Nothing makes you want to simplify your life like homeschooling.
It’s often a struggle keeping the house reasonably clean, healthy food on the table, managing the errands and outside activities, and being a wife. Let alone adding the responsibility of educating your children! If you’re tired of trying to balance your home life with homeschooling responsibilities unsuccessfully, read my 11 tips to simplify your homeschool life. With a family story or two thrown in.
Yes, when you add homeschooling to the mix, you quickly discover that you must drastically simplify your life in general, as well as your homeschooling life. You just can’t do as much as you used to do before homeschooling. If you’re trying to, you’re taking on too much.
Keep reading for 11 easy ideas that I guarantee will simplify your homeschool life, and help you better balance your home life and homeschool responsibilities. Some of them you can accomplish immediately, and some are going to be more of a time and energy investment.
Let’s start with YOU.
Simplify your homeschool life by evaluating how you spend your extra minutes.
Even if you see yourself as crazy busy, you might be spending more time than you think on activities that don’t give you a “real” break.
1. Simplify your life by cutting down on cell phone time.
Did you know that according to Kim Kommando, Americans spend an average of 5.4 hours a day on their cell phones? On average, we check our phones 58 times a day. Besides the necessary texts, calls, and emails, there’s social media, games, and videos. Our phones are addictive! If you added all the minutes, you might be surprised just how much time you are spending on your phone.
Not only are our phones taking up too much time– but what kind of example are we setting for our kids? Too much screen time is not something we want to pass on to them.
Here’s a little video that explains how screen time affects you and your child.
Did you know your phone might track how much time you spend on it? Settings –>Screen Time on my iPhone. And I get a weekly report that breaks my phone time down per app. Some weeks it’s not pretty. If you need more of a push to limit your phone time than you can get by viewing your phone’s screen-time report, here are 6 apps that help you manage your phone time.
Action steps to control the time you spend on your phone:
- Track your social media time on your phone or with one of the apps mentioned above.
- Don’t take your phone into the bathroom. 🙂
- Evaluate the number of social media channels where you spend your time: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, What’s App, LinkedIn… Choose your favorite one or two and delete the rest!
- Delete or turn off the phone apps for the social media and games you spend too much time on. On iPhones, you can also give yourself time limits — for example, a certain number of minutes a day on social media or games.
I know someone who has to use social media for her business. She usually does this on her phone. Because she gets hooked by a tempting video or whatever and can quickly lose an hour or more, she’s committed to “time-blocking” a specific daily time to be on social media. So every day, she installs the Facebook and Instagram phone apps, and then she deletes them when her time is up! It sounds drastic, but it works for her. It seems time-consuming to have to reinstall these apps every day, but she says it saves her time in the long run.
2. Simplify your life by turning off the TV and going to bed earlier.
Maybe you’re laughing at this point because you never have time to watch TV.
Or maybe you think that’s all you can manage to do at the end of an exhausting day. And there’s nothing wrong with watching TV. But if you are exhausted, set a timer. Watch one show or whatever is reasonable for you and then GO TO BED. Turn the TV off and give yourself 30 minutes to do the things you do before bed and maybe even read for 10-15 minutes before you turn out the light.
Conventional wisdom says most people need 8 hours of sleep. If you have babies, I understand that it may be impossible. But if you don’t… turn off that TV and get as much sleep as you can. It’s better for your health and your attitude. And if you want to hit the sheets at 8:30 or 9:00 — that’s okay. You have my permission. 😉
3. Simplify your life by cutting down on your wardrobe.
A minimalist or capsule wardrobe is when you have a limited amount of clothing, but every piece fits and can be worn with multiple items. Then you can get dressed in a few minutes rather than rummaging through twenty things for something that fits and goes with something else.
Fewer clothes mean more space in the closet, less decision fatigue, and less time getting ready.
An easy way to go through your closet is to arrange it by season (work with one season at a time). Every time you wear something, turn the hanger the opposite way. By the end of the season, it’s easy to see the clothes you wore and the ones you didn’t. If you’re like me, you mostly wear the same things anyway — so why do you need the rest? Take a trip to your consignment shop and make a little money in the process!
Simplify your homeschool life by managing your household more effectively.
4. Simplify your home and homeschool life by teaching your kids to obey.
This is the one thing you must do to have your household and homeschooling go smoothly.
When I was a new mom, I realized when I was getting mad at my kids, it was because they were in control instead of me. There should be a palm slap to the forehead emoji. Oh, there is. 🤦
Anyway, this was a revelation to me: if I dealt with misbehavior right away instead of waiting until I heated up, I could do it calmly. Which was so much better for me and so much more effective with the kids.
Then I learned that I could be proactive about it and actually teach my kids good habits, so I wasn’t continually dealing with the same things! 🤦🤦
Your house can be messier than you’d like, you may eat cereal sometimes for dinner, and you may occasionally homeschool in your pajamas. It’s all okay.
But if your kids don’t obey you, you are wasting A LOT of time trying to cajole, browbeat, bribe, argue, or scare your kids into obeying you. This. one. thing. affects every part of your family and homeschool life. Teach your kids to obey and train them to form and practice good habits.
When you’re forcing your children to get things done, instead of teaching them to be responsible for their own chores or schoolwork, you are doing them a disservice. They’re not learning to have their own work ethic. They aren’t learning how to respect authority, or follow directions, or work independently, or be responsible.
You may think you don’t have time to teach these things. Or that your kids are too complicated, so they just can’t learn to be obedient. You may have let this go on so long that you’re terrified even to take this on.
But as parents, this. is. our. job. These life skills are foundational to your children’s success in the world.
You can do this!
If you need help with getting your kids to obey:
- Find someone in your church or homeschooling community who has this handled and ask for mentoring. See if you can hang around her family and watch how she teaches and reteaches obedience in her house. What advice can she give you? What books does she recommend?
- And then be consistent in how you apply what you learn. Don’t be afraid to stop your school day to deal with a disobedient child. Let your kids know that obedience is more important than getting school done.
- Also, don’t feel bad about a child having a natural consequence for not being obedient. He fooled around instead of getting his work done? Maybe he has to miss outside playtime, or a friend activity because he has work to do. She left her room a mess instead of cleaning it up, as you asked? Maybe she has to spend time cleaning instead of going on a planned shopping trip.
Believe me, the natural consequences of disobedience are the best teaching tools!
If this is an area of difficulty for you, please carve out the time to deal with it. It might mean hard, consistent work for a longer time than you’d like, but it will yield great results if you can get on top of this one thing.
And if you do, EVERYTHING will go better and take less energy. Especially homeschooling!
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5. Add to your daily minutes by planning your meals for at least one week in advance.
The most painless way to do this is to make a Master List of the meals your family enjoys eating that are not too time-consuming for you to make. Take a look at your calendar for this week, and see where you have events coming up that affect your dinner. Are you going to eat at someone else’s house one night? Or perhaps you have to take one of your kids to a sporting activity and won’t have time to cook one night. Make a crockpot or instant pot meal on those days that you have to be out during the time you’re usually cooking dinner.
Then fill in the rest of the meals from your list. Anytime you try a new recipe that’s a hit, add it to your Master List of favorites.
Don’t assume you’ll remember what you have planned unless you write it down.
Then survey what you have on hand and what you’ll need to make the meals you’ve chosen. Then make a grocery list.
Make meal prep and planning easier and faster by doing the following:
- Plan making one or two large crockpots of soup/chili/stew/ per week to have plenty of leftovers for lunches as well as at least two meals per week.
- Use an Instant pot to quickly cook beans, sweet potatoes, chicken thighs/breasts for shredding, hard-boiled eggs, and other main dishes/healthy snack items.
- Have the ingredients on hand to make some quick, simple meals such as chili, tacos, soup, and pancakes on nights you have less time.
- Get the “Paprika” app on your phone, where you can instantly save (and edit) recipes you find online. You can also sync this with other people if you like to share recipes. You can use it on multiple devices, and you can use it to make grocery lists. It’s so fast, and you’ll never again be in the store asking yourself, what’s in that recipe?
Additionally, a HUGE time saver is ordering your groceries online and picking them up. Not all grocery stores do this, but many of them do. Even some of the less-expensive ones. I order from our local Walmart frequently, and it’s free as long as you have a $30 order. Ha! When have you ever gone to the store and spent under $30? Another thing I LOVE about ordering online is that I can start and add to my order anytime. So as soon as I have decided on recipes for the next week and checked what I have on hand, I can add the items I need to my online order. SO HANDY!
6. Simplify by simplifying your schedule.
Get clear on what you have the time, money, and energy to do. Your kids don’t have to all play sports, have music lessons, take outside classes, and go on all the field trips. Pushing to exhaustion is not productive for you or them. Make sure you don’t sacrifice your family harmony to FOMO on what “everyone else” is doing. (FOMO: Fear of missing out.)
Get clear on what you NEED to do versus what you WANT to do. I know you’d like more time for yourself, and I understand. Remember that this is a season in your life, not your whole life. (Although depending upon how many children you have, it might be a pretty long season.)
But how do you decide what to do and what to cut out?
Let me ask you, do you have a vision for what you want your family to be? Carving out some time to pray, talk through this process with your husband, and write down your goals is an investment in time that yields excellent benefits! And for many reasons. One practical benefit is that once you’ve created your mission statement, it will give you a tool for evaluating all future activities.
Another benefit is you can be intentional about your family traditions. Does “doing Santa” fit into what you want your family to be like? Does spending every afternoon in the car shuttling kids around support what you wish your home life to be like?
7. Simplify your life by de-cluttering your house.
I know, it’s so hard to be in the house all day, every day, and not make some messes. Or have ongoing projects that take up space! Especially if you homeschool all over the house like most of us, it just gets hard to manage. But don’t give up.
Okay, time for a story. I’ll tell you a little about my family. My husband grew up in a household where there was nothing out of place. Ever. The spices were alphabetized. You could probably have eaten off the garage floor. There were circles drawn inside the kitchen cabinets to show where each pot and pan belonged. When we first got married, my in-laws would visit. They would open my closet doors, and just… laugh. It was demoralizing, to say the least.
Unlike my husband’s family, my family was a mess. We spent our time fingerpainting, baking, and creating projects. Not on cleaning and organizing. There were piles everywhere, but it never seemed to bother anyone.
When we got married, it was OCD-guy meets Pig-Pen.
It quickly became apparent that we were going to have to come to an understanding. Here was our compromise: If I could keep the downstairs company-ready within ten minutes, the upstairs could be a little bit of a homeschooling mess. With the kids’ help, it worked.
If keeping control of the clutter is a hard one for you, I suggest developing a routine and writing it down. If you’ve always struggled with keeping your house clean and organized, here’s a great place to start.
Steps to get started decluttering:
- Spend 15 minutes every day decluttering something. A drawer, a cabinet, or part of a room. Carry a small trash can and a paper bag with handles with you. Things either stay in the drawer (you use it regularly), go into the trash (you don’t use it), or into the bag (you can’t use it but maybe someone else could so you’re giving it away)
- Develop the habit of putting things back where they belong after you use them, and teach your kids to do the same.
- Enlist the help of your kids! Everybody should be involved in keeping the house clean and organized. Even a two-year-old can learn to put toys away.
- Have one or two times a day where everyone picks up for 15 minutes. I suggest right before lunch and right before dad comes home or bedtime. Make it fun by racing against a timer or playing music with a fast beat.
- If you can’t find room for your stuff, you might have too much stuff.
- Books take up a ton of room. If you have the space to start a family library, I say go for it. Especially if you have a larger family and use a literature-based curriculum. If space is an issue, considering just getting spine books, reference books, and the best of the best children’s literature. And then get Kindle(s), so you can keep many more books and even have them readily available in the car or on vacation. Keep watch on Amazon as they go on sale before all major holidays.
8. Simplify your homeschool life by planning your homeschool lessons two or more weeks in advance.
Mom, you need to be prepared. Sometimes we have to wing it, sure, but it should be the exception, not the norm.
Take a 2-3 hour block during the weekend (or whenever you can), have your spouse or a friend watch your kids, and plan your next homeschooling week:
- Order your library books online or buy books from Amazon.com that you need for the next two or three weeks.
- Read through what you are going to be teaching to make sure you understand it. Take the time to research things you aren’t sure of and work with them until you do understand.
- Working around any non-negotiable appointments, write on your calendar or planner when you are going to be teaching various subjects.
- Make sure you have or plan to procure the supplies you need for Thursday’s science experiment and Friday’s history project.
9. Simplify your homeschool by developing a morning routine.
Getting into a morning routine will help your whole day go more smoothly! That doesn’t mean your homeschooling always has to start at precisely the same time every day. But it’s helpful when you are starting to homeschool, beginning a new school year, or starting a new semester, to begin your day at roughly the same time to get everyone used to a new routine.
Research shows that everyone, especially children, benefit from having the same bedtime every night and getting up at the same time in the morning, so why not put this into practice?
And if you develop a routine, like with every habit you learn and practice, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. It becomes easier because you do the thing automatically without needing to think about it once you’ve created a habit.
Ideas for a morning routine:
- Consider getting up at least 30 minutes before your kids. Getting out of bed earlier gives you a chance to wake up, have some Bible/devotional time, as well as time to look over what you’ll be doing in school that day. (My favorite devotional right now is New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp.)
- Before the kids get up, put on some calm Christian music. At some point, I discovered that getting up with Christian music helped cut down on sibling squabbles.
- Have your kids wake up at about the same time every day, especially if they are on the younger side.
- After getting up, help them learn to manage their mornings by getting dressed, making their beds, feeding and watering pets, emptying the dishwasher, or those kinds of relatively quick chores.
- Eat breakfast.
- Have family devotions or devotions with the kids if your spouse is not available. We found that right after breakfast was the best time to have devotions. If you have it at the table before everyone gets up, you are more likely to have it. When making a new habit, it’s easier to tie it to another already-established habit, like having breakfast.
- Devotions can be simple. You can read Scripture, talk together about what the Scripture means, what it says about God, and what it says about us. Sing a hymn, and pray. I suggest singing the same hymn for a month or so and then moving to another one. If you need some help with this, here’s a post about how to do Hymn Study.
- After devotions, everyone brushes their teeth, gathers their books, and gets ready to start school.
- Have things to do for children old enough to work independently, so you can start by spending some one-on-one time with your youngest child.
10. Simplify your life by not getting fixated on the schoolroom you have or don’t have, the latest and greatest curriculum, or what “everyone else” is doing.
Primarily because of Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, the most beautiful and organized school rooms and supplies are frequently in front of you. It’s easy to get caught up in comparing what you have (or don’t have) to what everyone else has. And then feeling as though you don’t have enough. But how can I homeschool without a laminator? Believe me, you can. Comparing what you have to what others have is not a useful practice. It just makes you envious and dissatisfied with what you DO have.
God cares so much more about you and your students’ hearts than He cares about the size of your house, where you homeschool, or what supplies you have. So focus on that!
If this is a problem for you, please minimize this by spending less time on social media, or with friends who are caught up in having the latest and greatest.
11. Get the most out of your time and energy by teaching your kids together as much as you can.
There are many things you can do with your children together, instead of trying to teach your kids every subject separately. Skill-based subjects such as math and language arts usually have to be done separately, unless you have two kids that are at about the same level. But history and science can often be done with more than one child at a time, as well as other “social studies’ kinds of subjects.
Look for a homeschool curriculum that teaches this way. For example, with our Unit Programs, your kindergarten through high school students can study the same time periods in history and much of the same science topics at the same time. (Except we don’t cover high school sciences.)
Unless you have children from kindergarten to high school, many families can do the following together:
- listen to (and share the reading of) read-alouds, usually tied to history or science
- learn landforms (geography) by making cookie-dough maps
- share in art/picture study and music/composer study
- nature study, with each child keeping his own nature notebook (science)
- especially if your kids are studying history and/or science together, they can listen to each other’s reports (each written at their own level, but interesting because they are all studying the same time periods at the same time) and play “20 questions” about a shared topic at the dinner table
- create and dramatize a favorite scene from a read-aloud
- a family project, such as building a porch or a shed (again, each does what he/she can at his/her own level)
- plant and care for a garden
- learn to cook
Yes, it takes commitment and determination. But following some or all of these 11 tips to simplify your homeschool life will yield fantastic results. Finally, you’ll start getting a handle on your homeschool and home life balance that’s eluded you until now!