5 ways to manage home and school

Written by Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom and Good Cheap Eats

Ours is a busy household. As you can imagine, with eight people, the sheer volume of dishes, laundry, and stuff to manage is fairly high, at least twice that of the “average” home. Coupled with homeschooling and being home-based in the truest sense of the word, our home boasts a very “lived in” look.

The walls bare fingerprints. The washing machine has a shelf life of about five years. The kitchen boasts a revolving door. Or so it seems.

Here are five tricks that I use to help me manage home and school:

1. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Once upon a time, the bulk of household responsibilities fell on me. My husband worked long hours. My kids were little, the six of them being born in an 11 year span of time. At the beginning, we had four kids under seven.

Nowadays, things are a little easier. The kids have chores. Everyone is responsible for tidying the living areas in our home, doing a kitchen job, and keeping his room tidy. Those who are eight and older have the added task of cleaning a bathroom once a week.

I could not do it all. And since I’m not making all the messes, I shouldn’t have to. Neither should you.

vacuuming school room

2. Don’t pile it all on the big kids.

That said, it’s all too easy to lump the jobs on the oldest children. I know this first hand. I was the oldest of five. That’s a lot of mental and physical responsibility.

I heard it at a homeschool conference years ago: give the task to the youngest child capable of doing it. This has served me well.

I try to share the wealth and make sure everyone has a responsibility that suits his age and capabilities. I try to make sure the older kids don’t have to do the lion’s share. The younger ones also get to help.

3. Practice bulk cooking.

One of the ways that we eat well and stay under budget is by keeping a supply of homemade convenience foods in the freezer. By cooking many meals in advance, I save time and frustration on the day of serving. This also makes it easier for the kids to help out in meal prep.

(Note from Jamie: Make sure you check out Jessica’s awesome book on bulk cooking: Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook.)

4. Set a laundry schedule.

After years of doing laundry in community, requiring the kids to help sort and fold, I finally switched to a laundry schedule. Each pair of children (roommates) has a set day for doing laundry. This not only teaches them life skills, but it takes a lot of the nagging, moans, and groans out of my life.

The kids are responsible for getting their laundry done. I help the littles, of course, but those 8 and older are able to do it on their own. Oh happy day!

california rustic

photo source: California Rustic

5. Know your limits.

There are only so many hours in the day. Some seasons you might be firing on all cylinders with home and school perfectly aligned and your hair perfectly quaffed. Other days are just survival.

Be okay with the vagaries of parenting and homeschool life. Know what are “must-do’s” and put a plan in action. Be okay with letting some things slide.

Homeschooling is about a shared experience, not a picture-perfect home. It’s about making memories and enjoying life together. If it doesn’t all come together perfectly, that’s okay. It shouldn’t.

Got a trick for managing home and homeschool?

carey executive limousine

About Jessica

Once a public high school teacher, Jessica now homeschools five of her six children, covering 2nd through 10th grades. Her oldest is in college, so the experiment appears to have worked! Grab a copy of Jessica’s new cookbook Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less and the accompanying monthly meal plan to help you save money, eat well, and enjoy some freer time.


  1. Great suggestions! With three tiny ones and my husband working long long hours, I’ve accepted the fact that I need to outsource some things. I don’t want to outsource their education, so I decided to outsource the cleaning part of housework. When the kids are older, they will helps with more chores, but in the meantime this works for us. I used to think I’d feel guilty hiring help to clean–but the kind woman who comes every two weeks is so very grateful for work, she always thanks me for the opportunity, yet she is blessing us! With a new baby coming in the fall right when we start at a classical conversations community, I know this arrangement is perfect for us.

  2. I just bought your cookbook! I’m loving it. Trying to get in the habit of habit with a new baby on the way in the middle of my first year of “real homeschooling” (gr.1) Thanks for the great advice!

  3. I really enjoyed this! Great, practical advice. I find that keeping up with housework is the biggest challenge of homeschooling–because we’re always in the house making messes! 🙂 Thanks for this post.
    Kari Patterson’s latest post: Love puts up

  4. Luminara says:

    Thanks Jessica, this is so helpful. I have been feeling very exhausted and resentful of doing all the chores as i thought it was wrong to ask for help from my children (been following the radical unschooling path for 2 years) but i know this has to change, it’s not working for me and if i’m stressed out it effects all the family. Would you share what you do with a child who refuses to do their chores. On the rare occasion i do ask for help, My daughter, who is 11 yrs old is VERY reluctant to help out and it causes a lot of stress as she huffs and puffs and complains and somtimes says “No” and walks off. Often I have to remind her many times to do something, I hate being the nag! We’re not into punishments or brides so any ideas would be very welcomed. Thanks Luminara

    • We’ve had that experience from time to time. Typically, it’s really about a different issue, not the actual cleaning.
      We don’t make cleaning or chores an option. My husband and I are both pretty firm about that. I don’t consider a loss of privilege a “punishment”. It’s a consequence. If you don’t go to work, you don’t get a paycheck. My job is not to wait on my kids hand and foot. Neither is yours. Hang in there and be firm. 🙂
      Jessica’s latest post: Banana Pecan Coffeecake

  5. I appreciated the tone and wisdom of the article, which in itself is true to the heart of homeschooling. We’re not just delegating chores so we don’t have to do them, okay, every now and then yes, but the BIG picture is so that they will learn how to serve for the benefit of the entire family and not just do for themselves.

    One of the things we’re trying is that one of my children will be my *assistant* that week (I only have 2 children, and I STILL can create quite the mess!). In other words, in addition to their regular chores, if I’m in the kitchen and need something , then I would call on my assistant to get something, or put something up, or whatever I am needing in that pinch of a moment.

  6. We are just embarking on the very early stages of homeschooling with our children. We had 3 under 3 for 2 days when our youngest was born and our house is in a near constant state of mess. It doesn’t help that we’ve just moved and our new house is smaller and currently lacking storage solutions but we’re getting there. I have a Thermomix which makes meals much easier but the housework is something I’m just beginning to include the kids in. Currently we have Mr 4.5 who is LOVING learning to cook, Miss 3.5 who is into anything but also a big “no” stage but she empties out the washing machine and “do’s pegs” for me and Mr 20 months who closes any and all drawers for me (it’s a start and he does it anyway). With a husband not yet sold on homeschooling we’re starting some things with the older 2 and the youngest will get some flash cards to encourage his language skills and so far they LOVE “playing homeschool” with play based learning, drawing and stories. 🙂
    Jessie – Rabid Little Hippy’s latest post: Just let me hear some of that rock n roll music…

  7. Hilary Young says:

    Okay, this is way off topic, but in the first picture of your daughter vacuuming . . . I have that same Ikea sofa table with woven baskets. My question is . . . do your baskets scratch the finish off the sofa table as the baskets get pulled in and out? Have you come up with a way to keep that from happening? I haven’t yet. 🙂

  8. This post was so encouraging to me! I love when seasoned mamas are completely honest about the difficulties of motherhood/homeschooling and then offer encouragement. My oldest just turned 3 last week and I have a 16-month-old, while I’m still 2 years away from official homeschooling, we know we are going to homeschool. But, there are many days that I want to quit before we’ve even started because I can’t imagine how they’re supposed to learn amidst the craziness!

    These words:
    “Homeschooling is about a shared experience, not a picture-perfect home. It’s about making memories and enjoying life together. If it doesn’t all come together perfectly, that’s okay. It shouldn’t.”
    Such an encouragement and reminder to me that I worry too much about things that don’t matter and, it’s never going to be perfect!

  9. I’m a single mom who homeschools. The kids are with me the majority of the time. I struggle with feeling guilty, well maybe if we weren’t divorced then they wouldn’t have to help out as much or get more home cooked dinners. I’ve found it really hard to figure out how much help I should be able to expect from my kids, because 2 parents or not kids do need to help out. Currently they are in charge of feeding and watering the pets and keeping their area of the house clean-playroom and bedroom. I don’t know if that’s enough or too much?

    • While I am not a single parent, I was temporarily for several months while my husband moved ahead of us to a new location (and was unable to come back on weekends). In some ways it was easier for chores, as there was one less person making a mess. It became very clear which messes were mine, and which were the kids’. I also simplified cooking, which saved us time. The kids seemed better at the chores when they knew it was solely on me; if I had to do everything, there would not be time or energy to go do fun things.

      You didn’t mention their ages which changes what they might be capable of tackling. However, what you mentioned does not seem like too much. At 8&9, my kids are (imperfectly) responsible for keeping their bedrooms picked up, putting their clean clothes away and bringing me their dirty clothes, helping put away clean dishes, clearing their place at the table after a meal, and picking up toys. These have been their responsibilities for a few years. They are imperfect at them, but are improving each year. After our move I added in cleaning the counter in their bathroom, helping vacuum, and taking out/bringing in trash/recycling. They also help whenever I need an extra set of hands (they loved learning how to use pruners this week, and dragging limbs to the curb). The oldest also swept the garage of leaves, etc. It isn’t like they do everything every day, BUT they are capable and do help. When they were younger they would ‘help’ clean the lower windows while I did the uppers. They also LOVE cooking, and are learning simple crockpot meals they can make on their own. If my boys get married, I want them to be able to bless their wives. If they don’t, I want them to be well balanced men who know how to take care of themselves.

  10. We are working on rule #2- We have kids 13.5, 12.5 just 6 and 3.5….so you can see that there is a big gap between the big and little kids….sometimes I just give the little ones a damp rag to wipe base boards…something easy that is something!
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)’s latest post: A Married Priest in The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter: a guest post

  11. Love the tips! I am pregnant with number nine and rely heavily on all my kids. I had six kids in six years and it was tough doing everything. Now that we homeschool it is even crazier! But the idea of a laundry schedule sounds great!

  12. So thankful to hear someone who has been there done that! 🙂 We are in the survival mode with 4 kiddos 8 to 22 mos. My oldest two are beginning to take on a lot of responsibility around the house (unloading dishwasher, putting folded laundry in their cubbies, picking up messes, etc) since Daddy is working long hours and we’ve recently moved away from home. I recently purchased Managers of their Home by Terri Maxwell (I believe is the name?!) so hoping to get more of a “system” down so that Mama doesn’t feel so overwhelmed with schooling, housework and life! 🙂

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