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    Hard Work for Little Hands

    November 15, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    I used to believe that childhood should consist primarily of play. Sure, I thought a child should make their own bed, but, on the whole, I thought that Mom did all the work so that the children could do whatever it is that children do. Now, this is not to say that I have swung the pendulum so far that I see my children as slaves {or future slaves if they are little}, but that I am realizing how working together can contribute to the atmosphere of the home and also leave us time to enjoy more learning together.

    I write these things so that when my future children are older I can read them again and remember what I did before, decide if it is still worth doing, and basically have a point from which to compare and reflect. It will also help if my daughter one days calls me asking what I did when she and her brother were little. I will tell her to go search the 2007 archives on my 20-year-old blog.

    My son was a challenge to my play-centered-childhood perspective, from very early on. He is not necessarily a play sort of person. He is like his mother. He likes to work and read. But he is like his father and likes to work a lot. So, when he was three or four, I began scrambling for things for him to do.

    This was when Large Family Logistics’ postings on chores and small children really began to help and shape me. I wish Kim was still blogging.

    For now, this is the work my children do. I certainly can’t say that this is the work all children should do because, as I said, my son thrives on work, and so I give him so much more to do than I ever expected to, especially at this age.

    But I find that working together is a character-building experience, and so I don’t want to deny my children the opportunity.

    Sounds like The Swiss Family Robinson, where they are always telling Ernest they do not want to deny him the pleasure of doing it himself.

    Anyhow, this is what my children do for now. As I said, I am preserving this for future reference.

    • Make Bed: This started at four years of age and it was a race to see who would finish first. I look forward to the day when A. makes her own bed, too. Now if I could only convince them to make mine for me…
    • Vacuum: This is team work at its best. I have the house divided up in a posted list by days. The main traffic areas are vacuumed daily, while the other rooms are vacuumed weekly. This chore is usually accomplished while I am feeding the baby in the afternoon. The two-year-old cleans up all the toys that are in the way of the vacuum’s path, and the five-year-old does the vacuuming. All of it. Once a week, I grab an attachment and get spiders and baseboards and other yucky things out of his reach.
    • Clean Up: E. and A. work together to keep their toys put away. I still have to tell them to do this. If I forget, it doesn’t get done. Also, E. was put in charge of bookcases because he was always emptying them. For two weeks, he slaved every afternoon, putting all the books back. Now, he puts them back before getting the next one out. Problem solved.

      We have a constant pile of shoes in our house, plus shoes scattered pretty much everywhere. This wouldn’t bother me except that the baby has decided shoes are a food group. A. now understands whose are whose, so she is in charge of putting all shoes in the correct closet.

    • Dishes: E. recently became coordinated enough to help clear the table without breaking dishes. He also helps put some of the dishes into the dishwasher. He and A. are both trained to put away silverware, though this chore takes A. approximately 65 minutes.
    • Laundry: We are in transition in this area because I think A. needs to work more, which means E. will have to give up a task or two, something he is not naturally inclined to do. If I am washing a dark load, for instance, I will go to each hamper and pull out what is dark. A child will follow me with a basket and put everything into a basket. Obviously, I could do this myself, but it is necessary for training that they learn to do this. E. is now old enough that I tell him I am doing a dark load and he goes to his hamper, pulls out his dark clothes and brings them to the basket.

      A. typically helps me put laundry in the washer by handing me individual items. I check them for stains and put them in. Later, I hand them back to her and she puts them in the dryer. Even later, E. empties the dryer and brings the basket to the living room. Unless they are rags {which E. folds and puts away alone or with A.’s help if she is awake}, I fold and the children help put everything away.

    • Dusting: I am inconsistent in remembering to have the children dust, and often do it myself at night. If I remember, they can easily dust everything they can reach with a microfiber dust cloth. It is amazing how fun this is to a child.
    • Trash: Every afternoon, E. walks a circuit through the house and checks the trashcans. He empties any that are full into the kitchen trash. Then, he bundles up the kitchen trash, takes it to the garage. He is not tall enough to get it into the can, so it waits there until Dad gets home. He finishes this job by making sure that any emptied can has a fresh liner.
    • Yard Work: E. helps his dad with the yard faithfully. He has learned enough that he actually seeded our winter lawn himself this year {yes, we plant winter lawns here}. He weeds, and puts yard waste in the green can, manages our composting, etc.
    • Cooking: A. puts everything I cut up {unless it is raw meat} into whatever pot we are cooking it in. E. is actually learning to cut veggies on his own, though we do need to work on not waving the knife in the air when we are talking excitedly.

    I think that is all. My biggest future challenge will be getting E. to give up jobs as the girls are able to grow into them. He likes to have a monopoly on work. Perhaps giving him new jobs will help, though I was informed he never wants to clean a toilet. Ever. We will see about that!

    One of the things I am realizing about homeschooling is that there aren’t enough hours in the day if Mom has to do all the chores. This model works better when kids leave for seven hours each day. Mom can not only clean, but it will actually stay that way longer than five minutes. Working together has proven true the saying that “many hands make light work,” and we are able to read an extra story or take an extra walk or whatnot when we are done.

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