When I was a kid, homeschoolers were often met with skepticism and criticism. These days, however, homeschooling tends to be more socially accepted. In fact, the most common reaction I get when I talk about homeschooling is astonishment or admiration. “Wow, you homeschool with five kids?” an acquaintance might say. “How do you do it all?”
Homeschool moms do do quite a lot. This past year, I taught 5+ subjects (including Latin and algebra) to children in four different grades. I make dinner from scratch most nights. I do the family grocery shopping. I buy, organize, and help wash the clothes for the whole family. I try to keep our budget balanced by watching sales, using coupons, and buying things secondhand. I coordinate most of the family's social activities. I write for this blog. And I keep a busy toddler out of trouble (mostly).
But I certainly don't “do it all.” I have limited time, energy, and patience just like everyone else! I have often felt inferior to other homeschool moms, thanks to impractical standards that can exist within homeschool circles. However, I have made peace with the fact that I truly can't do everything and that choosing not to do some things gives me more opportunity to do other things well.
What follows is a list of things that I don't do as a homeschool mom. The average American mom or other homeschool moms may regularly do them, but they are simply not my priorities.
I Do Not . . .
- Get fully dressed and tidied up every morning. Some moms may do the full shower, clothes, hair, and makeup routine as a matter of course. But while it can be a good habit to get into a professional mindset at the start of your school
day, I’m pretty happy with just getting out of my pajamas and putting on deodorant most mornings.
- Clean my own house. Cat's out of the bag now, friends: I am no domestic goddess. Yes, I do normal picking up around the house, but sometime last year my husband and I finally decided to hire a cleaning service to do the actual vacuuming,
mopping, and toilet scrubbing. Maybe I will try again when the kids are older, but for now this service is worth every penny.
- Wash the dishes. Have I mentioned that housekeeping is not my forte? My husband taught our older children how to do the dishes, and on the days they don't do them, my husband usually does. We also regularly use paper plates. Dish
duty has always been my least favorite chore, so I am grateful I don't have to worry about this one.
- Teach material straight out of the textbook. Some textbooks come with teacher's manuals that include all sorts of teaching tips, drills, and classroom activities to use with your kids. Sometimes these can be useful, but most of the
time I find them unnecessary. Frankly, for many subjects, I hand the book to my kids and tell them to read the lesson for themselves and come to me with any questions. A whole lecture on every subject is not required.
- Do lots of crafts, experiments, and projects. As a kid, I enjoyed arts and crafts, so I always imagined I would be the mom who did these sorts of things with my children. Wrong! I've found I only like to do arts and crafts by myself.
I do not have much patience for supervising complaining children and doing half of the work for them. If they really want to do something, I will help them get started, but they're usually on their own from there.
- Teach my children every subject they learn. For instance, I know how to play the piano, and I intended to teach my children. But eventually I realized that just because I could teach doesn't mean that's the most efficient
use of my time. Instead, my mother-in-law teaches my girls piano via video chat, which works out well for everyone.
- Do many extracurriculars at once. There is a cultural push for every child to be involved in extracurricular sports and classes. But multiply that by 3–5 kids, and you may never have a free evening again. Beyond church activities
and virtual piano lessons, we are not involved in more than 1–2 different sports, camps, or classes at any one time. Our children either take turns or multiple kids do the same activity together.
- Do school through the summer. Some ambitious homeschoolers may choose this route, but I need a break! We take off around two months in the summer, and then four other weeks throughout the school year. A solid summer break is a must
for me. I use the time to plan for next year and catch up on household organization that has lapsed during school, but also to relax and soak up some sunshine!
- Always stay on schedule. Yes, I do my best to stay on schedule for the school year overall, and I at least attempt to stick to a daily schedule, but I like to keep things flexible and consider the daily schedule much more of a guideline.
- Always control my temper. I do not have superhuman patience. I can get very frustrated when kids get the same problem wrong a hundred times or when they won't sit quietly during Bible study or reading time. Sometimes I yell. Unlike
most of the other items here, controlling my temper is one that I really should do, but the reality is that I will never do it perfectly. But as I tell my kids, making mistakes is part of being human, and we all benefit greatly from learning
how to apologize and try again.
I could mention more things that I rarely do: gardening, sewing, home decorating, pet care, big birthday parties, etc. But you get the point. One last thing I will mention is that I do not criticize other moms for managing their households and their home
schools differently from me. Whether you do some of these things I don't or skip some of the things I do, I hope you find the balance of “do's” and “don'ts” that works for you. Our priority list must have limits if we want
it done well!