Managing homemaking and homeschooling can be a tricky thing. If you are anything like me, juggling the homemaking and homeschooling at the same time can be overwhelming at times. Laundry, cleaning, cooking meals, and caring for the children is a lot when you add homeschooling into the mix. I fail...often. However, I have learned a few tips along the way to make my life a little easier while still making sure everyone completes their assignments.
Before I get into the list of tips, I think it's important to remind you that every one of us are wired differently. We have different cleanliness standards and expectations for our household. My tolerance for unfolded laundry might be a deal-breaker for you. So, take these tips and make them your own. These are just a few suggestions to make life easier while you are homeschooling.
1. Lower your expectations
News flash: your standards might be too high. Keeping a spotless house might not be attainable for the season you are in. If you're in the season where the toddlers are dumping the toy baskets the second you clean them up, well, you're in a season that might be a little messy.
If you are in the season where your kids can do chores and do them well, then you might be in a cleaner season. I'm not saying let the house go completely, but remember that you are really living in your house and most days it will look like it. Think about what is necessary and what are just preferences. For example, my husband couldn't care less about the bed being made, but he does care that he has clean underwear. Pick your priorities.
2. Quit comparing
Stop comparing your worst days with someone's best. Your house might not look like those houses you see on Pinterest and that's ok. Really, it is. Your friend with the spotless house might be in a different season than you. Or, she might be frantically cleaning right before you get there to make you think her house is spotless.
Just stop comparing. This goes for everything really, not just homemaking. It's too easy to get caught up in the comparison trap.
3. A load a day
Laundry seems to multiply at rapid speed. The piles grow and grow and grow. I've learned that doing a load of laundry every day (or sometimes every other day) can cut down on the leaning tower of laundry.
Start the washing machine in the morning, switch the clothes to the dryer at lunch time, and then fold them when you are finished with school. Have everyone that can put away their own laundry and you'll be done in no time. Teaching your kids how to help fold and put away laundry is a sanity saver.
4. Meal planning pays off
This is one area that I struggle with. Planning meals and getting them on the table is my nemesis. However, I have learned that having a plan for dinner ahead of time not only keeps me from pulling out my hair at 5:00, but also helps us eat healthier, too. Taking a few minutes to plan out our meals for the week has paid off. Plus, it's easier to stick to your grocery budget when you have a plan. That alone is enough to convince me to meal plan.
5. The Crockpot and Instant Pot are your friends
I've learned to use my Crockpot and Instant Pot to make cooking easier. When I'm really on my game, I throw dinner in the slow cooker in the morning and let it do the heavy lifting of cooking throughout the day. It only takes a few minutes to get dinner started and gives me more time for doing what I want after we finish school.
6. Give freezer cooking a chance
Bulk cooking is a big deal on the day you do it, but it can save you loads of time in the long run. Even if you don't have a large freezer, you can do a lighter version of freezer cooking.
While I don't cook a month's worth of meals, I do cook meat ahead of time. I will brown hamburger meat and then flash freeze it on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Then, when it is frozen a little bit I will place it in a plastic zip top bag. Since it isn't frozen in a solid block it will only take a few minutes to thaw out in the microwave. When it is thawed out, I can quickly make tacos or spaghetti.
I also do this with chicken. I don't flash freeze it, but I do prepare the shredded chicken for Ritz Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole or Chicken Pot Pie. This saves me tons of time! Think about the things you can do ahead of time and freeze to help with meal prep.
7. Chore time is non-negotiable
My house was always cleaner when I worked outside of the home teaching kindergarten. We were never home to make a mess, so things stayed clean longer. Now that we're always home making messes, it is harder to stay on top of the housework.
Giving my kids chores and having them pitch in has helped tremendously. Chore time is non-negotiable before play time at our house. My Editable Chore Cards for Kids have really helped with chore time in our home. The boys know what is expected and they get it done quickly so they can start playing.
My motto: If you are old enough to make a mess, you are old enough to help clean up your mess. Even toddlers can help with putting toys in the toy box. Another thing to remember--don't always give the jobs to the oldest child. Give the job to the youngest one that can perform that job. Save the hardest jobs for the oldest.
8. Find what works and do it
The best housework routine is the one that you can actually stick to. Whether it is zone cleaning or cleaning all day on Saturday, find what works for you and your personality. Personally, I'm a frantic company's-coming-quick-hide-this-in-the-laundry-room-and-shut-the-door type of cleaner that is trying desperately to be a zone cleaner. But life gets in the way and I'd rather blog than clean when I'm not schooling the kids.
9. Teach the kids to cook
Teaching the kids how to make their own breakfast and lunch is not only a life skill, but also lessens the load for mom. Kids can be making a sandwich while mom moves the laundry from the washer to the dryer. (Or you could even teach the kids to do that, too!)
When kids are old enough, teach them how to make a simple dinner so they can cook dinner one night a week. These are life skills at their finest. I use and recommend the Kids Cook Real Food course for teaching the kids how to cook. This course helps kids gain independence in the kitchen so they can cook right next to you and be a helper instead of a hindrance.
10. Keep the sink clean
I have found that having a clean sink makes all the difference in the kitchen. Ever since my kids were old enough to carry a plate to the dishwasher they have been responsible for cleaning up their dishes. We load the dishwasher as we finish with each dish so there aren't dishes sitting in the sink all day.
If you don't have a dishwasher, it might be beneficial to quickly wash the dishes after each meal so you don't have a huge pile at the end of the day. It really only takes a few minutes when there aren't many dishes to do at a time.
You are doing the best that you can. Give yourself some grace and lighten up a little. The beauty of homeschooling is forging strong relationships with our children. Your kids won't remember if your house was spotless, but they will remember that day you did the Magic Light Bulb Balloon Science Experiment or made a volcano with baking soda and vinegar. Your kids care that you are present and will value the time spent reading aloud instead of the Pinterest-worthy house.