It’s the most frequent question in homeschool circles: how can we balance homeschool and life? Can my kids get a meaningful education and still have time for play, exploration, and housework?
Yes, you can!
Why is it So Hard to Balance Homeschool and Life?
1. an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
2. a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
Balance means that each part of our life is “in the correct proportions,” and this keeps us “upright and steady”.
This is similar to St. Augustine’s definition of peace: “Peace is the tranquility of order.” Source
But it’s easy to forget that each part of a family’s life — homeschooling, homemaking, outside activities, hobbies — is only part of the whole.
If you plan your homeschool, write your to-do list, or make commitments without keeping the whole in mind, you’re going to end up imbalanced.
How to Balance Homeschool and Life
Know your Family
To find balance, it’s critical to consider three things:
- The family culture you want to build
Our family struggles with distraction and impulsivity, so it’s important for our family culture to nurture: a living faith, constructive activities, active play, meaningful work, and times of rest.
- The season you’re in
We’re in a season of change where older children have jobs, middle children are adjusting to deeper work, younger children are no longer little, and my outside work is increasing.
- The hours you actually have
It’s important to be honest about limitations. Due to sleep issues, our family can’t realistically start school before 9:30. My crew also has a harder time thinking in the afternoon (thank you, ADHD). Even without that limitation, I stop our school day at 2pm. This gives me time to work on business or house needs and it gives the kids time to be kids.
Have a Framework
We’ve used a block system for years and I love it. I can adjust for different seasons without reinventing the wheel.
So far, it’s helped us navigate seven children under 12, babies, toddlers, special needs, chronic illness, working from home —and our current season with two adult kids, three teens, and two pre-teens!
The blocks divide our day into Morning, Afternoon, Early Evening, and Evening.
- Morning is for school (during breaks, it becomes time for constructive activities)
- Afternoon block is for play, projects, work, and appointments
- Early Evening is for dinner, chores, and sports practice (depending on the season)
- Evening is for winding down; we rarely schedule anything for after 7pm
Keep Homeschooling in its Proper Place
Homeschooling needs to fit within the whole of our family’s life.
But we can’t cram it in like Cinderella’s sisters and the glass slipper! Just like everything else, homeschooling has to be “in the correct proportion”.
Since our family has four hours to devote to school each day, I don’t try to fit six hours’ worth of work into it. Honestly, I don’t even try to fit four hours’ worth because there will always be distractions, interruptions, and assignments that take longer.
Instead, I focus on essentials. I look at what my children need in order to be well-formed human beings and then leave the rest.
For us, this means:
- K-2 does reading, math, handwriting, and read-alouds
- 3-6 does Latin, math, literature, and history
- 7-12 does Latin, math, literature, history, composition, and science (we often use life interests/skills as electives in high school)
This gives the kids a balanced day of formation, pursuing interests, playing, working, and resting.
The kids also have picture books, Memoria Press nature study books, Petersen field guides, age-appropriate historical fiction, and worthwhile chapter books to choose for free-reading. In hard seasons, we drop formal history for 3rd-6th and let free reading be enough.
Be Realistic about Housework
Anyone who knows me in real life knows that housework is not my strong suit. But there are things that have to be done daily for our home to run smoothly. We focus on these essentials and the rest of the chores 1) wait for Saturday, 2) get delegated to kids, or 3) become “paying jobs” for the kids.
The daily chores are attached to mealtimes: animal care before breakfast, dishes after lunch and dinner, tidy-up as I start dinner, animal care after dinner. It does NOT go as smoothly as it appears in black and white but it’s what we aim for.
Guard your Time
A critical part of balancing homeschool and life is guarding your time.
We guard school hours by scheduling appointments for the afternoon (as much as possible).
I also avoid housekeeping and work projects during school. This is really hard for me — especially if everyone is working independently at certain points — so I keep a notebook for jotting down notes/ideas while they work.
We guard family and rest times by limiting outside activities and avoiding activities that would keep the kids out past bedtime. When they become teens, they can join activities that end before curfew rather than bedtime (yes, even our teens have a set bedtime).
Choose Outside Activities with Care
My parents had a one-sport-per-kid rule, but we expanded that a bit: one sport per kid and it has to be rec league.
There’s no travel involved and, in most leagues, it means there’s one game per week, on the same day each week, at the same park, and at one of three times. This keeps sports “in the correct proportions.”
If you have a good YMCA, their sports setup can be similar to a rec league.
Another option is to have children take turns with sports (or activities). This past spring, one child did an 8-week volleyball workshop followed by another child who did a 6-week tennis workshop.
Note: there will be times where sports or activities aren’t available or affordable. We’re in one of those times right now so we’re hosting a monthly bonfire for our teens and their friends, and being more intentional about playdates for the younger kids.
What is Keeping You Off-Balance?
What area of your family’s life is out of proportion to the rest? What shift may God be calling you to? Let’s chat about it in the comments!