In this series (find the series index here), we have been discussing how to keep our homes running smoothly even while many of the hours of your day are consumed with homeschooling. In this post, I wanted to discuss training up your littles to help with chores and home maintenance. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I have received about chores has been to never underestimate your children’s abilities. They are more capable then you think.
Little People Are Wonderfully Capable
Even at 18 months of age, they can learn to pick up after themselves with a little guidance and training. It will pay off in the long run if you begin early to train them to see how valuable their contribution is to your family. We emphasize how important each one of our children is in helping our home run smoothly. We are a team, and we work together as a team. We value working hard and training our children to learn to stay focused, work diligently, and pursue excellence in all their pursuits, and learning how to do chores is a great means of working towards that goal. We want them to be hard workers and valuable contributors to their future work and service. Children are such wonderful little helpers, and we want to encourage them in that vision. They are proud of their accomplishments are we praise and encouragement them.
At our home, we daily assign two chores to our kids based upon their ages and abilities. We set a goal of finishing these chores in 30 minutes before breakfast. If they can do so, they are awarded with a little treat. These daily chores are in addition to helping with dinner dishes and basic house pick-up throughout the day and/or at the end of the day. Fridays is our half day of school, so it usually has an extra chore assigned to help get our home ready for the weekend. We enjoy resting from chores on the weekend, but the kids do continue to help with the dishes. The weekend is also great for teaching them how to make breakfasts and such.
Lower Your Expectations
Of course, I must say, you really have to lower your expectations if you are going to homeschool and maintain a home. My perfectionistic nature has had to be stretched in this way, as it takes time for the kiddos to learn to be diligent and for their physical bodies to be able to handle some jobs. I personally don’t have much time or energy these days to do much more than maintaining the kitchen and preparing meals…so I’ve had to let go of a perfectly clean home. It’s just not feasible. The kids are in training…and there is grace for Mommy to overlook the crumbs in the tight corner and the food caked onto the floor that doesn’t get scrapped off. There will be another day for those to be cleaned up.
Summer is for Chore Training
Every summer, I re-evaluate the chores and the children’s abilities, and usually move things around a bit. Easier chores move down to the next child in line as the older kids become more capable. As our numbers have increased, certain jobs need to be done more frequently, so that must be considered as well. I take the summer time to train each child in their new assignments. This way, we are all ready to go once school starts again and everyone is mostly trained in how to do their new jobs. We teach new chores through a 3-step process. First, I demonstrate the steps for completing the chore. Second, we do the chore together. Thirdly, they complete the chore on their own, while I supervise, encourage, and give reminders as needed. Each of these steps may take more than a day, but slowly but surely, they learn and can complete it eventually on their own. It can be helpful to post a printed copy of the steps for the job in a visible place in the room (i.e. inside the bathroom cupboard for bathroom cleaning instructions) so it is easy for them to review.
Check out our current chore chart here: 2016-2017 chore chart. This list just gets taped onto the side of our refrigerator. They memorize it very quickly and don’t need it posted for very long.
Here are some chore assignment ideas based upon ages that we have used at our home:
Clean up shoe shelf (Put shoes neatly on shelves, hang up loose coats, etc. Learn how to put away shoes and coats when we come home
Wipe down chairs and coffee tables (with a simple gentle cleaner and rag, a little one can learn how to spray and wipe down chairs and low tables)
Put dirty clothes in laundry hamper
Help set the table
Fold towels (we start around 4 years of age to teach the kids how to fold towels, washcloths, etc, and by 5 years old, they are folding their own laundry and putting it away)
Making their bed and picking up their rooms
Empty dishwasher (Tip: Store your dishes and cups down on low shelves so littles can put them away at a young age. This is also a great time to teach them how to be careful while they carry fragile items to their storage shelves.)
Make PBJ sandwiches (at 5 years old, my littles learn how to make their own sandwiches, which frees up mommy’s time in the kitchen)
Vacuum (Chose a lightweight vacuum, so that the kids can learn to vacuum around 5-6 years old. We start by assigning them a small room to vacuum a couple times a week.)
Fold their own laundry (We start this around 5 years old, and we don’t expect those clothes to be super neatly folded for some time! But if I don’t look too closely, who’s to care?)
Help put away groceries
Learn how to make basic breakfasts (One morning a week, they get to make breakfast as one of their chores. My 7 year old is currently learning how to make French toast.)
Basic bathroom clean-up (We call this “5 minute bathroom” and includes teaching them how to wipe down counter, sink and toilet. Many times we allow them to use disinfecting wipes at this age to keep it easy and simple for them.)
Sweeping & moping (We have a very simple and lightweight Sh-Mop system that makes it easy for little ones to do moping)
Vacuum stairs (we use a handheld vacuum to easily vacuum stairs at this age)
Empty trashcans and take out trash cans to corner on trash collection day
Bring down and sort the laundry for washing (this includes making piles of whites, darks, colors, and starting the first load in the washer)
Full bathroom clean-up (We call this “10 minute bathroom” and includes wiping down counter, sink, toilet, bathroom mirror, shower/bath, and sweep and moping floors)
Clean Windows (With a simple squeegee blade and washer brush, littles can learn how to clean windows. A basic step stool is helpful for this if they are not tall enough.)
Vacuum out car and wash outside of car
Wipe down kitchen cupboards and appliances
Learn how to clean kitchen thoroughly (my goal is to teach my kids how to thoroughly clean kitchen by age 12)
Weeding & mowing lawn
Learn how to prepare basic dinners
If your kids are younger than this, don’t be afraid to get some housecleaning help! I have personally hired a young high school gal off and on over the years to help with various deep cleaning before my kids were really helpful around the house. That’s okay! You only have so much time and energy. Otherwise, just keep up with the basics. During busy seasons or a season with lots of littles, I stick with the goal of having the main living area floors swept once a day/mopped once a week, clean bathrooms (mainly counter and toilet 1-2 times per week, using disinfecting wipes to keep it even easier) and a basic house pickup at the end of each day. The other chores can wait for another day. Don’t pile on unnecessary guilt. Little hearts filled with love are more important than a perfectly clean home.
Because we are on the topic of chores, questions about allowance are sure to come up. I know there are valuable opinions on both sides of the spectrum, and you have to come up with a plan that works for your family. We have chosen to give our children an allowance because we want to encourage them to work hard and be able to save up for things they want to buy, especially to enable them to be generous with others. My littles love buying gifts for one another or birthday presents for friends and family, or simply giving to various needs that arise. My 9 year old has such a generous heart and nearly all her money is given to others. I want to encourage this. So, we give our kids $1 per year of their age per month, so $9 for my 9 year old each month, $7 for my 7 year old, etc. We start this system when they turn 6 years of age. Because my 5 year old is also a valuable help to our family, I give her $2 per month, which she is simply thrilled with. If they want to buy something above and beyond what their monthly allowance allows, we do occasionally give extra chore opportunities for the kids, on a case by case basis. It’s always in process, and may change as the years go by, but this is currently working well.
In conclusion, I encourage you sisters to train up your littles to be good helpers around your home, and in turn, you are training them up to be good workers in the years ahead, and they will be more capable to serve and bless others around them as well. Don’t carry all the load yourselves. Lower your expectations and enjoy the process.
To read the rest of the Homeschooling with Littles & Real Life series, visit here.