Recently, I read Carolyn Mahaney's book, "Feminine Appeal." I loved nearly all of it and found it to be incredibly helpful as I struggle through the high callings of being both a housewife and a mother. In the final pages, Mrs. Mahaney wrote a beautiful and loving tribute to her mother Margaret. The author depicted Margaret as a hard-working, selfless, and loving woman who truly gave herself completely to others. In other words, this dear Margaret lady sounded as though she embodied the person I hope to someday be.
That is, until I read these lines: "...as soon as Margaret had sent her 5 children off to school, she spent the next six hours of her day tirelessly cleaning, cooking, and..."
That line caught me off guard. Why? Well, I don't make a lot of public noise over this, but Jon and I feel that it is in the best interest of our children to educate them at home. I certainly don't mind telling people when they directly ask about our educational choices (I'm posting it on my public blog, aren't I?), but I'm not one to announce to a stranger that, "Hey, did you know that we're going to home school our kids?" It's just not in my nature.
So, when I read of these beautiful, Godly women who sacrifice their entire lives for others, it encourages me that, maybe, I can do the same - that is, until I find out that they have 6 hours each day that are free from grimy little fingers and the constant care that little ones demand. I will, in all likelihood, never have this luxury. How, then, am I to do what they have done, while in addition teaching my little spark plugs?
Honestly, I haven't the faintest idea.
I know that I am not alone in this. When my parents first decided to undertake my education 23 years ago, "home schooling" was an unknown term. Today, nearly everyone has at least heard of home schooling if not even considered doing it themselves. Somehow, during the home schooling explosion of the previous generation, families - especially mothers - struggled, pushed, and fought their way through the awesome task of maintaining a home, demonstrating hospitality, and educating their kids. And if they can do it, I can, too.
It won't be easy. At times, it won't be fun. But, unlike my parents and other previous-generation home schoolers, I have a lot in my favor. I was home schooled, so I at least have a vague understanding of what this involves. I have been graciously given more curriculum than I know what to do with. I only have three kids (I've heard of families with 12 or more kids trying to do this). Most of all, I have my husband's complete, steady, and unyielding support, which is far more than many other women have. If anyone is prepared for home education, it's me.
With all of that said, I'll go back to my question: How does one do it all? I am certainly not the expert here (my oldest is only starting kindergarten this fall!!), but I have found a few things to be helpful:
First of all, I pray. A LOT. Especially before I get out of bed in the morning. If I don't, the whole day goes south before I can speak three words.
Secondly, I am a stay-at-home "stay-at-home mom." If that leaves you confused, let me clarify. I don't really go anywhere during the day. Now that Jon works days and needs the car, I find it really annoying to fight traffic in order to take him to and from work just so I have a set of wheels during the day. Staying home is my answer. I tend to stress out when I have a bunch of errands and appointments, so becoming a homebody really appeals to me. Thus, I have a lot more time than someone who has to take kids to soccer, T-ball, ballet, PTA meetings, Back-to-School nights, etc.
Next, I skip as many things as I can. For example, I don't mop, dust, scrub baseboards (it helps that I actually don't have any baseboards), or wash windows. Ever. Really. If something spills on the floor, I take a washrag and clean up the gooey area and go on my way. And with kids ages 5 and under, I really can't see the point of cleaning off fingerprints when they're just going to miraculously reappear moments later. When the kids are grown, I'll have time to wash the windows (I think).
Additionally, I try to include the kids in certain things. Baking is great; we count cup measures and talk about fractions while cooking. I can count it as school; they stay occupied and aren't busy getting other things out; and I get my food prep done all in one fell swoop.
Even better will be starting official chores this fall. I probably won't call them chores since my kids do better when I simply ask if they can help me, but I will start routinely asking for "help" in vacuuming, bathroom cleaning...oh, and dusting. We already ask the kids to help with picking up, clearing the table, folding clothes, and turning off unneeded lights. The older they get, the more they can help relieve me of some of my current obligations and duties. This isn't torture or child abuse; it's called maturity. (It can also probably be called "saving Mom's sanity, but that's for another discussion.)
Of course, this lifestyle isn't for everyone. I know many women who would go stir-crazy if they couldn't get out of the house every day. I also know moms who feel that cleanliness is next to Godliness and couldn't handle a little dust or some fingerprints. For me, though, this method gets me by. I may not be doing all things well (or somethings even at all), but by skimming over some things and enlisting my kids' help, I think we've got a shot at making all of this work.
And if we fail, I'm sure you'll be able to find me in the nearest mental hospital. But at least I tried.