Our family is wrapping up week #10 of our year-round homeschooling for the 2014-2015 school year, and lately I’ve been sharing a little about some of the common challenges of being a homeschooling family.

Challenges such as finding time to cook meals… and keeping the house clean livable!

Menu planning and prepping sure helps  a mama get meals on the table during the week, but how do you keep your house clean when you homeschool?

That’s a good question.

Let me tell you, I’m not writing this blog post because I’ve found THE ANSWER to that challenge. 

Not by a long shot.

Every school day, my dining room table is a wreck until we wrap up lessons around lunch time, then a clean-up routine is definitely in order so I can breathe a little until the next morning (I do hate clutter!).

Overall, I would venture to say our home is orderly.

Martha Steward organized?  No way.

Company ready at all timesHa.

Clutter-free?  In my dreams.

Dust-and-cobweb-free? Nope.

Comfy and mostly tidy? Yes.


Just don’t look in the garage.

How do you keep your house clean when you homeschool? | Kristy's Cottage blog

If I had to share a few tips and observations about keeping order in the home as a homeschooling family, here is what I’d say-

Teach Your Kids to Clean Up Spills and Pick Up After Themselves

“Raising children who wipe their own spills is a lifesaver for moms and also develops great skills in their own lives. Fight the urge to control, stress, and immediately clean. Have patience and allow your little ones to wipe up their own mess.”

Sally Clarkson, 10 Gifts of Wisdom

Just in case you’re rolling your eyes (or rolling on the floor laughing) right now, let me say that this really is a practical step. And I have really messed up at this point a lot as a mother.

Some of you may be the doting moms who do everything for their kids.  Or, maybe you expect too much from your kids and get mad at them when they make a mess… then angrily clean up after them yourself.  (Yeah, me too.)

Neither scenario is particularly desirable, but we all probably tend toward one or the other.

I like Sally Clarkson’s practical advice: Be calm.  Teach kids to take responsibility and take action, but don’t over react to the “spilled milk” espisodes in life.

Make Daily Chores a Part of Your Habit Training (and start young!)

Right now, I’m doing a lot habit training (read catch up work) with my kids.

I wish I would have been more diligent when my older kids were preschoolers, since it’s a lot more of a challenge to replace bad habits than to cultivate good ones in the first place.

Since I can’t go back, I’m making every day count so we can all move forward. I’m seeing a lot of progress, and that gives me hope.

Training kids to keep up with daily chores is such a life-saver for a busy mom.

Here are a few daily chores my kids do:

  • make their beds
  • take out the trash
  • rinse and load dishes in the dishwasher
  • unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher
  • set the table for meals
  • help clear the table after meals
  • tidy up the downstairs living area after school
  • help sweep the floors (older kids)
  • put away toys and tidy bedrooms
  • clean out the “clutter basket”
  • help feed/water pets and outside animals (older kids)
  • keep clothes and shoes put away

How do you keep your house clean when you homeschool? | Kristy's Cottage blog

How do you keep your house clean when you homeschool? | Kristy's Cottage blog
Our dining room and kitchen are high traffic areas for dirt tracked in from outside, clutter, toys and school books.

Reward Behavior (good and bad)

“There is nothing wrong with rewarding your children to help them learn to work well.”

Sally Clarkson, 10 Gifts of Wisdom

I agree with Sally Clarkson.  Jeremy and I reward our kids for good behavior, helpfulness, doing chores with a good attitude, etc.

We use a system where my kids earn “tokens” throughout the week for chores and a number of other habits, attitudes, and positive behavior. Once or twice a week, they can spend their “tokens” on items from the “token box” (treasure box), which is filled with healthy treats, stickers, pretty notebooks, craft supplies, or whatever else I’ve found at the dollar store.  🙂

My kids can also redeem their “tokens” for money, if they prefer to do that.

There is also a “reward” (think sowing and reaping) for wrong or unacceptable behavior. Messy rooms, back talk, fighting, and the like, cause my kids to lose their “tokens”, free time, or whatever.

How does this translate to a cleaner home? I haven’t had to clear the dining room table after school for weeks, since my kids are motivated to clean up after themselves (in order to earn a “token”).  That works for me! 

Make it Easy for Your Kids to Clean Up 

 My home is far from perfectly organized (I’d be embarrassed for you to see my closet right now!). 

But, I have learned that in order to maintain a semblance of order in my home, there has to be a measure of organization.

For example: have you ever barked at your kids, “Get this bedroom clean NOW!” and then stomped out of the room?

If your kids are half grown and at least half motivated, maybe the job got done.  But, if your kids are young like mine, you can nag and fuss and threaten all week long, and the room is going to stay a mess. 


1. Because you’ve got to inspect what you expect (supervise), and

2. Kids have to know where to put all their stuff.

Bins, baskets, shelves and boxes are a mother’s best friends!


If I expect my kids to clean up their school work by themselves after a day’s lessons, then they need to know where to put their things. So we established a simple routine:

1. My kids each have a book bag or back pack; school books belong here at the end of the day.

2. We have jars and cute little buckets (repurposed herb pots) for school supplies, and these are to never leave the dining room! They belong on the buffet in the dining room when we’re not doing school work or a craft.

3. At the end of the week, school bags belong back in the “homeschool” closet in the living room. Out of sight!

This is just one example, but once we established this little routine it has worked like clock work. My kids know what to do, and where stuff goes. They know what I expect when I say, “Have you cleaned up your school work?”

Yes, I have to be consistent in supervising and following up; when I am, things stay on track. Less work for me and a whole lot neater dining room.  Most of the time. 🙂

How do you keep your house clean when you homeschool? | Kristy's Cottage blog

Adjust Your Expectations with Reality

What do you expect your home to look like? 

I love inspiring homemaking magazines, blogs, and Pinterest boards, but 99%of those aspirations aren’t practical in my life.  My home looks lived-in, and that’s because it is.

We live here. We work here. We learn here. We make messes and memories here.

There’s nothing perfect about it.  At all!

If you drop by my home during the week, you’ll find clutter.  You’ll find dust.  You’ll find toys on the floor and shoes by the back door. Okay, and you’ll probably find at least a few dishes in the sink and the bathroom might not smell like a petunia. 

I had a whole lot of expectations about my house that had to go out the door when I became a homeschooling mom. My life gets messy, and I have to be okay with that.

Set Aside One Day a Week Just for Cleaning

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received from another homeschooling mom is, Don’t try to deep clean every day of the week! Make ONE day cleaning day, and just maintain the rest of the week.

My “cleaning day” has changed through the years, depending on our family dynamics and schedule.  Right now, it’s Friday or Saturday.

Weekends are when I vacuum, mop, dust (like once-a-month… ahem), and just give the house a good work over.

How does this help?

Well, today I was sitting in the middle of our living room rug with my six and eight year olds, working through a phonics lesson. I couldn’t help noticing that the floor needs swept and the rug needs vacuumed.  It’s the middle of the school week, and I can tell!

Normally, this would drive me to distraction and make me feel irritated, but I  know that my cleaning day is coming up.  So I let it go.

If someone comes over before I get the floor cleaned on Saturday… well, I guess they’ll get to see how I really live!

These are just a few thoughts and ideas I have about homemaking and homeschooling. 

Like I said, I don’t have all the answers and I certainly don’t have my act together all the time. I do strive to be a good steward of my time, home, and resources, and the Lord has to help me work out all the kinks in between!


How do you keep your house clean during the homeschooling week?

What works for you? Or, what doesn’t work so well?

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12 thoughts on “How Do You Keep Your House Clean When You Homeschool?

  1. Great article! Thank you! Just a question, how early is too early to start training the kids? I have a 3.5 year old girl and two boys 2 years and 3 months. Any thoughts?

    Posted on September 29, 2014 at 8:06 am
    1. Shira, it’s never really too early to start some measure of training. Over the years, I’ve learned to “train” my babies to understand simple phrases or words, such as “look at mommy” or “put away”, and of course the common phrases like “thank you” and “please”. As little ones grow into toddlers, this simple “training” translates well into obedience and character training since they already have a foundation to build on.

      As far as chore training goes, I like to keep things pretty simple. I’ve used The Chore Jar system for several years with my younger kids, as well as various chore charts (I’m pretty bad about not sticking with those! The Chore Jar worked better for me, since it’s very simple to keep up with). The overall theme for me is teaching good habits and character, which of course takes lots of time and consistency!

      Preschoolers, such as your daughter and oldest son, can start learning to do simple things like put their tooth brushes away, fold napkins when you set the table, help pick up their toys, put their shoes away in the closet, etc. In this stage, it takes at least twice as long to let them “help”, but don’t make the mistake I made a lot with some of my kids and just always do everything yourself. Be creative and think of ways to integrate your children into every-day-life-chores, that way they are developing a strong core of good habits.

      Blessings to you!

      Posted on September 30, 2014 at 2:41 pm
  2. This is a very helpful post! Great ideas for keeping things “tidy” and livable. We use “chore pockets” – which are a lot like your chore jar. We made ours for free out of 8 x 12 poster paper folded in half to make an envelope. Each child decorated their own and we taped them to the bedroom doors. I wrote out “chores” on index cards (many of the same ones you have listed) and I rotate them around the pockets once a week. That way, the work is equally divided up according to ability and rotated around so everyone gets to do supper clean-up 🙂 Works for us. I also use “school baskets” like your backpack idea. All schoolbooks stay in the individual linen baskets and go on the bottom of the bookshelf when not in use.
    This is an overly long comment. Sorry. You just inspire me so much!!!

    Posted on September 27, 2014 at 6:03 pm
    1. And you inspire me! Love your ideas, Hilary, thank you for sharing!

      Posted on September 27, 2014 at 7:04 pm
  3. Kristy,

    Thanks for sharing these practical steps in keeping a home tidy while homeschooling.
    Love your living room and the pillow that states “Relax”!
    You inspire me to do better. God bless you!

    Posted on September 25, 2014 at 5:30 pm
    1. Sis. Rhonda,

      YOU have always inspired me! Thank you so much for your godly example of motherhood.

      Thank you for reading and commenting! xoxoxoxoxo

      Posted on September 27, 2014 at 7:42 am
  4. Excellent post. Great ideas but even more I love your honesty and humility. Thank you! I’m about to send you a fb message about a different subject. 🙂 Hugs.

    Posted on September 25, 2014 at 12:11 pm
    1. Thank you, sweet friend!

      Posted on September 25, 2014 at 1:57 pm
  5. Great post. 🙂 I love your dining room hutch and your sink and faucet. Very pretty home.

    What helps me keep our home clean (I homeschool my two older boys, 8 and 5 and have a one year old) is to have a house cleaning schedule with just two or three things per day, such as dust, wash a load of laundry and water the plants for Monday, in addition to the usual constant maintenance of the day. ha I do the floors and fold the laundry on Tuesday, bathrooms on Thursday and so forth.

    Spreading it out helps me to not feel overwhelmed. And like you said, if the floor is dirty before Tuesday arrives, I relax, because I know it will be taken care of on the floor cleaning day. 😉

    Posted on September 25, 2014 at 9:58 am
    1. Thank you for the kind words, Jessica!

      Love your method. Spreading the “load” throughout the week helps so much!

      Posted on September 25, 2014 at 1:57 pm
  6. I like to think of our homeschooling house as “controlled chaos.” Sometimes barely controlled, lol.

    I see that you’re doing MFW ECC. I just wanted to say that was The Best Year Ever for our family, homeschool wise. We used workbooks for over a decade, and switching to MFW really refreshed our homeschooling. We had SO much fun that year, and I hope you do, too. 🙂

    Posted on September 25, 2014 at 9:51 am
    1. Shecki, yep, “controlled chaos” gets thrown around in my vocabulary a lot too! 🙂

      We are loving MFW ECC! At first, I felt a little overwhelmed by all the different books we had to use for the unit, but it’s starting to feel like a normal rhythm. I recently started reading a lot of the lessons aloud to my younger kids, so they are getting science and geography every week, too. We love it!

      Posted on September 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm