Based on the last post, you may be thinking that my plan or method is too relaxed because I help them and they don’t have much to do each week. Housework, in general, is mom’s duty; teaching the boys to help others at home is needed though, only to develop skills and character until it can be transferred to their noble callings from God. Besides, I want them to still be speaking to me when they are grown. President Reagan’s philosophy of a kinder, gentler nation is Biblical for training at home as well. City dwellers have to use what means are available to teach diligence in work. Kindness in our training of boys and gentleness toward their emerging manhood balances the chores. They learn to be responsible for their own messes and to appreciate the hard work mom does for them. Based on the success I have had so far with three sons grown and a fourth graduating this year, I feel that they have mostly learned to work well and enjoy it. Homeschooling itself has helped their college/adult life, but I feel that having responsibility for chores at home has blessed them to be ready for serious work environments with a real boss and a paycheck, (not to mention the white-glove room checks at college.) All of their employers have praised them even when they were still working at their first real jobs. Two employers were glad to get the next son to work for them as well. My husband has been glad that training in little things inside made them ready, as teenagers, to learn some challenging work outside of maintaining and repairing cars and lawnmowers and safely learning to use tools also for woodworking, roofing, and other manly deeds around the house.
I do know that some homeschool families advocate starting children on regular chores as young as 4 or 5 years old. I am not convinced that it is necessary or productive for an overwhelmed mom of many to expect much at that age. With my first two boys, I found there is too much teaching and reteaching to do constantly at that age, which, to me, would build more frustration than success. Perfectionist moms might be convinced that it is worth the hassle, but I am not. Now, I have found that sporadic help plus training is better for us. A young child angry and frustrated over a chore they are made to do often does not make a willing worker. They might do it to obey, but their heart secretly rebelled at work, which I learned later. Relaxed training and praise helped me more.
Since then, I tried to create a desire for work at a young age, but not daily chore help. If a 2 to 6 year old wants to help or offers to help, I would be inclined to let him do some small things for me each day and praise him for it. They did have to do such things as putting away their own toys or shoes. I might even ask him to do something special for me like hand baby brother a toy, carry things for me, help someone put the napkins on the table, or use a fun, bubbly sponge on the sink. This method, I think, builds more pleasant associations with work before any requirement to be a helper at home. Children under 7 years old can certainly be good helpers. I just think they should enjoy helping. By ages 7 to 9, they have, by gradual effort, developed skills so they can work along side me occasionally, learning the basic chores. The easiest chores which they like are the first ones scheduled on the chart. The last chores scheduled are the bathroom and kitchen because teenagers clean better and I like them reasonably clean at all times. Once they are on the list, it is time to learn to be diligent in their duty, so accountability begins. I work with them to teach and to talk, usually about what interests them.
Cleaning their bedrooms, however, always does begin at a younger age because the tasks are simple, and they learn that clean, neat space is pleasing to all. Learning to do little things with mom, like putting toys away, dirty clothes in the hamper, and stuffed animals back on the bed begin to build a pattern for living. A bigger brother can ask for help with his own job to share the load if he also trains the younger at the same time nicely, but fair compensation is expected if one completely does the other one’s job for him since “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” Obviously, any chore that is given, if it needs improvement, must be done again; if it is then done right, praise and age appropriate rewards are helpful to prepare them for real labor in adult life as well.
Boys need to know how to manage to clean a kitchen since many jobs available to guys are in restaurants and they need knowledge of safe and clean practices before employment. Outdoor skills are important as well in learning to maintain their own home someday. Each of them eagerly began with leaf raking and lawn mowing at home and their skills are soon requested by neighbors. It is also a good recommendation on an application. Boys need to know how to do laundry, too, if they will live on their own or go away to college. They need to know how to care for an animal or two. These chores are just as important as learning how to use a computer, which my son is waiting for just now. (I’m infringing a bit on his turn!)