Real Homeschool Life

I’m almost always astounded by people’s perceptions of family life when weighed against reality.

I don’t recall who said it because I don’t have a Twitter account, but somehow I came across a tweet by a man who declared that every man should assess the value of his wife during the current quarantine. He asserted that this could be done by observing the state of his home during this period.

Since wives are sequestered, he said, their homes should be spotless. For a brief moment, I offered mild mental assent to the idea that since there are more women at home, a lot of housework that has been getting postponed by the rat race would suddenly move to the top of the queue. And then I remembered something vitally important, and it came to me quickly because I have had the experience as a mother of children in school full time and as a homeschooling mom.

The reality is that a house that is being lived in all day is much harder to keep neat than one where the children are absent for 7 hours of the day. This is doubly true when you’re homeschooling, which literally every family in America has been doing for six weeks straight. It’s just another one of those things where the perception held by the uninformed sound good because they’re usually preaching to people who are equally uninformed.

Lest I’m misunderstood, we keep to a pretty strict and thorough cleaning regimen in our house. Floors are mopped every day, bathrooms cleaned every day, etc. We don’t do dirt around here. But we also have many days when our very large dining room table has art supplies on one corner and a stack of math or science books on another. Prince Caspian might be left on the sofa, along with a guitar and music stand set up by the chair. An easel with whiteboard and markers for math instruction is in the family room, and the collection of items needed to perform a science experiment are waiting to be put away. That’s not including the normal bit of clutter that comes with making dinner for seven people from scratch every night.

In other words, there are almost no circumstances under which this house will ever appear as tidy and neat as it did when our older kids were in public school all day and I was able to clean the house, breathe in the freshly dusted air, then sit back with a book for a few minutes before it was time to pick them up from school.

To be sure, there has been time to tackle a few big projects. We did such things as cleaning the garage and purging the file cabinet. I helped my husband build a couple of really nice wood storage pieces. I redid the pantry with labels and hopefully a better organization system. I’m fairly certain every family we know has been doing things like that while being at home.

However, I learned very early on my homeschooling journey that I could either give all my energy to keeping the house clean, or I could give the necessary attention to my children’s education. The latter necessarily meant there would be pockets of clutter and temporary postponement of chores not directly related to ensuring a hygienic domicile.

I can only imagine how much of a challenge it is right now for families who are suddenly juggling working from home and home educating on top of regular homemaking duties, all at once, for the very first time.

The mark of a good wife and mother is not whether she keeps a spotless house simply by virtue of the fact that she’s home all day. Being at home all day with our children opens up opportunities to do many things. If the only opportunity we take advantage of is the opportunity to keep things clean, we’re not doing it right.

5 thoughts on “Real Homeschool Life

  1. Krysta says:

    Yes, I think it’s probably much more difficult for anyone to get housework done now. A good many women are teleworking at the same time they are trying to school at home. Mopping might not be on the top of their to-do list. Even if someone is not teleworking, having people home all day undoubtedly is going to make keeping a spotless home challenging, as you point out!

    I also think it’s worth noting here that the man in this scenario is home all day, too. So what’s he doing? He’s not being held responsible for any of the housework or childcare, even though he’s not at the office all day, either? I think a lot of the traditional gender roles came from men going to work and women staying home, but if they are both staying home, shouldn’t there be a more equitable division of labor occurring in the home?

    I kind of wonder what is going on in many households because I see people on Twitter talking about how female academics are publishing less during quarantine–the implication being that they are shouldering most of the childcare responsibilities, even though their spouse is home, too. I see some of my female colleagues simply not being present for the past five weeks, even though they are married and should have someone home to give them half an hour to pop in to a teleconference. The women who do “show up” to work are admitting they are doing so at the expense of schooling their children.

    Why is it the woman who has to either stop doing her job or decide not to make their child do school that day? Shouldn’t the men also be responsible for seeing that their children are learning during this time period? They are, after all, home, too. I’m baffled.

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  2. Elspeth says:

    I agree that when everyone is at home, everyone should be contributing to the upkeep of the house and education of the children.

    With the exception of the pantry project, every one of our deep cleaning projects has been done by my husband and me together. And he has cooked a few times as well as tackled the kitchen and graded one child’s papers while I was working with another.

    We’re pretty old fashioned and traditional when it comes to division of labor (as evidenced by the fact that I am at home full time and have been for many years). Even with that being the case, when my husband is at home from work, he pitches in to help, and I don’t have to ask or plead with him to do it.

    Even our young adult kids voluntarily pitch in if they happen to be off from work (social distancing has killed their social lives temporarily) when projects or school subjects could use some extra help.

    It’s called family life.

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  3. hearthie says:

    A thing about homeschooling… I’ve done public, home, and charter, both online and in person.

    I have one kid who is fine with it. With all of it. He does a bit better with inperson lecture, but it’s a bit, not a ton. And he doesn’t miss the extra curricular stuff one twinge.

    I have one kid who is NOT. When we were HS, she’d (not a joke) crawl under my sewing desk to do schoolwork because she was lonely. We’ve been doing a 4day/wk charter and that’s been working out fairly well for her… until now. It’s not that she can’t get the concepts, it’s that she wilts when she can’t get access to humans to whom she’s not related…. and no, the phone/online doesn’t scratch that itch.

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  4. Krysta says:

    I think that’s a great way to do it! And you bring up a good point that the kids can help with chores, too! Even really little kids can do simple tasks if they are asked.

    Maybe you need to share your wisdom with my female colleagues because I look at them and they all seem to be struggling. And I don’t get it because they shouldn’t have to be going through this alone.

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  5. Elspeth says:

    @ Hearthie:

    That’s another excellent point. Personalities, God-given personalities, are a thing. There are people who genuinely blossom better with a wider social network.

    The thing about the web, particularly outside of quick hit spots like Facebook and IG, is that commentary is often dominated by introverts and people who live in their heads.

    Our 11-year-old is a lot more social than our 13-year-old. She is missing her friends, and that’s not indicative of some kind of deficit in her family life. It’s just who she is. She’s thankfully not wilting. Maybe it’s because there are so many people here. Maybe it’s because Zoom class meetings are helpful to her in this regard. Not sure, but grateful.

    There are, so I’ve been told, some kids who have genuinely needed the reset of being primarily surrounded by family and not as much by peers. And I have no doubt that it’s true.

    there are so many nuances with things like this.

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