Teaching homeschoolers to do chores alongside the adults of the home encourages increased family solidarity, independence and responsibility. What’s not to love? Yet, even though 82% of adults did chores as children, only 28% require their own children to help around the house (Dishongh 2015). This may be due to the increased number of hours children spend in academia, or in organised activities. Or it may be because parents have less time to teach and monitor the chores being done due to the need to work or perhaps even that busy organised activity schedule. For others it may be that they believe childhood should be a time for being a child. I know my mum felt this way.
Homeschoolers and the Benefit of Chores
Arsenault (2017) discusses the research available on children and chores. She states that findings suggest childhood chores can lead to increased skills to take into adulthood as well as instilling values and empathy. Furthermore, Arsenault insists that when children make meaningful contributions towards the wellbeing of the family, they are happier. Li (2016) is in agreement. They found that chores foster interpersonal skills, increase their sense of responsibility and even have a positive effect on their educational achievements and career success. Klein, Graesch and Izquierdo (2009) concur adding that in general parents value chores and believe them to have a positive effect on their children.
These are all great reasons for your children to do chores. Yet only 28% of parents insist their children help out around the house.
Homeschoolers and Chores: In Our House
In our family, the children helped out as soon as they were able. My mother thought I was insane! There I was, with three three year olds standing on chairs at the sink, ‘washing up’. It would take three times the time, make three times the mess and (as my mum was want to say) caused three times the amount of work for me. Not only that. After they finished, I had to rewash everything, redry everything and clean up the enormous amount of water on the floor. Mum could not understand what the pay off for me was.
I also had a friend who did absolutely everything for her children. She was a brilliant mum. When she found out that my children had their own mini washing up gloves, their own spray bottle and cloth for the sides and were receiving a joint gift of a working hand held vacuum cleaner for Christmas (to hoover the stairs with), she told me how cruel I was! She was being serious as well. In fact, so serious, she invited my children to spend Christmas with her and told them she would be buying them ‘proper’ gifts and they could learn what Christmas was all about. I tried to explain that, to the children, their Christmas vacuum cleaner was no different to her buying her children a play kitchen. In fact, it was somewhat better because it actually worked! But, I never did change her mind.
Another story of chore related doom and gloom came from my health visitor. She popped round to see Abigail when she was a baby. By now, I had three five year olds. There they were sitting at the table using a sharp knife to cut up apples for an apple pie. She expressed her concern. I cheerfully disagreed. After all, they had been using a knife for years…of course, I didn’t tell her that for fear she might take them away from me!
Chores are Good for Children
Between my mother thinking that I was being cruel by not treating them like children; my friend who threatened to steal them away for the Christmas of their lives and a health visitor who looked like she would have taken them into care there and then, I wonder how I managed to stick to my guns. But I did. Because I knew deep in the recesses of my (ever so cruel) heart, that chores were good for the children.
Fast forward fifteen years and I have five offspring who do chores without me asking. They offer to help any time they go to a friend’s house. If I am ill in bed, any one of them is able to keep the house ticking over as well as put food on the table (which is no mean feat given that we have one vegan, two dairy intolerant and one severely allergic to gluten!). I am offered tea at numerous times of the day. My children have servant hearts.
Homeschoolers and Chores: It all about relationships
For me though, the biggest benefit is relational.
I almost never feel taken for granted by my own children. They are always grateful, even for the smallest of things. They thank me and Gary all the time and are really aware of our feelings and those of their siblings when making decisions or asking for favours.
The fact is, I don’t do everything around the house.
I do my fair share.
And so does every other person who lives here.
I never feel like the skivvy, or like my load is too heavy, or that I am treated like a servant (all things I have heard people close to me complain about).
It was SO worth the extra work during their younger years. It was so worth the time and effort which went in to training them.
Oh, and their favourite, most special time of the year? Yes, it’s Christmas! All those real life tools and small appliances (😁😇) did not ruin Christmas for them. Not doing Father Christmas, and making Christmas about Christ, did not make them feel hard done by in any way. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Tips for encouraging Chores Participation
- Start young, when they are enthusiastic and can’t think of anything they’d rather do than to spend time with their mummy (or daddy). Chores are a great bonding opportunity.
- Make chores as fun as possible. When they were younger we put on music and bopped our little hearts out. And guess what? That’s exactly what they all do now. Music on, and dancing with the plates begins…
- Make chores an absolute. I have three absolutes. The first is no lying. The second is that we respect each other. The third is that chores are done daily and are shared. That’s just how it is at the Stewarts. When friends and boyfriends come to stay they join in too. It’s an absolute. We all make the mess, we all clear it up. Ads was not impressed by this when he first moved in, but he is now the first to get up and do the chores after dinner. I don’t think he finds it fun, and I know the first thing he will buy for his and Charlotte’s home together will be a dishwasher, but he does it and he does it well. And I am very grateful.
- Have a chore routine and stick to it. In theory, a chore routine means familiarity with the chore in question and an expectation of doing it daily. I say in theory, because we have a Lillie. Having a Lillie means I need to manage my own expectations. Lillie is my most willing, eager to help child and is my right hand woman in so many ways. But it does not matter how many times she is put on kitchen morning chores she always (literally without fail) forgets to take out the bin…or wipe down the sides…Lillie is very willing, but also very lackadaisical. She is as happy as a pig in muck most of the time and creates the very muck she is so happy to live in. Like a hurricane, I can track her movements around the house. She needs a little more management. It used to irritate us all, but I think I understand her a bit better as she has got older. She is always happy to do it with a reminder or two. I say or two because she will forget the bin and the sides, which I will remind her about. She’ll go and do the bins really willingly and happily and forget all about the sides!
- Assign chores and stick with them. For example, in our house, I cook and shop and clean the bathroom and do most of the laundry. Lillie does the morning kitchen chores (wash and dry up, sides, bin, recycling, sweep and mop). Abigail does the morning dining room chores and the lunchtime chores. Becca does the morning living room chores and the lunchtime chores with Abs. Charlotte and Ads do the evening kitchen chores together and do their own laundry. Over the years, these chores rotate so every child has experience of every chore. On a day to day basis however, the chores remain the same.
- I would never pay for normal everyday chores. Everyday chores need to be done by the everyday people who create the mess which necessitates them. They are not something to be rewarded for. They just are. I do however pay for chores done over and above the everyday one. For example a car clean or a deep kitchen clean. If I ask the children to help out extraneously from their everyday chores, I expect them to help out whenever possible and not ask for payment. We are a family after all, not a business. But if a child needs money for a birthday or a trip out, we are happy to find extra chores which we will pay for.
Homeschoolers and Chores: Conclusion
Thomas has said that one of the biggest gifts we had given him was his work ethic and that doing chores had completely prepared him for living on his own. Sometimes we have to go against the grain and parent according to our hearts. There are many things I have not done well with regards to the children. But I will never regret having willing children with servant hearts which exist in no small part because of the chores they were required to do during their childhood.
Obviously this post isn’t just for homeschoolers and their chores. It can be applied to any children at all!
This is one of my posts about how we homeschool here at angelicscalliwgas. For more homeschool related posts go to my Homeschool Article page
References used in Homeschoolers and Chores
Dishongh, K. (2015). Next time you tell your kids to rake the leaves, do the dishes or clean the bathroom, you can safely add, “It’s for your own good.” Washington Post, Associated Press.
Klein, W., Graesch, A., Izquierdo, C. (2009). Children and chores: A mixed methods study of children’s household work in Los Angeles families. Anthropology of Work Review, XXX(3), 98-109. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1417.2009.01030.x
Li, S. (2016). Chores, medicine for a widespread lack of gratitude in the one- child generations of China. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 4(7), 1522-1528. DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2016.040704
Rende, R. (2015). The developmental significance of chores: Then and now. The Brown University Child and Adolescent Newsletter, 31(1), 1058-1073