Recently, I described a typical day in our home as we home educate our boys aged 4, 3 and 18 months. Then afterwards I wondered whether I really answered some of the questions you might have in mind. Reading blogs, and talking to friends, one question that comes up is 'when do you find time for housework?'
It makes me smile to think I am writing a blog post on housework. If you know me, you will know that my home is often quite 'lived in'. I remember once somebody telling me that I encouraged them because we 'don't wait until our home is perfect before showing hospitality'. That's one of those compliments that can be taken both ways! But in seriousness, our home is always open and we always have plenty of food, drink, a listening ear and a place to sleep. What else is necessary?
I think we need to beware our motives. If I had a choice, I would prefer my house to be very tidy. I'd like my books and music to be arranged by category, and within each category, alphabetically. I would have everything neatly labelled and arranged, and my kitchen would be spotless. I would probably not have people over very often, and I would not do anything too experimental in the kitchen. Things would be tidy, but I would not really be living. I would be putting the appearance and order of my home before its real purpose. What is the main reason that you want a tidy and clean home?
Yes, there is a basic standard. You do not want chaos whereby you cannot function, or where significant delays occur as you locate things that you need. You want standards of cleanliness which are safe! You do not want guests to feel uncomfortable or to have nowhere to sit. You do not want your home to be characterised by chaotic disorder, to the point whereby you cannot offer hospitality or refreshment to those who need it. But is it really necessary for things to be spotless, to be perfect?
You can involve the children. Even my 18 month old will get plastic bowls out of the cupboard and put them on the dining room table each morning. My 3 year old loves to sweep up. My 4 year old needs a bit of encouragement, but loves to help hang the washing outside, counting the pegs and passing me things. They all know that one book must be put back on the shelf before another one can be got down, that one toy should be put away before the next one is got out. They have also learnt that a little time spent tidying up after one task in fact allows a greater range of options as to what to do next. I find it delightful to see how much they want to be helpful and want to be involved in the life of the home; I wonder how much of this attitude (or indeed the converse) is taught? For example, if I convey that helping in the home is important, helpful and very much part of family life, then of course the children will want to be involved; by contrast, should I grumble and groan about the tasks as though they are dull and burdensome, then my children may well catch that atttitude too.
The boys love cooking. I happen to have an extremely adventurous husband, and the boys know the basic principles of how to make their own bread, cheese and chutneys as well as more 'conventional' cooking. Yes, it makes a bit of mess. Yes, sometimes when they crack eggs, everything ends up in the wrong place. Flour gets on the floor, hands get sticky, aprons need washing. But its both educational and also a valuable life skill. Already, the older two can help as much as they hinder, and the whole experience is so much more satisfying than having a perfectly tidy worktop and no mess! Not so long ago, I was visiting a friend who spent a long time in the kitchen making cakes whilst her children played restlessly elsewhere. I could not understand why the children weren't in the kitchen too; but it does seem that there can be an attitude that either children will not be interested in this type of thing, or that perhaps it generates too much additional work and effort to involve them. Surely one of the delights of home education is that it encompasses the whole of life, and the manifold lessons that are encountered therein!
In terms of schedule, we probably do the housework in 10-15 minute sections throughout the day. After breakfast, they will help me clear the table, and then maybe read books by themselves for another 5 minutes whilst I finish off. In between focussed tasks such as stories, art, music or writing, we will do a task (such as hoovering or hanging the washing). And so it becomes part of the day, without this looming question of, 'When can I do my housework?'.
I have to remind myself of what is important. People are. Serving God is. Especially when I am tired, or when I have been to visit somebody who has a really beautiful home, I am tempted to covet. I am tempted to think, 'If only I had this or that - usually space, tidiness, order...' But I take my eyes of the path God has given our family. When I look back over the past few years, I remember the highlights - long walks, laughter, new discoveries, first steps, milestones, cuddles, conversation, journeys, experiences. I do not remember for a moment whether or not my kitchen was tidy when such and such a thing happened! If I were to look back wistfully, it would be that I had not made the most of these abundant times of the children's lives; I would not for a second look back and wish I had chosen to spend more time keeping my home immaculate.
My tips on housework and homeschooling are therefore thus:
1) Keep it to the minimum.
2) Keep your priorities; pray that God shows you what is the best use of time
3) Involve the children, and embrace the lessons that present themselves
4) Don't make your home an idol
5) Don't compare yourself to others
6) Live for today
- I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.