A Simple Survival Strategy for Homeschooling Moms of Many {guest post}

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A Simple Strategy for Homeschooling Moms of Many | RaisingArrows.netBack when I was an overwhelmed young mother with a perpetual babe in arms and stair-step children by my side, an older woman shared some simple advice that really transformed my life.  In fact, I still live by her words of wisdom today!  Her timeless advice??

KISS — Keep It Simple Sister.

Before you quit reading in disappointment, your hopes for help dashed, let me explain how that simple nugget of wisdom transformed my life.  By applying that principle to every area of my life, I was able to keep not only my sanity, but my joy!

Let me share a few examples.

A Simple Beauty Routine

A homeschooling mother of a large family does not have time for a complicated beauty routine!  However, a wise woman continues to care about her appearance for the sake of her husband, her children, and her testimony out in the world.  For me, that meant washing my face in the shower, simplifying my make €“up routine, and adopting an easier hairstyle than in my younger days.  Since I have fine, limp, flat hair, and have always adored curls and bounce, my favorite mommy hairstyle has been a soft perm that I can €œscrunch€ and let dry by itself.  (Oh what a blessing a flexi-clip would have been back in the days when I was so busy caring for babies and toddlers that I didn€™t have time to fix my hair!)

While I know that denim skirts are the brunt of many homeschooling jokes, I€™ve always found them to be the busy homeschooling mama€™s ideal wardrobe item!  A denim skirt is versatile, durable, comfortable, requires no-fuss washing and drying, can be dressed up or down, and hides many a spot and smudge!

A Simple Menu

There is no need for a busy, homeschooling mom of many to wear herself out trying to create and prepare elaborate meals!  Frankly, most kids (and husbands) don€™t like gourmet or fancy food!  On the other hand, convenience food is very tempting for the overwhelmed mom, but also highly processed, expensive and unhealthy.  Simple, home cooked meals are the best choice for the body and the budget!

Furthermore, our families really don€™t need tons of variety.  I recommend planning 7 to 14 simple meals and just rotating them throughout the month.  These can be changed out with the seasons by implementing a spring/summer menu and a fall/winter menu.  If you like a bit more variety, start with a basic theme for each night of the week and then vary it throughout the month.  For example, one night might be €œtaco meat€ night.  Once a month brown up enough €œtaco meat€ for the month, divide it into four packages and freeze.  Each week on taco night, use your pre-prepared meat to make meals such as tacos, enchiladas, taco salad, taco soup, or Tex-Mex casserole.

Another helpful tip is to only plan one complicated dish per meal.  If the main dish takes a bit of time, plan very simple sides.  If your main dish is simple and straightforward, you could pair it with a more time-consuming side dish.  With today€™s bagged salads, which can be spruced up with a few additions, having a salad with each meal is a simple task that even young children can handle on their own.

A Simple Chore System

I can€™t tell you how many times I put together some elaborate chore system, only to have it be too complicated to keep up with from day to day!  Back in the day, when I was drowning in nursing babies, toddlers, and many young students, I learned that a simple system was best!  I found that elaborate chore charts that looked impressive on the refrigerator door and were supposed to make my life easier, quickly overwhelmed me!  I learned to dislike the rotating chore method, because I never could keep up with whose turn it was to clear the table, wash the dishes, or sweep the floors, and even if I could, my husband was always confused about whose turn it was to do what!  What worked best for me was to assign standing chore assignments before each school year and then reevaluate and revise the responsibilities in January for the second half of the school year.  I also learned that summer is a great time to change over responsibilities and allows more time for €œon the job training.€

My two favorite strategies for dividing up the house work over the years have been assigning jurisdictions and teams.  By €œJurisdictions,€ I mean that I gave different children the responsibility for an entire room or job.  Each child was responsible to clean his or her assigned jurisdiction once a week and to maintain it daily.  This was simple to oversee and maintain, and taught the children to look at the whole job instead of just parts and to take pride in keeping their jurisdictions clean and neat.

Another helpful strategy was to pair an older and a younger child in a team for certain jobs.  At one time, we had three teams in place that were responsible for one of the following jobs after each meal:  cleaning the kitchen, picking up toys and straightening the family room, or changing over the washer and dryer and folding laundry.

A Simple Schedule

While there was a time when I lived by a detailed, color-coded daily schedule where the children changed activities every thirty minutes, I eventually decided that following a simple routine was less stressful and more realistic than being a slave to a detailed schedule.  With the schedule, if one thing changed €“ such as baby€™s naptime €“ it threw off the entire schedule and I had to make a new one!  Also, I ended up feeling stressed and rushed as I went through each day as a taskmaster €œcracking the whip€ trying to keep everyone on schedule.

Back in the 1990€™s when I was having most of my babies, I felt tremendous pressure to follow a popular infant feeding approach, where the mother  scheduled and controlled the baby€™s feeding times, sleeping times, play times, etc. throughout the day and forced baby to sleep through the night from an early age.  It was promoted strongly in my homeschooling circles as the only way to have a godly home, since the alternative would create a child-centered home.  Finally I gave into the pressure and gave this approach a try. The result?  It depleted not only my milk supply, but my confidence as a mother and my joy!  In addition, I discovered that instead of avoiding a child-centered home, I created one!  It seemed the whole day had to revolve around baby€™s schedule and whether baby was supposed to be playing or sleeping or eating!  We couldn€™t just enjoy the baby €“ we had to check the book for what baby should be doing next.  If baby fell asleep at the breast, we even had to wake the baby!  Ridiculous!  The best thing I ever did was throw that book in the trash, tuck baby into our daily schedule, and get back to mothering from the heart!

A Simple School Day

Homeschooling mothers often try to cover their insecurities by adding an abundance of electives, field trips, and activities to their days.  Whenever I tried to €œdo it all,€ I was soon spread too thin to be any good to anyone. I quickly became exhausted, stressed, irritable and emotional.  Since Mom sets the atmosphere of the home, and a joyful, contented mother is the most important element of a successful homeschool, I soon found that sticking to the basics and keeping outside activities to a minimum was the simple road to success.

So, if you are overwhelmed, burned out, and struggling as a homeschooling mother, may I suggest that you just €œKeep it Simple Sister?!€ This prescription may be a hard pill to swallow if you are a performance driven, perfectionistic, Pinterest-loving Mom!!  However, in my experience, when we try to make things too elaborate, complicated, and impressive, we often end up with feelings of failure, frustration, guilt, and hopelessness.  Keeping it simple is the easiest path to success!

ElizabethElizabeth, who blogs at Yes They€™re All Ours, is the busy mom of 10 children — 6 sons and 4 daughters, who range in age from 8 to 27!  She has been homeschooling since 1990, and continues to teach her five youngest children at home, while attempting to keep up with the adventures of her five adult children (some of whom still live at home).  She has been happily married since 1983, and lives with her husband and children on the Georgia coast, where she enjoys creating an inviting home for her family, cooking great southern food (and blogging about it), homeschooling (when not spending the day at the beach), and learning to embrace being an older woman, while encouraging the younger women in her life according to the spirit of Titus 2.  She invites you to connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or email her at Elizabeth@yestheyareallours.com

25 Comments on A Simple Survival Strategy for Homeschooling Moms of Many {guest post}

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25 thoughts on “A Simple Survival Strategy for Homeschooling Moms of Many {guest post}

  1. Elizabeth and Amy how this post has blessed me today! I am 4 weeks away from delivering my 8th baby and am feeling very run down and this post has encouraged me to focus on the basics and just let go of everything else.

    I often try to take on and do too much and end up burnt out and feeling like a failure. Will be printing this post out to reference when I catch myself in that trap.

    Have a blessed day!

    • Thank you Anna Mary for your encouraging words! I remember what it was like when I was in the last month of pregnancy and had several young children! Exhausting for sure! May God give you wisdom to simplify!! ~blessings, Elizabeth

  2. Great post! I went through some of the same journey with scheduling versus routine and found that I also function better with a flow but not a schedule.
    One thing that has helped is in the area of jurisdictions is to have detailed instructions for cleaning the room. Large Family Logistics was a good resource for this. Homeschool homes should be a beacon to the world so while they don’t have to be perfect they should be clean and pleasant.

    • Jennifer, I love what you said about homeschooling homes being a beacon for the world! I love lighthouses — and I live on the coast — so those words have continued to echo through my mind! Thinking more about that an analogy has emerged — the single purpose of a lighthouse is to shine its light out over the sea so that boats can sail safely through dangerous waters and reach their harbors. I am reminded that if our homes are beacons — then we will be single-mindedly focused on shining the light of God’s love into this dark world, and helping many find their way safely to the other shore. What a beautiful perspective on family life! It requires a simple focus on what really matters though, don’t you think???

  3. These thoughts will be a huge blessing to families,whether moms of many or few. I know full well what you are talking about with that book. We lived in Seminary housing for a while and it was being pushed as the only godly method to teach obedience to a child. The irony was, one of the mom’s who tried this with me was rapturously telling me how it causes a child to listen better, while her son was simultaneously ignoring her repeated commands to come to her.

    I will never forget that scene, but I quickly tossed away the dogma:)

    By the way, you look positively radiant in that picture! I think mothering from the heart becomes you!

  4. “The best thing I ever did was throw that book in the trash, tuck baby into our daily schedule, and get back to mothering from the heart!”

    LOL! I LOVE this sentence and I totally agree! While our first baby followed “that book” just by his own nature we quickly discovered with the rest of our babies that understanding that our babies are unique individuals with their own needs/desires is a much more fulfilling way to parent and we believe much healthier for baby too.

    Thanks for the post, I’m a young mom (five kids ages 6 and under) who often struggles with the pressure to do it all, even from other homeschooling moms.

  5. I cant tell you how encouraged I am by this post. I started homeschooling 3 weeks ago and ONLY 1 child with only one four month old baby at home and I’m overwhelmed already. Thanks for the advice.

  6. Thanks for the advice. I have 3 kids 4 and under and am set to deliver #4 (at home) in July. I also plan to homeschool them when the time comes. I love hearing from others as to how they do it and have done it in the past. It is truly encouraging since I don’t have any friends in the area who homeschool (I’m a part of a few homeschooling groups, but I’m not super involved since I’m not actually to the homeschooling age yet) or who even have more than 2 kids!

  7. Elizabeth, I have 8 children, and have been homeschooling or 28 years (last one is in 10th grade). This was a GREAT post! These are such practical ideas, but and easy to do – some of them I wish I’d thought of about 20 some years ago! Thanks for sharing this. I would love for you to share this on my Tuesday blog hop:
    It encouraged me, so I’d like my readers to also be able to see it!

  8. Thank you for this!!!! I just had my fourth baby, sweet Mr. Arrow, :) 3 months ago. This is the first time I’ve had a newborn and had to homeschool. The last time I brought a baby home, my oldest was 4. Now I have two kiddos to home school, a smart little pre schooler who begs to school with us, and a newborn. Its has been hard to find our balance. Just the last 3 weeks, I think I’m figuring it out. I made a simple schedule and am trying my hardest and a lot of what you said above validated the road I am starting down. So I will continue with my efforts knowing that it is tried and true by you. Also, I laughed when you talked about tossing that book. Good for you! I have a few friends who go by that book and it just drives me batty! Thanks for these words!

  9. Oh thank you Elizabeth for this great post! I am a divorced, working mother of 1 preschooler and I am feeling so encouraged by your advice. Because I work fulltime, I wrestler with feelings of guilt about the time I spend away from my 4-year-old son…so I am always trying to be more organized so that the time we do spend is quality. However, I can get caught up in the over-organization…of meal plans, chore charts, and the like. Such a time waster that can be. I just needed a refresher on the art of simplifying and enjoying the little miracle that I have. No need to complicate things (therefore wasting time). And…you are so right about tossing out that book! I realized long ago, that fretting over a schedule was making me more anxious and therfore robbing the fun of it all. Identifying my kids needs and rolling with it made motherhood so much more fun. Our kids are unique and they all have different personalities and needs. Thank you for the encouraging words today. My dream would be to have a house full of kiddos and to be a homeschooling momma…maybe my path will lead their one day.

  10. We are starting our homeschooling year tomorrow and, boy, am I thankful that I can across this blog today! Homeschooling is such an adventure in itself but adding two toddlers in tow sure can make things interesting. THANK YOU for this reminder that simple is often more than enough!. God Bless.

  11. Oh, thank you so very much for this post! I will remember the acronym KISS and try to live by it! I have also noticed that when I take on too much, in some misguided effort to benefit everyone, it leads to negative consequences. I am making some big changes for next year and I am very excited about it. We are letting go of activities that do not suit our lives, including a co-op, and we are going “rogue”, as I jokingly refer to it and getting back to basics! God is so good to encourage us and guide us! Thank you again!