Advice to Homeschooling Mothers – Managing Your Home
Being a homeschooling mother, it is often difficult to manage your housework and cooking along with homeschooling your child. We need to learn balance and we also need to learn ways to make this job a little easier for ourselves, insha’Allah. We also need to let go of feeling that we always have to have everything in the house perfect – homeschooling well does not allow for that much time. So, I thought I’d share with some ideas I have learned through my own experiences.
Managing the house
Cooking and cleaning can be a pain – but they are essential – and usually you are the only one who can do it. I used to stay up late at night after the kiddos finally went to bed to clean dishes and straighten up the house. However, then I would wake later the next morning and feel grumpy throughout the day. Your body needs rest. I have found it is rather beneficial to try your best to wake early. I am not always good at it – but when I do, I am greatly rewarded. While the kiddos are still sleeping you can get quite a bit done (aside from vacuuming and any other noisy chores). The early morning is much more peaceful and it seems like you get a lot more done in less time. I sometimes forget this and revert to doing things at night – but sincerely, starting my day early is a goal for me that I’m still trying to achieve.
Some people cook and freeze a week’s or a month’s worth of food. Then, throughout the week they just need to heat it up and it is ready. I have never been able to do that. I cook with a lot of vegetables and just love the taste of fresh food. A pressure cooker is definitely a good tool for a homeschooler – helping you to cook your food in less time. I don’t always use my pressure cooker – though – it depends on what I am going to make. One thing that I do is cook for more than one meal at a time. So, when I cook we always have left-overs for a few days. We aren’t too picky that we have to eat something new every day – so this works for us.
Another nice thing we have done as a family is to eat small meals at night. This is also in an attempt for a more healthy lifestyle. Instead of having a heavy meal and then going to bed – we eat soup and a small sandwich or salad and fruit. This has made dinner time much easier for me as well – I just need to make sure we have lunch (our heaviest meal) ready for the next day. I have learned – over the years – several recipes for food that is healthy and can be cooked pretty quickly. Also – at least since homeschooling – I am learning to look at what is in the fridge and deciding quickly what to put together for a meal (not following a recipe). We always have frozen fruit and frozen vegetables in the freezer – so it makes cooking easier for me.
I have tried different methods for keeping the house cleaner. I have tried setting aside one day a week to clean. That method is okay – but it seemed like the kiddos would always mess up things before the week was out. Also, if I focused only on the house – it was too difficult for me to manage that and homeschool that day. If I don’t pay attention to what the kiddos are doing – they won’t get their work done – they are easily distracted. Nothing distracts them more than mommy being busy! 🙂
I have also tried cleaning one area/room of the house each day. This seems to help more than the previous method. Each day I also go around the house with the kiddos and try to pick up anything that needs to be put away.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE:
I have one final point about managing housework that should not be overlooked – at least, in my opinion. I am quite an organized person (not always with time – but with things around the house). You would easily see that if you visited my home, masha’Allah. I have a philosophy – if you want to keep things clean – everything must have a place – and everything must be put in its place. I have found this philosophy useful especially after having children. For anything I have in the house – I have to have a place for it. So, in the school room I have everything – except for books – in plastic shoe boxes. To make it easier to find things, I have put labels on each box telling me what it contains. When the kiddos need something – they look for its box. When they are finished – they have to put it back in the box and put the box back on the shelf where it belongs. They can only have one box out at a time – and when they are finished, they have to clean up completely before they can open another box. This makes cleaning the house much easier for me.
If I find a book in the middle of the floor – I tell the kids “put it where it belongs” and they take it and put it on either the bookshelf upstairs or downstairs. When I find crayons on the floor or all over the table – I tell the kids “put it where it belongs” and they put them back in the plastic tub on the school room table. When the kiddos are finished with their school work – they put the finished papers in the in-box and put their books on the shelf I have set aside for their school books. I separate their books by putting them in plastic bins on top of the shelf. I am sure that this method has helped me a great deal with cleaning the house – and has saved me a lot of time.
In the living room I keep larger plastic tubs – one is filled with their train set, another is filled with Kapla blocks – and yet another is filled with lincoln logs. I even went so far as to put picture labels on each box to help my youngest learn where the different toys belong. I know it may be strange to find a house filled with Rubbermaid tubs – but I don’t mind it at all. It has definitely simplified keeping my house clean and enables me to keep the kids responsible for putting their toys away when they are done with them.
I decided that it might be easier to show you pictures and to explain what I have done. Here are a few pictures:
Here you can see the top of a shelf in the school room. We purchased several 100 piece and 500 piece puzzles for the older kiddos to do with me. The boxes just took up too much room. So, I put each puzzle in large baggies and put as many as I could into a plastic shoe bin. This way the puzzles are kept together where they belong and (being on the top shelf) out of the hands of our youngest homeschooler.
You also can see boxes full of large markers, small markers, pens and pencils, alphabet letter stamps, and craft items. Each of the shelves in our school room have boxes like these on the top – filled with small items like stickers, scissors, etc. The boxes keep all these things separated and make it easier to put them away properly. Some similar items are placed in a box together – pencils and erasers, for example.
These larger boxes are on the middle of a shelf. Normally I would want these things away from little hands but these boxes are harder to open. This makes it easier to keep our youngest homeschooler from getting into them and messing things up or breaking things. The boxes contain games that we play together – either educational games, or fun games. One box only contains phonics-related games and another box contains math-related games. One box also contains games that the younger homeschooler is allowed to play by herself or with one of us. She just needs momma to open it up for her 🙂
On the very bottom shelf you find smaller shoe size boxes – these contain manipulatives for the youngest kiddo. These boxes are easy to open – so they are on the bottom shelf for her to pick out on her own. The rule of the house applies though – if she wants to play with something else, she has to put everything back into its box. Alhumdulilah, she has been pretty good with this rule – but it does take time to teach them.
This is a picture of our living room bookshelf. I don’t worry about the books being put in any particular order on the shelves – but ask the kiddos to clean them up a bit when it looks like books are shoved here and there. Usually, they are pretty good with their books.
On the top of the bookshelf you see two plastic bins. I know it’s not the most beautiful living room you have seen – but I have found it essential to make the house more child accessible. Each bin belongs to a particular child. When we return from our many trips to the library, this is where they put the books they have taken out. Our youngest also has her own bin sitting on a side table in the same room. This way their books don’t get lost – they belong somewhere – and they don’t get mixed up either.
The plastic boxes on each side of the bookshelf contain what I call “thinking toys”. They contain a wooden train set, wooden blocks of different sizes and shapes, Tinkertoys, and large lacing beads for my youngest. The children are able to use any of these boxes any time they want – but they have to make sure to put everything back into the box and in its place. While they do make mistakes – for the most part this has been one of the more successful organizational methods I have found for making the kids straighten up their messes. It takes a load off my back – when I find a mess – to simply say “put it back where it belongs” and they don’t have to ask “where does it belong?” As you can see in the picture, I even put pictures on each of the bins so my youngest can see where they belong.
While I am sure there are many more organizational ideas you could come up with – I have found that these have worked best for me. It takes time – you need to see what ideas are out there and then try them in your own home to see if they will work for you. Insha’Allah, these ideas will help you to find ways to manage your home a little better – and to more easily homeschool your child.
Sumayyah Umm SAA