Our family is wrapping up week #10 of our year-round homeschooling for the 2014-2015 school year, and lately I’ve been sharing a little about some of the common challenges of being a homeschooling family.
Challenges such as finding time to cook meals… and keeping the house
Menu planning and prepping sure helps a mama get meals on the table during the week, but how do you keep your house clean when you homeschool?
That’s a good question.
Let me tell you, I’m not writing this blog post because I’ve found THE ANSWER to that challenge.
Not by a long shot.
Every school day, my dining room table is a wreck until we wrap up lessons around lunch time, then a clean-up routine is definitely in order so I can breathe a little until the next morning (I do hate clutter!).
Overall, I would venture to say our home is orderly.
Martha Steward organized? No way.
Company-ready at all times? Ha.
Clutter-free? In my dreams.
Comfy and mostly tidy? Yes.
Mostly. Just don’t look in the garage.
If I had to share a few tips and observations about keeping order in the home as a homeschooling family, here is what I’d say:
Teach Your Kids to Clean Up Spills and Pick Up After Themselves
“Raising children who wipe their own spills is a lifesaver for moms and also develops great skills in their own lives. Fight the urge to control, stress, and immediately clean. Have patience and allow your little ones to wipe up their own mess.”
– Sally Clarkson, 10 Gifts of Wisdom
Just in case you’re rolling your eyes (or rolling on the floor laughing) right now, let me say that this really is a practical step. And I have really messed up at this point a lot as a mother.
Some of you may be the doting moms who do everything for their kids. Or, maybe you expect too much from your kids and get mad at them when they make a mess… then angrily clean up after them yourself. (Yeah, me too.)
Neither scenario is particularly desirable, but we all probably tend toward one or the other.
I like Sally Clarkson’s practical advice: Be calm. Teach kids to take responsibility and take action, but don’t over react to the “spilled milk” espisodes in life.
Make Daily Chores a Part of Your Habit Training (and start young!)
Right now, I’m doing a lot habit training (read catch up work) with my kids.
I wish I would have been more diligent when my older kids were preschoolers, since it’s a lot more of a challenge to replace bad habits than to cultivate good ones in the first place.
Since I can’t go back, I’m making every day count so we can all move forward. I’m seeing a lot of progress, and that gives me hope.
Training kids to keep up with daily chores is such a life-saver for a busy mom.
Here are a few daily chores my kids do:
- make their beds
- take out the trash
- rinse and load dishes in the dishwasher
- unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher
- set the table for meals
- help clear the table after meals
- tidy up the downstairs living area after school
- help sweep the floors (older kids)
- put away toys and tidy bedrooms
- clean out the “clutter basket”
- help feed/water pets and outside animals (older kids)
- keep clothes and shoes put away
I’m working on a habit training system right now with my older kids, but the chore jar system has worked well with my younger ones in the past.
Whatever chore system you decide on, the main thing is to stick with it! Consistency matters big time. I learned that lesson the hard way.
Reward Behavior (good and bad)
“There is nothing wrong with rewarding your children to help them learn to work well.”
– Sally Clarkson, 10 Gifts of Wisdom
I agree with Sally Clarkson. Jeremy and I reward our kids for good behavior, helpfulness, doing chores with a good attitude, etc.
We use a system where my kids earn “tokens” throughout the week for chores and a number of other habits, attitudes, and positive behavior. Once or twice a week, they can spend their “tokens” on items from the “token box” (treasure box), which is filled with healthy treats, stickers, pretty notebooks, craft supplies, or whatever else I’ve found at the dollar store.
My kids can also redeem their “tokens” for money, if they prefer to do that.
There is also a “reward” (think sowing and reaping) for wrong or unacceptable behavior. Messy rooms, back talk, fighting, and the like, cause my kids to lose their “tokens”, free time, or whatever.
How does this translate to a cleaner home? I haven’t had to clear the dining room table after school for weeks, since my kids are motivated to clean up after themselves (in order to earn a “token”). That works for me!
Make it Easy for Your Kids to Clean Up
My home is far from perfectly organized (I’d be embarrassed for you to see my closet right now!). But, I have learned that in order to maintain a semblance of order in my home, there has to be a measure of organization.
For example: have you ever barked at your kids, “Get this bedroom clean NOW!” and then stomped out of the room?
If your kids are half grown and at least half motivated, maybe the job got done. But, if your kids are young like mine, you can nag and fuss and threaten all week long, and the room is going to stay a mess.
- Because you’ve got to inspect what you expect (supervise), and
- Kids have to know where to put all their stuff.
Bins, baskets, shelves and boxes are a mother’s best friends!
If I expect my kids to clean up their school work by themselves after a day’s lessons, then they need to know where to put their things. So we established a simple routine:
- My kids each have a book bag or back pack; school books belong here at the end of the day.
- We have jars and cute little buckets (repurposed herb pots) for school supplies, and these are to never leave the dining room! They belong on the buffet in the dining room when we’re not doing school work or a craft.
- At the end of the week, school bags belong back in the “homeschool” closet in the living room. Out of sight!
This is just one example, but once we established this little routine it has worked like clock work. My kids know what to do, and where stuff goes. They know what I expect when I say, “Have you cleaned up your school work?”
Yes, I have to be consistent in supervising and following up; when I am, things stay on track. Less work for me and a whole lot neater dining room. Most of the time.
Adjust Your Expectations with Reality
What do you expect your home to look like?
I love inspiring homemaking magazines, blogs, and Pinterest boards, but 99%of those aspirations aren’t practical in my life. My home looks lived-in, and that’s because it is.
We live here. We work here. We learn here. We make messes and memories here.
There’s nothing perfect about it. At all!
If you drop by my home during the week, you’ll find clutter. You’ll find dust. You’ll find toys on the floor and shoes by the back door. Okay, and you’ll probably find at least a few dishes in the sink and the bathroom might not smell like a petunia.
I had a whole lot of expectations about my house that had to go out the door when I became a homeschooling mom. My life gets messy, and I have to be okay with that.
Set Aside One Day a Week Just for Cleaning
Some of the best advice I’ve ever received from another homeschooling mom is, Don’t try to deep clean every day of the week! Make ONE day cleaning day, and just maintain the rest of the week.
My “cleaning day” has changed through the years, depending on our family dynamics and schedule. Right now, it’s Friday or Saturday.
Weekends are when I vacuum, mop, dust (like once-a-month… ahem), and just give the house a good work over.
How does this help?
Well, today I was sitting in the middle of our living room rug with my six and eight year olds, working through a phonics lesson. I couldn’t help noticing that the floor needs swept and the rug needs vacuumed. It’s the middle of the school week, and I can tell!
Normally, this would drive me to distraction and make me feel irritated, but I know that my cleaning day is coming up. So I let it go.
If someone comes over before I get the floor cleaned on Saturday… well, I guess they’ll get to see how I really live!
These are just a few thoughts and ideas I have about homemaking and homeschooling.
Like I said, I don’t have all the answers and I certainly don’t have my act together all the time. I do strive to be a good steward of my time, home, and resources, and the Lord has to help me work out all the kinks in between!