Running a household is a big task. You have so many things to keep track of and do each day.
Running a household and homeschooling? That can mean even more to handle.
And it is a big calling. But you also gain a lot of flexibility when the kids are home with you for school. You have more freedom to shape your family’s days. So, to help you think through how to set up your homeschool days, consider these six key questions you may need to address.
You probably already have great answers for some of these. But if you’re not satisfied with how you’ve done things in the past, summer can be the perfect time to decide on some changes!
So here we go:
- Where will we do school? Many families spend their homeschool days at the dining room table and on the couch. Others create an entire school room in their house. Find what works for your family in your house and consider how to make the space a comfortable, inviting place to learn. Check out this blog post for some basic ideas.
- Where will we store our materials? This is a key to homeschool sanity. Have a plan – even if it’s simple – of where you’ll keep your books, Instructor Guide binders, paper, pencils, art supplies and whatever else you use for school. Many moms like to have a basket or a plastic drawer for each child. At the end of a day, each child is responsible for putting his or her supplies in the appropriate basket.
- What basic schedule will we follow each day?You get to decide how your days unfold. So you can do what works well for you! When I was homeschooling, we started the day with seat work (math and language arts) and I moved between the children helping where I was needed. I also used that time to throw in a load of laundry, wash the dishes, and pull out meat for dinner. Then we all took a break together, and then settled into reading together. We started with Bible, then read our history and science together, and closed with our Read-Aloud. The kids prepared their own simple lunches and we ate together. After that, the kids usually played on their own until dinner. (If you’re curious, read more about my routine here.)
But that’s just one way of doing things. The key is to find something that works with your habits and your needs. So consider: Do you want to maintain a certain start-time each day, or do you prefer a flexible easing-in to your day? Do you need to schedule different days of the week differently depending on outside activities? Do you want to do every subject every day, or do you want to perhaps do science three days a week and art one day? (I definitely recommend making time for reading and math every day.) Make a basic schedule that you think will work and then feel free to adjust as you get into the year.
- What will my family eat? Who will prepare the meals? A homeschool parent’s job includes more than just teaching. We also need to feed our families. Every day. Since this task is a constant, I think it helps to keep things simple and develop some sort of plan. I built up a repertoire of basic, tasty dishes that we just made over and over for dinner. I would plan a meat for each night (e.g., chicken on Tuesdays) and would pick a recipe based on that choice. We’d always have a hot vegetable and some cut-up fruit as sides. John would bring home pizza on Thursday evenings. We really kept it simple, and I savored the chance to sit down with the whole family each night.
My friend Judy developed a similar system that worked really well for her. Each week was the same rotation: Monday was chicken night, Tuesday was pasta, Wednesday meant casserole or soup, Thursday was a beef dish, and Friday meant homemade pizza. She kept an index card box stocked with recipes sorted by these categories. Two weeks at a time, she’d pull out a recipe from the right category for each night and make her shopping list. Every morning she knew exactly what she was going to make for dinner!
And beyond meal planning, consider this real time-saver: are any of your children old enough to plan and cook a meal on their own? Would your spouse enjoy cooking one (or several) nights a week? Many families assign each older child one night a week to plan and cook. You might be on call for questions, but before long it will really save you time. Plus, it will help your children develop a fantastic life skill.
- How will we keep our clothes, dishes and house reasonably clean? Unless you can hire cleaning help each day, you’ll probably spend time cleaning every day. This is another area where I’d encourage you to give your children as much responsibility as you reasonably can. Your family is a team, and your kids can learn to work on that team to help everything run smoothly. That can mean sorting their own clothes, doing their own laundry, and doing substantial chores. Consider the post Everyone Needs a Job for inspiration about this concept.
If you feel overwhelmed with cleaning, talk to your spouse and brainstorm solutions. Maybe you can get more help than you realize, or maybe you can lower your standards for a while.
- What will we cut out of our life?This question is critical. The seasons of a homeschool parent’s life ebb and flow dramatically. What works in one season may not work in another. Homeschooling is a season where you really have to choose your priorities. So to help you focus on what is most important, consider if you need to:
- Stop cooking fancy weekday dinners: Better a simple, healthy meal with a peaceful mom than an elaborate meal with a stressed-out mom!
- Quit some extra-curricular activities: If running your kids to activities has taken over your life, you might really appreciate cutting back. We eventually decided that all our kids would do the same activities together (community band and swim team). That saved my sanity for a season!
- Clear out the clutter: We all know it – clutter increases everyone’s stress. It’s hard to work, learn, and stay calm in an overly cluttered environment. If your level of messiness is fine with you, don’t sweat it. But if you want to make a change in this area, now might be the time, before you dive into another academic year.Need help? You might appreciate our simple PDF “Conquer Your Clutter in Eight Easy Steps”, the popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (if you can look past the odd “inanimate objects have feelings” motif), or the very practical Clutterfree with Kids.
- Lower any unreasonable standards: I had to accept that my house would not be as clean as I would ideally like it in our homeschooling years. I also just could not do every volunteer opportunity, church function or field trip that I wanted to do. For me, it was far better to accept what was feasible and find joy in that than to wear myself down with striving for perfection.
What do you think? Did any of these questions jump out at you? Is there anything you want to change this year, or are you pretty happy with how things are going?
If you want to talk with someone about your questions or challenges, our Sonlight Homeschool Advisors are ready to help. We are here for you as you live out this noble calling of homeschooling.
And remember, you don’t need to do any of this perfectly. “Good enough” can be your biggest ally in these busy but rich years at home with your children. And as always, thank you for doing all you do to help raise the next generation!
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