Life Skills: Home Management, Part 2

Life Skills: Housecleaning & Home Repair

At our state homeschool convention years ago, my oldest discovered a program given by Don Aslett, writer of several books on cleaning. Our family shares all parts of home life, from schooling, to home-based business, and yes, housework. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised that he wanted to purchase a couple of the offered books in hopes of improving cleaning chores.

Please don’t get the idea that my kids love cleaning. In fact, I think his first thought was to find ways to make cleaning less like work. And indeed, Aslett’s books do provide many ideas on improving techniques and simplifying the chores. My son read through them quickly and shared what he learned with his younger siblings and myself.

Interesting note: I decided to purchase some of Don Aslett’s cleaning supplies, which did work very well. Each time a delivery of his products arrived, I announced that our Home Ec supplies were here. Not surprisingly, the kids were less impressed with the new tools and products than I was, but we did put them to good use. In time, I noticed that they grew to appreciate our occasional deliveries!

Parent-led Home Economics

My own dear mom taught us to clean meticulously — not easy with two home-based businesses: my dad’s garage and tow business, and our family farm. Still, our home was to be kept neat and clean, inside and out. It’s a trend I have attempted to continue with our own children.

But, teaching housecleaning is not really a scheduled week-long venture. We live together, learn together, and yes, clean together. I don’t remember the day I taught each to sweep into the corners or dust behind the pictures. I’m not sure what age they learned to take out the garbage or wash windows. Actually, I do remember tiny fingers helping with window washing, often adding some smears as they attempted to get that crystal clear look.

Learn by Doing

Indeed, learning to maintain the home is like learning to use silverware. To borrow the 4-H motto, we “learn by doing.”

But, we also teach, mostly by example. Children learn to appreciate a clean house and the work it takes to keep it clean. That becomes a double bonus. Not only do they help clean, they also try to avoid leaving any clutter or mess. Knowing the work involved in cleaning, they attempt to keep our home neat and clean!

Home Maintenance or Shop Class

Another skill highly valued in our family is that of home maintenance. While it is possible to hire a handyman to replace a fan, repair a window, or even hang a new door, we prefer to teach the skill to our youth.

And, learning these skills does more than saving money. Indeed, kids put their math, reading, and science skills to work and take pride in being able to do such maintenance work. Moreover, they may find a career path along the way.

Commercials create thought, too.

A recent commercial on a news station struck me a bit. The man states that he is quite handy about the house, but now that he has kids, he doesn’t want to spend his weekends repairing and maintaining the home. It’s an ad for a handyman referral service. However, I saw a sad take on our current thinking.

Is it really more important to take the kids places to play than to offer them the opportunity to learn by helping us? Some of my favorite memories of childhood include helping Mom paint the walls, or Dad with the car repairs. I learned to install a window, tune up a car, and recover chairs. In fact, we poured concrete using an old cement mixer, and troweled it by hand.

Work? Absolutely. But what an incredible education!

Value in Life Skills

The hours spent cleaning the home and maintaining it do more than saving on the family budget. Our children learn important skills. They also learn an appreciation for what they have and what they can do.

Homeschool children rarely lack for something to do. Learning life skills helps ensure they are never bored!

In addition, these skills enable our youth to be of service to others in their neighborhood. When an elderly person finds housecleaning too challenging, teens and even younger children can take an hour or two a week to assist. New moms also appreciate help. What an incredible way to bless those in need!

Just the Beginning

Life skills education goes well beyond making the bed and washing dishes, though it should include those, too. Enjoy daily life with your children as they learn to maintain their future homes and serve their family and neighbors. Who knows? They may choose one of the life skills as a future career path!

Life Skills: Home Management, Part 1

Home management

As homeschoolers, we often concentrate on ensuring our children learn academic skills. However, learning life skills might prove just as valuable, perhaps even more.

One of the first life skills we expose our children to revolves around the home and car. Even before learning to walk securely, children enjoy helping with laundry, sorting pots and pans, and other seated jobs. Beginning early instills good work skills and enables “learn by doing” to become ingrained.

Knowledge and useful skills for all

We teach our sons and daughters basic life skills, including home management. While some might never manage the home, leaving that to a spouse, we feel it’s essential that they know how to do so, should they ever need to. So, boys help with laundry and house cleaning, and girls learn basic household repair.

Where do we begin?

As mentioned, toddlers might already begin helping with laundry. Folding washcloths, sorting laundry into piles, and helping put it away, they learn to pitch in and help Mom.

As they grow, they naturally progress into sorting laundry before it’s washed and folding all types. Young school age children are usually capable of loading the washer and moving to the dryer or helping hang clothes on a line. By the time our children are teens, they are already managing their own laundry, from hamper to putting away.

Not only does this help lighten mom’s laundry chores, more importantly, it teaches children to manage their own clothing. When they need to wash their own clothing, they learn to appreciate the need to care for it properly. And, they learn to keep clothing better maintained.

Meals and groceries

I’m always amazed when an adult cannot cook a basic meal. I grew up helping Mom in the kitchen, just as she did with her mom. Unfortunately, it’s not as common as we might think.

Our children, like so many homeschoolers, grew up helping in the kitchen. Toddlers stir batters, oil pans, and fetch the measuring cups. Before the age of 10, they create basic foods on their own, and young teens prepare entire meals. It’s a learning process and one that doesn’t happen overnight, but encouraging them from an early age allows them to build the skills they will need throughout life.

We are building memories!

A side benefit not to be overlooked is the great joy we receive and memories that are built when we cook together. Daily meal preparation time becomes daily family enjoyment, too.

Entertaining together

Additionally, preparing larger meals for family get-togethers and holidays builds more memories and offers opportunities for practicing skills we don’t use every day. Some of my favorite memories revolve around all of us together in the kitchen, preparing for a holiday feast. It might just be my favorite part of any holiday!

Planning and shopping

While our children learn basic cooking skills, they also participate in grocery shopping and meal planning. From the time they are toddlers, we make our list together and head off to the grocery store. Shopping with children might slow the trip a bit, but they are learning critical skills. Price comparison shopping will help them throughout life, as will reading labels and discerning ingredients. Knowing when a fruit is ripe and how to shop in the bulk area might seem trivial, but indeed, attaining competency in food choices, preparation, and cooking will help greatly in their adult life.

Food budgets

We stress food budgeting during the teen years, but the education behind it begins in early childhood as we shop. We price compare and look for sales with our children assisting. This naturally leads to budgeting for our shopping trips and expenses.

Healthy eating, too!

Nutrition finds its way into many areas of our life skills training. It’s a natural fit when planning meals and we expand upon it as we teach health aspects. Sometimes it results from a topic that springs forth either in the news or from a relative or friend’s need. We feel it’s essential and needs to be built upon wherever it appears.

Building life skills day by day

From birth, children learn. Encouraging them to participate in each activity and chore instills skills useful throughout their life.

While, initially, chores take longer with little children assisting, we reap the rewards as they learn and become more helpful. In addition, we assist them in preparing for eventual adulthood.

We teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, for sure. However, we teach life skills that reach far beyond the school years, too.

Any Job Worth Doing… Learning Perfection

Any job worth doing, is worth doing right.

Learning perfection might seem unimportant. However, it might help your child set himself apart from others in the employment process or business field.

Most of us have been victim to the “good enough” philosophy that so many practice. Shoppers might leave their cart in the parking space, even if the cart return is two cars away. It’s “good enough” and the store employees will retrieve it soon. Your restaurant meal arrives with mashed potatoes instead of the requested baked. But, it’s potato, so it’s “good enough.” A house painter misses a few small spots, but they don’t show much so it’s “good enough.”

My parents instilled values in each of us, including the concept that “any job worth doing is worth doing right.” Learning perfection begins at a very early age and continues throughout life. Our family’s lifestyle weaves this concept into school work and everyday life.

Good enough is not good enough.

The “good enough” concept quickly elicits a “good enough is not good enough” response. We encourage learning perfection, not because everyone can be perfect all the time, but rather because reaching for our best is important.

I recently heard Salman Khan of Khan Academy discuss his teaching philosophy. He explained that while getting a grade of B or C on an assignment might indicate passing, he interpreted it differently. He reasoned that if a child received a 75% grade, that meant he had learned 75% of the material. However, it also meant that he had not learned 25%. Therefore, he needed to continue learning to attain the other 25%.

Although I only recently heard his philosophy, it is one instilled by my parents and used by me with our children. When working on math problems, we redo each until the child understands and gets the right answer. Redundant? Yes. But, we feel they need to learn the entire process. If a child is not strong on his multiplication tables, how can we expect him to excel at higher math?

Learning Perfection for Life Skills

Likewise, we encourage learning perfection on life skills and everyday living, too. Washing dishes? Make sure they are clean and well rinsed. Sweeping the floor? No dust piles should remain,and yes, check those corners. Mowing the lawn? Ensure that the edges are neatly trimmed, too.

To be clear, we don’t stand over our kids each moment and point out deficiencies. However, we do monitor tasks and require them to be redone when needed. And, learning perfection might not always create laughter. In fact, sometimes frustration overcomes, but we continue on, encouraging that each job is perfected to the best possible outcome.

While we can re-wash a dish that isn’t quite up to perfection, these job skills learned as children and teens reflect on their future as adults. My father was a meticulous mechanic. His customers knew he paid close attention to each detail of his work. He was only satisfied when his work was completely and well done, whether it was an oil change or an engine overhaul. Our children continued learning perfection from him, too, by his example and that of others in our lives. And, it does make a difference in their lives as they train for and settle into careers.

Our goal is not to raise our children to be strict perfectionists afraid to make a mistake. Rather, we encourage a sense of willingness to do each job or event to the best, as God directs in Colossians 3:23.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people,” Colossians 3:23, NLT.


Homeschooler to Entrepreneur Party Planner

Creating a Party Planner

Marla had always loved helping her mom plan family get-togethers and events. Her talents were a blend of organization, creativity, and artistic flair. She was 16 years old, finishing her homeschool 10th-grade curriculum, when a church member sparked her interest in a career as a party planner.

Sally was an adorable little five-year-old about to turn six. Her mom was talking with Marla’s mom about how to manage a party for Sally. She didn’t want to do one of the party’s at a local restaurant, especially since the guests, like Sally and her family, were vegetarian and tried to eat healthy. Marla remembers walking up as they were talking. She joined the conversation and injected some great ideas that were very intriguing to Sally’s mom.

After a few minutes of conversation, Sally’s mom asked Marla if she would be willing to help her put it together. She even offered her a small payment if she could take the time to help plan and also run the party. Marla was so excited, that her mom agreed. Looking back, she admitted she didn’t really give it enough thought, but it did work out well.

Planning the First Party

A typical almost six-year-old, Sally loved all kinds of animals. Marla and Sally’s mom agreed on a pet theme. Marla researched easy, healthy, vegetarian finger foods; put together a few easy game choices for young children; and designed the invitations. She asked her younger sisters to help with the games and decorations. All the details came together, and the party was a huge success!

After that day, Marla was asked to help others put together events and parties. She also helped with the church events. Although she made a reasonable income, her love of the planning and hosting far outweighed any monetary earnings.

During this time she remembers still thinking of taking some computer design courses and pursuing that career. She enjoyed computer design, but her favorite activities were still party planning and hosting. Her mom saw the excitement in her face each time she was asked to plan, and the energy she instilled into each event.

Planning the Future

Marla’s mom sat down with Marla one day to go through senior graduation ideas and future plans. Marla showed her the latest course information she had received. Her mom listened as she always did and then spoke. “Marla, have you considered your own business as a party planner?” That’s all she said, then waited for Marla’s response.

“Do you think I could do that? I mean, as a real business? I’d love to, but is it really a business?”

Marla’s mom was prepared. She showed her several other similar businesses and suggested Marla do a little research on the topic.

A Business is Born

Two days later Marla was filing the needed papers to make her business a reality. It was quick, very quick. But, in reality, she had been practicing for two years. Now that she had the focus directed at her future, she was ready to jump in.

She used the savings from the previous events she had planned and put together a nice website. Business cards, flyers, and a few other essentials were also purchased. Her business was now real, and she eagerly began marketing.

Word of mouth and referrals from previous customers gave her a good start. Some weeks were busier than others. She used the open time to complete her studies and further research her chosen business. New ideas were as plentiful as her ambition.

Although she was quite organized, she found that she needed help with the business side of things. Tracking expenses, income, and such details were often set aside in favor of designing party favors and attending to party details. Her brother offered his assistance with that, and a team was created.

Marla loved the kids’ events, and also enjoyed those for adults such as wedding showers, baby showers, and birthday and anniversary parties. The variety offered her a chance to really stretch her talents, and she loved the challenge.

A Special Party to Plan

Her favorite event that she planned offered no monetary compensation, but created precious memories. Always close to her parents and grandparents, Marla was honored to be able to plan her grandparents’ 50th Anniversary party. Guests of all ages were invited and many came from quite a distance. It was her biggest event to that time, but also the most important.

Marla’s business will celebrate its first official year soon. She is making more money than if she had graduated with a computer design degree, and has not had to pay for college or tech school. Her enthusiasm and hard work have granted her many good referrals.

But, more importantly, Marla is using her talents to do what she loves, and helping others in the process.

entrepreneur partnership

Homeschool…to Entrepreneur Partnership

Many homeschoolers choose business over college. Homeschooled all his life, Stephen was not sure he wanted to attend college. He visited several colleges, spoke with recruiters and current students, took the ACT test in preparation, but was still not certain that life was for him.

His ACT scores were extremely high, opening up scholarship opportunities that would help pay for a four-year degree at some of the best schools. Still, he hesitated.

Jeremy and Stephen had been friends for many years; their families enjoyed social time together often. Jeremy, also homeschooled, had good scores on his tests. He had always just assumed that college was the next step, although he had no idea what he wanted as a career.

entrepreneur partnershipThe boys often helped others in their church and neighborhood with needed chores. They did lawn work, cleaning out garages, took care of pets while owners were away. They learned as they went; their customers were willing to teach them skills while getting help. Often they received pay, but other times they just did it to help out a friend. These odd jobs were just a part of their everyday lives; they enjoyed working, being busy, and helping others.

entrepreneur partnerIt was a cool September morning when their futures changed. They were helping Roy, an elderly friend of theirs from church. Roy lived alone now and often needed help with cleaning and yard work. They even kept his dog bathed and brushed.

While taking a break from trimming trees, the boys and Roy chatted. Roy remarked that he sure would miss them, their talks and their help, when they went off to college. They assured him that they would help whenever they were home. Then he asked the question: Had they decided what they wanted to do with their lives?

The boys were silent for a few minutes. Stephen remembers stirring his cider with the cinnamon stick, feeling awkward and not knowing what to say. He really had no idea. Jeremy broke the silence by stating that he guessed he would take his first two years in general studies to try to find what he wanted to do.

Roy explained to the boys that he had his master’s degree and was never against college, but for him, it wasn’t very useful. He had had the same problem; he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but his parents were able to send him to college, so he went. He majored in biology, planning to enter the research field. But, that just didn’t turn out to be what he truly wanted to do. Retired now, the majority of his life he had owned a small restaurant with his wife. While he didn’t regret his college days, he also didn’t find them largely beneficial.

Stephen remembers the question Roy asked them implicitly: “Have you boys thought about expanding your help business, rather than going to college?”

That one question led to many hours of discussions over the next few days. The boys had certainly been making a fair amount of money, even considering that they were only working a few hours each week. They relished the feeling of helping others, especially those that needed their assistance, like Roy.

entrepreneur partnershipBoth boys were hesitant to speak about the possibility with their parents. They knew that their entire families were assuming they were college bound. The reaction of their parents was a pleasant surprise. Not only did they express their support, but they also offered to help them set up a structured business plan. Stephen and Jeremy were business owners before they completed high school.

It helped that they had the support of family and friends. Having a small base of customers helped, too. Building their business slowly while completing high school gave them a chance to build a solid structure and create a good plan.

While they offer basic help for all, they have since specialized in helping the elderly with whatever they need, including transport to shopping and appointments. Remarking that Roy inspired them, they feel that helping the senior citizens in their community is especially important to them, and they also donate time to helping those not able to pay whenever possible.

Now a legal partnership, Stephen and Jeremy have begun to hire others to help them as the business has grown beyond what they can manage full time. Other homeschool teens are now helping them part time, as they grow out their business.

Much happier to be building a business now, rather than spending time in a classroom, both boys remark that the best part of the business is that they are still helping others with necessary tasks and are able to make a difference in others’ lives.