A Day in the Beautiful Mess of a Multi-Age Homeschool + 5 Tips for Tidying


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A Day in the Beautiful Mess of a Multi-Age Homeschool#SweepTheMess #CollectiveBias #ad

I always love to read about how other families homeschool – especially families homeschooling a bunch of multi-age children. I’ve got 4 kids homeschooling right now, and I’m not gonna lie, it makes for some very chaotic, messy days. Somedays, I’m able to see the beauty in the mess. Somedays, I’m able to ignore the mess. But somedays, I just want a clean, quiet house and we sweep it all away with our O-Cedar Angler broom and dust pan. I hope you enjoy a glimpse into my homeschooling days and the five tips at the end for a quick tidy when you need peace and quiet.

A Day in the Beautiful Mess of a Multi-Age Homeschool + 5 Tips for Tidying

We do school at home on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. On Wednesdays, we’re part of a wonderful, secular homeschool coop, about a 1/2 hour away. On Fridays, we’re part of our Homeschool Assistance Program Coop that my kids also really enjoy. Since we’re out of the house most of the day on Wednesdays and Fridays, I’m describing for you our days when we’re home.

6:00 am.

My day starts around 6 am most of the time. I generally stay in bed for a while after waking, checking social media on my phone and finishing up any blog shares I didn’t get to the night before. Generally, I am up and at ’em by 6:30. Unless my 4 year old has crawled in bed with me. Some nights, she absolutely must be touching me or she wakes up. When I move, she wakes up, so on those mornings, I throw caution to the wind and snuggle with my baby. She’s going to be big soon and I know from the experience of her three older siblings, I won’t be able to pay her money to snuggle with me much longer. So I’m enjoying it now.

A Day in the Beautiful Mess of a Multi-Age Homeschool + 5 Tips for Tidying #SweepTheMess #CollectiveBias

6:30-9:00 am.

We’re living in a barn right now so I have to leave my little upstairs apartment and head downstairs to my husband’s shop that has been converted into my kitchen. From 6:30 to about 9:00, I mess around in the kitchen. Sometimes, I do a little more blogging, usually I start a load of laundry and clean up the dishes or any mess left over from the night before. We check on the chickens – open the coop, gather eggs, throw them some food. My kids do a couple of quick chores. The oldest unloads the dishwasher, the second oldest brings down the dirty laundry, the two younger ones sort recycling and take care of trash.

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9:00 am – noon.

From around 9 am until noon, we try to be engaged in educational activities. Sometimes, that means kids are sitting at a table doing math or spelling or English. Sometimes, they’re watching a movie or playing an educational game {or MineCraft…} on the iPad or computer. I usually work between kids, helping whomever needs help. Sometimes it’s very chaotic, and sometimes it all just works in perfect harmony. Not very often on option #2. My oldest child (5th grade) is of course the most independent, but she needs help with her math quite frequently.  My third grader needs many reminders to stay on task, and my first grader needs the most help, reading directions, reading through her work with her, etc. I also try to do a couple loads of laundry and dinner prep during this time as having dinner taken care of ahead of time is really, really, helpful. It doesn’t always happen, but that’s my goal. By the way, did you know kids learn better in costume? At least mine do. 😉

While the older three do their work, the youngest plays and makes messes. Sometimes she sits with her older siblings and draws or works on ABCs, but for the most part, she plays, “reads” books, or cooks “food” in her kitchen.


A Day in the Beautiful Mess of a Multi-Age Homeschool #SweepTheMess #CollectiveBias #ad

Noon – 1:30.

We spend this time on lunch prep, eating lunch, and cleaning up from lunch. This is also the time I sometimes sneak in a shower if I didn’t get to it before hand. If the weather is nice, I kick the kids outside for a while. They also have to finish up any animal chores and if I’m really on top of it, they put away their folded laundry during this time. Spring is finally heading to Eastern Iowa right now and they are loving the mess of mud! Oh boy. Do they love the mud. It’s honestly such fun to watch them – but boy o boy does it make a mess.

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Many days, we have errands to run or afternoon homeschool activities or sports during this time. On Wednesdays, the older two have piano lessons. On some Tuesdays, the first grader has classes in the next town over. I try to combine any errands, like grocery shopping with that time.

After 4:00.

This is when I try to sneak in a little blogging. Sometimes, I’m able to do that from 9-noon, but generally, I’m pretty busy helping the kids. So after 4:00 is when the meal prep finishes and I try to do a final tidy of the house erm barn, so it’s not a disaster when my husband walks in the door. We’re not always successful, but we’re getting better. Some days.

A Day in the Beautiful Mess of a Multi-Age Homeschool the mess #SweepTheMess #CollectiveBias #ad

5 Tips for Tidying

You guys, homeschooling is messy business. The unfinished projects. The clutter. The supplies. It’s everywhere. I love this video from O’Cedar for its reminder to slow down. It reminds me that there’s a reason for this mess. And it’s beautiful, even if it doesn’t look like it some days. But, I still feel better in a cleaner environment, so here are my 5 tips for tidying up the mess at the end of the homeschooling day.

1. Prep dinner during the day.

Keeping the kitchen cleaner during the day {if that’s possible} makes my evening time cleanup much easier. When I end the day with a clean kitchen it makes my next day go better. Likewise, when I end the day with a dirty kitchen, which does happen, it just sets the wrong tone for the next day. I really like when I am able to to the bulk of my cooking earlier in the day so I have less to clean up at night.

2. Have a dedicated home for school supplies – so when the kids are finished with their work, everything just goes right back where it was.

Living in small space makes putting stuff away very difficult sometimes because there’s just no place to put half the stuff we have. One of the changes I made this year was to make sure I had a dedicated space for the schoolbooks so that everyone can just pick up his or her books at the end of the schooling and put them back where they belong. I’m sure you all have a dedicated space already – but with all 4 kids home this year, that space became very important.

A Day in the Beautiful Mess of a Multi-Age Homeschool delegate #SweepTheMess #CollectiveBias #ad

3. Delegate chores to children.

We’ve been working hard on the chore list in 2015. At 10, 9, 7, and 4 – all of my kids are old enough to help me with the work load. I’m not going to lie to you, often it’s easier for me to just do everything myself, but they need to learn to be helpful, and I need a shorter to-do list. I am relying on my kids to help out more at home. They help with the toy tidy, laundry, taking care of animals, sweeping and vacuuming, and cleaning the kitchen. By the way, check out that O-Cedar Angler broom we use. I love how nicely it slides under our furniture. And I love even more, watching my kids use it! 😀

A Day in the Beautiful Mess of a Multi-Age Homeschool dustpan o toys #SweepTheMess #CollectiveBias #ad

4. Make a big pile-o-toys to put away.

Everyone needs a BFF, even moms. Seriously you guys. I learn more tips from my awesome friend Robin than about any other person. One of the things she does that I love is use dust pans for toy pick-up.

A Day in the Beautiful Mess of a Multi-Age Homeschool #SweepTheMess #CollectiveBias #ad

We make a big pile of toys and sweep them away with the dust pan. I also fill the dust pan up with odds and ends that need to be added to games or put with sets. There’s something fun about cleaning with a dust pan. They kids really enjoy it.

5. Finally, change your expectations.

Guys. Life is messy.  Especially the homeschool life. I could tell you that my house, or barn as the case may be right now, looks gorgeous all the time. But that would be a downright lie. On any given day, I would probably be embarrassed if you walked in my door unannounced. But the truth is, I have more important things to do than clean all the time. I’m raising four beautiful children and trying to help them learn in a creative and fun manner. I encourage you to find the beauty in your mess and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Share your tips! How do you find the beauty in your mess? Please leave a comment below.

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. I have three kids, so I know about messes too! I am always excited to try anything that can help me deal with messes!

  2. It’s important to see the dirty days as well as the tv ready days so wev know it’s not just us!

  3. The one thing I always try to do is get the kitchen organized at night. If I’m lucky that includes prepping plates and bowls, etc., for breakfast the next day. It just sets the tone for a more organized day.

    1. I can’t wait to have a real kitchen again. I agree – an organized kitchen really helps the next day go more smoothly. 🙂

  4. I have to admit that I am a neat freak, but I am losing the battle everyday. It is true that life… kids and farm life are messy. Love your tip about the dust pan. I might have to get my son one to help tame his tornado of LEGOS. Thanks for walking us through your day. #client

  5. I have 4 great kids and know about homeschooling although we don’t any longer, there are still messes – ha! Anything will help – I have also been having my children help around – they needs these skills too, Lisa Kanagy

  6. WOW! I was just contacted and I think that I won something from this giveaway! I haven’t won anything for so long and then it was actually a very small article. Thanks for this opportunity. Lisa Kanagy