In a large family, everything is MORE! More food to make, more clean up, more stuff. If there is no system or plan for keeping the house in order, it will be chaos! Homeschooling adds one more element to the mix. Have you ever wondered how to keep a house clean when homeschooling a large family? Is it possible? I say, yes, it is! Here’s how we make it work in our home.
My husband and I have ten children ages eighteen to one month. Currently we have seven kids in school. Our grade levels are 12th, 9th, 8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, and Kindergarten so that makes a pretty wide age gap! We also have a preschooler and toddler. You can read more about our homeschooling story here.
Over the years, many times I have said, “I can clean the house or I can homeschool the kids, but I can’t do both!” Have you felt this way too? Here what we have learned from 13+ years of homeschooling our large family.
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Video: How to Keep a House Clean When Homeschooling a Large Family
Large Family “Clean”
When I say clean, I am not thinking of the same type of clean we had before kids or even the same “clean” we had with one or two kids. When you have a lot of people living in one house, the wear and tear multiplies. Like the proverb says, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean,” so the opposite applies as well.
You could probably HAVE a pristine house AND a large family if you really wanted it, but in my opinion, you’d have to manage it more like a factory or a business… and that’s not really how i want our home to feel!
We are a family. I want our home to be a haven, not a showcase. We love letting our hair down every now and then with fun times like Friday night movie nights, birthday celebrations with lots of friends over, and restful Sundays where we can truly relax.
Here is what I have in mind when I say large family “clean”
- Having a plan in place: chores and daily rhythms.
- Having the house company-ready at least once during the day.
- Being able to get things picked up for company with a 15 minute notice.
- Waking up to a fairly clean kitchen on most mornings.
- Everyone having clean clothes to wear.
Prioritize Housework above School
When our kids were all little and I was figuring out how to make homeschooling work, I did let housework go a little. These were the foundational years of teaching them EVERYTHING. At that time, I felt that if I were to get the house all in order before starting school, we would never be able to start. In those years I just did the breakfast clean up, threw in a load of laundry, and we started our school day. I focused on the essentials of teaching our school age kids to read, write, and the foundations of math.
As our family grew in size, however, and as more of our children became independent learners, this changed. With more people (and more older kids) in our house, chores have become a priority before school work.
If you struggle to keep up with the housework AND homeschool, I encourage you to do the same. Prioritize the housework above your academic work. You may fear that you will “get behind” in your academic studies, but I have not found this to be true and here’s why.
- Doing housework IS learning! The work that needs to be done in a home is something many adults struggle to learn. These are valuable life skills.
- If your kids love to learn, they will always be moving forward. Their curiosity will spur them on.
Seasons When You Can’t Keep Up
This principle applies as well when you go through seasons when you can’t keep up. Have you ever been through a season where it seems that you just can’t keep up? I know I have. When we first moved to our current house, it took me a while to figure out a cleaning system that worked for us. I felt overwhelmed knowing how to manage our large family in a bigger house. What eventually worked for us was to put school on a back burner for a while to prioritize our housework. We still did some school every day, but it was secondary. Getting the house in order and thoroughly checking chores took first place. When the house was satisfactory, then we moved on to school. During this time, I was set the bar a little higher so that they could get a good understanding of what I expect from them when they do their chores. I’ll be honest, some days it was 11:00 before we got to our academic work, BUT doing this for a period of time helped give the kids an understanding of what is expected from them when they do their chores.
Quiet/Nap Time For Littles Having younger kids do an hour of quiet time can help you get some free time in the afternoon to work individually with kids who need help. Or this may be a time that you can use to deep clean a certain area or organize a closet. This gives the littles a time for rest and everyone else a time when the house is quiet.
“Whoever is doing the most work is the one learning.” Someone once told me this years ago and I have found it to be true. If you become irritated because you are working non-stop while everyone else is playing or making a mess in some other area, this is a sign that your kids should be doing more to contribute. Enlist their help! Giving them more responsibilities will challenge them. Kids learn so much from hands on work!
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When our kids were all very little, our life it seemed, revolved around the four d’s. Diapers, dinner, dishes, and dirty laundry. Our life still revolves around these things, but with a large family, we have more older kids who can contribute to the work.
Get kids involved in the work by giving them chores. Giving kids daily chores is teaching them valuable life skills which they will use as adults. Consider chore time as part of the life skills learning of the day. Doing a job thoroughly is something that is best learned with repeated practice. These habits will help develop good work ethic which will prepare your kids for adulthood.
For more reading on life skills, check out these similar posts.
It may take a little planning to get a chore system in place, but once you have a chart printed out, it will be a wonderful tool for your family. Our chore chart is very simple.
The First Chore : Make Your Bed
From the time our kids are three years old, I try to teach them these three things to help them learn basic hygiene. One of them is to make your bed. This is their first chore.
- Get dressed.
- Brush your teeth.
- Make your bed.
Having them learn to make their beds as soon as they get out of it will help them learn to start their day by keeping their immediate space neat and organized. When the bed is made, it makes the whole room look better. Here is one of my favorite speeches about the importance of making your bed.
The best chore system I have found for our family has been to divide our house into zones: living room, kitchen, entryway, downstairs/upstairs bathroom, etc. Zones help everyone separate, rather than too many people tripping over each other in one area. “Divide and conquer!”
When I initially started a new chore chart, I wrote each zone down on separate index cards. Then I listed on each card what wanted to be done in that area for it to be clean. Some tasks need to be done daily and others weekly. I put all of these zone cards in an envelope near the chore chart, so they could pull them out as a visual reminder when they started on their zones.
In the beginning, I gave each child the same zone to do every day so that they could get good at it. Over time and with practice, we slowly rotated through the zones and now each child does a different area every day.
Our up and coming littles, when they watch their siblings doing chores, want to get their names on the chart too! So we have them partner up with a buddy who shows them how to do each zone.
A Clean Kitchen
In a large family, the kitchen is like a revolving door. It seems no sooner do you get everything cleaned up after a meal that it’s time for another meal! A few years ago as our family was beginning to expand, I started noticing that the time I was spending in the kitchen was getting longer and longer. It was hard for me to get a break from making meals and cleaning them up to be able to do other equally important tasks. I realized at this time that I needed the kids to help more.
Assign a daily kitchen helper. Depending on the ages of your oldest kids, assign a child to either be your kitchen helper (middle kids) or completely responsible (older kids) for kitchen clean up for for every meal. Currently we do this by day. One child is the kitchen clean up person for one day a week. This is less confusing to me than having a different person for every meal. We have this covered for six days. Mom and dad do the seventh day. Younger kids can be a helper to an older child on their clean up day.
Meal preparation. If needed, your daily kitchen helper can also help with meal preparation.
Everyone use the same cup. We have stainless steel cups with kids’ names on them to use throughout the day to help keep dirty dishes to a minimum.
Use paper plates during busy seasons. When we are homeschooling with an infant (or in other stressful seasons), we use paper plates for the first two months to help us adjust.
15 Minute Pick Up
The 15 Minute Pick Up is a mom’s super tool. I pull it out whenever we need it. Set the timer for 15 minutes, assign kids to different areas to pick up everything in sight, on the floor, on tables, the kitchen island, etc. We often do a 15 minute pick up before my husband gets home. Also, we usually do a pick up when company is coming. Anytime things begin to feel chaotic, a 15 minute pick up will reset your home.
If there’s one thing that can make everything seem overwhelming, it is getting behind in laundry. If everyone has clean clothes to wear, it seems to keep us one step ahead. Here’s how we handle laundry in our home.
Kids 10 years and older do their own laundry.
They are responsible to wash, dry, and fold their clothes. Older kids have their own hamper in their bedrooms. I don’t have a formal system for who washes when. I leave it completely up to them to decide when they need to do their wash. Yes, sometimes we have had somewhere important to go and somebody has no clean clothes because they forgot to do their wash, BUT they learn and this usually only happens once!
One family hamper for younger kids.
Our younger kids do not have their own hamper. For kids younger than ten whose laundry I wash, we have one hamper next to the washer. They have to bring their dirty laundry down at night when they change for bed. This transfers the work from me to them. It saves me the work of going around collecting it and gives them a job they can do.
One system that worked well in our home for a long time was to teach our kids to pin their socks. I keep a bowl of safety pins in a central place. By pinning their socks before they put them in the hamper, we are able to save some pairs. Inevitably, however, socks still get lost. For this we keep a large sock basket in the laundry room. When it gets full, I pay our younger kids to match them.
Run 1-2 loads of laundry a day.
Running 1-2 loads a day helps us not to get behind.
Only one laundry basket.
It may seem a little crazy to tell you that for our family of twelve I use only one laundry basket. I have found that if I have more, the baskets get full and pile up. By having only one laundry basket, I am forced to fold it before I run more laundry through. Occasionally if I am not able to fold in a busy moment, I call kids to help me.
Solutions for Deep Cleaning and Odd Jobs
I always have a running mental list of deep cleaning and odd jobs that I need to get done. Things like organizing drawers or closets or similar projects. I chip away at it here and there, but sometimes it piles up and I just get behind. We offer to pay our kids to help me with jobs like these. Our kids love earning money so there are almost always volunteers!
We don’t have our kids clean their bedrooms every day, but we do like to have them regularly picked up.
Make the bed everyday. When the bed is made, the whole room looks cleaner.
Clean room before screen time. We have three screen days a week where the kids can play video games. (This does not include using screens for school work or watching shows/movies with the family.) Before they can have screen time, they have to thoroughly clean their rooms. This is a great motivator!
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I would love to hear from you! What can you share about how to keep a house clean when homeschooling a large family? Keep the conversation going!
Hi, I’m Sheri! I am a Christian saved by grace, married to my high school sweetheart, and a thankful mom to ten incredible kids. I’m a former public school teacher who never thought I would someday be a homeschool mom! Drawing on 13+ years of homeschooling experience, follow along to find help for getting started, tried and true homeschooling advice, life skills learning, simple Morning Time ideas, and interviews with everyday homeschool moms just like you!