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Getting It All Done: When Homeschool and Housework Collide


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There are a handful of questions that get asked frequently amongst homeschooling moms (and dads). One of the top ten has to be, “How do you get it all done?”

That question is generally assumed to include housework, outside activities, meal prep, grocery shopping, exercise, Bible study – you know, the never-ending, often guilt-ridden, to-do list that plagues all parents, but, for fun, we like to throw home educating our children in the mix. Balancing homeschooling and housework can be hard.

Doing It All 2

I thought it a fitting question for Labor Day.

So, how do you get it all done?

The simple answer is: You don’t.

Oh, I’m sorry. Were you expecting something profound? You’ve come to the wrong place for profound. All I’ve got here is practical and honest.

You may need to lower your expectations

You are only one person. Granted, depending on your kids’ ages, you may be able to enlist their help with varying degrees of effectiveness, but you’re probably still going to be the one to plan the course of attack and oversee the work.

There are a lot of things that are important in life, but they’re not all equally important and not all important in every season of life. In this season, you’re educating your children. You’re raising babies. You’re making memories. The house is just going to get messy again, but your kids are only going to be at home for a few blindingly fast years.

homeschool and housework

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Determine what is really important to you and to your husband and what is essential to the health and well-being of your family. Those are the things in which you want to invest the most energy.

I like a clean kitchen and no clutter in the main living areas. That means my house may be dusty, I may need to vacuum, and my bathrooms…well, let’s don’t even go there. As long as I have a clean kitchen and a relatively clutter-free house, though, I feel like I have a handle on things.

My husband and children like to have clean clothes to wear and good food to eat. Brian could care less if the bed gets made every day. As a matter of fact, he likes it when it’s not made because then he can take a nap when he gets home from work without feeling like he’s messed something up.

Now that we’re working on a six week on/one week off schedule, it’s my goal to deep-clean (and I use that term more loosely than you may be imagining) every six weeks.  It worked really well on our first break to leave the first day for housework, the second for appointments, and the rest of the week for resting, relaxing, and planning for the next six weeks.

Find a routine that works for you

There are dozens of different cleaning schedules out there, but it’s much like a weight-loss plan – the only one that matters is the one that works for you. A few tips that I’ve found that work for me are:

I put a load of laundry in the dryer and one in the washer most mornings before school. That means that most days I’m folding a load of laundry from the day before and starting a load that will go in the dryer either later that evening or first thing in the morning. It works for our family of five.

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The girls have gotten to the point that they usually do their own laundry. They usually do one marathon day to get it done. Josh is still content to let me do his laundry. {grin} Honestly, I don’t mind, as long at it makes its way to the hamper.

I find snippets of time during the day or evening.  There is usually some time during the day while the kids are working independently to wash whatever dishes there are in the sink that can’t go into the dishwasher. On those days when there is a little bit of time after school and before dinner, I may run the vacuum, dust, fold a load of laundry, or clean the mirror and countertops in the bathroom.

I also try to make sure I wash the pots and pans from supper right as I’m cleaning up when we’re done or find time to wash them before bed.

I enlist the kids’ help. They’re all perfectly old enough to handle any household chore that I could do. When I fill up their chore chart each morning, I rotate among the three of them things like: unload the dishwasher, empty the trash, or collect the dirty dishes (you know, the ones the don’t walk back to the kitchen on their own).

Make time for what’s important

When I lost nearly 90 pounds, I had a lot of people ask me how I found time to exercise. I didn’t find time, I made time. It was worth it to me to make the time for exercising and getting my health back. It involved taking some time away from my family, but it was so worth it in what I gained – better health, better self-esteem, a healthier lifestyle, and more energy.

I make time for blogging because that’s important to me. I love to write – it’s my creative outlet. It’s important to make time for creative pursuits – although, often, those creative hobbies can involve one or more family members who share your interests or even the whole family.

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Whatever you enjoy that makes you feel creative – whether it be art, photography, sewing, crochet, knitting, scrapbooking…whatever it is – make sure you’re investing time in it. It’s good for your kids to see you pursuing your interests. It lets them know that it’s important to continue learning and growing and nurturing creativity.

Don’t make comparisons or suppositions

The biggest thing to remember is: don’t compare yourself to someone else.

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else…

– Galatians 6:4

What tends to happen when we start playing the comparison game is that we compare our worst selves with someone else’s best. Even worse, we compare our worst with our supposition of someone else’s best. Maybe your neighbor really does have it altogether…or maybe she spent the entire day cleaning before she invited you in.

dirty dishes

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Even if she really does keep her house that neat, your season of life may not be the same as hers. Or maybe she has someone to come in and help once a week. Or maybe she’s one of those people who enjoys cleaning and it’s one of those things that she makes time for.

It doesn’t matter. God put you where you are now with your current responsibilities and time constraints for a reason. Figure out what’s important, look for ways to make that happen, and let the rest go. It’ll be waiting for you when the kids are grown.

Have you found any tips and tricks that make staying on top of the housework and the to-do list more doable? Share them in the comments!

collage photo credit: broom, laundry basket, dishes

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33 Comments

  1. Thank you for this! Waking up this morning to a house in need of both vacuuming AND dusting, not to mention the homeschool responsibilities, I was feeling a little overwhelmed. But you’re right – what’s not important will wait.

    The one thing I’ve found to help keep the house from looking like a DMZ is USING the nights when it’s my husband’s turn to do the bath/bed routine. I spend those 20-30 minutes picking up, vacuuming the high-traffic areas, and super-cleaning the kitchen. That way it’s easier to squeeze in 10 minutes on the other days to do the bathrooms (living with boys…ick!) and dusting.

  2. Great post! I know for us that clutter is worse than dirt. Dirt we can live with but if there are toys, clothes, books, papers, etc. all over the house all the time I lose my mind. So we do regular pick-ups and catch as can cleaning. 😉

    It all comes down to priorities, of course. I’m not sure where this idea came from that we should all be doing the same things at the same time in the same way. I love to read so I make time for that. Some of my friends love to sew but don’t read often. We really ought not to compare ourselves (since it’s not a moral choice) but, sadly, we do.

  3. Our family just finished our third week of homeschooling. I can not tell you how much I needed to read this! Thank you!

  4. I wake up EVERY morning feeling guilty about how messy the house has gotten. Thanks for this post – it helps to put things in perspective. Kids are fed, educated, and smell pretty good…. well, they don’t smell BAD. Since it is Labor Day, I won’t bother the troops too much, but I will dust off that chore chart for tomorrow! 🙂

  5. This is a good reminder. I fall victim to the comparison trap sometimes, too.

    I’m a confessed mediocre housekeeper — there’s always something more interesting to do than clean — but even I have my limits. I’m okay with a kid-cleaned house. My girls vacuum, dust, clean their own bathroom, fold and put away their own clothes, help fold “universal” laundry (towels, etc.), unload the DW and put dishes away…. I figure it’s home ec in real time!

    1. Exactly! I quit cleaning my kids’ rooms a couple of years ago. If it gets too bad, I’ll take away privileges until it’s cleaned, but I usually just keep their doors shut. lol

      1. hello there i am new to this blog. I’m a wife and mother of 4. 2 boys and 2 girls ages 14,13,6,3 and i feel the same way, i just leave the doors closed so that no one can see whats crawling out of their rooms. But I did want to get more of your advise on other things that you all do. We’ll me moving and homeschooling this 2016. OH PLEASE HELP ME. Need Advise

  6. I’ve frequently use a rake. That was actually one of my first blog posts back when I first became a SAHD. My preschooler now 3 and a half was 1. Somethings have changed I have a no food outside the dining room policy. It gets bent sometimes but mostly not. We have moved houses so most areas are hardwood now. The kids are responsible for the basement but it goes faster if I sweep or rake everything into a pile for them. My living room seem to become a craft area thanks to my preschooler. Raking up crayons actually works.

    Since we moved into a smaller house our focus has been on getting rid of stuff. This weekend we dealt with one shelving unit. Emptied boxes and eliminated 1 large garbage bag, 1 box to donate, and 1 box to recycle. That is making a real difference in our ability to keep the house clean.

    1. Thanks for commenting! It’s nice to have a man’s perspective on this. I chucked a bit at the rake, but I can imagine how handy that could be for certain things, especially on carpeting.

  7. It’s so good to see a realistic take on house cleaning! I get so tired of seeing articles on keeping clean and organized that expect you to be Super Woman – but what’s worse is that they express the ultimate importance of keeping your house in order – as if you’re to be looked down upon if you don’t. I’m sorry, but I gave up on keeping up that appearance a long time ago, knowing that I would go insane if I kept it up and my family would suffer. That’s not to say that I don’t feel horrified if someone unexpectedly shows up at my door and sees the daily mess… I just have to get over it – just as the visitor will have to get over it. It also helps that we now live thousands of miles away from my mother-in-law and she hasn’t visited in 4 years! 🙂

    1. That made me laugh about your mother-in-law. Even if she called you right now and said she was leaving her house at this very moment to come visit, you’d have plenty of time to clean. 😉

  8. Wow, talk about a God-sent to find your blog post pinned on Pinterest tonight. I cannot express to you how thankful I am to have read this. I broke down on the phone a little earlier today with my mother about work, caring for two kids and just trying to hold it all together for my sweet, hard-working husband and amazing family. I guess it was one of those days where you feel Satan/the world-a billion & Me-zero! I’m a bit of a perfectionist, ok A LOT of a perfectionist, with hint of OCDish tendencies. Like most moms, the every day juggling and constant cleaning is starting to just wear, along with some other hurdles life has thrown our way. Well the very last paragraph with the highlighted bold portion… Thank you, practically verbatim what my mother said to me. God reiterating that I need to focus on the now and what’s important and do my best with what I have to work with and simply give Him glory in that is definitely what I needed to hear to just keep on going. Also, thank you for the verse because I am my worst competition sometimes and it completely hit home on some personal struggles. God bless. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your reply, Stephanie. It meant so much to me. It’s always humbling when God lets you see that He’s used you to speak to and encourage someone. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you this week in your multiple roles as wife, mother, home educator and all that goes along with that.

  9. Thank you for this reminder! So often I compare myself with my MIL, actually, who is a fabulous woman and wonderful in-law! But she must be one of those people who actually enjoys cleaning, so she makes time for it. I enjoy sewing, baking, and reading, so I make time for those things, but then I feel bad for not having the house as clean for my hubby as his mom’s always was. I *know* comparison is bad, but it’s so very easy to just fall into that train of thought without meaning to.

    Thank you for reminding me of truth to remember when that happens again–that I’m comparing my worst to someone else’s best (unfair comparison!) and that others may have different priorities than I do and that’s ok.

  10. This is so true and so sweet! The scripture was something I really needed to hear right now. Thank you for letting the Lord use you to reach us stressed out momma’s out here 🙂
    “Lord, help us all place our top priorities on what you want them to be and rest assured you will take care of us!”

  11. Great post and well said! My husband is a clean freak and likes to come home to a clean home…not so easy sometimes with 4 little ones…so I actually built in a cleaning time 15-20 mins each morning to get some type of deeper cleaning done such as vacuuming, dusting, baths etc…and the kids rotate helping me. What a difference this has made! Then right before he comes home we do a family room and living room pick-up! Love the verse reminder from Galatians!

    1. I’ve got a friend whose husband, like yours, likes to come home to a clean house. She and her two boys used to make a game of racing around the house cleaning for 15-20 minutes before daddy got home.

  12. Hi! I just came across this on Pinterest & as a homeschooling mom of 3, kindergarten, 3rd grade & 6th grade with another one starting next year, I really struggle how to get the schooling done without ignoring the house. My husband is an active duty physician (who works in both Family Practice & OB so his schedule is never predictable unless we’re on vacation out of town) & he likes to have things neat when he gets home. After daughter #3 came (we have 4 girls) I decided to stop trying to stay up with picking up throughout the day & just take the time before my husband gets home to have the girls help do a quick sweep through of the downstairs, stairs & hallway into our bedroom cleared (usually he texts when he’s getting ready to leave, so I have 15 minutes or so notice). It has saved my sanity not worrying about picking up all day. I take lunch time when my girls eat to take care of any dishes in the sink & if they finish school early enough to be outside playing, I run the vacuum & hit the dusting, here in the desert, dusting needs done within 12 hours of the last time things were dusted! Thanks for your eternal perspective on something that can really get in the way of life here & now. I’m glad the Lord won’t be judging on how dust-free my house is but rather on how I used the time for His honor & glory & raising my kids.

  13. I do need to read this! I am about to have my third baby and were getting ready to start kindergarten homeschooling along with me working my own business from home. I keep feeling like there is just no way I can do it all, and I guess I need to just be ok not doing it all 🙂
    Crystal

  14. My grandmother is an amazing woman (and she happens to be one of those who loves to clean) and she comes to help me wash dishes and do laundry from time to time, every week when I’m really busy. I always felt guilty about not “having it all together” until she told me that her mother (another amazing Godly woman) never did much housework when her kids were at home, that she always had people coming over to help and she focused on her kids. That knowledge did a lot to help set me free from messy house anxiety. It’s good to know sometimes that we CAN’T do it all and that is OK!

  15. “Determine what is really important to you and to your husband and what is essential to the health and well-being of your family.” I love what you said here, because that is so very important. Everyone has a different priority and need when it comes to housework.

    I do not function well in chaos and clutter. My oldest didn’t/doesn’t either (fortunately for him he married a woman who is immaculate, lol!). 😉

    So I built in a chore training time into our homeschool time. This way I had a guaranteed time that I could train them on new chores. So during that time they were either being trained on a new chore or we just used that time for them to work on their chores while I either supervised or checked their work.

    I also had a 4:00 pm time that I did a room check. Their bedrooms were supposed to be clean and orderly by then. Also, at 7 pm we all (daddy included) ran around and picked up the house and put things away that were left out, so the house was in pretty good shape by the time we went to bed.

    We also had three toy pickups a day: before lunch, before dinner, and before bed. I admit that I made cleanliness and orderliness a high priority, but that’s because it was just important to my mental health, hahaha! 😉

    1. Yes, exactly. There have been days when I’ve called a “life skills” day because I just couldn’t face the school day with the chaos and clutter. I don’t need immaculate, but clutter drives me crazy! It is important to determine your family’s particular needs. There’s no sense being stressed over areas that aren’t important to anyone in your particular family.

  16. A wise preacher’s wife taught moms four things:

    1. Simplify – less is more! Declutter. Don’t have something that you don’t want to take care of.

    2. A place for everything and everything in its place. If you can’t find a purposeful place for something, don’t have it.

    3. Touch it once. Put things directly back where they belong. If you are going to put something down, put it exactly where it belongs. Don’t create another chore for your self by having to pick up an object AGAIN to take care of it.

    4. Never go upstairs empty handed. Combine your work with your everyday movements.

    I taught my children these simple rules and they work! Your home will never feel out of control if you practice a few simple disciplines.

  17. This was oh-so-validating! Thank you for that. It CAN’T all get done every day. It is a breath of fresh air to embrace the idea that is ok to not get everything done every day and not feel guilty about it. The season of life is definitely a factor. I had a hard time asjusting from the season of life where I had one child and was managing work and housekeeping to the season where I have three children (two of which are twins) and I homeschool, run a small business, and don’t do much housekeeping. I struggle with accepting and owning my shortcomings. But, as you point out, it is more a matter of priorities and I think that investing my time in homeschooling and the running of my business are worthy places to invest my time. In another season of life I will have a clean house and beautiful garden 😉

  18. I’m so thankful for your blog! What a blessed reminder (well, many blessed reminders)…! I struggle with managing my ADD, my 7-y/o son’s ADHD, my 3-y/o daughter’s needs while I’m teaching the 7-y/o, and all of the household demands. I am exhausted by 3 pm (on good days), and I had little help before the pandemic—and now none. My kids need my time and attention but my husband wants the house clean and I need some of my own quiet time. Any cooking routines you’ve found that work? Also, I need to declutter. For sure. Like yikes. Help. Pray. And thank you again!

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