As you read today’s blog post title, you might be thinking, “Ah, yes, the old adage, ‘Failure to plan is a plan for failure,’ by Benjamin Franklin.” Today we won’t be talking about academic success, but rather the ability to plan our homes to have a successful homeschool environment.
As our family has grown, and we’ve added more children to our homeschool, my time has become more limited! Sometimes I think homeschooling hasn’t been my children’s journey, but my journey as I mature as a mother. Growing up, I don’t remember my mom ever having a plan for meals, chores, or any schedule for my brother and me. She just winged it! But, she also wasn’t a Christian, didn’t raise five children, and certainly didn’t homeschool.
In order for our home to excel in creating a loving, Christ-like homeschool environment, the basic necessities of family life need to be planned. Today I am going to share with you five basic and yet vital steps that are helpful in creating an orderly homeschool and home environment. (Note: These practical steps are in addition to the standards of morning and evening worship, and daily personal devotions.)
With four growing sons, and a very selective daughter, food is on their minds and stomachs more than on mine! How can we keep a healthy, plant-based diet and yet not spend so much time in the kitchen?
1. Meal Planning: Every week, usually on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, I plan out every meal for the following week. Some plan for the month, others for the pay period, but what works best for me is weekly. I usually plan at least one soup night, one rice night, one casserole night, etc. You get the general idea.
Once I have the food scheduled for the week, carefully selecting meals that fit the day’s activities, I can rest knowing I don’t have to think about what to make next. If I am making something that uses dry beans, I can have them cooking ahead of time. If there are meals that require overnight soaking, I can do so. A point worth mentioning is how to record your meal menu. I’ve used various methods, including paper and pencil, apps, weekly homeschool planner, and my phone’s “Note” section. It doesn’t matter — just write it down in a place you can find it!
Besides meals at our house, there are other anchor points, tasks that must be completed daily in order to have a well-functioning home. Clean clothing is a basic necessity for our family, so the second most vital point in our plan for success is having a set routine for laundry. With seven people in the home, including a potty-training toddler, we go through quite a bit of laundry. I cannot spend one or two days doing it all; my septic tank can’t handle that!
2. Daily Laundry Routine: Every morning, each room’s dirty laundry hamper is brought to the laundry room, where it is sorted by the respective child into whites, darks, and denim. One child is responsible for emptying the dryer, and another for starting a load, during the morning chore time. Mom is responsible for moving it throughout the day, like during break time. Every morning and evening chore time, each child is responsible for folding an entire load of laundry. Each child and parent has their own clean laundry basket, so as soon as it is folded, it is placed into that person’s clean basket. Once a day, the laundry is put away into drawers.
You might have noticed that we have designated chore time. Before we start school, chores are to be completed, then after school ends and before dinner, we have another set of chores. Because I have learned that some children like to sneak away during work time, I have preassigned the chores to be done by specific children. If the dishes aren’t unloaded and put away, I know exactly who is responsible. I have also provided a physical prompt for them to remember it is chore time.
3. Chore Routine: In order for me to spend time with my children during school, I need to make sure the cleanliness tasks are accomplished. Although I would like to say our home is very clean, the truth is, we are home all day long, every day. Kids make messes! Knowing that, at least twice a day, chores are being completed to clean the home, I can rest and be still. It will get done, eventually! If you would like to know more about our chore system, I highly recommend “Managers of Their Chores,” by Teri Maxwell. It is purposeful, logical, and practical!
Managers of Their Chores, by Titus 2 Ministries and Teri Maxwell
Another principal that I’ve had to accept and not murmur about is the correction phase to school. Many smaller homeschools may not have to have a parent guiding and correcting, but as I manage four grades and a toddler, I’m not so fast at grading anymore. Frankly, when my older kids were younger, we were so hands on that we rarely took tests, etc. Now that my oldest two are in middle school, I’ve begun to have tests more often, and expect assignments to be written and completed.
4. School Prep and Correction Time: Because I expect my older children to work more independently, I write down their assignments for the following school day in their school planner. I make it very clear what needs to be corrected or redone, and what new tasks need to be completed. This is also a time I can thoroughly look at their work to understand their deficiencies. For example, if a child gets half of a math worksheet incorrect, is it the new concept being taught, or old concepts not showing proficiency?
Although I try to make our homeschool a happy, loving place, there will be times that it might be frustrating, challenging, and not what I would expect. My last point in planning for success is to truly believe that my expectations won’t be met every single day.
5. Surrender Thy Will: Our school is for God’s glory, for the bringing up of His children for His kingdom. Yes, I wish to provide character training for my children — diligence, integrity, and positive attitude — but I also want to provide grace, love, and joy. My children will disappoint me, because they aren’t perfect! And, it is no poor reflection upon my Christianity or character, if my child takes longer to grasp a skill, an attitude, or a desire. I need to be at the feet of Christ daily, with our homeschool in heart, to surrender what I think is most important. I need to consult the Greatest Teacher every day!
When we can plan our home to succeed so that Mama is not burned out, feeling overwhelmed by the daily tasks at hand; if we can accept our role and responsibility to the homeschool, even after the school day has ended; and we can surrender our own expectations, but day by day keep turning to him for His will and grace, we can set ourselves up to have a happy, successful homeschool.