You homeschooling moms.. you already know where I’m going with this.

It’s a never ending battle..

The laundry grows when you’re not looking, the dishes breed in the sink, the dust bunnies are gathering under the couch plotting a full scale onslaught while you sleep! *insert scary psycho music here*

One of the hardest things for me is balancing housework and homework — how do I get it all done? And from the conversations I have with other homeschool moms.. I’m not the only one in this boat. You with me?

And stop me if you’ve heard this one:

“But you’re home all day…”

Exactly! We’re home all day! We use stuff… all day! The kids use dishes, discard clothes, play with toys, drop pencils.. all day! Sometimes it seems like the mess grows just as quickly as we clean it.. do you have the same problem at your house?

So how do we balance the housework and the homework? Well, I’m not perfect but I have found a few things that work for me and I’m hoping that as the kids get even older we’ll get even better at it. =)

First, it’s about priorities.

Over the years, we’ve been back and forth about whether or not we should get up and eat breakfast and then immediately start on school (like they would if they were in public school) or have a time period of morning chores to do first (since we ARE home all day and we need to be able to take care of our space as we go.) James tends to lean toward the first option but I really, really NEED the second one, I really need a morning routine. And I think we all do, the kids included. Even if we don’t spend a lot of time on it, I think it’s helpful to get dressed, brush teeth and hair, clear the food and dishes from breakfast and tidy up the living area at the very least. By the time you add in making beds, feeding the cat & a myriad of excuses, morning chores can draw out much longer than I’d like them to, so it’s also important to set a time limit and a starting time for school so that school doesn’t become neglected. Whatever doesn’t get taken care of right then can get taken care of later, but it’s important to do SOMETHING first so that we don’t have to do it ALL later.

Second, it’s important to clean throughout the day.

Oh if only once a day cleaning were enough. Alas, it is NOT. =( We need to tidy after lunch, after snack, after supper and whenever else we can fit some cleaning in between the eating, school, bathing, playing outside, sleeping and spending time together as a family. We’ve tried all manner of chore systems, chore charts, daily chore checklists,..the list goes on and on. The thing we use now, that we like the best, that works the best for us is our “20 minute clean up.” We can use it at regular intervals throughout the day, or spontaneously as the need arises and we can knock out a huge amount of work in one fell swoop. I love it! And it involves everybody, the 5 year old included, which I think is important. Also, it’s a funny thing.. it seems like cleaning more often actually makes the work load lighter and easier. HUH. IMAGINE THAT….

The third thing we do… a big Saturday work day.

I know, I know.. Saturdays are supposed to be fun, right? A long, lazy, do nothing kind of day? Or maybe a go out with friends and do something kind of day.. isn’t that we all grew up thinking as kids?? Well, I did and let me tell you, I grew up and found out that it’s a big FAT “no.” God gave us 6 days of work and 1 day of rest because he knew that was a good pattern. He knew that one day of laying around and being lazy can undo all the work you’ve done over the past five days. He knew that if you were going to rest on that 7th day you were going to need to get some extra work done on that 6th day. There’s just a lot of reasons to get some housework done on Saturday, much to my children’s chagrin. But let me also tell you that the better the job you do of cleaning regularly throughout the day throughout the work week, the easier your Saturday job will be. And if you get started early and work hard and quick on Saturday morning, you can be done by Saturday lunch and THEN guess what you get to do? You get to relax! My children really aren’t in favor of a Saturday cleaning day, but as a homeschooler who doesn’t want the housework overloading the homework during the week… it’s a necessary evil. And if we do it right, we truly get to rest and enjoy our Sunday and that makes it even better.

Fourth and finally… good habits are important.

Keeping good habits are so hard for me.. I fall out of them so easily. It’s important to work hard to keep the good habits that work for us. Morning routines, morning chores, regular cleaning, regular breaks are important also, picking up after ourselves (staying on top of the kids when they set things down and walk away from them is a hard one for me,) picking up before bedtime, cleaning on Saturdays. We need to make sure that we keep all these habits in place. We can also cut down on the amount of dishes used in the middle of the day by using paper plates or napkins, sharing a big platter and eating finger foods. We can cut back on laundry by not changing clothes unnecessarily and being careful not to spill or dirty what we’re wearing carelessly. Cut back on vacuuming by not eating in the living room and reduce the amount of work it takes to wash dishes by rinsing them before food hardens on them. There are so many little habits that make our day go smoother.

I can also tell you what doesn’t work.. Getting Behind!

I feel like I’m in a constant state of two steps forward, one step back. On the other hand, I used to feel like it was two steps forward and two or three steps back so at least there is some improvement. =) I feel like I have enough experience in the “getting behind” department that I can safely say this: “Getting behind does not work!” It’s not good. Avoid it if you can. In fact.. do not come to my house right now. Doing so might cause you to seriously doubt everything I just said. Because right now? Right now we are behind. My house was looking great over our three week Spring Break. I was cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.. the kids spent nearly all day outside instead of making messes inside… it was great! But then… we got out of so many good habits during Spring Break (bad, bad, bad!!) and we were gone a lot helping my mom unpack and just having fun spending time with her so we got behind on the house work (bad, bad, bad!!) and when you put those two together it’s just a recipe for disaster. A house sized one. So now we’re catching up on housework and re-establishing our habits. And it’s a lot of work. And we’re still doing school at the same time because it’s not Summer break for us yet. So how do you get caught up when you get behind? Just dig in. Just do it. Work around the room. Do some school, then some housework, then some more school and some more housework. Piece by piece you’ll get caught up. And while you do that, put those habits back in place so that you can keep it clean as you get it clean.

Balancing housework and homework is always going to be an issue. The circumstances may change a little.. it will look different when you have a child that can wash dishes and mop the floor verses a child that can’t even tie his own shoes. But there will always be school work and there will always be housework and learning to balance the two now will only be a great benefit to your children when they need to manage their own homes and their college work or their employment work or maybe even their own homeschooling later. Time management, prioritizing, good work ethic… these things will benefit your children regardless of where they end up in life later. Good habits start now! (Trust me–it so much harder to start good habits as an adult!)

What about you–how do you manage to keep the house work at bay while the school work is being done?

This post is a part of the ABC’s of Homeschooling series at 5 Kids and a Dog.

You can find my previous ABC posts here:

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Hey, y’all! I’m Amber and I wear many hats. I drink a ton of coffee and I’m constantly sweeping crumbs off the floor. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m getting close to graduating my third child and now we are starting over at preschool with our fourth, Lil Miss Mouse. She keeps us young and she’s the main reason for my excessive coffee consumption. Drink up!