Organize Your Home—Energize Your Homeschool!
by Vicki Bentley
What does household organization have to do with phonics and multiplication tables? Well, you might be surprised to discover that order in your home can energize your homeschool! And whether you’re a “messy” or an organizational queen, here are some tips and encouragement for you.
Organization is a crucial part of a homeschooling mom’s strategy. Not only is mom’s home management model an important part of life skills education for her children, but our experience is that most people who give up on homeschooling don’t quit because they can’t find the right math book or the perfect Latin curriculum. They quit because they despair of educating their children, and feeding the family, and tackling the laundry, and clearing an entry path from the front door. So they think something has to go—and so guess what that something usually is? It’s usually homeschooling.
So moms, even though household organization and getting dinner on the table the same day you homeschool may not seem like the ultimate homeschool-related topics, if we can help you keep your head above water in your everyday living, you can have hope for another day of science and language arts!
First up: Time Management
We moms sometimes feel like the juggler doing the plate-spinning act: running from pole to pole to keep the plates spinning so that they don’t crash. Moms, what are some of your plates?
Time management is about deciding which plates are important and which ones you can let go of for this season of life, when your main ministry is to your children. So set some goals, and then prioritize. Outline a weekly routine for yourself, such as Monday is co-op and errands, Tuesday is laundry. And if my routine includes, say, a Tuesday laundry day, I don’t have to feel stressed at the mile-high hamper on Monday co-op day, because it’s not my laundry day!
Even the 2-year-old can put his clothes in the hamper or help empty the wastebaskets, so involve your kids! Our girls had daily before-school checklists, so we were more likely to start the day on track for success. Work from a to-do list and a calendar, if you need to, and then take some time to go over last week’s progress and plan for next week. Finally, expect the unexpected, so leave yourself some margin or breathing room.
And if you’re feeling like the plates have already crashed, you may want to read, “When Life Broadsides Your Homeschool.”
Cut the Clutter
There are lots of tactics for the actual de-cluttering, from the four-box “de-junking” method, to Fly Lady’s 27 swing boogie, to “Clutter’s Last Stand.” We have a list on our site (www.hslda.org/toddlerstotweens) under organization, plus articles with practical ideas, from color-coding, to streamlining the kitchen, to managing the school area.
For me, de-cluttering includes a helper who will physically box up the stuff, since touching it—for me—creates an emotional attachment.
Organizing includes asking myself not, “Where can I stick this?” but instead: “Where will I look for this later?” So get to the root of why your house gets cluttered in the first place. Look around and ask yourself, “What drives me bonkers here? What’s causing that problem? And how can I fix it?”
Ultimately, we need to change our thinking. My dear friend, blogger Florence Feldman, who has been an organizing consultant for more than 30 years, says two powerful phrases that keep us stuck in chaos are, “I don’t have time to do it right now,” and “I’ll just put it here for now.” Instead, tell yourself, “Do it now!”—especially for small, one-step tasks. Then hang it up, put it away, write it down, file it, or whatever the action may be, and you’ll be amazed at how little time the task really takes—and you can feel more in control of your home.
Getting Dinner on the Table the SAME Day You Homeschool
Maybe you’ve been handling the challenges of homeschooling multiple children all day, but before you know it, it’s six o’clock, and you haven’t even thought about dinner. Is it possible to homeschool and get dinner on the table in the same day?
The two basic recommendations I have for moms are: 1) plan your menus, and 2) schedule time to start dinner—even if you have to do as I do and set an alarm for dinner start-up time! If you’re having trouble coming up with menus, remember that your family is probably more impressed with eating nourishing food at a regular time each day than with trying a vast array of new foods each week.
So to get into the habit of regular, healthy dinner times, consider something as basic as a weekly rotation of the same basic meals—some quick and simple menus that you’re comfortable with. We even have suggestions and resources for meal planning and for scheduling ! You’ll find some ideas for do-ahead meal preparation that will greatly reduce your time in the kitchen and help you get a simple, nourishing meal on the table in less than 30 minutes.
The Ultimate Goal in Organization
Home organization can seem spiritually insignificant, but this is a spiritual work, because the end result is to bring peace to our homes and to glorify our Creator. So pray about what God wants you to work on for your particular family. If you’re married, a good starting point can be to ask your husband for guidance as to which one or two areas are most important to him.
Be careful to not be such a perfectionist that people are uncomfortable actually living in your house. I have a cross-stitch by my door that reminds me, “Our house is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy!” Our goal is to glorify God with our lives and, as home-makers, with our homes. We can do that better in an orderly home, because we can be more gracious to our children when we aren’t rushed or hunting for the car keys or always behind. And we can more comfortably be hospitable when our home is more peaceful and calm.
So look for ways to bring order to your home—but don’t allow organization to be an idol. Get organized to give you the time and liberty for relationships. Because stuff is temporal, but relationships are lasting.
For more homeschool homemaking tips, visit our Organization tab.
(Adapted from an interview on HSLDA’s Home School Heartbeat, September 2014, http://www.hslda.org/docs/hshb/120/hshbwk11.asp)