Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Homemaking Part 2

The second in a series of posts about the meaning of being a Homemaking.

What defines successful homemaking? 
I think the role of a homemaker changes a little in the context of Unschooling, or even Homeschooling.  A completely different lifestyle emerges when a mother's days do not revolve around getting the children out of the house.  Being at home with children, all day, every day means that the house must work for the family, not the other way around.  Compromises must happen to allow for every member of the family to fully engage in their pursuits.

Before we moved to this house--just weeks before Anna'a birth--I had moved 3 times in 5 years.  Each condo inhabited I had decorated and organized and then kept in what I hoped was 'pristine condition'.  These were my days before babies.  I knew I wouldn't be staying in each location for the long-term so I didn't want to make it too lived-in before I had to sell it.

Baby #3 had arrived in my life before I was able to let go of that old mindset and embrace the idea that we live here.  My house was not going to be worthy of a six-page spread in a decorating magazine.  We needed to live here in a way that could make us all happy and comfortable. 

But happy and comfortable does not mean chaotic and messy.  An unschooling-stay-at-home-homemaker-mom has to set some standards and priorities.  It's hard to live freedom and joy in the midst of clutter and confusion.  But I wasn't about to spend my whole day cleaning up, picking up, wiping up. In fact, there are only two aspects of housekeeping that I am firmly committed to:  the kitchen gets cleaned up at the end of every day AND the laundry gets done and put away all at once on one day.

There is no end to organizing and home management solutions online, and I am not an expert, that's for sure.  Some good information can be found here.  But most of what I have read from other mommy-bloggers or home organization experts applies to people who are not like me and my family.  If you're a stay-at-home-mom whose kids go to school and activities and lessons and playdates then your house has to function in a completely different way from mine.  My children and I are away from our home less than 4 hours each week.  And we live large--6 people in only 900 square feet. And we don't function very well with routines and schedules and rules.

I had to figure out homemaking for unschoolers.

Tips for Simple Housekeeping and Organization for Unschoolers
  1. Prioritize what you want in your house.  In our case, we have a lot of toys, a lot of craft supplies and a lot of books.  We do not have tons of clothes (only enough for about 10 outfits for each person for each season) and we do not have tons of knick-knacks or things that might be beautiful but are not useful.  We have some DVDs, but not tons.  We throw out whatever is old, broken or no longer useful or interesting and we rarely replace what we throw out.
  2. Avoid toys that are designed to be educational as they are not created for your spontaneous, creative child.  Since your children are at home most of the time they need things that they can enjoy together and in lots of imaginary scenarios.  I have no problem with lots of toys, but I don't let my children get everything new thing that comes out.  We have lots of Barbies and accessories, lots of stuffed animals and lots of Playmobil.  New toys mostly fit into those categories and we are not going to start collecting new genres of toys.
  3. Find creative ways to store and organize toys.  We use Rubbermaid bins, baskets on shelves and plastic drawer units,  as well as closets and dressers.  Children can't pick up after themselves if there is nowhere to put things.
  4. Allow the entire house as a play area.  Is it really so bad if they use the bathroom to create a jungle for stuffed animals?  Or if the Barbies perform a ballet on your bed?  When you're returning the Lego to its bin, does it matter if it was under the table or in the bathtub?  The entire house must be child-friendly and this means that no areas or furniture are off-limits.
  5. Don't make strict cleaning and cleaning-up rules, like "Everything gets picked up before bedtime" or "Clean the bathroom every Saturday morning."  Live flexibly.  Clean when something is dirty.  Pick up when the kids are done, which is not necessarily at the end of the day as some games continue for days at a time.

I think that whatever lifestyle you embrace, you probably have goals for you unschooled child that are similar to mine:  you want them to be creative and imaginative, carefree and busy, safe and comfortable.  It is hard for children to engage authentically in their lives if they are surrounded by clutter.  As a homemaker, I think that controlling the stuff in the house is of paramount importance.

PHOTOS:  Our shelves as they look right now.

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