Do you feel like you are always behind? Do you feel like you do all the work around the house, and you are constantly cleaning up after your children? Do you feel like there is not enough time to cover your school material because you are so busy doing the basics for your children, like feeding them and cleaning up after them?
If you are looking for ways to improve the flow of your homeschool day, I encourage you to reevaluate your children’s chores. My focus in this post is on school aged children. Toddlers and babies can do some basic chores (do a Google search for some!), but the focus in this post is on school aged children.
Part of a good education should include teaching basic life skills. As children who do school at home, your children contribute to the daily flow of the home. Because you all live in your home, it’s to be expected that things will get messy; that is natural. You do not run a museum; you run a home. It is reasonable to expect your children to help out around the house and do chores. It teaches responsibility and respect, and it is helpful to family life.
Here are some basic chores that most elementary aged children are capable of learning:
- setting the kitchen table
- clearing the kitchen table after eating
- loading the dishwasher
- unloading the dishwasher
- bringing laundry to the laundry room
- finding their own clean clothes in the laundry and putting them away (and older elementary aged children should be able to do more)
- sweep the kitchen floor (perfection for all crumbs might be a challenge)
- wipe down the bathroom sink and counter
- make their bed
- put away toys, crafts, and games
- put away coats and shoes
- pick out clothes for the next day
- get out their school books in the morning
- put away their school books in the afternoon/evening
- clear out trash and items (e.g., toys, books, coats) from your van/car
- take out the trash
- clean up toys in the yard after playing
- packing clothes for a trip
- packing books for a trip
- packing their lunch
- filling their water bottle for an outing
- putting away folded laundry
If you work with your children and teach them, they can learn these chores one by one.
If your children are not doing many chores, and if you do not know where to start, I recommend that you start with kitchen chores.
Homeschool families eat almost all meals in their home (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks). Starting with a few kitchen chores will have a dramatic improvement to your day. From there, slowly add kitchen chores, one by one, as the children become confident and efficient. Then you can branch out to other rooms and tasks.
Be sure to take the time to mentor your children and help them learn the chores. Don’t tell your 6-year-old, who has never swept the kitchen floor, to sweep the floor well. He/she won’t know to move the kitchen chairs to sweep up the gobs of crumbs under the table. Cleaning is not intuitive to children. Chaos is intuitive to children, but they can learn to clean.
If you feel guilty about “making” your child do household chores, please don’t. It really is good for them to learn responsibility and have a sense of self-worth that they are important to your family.
And you know what? Teachers in public schools also give their students “chores,” too. They don’t call them chores, though, but they are very similar to chores that are done at home. Students at school need to hang up their coats every day, put their backpack away, clean up their place at lunch when they are done eating, clean up their snack after snack time, put away their school books, put away crayons/colored pencils/markers, clean their school desks, clean their lockers, and learn to not make a mess in any location at school (e.g., homeroom, cafeteria, music room, library, bathroom, etc.). If you ever feel guilty about asking your children to pitch in and help around the house, please don’t! (And who knows? Maybe your future daughter-in-law or son-in-law will thank you one day. Marriages tend to do better when spouses help out around the house.)
If you are looking for a way to balance your family life and educating life, I strongly encourage you to teach your children some basic household chores. If you phrase things well and can be encouraging (e.g., “You’re a big girl making your bed!”), and set low standards at first as needed (e.g., “Good job getting your blanket and pillow on your mattress” to your preschooler), then your children will be on their way mastering them. Small steps lead to big progress. It is a gift to educate our children in many areas of life, including how to care for their home.