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“I don’t know how you do it. I know I never could.”
The common response when people ask where my kids go to school and I respond with “home.” To which I mutter something back about how it’s not as hard as you might think and we’ve never really known anything different…it’s just what we do.
But I get what they mean. When you’re peeking into somebody else’s life that is so very different than your own, our common response is, I have no idea how they do it.
When it comes to homeschooling, I would guess that most public school parents envision doing school with their kids on top of their already busy school lives. We forget that when you homeschool, so much of that regular school busyness is gone and we create our own schedules. Things like snack day, remembering to come in and read to the class, have your kids to the bus stop at a certain time–that’s all gone, freeing up time to craft our days the way we want to.
This is not to say there isn’t some juggling involved. In the past several months we’ve been balancing sports with multiple kids, trips, Scouts, birthdays, school, field trips, nature classes, work schedules, and whatever else comes our way. The key to me has always been not letting one of these areas: school, activities, work, and home get too heavy. I can’t way it’s always working smoothly, but we always feel it when one of these areas starts to weigh down the scales.
Here’s quick and simple list of how we (try) to keep each of these areas as balanced as we can.
- Assignment notebooks: if each kid has their own list for the day, that saves me from having to explain each detail in words. They love having this guidance each morning.
- We don’t do more than one big unit at a time. There’s a 99% chance that if we’re doing a big history unit, we’re not doing science at all. It’s too much to plan all at once and too much for the kids to keep straight. This is a limit I know is true for us.
- We need a good balance of work they can do independently and work I need to help them with. The kids can do their language arts pretty much on their own, with little guidance from me. For math, I will go to each kid, explain their lessons, and they can usually complete the problems on their own and I’m just there for back-up if they have a question. This works for us. If each thing we did required me spend solid one-on-one time, it wouldn’t work. But each kid working independently with me close by to help, works much better for us.
- Only one sport at a time. Sports take up a lot of time. Two would be insane for us. Over the winter, two of my kids did basketball. This spring, two will do baseball. This is enough for us.
- The shorter the season, the better. I have found that we do a lot better with activities that last 6-8 weeks. Any longer than that and everyone is getting crabby about it.
- We test things before we sign up. So, if somebody is saying they are dying to do basketball, we’ll take them to an open gym or to a park to shoot around. If they’re really into it after a few trips to the courts, we’ll sign them up. If not, then we’ll wait on it. It’s better for us to test it out rather than sign away 8 weeks of our life to drag a kid around that’s really not all that interested.
- My husband doesn’t have to travel too much, which is great. When he does, he can usually coordinate when he goes with our schedule so he’s not leaving on a really busy week.
- For me, I think the best thing I did was start to recognize that my online work really is a job. Ya, it’s part-time and no it doesn’t support our family fully, but it does come in handy when we want to go away for the weekend or replace smelly carpet.
- As my work has gotten busier in the last year or so, we’ve had to keep a lot of communication on what I have to get done and when that’s going to get accomplished. We’ve set up one night a week where I go to a coffee shop or book store to write. I also work for a good chunk of time on Saturday mornings. The other days of the week, I work here and there in the pockets. Depending on the day, I might work an hour in the afternoon while the kids are occupied. Or I might get up and edit some photos before the kids are up or write a few outlines.
Balancing Home Stuff
- Between working, schooling, and activities, this alone keeps our days pretty darn full. But then there’s that little thing called eating meals, cleaning, and laundry. Dang.
- Meals. I have admitted on many an occasion that I’m not the best meal planner. Actually, I have a blank paper next to my computer right now staring at me, waiting to be filled in with healthy, easy meals, but in reality will filled in with some great recipes I would love to cook (because I’m hungry right now and everything sounds good) but when the day to make them rolls around, I’ll probably just throw something together quickly and forget about that recipe.
- Freezer meals are my very best friend. I know I can pull something out that’s already cooked, pretty healthy, and I don’t have to think about it too hard.
- Having a well-stocked pantry really helps too.
- Shopping once a week also forces me to be more focused on what we’re making for the week, instead of running every other day.
- Laundry. I’ve tried to have a day or two a week that’s a designated Laundry Day, but every time, I’ve been almost consumed by loads of dirty socks and towels. This method has also resulted in too many days of one kid wearing too-short sweat pants to a field trip or errands because all their jeans are in the wash. So now, I do one load a day. This seems to work so much better for me. On weekends, I’ll wash all the towels and sheets. The kids will then help me make the beds and everyone has fresh sheets for a fresh week.
- Cleaning. Oh ya, that. During the week, I really just don’t do it. I realized this year, that trying to do school, cook meals, do a load of laundry, work, and clean all in one day it too much. I could clean toilets on Mondays, dust on Tuesdays, etc, but then I would have as much time to read to my kids or have a Poetry Teatime, or do a spontaneous art project and that’s a non-negotiable for me.
- Each kid does chores each day. This helps so much with their rooms, and my kids do not function well with chaotic rooms–and neither do I.
- We keep the clutter to a minimum, which helps it to feel clean even if there’s dust bunnies in the corners.
- Saturday is our cleaning day. Everyone helps and we clean bathrooms, sweep, mop, dust, vacuum, and whatever else really needs to be done. I usually set a timer and give everyone a list and it goes pretty fast. I have had to let go of a lot of control in this because I am usually pretty picky about how things are cleaned. I just take those areas that are most important to me, and let the kids go with the rest. I’ll guide them on how to do a good job, but I’ve reconciled with the fact that they’re probably not going to do it was well as I do, and that’s ok.