling? It’s summertime!

    • Crystal says:

      We school year-round, though we do a lighter version in the summer and do more fun activities. The consistency of a routine seems to work well for our family, so that’s why we stick with it year-round.

      • Valerie says:

        We do find it hard to get back into to the routine. Although, in PA we can’t “count” anything or list it on our log until July 1st for the next year so we just take a break.

        • Adrienne says:

          My mom home schooled me, and we did stuff during the summer too. Mostly light stuff, we lived near the beach so we’d do a unit on the ocean for a few weeks (we even “built” with sand a full length Blue Whale one day at the beach!), or there was a turtle pond/refuge on the base we lived on and we’d go there quite a bit to see what they were doing during different times of day and keep a log, we raised monarch butterflies one spring/summer, on road trips we learned algebra (if we’re traveling x miles, at y mph how soon will we get there etc. . .) On rainy days we’d watch educational movies and write a short essay on it, or go to the library. . .I’m still deciding if I want to home school or not, I still have a few years to figure that out, thanks for reminding me how much fun it can be! 🙂

    • Andrea Q says:

      Learning never stops.

  • Christine says:

    Crystal, I have five children and we have a very similar schedule–at least during the summer. My question is, when do you shop and run errands? That is a challenge for me.

    • Michelle Peoples says:

      We have 5 young children as well, and our schedule is very similar during the school year (we take summers off!) I hate having to do errands because of how it interrupts our day. I try lumping it all into one day and take a couple of hours after lunch (when we’re least productive anyway). I try to do a big grocery run only once every two weeks with a small, get the essentials, trip if need be.

  • B.J. says:

    I homeschool, too! One more reason I love your site! 😀 I tend to rely more on yours than other couponing sites I follow on Facebook. 😉

    Something that helps keeping me from going crazy is giving my kids the reigns as far as school work and what their little minds want to take in at that given time. I seriously cannot plan for day because I’m totally jinxing it!

  • MOMOF3 says:

    Your schedule is amazing. I grew up as an only child with basically no structure. I dont think I ever even realized I needed it until the last few years. Now that I am a mom of 3, with #4 on the way, I long for structure. It’s hard to change old habits. Am I lazy? Selfish? Is there something wrong with me? I read your list in awe. I want to be that. Look how much is accomplished when you have a plan. This is one area of my life I really want to change. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Don’t try to do it all at once. I’m a work in progress and have worked really hard the last two years to get things where they are now. I’d suggest starting with a simple morning routine of 3-5 things that you do every single morning. Commit to doing this for a month (make a chart and check it off, if that helps) and then see if you can add in another habit.

      Three children was the number that made me realize I had to get my act together or I was going to lose my mind!

      You can do it — one small step at a time!

  • “Embrace the Chaos” and “Superwoman is a myth”…..YES!!! I may need to write those on my wall…(literally, with a paint pen:) Homeschooling 5 kiddos ages 7 and under, I’m am learning that smiling and finding joy in the chaos is crucial to being a momma….rather than the grinch:) Thank you for this wonderful post!

  • Irene says:

    What are the daily and day of the week chores that you do? I am trying to implement a system like that as well for myself and the kids… any advice?

    • Lana says:

      Make a list of every chore that needs to be done each week. I started with doling out chores to the children first according to what they could do. Sometimes I filled in with very simple chores such as running a dust cloth over the window sills just so that everyone would have a chore everyday. Then the older children and myself had the real work as our chores. I revised the chore list every summer before we started back to homeschool. Once you have the first chore chart done it is easy to revise it as needed. You will most likely need to make adjustments to the first one a few times before you have something that works well. The kids always caught my mistakes like having 2 areas of the house vacuumed on the same day and we only have one vacuum cleaner. I also included a chart of who set and cleared the table and when they were older they rotated cleaning up the kitchen after supper. Now that the children are all grown I have a very detailed rotating 4 week list that covers every chore that needs to be done. Some of the chores are only on my list every 4 weeks, such as baseboard dusting. Our youngest 2 are still coming home for the summer college break but working full time jobs so they would rather pay me to do all of the chores than do them everyday. This may sound like it is not fair but we have always felt that everyone is responsible for helping at home. We still ask tat they help with yard work on Saturdays. Hope this helps!

  • Kassandra Wood says:

    One of the things that has helped me is to compare myself to no one; not the person who has it all together and not the person who makes me look like Super Mom. I do what works for our family. I do what works for me as Mom and I accept that we all come with different strengths and weaknesses for a reason. 🙂

  • I agree with Crystal regarding the night owl child. Get her/him up early for several mornings in a row…really early. She/he will probably fall asleep earlier. At least it works for me! I have always been a night owl. I remember having terrible insomnia as a child, and I still do. If I can make myself get up early, I can go to bed better.
    It looks like your routine is working well for you Crystal. That’s the important thing…find what works for you!! With my older 3, we did things a lot different than we have with the younger 7. But it works for now. We change things up as we need to.
    Great post!!

  • I think God is just trying to teach me to lean into Him! (Not that this is a bad thing 🙂 )

    My almost-3-year old is not a good sleeper (asleep around 9pm, up again about 6am and doesn’t nap.) So, I have little time to do much of anything. Blogging takes about 4-5 hours of my day, my husband works long hours, and I just can’t get into a good chores routine, so my house is never as clean as I would like. My little one is one of those “busy children”, so as we speak I have a bottle’s worth of glitter spilled on the kitchen floor and (luckily washable) paint “beautifully” adorning the back of the kitchen chairs.

    It does get discouraging. No matter what your situation, how many children you have, you’re going to feel discouraged and frustrated if you’re doing it in your own strength. I pray the Lord will allow me to bless someone every day…including my husband and children.

    When I remember that being a mother and a wife is a PRIVILEGE and not a chore, I have a much better attitude.

    • BethB says:

      I completely sympathize. My almost 5 y/o hasn’t napped in more than a year and a half and my 2 year old has always been very inconsistent in terms of nap schedule and length. It’s very frustrating because I can’t plan work time. Honestly, my kids watch a little more TV than they probably should (1-1.5 hours per day) but sometimes I need the work or even nap time. If I have a stretch of evening rehearsals that put me home late being able to lay down for 20 minutes and sleep lightly while they watch TV really helps. I feel guilty about it but I try to remember it’s not an every day thing and it’s just what we have to do during this season of life. Oh well.

      I also agree completely about the attitude. I have trouble keeping that in check when I’m super tired.

      Good luck to you.

  • tara says:

    Crystal- why do you homeschool your children? Do you see any savings in doing so? I don’t understand why people do this when their are professionals at school that do this. I am not trying to mock you in any way, so please don’t take it that way.


    • Crystal says:

      We homeschool for many reasons — none of which have to do with saving money.

      My husband and I were both homeschooled and we loved the experience of getting to learn at our own pace, as well as being able to pursue specific interests. When I was in school (I went for two years before my parents started homeschooling me), I spent a lot of time waiting for the other children in class to finish up their projects. It was frustrating to me and I wanted to be homeschooled so I could work at my own pace.

      We also believe that God has called parents to be the primary teachers of their children and we see home education as a way to walk out these convictions. Plus, I truly love learning alongside my children. It’s one of the most rewarding things ever — even if it is somewhat tiring! Teaching my daughter to read and write has been an incredible experience. We’ve shared so many special moments together — and I’ve thoroughly loved it!

      • Angela says:

        You named all of our reasons for homeschooling… only neither my husband or were homeschooled but rather had horrible experiences in public schools. The longer we homeschool the more amazing and rewarding it is. Truly, we could never think of changing our mind. The alternative appears so dull/uninspirational and socially negative. Our kids LOVE to learn; it’s a part of our life. Love it, love it, love it. Oh, and they can participate in countless extracurricular activities without feeling the stress they would if in a school.

      • Star says:

        I agree with Crystal’s list of why her family homeschools. We are going to be starting our 9th year of homeschooling this year and my oldest (who is an anvanced student) will be in 8th grade. I do feel comftorable about teaching high school, and I really think that any parent could do it! There are lots of great tools out there for parents that feel they don’t have a good enough grasp on a certain subject to teach it. My oldest started Spanish 2 years ago and though I know minimal spanish, he has done great. We use Rosetta Stone, which he does on his own.

    • Andrea Q says:

      Have you seen Waiting for Superman or Race to Nowhere? The public school system in the US is failing.

      • Dawn says:

        That is why I homeschool too.
        We did public school until 3rd grade and my child was just miserable. Now she loves to read, loves to learn, and is just a much happier, contented adolescent.
        Where we live the middle school is just overrun with drugs/crime/peer pressure.

      • Kristen says:

        That isn’t very optimistic, and no not all schools are horrible!!! Many a great student comes out of these fine institutions… Great Post Crystal!

        • Andrea Q says:

          I am optimistic that schools will eventually change, but in the meantime, my children need to be educated. They don’t have time to wait for the system to change and improve. There are some great schools and amazing teachers, but overall, the system is flawed and is not working.

      • Rachael says:

        Please don’t generalize that the whole system is failing. There are a lot of positive things going on in public schools as well.

        • BethB says:

          Yes! We’re in a “failing” district in Milwaukee but the schools in our neighborhood, specifically the one our family uses, are very good. My older son has attended a public Montessori school for two years now and will be entering K5 in the fall. At this point we couldn’t be happier with what he’s learning. This is great because I’d be a terrible teacher for him at this point! Sometimes I think we forget that sending your child to school does not mean you aren’t still teaching them at home. I don’t do much structured academic work with him but on a daily basis we talk about math, reading, science, etc.. I very much admire and respect homeschooling Moms (and Dads!) but right now it just wouldn’t be a good choice for our family. As our boys get older I’m very much open to virtual schooling to open up time for pursuing other interests but for now I’m very grateful for the school experience we have.

          • Andrea says:

            Public school teacher in Milwaukee, thanks for supporting public education! It is a frustrating time to be a public school teacher where we are blamed for the failing education system.

  • Janet says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I have six kids and homeschool and I needed this encouragement today. 🙂

  • Mika says:

    This was a fabulous post! I don’t homeschool, but liek the previous poster I still struggle with getting everything done (I have 5 children, 3 school age). And posts like this just make me remember again how much I miss Biblical Womanhood. You have no idea of the changes YOU started in my life.

  • Angela says:

    Thanks for the post. We love homeschooling and I’m continue to be amazed at the level of school we finish/complete and all of the extra curriculars (art, multiple musical instruments, foreign language, dance, running, swim, bike, etc.) we are able to incorporate PLUS I run a food co-op on the side (which takes ~30 hours a week of my time). We realized early on that we had to get rid of the schedule to allow us to NOT be stressed. The set time to start the day and do our activities only created sleepy/cranky kids (and parents) and added too much stress. We’re more productive if we all sleep in and start the day when our bodies are ready. We have a tentative goal to complete 1/3 to 1/2 of our school before lunch and the rest after lunch and through the evening if necessary. We also do 4 full days and 2 half days of school per week (due to the co-op’s demands). 6 days of school at a comfortable pace, with LOTS of extras makes for a full and productive year filled with a LOVE to learn all of the time. Our other tip to share is that we do half days of school through the summer so we have more PLAY and VACATION time during the school year or through holidays when family is visiting or we wish to enjoy hot vacation spots when they are not crowded.

    I hope this blesses someone. Never stress… just keep moving forward. 🙂

    • Angela says:

      Oh… and I didn’t mention that I run ~20 miles a week. That’s 3 long workouts a week plus occassional races. I also make nearly all of our meals from scratch using virtually no processed foods. Like I mentioned previously, it’s just a way of life for us. By the half-way point of our 3rd year of homeschooling we found our groove and we’re moving forward. Slow and steady adjustments will help every family achieve their goals.

    • Laura says:

      Angela – you (and Crystal’s post) blessed me today 🙂 I love your line – “Never stress…just keep moving forward”. I needed to hear that! Our days sound a lot like yours and often I fret about not having a more “structured” schedule to our days. I homeschool our girls (ages 7, 4, 22 mo) and have been fretting that I don’t get up early and get stuff done before the kids are up but I need sleep more at this phase in life – our youngest still doesn’t sleep well at night. We do year-round schooling as well because, for now, that is what works best for our family. Thank you (and Crystal) for your wise words!

      • Crystal says:

        If you’re not sleeping through the night, you need to make sleep a priority instead of getting up early. You are doing a fabulous job, I’m sure! Don’t lose heart!

        • Angela says:

          Yes… Sleep is more important then schedule right now. I just started running a few months ago after nearly 10 yrs off because of my role as a mom of little ones. Set goals and walk toward them steadily. Praying along the way and seeking God’s plan and will for you and your family is key. Slow and steady

  • Sara says:

    Crystal – could you please do a future post with more details about the activities in your busy box? I have a four-year-old and a baby on the way. I work part-time from home as well as do the majority of our money management. This means I need a couple hours each day with focused attention and would love some fun ideas for my boy.

    • Sarah H says:

      I’m also looking for more ideas for busy bags.

    • Angela says:

      I do some work from home too. I purposely do most of it after the kids are in bed. The rest I do with them. They generally help out in some way or entertain themselves. They even help entertain the children of other women who come to help me and they are only 5 and 8 yo. My 8 yo can do the majority of her school work independently if I need her to. That’s NICE on rough days.

    • I could use “busy bags” ideas too! I have a two (almost 3) year old that I feel needs something meaningful/educational to do while I deal with the two one year olds. A couple of things that I have done were patterned after Montessori methods and they have been a big hit.
      I broke spaghetti noodles into various size pieces and she LOVES putting these pieces into the small holes in the top of my old garlic powder shaker. I also bought a bag of $1 stones/beads with four different colors. She would play with these things nonstop if I would let her. She sorts them every way imaginable. I have started using an empty egg carton with them. My plan is to put a “pattern” on the top row and have her match it on the bottom row.

      • Angie says:

        I too would appreciate busy bag ideas. I am in the midst of planning our homeschool year for next year. I will have one in 2nd grade, Kindergarten and a 2 year old. My 2 year old is a handful and needs to be occupied and included. I love the busy bag and work box ideas. I am doing as much research and prep ahead of time so I can just pull them out and be ready when they are needed. Thanks Crystal, I am somewhat new to your website and have thoroughly enjoyed it!

  • Shannon says:

    I’ve been following your wonderful blog for about 1 year and was new to the world of couponing at the time Ifound you. I have referred so many to your site as I call you “the original” or “the Mother” of couponing and frugality!
    I have been a homeschooler from the start. My once kindergartener/first-born is now 15 and will be starting his sophmore year in the fall. My husband and I have been blessed with 6 beautiful children in our 16 years of marriage, 2 boys: 15 and 12, 2 girls: 6 and 4, and identical twin girls: 18 months old. I am always so encouraged (and on so many levels!) to read your posts. Thank you for what you do, and blessings to you and your family always! 🙂

    • Adrienne says:

      Are your boys involved in sports? My husband and I are deciding to home school or not and my husband is concerned that in home scholing it will take away from the extra-curriculars, especially sports. I know most cities have city leagues, but my husband (ever the sports fanatic 🙂 ) is hoping if our sons have a tendency towards sports they can get a scholarship, but I’ve heard sports scholarships are difficult if you aren’t on a school team. Thoughts?

      • Andrea Q says:

        Do your children enjoy sports? Are they athletically gifted/talented? If they are, they could start attending public (or private) school when they reach middle school age. In some states, homeschoolers can legally participate in extracurricular activities offered by the schools, including music and sports.

        Also, this (somewhat dated) article might be of interest:

      • Brighid says:

        In our state, you can belong to your local school’s team assuming that you meet the other criteria (vaccinations, make the cut, etc.). You should check your state/local laws and see if he’d qualify.

      • Molly says:

        2 words: Tim Tebow

      • Susan says:

        Adrienne, my daughter is heavily into sports. She does school sports, but the sports activities that she enjoys and has benefitted from the most are not the school teams. This may change when she gets to high school (she’s 11 now), but so far, other sports through other organizations have been far better than school.

        I’m opposed to home schooling, for many reasons, but sports is not one of them.

      • Angela says:

        Shannon, In our county homeschoolers can play for any school… Which is actually a perk. 🙂

  • jessica says:

    you mentioned you had a BIG bag/box of actives for your kiddos to do during homeschool time.. could you share what you have included in that box?? THANK YOU A TON for this.. i am about to venture to the homeschool world and have wondered this thought!

  • This may seem so basic, but it’s what finally got my act together on the house end of things:

    Put it away right away.

    I found that if I left something out “for a few minutes” or “because I’ll need it a little later” that it all began to overflow and back up. Even if it was something as simple as putting a fork on the counter because I was done using it but I wasn’t done cooking dinner, the next thing I knew I had an entire kitchen full of dishes and an overwhelming desire to ignore it all. Instead, I put it in the dishwasher right away and the kitchen actually looks good before bed!

    The other big thing I do is before I walk out of any room, I look around and see if there is anything else I need to do before I leave it. If so, do it now instead of adding it to my to-do list. It’s the only way I’m keeping a clean house and kids who aren’t bored out of their minds!

  • Heather says:

    I REALLY benefited from reading this post, especially your schedule. I have 4 young boys in the same age range as your kids and this past year of homeschooling was a bit chaotic with no schedule. I know we could all benefit from more of a routine so I hope to implement some of your ideas. Thanks!

  • Stacy says:

    This is a great post Crystal. I love how you have things in big blocks of time. It seems to simplify everything and not feel so confining.

    I’ve seen the need for more structure in our home since my third child was born. A routine seems to help everyone.

    One tip I can share for those working on implementing a routine or schedule is to just write something up and try it out. Then make changes as you go.

    I have procrastinated this task many times because I wanted it to be perfect. It won’t be prefect, and even if it was, children and circumstances change and you would need to tweak it in time anyway. So, “just do it” (as the saying goes).

  • Megan says:

    “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.”

    This is such good advice! That way the time you’re adding the next thing, the last thing has already become a habit. Makes a lot more sense than my way, which is “Slack off for a while, and then decide to become impossibly perfect at everything overnight.” 😛

    Also, just FYI, Crystal, these are my favorite kind of posts, and I’d love to see more of them! Your tips on organization and time-management are always so helpful.

    • Wendy says:

      I agree! I really find these kinds of posts to be very helpful & inspiring. Thanks so much! 🙂

    • Laura says:

      I absolutely agree, too! I’m one of those that feels the need to see change *right now*, so while it’s hard for me to think of taking a whole three months to work on one habit, I know that it would be best for me in the long run.

  • Heather says:

    I love to read about how others juggle family, homeschooling, housekeeping, and work. I homeschool 4 children ages 3, 7, 11, and 13. I work part time at a Farmers Market on Saturdays during the market season, volunteer at church on Sundays, and volunteer at a local food pantry on Mondays. During the school year I work as a crossing guard for the public elementary school. My husband has Tuesdays off work, so we don’t have school on Tuesdays. My challenge has been finding time for things like oil changes and dentist appointments. I can get the laundry and dishes done every day. The school work gets done every day. It might happen over the course of the entire day, but it happens. House work gets done last, but it does eventually get done. Its those bothersome appointments that pop up that throw a wrench into everything and make my house of cards begin to come crumbling down. I end up trying to schedule everything for Tuesday when my husband can help out, but that means that we don’t see each other at all. He’s a chef, so he leaves early in the morning and comes home late at night. Tuesday is usually all we have together. How do you handle the unscheduled things that come up?

  • Tara LaPierre says:

    Thank you so much for an uplifting post. I read your blog all the time and you always seem “super mom” to me! Thank you for all the work you put into this blog and the post. You are truly inspiring.

  • Pam says:

    Thank you for sharing your schedule ms especially for emphasizing that people should not expect changes like this overnight. Plus, every family is different and will have different needs, which will be reflected in the schedule.

    We just finished our 20th year of homeschooling, with 12 more to go to get all 8 graduated. The oldest 3 are graduated and in or finished with college.

    My best tip is to establish an hour of quiet time in the afternoons daily. I noticed many years ago that crankiness reached a peak in late afternoon, often when i was trying to
    start supper. This quiet time in separate rooms seems to refresh everyone so that the rest of the day goes much more smoothly.

  • Beth Gibson says:

    Thanks so much for this article! I have a four year old that I homeschool and two jr. high stepkids who live with me full time, but are in public school. Between the kids schedules and everyday chores, I feel stretched thin sometimes. Your article was very encouraging!

  • Thank you for this! Earlier in the week, I wrote about “Having it all together.” I certainly don’t. I have five children, with three under three (set of one year old twins and a two year old). I read somewhere that if all you got accomplished in a day was breathing that you could count it a success. With two teething babies, a potty training toddler, a tween who has no routine now that school is out, and a teenager (enough said) – I hope that is true! Thank you so much for your inspiration. I am totally overwhelmed before I open my eyes in the morning. It is comforting to know that I am in good company by many of your readers. I do love this life. God doesn’t make mistakes and I suppose he thinks I”m capable of more than I do! 🙂
    Blessings to you Always in All Ways,

  • Amanda C says:

    I’ve been reading you for a few years now, and I rarely comment. I just wanted to say “thanks” though, for all the encouraging posts that you post like this one. I love being uplifted, encouraged and inspired by your posts and the effort you make to love God and your family. So thanks. I totally feel like you’re a good friend that I’ve never met, who doesn’t even know I exist. 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  • Sarah beals says:

    My kids are older now, but we NEVER did well on a tight schedule. I would write down my goal for the morning, afternoon and evening and that was as scheduled as I got.
    We did lots of things around meal times. Breakfast included memory verses and multiplication tables, poetry and reading. Meal times are a great time to buckle everyone into their booster chairs and get things done. 🙂 ha,ha
    Now that they are older, they are on their own schedules and are quite efficient.
    Great post,

    • Angela says:

      I agree Sarah. I use our curriculum schedule to guide us through the day. We have a goal to finish a set amount of it in a specific/given day along with our music practice and scheduled extra curriculars. It works much better then a tight schedule for us. Well rested kids are happy kids and for some, they might require more rest one day versus another. Every family is different so go with what works for your family. 🙂 If you catch them during opportune teaching moments each day and slowly introduce them to what you’re expecting from them for school they will fall into an expected pattern with no complaints and will LOVE to school.

  • Spot on, Crystal! Great post.


  • Michelle says:

    Love the post. It’s so nice to see others admitting that they sometimes don’t get it all done. That is one of those things that mom’s don’t seem to ever talk about.
    I’m a homeschooling mom of three. I would love to see some of your busy bag ideas. I have a 3yr old that I try to keep busy while I’m working with my 5 and 7 yr olds. She is the easiest one to “keep busy” but I’m always looking for more ideas to add to my list to keep things new and interesting for her.
    Thanks much

  • takeya duncan says:

    Thank you so much for this post and all of the posts. I really appreciate you sharing yourself with us, it make me fell like i’m not alone and that i really have a friend. Thank you

  • Ashley Penn says:

    Thank you, so much!

    I’m only 24 years old, but I spent nearly 20 of those years as a perfectionist addict. And I mean that on a clinical psychological basis. It made me suicidal. By the grace of God, I met Jesus in college and He and my hubby help keep my sanity.

    I don’t have any kids… yet! But hubby and I both work full time and neither of us can seem to find the time of day. He leaves at 6 AM and my boss picks me up for my job at 7:30 AM. While I’m waiting for him, I clean the kitchen. I have 1 hour between when I get to work and when my shift starts, so I usually do my cross-stitching then. I don’t get off work until 6 PM. Hubby starts dinner and I do laundry, if it needs to be done and empty the dishwasher. We eat dinner together and usually go to bed around 9 PM because hubby has to wake up at 5 AM to be on time for work the next day! That’s it! No free time here and we don’t even have any kids to muck it all up.

    Speaking of which, it’s almost bedtime! God willing, our schedules will sort out some day. Until then, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in the universe. Keep it up, babe!

    • Jess says:

      Ashley- if you are reading Money Saving Mom I’m guessing you are looking for great deals. If you are starting this before having kids you are doing great! I’m a fellow perfectionist, but I have been pleasently suprised by the ways in which I have changed since having kids (for the most part!) Keep leaning on God, and ask others for help when you need it. God bless you for sharing.

      • Ashley Penn says:

        Jess, I’m ALWAYS looking for ways to save money. We didn’t have much when I was a kid. (We were on government assistance because my mom left and my dad was on disability after getting hurt on the job.)

        Hubby grew up in similar circumstances, and we both don’t make a whole lot, so we’re looking for ways to stretch every dollar we can!

        That’s not the only reason, however. As I said, I looked around at all these moms in my church. Smart beautiful women with every hair in place, every dress pressed, clean house, good cooks… and I was so freakin’ frustrated about why I couldn’t do it! So I came online to get tips on managing this whole wife and mother thing. Check out my blog and you’ll see what I mean.

        We “perfectionistas” gotta stick together! 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    I am the Jessica who asked the question. Thank you, Crystal, for addressing this topic and I am going to bookmark this page for future (and frequent) reference! There are some great words of wisdom here.

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