by guest author Shari McMinn
Fellow homeschooling moms frequently ask me, “How do you do it all?” Well, I’ll be honest. I don’t! I’m an old mom – in my late 50s with four kids still at home down to the age of 12. I have been homeschooling for 23 years.
Prior to being married and having 11 children, I was a successful commercial interior designer with a career designing elegant hotels, restaurants, golf clubhouses, and an occasional high end residence. I know what a perfect house looks like, and I don’t have one.
Instead, I have the perfect home for my imperfect family. It is often messy with homeschool projects scattered about, laundry piled higher than the washing machine, a sink and counter full of dirty dishes, and unintentional science experiments growing in the refrigerator. But it is home. It is warm and welcoming.
I am simply a “too busy” homeschool mom who is also widow, working from home. Yet, my family is joyful, accomplished, and content – so am I.
The myth of “having it all” is just that – a myth. You can’t work full-time, have a beautiful home, travel the world, have a happy marriage, and truly raise your children. It doesn’t happen. You can’t simultaneously have a Pinterest house with a model figure and face, be ready to give your husband everything he needs and wants, volunteer for both church and scouts, birth ten gazillion kids, and homeschool future Ivy League grads.
So, get over it! What you can have is a wonderful reality that is perfect for you and your family.
Every homeschool mom wishes at least one day a year the school bus would stop at her house. Every homeschool dad is slammed with a messy house, lousy supper, wife in sweats, and screaming kids at least one day a month. Every homeschool kid hates bookwork at least once a week. Every homeschool family has communication issues and verbal disputes every day. That is reality.
So, I humbly suggest that with a simple plan, you can at least do most of what you want to do as a homeschool family, at least most of the time, and do it pretty well. These are few strategies that work for our family, and they might be worth trying at your house.
1. Set a reasonable routine and stick with it.
If you get off of your routine, start over the next day and keep working it, adjusting it as you go. We get up around 8am, then eat breakfast. We feed our farm livestock then start school by 10am. We eat lunch at 12:30pm, have PE, then do a group lesson until 3pm. Everyone enjoys free time until livestock chores again at 5:30pm then supper after. We have family worship, relax, and head to bed by 9pm. Over the years, the schedule has varied, but we generally have a plan, and we stick with it.
2. Have a set place where your kids will do school each day.
It could be the kitchen, the living room, or their bedrooms with doors open. Provide bookcases and storage bins for supplies – they don’t have to be stylish. Extra books not in use can be stored in sealed boxes under beds, in the garage, or in the basement.
3. Have a list for each child of what schoolwork they are expected to do.
They can then work through the list without you reminding them. Pictures work for non-readers. They start their work on their own, then ask you for help as needed. Even a toddler can color or count objects. Help the little ones learn to sit a few minutes at a time, then take a play break. As they grow older, your students will become independent learners and “own” their education. They will be whizzes in college or business if they have been taught (and have practiced) self-discipline for their expected work each day.
4. Everyone helps pick up the house.
Before going to bed each should put their own things away from the common rooms. It should be routine to straighten their own bedrooms each morning as they dress. Dirty clothes go in a basket, sheets get changed weekly. Kids who learn to be responsible for their possessions as toddlers and are trained to clean the house thoroughly once a week as ‘tweens will be teens who can maintain the house for you.
5. Every child should be expected to participate cheerfully in chores, church, recreation, and school.
No slackers, no pouty-facers, no high and mighty attitude allowed. When you are in public, your children, regardless of their age, should speak respectfully with others, ask and answer questions, get along with all ages, and participate fully instead of standing against the wall being shy or acting “cool.”
6. Mom and Dad should enjoy a fun date night once a week (even right at home).
Dad can also plan and enjoy a board game/movie night with all the kids so Mom can have a few hours off each week. Children should do all the basic chores like setting the table, washing dishes, sweeping, pet feeding … so parents are not their slaves, and they learn to do for themselves to become successful adults.
7. We stay home more than we go out because what we do is called home education not car education.
We have always lived modestly, helped others who need food or clothing, hosted many families for a meal, and have cared for kids from other families for a few days at a time so their parents could get a break.
8. A simple home and hearth is easiest to provide and maintain.
Each person should have their own personal space, even if bedrooms are shared. A common room such as the kitchen or living area should have a table and inviting places to sit and play throughout the day. Simple food that is quick to prepare – oatmeal with fruit for breakfast, taco salad for lunch, and fresh produce along with bread and soup simmered all day in the crock pot is an easy and nutritious dinner.
9. Kids need to be productive with their time.
Train them young – bigger kids playing with or supervising the littles. Each should enjoy hobbies instead of waiting for you to entertain them. Limit electronics and maximize creative play for all ages. Request arts and crafts supplies from relatives for holiday gifts instead of toys.
If you stick to this routine, your life won’t be perfect, but it will be warm and wonderful, and your kids will turn out amazing. Teach your students to be responsible, have a work ethic, treat everyone with respect, and you will have a perfectly great life. Forget the picture perfect mansion, live within your means, and really love and live together as a family.
You can’t do it all, but you can do most of what you consider priorities. Of course, following the one and only perfect man, Jesus Christ, is the most important thing of all!