HOMESCHOOL AND HOUSEWORK!
by Tamara Eaton
Does the combination of homeschool and housework seem like oil and water--they
just don't mix? It used to seem like we were either successful in
homeschooling or housework but never both in the same day. It's easier now--
our kids are older, we have a good system and most importantly-- lower
standards! We would never make the cover of "Better Homes and
Gardens" but at times we could qualify for "Cluttered
Homes and Jungles"!
Here are some tips that have worked for our family:
SIMPLIFY & DECLUTTER!
- Make a list of everything that needs to be done then work toward
your goal. Don't despair over the things still undone but know you'll get
to it eventually. In the meantime, work at maintaining what you've already
accomplished so it doesn't get so cluttered again.
- Be RUTHLESS--get rid of things you don't use or need! Organize
into three boxes: Throw away, Give away, and Put away.
- Invest in inexpensive storage containers for things you must
keep. We purchased 19 gallon rectangle storage boxes with lids for $5 each
from K-Mart and use them for to store homeschool supplies, library books
(we could qualify as a branch of our public library with all the books we
check out!), clothes, "treasures", legos, toys, etc.
- Don't try to do too much all at once. Focus on one area at a time
and set reasonable goals. Perhaps one room a week? Or one closet a week?
This way the rest of your routine doesn't suffer as much and you're not
- Limit "knickknacks" and go for clear spaces to make
cleaning easier. We already have plenty of "educational clutter"
to "decorate" our homes!
- Take 15-30 minutes to do some of those "dirty jobs"
that you've been putting off for ages. Clean one window, or one drawer.
Then stop and get back to the normal routine.
OUR DAILY ROUTINE:
In earlier years
when my children were too young to help out much around the house, I neatened
up the house before bedtime each evening. That helped us get off to a better
start the next morning. After breakfast I would get them started playing while
I quickly did the morning chores. Afterwards, my day was free to play with
them, teach them, care for them and enjoy them. I loved it! (Although it
certainly had its shares of frustrations at times!) I stayed home a lot, which
was my main secret for success.
Now that my children are
older, they have regular kitchen chores which don't change except two
or three times a year so it's easy for everyone to know what is expected. I
can also tell at a glance who has done his job--no more confusion about which
child is responsible for each chore. Then each child picks a part of the
family room to clean up quickly. I neaten up the bathrooms, living room,
master bedroom and help the youngest two clean up their room.
We try to have 9 AM as our
deadline each morning to have all chores completed and the main living area
picked up. Then we schedule several quick pick-ups a day: after lunch, before
supper, and before bedtime. Friday mornings are for "deep
cleaning"--many hands make light work, then we have "computer
school" for the rest of the day or the kids do educational projects.
If the house is a wreck and
standards are creeping way too low, we take off from school and other
activities and concentrate on getting things in order. Instead of
"nagging" the children, we politely and firmly tell them what we
need done. (In our home, children who don't follow instructions when asked,
get added jobs or responsibilities.)
TRAINING CHILDREN TO HELP:
It's been my experience that
young children are the most enthusiastic helpers! It's important
not to overwhelm them though because what looks like a small task to us, can
seem enormous to them. It's best to have them work along beside us. Even a 2
year old can fold bath cloths, pick up toys and books, etc. with mom close at
hand working, too.
I rarely tell younger children
(7 and under) to do something without sticking around to see that it's done
and working right beside them. This helps create good work habits. As they get
older, I give them more responsibility and expect them to be able to complete
a task whether I am there or not.
It's easier to be consistent
if I require a small amount and make sure it's done. Otherwise, they get
into the habit of not obeying right away, or not finishing a job. I use the
same principles to train older children who have poor working habits. Many
parents don't like the way their kids clean up, but they don't take the time
to demonstrate more efficient ways to do it. We want to help our children
learn to do a job well.
William and I have also put
on "training workshops". We pretended to be a couple of the
children and demonstrated poor working habits, contrasting them with good
working habits. The children thought it was hilarious! Then we purposely
messed up the den and allowed each child to come in and clean it up as fast as
he could, timing him. We demonstrated time-saving motions and encouraged them
to use them. They all did a very good job, from the oldest down to the
youngest. The (at that time) 3 year old won the contest!
Young children are notorious for
messing up the house. It helps to keep an eye on their activities during the
day as a preventative measure--otherwise they start many different activities
and forget to put anything away. Or they scatter their things all over the
house! It also helps to create special play areas using a small quilt or
child-sized table and chairs in the main homeschooling area. This confines
their toys to a specific area and they enjoy being in the center of things.
They can be taught to play quietly, or to go to another room if they're
distracting the rest of the children.
Be consistent in training
children to help with chores. I had years when I'd wonder if my kids would
EVER get to the point where they wouldn't need supervision or to be reminded.
Eventually consistency paid off. They aren't perfect yet (kids usually don't
see all that moms see!), but they generally do their jobs without reminders
and can manage the whole house, if necessary. (At least the teens can, the
younger two are still "in training"!)
Two years ago, I was very sick
and for several months my older four children did all the housework and most
of the cooking and helped take care of the younger two children. It made all
the difference in the world, and was good training for them, too. They
practiced teamwork and since then, have viewed our home as our joint
responsibility--often they tell me to go do something else and let them take
care of the cleaning up. Hang in there, it is worth it!
If anyone whines or complains
about working, I give them a little extra work. If they keep on, I add
some more. It nips it in the bud! Bad attitudes are catching, so I try to keep
a positive attitude myself about work. We put on peppy music and get it done
as fast as we can. Teamwork is great!
If someone is purposely dragging
his chores out and not cooperating, a little extra work solves this problem,
too. We always seem to have an area beneath a couch that needs cleaning or a
porch to sweep!
I have organized the younger
children's room so that it is easier to keep neat. We use large rubbermaid
tubs with lids to organize their toys. Their favorite toys stay out, but
everything else is stored in their closet which is off limits to them.
Occasionally we rotate toys.
They have legos in one
container, little cars and trucks in another container, and dolls and
accessories in another. They each have a "treasure drawer" where
they keep their very special treasures (bird feathers, pretty rocks, letters,
drawings, pogs, etc.). Each morning I help them straighten their room, and
check it several times a day, too. It stays neat this way and they enjoy
playing there so much more! If I weren't involved, it would be a mess
Older children sometimes need
encouragement, too. They look at their disorderly bedrooms and don't know
where to begin! It helps for them to have some steps to follow. This is what
- Make beds.
- Pick up all clothes.
- Pick up all books.
- Pick up any toys.
- Pick up any paper or trash.
By this time the room should be
presentable and they have room to vacuum and dust, etc. What was once a
insurmountable task becomes possible!
QUICK PICK-UP GAMES:
- "Around the World" - Usually we divide the family room
into parts and each child has a part to clean, but sometimes we play
"Around the World". Each person works his way around the room
clockwise until everything is neat and clean.
- "The Age Game" - Everyone picks up the same number of
items as his own age, then if there are items left over, they do it again.
Only problem is when they want the parents to pick up the same number of
items as their age--whew!
- "Mr. Jones is Coming!" - We clean up the house as fast
as we can, pretending that Mr. Jones is coming over at a specific time. If
we finish in time, we celebrate with a tea party. If we need more
time--well sometimes "Mr. Jones" gives us a call and says he has
been delayed for a bit! Sometimes Dad dresses up as "Mr. Jones"
and comes around to the front door and rings the bell. Inspection time
KEEP YOUR PERSPECTIVE!
I find that I go in cycles
--there are times we're caught up in other projects and we let the housework
go, only doing the basics. Other times, I get in the mood (or force myself!)
to make our standards higher and in the process, usually move some furniture
around and make it cosier, redecorate, etc. I do the same thing with extra
baking and elaborate cooking.
William has told me many times
that although he appreciates us having the house extra neat and clean and
cooking extra special meals, he also appreciates all the time and effort that
is going into our homeschooling and discipling our children. He also
encourages me to write, work on the computer, keep up with my reading, and do
other things. I appreciate his balanced view because sometimes I feel guilty
over the simple meals or how the laundry is never totally done. But we are
enjoying our family so much and we know we won't have that many years left
before they will no longer be under our roof!
Elisabeth Elliot shared the
following essay written many years ago by an unknown mother in one of her
newsletters ( Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter, P.O. Box 7711, Ann Arbor,
Michigan 48107-7711 -$7 yr.) She says while not too many women iron sheets
these days, it is still possible to let many other things take precedence over
the primary task.
"I am sadly concerned
that thousands of mothers are so over-burdened that the actual demands of life
from day to day consume all their time and strength. But of two evils, choose
the lesser: which would you call the lesser--an unpolished stove or an
untaught boy? Dirty windows, or a child whose confidence you have failed to
gain? Cobwebs in the corner, or a son over whose soul a crust has formed, so
strong that you despair of melting it with your hot tears and fervent prayers?
I have seen a woman who was
absolutely ignorant of her children's habits of thought, who never felt that
she could spare a half-hour to read or talk with them--I have seen this woman
spend ten minutes in ironing a sheet, or forty minutes icing a cake for tea,
because company was expected.
When the mother, a good
orthodox Christian, shall appear before the Great White Throne to be judged
for the "deeds done in the body," and to give her report of the
master's treasures placed in her care, there will be questions and answers
"Where are the boys and
girls I gave thee?"
"Lord, I was busy
keeping my house clean and in order, and my children wandered away."
"Where wert thou while
thy sons and thy daughters were learning lessons of dishonesty, malice and
"Lord, I was polishing
furniture and making beautiful rugs."
"What hast thou to show
for thy life's work?"
"The tidiest house,
Lord, and the best starching and ironing in all our neighborhood!"
Oh these children, these
children! The restless eager boys and girls whom we love more than our lives!
Shall we devote our time and strength to that which perishes while the rich
garden of our child's soul lies neglected, with foul weeds choking out all
worthy and beautiful growths? Fleeting indeed, O mother, are the days of
childhood, and speckless windows, snowy linen, the consciousness that
everything about the house is faultlessly bright and clean will be poor
comfort in that day wherein we shall discover that our poor boy's feet have
chosen the path that shall take him out of the way to all eternity."--Author
If I'm tempted to be
discouraged over the state of my house, I remember the scripture I prayed
many years ago when I was unable to conceive: "He maketh the barren
woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the
Lord!" (Psalm 113:9) I am filled with thankfulness that
the Lord so abundantly answered our prayers with six precious children! (
Note: March 2002 we were blessed with our seventh, a precious little
"mid-life bonus blessing" from the Lord!) They
are MORE than worth ALL the work involved in keeping house for them! Give your
children a hug and offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for them and don't forget
to greet your dear husband with a hug and kiss and a cheerful hello when he
gets home from work-- chances are, he won't even *notice* how the house looks!
© Copyright Tamara Eaton 1994-2005, all rights reserved.
Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit
publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the
copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the
publication to :Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.
We have always homeschooled our seven children (elementary through high
school and beyond!) and enjoy encouraging other families in their
homeschooling, parenting and in the Lord! For more help and information,
please join us on the Christian Homeschool
Fellowship Message Board.
[ Please don't forget to include your email address within the body of your
message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient email
"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."