House Cleaning Strategies for the Homeschool Family

Our family recently took a break from our “regular” school studies to go on a bit of a road trip and then take time to recover from said road trip. Just the other day my husband took the very, very brave step of telling me how great the house had been looking since we’d been home. Like, the house isn’t normally clean and tidy and vacuumed and mopped and dusted?!? I jokingly, in mock-offense, shot back that he could either have a clean home or educated children but never, EVER, both!

It’s one of those areas that’s a constant struggle for most of us homeschooling families, isn’t it? How do we balance all of our responsibilities as they relate to our kids’ education and still manage to keep our homes some measure of clean?

I’m not even talking showroom, cover-of-a-magazine clean; I want to know how we keep clean clothes in the drawers, papers and colored pencils from swallowing us whole, our feet from sticking to the kitchen floor, and dust blankets from forming on the horizontal surfaces. Granted, we all have different standards but I’ve never met a homeschooling mom that doesn’t struggle with keeping a home (and all that comes with it) alongside her homeschool schedule.

So, that’s what I want to talk about today. Let’s look at some of the tried and true schedules and strategies that busy homeschool moms can use in their everyday lives, shall we?

Flylady – You’ve probably already heard of her, and if you’re a detail-lover, this is your mecca! The Flylady has oodles of steps to decluttering, developing good habits, and keeping a rotating schedule to stay on top of the bigger projects. The Flylady community is truly massive and you can find bottomless support from ladies exactly where you are. You can sign up for email reminders if that kind of thing is helpful for you or check out the Flylady Facebook page if it’s more you’re style! A word of caution:  the Flylady method doesn’t work for everyone, and the sheer mass of information can be overwhelming! But Flybabies everywhere have found her strategies a great way to develop new habits without having to create your own lists or reinvent the wheel. Which is exactly what she was in my life, the perfect jumping off point.

Connie, the homeschooling mom over @ Smockity Frocks wrote this post about a truly brilliant idea she’s put into practice with her family. Saturday mornings are deep cleaning days at the Smockity house and Connie’s kids wake up EXCITED to clean! Wait…..excited?!? Yep! And she says yours can too. Each family member has assigned jobs for the day, and when it’s all done Connie grades each person on how well their work was done. If the house is clean before 4pm they all hop in the car and hit Sonic’s Happy Hour for 1/2 price slushies. Everyone gets a slushie no matter how high or low they score, but the higher the score, the bigger the slushie. A grand prize, the massive Sonic Route 44 slushie, is awarded to the highest scorer of the week. Let me tell you, I used to live somewhere that had Sonic restaurants and the happy hour slushies were a true family favorite. I would gladly, happily, JOYFULLY clean my house like a champ if the reward was a weekly Sonic slushie, no joke. I like this idea so much I plan on putting it into practice myself as soon as I figure out a practical/available/realistic weekly reward. Sonic is not an option in rural Montana, but I’ll think of something!

Jamie, the woman behind the blog at the Simple Homeschool, adopted a once-a-month deep cleaning day that worked well for her while her kids were younger. She shares a three part series on why it worked, how it evolved and how it might for you as well. Her family recently developed a more “regular” schedule now that her kiddos are older and better able to pitch in with the housekeeping. I think the biggest thing to take away from any of these strategies is to use what works for as long as it works and be willing to adjust, adapt and move on when circumstances change. We are homeschoolers after all, this should be our specialty!

I read this post from homeschool mom Amy of Raising Arrows last year, and it’s stuck with me all this time. She does a beautiful job at examining the heart of why we work to keep a tidy, ordered home and some of those barriers that keep us from achieving it. She outlines a sort of flip-flop cleaning schedule she’s put to work in her family, where the chores and housekeeping tasks are done later in the afternoon. Because the house gets cleaned later in the day it stays tidy enough to comfortably get the next day’s studies started without stressing the mess. This philosophy works really well in my home! As a really cool bonus, Amy hosted a link-up the day after her original cleaning & homeschooling post and more than 60 ladies linked up their posts about cleaning, time management and keeping order in their days. What a great resource!

One tip I read years ago (and for the life of me I cannot remember where) has been front and center in my “cleaning strategy” if you will. This book suggests that you ask your husband to list the top 3 issues that irk or stress him the most when he comes home from work and the house is messy, then make a concentrated effort to make those hotspots a priority. I asked my guy a few years ago, and you know what? The things he named (only 2, he couldn’t think of 3!) weren’t what I thought they’d be. In fact, they were shockingly easy to tackle and he notices the effort. Anything that gives me the boost to regularly tackle specific areas while simultaneously showing honor to my husband is a win in my book.

Do you struggle in this area? What have you found that works for your family? I know it’s one of the top issues for most of us, so let’s chat about it!

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  1. THANK YOU! I recently told someone I think I could only be good at one thing at a time (i.e. keeping my house clean, homeschooling, keeping up with work from home stuff) and she looked at me like she had no idea what I was saying. Seriously! Its so hard to keep up with it all even with minimal expectations (my kitchen floor is always sticky). Thanks for your post, it makes me feel like I’m not crazy!

  2. I was recently discussing this with my husband! This is our first year homeschooling, and I keep telling my husband he can pick two things, either I can school the kids and make dinner, or I can school the kids and clean the house, or I can school the kids and run the errands. I only have two littles, so I am not sure if it will get easier or harder as they get older, or if we add other littles to the mix!

    1. How old are your littles? My experience has been that it will get easier as they get older. Both because you will have another set of more capable hands and because you will find your stride, and get more comfortable with the list you need to accomplish each day. Just yesterday I asked my 10 year old to guide our 5 year old through his handwriting so I could get dinner going in the crockpot, it was so nice. The first year can be tough! If all that happens is those two things each day you are doing a GREAT job!

  3. Thanks for sharing some of your top tips and resources, Danielle! My sister, two sisters in law, and I just wrote our own take on how to manage household chores while homeschooling for our blog, NextGen Homeschool. We’re all formerly homeschooled moms who now homeschool our own kids! Here’s our answer to this question from four different perspectives:

    My big take-away on this topic is that the ages of your children makes a difference in what strategies will work for you. For instance, I have two “tween” girls and one five year old girl, so I have been somewhat successful at giving a few daily & weekly chores to my older two. However, my sis who has a 6-year-old and 4-year-old is pretty much on her own with all the chores other than helping the kids pick up their room or put their clothes away, so she has to take a totally different approach.

    And I always love to hear the ideas of others! One reader to our blog gave me a great idea to use Friday afternoons for the “deep clean” chores that are often saved for Saturdays. That way she & the family have more time with Dad on the weekend. I love that, because right now we spend most of our Saturday morning/early afternoon doing chores.

    Thanks again for your take on this topic!

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