One question I often get asked is “how do I do it?” How do I home school and work from home, along with all the other normal daily tasks of running a household that includes a 6, 5, 3, and 22 month-old? I’m still learning how to do this myself. But, here are seven tips and tricks for being a homeschooling, working from home, mother of several little ones.
Organization. This is still a work in progress with our new household and new school year, but doing my best to organize my life, my appointments, my work tasks, my homemaking tasks, and my home schooling tasks, helps my entire household run more smoothly so it’s very important for me to continue to cultivate this. Weekly meal planning, keeping a detailed online calendar, planning ahead the times I will work on specific work tasks and when I will focus on home schooling, keeping the school room and house hold clean and organized all help our family function joyfully.
No TV, no electronics. This might sound counter-intuitive for a working-from-home mother but hear me out- I’m opposed to letting my children watch TV or play with electronic toys for a few reasons: 1. The scientific research showing how detrimental TV and screen time is on developing young minds 2. The overstimulation that comes from noisy toys and the instant gratification that comes from playing video games are not qualities I want to be fostering in my children 3. So much of the shows on TV and popular movies just aren’t good, they aren’t sending great messages or cultivating the virtues I want cultivated in my children from a young age and finally 4. Since my children know I never ever ever let them watch TV or use any electronics on my watch, they never ever ask me for them, and that is pure bliss! I don’t have to make any bargains about what they have to get done in order to watch TV, or be the bad guy turning off the TV once they’ve watched enough, and I don’t have to listen to any nagging about when they can watch something or fighting over what they can watch. They all know the answer is always no, so they don’t even ask. Instead, they read and look at a lot of books, color, play board games and dress up, and have toys that help foster creative and imaginative play. Once they are done with their school work, they just play. Together. Sure they bicker occasionally, but for the most part they get along really well and I love watching them play together. Their imaginations are limitless and I love eavesdropping on their make believe games. This also gives me time to work on household tasks or work related tasks, while keeping an eye on them playing together.
Make nights and weekends productive. My children go to bed at 8 pm and then I can work uninterrupted for a few hours in the evening. Often throughout the day, I’ll open several news stories that look interesting or important, and save all of them to read at night after my children have gone to bed. We don’t like to do formal home schooling on the weekends, but I do usually work on the weekends, especially since my husband is home to spend time with the children. I am lucky to have a job that I love—so for me, I enjoy working at night and on weekends most of the time.
Multitask. Some days, I’m sending work emails in between calling out spelling words or working through math problems with the children. Some days I’m watching a committee hearing while cooking dinner. When I have a newborn, I’m often nursing while reading articles or contacting volunteers. Being able to multitask is pretty essential to getting through my day. But I also have to know when to turn off the distractions and focus on teaching my children. With home schooling, this has to happen every day. Usually in the morning we work on the subjects that need my attention and explanation the most, and once we’ve covered all the necessary subjects, the children can work on the rest of their tasks and I can work on mine: laundry, putting toddlers down for naps, cleaning, starting dinner, or work-related tasks.
Foster independence and assign chores. While my children are certainly attached to me in the sense that they are home with me all day, every day, we also value age appropriate independence and assign daily age appropriate chores. For example, my oldest children can make their own lunches and make sandwiches for the younger children too. My older children can also vacuum, swiffer, dust bust, magic erase the walls, load and empty the dishwasher, set and clear the table, fold and put away all their laundry, clean a bathroom, sweep the front porch, empty the trash, etc. While we don’t have them do all of those chores every single day, they are expected to contribute to our family’s common good by completing their chores. They might not complete their chores as perfectly and thoroughly as I would have had I done them myself, but I’ve learned to let go of that and just be grateful the chores were done.
Consistency. As one of my favorite bloggers points out: say what you mean and mean what you say. If I tell my children they will get a treat after dinner if they behave properly while I’m on a work meeting, and they behave, they get the treat. Conversely, if I tell them there will be no treats if they don’t behave or don’t finish their chores, then there will be no treats. My children know that I mean what I say and I will follow through with it. This cuts out so much unnecessary whining and obnoxious attempts at negotiating. It also works to hold me accountable as well: if I say I’m going to work on Spelling with my 6 year old at a certain time, I have to shut my computer, stop working, and focus on Spelling lessons with him. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Consistency is so important in our household.
Don’t read the Pottery Barn Catalog. While we think it’s important to have a clean home, we’ve accepted that our home is just never going to be immaculate, like the rooms featured in Pottery Barn ads. Such a standard is impossible in a home with little kids and a working mother.
Having a flexible boss, flexible husband, and flexible children are also essential for me to succeed at both working from home and home schooling. I’m grateful for such supportive and understanding people in my life.
What tips do you have for running a healthy and happy home? Sound off below!
Deirdre Cooper and her husband live in Tennessee with their six children. She is a public policy analyst for Texas Alliance for Life, one of the leading pro-life organizations in Texas, where she successfully lobbied for the sonogram law, Choose Life license plate, defunding Planned Parenthood, and HB 2. She is also a board member for And Then There Were None Pro-Life Outreach. She enjoys coffee, soccer, home schooling her children and playing board games with her family. The opinions presented here are her own.