Saturday, October 28, 2017

Managing household chores while homeschooling...

The farmhouse where I homeschool my brood.
Homeschooling is a serious commitment of time and resources and finding ways of sneaking in all the other work can be a challenge. If you want some quick tips for managing the school part, check out this post HERE. I have ten of eleven children still at home and a small family farm and this means that we have a lot of schoolwork and a lot of chores to get done on a daily basis. It is important to realize that there are some competing values here and will be some sacrifices. There are only so many hours in a day and you will need to remember that homeschooling will consume several hours a day and this is okay. 

Remembering that it is really a job can help you remember that what you are doing all day is worth doing. That said, you will need to still have clothes to wear, dishes to eat off, and food to put in those dishes. There is a happy medium to be found.

I used to have another blog that was specifically food based but one of my most popular posts ever was about house cleaning. Over 67,000 unique readers read that specific post which tells me it spoke to a need people have. I edited it, added to it, and am including that information here. I live in a different house than I did when I originally wrote the post so if it doesn’t sound like my current home, there is a reason for that.

I should tell you that I have a master school schedule with some chores listed, such as how we divide the lunch duties between the high school kids who are supposed to decide what they will cook the day before and make sure we have the ingredients. While they are not perfect at it, they are learning the important skills of meal planning and making sure that they have what they need before they start. I help with fasting days since those are honestly more challenging.

Laundry is one of those concerns that overwhelms people. We have an unusual amount of laundry. If I fall behind, digging out is all but impossible. I have eight children who are able to at least start laundry or switch the laundry though only six are able to reach the controls on the dryer and need help. I switch between the older eight and the youngest two have to help sort. If we are playing catch up, four or five kids a day have the responsibility of starting a load of laundry and switching it, remembering to hang the clothes that must hang and being sure to hang their father’s dress shirt for the office. If we are not behind, then it is only two or three a day. After school, I fold all the laundry at once and put in piles according to the owner. If kids will help, I will allow them a movie. If they stop being helpful, I turn it off. The kids have to put away all the laundry immediately.

All the socks are pooled into a giant hamper and rarely sorted. I used to do that but, seriously, in winter we go through one or two dozen pairs of socks a day. We have hundreds of socks. Let that sink in: hundreds. I finally gave up matching socks on the advice of a friend with twelve kids (some are in college). When they need to match, we match them, but most of the time they are never seen so it saves some peace. 

We have set chore times. We have a set of chores that need to be done in the morning and we work through those before school, the laundry is the only exception. Each child is responsible for his assigned load, and it must be done or they lose privileges and gain chores. We used to take a longer lunch break but with staggered online classes and so many students, we have moved chores to afterschool. There is also afternoon milking and there are evening chores at that time. During school hours, my house gets very messy but we all chip in after we are done. There is a lot of truth in the old saying, “Many hands make light work.”

As for knowing what to do and when to do it, divide your house into sections. If you are an internet junkie, you might like to follow Flylady's schedule but it can feel overwhelming if you are trying to dig out. Do not allow yourself to be paralyzed by fear, avoid complicated methods that cause panic. Your mental health is worth more than that. To help you plan your zones, here is how I did mine back in the day. You should have four zones because there are about four weeks to the month. Make a list of the chores from each zone and whether they are daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal.
  • Zone 1: Dining room and school room
  • Zone 2: Entry and Kitchen
  • Zone 3: Living room and downstairs bathroom
  • Zone 4: Upstairs hallway and bath, bedrooms

What should go on a list of chores for a zone? My zone one chores include:

  • Sweep
  • Wash table
  • Shake runner
  • Tidy bookshelves
  • Weekly
  • Vacuum
  • Dust
  • Tidy shelves
  • Clean out key basket (a catch-all for mail, keys, and phone chargers)

  • Wash baseboards
  • Dust light over dining room table

Seasonal (this is my freaky start to the school year or holiday time deep, deep clean the kids dread)
  • Wash curtains
  • Wash windows
  • Wash picture frame glass

You should also create a list of 5-minute chores (things that need to get done but can be completed in less than five minutes), a list of "hot spots" or places where your family tends to pile stuff, and the things that should get done daily. I offer rewards to kids who will clean my many hot spots.

5-Min Chores
  • Sorting mail
  • Emptying the kitchen compost
  • Taking out the garbage (each kid gets a bathroom or the kitchen and it all goes at once)
  • Cleaning the key basket out
  • Hot Spot Examples (just pick them up once a day)
  • Hubby's dresser cleared and tidied (we both dump things here so it is not just his mess)
  • The dresser in the dining room cleared and tidied
  • The farm cupboard surface tidied
  • Cull the magazine basket

Daily Chores

This is a complicated list, trying to decide what you should do on a daily basis can be difficult. I divide mine by the time of day:

Waking Chores: grooming, bed making (each little kid has an older kid who is assigned to help her), I unload the dishwasher and put away hand washed dishes and make the coffee first thing in the morning

Meal Chores: Cook meal, wash dishes (and dry and put away), load dishwasher, wash table, sweep only if really messy (but always after supper), make sure the little kids have faces washed (the littles had an assigned helper), tidy entry

After School Chores: Tidy the school room, tidy the living room (where the little girls play during school hours), and make sure the entry is clear. I stand at the front door and tidy what I can see from there, this makes my house seem cleaner than it is and means that I am not embarrassed to open the front door.

Making these lists can seem overwhelming and I want to assure you that it won't be bad. If you are worried about the time it will take to make these lists, sit down with a cup of coffee or tea or even wine and take out eight sheets of paper. Give yourself just thirty minutes. Label each with one category from the list below:
  • Zone One
  • Zone Two
  • Zone Three
  • Zone Four
  • Daily Chores
  • Hot Spots
  • 5 Min Chores
  • People available to do chores (this is anyone over four)

Then take your zone lists and fold into thirds vertically and label each section as follows:
  • Daily (put anything from each zone's daily list onto this one catch-all list)
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • Seasonal

Give yourself no more than three minutes to list the things that you think should be included on each list. Don't worry if you have forgotten something, this is a plan in progress!  Just start filling out your sheets. Try it for a day and see how it goes, you can always come back and add or move something. If you decide that something is put on the monthly list that you really want doing seasonally, move it. The idea is to find what your particular needs are and find a way to meet them. I know that my chores change on the season. Mopping the floor happens a lot in the winter since we consistently have snow that covers the ground for five to seven months out of the year, with no breaks. Nothing is carved in stone and can be changed whenever you need it to be changed.

The reason the lists work is that you know what needs to be done and can assign the work or jump in every day. If you cannot handle any more than just completing the daily list, start there. There is a temptation to just try to do everything all at once and it can lead to feelings of depression and being overwhelmed. Your goal should be to just start doing the daily chores and go from there.

I have one more post to come in the series and it will be a blow by blow account of my day homeschooling my nine school-aged kids with a preschooler in tow.


  1. I think you have a good schedule for so many kids, it is difficult to keep on top of things if you let it go. One suggestion might be to let the older kids do their own laundry, so it isn't so overwhelming. I love that your high school kids cook lunch and that you help during a fast. Cooking during the fast takes more time, unless you cook bean burritos or veggie soup.

  2. Thanks for this, Melissa! I am inspired to make some lists and get my kids more involved. Do you have any advice on training your kids to do chores? Sometimes I feel like supervising the work takes more time than I have patience for, though I know it is better in the long run.

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Keep it clean, people. Remember, if you cannot say something nice, say nothing at all.