Do you feel at the end of your rope, pulled apart by the demands from all ends of your life? Here’s the way one dear mama put it:
Could you help me please? My husband says he wants to put the kids in public school because our lives are so crazy. I think this is because when he comes home the house is a mess and the kids climb all over him. I don’t have a lot of time to clean because I am trying to take care of everybody and homeschool at the same time. I can’t even homeschool right. As soon as I start a curriculum it seems something always happens. I keep trying new stuff but nothing seems to help. The older kids need my attention in one way, and the baby and toddler need my attention in another, but I have no idea how to do both! You have been homeschooling with so many kids, so you must be doing something I’m not.
Man, can I ever relate! Life as a homeschooling mom with kids of different ages is not easy, and it’s understandable we get discouraged and our husbands form a negative attitude.
But that is not the entire story! You definitely CAN overcome the stressors in your life and enjoy a somewhat calm, happy home if you are willing to do a little overhaul on how you view your routines.
First of all, let’s take a look at the typical day at home. What we want to do here is strip away everything until we have only the essentials.
For instance, what do children need?
- Love and comfort from parents and God
- Nourishing food
- Clean bodies
- Safe and healthy environment
- The tools of learning along with stimulation for self-education
How do we accomplish this throughout the day?
- Make sure we are affectionate in touching and loving in responses.
Cuddles when they first wake up, hugs and caresses whenever we get the chance. Also, smiling and having a sweet, welcoming voice when they come to us with questions and concerns, instead of, “What is it NOW?” Praying with them and reminding them of God’s greatness, His care, and His commandment that we love each other throughout the day.
- Take care to give the children three appealing, nutritious meals plus snacks.
This is best done by making some loose plans and going to a store with a list so that we aren’t tempted to dump expensive just into the cart.
- Make sure they are washed and/or bathed daily (including teeth brushed)
This is sometimes the hardest when we are home all day. It’s so easy to sort of live in our own funk–but we feel so grungy and awful! Also, we are helping the children learn some really bad habits. As you will see, with just a few adjustments these things can be accomplished, too!
- Keep the house picked up, the kitchen cleaned and dishes washed, the beds in order, the clothes washed and put away where they can be found when needed.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to clean. all. day. in order to accomplish this. To learn how, read further on…
- Spending time on the gold nuggets of learning.
This is so important, especially if you have a lot of different ages to teach. Narrow down your homeschooling to its most basic, essential elements and then focus on that the first thing in your day. If you have time to add in more stuff later, fine, but if you don’t you will still have covered the things your children will need to teach themselves the rest of what they need to know (and they will, kids are like that!).
Also, what do husbands need?
- To know they are valued and respected
- To enjoy affection from their wives
- To come home to comfort and rest
- To rest assured their kids are going to be well educated
And how do we accomplish this?
- Keep the house up as best we can, especially in the areas they deem most important.
Men don’t always think the way we do. They could care less whether we have the latest pattern in the curtains or that our essential oils are alphabetized. What they want to see is that the carpet and the furniture they are working hard for everyday are being treated with respect. They want to know that they will not have to repair or replace one thing after another due to our carelessness.
And some things are more important than others. Some men are not worried as much about the living room as they are about the car. Are we allowing the kids to trash it out with leftover food, toys, and other junk they pick up?
I had to learn long ago that, in order to show my husband that I appreciated his hard work, I sometimes let go of my pet areas to clean and concentrated on his first. This goes a long way to peace in the home (remember the Golden Rule).
- Teach our children how to respect and minister to their dads.
It’s not too popular these days, and it doesn’t always come naturally, but children need to be taught to appreciate and speak respectfully to their fathers. This means we need to explain to our children that Daddy needs a few moments of peace when he gets home before they have his full attention (if you’ve ever worked outside the home, you will understand how important those few moments are to get your equilibrium before you are sallied with a host of emotional demands).
And they can also bring him a drink and do other nice things for him without being asked, or at least with a sweet attitude.
- Give them meaningful touch and make time for intimacy.
A little kiss just because he is wonderful, caressing, looking at him with stars in your eyes. Wearing the kids out with play and physical activity so they will go to bed early…
- Share what you and the kids have been learning together.
Wait until he has finally settled in and is relaxed (not the moment he has stepped into the door). Make sure it is the Reader’s Digest version and not a blow-by-blow. You might even show him some of the work the kids are doing if he is interested. This will give him peace in knowing his children are being challenged and given the tools they will need for eventual adulthood.
And what do we need?
- To have a sense of peace
- To feel rested
- To be fueled with good food, prayer, and the Word of God
How do we accomplish this?
- Train our minds to think on the things listed in Philippians 4:8.
Write the verse on a card and tape it by your sink so you can meditate on it while you are doing the dishes. Tape a card to your dash so you will be reminded of it as you drive. Write it on the mirror so you will see it when you get ready in the morning.
- Make time for the Word, prayer, and worshipful music.
We live in a time of amazing technological convenience–so take advantage of it! Yes, it’s so fun to watch the antics of cats and dogs and all the “fails” videos, but how about streaming some good preaching or even the straight Word of God while you are driving, or brushing your teeth, or folding laundry? There’s nothing like some rousing praise music to get the whole house into a joyful mood!
- Eat three good meals a day, and afford ourselves a snack when necessary.
I used to be so skinny–I was about 10 pounds underweight for a number of years. My problem was I was so busy preparing, serving, and cleaning up after meals that I would forget to eat!
Or…we don’t eat the good food with the kids and instead fill up with all sorts of fattening junk in-between meals. It takes discipline to actually sit down and slowly enjoy a meal, but it is worth it in the end.
- Get at least a half-hour nap every afternoon.
I can’t say enough good things about this one. I believe it is one of the main secrets to my joyful years mothering young children. Not only did I have more energy, but I was also a better wife to my husband when he returned home.
Now, I know the above lists look daunting–more like the Mount Everest of womaneering.
Just remember this:
God is your help. He will not only give you the way, but the strength as well.
This is because keeping home and caring for children is His work:
He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.
There are a million ways to go about this, here are just a few suggestions:
Start the night before.
One half hour before bed announce a “quick clean.” Pull out a timer, whether on your phone or on your stove, and give everyone (including yourself) 15 minutes to do a quick pick up and wipe down. Have the kids pick up their toys, books, etc. and do a short vacuum. Meanwhile, you load the dishwasher, wipe down the counters and the sink, and sweep the floor.
For the next 15 minutes, have everyone dress into pj’s and brush teeth. Then pray together, sing a sweet lullaby, and cuddle each one for lights out.
If your babies aren’t too fussy, or if you have an older child or two who help out, you can add getting the coffee maker ready for the morning and having your husband’s outfit (and yours) and lunch ready for the next day.
When you wake up the next morning, you won’t be greeted with a wreck of a mess. Just a few minutes the night before can add so much to your entire day!
In the morning…
For many years my first obligation was to nurse the infant, which is such a sweet way to wake up! However it happens for you, make sure you do two things before you do anything else:
- Start out with a prayer of thankfulness before you get out of the covers, remembering to cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
- Clean yourself up and look and smell pretty for your family.
These are the essentials I have needed to begin a day full of demanding activity. I know you can do these two things because I have for many, many years, no matter if I was experiencing morning sickness or had a tiny infant or whatever else!
I have to put these first, because there will always be something to push them further and further out the rest of the day. Someone will need to talk to me, someone will have an owie, or a phone call, or some other “emergency” and then brushing my teeth may not happen until after lunch (to the detriment of all that get close…) and I will have a rotten attitude because I have not taken the time to renew my mind and focus in on the Lord (when we fail to be thankful our minds become darkened–Romans 1:21).
- The next task is to make sure the children are dressed and clean.
It’s also a good idea to get them in the habit of making their beds as they get out of them (this is more easily done if the little kids don’t have a bed that is complicated to make up). If they have picked up the night before their bedrooms shouldn’t be that messy, so that is one less thing.
Little children are easy; hair, face, and teeth are usually all that’s needed.
Give the tiniest one partners, or at least have things easily accessible without being easy to do “experiments” and make messes (are my kids the only ones who were eternally loosing the top to the toothpaste or dropping it behind the toilet?). Also, it saves so much time if you don’t have to search for an hour for the comb or hairbrush (how many wasted man hours could we rack up on this one alone?).
- The next step is a good breakfast.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t even have to be a “sit-down” breakfast. You can opt instead for an “a la carte” buffet–with choices such as bagels and cream cheese, instant oatmeal, egg sandwiches (which you have made ahead and frozen), or some waffles (you can make these ahead and freeze them, too). We also enjoy some quick breads such as pumpkin or banana which we serve with yogurt or just some tea or milk.
Now here is the next nugget of wisdom I am going to give to you:
Don’t clean the house.
Sure, clear off the table, put the milk away, but leave the dishes stacked up next to the sink.
Let the tiniest kids play–they usually want to do that first thing, anyway. Take the older ones, say, from the ones learning basic phonics on up, and concentrate on the very basics of learning, such as phonics and math drill, reading, some writing and grammar for the oldest ones, and penmanship.
Don’t worry about history, geography, or science. Just concentrate on the tools for learning. This should take no more than an hour. By then the tiniest ones will become needy, which will distract you.
This is when you break out some songs to sing, silly songs of childhood and a few hymns. Then you can read a Bible story aloud, with the little ones on your lap and the older ones around your feet. If everyone is agreeable enough, you can break out a book and read about all those other subjects, or assign silent reading while you get the little ones to help you with some chores, or sit and cuddle them, or read aloud a book to them, or hand out a snack.
(Here is a great truth: If you concentrate on the tools of learning, with some modeling, a few introductions to the finer things, and sharing some of your passions, the rest often happens on its own, without any prompting or nagging from you. Then all you have to do is record what they are doing and brag. I know this because my older set were all taught this way and not one is unsuccessful in any sphere of their lives.)
- About an hour before lunch, have everyone chip in and do household chores.
This may include some dish washing, clothes folding, some dusting and polishing, some tending to the outside, the car, or some animals. A child or two can help with lunch prep (or you could have lunch boxes fixed the night before during your half hour clean up).
- Then have lunch together.
If you missed read aloud time, you might try it while everyone is eating, or at least after they have eaten and are all sitting down (the baby in the high chair can be handed something such as playdough). You could even listen to a book being read aloud while you eat so that you can enjoy the meal, too.
After lunch you can have everyone help clean up the kitchen and do a little pre-dinner prep (throw something in the crockpot or put something out to thaw).
- Finally, get everyone settled into “quiet time.” (This is for you, too, Mom.)
It really, really isn’t a fairy tale; children can learn to be quiet for at least a half-hour each afternoon. It takes a little training at first, but your entire family can get used to it. Begin first by setting a clock for just 15 minutes and walking around enforcing the quiet. Then increase it incrementally each week until you reach your goal. Don’t be afraid to offer incentives such as a sweet treat or some screen time.
Nurse the baby to sleep while you read a passage of scripture and pray. Then close your eyes and doze away! If you don’t want to get carried away, use the timer on your phone and set it for a half hour or so.
- When you all come out of your repose, allow the children to play, or take them on a walk so they can work their “energies” out.
This will allow you to get some fresh air and sunshine, too. I used to put the babies in a stroller and run around the neighborhood with my children. When the weather isn’t cooperating, you can turn on some jazzy music and dance around the house until everyone is sufficiently “spent.”
- After your exercise you could set the little children to play while having the older ones do some writing.
This could be in the form of a notebooking page about what you learned together earlier or something they are interested in, or simply coloring. You could even be at the same table and take care of some phone calls, or correspondence, or do some bill paying (or even blogging).
You could also be getting the dinner ready.
- At least 15 minutes before Daddy returns home, have everyone pick up the house and get ready.
Use the promise of some quality television viewing as an incentive.
- Then, when Daddy comes in the door, the children can sit quietly watching something.
The goal is something that will add to their lives, such as videos of whales or beavers or volcanoes on YouTube (true confession: I have been known to approve an episode of Sponge Bob from time to time 🙂 ) while you greet him sweetly (because you don’t feel frazzled, since you have had time with the Lord, exercise, rest, and feel on top of things) and allow him a few minutes to “decompress” from his hectic day.
- Finally, the children can help set the table and you can all enjoy a nice dinner together.
Just make sure you clean up immediately afterwards.
- Then, the rest of the night is his with all of you until that last half hour before bed, and after the kids are tucked in, it can be just the two of you!
Obviously, there will be discipline issues and stomach aches and fears of monsters in the closet, but at least you will have a general plan and a way to get a handle on those things that cause you the most stress.
There are also a number of factors you will have to get a hold of in order for this to run as smoothly as possible:
- You have to declutter your house (and your schedule).
- You have to have easy or prepared-ahead meals.
- You need to simplify your personal hygiene and wardrobe options (find ways to do this without compromising being pretty for your family).
- You have to have some basic skills curriculum at the ready that doesn’t take a lot of prep on your part (I prefer the McGuffey readers for most of it).
And here are some more suggestions that will keep you on track:
- Shorten your homeschooling to only four days a week, with one day reserved for attending to the logistics of life.
- Do “sabbath” scheduling to make room for holidays, spring cleaning, etc.
This may take a little bit to implement, but once you have it in place, you will feel so much better about your life and your family will experience more peace and rest.
I will try and put all this information together as a pdf so you can print it out and put it into a binder. Make sure and subscribe so you’ll be able to receive it!