Not every mom spends all day, every day with her children. If you ever need to do it, how can you manage? And what can moms do if they’re home all day with children?
As a mom of two pre-teens, I’ve spent my entire motherhood being a work-at-home, stay-at-home mom. I’ve homeschooled both my children since preschool. That means almost every day of the past 12 years of my life have been spent with my children. And I’ve officially been their teacher for the past eight years.
Yet I don’t feel equipped to write about how to be a good mom or what to do with children or how to spend every day with them because it’s been such a personal stretch for me:
- It hasn’t always been comfortable.
- I feel like being a “good” homeschooling mom is a huge struggle.
- I’ve spent days yelling more than I’ve wanted.
- There have been countless moments when I’ve cried out of frustration, anger, and confusion.
- Finally I realize that the thing that brings me to my knees and makes me rely on Christ the most is homeschooling my son and daughter.
- Even with all our challenges, I’ve realized that nothing else in my life has been quite so sweet and special.
It all boils down to this fact: I’m just a mom and they’re just kids.
Somehow, we’ve gotten into a rhythm of living together – loving, learning, laughing, arguing, and forgiving. Since the people you spend the most time with usually know you the most deeply, you can imagine there’s a lot of emotion wrapped into each and every day.
A mom-to-mom chat
But some days I’m tired or cranky or a normal human being. And every single day I need to figure out ways to live with my children who also get tired or cranky or act like normal human beings.
Since I have a feeling you’re a normal human being, too, I wanted to write to you mom-to-mom.
I know I don’t have all the answers. I keep learning every single day and tweaking my approach to parenting and staying home with my kids. Sometimes I quickly figure out what works or what doesn’t work. Other times it takes a while.
Just in case you’re at home with your kids – maybe your public school is taking calamity days, or you’re living through the global COVID-19 pandemic, or you’ve decided to homeschool, too – I wanted to encourage you and share some helpful hints, too.
First, it’s important to remember that your home isn’t a school building, and learning at home doesn’t have to mirror a typical classroom. If you don’t have desks for your children, rest assured that they will learn while being comfortably sprawled out on the floor, or standing at your kitchen island, or curled up on the couch.
Second, your role for part of the day may be a teacher, but you’re also mom. This means your children will behave differently for you than they would another adult. At times this might seem challenging, but remind yourself that no one else knows your son or daughter like you do.
If you’re used to sending your children off for the day, how can you spend all day, every day, with your children and enjoy it? Here are my personal Top 5 suggestions:
5 Ways to Spend All Day with Your Kids … and Enjoy It
Run on a Full Tank
It’s hard to be a mom when you’re surrounded by your children all day and all night long.
Sure, there’s a lot of joy when you connect in a special moment or watch your son or daughter finally grasp a concept. But it’s not easy to be the mom 24/7.
To help get your demanding day off to the best start, it’s vital to fill up your own tank first.
Get a good night of sleep and be as well-rested as you can. If you end up staying up later than you intended but still have to get up earlier than you’d prefer with your kids, it won’t give you such a great start to your day. (Trust me, I know from experience.)
As you get up, spend some quiet time with the Lord – even if it’s only five minutes, get in the Word and pray for His help with your day.
And try to fit in some exercise, if at all possible. Then, once your children are up and demanding your attention, you’re grounded in truth and rest.
At the end of the day, also try to take some time to yourself, even if you only spend a couple quiet minutes in the bathroom and slowly get ready for bed.
If possible, get out of the house by yourself every now and then, even if it’s only a solo shopping trip to the grocery store. This might be sad, but true: walking through aisles with a shopping cart, grocery list, and grocery store music can be therapeutic if you’re that desperate for alone time. Whatever you choose, get some sort of quiet so you can hear yourself think.
Be the Role Model
You know the old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy”? It’s true. Moms have a powerful way of setting the tone in a home and in a family. While this is pretty amazing, it also can be kind of scary.
On days when my hormonal pre-teens are in the middle of pitching fits and showering me with bad attitudes, it’s really hard to not react to the awful moods. The same temptation was there when they were toddlers throwing temper tantrums.
But if I let my mood shift according to the way my children are treating me or talking to me, nothing good will happen. In fact, moods and tempers will only escalate in a hurry.
As difficult as it is, moms need to be the role model. You need to know this, and own it.
Moms are the ones who need to show our children how to respond in love. Moms need to demonstrate what a life of peace looks like every day. We have to look past what’s bothering us and be bigger and better than our circumstances.
Make a Plan
I am ALL for spontaneity. In fact, even though I prefer order and organization, I love the way some days unfold with amazing surprises and unexpected twists. But when you have your children at home all day long, you need to have some sort of a plan.
Depending on your personality type, you may completely love a strict routine where absolutely every hour is planned out – and most days go according to plan. Or, the thought of so much structure makes you want to pull your hair out.
Even if you’re resistant to routines, it’s a good idea to have some sort of plan to follow every day.
Since I’m not the best at sticking to a structured day, I’ve found a basic routine works really well on weekdays when it’s just me and my kids at home:
Breakfast with the Bible and history
Since we’re homeschoolers, our weekdays involve learning. And each morning, that starts with the Bible and our history lesson. If you don’t need to focus on academics, you might want to replace history with simply reading a chapter book out loud.
Whatever you choose, I’ve learned that it’s easy to maximize mealtimes – breakfast and lunch are two times a day when my children are sitting down, fairly quiet, and willing to listen and discuss.
If you’re wondering how in the world to incorporate the Bible into your day, this January I started teaching my children how to inductively study the Bible and I absolutely love what’s happened.
Here’s what we do: We’re working our way through the book of Mark since it’s the shortest Gospel. Every day we read a short portion of it; everyone takes turns reading a verse.
Once we’ve read it, I ask for observations: Who is in these verses? What happened? When and where did this take place?
Then I ask for some interpretations: Why did things happen? How did they happen?
After we’ve discussed everything (I promise, you’ll be blown away by the things your children discover!) I ask a final question: How can you apply this to your life?
Our morning learning time definitely has looked different through the years, as my children have matured from needing so much of my time and attention to being able to work on lessons on their own. Morning’s a great time to focus on independent reading, writing, math, and any memory or book work. As long as we get all of our necessary school work done by lunch, we can spend the afternoon with more fun, creative projects.
Lunchtime with stories and science
Since I love to maximize my children’s attention span at mealtimes, I usually read a chapter in a novel out loud while we eat lunch, and then follow up with our science lesson. I follow lunch with science so if and when we work on an experiment together (hands-on learning is the best!), my kitchen’s already a mess with lunch dishes, and clean up is streamlined at the end of the science lesson.
Once science is finished, the afternoon is a great time to focus on more creative learning – art projects and crafts, practicing music lessons or dabbling with instruments, getting moving outside, practicing magic tricks, playing games, writing in journals, playing with a snap circuit set, cooking in the kitchen, or by simply encouraging creative play with LEGO, costumes, or other toys.
As long as the weather isn’t treacherous, making sure your kids get outside for part of the afternoon is so good for them. (As long as pandemics are a concern, getting outside in the fresh air definitely will become a daily priority!)
If your children are particularly interested in a specific topic, encourage them to explore it even more during this time.
- Studying medieval history? Have them build castles out of LEGO and film a short stop action film.
- Obsessing over a kids movie? Learn how to draw the characters by watching Art for Kids Hub.
- Interested in someone in current events? Write a letter to that person.
- Wondering how to become a better pitcher for baseball season? Watch tutorials on YouTube, then go outside and practice.
While my children spend their afternoons exploring their own creative interests, I use the time to do my own work. It’s a good couple hours for all of us to take a break from each other and enjoy some alone time that feeds our brains and our souls.
Believe it or not, your day may fly by and it will be time to start preparing dinner before you know it. Before you start your supper prep, though, make sure everyone in the house works on cleaning up what we’ve done all day long.
Put away books. Pick up toys. Clean up messy projects. Work on daily chores. Get the house fairly neat before dinner, and you can enjoy less stress and mess once dinner and dishes are finished.
Involve Your Children
As much as you’re the mom, don’t forget that your children are unique people, too. And they have plenty of opinions and preferences.
Include your children in your day’s plans:
- When you pick a new book to read, narrow down the selection and let your son or daughter make the choice. (Or let them take turns making the choice.)
- Give your children freedom to figure out when they’d like to get their schoolwork and chores done. There’s no option whether or not they’d like to do them, but they can complete their tasks whenever and however they decide, as long as you communicate a reasonable time limit and standard. Give them a clear direction of what work they should accomplish and set a deadline. Then, let them work toward that on their own as a way to practice their own self motivation and time management. (If your requests were reasonable and they chose to skip out on everything? Follow up with a consequence. Taking away screen time always motivates my son.)
- Teach them how to cook and clean. You shouldn’t do all the work on your own, but you’re the one who needs to teach your children what to do so they can help you. You might be surprised how they’ll actually like to help out once they know what to do.
- Let your children choose some of the creative activities they personally enjoy. When he was a college student, Sir Isaac Newton was sent home during the Great Plague and made some astounding discoveries in his time away from school. You never know what your own children might learn during their time at home.
Have Some Fun
As moms, it’s easy to forget that our children’s childhoods won’t last forever. While some days spent with our kiddos may seem long, the years are short. As long as you’re all together as a family, it’s a perfect time to have some fun! Play games, tell a silly story, plan goofy ways to memorize facts for school … make each other laugh! As you make a part of each day special, you’ll make countless memories in the process.
When you make sure you’re filled up before tending to your children all day long, remember that you’re a role model who sets the tone, create some sort of a routine that works for your family, involve your children throughout the day, and have some fun, I think you’ll find out that you can spend all day with your children – and enjoy it!
If you stay home with your children most days, how do you manage life? What are your secrets to success?
Wondering what other homeschooling mamas suggest? You’ll want to read:
- Simple Homeschool’s Homeschooling During Coronavirus
- The Frugal Girl’s You’re Suddenly Homeschooling!
- Jessica Smartt’s Crash Course in Homeschooling
- Cait Curley’s 10 Super Easy At-Home Learning Ideas for Parents
- Kristi Stephens’ What I Wish People Knew About Our Homeschool
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All images courtesy of Deposit Photos and Pexels.