“One day another mom told me that the only reason I have time to teach my children how to do chores is because we homeschool. She explained why her children were not required to help around the house. ‘With soccer, the tutor and dance after school each day, I couldn’t possibly ask them to do chores.’
I explained that I am completely certain that with our genes, our children will likely not be professional soccer players or dancers. They will need to wear clothes and eat, though, so it seems appropriate to train them to do laundry and cook.”
– Rose Godfrey, The Pig in the Pantry.
I fully believe in pursuing one’s dreams and developing one’s talents, but not at the cost of shedding all responsibility for the basics without which a family can’t function. An individual, no matter how talented, will not likely grow into a pleasant, hardworking adult if he is never asked to lift a finger around the house or be a productive part of family life. Entitlement isn’t a good attitude.
Now, chores and the running of a home are the primary responsibility of the parents, and no more than is appropriate should be heaped on the shoulders of a child. A child can do much, but the childhood years, and even the adult years lived at home, are supposed to be a time of training, not endless drudgery.
Having said that, the inclusion of children in basic chores – and in the whole process of life – is not only important in the way of teaching how to run a household, but can be a tremendous learning opportunity in many other ways. Every day, I see more and more how kindergartens and early grades of elementary school must artificially create that learning environment which is so naturally and readily present at home. Reading, counting, measuring, matching, dividing, shaping and so much more are all a part, if one doesn’t rush and presents things in the right way, of laundry, cooking, dishes, and other such basic chores (“good, now give me three eggs. No, that is two. I want another one”). Of course it’s easier to just grab those eggs myself, but there’s an opportunity to learn!
It is important that a child has time and space to develop his inclinations. I believe it is one of the most important things, and the most easily accomplished ones too, in learning at home vs. regular schooling. But it shouldn’t be an all-exhausting effort. I don’t think any of us is “too important” to participate in the daily mill of life. For children, it is especially important. Children need a lot of seemingly empty time, time to just be; a very rigorous schedule of school and extracurricular activities leaves no chance for that. So what is the result? Talents may be pursued, and later paraded and made much of, but at what price?
Irritable, tired, restless, cranky children; children with enormous learning difficulties; listless, idle, or on the other hand, unnaturally ambitious, test-results-obsessed children; much of this, I feel, finds its roots in the abolition of calm, orderly, nourishing (physically and mentally) home life. Working alongside each other – not in an artificially created environment, but really doing those simple chores that can be shared by a 3-year-old and a 33-year-old, such as watering the plants or sweeping the porch – can be a time of bonding, shared conversation, and an opportunity for a child to feel like an important member of the family, contributing in real ways. It makes them so proud, and really isn’t that difficult to achieve. And of course, lending a hand means that time is freed up to do something fun, like reading a story or taking a walk together.
So what do we need? Primarily time. A life that is always lived in a hurry is no fit environment for little children; for any of us, as a matter of fact. We just weren’t created to live at a crazy pace. It stresses us out and makes us sick. To be healthy and happy, we must slow down and make time for all that counts – nurturing real relationships, building real homes, cooking real food, living real life that is happening all around us.
6 thoughts on “Children and chores”
So true!! While there are many ways to learn things these days…still, what one learns in childhood, one does not need to take the time to learn later!! When my older 2 were 9th grade, we let them take a few courses for the high school years in public school…continuing most of them at home. The teachers at their high school said they wished all their students had their incredible thirst for knowledge and striving for good grades etc. I told them I felt most all students would do well if they could have a quiet place to learn, and focus somewhat on those areas that were of most interest to them. Let’s face it…no way we will all be doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. and there is great need for a few good cooks right?
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Absolutely! I think the way schools are so focused on academic learning and grades is hurting those students who would benefit from a more hands-on approach.
Elizabeth is absolutely correct about lawyers and engineers. We also need decent plumbers and electricians.
That being said, it is so easy to teach a child about chores and rewards. We’ve never had a washing machine at home. All of my married life I’ve gone to the local laundromat, and the girls helped me put the clothes in the front loading machines. After we were done, we could get a candy bar from the machine or walk to the library for some books. Toss the clothes into the dryers and then we could sit and read. Both of them liked to help me cook, and I would sometimes let them mix up something themselves. Didn’t always turn out – we had one memorable cake that was a bit chewy – but I can afford to waste a few ingredients to make a happy memory.
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That sounds lovely, but do you really have no washing machine?? I don’t think I could live without mine…
When I was married to my first husband, the wringer washing machine was in a stone cellar, and the lines were at the top of a hill, as far from the house as it was possible to get without leaving the property.
The Squire and I bought this house when we got married, almost 44 years ago. The woman who lived here before had a wringer machine, which I wouldn’t have minded using, as I’d done so before and I think they get the clothes cleaner, but not with three daughters between us and a full time job. Getting an automatic washer meant replumbing, in addition to the cost of the machine and we couldn’t handle that expense on top of a new house. There were laundromats in just about every shopping center, I’d write up the menu and shopping list and we’d get the clothes sorted before we left. Get the stuff in the machines and then I’d take one of the younger girls and the other would go with the oldest daughter. We’d meet in the middle, and I’d check out while the kids went back and got the clothes in the dryer. Everything got done in one night – things folded and on hangers. They put away their clothing while my husband helped me unpack the groceries. I didn’t want to be bothered washing every night – and I was still working.
Now with only two of us in the house, we don’t wash eight loads at a time – thank goodness! We pay $3 or $4 a load and we figure we couldn’t pay for a new washer for that – and we still have the plumbing problem. We go together, and sit and read while the clothes are washing, and then we go out to lunch, Burger King or some other ritzy place! I do have an electric dryer, but I prefer to use my solar powered one. If it breaks all I have to do is tie a knot in it! I’ll put sheets in the freezer if it’s raining or snowing, rather than put them in the dryer. They smell so nice when you bring them inside!
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Oh, this explains it! I’d hate to depend on laundromats for my washing, but otherwise it makes sense.