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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

How This Homeschool Mom Does It All – Or Most of It Anyway


Patricia Purcell shares her top 7 tricks that she’s learned over the years. She is usually able to get enough done to keep it all going for another day!

Homeschoolers are asked all kinds of questions by non-homeschoolers. Some are intrusive, some are funny, and some are just plain puzzling.

Among the latter is a question that I have been asked multiple times, often by busy, working moms.

“How do you do it all?” they ask, seemingly amazed at my ability to teach my own offspring and remain sane (to all appearances anyway).

I find it an odd question because motherhood, by its very nature, means forever putting the needs of someone else (or multiple someones) above your own. All mothers juggle, all mothers prioritize, and all mothers…manage.

I think what they might really mean is how do I split my roles and manage to be at once a mother, a teacher, chief cook and bottle washer, keep a perfectly organized house and show up for appointments on time?

The answer is…I don’t.

But with a few tricks that I’ve learned over the years, I’m usually able to get enough done to keep us going for another day. I’ll share those with you now.

1. Use Homeschool Resources

What non-homeschoolers often don’t realize is that we homeschool moms aren’t in this alone, trying to come up with ways to teach our children based on vague memories of our own schooldays. We have an awesome array of curriculum resources.

Families have the option of enrolling in a fully-accredited satellite school, like Seton, or just purchasing textbooks and planning their own course.

Oh, did I mention that as the teacher, I get access to the answer keys? That really helps!

2. Make a To-Do List

With multiple grades and subjects to teach and track, activities, and social obligations, there is no way that I could keep it all straight without my lists.

I always keep a stack of sticky notes on hand to jot down what I need to get done each day. I cross out items as they’re completed.

When I hit a mid-day slump, just looking at how much I’ve already accomplished can give me a boost.

3. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is vital to keeping a school year on track. During the summer, I plan the work schedule in every subject for each child. Then, if we fall behind, I know exactly how to catch up.

I write down what’s been completed each day. At the end of every week, I figure out what needs to be done the following week in order for us to stay on track.

Despite all of my planning, I’ve learned that there are times when it is better to ignore the schedule. It’s important to be able to recognize when kids are actively engaged in learning.

At such times it can be wise to keep the momentum going rather than switching to another subject.

During their studies, my kids will often come up with a relevant question that we need to research right away. Just remember to make up the other lessons later in the week!

4. Divide and Conquer

My hubby plans math and Spanish. Having his help with part of the curriculum frees me up to do things like actually grade papers and hand them back in a reasonable time-frame.

I also structure the school day so that any kids that I am not working with at the moment have work to do independent of me.

I might be reading with my youngest, while my daughter is writing a book report, and my older son is listening to an online lecture.

5. Split Your Focus

For me the key is to juggle tasks, going from one to the next and back again until each is completed.

Fit in chores as you go.

Grab a basket of laundry on the way to let the dog out, or load the dishwasher while listening to a child read.

Use your lunch break wisely.

Get dinner started, make doctor’s appointments …the possibilities are endless.

6. Eliminate Distractions

Guard your time carefully. Some typical time wasters are:

Answering the phone. I generally don’t pick up the phone during the school day. I do check my voicemail just in case there is an emergency.

I love texts and emails. They’re quick and to the point, and I can reply to them when I have a spare moment.

Errands. Running out to the grocery store or post office can eat into schooling time. Try to fit in errands when you’re out anyway.

Neighbors. One problem that can come up when you’re home with the kids all day is that neighbors think that you are always available to help them out. I’m not saying don’t be a good neighbor, but do weigh how each favor will affect you and your busy schedule. If it’s collecting the mail, fine.

If (as happened to me) it’s collecting the mail, watering the garden, letting the dogs out four times a day, changing the litter box, and feeding the pets, then it’s not so fine.

Clearly they need a paid pet sitter, not a neighbor!

7. Know When to Call It a Day

Eventually everyone hits their saturation point. It’s the time of day when you just know that no more learning is going to be done.

While it may be tempting to push on until every last item is crossed off your to-do list, often it’s best just to pack it in, give the kids a break, and make a new list for the next day.

So while my days are busy and full, I’m likely not any better at juggling my responsibilities than moms who don’t homeschool.

My biggest job, after being a mother, just happens to be teaching my children instead of going out to work. At the end of the day, if everyone has been fed, has clean clothes to wear, and has learned something, I consider my job well done.

What is your favorite question that you get about homeschooling?

About Patricia Purcell

Patricia Purcell
Patricia Purcell is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. She now lives in New York state with her very patient and handsome husband and their three active, homeschooled children. After teaching and shuttling kids to activities, she spends her time writing, reading, attempting to garden, and cooking. Not content with turning only her own children into bookworms, she manages book clubs in hopes of turning their friends into booklovers too.

Header photo CC Oksana Kuzmina DollarPhotoClub

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