Homeschooling and the Messy House

To save money, we did, and still do, hang our clothes on the line. Sophie and Rose, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Years ago, when I had four young homeschooled children who inhabited every room of our house, 24-hours a day, I had a messy, cluttery home.

And I felt bad, because I knew other people, who also had children, who also homeschooled them, and who had pristinely clean homes, so clean that when I came over to visit, with my messy, chaotic brood, they announced apologetically,

“Please excuse the mess. We just haven’t had time to clean.” And they plumped the perfect pillow and artistically leaned it against the couch. Not only was there no dust anywhere, there were no books, magazines, papers, clothes, or any other sign of intelligent life. But oh, their home was clean, because they were organized and efficient and amazing and so much better than I was.

But children talk, you know, and if you are one of these amazing households with multiple children and a pristinely clean home, you might want to remember this. More than one guest at our lunch table artlessly gave us valuable information about what life was really like in their perfect, pristinely clean home:

“We spend two hours every afternoon cleaning and vacuuming,” one child told us. “I hate it!”

Children are such busy, active, not tidy little things. Wild Child, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

Another one asked, incredulously, “You’re allowed to read books in your living room? We can’t do anything on the main floor of the house. Mom says it makes the place look messy.”

Still a third commented, “You ought to see our basement! That’s where we spend all our time, and it looks like a pig pen!”

At one time in my life, I kept my house pristinely clean, a situation that required hours of work on my part, and which lasted until the birth of my first child. As successive progeny arrived, I kept slavishly tidying and tinkering and vacuuming and tucking things away, and as the kids grew older, I enlisted their “help.” Eventually, however, I realized that I had a choice:

1) I could yell at the kids, on a pretty consistent basis, and we could spend hours tidying and tinkering, resulting in a reasonably pristine looking living environment that lasted in five minute increments

or

I wanted to spend more time with my kids creating precious memories, than I did yelling about toys on the floor. Seaside Story by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

2) I could accept that, as a homeschooling family, we lived in every corner of the house, all the time, and signs of habitation would prevail. While the place would not be cockroach- or Black Plague rat-friendly, it would also not be a shiny, stainless steel environment with all the personality of a hospital room. Life happened somewhere in between, and guests in the home never had any problems finding reading material ranging from Good Night Moon to The Count of Monte Cristo.

The dishes were washed, dried, and the floor swept. Socks, however, were not ironed.

The carpet was vacuumed on a semi-regular basis, but there was no danger of the vacuum breaking down from overuse.

Random papers, and books, were on pretty much every available flat surface, and cupboard doors were blessed because they had the ability to close and hide the contents behind. When I mused once about my lack of time to reorder the contents of the kitchen cupboards, one daughter commented, “You seriously have nothing better to do with your time?” She was right; I had just been for a brief visit to a pristinely clean home.

If you homeschool, give yourself a break: you, and your children, live in your home All. The. Time. There is no eight-hour period of respite in which nobody, or only you and the dog, rattles around, picking up after people and tidying.

Not too far in the future, however, there will most likely be a time when it’s only you and the

Some of us sail through life in a rowboat, some in a yacht, others in something in between. We learn to use the craft we have. Autumn Sail by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

dog and the spouse, because all the messy, chaotic, noisy children are gone. Do you want your memories to be those of constant cleaning, constant picking up, constant worrying about your pristine, clean home?

Another myth about homeschooling is that all people who do it are Christians, and I write about this in today’s Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet — Not All Homeschoolers Are Christian. If you’re not a Christian and you homeschool, it should come as a breath of fresh air that people know you exist, and matter. If you are a Christian, it’s always a good reminder that others out there do things differently, and we can learn from them.

And speaking of commonsense, if you are looking to save money in these difficult times, I recommend, as always, my book, Live Happily on Less. I recognize that many, many homeschoolers, Christian or not, are sensible with their money, because they have to be — they’ve made a commitment to their family that frequently results in a financial hit.

Even so, I am convinced that Live Happily on Less¬†will give you ideas that you never thought of, because it is a lifestyle book — encouraging you to continue to make the subtle, small changes that add up to financial sensibility. If you are Christian, you might have paid to take video seminars from famous financial people at your church — I’ve seen these, and the complicated workbook projects stopped me, not to mention the price of admission. My book is $5.99 digital, $12.99 paperback (but generally on sale for less), and available for borrowing through Amazon Prime.

And I’m one of you. A mom, a homeschooler, a regular person with a regular income who lives an everyday life. Who better to know how to actually do it?

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2 Responses to “Homeschooling and the Messy House”

  1. Tara says:

    Loved this article so much, thank you. I always say to hub, its always so messy, he says…. yes we live here. Have a wonderful weekend. Tara.

    • You are welcome, Tara. You have a wise hub, because yes, you live in your home. That’s why it looks lived in. Lived in, full of love, busy, moving, filled with grace. May your weekend with your family — and all of the ensuing weeks to come — be full of joy and hope. – Carolyn

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