Homeschool and housework seem to be opposite words. They don’t seem very compatible. But unless the one (housework) is done, the other (homeschool) is pretty hard to manage, for all the clutter and confusion.
I think that it dawns on every young mom pretty early on that this is not a great situation, and unless she figures out how to make housework a part of educating her children, she is either going to have to hire a servant, or be way overworked!
Thank goodness that housekeeping is a vital life skill that children really need to learn—since we have so much practice just waiting for them! No need to create lessons, worksheets or experiments. The cleaning and cooking is an ever present need. Meals have to be cooked 3 x a day. Dishes have to be washed. Bathrooms cleaned. Clothes washed.
So, here’s how to get organized and educate your children in the important skill of being a good housekeeper:
1) You clean your house and take good notes
As you clean a bathroom, for example, jot down the steps. In very simple terms. Like this:
- Clean mirror using window cleaner and a dry cloth. Spray the mirror and wipe until all streaks are gone and the mirror is sparkling clean.
- Use the window cleaner cloth to wipe the doorknob and the light switch plate.
- Spray the sink with bathroom cleaner and wipe clean.
- Wipe bathroom countertop.
- Polish faucet and knobs with a dry cloth. . .
. . etc. (continued)
End with “Put away all your cleaning supplies, and hang your wet cloths in the laundry room to dry.” This constitutes the daily clean of the room.
2. Make a child’s work chart
If you are training little ones, a picture chart is best. For readers, highlight the keywords and make the directions clear and simple. I put these directions into a plastic page protector and attach a wax pencil, wipe-off crayon or washable marker on a string. This chart is attached inside a cabinet door (so it is hidden when the door is closed), or on the inside of the door to the room.
3. Train your first (and most willing) assistant
Now, for the training! Start with the most eager child. No sense getting discouraged at the onset of a new program. Often children ages 4 to 9 are excited workers, wanting to imitate you anyway. Older children may not be the place to start, unless they have a great attitude. Better to get the willing children trained and let them train the older kids!
So, start with an eager child and show him how the job is to be done. Demonstrate. Take your little assistant into the room to be cleaned and open the cabinet door to reveal your cleaning chart. Show him how he can mark off each task, and sign his initials on the bottom in a box. Now do the job while he watches carefully: slowly demonstrate how its done.
4. Watch and “ooh and ahh”!
Now it is time for your protege to try doing the job under your praising, kind, gentle tutelage. Watch him work. The focused attention alone does wonders. Interject little comments along the way: “Wow, look at your scrubbing power!”, “Don’t forget to rub the faucet until you can see your smile”, “Your are an amazing worker!”, “I can’t wait to tell Daddy how big of a help you are to our family”, etc.
This is your chance to make sure every step is being followed accurately and thoroughly. And that your child “gets it” when it comes to the task at hand. You are still training.
5. Easy does it!
Once you catch the vision of how wonderful housekeeping help could be, it is tempting to pile it on. But, start easy—with just task #1 of the chart, and let your child show mastery before adding task #2. Remember, this is more housekeeping help than you were getting before, so be patient and build up gradually. All the children need to learn these skills! So, each child needs to be assigned a room and trained to complete the step-by-step tasks on the hidden chart from top to bottom. And then eventually rotated to another room, until they learn all the skills. That is the goal. Older children can be trained to do more than one room at a time, perhaps alternating days. I have some big tasks that are done just once a week, such as scrubbing the bathtub, or mopping floors, and these are listed on the bottom of the chart as “Saturday only” chores.
6. Check up
Charts in every room describing the tasks are a necessity. But even more important is your follow-up. If you do not “check charts” every morning after chore time, and inspect their work for accuracy (and as an opportunity to give them credit and praise), your whole system will soon fall apart. They will work just as hard and just as carefully as you expect them to, and if you let a few days slide by without checking their work, you will find that they slide by and get lackadaisical.
7. Systemize other chores
So if you are assigning the laundry job to one of your children, the chart posted in the laundry room needs to list the task from start to finish . . . gather all dirty clothes hampers, sort into the 3 bins (white, medium, dark), etc. Tasks such as laundry, cleaning their room, cooking a meal, washing the dog, cleaning out the fridge, etc. need step-by-step directions that any child can easily follow. The edict “Go clean your room” feels like an impenetrable barricade. Breaking the task into steps makes it doable.
In running a home, we could take a clue from a well-run business. Organization is essential! Systems and procedures set in place make it so much easier for both the worker, and the supervisor. The boss looks over your work and approves and praises you, or helps you learn how to do better. Everyone knows what is expected, and what standard to strive for.
Ah, some housekeeping help! Basic life skills learned by kids that really need to know them. Young energy harnessed to the common good of the family. . . this feels right!