The most frequently asked question I receive from polite strangers has nothing to do with socialization and everything to do with latent fears regarding parenting. “How do you do it all?” They ask as my daughter bags groceries and I pay. I revel in the praise which comes as a welcome distraction from the questioning glances I receive shopping at one o’clock on a school day with kids in tow. Because I believe that these concerns about parenting ability actually underly most people’s misgivings of homeschooling, I have decided to reveal my secrets.
Principle I: Delegate
There is no way one person can humanly get everything done that needs to be done in the care and education of four children on a daily basis. It is therefore imperative to learn to delegate. Teaching children to do simple chores is a necessity, not only for your own sanity but for their development. Here is my two year old sampling some cookie dough she and her sister made. The eight year old may occasionally confuse teaspoons and tablespoons, resulting in some pretty salty pancakes, but that is where the taste tester come in. What stays in the two year-old’s mouth is probably edible, unless it is a toy, bird seed or some random thing she has pulled out from under the bed. For the life of me I cannot figure out why toddlers, who stick everything in their mouths, are such notoriously picky eaters. They even did a pretty good job at cleaning up after themselves.
Principle II: Multi-task
Young boys have a peculiar knack for getting dirty. Really dirty. In fact, if you don’t wash them once in awhile, they can be hard to recognize.
Now it is time to put some sibling rivalry and his affinity for making messes to work. While his sister chased him with the hose, I started a bath and a load of laundry. He then removed all of his extra clothing on the back porch and was carried to the bath. By the time he was done with his splash fest, we had another task to check off our list of chores. With the bathroom thoroughly soaked, all it needed was a good toweling off to be as spic and span as my bright little boy.
Principle III: Foster Independence
Young children are necessarily needy. And the more children you have, the more they all seem to need your attention at the same time. To ease the stress of being pulled in ten different directions at once, it is good to train your children to help themselves and each other as much as possible. Here is an example. Due to the small size of our house, we store most of our books in storage tubs, rotating them on a weekly basis. The rotations have slowed since their father was forced to Denver, however. My two year-old and my son decided that we needed to remedy this situation. Why bother mom? They have been raised to be independent, which I am sure is what possessed them to stand on top of the dog food bin to pull down a storage tub full of books.
You probably saw that coming. Fifty pounds of dog food and 200 books on the laundry room floor. This is where deep breathing, prayer and the self-control to just walk away come in. As well as the next principle.
Principle IV: Appreciate the little things
We all need our quiet place. And it is very good to go there before exploding. Especially when you are about to ground your two year old and four year old until their eighteenth birthdays for doing something they thought would be helpful. So take a deep breath and count to three. One. Two.
Principle V: Everything is Educational
Life is bound to interrupt your school day now and again. Not nearly as often as the PA system in a public school, but it does have a way of cropping up on you. Before fretting too much at how far you are getting behind, remember that there is educational value to be found in everything. Whether it is a trip to the beach,
a torn toy,
or even just cleaning the laundry room while mom holds the baby and talks to the ceiling, there are lessons to be learned. And it is in this daily walk that we teach them the most about how to live and what is important.