Homeschool Life – Coming Clean about Cleaning
I like having a clean and tidy house… or rather, I dream of having a clean and tidy house, but I have always found that to be a challenge. My friends will lovingly tell me that the house has a normal “lived in” look. But, to be honest, it’s been a struggle over the years…
I’m the Mom who loves setting up the complicated (re: messy) science experiments that take me ages to put away.
I’m the Mom who loves seeing the kids do experiments, crafts and paintings, but am down-right lousy about a) having them clean up completely after themselves and b) doing the final “mom” inspection to make sure things are actually clean and put where I want them to be. In the picture below, the paintbrushes are clean… but not exactly where they belong, right?!
I’m the Mom that keeps projects around a LOT longer than I should!
I’m the Mom who keeps up with the laundry. I can get the kids to bring their laundry over… and even to sort it into colors and whites… BUT I have a hard time getting everyone to put their clothes away into drawers in a timely manner. I ask, I nag, I plead… but I refuse to do that step myself. So? Well, mostly I just lose that battle. Clothes don’t get put away immediately in our household. And even when things are pretty much cleared off the couch (as in the before and after picture of our laundry couch)… it is rarely completely cleaned off because of lost sock mates and stuff that needs to be walked over to its home.
My before and after picture… “after” is still not done!
I’m the Mom who goes to other people’s houses and has massive “Mom guilt” over their beautiful, pristine, tidy homes.
But to be quite frank, other things are more appealing.
- I love working on my business.
- I love getting to “meet” all kinds of homeschoolers and educators all around the world b/c of this blog! (And I love “chatting” with you!)
- I love working behind the scenes sharing our homeschool materials.
- I love the research and time that goes into creating curriculum for my kids and others.
- I love reading (if I can find the time).
- I love singing in the choir.
- I love playing the oboe in the symphonic winds group with my kids.
- I love going for walks and going to the gym (when I can squeeze it in).
What I don’t love? I don’t really love the cleaning and house stuff. I do it sometimes to take a break from the things I do love doing above, but I really have not been the best role model for the kids in that regard.
I would never call myself a slob… I try to avoid negative self talk like that, but cleaning and tidying is definitely something I have to encourage myself to take the time to do.
My Dirty Little Secret:
I am embarrassed to admit this even now. I needed help with the cleaning… and I got it.
Yikes, that was hard to admit!!
A few years ago, I had some terrible, horrible health problems. Long time readers know all this, but I had some ear surgery that went terrible wrong and left me with debilitating (not to mention strange) symptoms.
I was allergic to the bone filler they used in my ear (so surgery #2 was to remove that), but also had other problems (basically a hole near the semi-circular canals) that with left me with awful symptoms… It took quite a long time to figure out what was going on and I suffered.
- If I moved my head in any direction (up, down, to the side, tilting), I felt sick. Um… that makes life hard!
- If I walked or got bounced around even slightly (like while driving around in a car), the horizon would jump all over the place.
- If I bent down, I would lose my balance and feel horrifically off balance.
- I had continual non-stop, endless sounds in my head like jingle bells, cicada sounds, waves, rushing, zinging, popping. It *never* stopped and was LOUD!
- I could hear weird things… like my eyelids closing, my bones clicking, my tongue sliding around in my mouth… sound was being heard & processed in an abnormal way.
- But even worse than that, I was horribly sensitive to noise. Sounds themselves would make me sea sick. I couldn’t be in crowds… and as time went on I became sensitive to most any sounds – the telephone ringing, the kids’ voices, the TV, my own voice… Any of those sounds would make me feel ill.
- My eyes would literally jump around to the sounds I was hearing!
- I had 6 surgeries in 9 months to try to fix all these issues… and several of the surgeries made me violently ill afterwards.
What did this mean? Clearly bending was out, vacuuming was out, moving around much made me feel awful. I needed help.
To get through this challenging time, I got a lot of help from my family and my friends. They were incredible – stepping in where I needed it, taking the kids to activities, and so forth. And, as hard as it was, we got a cleaning service too. This lovely team of ladies would come every two weeks to vacuum and clean the bathrooms and so forth. It helped so much.
But, it was tough (on my pride or something)…
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why are we so tough on ourselves? I’d been raised by a Mom (and Dad) who did it all. My Mom was a professor and my Dad was an aerospace engineer. They planned & organized & delegated things so thing ran smoothly on the home front. We had a monthly menu of meals planned out and a dedicated day when we all pitched in to clean the house. This beautiful system worked so well throughout my childhood… but this system just didn’t magically happen with my family/my kids.
When the kids were little, they might pitch in sporadically but we never had a good system. So, I struggled… I dreamed of our homeschool room looking like this… but more likely it was like this… (a picture from a post I wrote called the “Realities of Homeschooling” back when the kids were 4, 6 and 8!)It was especially challenging to keep things orderly when my youngest was 2-4 years old or so. If I focused my energy a bit more on the older two… my youngest could certainly find plenty to keep herself entertained! Here’s what I wrote when ED was 3 (and my other two were 5 and 7):
Sometimes I just reach into the cabinet and bring out five activities and spread them around us hoping something will catch her attention (the picture below on the left). And sometimes, I wind up homeschooling with ED climbing on my back and head (no kidding!!). Ugh! So, it’s often a challenge — and I’m often left feeling that I haven’t “done enough” quality work with DD (or LD).
And ED? She is happily occupied, BUT is taking out thing after thing and creating a picnic with all the stuff. Just a half hour ago, the carpet was picked up and clean, now look!
By time I finished writing this post every cabinet door was open and DD (my then 5-year old) had helped herself to board games, puzzles, math manipulatives, stickers and more. Creative mess. And — self entertaining. Yes, we homeschool Moms have to embrace these traits, right?!!!
Honestly, the pictures above make me smile. That’s not really what we face these days. The kids don’t (generally!) leave a cyclone of disaster in their wake.
So… back to the period a few years ago with all my ear/balance issues. We got a cleaning team and honestly, it was amazing. They lifted my burden and freed up time for other things. And even once my ear and balance issues subsided significantly to my “new normal,” we still kept the cleaning team for a time. It made such a difference on my stress levels… though I never mentioned it here on the blog because I felt embarrassed and/or entitled or something. It took a huge percentage of my business income, but the peace of mind… oh boy, did that made it worthwhile!
We don’t have the cleaning team any more because it did take some adjustment on our homeschool day. It just doesn’t work for us and our schedule, but I’m not ruling out having them come in the future or for occasional help.
And, I think it’s been good for our family to take back the responsibility. We work as a team to tackle the cleaning as a family. We’ve divvied up jobs and responsibilities. The kids have various jobs that they need to do once a week – cleaning a bathroom, vacuuming and things like that. It’s not a system that runs as smoothly as things seemed to when I was a kid…
or maybe… Maybe my memories of the seemingly effortless way my folks “handled it all” are seen through the lens of the “me” that was 12, 13, 14, 15+ years old? Maybe they struggled when I was a little bundle of energy. (That’s what my Mom used to tell me, so clearly things weren’t always easy!)
My Mom died just before LD (my oldest) was born, so I’ll never really know. But I do know this… Things aren’t perfect but I’ve learned a lot on this cleaning journey…
- Get help when you need to.
- We can’t always “Do it all.”
- We need to give ourselves grace and be kind to ourselves.
- We’ll get it done!
- The kids grow up and take on more responsibilities.
- Be happy in your home!! Home is more than the messes, it’s the memories & the love and the bonding that takes place there!
I hope you get something out of my little confessional. We homeschool parents juggle a lot, but as long as your kids are healthy and happy, learning and loved, well, THAT is truly what is important!!
You can do this!!
A Few Tips for Homeschooling Without Feeling Overwhelmed
- You are not alone! We all have times when we feel inadequate, overwhelmed, or inexperienced… but think about the whole picture. You have amazing kids. They’ve already learned so much from you. You can do this!
- Stay positive and focus on the small (and big) victories.
- Think about dinner early in the day! I’m often pretty drained and tired by the evening. It feels great if that piece of my day is taken care of.
- Don’t compare your reality to your thoughts, plans, and aspirations before the school year began. In the quiet of summer, I often have (and make!) big plans. But, if we don’t get to everything I planned over the course of the year, I just put it on the back burner for later!
- Similarly, don’t compare your homeschool to what you see on blogs, Facebook, Pinterest or even the stories you hear from friends. That’s just a partial, incomplete glimpse of someone’s day.
- Protect your time – make sure you turn off the computer, say NO when you need to, let the answering machine pick up.
- Create a enthusiastic, supportive atmosphere: Focus on having an enjoyable learning experience together… which means feel free to stray from the curriculum, follow rabbit holes, and spend an entire day focusing on something unexpected but engaging to the kids! That’s when true learning really takes place! ?
- Aim Small: It’s easy to worry about the big picture, but for me I need to focus on just one week at a time. We *love* hands-on activities, so I try to plan out just one or two for the week. I look forward to those moments when the kids are *excited* and *engaged* so I really try to make sure those happen. Find what excites and motivates you and your kids and add in just one or two a week. It could be anything from lapbooks to experiments, reading together to field trips.
- You are never behind! There is no one that says that the kids *have* to have gained mastery of a certain skill or learned a certain topic/subject by a certain grade or age. You are on a long journey together.
- Get help when you can: Enlist help from your spouse, the kids, extended family. Hire teenage help. Think about joining a co-op (but don’t feel obligated!)
- Plans are not engraved in stone: If you need to end a unit early, change curriculum, stop reading a novel half-way through, do a unit later (I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to do this!), take time off… Do it!
- Remember all the reasons why you started homeschooling. Feel confident in your choice. You didn’t make this choice lightly or frivolously. You took the plunge because you believed it was the right thing to do at this point in time. It will be challenging. It will be hard. You’ll have a lot to juggle. But it will also be rewarding, memorable and full of surprises along the way!
- It all boils down to LOVE! Love your kids. Love your time together. Cherish each other. Build memories. Nurture and care for your family. And love learning along the way.
Here are a couple of related posts that might be of interest:
Strategies for keeping up with all the homeschool stuff we have around!
- Organization: How we keep on top of things while Homeschooling (written several years ago)
Here are a few of my labors of love… while I’m NOT cleaning!
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