Thursday, February 18, 2010

Balancing Housework and Homeschooling

Coffee Talk Thursday

Just brewing a pot of coffee, and I am excited to have a coffee talk with you today!

I have been thinking a lot lately about homeschooling and housework. (If you don't homeschool, please still join the discussion). My oldest is just shy of five, so we are not too formal yet. We read plenty of books (own the Sonlight pre4/5 curriculum) and try to do plenty of fun activities each week.

Even though we don't need to have a formal four day schedule yet, there are still plenty of times when I set a goal of having the breakfast dishes done and the floor swept by 9:00, for example, so we can sit down and read together/work on letters/play a game/etc. I can't tell you how often something else will happen that will push back my "start time." Maybe my baby dug in the plant, and now I need to vacuum it up. Maybe my potty-trainer had an accident, and we need to get that taken care of. While I'm in the laundry room, I realize there's a load in the dryer that needs to be folded (and then put away), so I do that. Unexpected things that created new chores happened so much yesterday that we never sat on the couch and read a pile of books until late afternoon.

What I would love to talk about with you is--if you homeschool, do you just try to get the house in as best of order as possible, and then start at a certain time, regardless of what is undone? Or do you give yourself an extra half hour to finish some of those tasks (or deal with the unexpected) and then call it quits, even though you could always find more to do? If you don't homeschool, I would love for you to still join this discussion still, because I'm sure you, also, have ideas for things you'd like to do with your kids; and those things can keep getting pushed back because of housework that needs to be done.

So what do you do? We can all be blessed by hearing what you have to say!

My coffee's ready!


  1. This is my first year homeschooling. I have a kindergartener and a 2 year old. I am also expecting our 3rd in a few weeks.

    We aim to start school by 8:30 each morning...after a cartoon & breakfast. Sometimes the boys & I are dressed and sometimes we are still in our pajamas. I usually leave the sink full of breakfast & lunch dishes and the floor unswept/unmopped for the morning. Then, when the boys go down for their naps/quiet time, I empty the dishwasher, load it with our morning dishes & sweep and mop the kitchen floor.

    I also use this time to fold laundry and catch up make our bed.

    It seems like a lot, but I'm usually done within an hour and they boys are down for 2 hours, so it still leaves me 1 hour of 'me' time.

  2. We have been home schooling for 10 years. When the kids were younger, we would only do school in the am. After lunch, the ones needing naps did so, the others went out to play and I did housework. As they got older we continued with the am schooling, but since they no longer took naps we had mandatory quiet time. This would be about an hour and a half each day. They could watch a movie, read a book, go to their room whatever as long as it was quiet and they stayed in one place. This gave me time to do whatever I needed to do and gave them time to relax and unwind, if they fell asleep that was just a bonus ;) Now, we do not have a set time to start, but we mostly do things in the am. As long as the days school work is finished by chore time, it’s all good.
    The kids have always been involved in helping to keep up the house. If it belongs to you, take care of it and put it where it belongs. When they were younger, we had set times for clean up. After lunch since they were going down for naps or starting quiet time, before supper and again before bed time. We set 4:30 as chore time, this way there is no confusion as to when things need to be finished and when things need to start. There is a chore list that hangs in the kitchen so everyone knows what chore needs to be done on what day and who needs to do it. They all are responsible for their own rooms and feeding the animals all other chores like cleaning the bathroom, dishes, vacuuming, etc. rotate every day. Everyone contributes to the upkeep of the house. I have two set laundry days. I have done this for years as it is the simplest for me. Monday and Thursdays are laundry days right now as those are my scheduled stay home days (usually, lol). I do throw in a load of wash on other days if it’s needed. When the kids were younger they helped out with laundry folding (to their ability) and they were responsible for putting away their own clothes. Now that they're older, they still put their own stuff away, I usually fold it just because I like to, but they will chip in and help me if I ask. Now, don’t be fooled, there are days I just don’t get it all done and it carries over to the next day. One of the biggest things I can tell you is, BE FLEXABLE! There are days that will just get off track and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s OKAY. Some days school work will just not get completed and the clothes will spend the night in the dryer. Give yourself a break. Just make that a priority the next day and carry on.
    Another thing I can tell you from my experience is, if you have to cut out an outside the home activity so school work and house work can get done, cut it out for a time. Do what works best for you and your family. It’s ok to be choosy as to the activities you participate in. There are only so many hours in a day and you have to prioritize what is most important to your family.
    Also, putting limits on when I answer the phone is helpful. It is so easy to get sidetracked when that phone rings. Caller ID is great. If it is my husband I answer, if it's the doctor or someone I've been waiting on a call from I answer. All others can leave a message and I'll get back to them. Set some boundaries for yourself and your homeschool.
    You do not need to be perfect and neither does your house. When you and your children are home all day every day it's gonna look lived in. Just cut yourself some slack if things get crazy and don't get done. Enjoy your kids and the time you spend with them. All the other stuff will get taken care of.

  3. I have homeschooled two of my three kids at various points in time, and we had a very minimalist approach to structured "academic" work, while lots of our remaining time was educational too (trips, projects, playing), just not directly "schoolish." Because the time is used so efficiently (kids in school spend an eternity waiting around to begin or waiting for the slowest to "get it") our boys really did little more than an hour or two (as 5th grader and high schooler!) a day to address what I felt was critical. So, I figure giving yourself and your kids an extra 30 minutes to tidy the house together in the morning can easily be done.

    And well worth teaching them to help NOW in little ways with all the household tasks. We were not consistent with this, and so I am trying to do this with teenagers! Not an easy thing! Wish me well! Kerry

  4. I am homeschooling 2 of my 3 kids now. They are in 2nd grade and kindergarten. My youngest is 2. I used to think that I needed to start early in the morning and really stick to a schedule. Then I realized that part of the reason we homeschool is so that we can be flexible. The kids get up, eat breakfast, play or watch a little tv. I try to get as much housework as possible done at this time. Kids chore time is at 10:00. They each are responsible for cleaning thier own things plus other chores like feeding dog, taking out recycling, cleaning bathroom, emptying dishwasher etc. My second grader starts school after lunch while the other two play. Nap time for the 2 year old is 1:30. I'm sure some people think it is crazy to homeschool in the afternoon but it works for us at this time. We get a lot more done while youngest takes a nap. I usually do less school work on Mon. and sometimes we take Fri. off so I try to catch up on house work on these days. But, my house is never as clean as I would like!

  5. I wrote previous comment and accidently deleted part of it. Kindergartener starts school at 1:30.

  6. I just discovered your blog through the link at Organizing Junkie. I, too, am a homeschooling mom of a kindergartener and two younger siblings. I look forward to "getting to know" you. As for housekeeping, a quote I heard recently runs through my head day after day. "Your house should be clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy." When I'm stessed at having to leave a mess I ask, "Is our house still clean enough to be healthy?" If the answer is, "yes," I relax and let the mess go for the moment, moving, without guilt, to the things that are most important: my job as a mother, a wife, a teacher.

  7. Thanks for sharing gals! This coffee talk was fun :) I really appreciated what everyone had to say--especially about remembering the beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility. If you want to school in the afternoon (instead of feeling like you have to start at 9:00), that's ok! Thanks for the reminder! :)
    Cheryl--I really liked what you said: "When you and your children are home all day every day it's gonna look lived in." GREAT point!
    And Jill, yes! That is a good middle ground--clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy. Glad you "discovered" me ;) Stick around! I look forward to getting to know you too!!

    If you're just joining the discussion, please feel free to add a comment!

  8. My mom homeschooled my brother and I K-12, so when I had my own children, I knew that for us that a routine was key to being somewhat successful. I have three children ages 7, 5 and 2. We start our day by waking the children at 7:30am to get dressed, make their beds, and be ready for family devotions at 7:45am. After my husband leaves for work, we eat breakfast and try to start school between 8:30am and 9am. I try to "attempt" to clean/straighten up the house while the children are eating their breakfast. During the afternoon, I attempt to follow the FlyLady missions and then after dinner, everyone helps pick up the house. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't. I try to remember that my children will only be this small once and I try to balance cleaning with enjoying their company and not to go crazy over a perfectly clean house.

  9. I am a homeschooling mom, I have a 6, 4, and 3 year old, our house is usually messy. I try to keep bathroom clean, my bed made, laundry washed, dishes washed, floors swept, dusted. I follow flylady somewhat. I usually do holusework before the kids wake up and before they go to bed. My biggest problem is I think I have too much stuff or too little of a house.

  10. I am at the back end of our homeschooling time-my youngest is almost 17. I can tell you that homeschooling 3 kids while rewarding was also challenging. I kept the kitchen clean, toliets clean and laundry washed but not always folded. Schoolwork usually got completed because that was an important focus for us. The crockpot and slow oven roasting was very helpful. Getting enough sleep including naps, eating well and homeschooling fairly peacefully and being flexible were the most important things for us. A house that was messy from happy activity was not a problem for me.

  11. I am not a homeschooler, but a teacher. Having a very stressful job causes me to be tired when I come home at night. The last thing I care about is whether the beds were made or if everything is in it's place. I want to relax and spend time with my daughter. I can have a perfectly clean house when she has graduated and no longer lives with me. As long as we have clothes for the next day and supper, I am happy. The summer is a different story. I tend to do more housework then and keep up with things better. I think each person has to do what works for them and not let other people dictate how their house should look or how much time they should spend doing housework.

  12. I have a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old. We will be homeschooling and I've been wondering how in the world I'm going to balance housework (in which I am currently drowning) and school (which has hardly become more than reading, writing and playing. Thanks for this thread!

  13. I have 5 and have been homeschool for 8 years, youngest have never had public ed. I'd say that I like to keep things loose for flexibility. So my times are general, just as long as the job gets done. Up no later than 7 and down by 9:30 for the youngest 3 and 11 for the older 2. Most book work, if any, has been generally getting done in the a.m. As for house tidying teach them young and keep realistic expectations. You'd be amazed how young they can actually be assigned a job/chore. My now oldest, 17, can oversee the whole house cleaning process, all meals for a day, and any child care duties as well - and he's a man. Lucky lady that gets him. ;-)

  14. I'm a homeschooling mom. I try my best to keep picked up. It's tough for me to keep going all day long. I don't have quite that energy! I do pretty well, except in organizing. I like to be organized so it drives me batty! I try to do that mostly in the summer, sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't! We've homeschooled from the beginning and I have a 4th & 3rd grader and an almost 4 year old.

  15. We are fast approaching the one year mark for our homeschooling. My daughter is 3 and a I have a 1 year old. She's young so our homeschooling is somewhat informal and focuses mostly on the basics. Our days are always kind of consistent, but homeschooling in the afternoon works best. I clean, cook and feed the girls while they watch TV and then move on to playing/reading together. After naps, the girls have snacks and I start to do our lessons with Kaelyn and have Anna a themed thing to do (right now we are working on colors, so she gets lots of blue colors (different shades of crayons, markers, chalk, and paper) and goes to town while I "instruct" Kaelyn. After our constructive lesson, I leave Kaelyn with a few "fun" worksheets that she can do independently while I work on Dinner or play with Anna. Right now it's kind of working, we manage about four total hours of "formal" homeschooling in addition to games/puzzles/activities we do as a family. I think we are doing pretty good!

  16. This is why I need your help! I have little boys. Breakfast comes first and school right after. They are hungry and eager to learn. Other than cleaning up after breakfast (often just stacking dishes on the counter) we get right into school after we eat. I would rather enjoy them than do housework :( which means we end up doing most of it in the evening before and after dinner, and I'm often still cleaning and putting in laundry after the children are in bed. At least we wake up to a relatively neat house, yet that is not a very relaxing evening, and when we're out it makes a late one! I don't like messes; so we clean as go a lot, and by clean I mean neaten, not clean. ;) So there are often dust bunnies by the time I find them. This doesn't come naturally to me either, but I've been learning little by little. My dislike of messy is my need to have less stuff. I turn around and need to purge again. That is my biggest help. Now if I can figure out how to get school done and the home clean and laundry done before dinner instead of after, I will be one happy mama! Thanks for a great post.

  17. I found your blog this week through another blog (I read so many that I have forgotten which one... sorry) and I love the fact that you are genuine. I homeschool my 8 year old son and do "circle time" with my 2 year old while awaiting the arrival of baby Butter Bean who is due in June. I have been "home schooling" since my oldest was a baby and it took a while to find a groove that worked for us.

    Above all, be flexible. SIMPER GUMBY! Like another comment said, there are going to be days where things get out of whack and you just need to go with the flow or you will pull your hair out and end up in tears.

    Do not compare yourself to others. Each family is different, what works for one may not work for another. Find what your family needs and what works best for them.

    After I learned the above, that is when I found a schedule that worked for us. The first few years were spent trying to be "Super Mom" and then I realized that "Super Mom" was too hard so now I am just me. And my kids still think I am super. :) Go figure.

    SO, here is our schedule:
    I wake up before the household for me time (work out and quiet time with the Lord). Then I prep breakfast and being to wake the children while hubby prepares for work.
    We eat breakfast as a family around 7:30am and then Daddy goes off to work and it is the kiddos and Mommy.
    After breakfast there is a chore list the kids complete (make beds, get ready for the day, unload dishwasher, take care of dirty clothes...) and I do my morning chores (load of laundry, tidy kitchen and bathroom, and vacuum if needed). It takes maybe an hour to complete our missions and then it is school time.

    we begin with circle time with my two year old around 9:00ish. This is when we set a blanket on the floor and sit in a circle. We open in prayer, sing songs, do a few activities, read books, end with song, and eat a snack. We are finished by 10:30 at the latest and my two year old is content and I begin school with my eight year old. We do school until noon and then we break for lunch.

    After lunch we tidy up the kitchen and bedrooms, have some free time where my older son can have a break and I snuggle with the toddler and get him ready for his nap. While the youngest naps I finish school with Ethan (my oldest) - this is when we do history/science which usually involves a project of some sort that would be difficult to complete with Uriah. We usually only need to spend another hour on school and then I have an hour to myself where I can nap, work on a project, blog, catch up on phone calls... whatever and E can do something he would like. By the time Uriah wakes up from nap it is time to prepare for supper and Daddy's return home. I find that it helps to have a schedule and the kids love having a chore chart. They can see what needs to be done and receive a sense of accomplishment when they have finished their tasks.

    There are days where we do specific things as well... I grocery shop in the morning with the kids every other week so that takes up circle time but I make shopping a game. Uriah has crayons and paper as well as a calculator so he can pretend to make a list and add things up. Ethan uses the calculator to add our items as we go and sees how close he is to the actual cost when we complete our check out.

    I just realized how long this "comment" was... it is more like a novel. So sorry. I hope there is something that is helpful by reading my ramblings. Please feel free to visit my blog to learn more about our daily lives and you can see that you are not alone in having days that just don't seem to go the way you want them to. You can find my blog at
    :) Many blessings to you and your family,