How to Keep an Orderly House While Homeschooling and Parenting Small Children
You’ve made the big decision to homeschool. You’re excited and get all the academics & character training in place. You begin your days & wham! It doesn’t take long before your house looks as though an F15 fly-by went through every room.
Before you throw up your hands and become overwhelmed, there’s a way to tend to your children’s minds in schooling without losing your mind constantly living amongst clutter and a chaotic household.
Before you go any further, you may want to make sure you have realistic expectations. After all, homeschoolers do not have a time span between 8:30-3:30 each day where little hands and feet are away at school and mom can potentially clean uninterrupted. But, even those parents who do have this time will tell you it’s never enough, and when the children arrive home after school, their backpacks & lunch bags quite often end up dropped & plopped wherever they fall.
But for homeschoolers, our children are home all day. And, in the case of our toddlers & preschool-aged children, our homes also act as a preschool. If you have ever had the opportunity to see what a preschool, elementary or even middle- or high school room looks like when children are at full play or learning with books opened and papers or science experiements, you soon realize that your house may often look just like these places of learning. But, at the same time, we somehow tend to feel better, function better and relax when we are amongst order & not chaos.
The term “A place for everything & everything in its place,” or “Put things away when you’re done with them,” may sound simple enough. But, when your house is consumed with the priority of educating children, feeding children, transporting children to and from lessons, etc., this can be very difficult to enforce.
The first thing to remember is that while your first focus is on your children’s education, that doesn’t mean everything else has to be neglected. Now, this is so easy to say and yet so difficult to practice--especially if you have a toddler or baby or two to add to the mix of elementary age or older children to educate. It’s very easy to allow your younger ones to keep themselves occupied with toys throughout the room as you concentrate on the older children. It’s also very easy to get so absorbed in a book or a subject of interest with your children that you find yourself too tired at the end of the day to load the dishwasher or do the laundry or vacuum, etc.
Make houshold chores a part of the school day: So, start by making household chores a part of your homeschooling curriculum: teach the children not only academic subjects, but also how to keep their surroundings orderly. When you plan your lessons for the day, include time for the chores that need to be done. Some homeschoolers even log these hours as home economics or life skills. If you’re creative in your approach, you may even find some math or science principles to teach in your housework. Even if you choose not to log these hours, your children will be learning skills they will need all their lives no matter what career they end up in and whether they marry or maintain their own households alone. And if approached in a "light" manner, pick-up sessions can make nice breaks between "classes".
Make a Clean Sweep: It’s also helpful to do a few Clean Sweeps throughout the day--erhaps, once before lunch, once before dinner and then again before bedtime. Keep a laundry basket for this purpose. Simply have your child go throughout the room filling up the laundry basket with items that need to be put away. Once the basket is full, you can begin to put each item away where it belongs. Even if you don’t get everything put away at one time, you’ll notice a big difference with having everything simply picked up and put into one basket. If you are familiar with the Flylady, then you have surely heard her philosophy that any job can be tackled in 15 minute increments. On her website, she offers 15 minutes a day tips for decluttering your house. She also offers a student journal for back to school. While this is geared toward the student who goes to a public or private school, you could easily modify it for your child’s use.
Delegate with Chore Charts and Make Cleaning Fun: Sheila Wray Gregoire, the author of To Love, Honor and Vacuum, also offers help for families. One of the chapters suggests the use of chore charts which she offers for free for simply registering on her website. She suggests that you sit down with the family at the start of assigning chores, pop some popcorn & make it a fun family night. She also suggests the use of allowance, but this is completely up to you as the parent. Some parents offer allowance, others feel some jobs need to be done simply as part of a family team.
If you use the EduTrak software for logging your children’s school hours, you have a chore chart ready to be created at your fingertips. Within their software program is the option of creating many charts. A chore chart is one of them that you can put together and use for your individual family.
Be Realistic: if you implement the delegation of chores to keep a tidy house while learning academics, remember to be realistic. Try to keep just the main room (the room that unexpected visitors see when they open the front door) clean at all times. Like with anything else you try, remember that you are a family made up of individual people, and this means that obstacles will present themselves along the way. Obstacles such as someone getting sick, or an unexpected interruption to your schedule, etc., that needs to be worked around. So, be flexible and expect occasional interruptions to your plans with both schooling and household work without becoming unduly upset. This way, you do your best to stay on task, but don’t beat yourself up emotionally when things don’t go as planned. Simply start again. Each day will bring a new opportunity for success.