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Guys, the Homeschool Resource Room mailbag is just about bursting with questions about homeschool management.
“How do I teach all of these children at once??”
“How do I get laundry, and dinner, and potty training all done on top of homeschooling?”
Ok, so that last one might not sound like a question about homeschool management to the untrained ear, but I speak fluent Frustrated Parent. I knew what they meant.
I wish I could take every one of you parents at your wits’ end out to coffee (alone! Without children for an hour!) and let you vent as much as you needed. Even better, I wish there was one single magic solution that would work for every unique family in every conceivable situation. If there was, and I knew it, you can bet I’d be selling the secret for a pretty penny. But alas, there just isn’t a single answer to the question of how you, personally, should manage your homeschool and the home it takes place in.
However, there are a few tips I could repeat to every parent who asks for homeschool management help. It all boils down to looking carefully at the needs of you and your family and cultivating a healthy mindset. Once you have that down, you’ll be able to see what systems, be they curriculum, behavioral, or housework, fit best for you.
I firmly believe that some of the most unhappy people in the world are those that don’t know themselves at all. Instead, they run around constantly trying to be like other people. Especially in our age of comparison and social media, this is a huge problem! The little people in your life are counting on you to meet their basic as well as educational needs, and you can’t do that well while pretending you’re actually someone else.
Rather than trying to do your laundry like this Youtuber or create a chore chart system just like you saw on Pinterest, spend some quality time with yourself. Even if you think you know who you are, you’ll notice you have different needs, pains, and preferences during different seasons of your life. Take some time and learn who you- the person living right now- really are. Take yourself on a date to a coffee shop, the local park, or even your kitchen table when all your cherubs have gone to bed.
Some questions you might consider asking yourself:
- What are my greatest strengths?
- What are my biggest pet peeves?
- What stresses me out the most on an average day?
- What most “fills my cup,” so I have the energy I need to take care of my family?
- What have been some of my biggest successes in life? What skills did I use to succeed then?
Once you’ve answered some of these (or similar questions), you’re ready to move onto the next step and start weaving you into a one-of-a-kind homeschool management system.
Prioritize your needs
As I’m sure you know, there are more tasks you could complete around your house than hours in a day. By virtue of a single pile of dirty laundry or sink of dirty dishes, you’ve proved you already know how to prioritize. Your job TODAY, however, is to start prioritizing based on what makes the most sense for you and your family.
If, when answering questions above, you wrote that nothing stresses you out more than a messy dining room, congrats! You now know priority #1. If you’re most fulfilled when you make time for a family read-aloud, a snuggle with your spouse, dinner made from scratch, or if you can prevent your children from hosting a WWE cage match, you likewise know your answers.
The hard part about prioritizing, of course, is accepting that some things will not get done, or at least not as well or as often as you want. This brings me to my third piece of advice…
Delegate aspects of your homeschool management
The easiest and cheapest way to delegate tasks is to assign them to the others who live under your roof. Spouses, children, and other permanent residents are all fair game here. Look for tasks that are necessary, but you’re comfortable with someone else completing.
If you’re not used to delegating many tasks to children or encouraging their independence, check out my other recent post on Encouraging Independent Work in your Homeschool. It covers strategies to improve both academic and everyday life kinds of independence in your kids.
After you’ve looked at your home roster and still see some holes in your delegation line up, you can look outside the home for help. Maybe a friend wouldn’t mind trading teaching math time for house cleaning help. Perhaps you have a nearby relative who would come once a week to batch-cook some freezer meals if you fixed their leaky pipe for them. Don’t forget about local social media groups, churches, and civic organizations if you’re having trouble finding friends and family to swap or request help from. Look at your list of strengths and see how you could put those to use for someone while also receiving help in an area where you’re weaker.
If all else fails, you can think about delegating to hired professionals. Of course, this is the most expensive option, and would pose a challenge for many homeschooling families that definitionally only have one or one-and-a-half incomes. If after looking at all your needs and resources you’re still coming up short, however, consider what that extra help might be worth. Is it more beneficial for your family than a vacation? Would it give greater peace of mind than whatever else you’d spend gift money on? If you’re really, truly struggling, it might be worth looking into.
Accepting homeschool management imperfection
No matter how well you plan, prioritize, and delegate, my guess is there will still be some holes in your ideal vision of a home and a homeschool. Even if you DID manage to create a plan that covers each and every base, I would also guess that sooner rather than later, life will throw you a curveball (like, say, a global pandemic) that you never could have planned for.
When your plan is insufficient or doesn’t work perfectly, your job is to take a deep breath in…
…and let it go.
Accept that you’ll never be able to do it all, even if you were Queen Elizabeth with millions of dollars to hire all the help you wanted. There would always be another ballroom you couldn’t seem to keep clean enough. Imperfection is just part of life! Focus on your priorities, nail down systems to get them completed often and well, and let go of the little things.
Ignore ignorant nay-sayers
Like I said, your job is to hit your priority tasks as well and as often as you can. That’s what will keep your personal family running smoothest. And now that you’ve done your homework, you KNOW that’s what’s best for all of you! You guys are a never-before-seen combination of humans working together as a family, so only you know exactly what will work.
Others, including in-laws, nosy neighbors, and the old lady in the supermarket, might disagree. They might say things that hurt or make you question yourself late at night. Your job is not to listen to them and keep your eyes on the prize.
Feel free to accept advice from people who genuinely have expertise and/or love you, but be ready to leave advice on the table if it won’t work for your family.
Some people find that they can know, prioritize, delegate, accept, and ignore just fine- it’s the homeschooling they need help with! If that’s you, then it sounds like you need to know some options for homeschooling systems more than homeschool management. That way, you can put the system in place and make your home run smoothly around them.
One of the best ways to organize a homeschool that also allows you to be the CEO of your home is to use learning centers. We here at The Homeschool Resource Room just finished an entire ebook to give you a learning center crash course: what they are, how they work, and whether or not they’re the right fit for your family. Feel free to take a look and see how learning centers could be a homeschooling system that meets your needs!
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.