by Kimberly Miller
How on earth do homeschooling families get it all done?
Maybe you’re new to homeschooling and you look at families who have been doing it for a while and wonder how they fit homeschooling into their schedule around everything else in life. Or maybe you’re already homeschooling but you are going through a busy season and you are asking the same question. Actually, that’s something new and veteran homeschoolers alike all wrestle with at one time or another. There is no doubt that homeschooling takes a commitment of time and effort. Learning takes time, and homeschooling doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In addition to the children’s education, most homeschooling families have other commitments and activities in their lives as well. We all have household chores and routine errands that must be attended to in order to make our lives run smoothly. We may have doctor’s appointments or sports activities or social commitments that take up some of our’s or our children’s time. And we all need downtime, time devoted to rest and refueling, time to do things we enjoy just for the fun of it.
Our days can seem pretty packed with all the things we have to fit into them already. How in the world do we add in homeschooling on top of all the rest? Or what do we have to give up in order to have time to devote to our kids’ education? Thinking about it is enough to make a homeschooling mom or dad panic sometimes.
Can you identify with that feeling of anxiety when you look at your schedule and see how many things you must accomplish? Let me assure you that you are not alone. Still, we don’t have to let it paralyze us with panic, or turn us into angry, frustrated people who bark at our kids and growl at our spouse because we just have so much to do that there’s no time to be civil. Instead, we can take a deep breath, calm the racing of our hearts, and rest assured knowing that there really is a way to get all the important things accomplished.
I know this, because I have been there myself.
As a homeschooling mom of nine kids and a partner in our family business, as well as a published author, I understand what it’s like to have full days. It can feel overwhelming sometimes when I stop and think about it. I have had seasons in my homeschooling journey when I have been extremely busy, and also more relaxed times with a little more breathing room in my schedule. And I can tell you from personal experience, there is a way to get more done than you would have thought possible. You just have to be strategic.
But how do you fit all you need to do into your day?
1. First—and most importantly—you must choose your priorities
You have to know what is most important to you in order to be able to get the most important things done. That’s what must be done first.
Maybe you’ve heard the illustration about the teacher who had a pile of large rocks, a pile of medium sized stones, and a bunch of small pebbles, and finally a bag of sand. He asked his class if they thought he could fit all those rocks into a certain sized jar. Looking at the jar, no one in the class thought there was any way he could fit all those rocks, stones, pebbles, and sand into the jar. The teacher then proceeded to put the large rocks into the jar, fitting them in neatly. At that point the jar was almost full. Then he put in the stones, filling the jar to the top. Still, he fit in the pebbles, fitting them in around the larger rocks and stones. And last, he poured in the sand, which slid down into all the crevices between the rocks, stones, and pebbles. He had fit it all in. He explained to the class that the only way he could have done that was to put the bigger rocks in first. That story illustrates the point that once we fit our priorities into our lives, the other smaller and less important things can fill in the cracks around the more essential items.
Ask yourself, “What are my three most important priorities?” Make a list of those and focus on getting those things done, even if nothing else happens. Pick the most important things and do those first—or at least have a plan for how those are going to get done. Then fit the extras in around those things.
Pick what’s important, and do it. Let the rest—all the stuff that’s not important—go.
2. Do a little bit every single day
People often ask me how I find the time to write books. The simple answer is that I do it a little bit every single day. I am committed to getting down at least a few words in writing every day, and I follow through with it, even when I’m tired or I don’t feel like it or we’ve had a busy day with other things. I don’t always spend a lot of time writing; sometimes it’s only ten or fifteen minutes. But those few minutes every day add up, and before I know it, I’ve written a 60,000 word draft of a novel. That’s how I’m able to write two or three books a year.
I do the same with reading. I am able to read 200 books a year because, first of all, I love to read (so I’m motivated) and secondly, I spend time reading every single day. It is built into the rhythm of my days. I read aloud to my kids, I listen to audiobooks, I read before bed, I read for a few minutes in the morning, I read during my toddler’s nap time. I can get a lot of reading done in the nooks and crannies of my day.
Another mom I know does fiber arts. She spins wool by hand and then knits it into all sorts of beautiful creations. She also homeschools her children and runs a hobby farm. How is she able to do all of that? She works a little bit at each project every single day, and the time she spends adds up over the course of days and weeks.
3. Simplify your life where possible
We all have things in our lives we really don’t need in them. Take a good look at your life and decide whether there is anything you can cut out or pare down in order to simplify your life. A life of simplicity leaves more room for creativity and the essentials of life (like homeschooling!).
For instance, I cook simple meals for my family that don’t require a lot of prep work. If cooking is something you love to do, you might not choose to simplify in this particular area, but for me, cooking is not a passion or a pursuit I care about spending a lot of time on, so I have tried to find ways to feed my family in a nutritious but also efficient way.
Keep your homeschooling approach simple, too, if you can. In our home, my older children do most of their schoolwork independently if possible. This frees me up to work with the younger ones. Also, my children are often studying the same topics at the same time, but at their own individual level. This is especially helpful for large families like mine. This approach works great for history/social studies, nature study, and fine arts. A bonus is that when the whole family is learning together, it can make the experience more fun!
4. Beware of time wasters
While it’s fine to spend a little time every day relaxing and doing things that don’t challenge or tire you in order to rest and refresh, mindlessly scrolling through social media for hours every day or binge watching Netflix all the time is not going to lead to a great level of productivity. I think we all understand that to be the case, but it’s amazing how easy it is to forget that in the moment. It’s important to be aware of how much time we are wasting on these types of activities each day, and pare down the time wasters as much as possible. Believe me, when you cut back on tv watching or internet browsing, you will be amazed at how much time you suddenly have to spend in other more productive pursuits.
5. Adjust your expectations
Some of our disillusionment with our ability to get stuff done is that we are expecting ourselves to be able to do more than is even humanly possible. If your daily to-do list is longer than your arm and you beat yourself up over not crossing it all off every day, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what is on that list. Is what you are trying to get done even doable?
This tip is really an encapsulation of all the other ones. By prioritizing, simplifying, and cutting out the time wasters, you’re left with the essentials. And that is a great place to start from when you are planning out your family’s homeschooling days.
Kimberly Miller is the mother of nine children and has been homeschooling them for over twenty years. She has served HOME for almost fifteen years as the Publications Coordinator and a Regional Representative. In addition to those roles, Kimberly is also a freelance editor and a published author of several books, both fiction and nonfiction. In her spare time, she loves reading good books, sipping tea, working in her garden, and enjoying the animals on her family’s hobby farm in Western Maine.