I recently wrote a post about How to Get Your Act Together in Se7en + 1 Steps… and I intended to write a follow up post straight away: The really practical post of how we get anything done, while homeschooling, where anything is housework. Well the first post was written in the height of summer when school around here chugs at a very low ebb. The place where days are busy and long… if supper is running late a walk on the beach will fix it and amongst the piles of books being read and the mountains of impressive projects you kind of wonder how on earth you will ever find time for actual school. I tell you the truth – I just don’t know. When we have a couple of days off school between the laundry and the dishes and just life, I have no idea where we find the time to school. Running a ten-people home, and any number of visitors in and out, housework can quickly add up to a full-time job.
And then we received our school books for the year and we are now in the depths of school… certainly a lot less free time, that I never thought was free, for me. Possibly my most important role as a homeschooling mom is not so much the “creating a lovely learning environment,” or “providing learning opportunities” for my children to follow their passions – they do that already themselves. My job… and I hope you are sitting down for this, my job is: Chief of Police. To say that is my most time consuming task on any day would be an understatement. I spend about half an hour to an hour with each of our students every day… helping beginner readers, encouraging those learning to take notes… ensuring that those who said they would love to do a particular project, actually are rolling along. All the while, I am policing all the “he said, she said, he touched my pencil, she won’t stop humming…” I do this mostly while sitting at the kitchen table. A lot of the time it is peaceful, but it can also be anything but peaceful, in a relentless kind of way. Chief of Police is another full time job, and I am just guessing that is not just for homeschooling moms. The question remains:
How to Get Any HouseWork Done and Homeschool
- It’s Not Them and Me, It is Us: The attitude around here is very much we homeschool together, we keep house together, we play together and we work together… maybe not at the same things as each other, but I am learning just as much as our kids as we homeschool together and they are doing a good portion of the cooking and cleaning alongside me. I am not up before dawn doing all the housework so that our day runs smoothly and my children are not up long after midnight doing the dishes either. The point is whatever your work is, whatever you do the house has to run smoothly so that you can live. Forget about chore charts, stickers, rewards, incentives… jobs have to be done, so we do them.
- Cleaning and Tidying: There is a vast difference between cleaning and tidying and you cannot clean an untidy house… it is very much a case of two steps forward and ten steps back. We keep our house pretty tidy, not perfectly tidy mind you… people are living here, but visitor ready. Tidying up does take a lot of discipline and really we pick up as we go. We always tidy up everything before meals. That alone gives us an opportunity to start fresh at breakfast time, after lunch. We never clean much if we are getting visitors… we do tidy. We often clean after visitors though. Some afternoons a week when we routinely have fifteen extra kids over for a play, we will clean our home afterwards but definitely not before that.
- Decluttering and Organising: There is a huge difference between decluttering and organising… We declutter all the time, sort through our clothes daily… straighten as I go. I literally step of bed into the shower, walk past my younger kids’ closet and straighten – every day. While it is there job to put their laundry away, I cannot expect them to try and control vast amounts of clothes. So we declutter constantly. We have a strict one on and one in the wash policy, and no space for anything else. We have a donate zone at the front door – it isn’t that pretty. As soon as the bag full we pop the bag into the garage. Then I wait for a good time to donate or I call a local shelter and they collect it. Seriously donate, donate, donate, the less you have to tidy up the better. A slight confession, if folk leave things lying around and I ask them to put them away a couple of times… then those items move along to the depths of the donate pile. If they were treasured items they would have a place and be put away… the items that are not treasured are not taken care off and can move along, someone else most likely needs them.
Organising is about having a place to put the things after decluttering. If you don’t have a place for stuff then you really can’t expect folk to put it away. I don’t organise as I go. I do have organising ideas that spring to mind, I pop them on the noticeboard and let a list grow. From time to time we have a Sort-It-Out-Day and that’s when I implement new organising ideas. I cannot do school and organise, I have to be organised for school… and if something isn’t organised then it has to wait for a “Sort-It-Out Day” – because otherwise it becomes a niggling distraction and the reason we don’t do school for a week or two could well be an organising project I dive into without thinking. Cleaning a shelf in five minutes as I walk past, is one thing… but organising all the kitchen cupboards is quite another. Most things are workable as they are. It is lovely to have organised art supplies, but you can actually do art if it isn’t organised – declutter your art materials and wait for a working day to organise things.
- Loads of Laundry: We have a system for doing laundry, and you probably have one too. We do not have laundry hampers… we have a washer. When one of us has dirty laundry we put it into the washer. I put the washer on before I go to bed. If someone doesn’t get their laundry to the washer, that’s not the end of the world – the washer will go again in a day or two. If an item is urgent, then folks would be sure to get it into the washer. When I wake up in the morning the washing is done and the clean laundry is spread on the table and sorted. It is much quicker to shake out and straighten the laundry and then hang it out to dry. A child sorts our wet laundry into piles of tops, bottoms and undies, all ready to hang. And then the laundry is placed on the side… after breakfast when there are a couple of minutes of “transitional chaos” when the table is cleared and the books are brought out… I dash out and hang the laundry… did I mention watch the ocean and hang the laundry. I will take a moment of peace when I can get it. Actually, our kids all know that that is a good time to catch me alone and they will seek me out for a moment. At the end of the day the washing is brought in and plonked on the table and has to be folded and put away before we can have dinner.
- Table for Ten and their Guests: We have blogged about our Table for Ten before… We eat all our meals together around the table… preparation, and clean-up are all in one place at the same time. We clean up as we go, so by the time we sit down to dinner we really only have to wash ten plates, ten glasses and the cutlery. Also, I firmly believe that if you are old enough to learn how to read then you are definitely old enough to make a sandwich and a cup of tea… and if you can make one sandwich then you can make ten. My kids love and adore any sort of food preparation… so whoever gets to finish school first often gets to be the one to get lunch moving along. Different children help with dinner on different days… it is absolutely vital to me that all our kids grow up able and eager to make and serve meals on a regular basis.
- Floors, Floors and More Floors: Honestly our floors get swept and mopped once a week and if everything is tidy it takes about twenty minutes to sweep and mop the entire house… two bedrooms, a kitchen and a lounge just don’t take that long. And no, I never ever want a bigger house to clean. I just give everyone a warning that there will be sweeping so that everyone picks up there stuff off the floor and then the sweeping begins and before everything settles we mop it at the same time. The kitchen floor however is another story and absolutely has to be swept after every single meal. And the bathroom, this is a perpetual project, we have five boys over here… the mop is always at the ready… and we mop after breakfast, before lunch, before dinner and after bedtime… and any other time it might need a mopping!!!
- Don’t be Afraid to Outsource: I never do ironing. We have a laundry 2 blocks down from us… and I can not want to iron ever. I also have a lady, who comes one morning a week, from 10:30 till lunchtime. She puts fresh sheets on the beds and mops all the floors. That’s the household help I need, and I am realising my kids are all old enough to grab their sheets off the line and put them back on their beds and honestly mopping the floor isn’t that big a deal… but it is a gift I give myself and makes me feel on top of the world to have a clean house, even momentarily, once a week. Often she can’t make it… and then we just do the job without her help and school takes a little longer and we so appreciate it the next week when she can come.
My huge delegation fail has to be dishes… I actually give lessons in dishwashing: stack them, scrape them, glasses first, then plates, then silverware… lessons I tell you. But my kids do not (or will not get it!!!). And the clattering breakages… sigh!!! One takes hours and cleans every last speck, since the beginning of time… and pushes bedtime till three in the morning… another creates bubbles to the ceiling but the dishes are filthy afterwards… out of eight, I have one good but very reluctant dishwasher so far. I believe in working to their strengths, he does the lunch dishes and the rest of the time I catch up on my favourite podcasts… to say I feel like I know these podcasters personally is an understatement… they have spent hours and hours chatting with me, while I wash the dishes!!!
- There is a Time for Everything…
A Housekeeping Day in the Life.
- First one up packs away the dishes from the previous night. Second one up sorts the laundry, and the third one up packs away the silverware and the fourth one sweeps the whole kitchen floor… and so on.
- By then everyone is up and dressed and beds are made while I take a shower… breakfast magically lands on the table.
- We have breakfast and do a bit of family reading and school… and then everyone is off to clean teeth and get their school books… and I quickly hang the laundry. Then absolutely no more jobs until about half an hour before lunch.
- Lunch prep begins and a round the house quick tidy-up. Immediately after lunch we clear the table, wash the dishes and sweep under the table. Then everyone reads and rests for a while, and folks drift into their own thing.
- Later in the afternoon, about four, the laundry is brought in and folded and dinner prep begins. And the house is tidied up… we usually have at least one guest join us for dinner, it is a good incentive to tidy the most drastic messes.
- Finally the dinner is done the tables cleared and the dishes stacked… kids head for the shower and laundry goes into the washer and towels are hung up. As soon as most kids are in bed, it is my time to blog.
- I do the dinner dishes and put the washer on and head for bed.
And the Se7en + 1th
That’s it, the post in which I literally air our dirty laundry. Just remember that I no longer have se7en kids under ten, so the work load can be shared a bit better… in theory!!! And to be quite honest, I have a mental image of what our house should look like…that the dream and we get by a little closer to reality. Often housework has to take precedence over school and often school has to be done rather than housework. There are days when I know friends are coming over and I just let the dishes wait until they get there… I can wash dishes and chat with a friend, it makes it go a lot faster. And many a dinner guest has sat at our table and watch the end of the day “laundry fold” before we have dinner. Our house isn’t spotless, it’s lived in… our schooling isn’t perfect, we make progress. And as a team we seem to be able to get by. Now don’t ask about blogging, that is a whole ‘nother full-time job!!! And the when and the how of that, really requires it’s very own post.