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Practical Homeschooling® :

The Joy of Chores

By Melissa Morgan
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #81, 2008.

Help your little ones learn the joy of helping others while getting those little jobs done

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Melissa Morgan

I love that “Let me help!” stage. It usually begins right after toddlerhood. If handled wisely, that stage need never stop - and eventually, your kids will be a real help in your home.

Through home chores, young people learn essential skills that will make them more successful in life. They discover how to care for others when they practice the important maxim, “Work Before Play.”

At first, however, little kids “helping” really means more messes underfoot. It takes more time and effort to supervise a child than to do the job yourself. Instead of expecting actual assistance from your kids at first, think of chores for young children as an important learning experience - and it really is. Through chores, kids can:

  • Develop physical strength, fine motor and large motor skills
  • Learn self-control and independence
  • Feel useful and needed in the family
  • Learn teamwork, and later, leadership skills
  • Learn to follow increasingly more complex instructions and directions
  • Learn to appreciate and value good gifts they have been given
  • Learn to complete tasks independently
  • Acquire marketable skills, such as cooking, gardening, home repair, sewing, decorating, etc.

Teaching School Skills with Chores

Can chores count as “school” time? Yes, they can, if you incorporate curriculum goals into home chores. For instance, a unit on fractions can include dividing cookies up among the number of guests invited to your house. Your kids can learn kitchen chemistry when they learn about yeast and bread making. They can practice real-world health skills when they learn what makes a meal balanced nutritionally. Large, bold-print, simple recipe cards can make reading and baking into exciting fun for little ones. How many words can your little one read on the recipe card? They can use their beginning writing skills when they help with the meal planning and grocery lists.

Take a look at the free Typical Course of Study (which covers kindergarten and up), from WorldBook.com, or a free kindergarten readiness test at Covenant Home Curriculum, covenanthome.com. The Covenant Home readiness test lists many emotional and physical skills, as well as academics. Then consider how you can use chores (instead of workbooks or formal learning) to help your child grow physically and intellectually. As your youngster shows understanding, simply check skills (such as sorting and matching objects or following three-step directions) off the list.

Don’t be afraid to go “beyond the curriculum,” however. Many younger kids can understand percents in real-world math. Check the the sale flyers. Which is the best deal: Twenty percent off $20 jeans, or $15 regular price? If you get something new, can you get rid of something old, to make room? What can you give away to someone less fortunate? Before birthdays and other holidays (where we usually give and receive gifts), we try to thin out our overabundant belongings. Small children can learn to sort their “stuff” into three large boxes: one for things to keep, one for things to throw away (such as items that can’t be mended), and one box for things to give away.

Chores Teach Valuable Business Skills

If you have a home business, even a very small one, your kids can learn priceless skills that may form their future careers. Small children can do simple tasks, such as filing forms alphabetically, putting stamps on envelopes, weighing packages, or carefully copying addresses onto letters. Meanwhile, they’ll be learning from your example in your customer relationships.

Throughout your workday, hold conversations with your children. Speak at their level, explaining your work, and wait for them to respond to you. You’ll see their vocabulary level growing, as they also learn more respect for you and your work.

With adult supervision, youngsters can start a small-scale home business of their own, such as a lemonade stand, sales of cut flowers or vegetables, pet sitting, or garage sales. They’ll begin to learn the value of money and time. They might even learn about profit and loss - did they sell more lemonade and cookies, or did they drink and eat their profits? What about tithing - would they like to donate a portion of their profits?

Getting Organized

Large and small homeschool families may find it essential to organize family chores. Some families use chore charts or wheels. You can make your own chore wheel or buy one ready made. Schedule the chores on your home computer or write them in a planner. Kids can be encouraged to keep track of their own chores in a notebook. Include clear consequences, such as lost privileges, for neglecting chores.

In most cases, it works best to rotate chores on a weekly or monthly basis, as opposed to daily. It is less confusing, and children have a better chance to learn a chore well.

Yes, it takes a lot of time and effort to develop a child’s skills in the home. However, children who learn to work develop important character traits of industry, maturity, respect for self and others. These qualities will become increasingly in demand in our modern indulgent society.

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