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!

Tools Trump Toys!

A few weeks ago, my then-ten-year-old son sent me this email:

(I purposely did not correct his grammar and punctuation errors so that you could know it is authentic. We can work on those later.)

Hi, how are you doing? I am doing good. I want a bird (chickadee) cake for my birthday and strawberry ice cream. I  want to go swimming and roast hot dogs on the fire and have watermelon for lunch on my birthday.

Here is a list of present’s:
Drill
Drill bits
Saw
Nails
Screws
Garden tools
Clippers
Love, AJ

Well, my heart smiled, and I immediately sent it to Grandma so that she could share my enjoyment, as well as have a list of birthday suggestions. Then, I studied the list more and began to wonder, “Are these gifts normal?” Do most soon-to-be-11-year-olds wish for clippers, drills, and garden tools?

We have boys. Pretty much from the time they were able to recognize a saw, they used sticks to make pretend ones. You know how it goes: a simple stick can transform into a chainsaw, a sword, or a violin bow, just as quick as the imagination changes gears. I don’t say that this is unique to boys; they are just what I have to observe. I’ve known little girls to turn a cell phone into a pretend ultrasound probe and scan their daddy’s belly. Kids just make up pretend tools according to what they are exposed to, because they want to do “real things.” In fact, if you stop to watch little people, many of their games are attempts to copy what their adults do frequently.It’s no wonder, then, that in our family, when our oldest boy turned nine (a few years ago), he scrimped and saved his dollars to purchase a used lawnmower, so that he could be just like his daddy, who ran a lawn service. Sure, he liked playing with Legos like most boys, but he mostly saved those for the winter months, when he had to be cooped up inside anyway. He always had a desire to do something useful — build something, make something, or try to figure out how something worked. He led the way in the “Tools over Toys” philosophy that we have preferred since we began our family.

We have never been opposed to toys, but as children grow and multiply, so do their toys! I began to inwardly groan whenever holidays and birthdays rolled around, because really, children don’t need as many toys as they generally have. They are hard to keep organized, and easy to lose. Thankfully, our extended family has been very respectful in the types of toys shared. As time has gone on, and especially since we are gearing up for a move into smaller living quarters, I have seen our boys begin to evaluate more closely their possessions. Suddenly, we all have to prioritize, and only the most important items get to go along with us! I’ve seen many toys go out, and we have shifted to the new era of Big Boy Toys.

Big Boy Toys are those that men and boys alike appreciate: power tools, ratchet sets, etc. Once every three weeks or so, my boys will convince me to take them to Harbor Freight Tool Store. I’m afraid I go into that store like my husband would enter a Hobby Lobby — dragging my feet and groaning to myself. I set a timer; otherwise, we’d stay for hours! One reason I go is the very reason I hate to go — I know that a good percentage of what’s sold, or given away for free, in that store is going to be a disappointment. I hate to see good money used up on trifles, but once I’ve stated my opinion of the necessity of some of the freebies, I hold my tongue. Time does teach lessons here — those “free batteries” let you down just when you are getting ready to take that great shot of the eclipse; the “free” headlight really doesn’t provide enough light for your trail; and you can only use so many amazing grabbers! So, the lessons learned by purchasing or acquiring cheap stuff is a good one, better taught by experience than by parental advice. Our sons are slowly learning that there is quality to be found, but they may have to wait, pay more, or both, in order to find it.

Transitioning to real tools instead of toys will likely happen naturally, if the conditions in the home provide opportunities to learn to use them. A girl won’t desire her own rolling pin and apron if she never gets a chance to try out making cookies or looking through cookbooks. Boys who never get to see under a hood of a car will learn to assume someone else should fix the car instead of jumping right in there to see what’s wrong. But, I was very glad last week with my just-turned-11-year old! We were in town, and my father asked us to drive a homeless man to my parent’s house where we would eat together. Dad and our other son jumped into Dad’s truck and took off! Well, my car would not start, and the man in our car was elderly and had crippled hands, so I knew he was dependent on us. Our youngest hopped out, flipped open the hood, and proceeded to tap the battery; then when that didn’t work, he dug out the jumper cables from the trunk and helped the other man who stopped to help us. I felt very proud that our sons had learned some basic lessons (informally) under the hood. It’s because Daddy has allowed them to watch and help that they feel confident to at least try some basic repairs.

In our homeschools, one goal is to graduate our children with the knowledge they will need to do practical work once they leave our supervision. So, practical training is vital to their success in life. There are many recommendations in the Spirit of Prophecy about practical training. We have been reading through the book Education, and the chapter on “Manual Training” is very useful for this topic. A few nuggets that I dug up are these:

“When children reach a suitable age, they should be provided with tools. If their work is made interesting, they will be found apt pupils in the use of tools. If the father is a carpenter, he should give his boys lessons in house building, ever bringing into his instruction lessons from the Bible, the words of Scripture in which the Lord compares human beings to His building,” Child Guidance, p. 356.

“Your means could not be used to better advantage than in providing a workshop furnished with tools for your boys, and equal facilities for your girls. They can be taught to love labor,” Healthful Living, p.137.1.

“While attending school the youth should have an opportunity for learning the use of tools. Under the guidance of experienced workmen, carpenters who are apt to teach, patient, and kind, the students themselves should erect buildings on the school grounds and make needed improvements, thus by practical lessons learning how to build economically. The students should also be trained to manage all the different kinds of work connected with printing, such as typesetting, presswork, and book binding, together with tentmaking and other useful lines of work. Small fruits should be planted, and vegetables and flowers cultivated, and this work the lady students may be called out of doors to do. Thus, while exercising brain, bone, and muscle, they will also be gaining a knowledge of practical life,” 6 Testimonies, p.176.

This sentiment is voiced from several individuals that have experience in educating children. One is Dr. Raymond Moore. He recommends a balanced approach to education, with three areas comprising most of the student’s education: work, service, and study, in equal proportions. Here is his counsel on what will help a child to learn practical skills:

“Instead of toys, give them tools (kitchen, shop, yard or desk), encyclopedias, magazines; use libraries, etc. Don’t be shocked at their interests, even if they are guns or motorcycles! From these they can learn chemistry and physics (internal combustion motors), economics, math, history, geography, languages, cultures, and manual skills (at local repair shops or in home businesses). Girls are usually a year or so ahead of boys, at least until late teens.

“The ‘antennae’ sprouting from the brains of most students are blocked by mass-education’s cookie-cutter substitutes for life that destroy creativity. Kids come out uniform-sized cookies, or sausages.”

You may read more about this tried and true approach to education at the Moore Foundation.

As I was gathering my thoughts about this post, I stumbled across an excellent article here (No Greater Joy).  It has been years since I have read any of the material from No Greater Joy, but in this article, Michael Pearl shares his perspective on why many young people, boys in particular, drift away to an aimless life. He believes that, “Boys have a greater need to explore, invent, achieve something objective, conquer, and compete. They have a need to be meaningfully engaged in pursuits that yield objective results, like rebuilding automobiles, painting a house, cutting firewood, building something that others will admire. They are little kings looking to build a kingdom and furnish it. Idleness (including entertainment) breeds self-loathing and wanderlust.” And also, “The child who is not needed as part of the team will gravitate toward loyalties outside the family.” In other words, our children absolutely need to not just feel needed, they need to know they are needed! It reminds me of another page from Child Guidance that says we need to “let children feel that they are part of the family firm” (p. 126).

A couple of years ago now, my husband did a mulch job for some neighbors. The boys sometimes go along to help out, but this time they didn’t. But, for some reason the gentleman gave my husband a little extra money, designated for the boys, so that they could each purchase a little something. The funny thing was that, when we trekked out to Wal-Mart to buy their gift, they each chose a garden tool! I drove them by the neighbor’s house for them to show him what they had chosen with their money, and imagine his surprise when three young boys marched up to the front door with rake and shovels! He exclaimed, “What’s this? Are you coming to dig a hole?” They simply told him that the tools were what they had chosen with his money. He really did scratch his head over that one, but several years later, when he needed someone to cover his lawn for a few weeks, he gave the job to the boys with the garden tools!

So…we can encourage our kids in the areas that they have an interest, and if we help them to build up their stash of tools appropriate for the task, they will not only be better equipped, but they will also sense that they have our support.

For (not just) boys, the list is almost endless:

  • Garden tools
  • Saws, clippers, and pruners, pocket knives
  • Toolbox tools: hammers,wrenches, screwdrivers, tape measures, drills
  • Power tools
  • Photography equipment
  • Science tools: microscopes, telescopes, magnifying glasses, ID books
  • Rock tumblers, gold pans, metal detectors
  • Knot trying and climbing books, rope
  • Bike fixing supplies: tubes, wrenches, tire tools

For (not just) girls, all of the above, plus:

  • Kitchen essentials: small baking pans, smaller sized oven mitts, aprons, kid cookbooks
  • Knitting needles, crochet hooks, and yarn (Knitting looms are fun and an easy way to make hats and scarves.)
  • Sewing machine and fabric, simple patterns (Boys like this too! My husband always wanted a sewing machine until someone told him they were for girls. But…what about tailors?)
  • Hair cutting supplies
  • Books on wild edibles, compass

The list really could go on and on! I think the point is to get ourselves and our children into a mindset of learning useful skills, and to provide equipment and training so that they gain the confidence to pursue their interests.

Happy learning, and go find some tools!

p.s. The Lord tested me on this on the very next day after I wrote this article. We planned our “first day of school” for that day, only to find that my husband needed help on a project. I struggled, but realized we could be inside “doing school” with him needing help, or I could let the boys go help. I chose the latter, and what a blessing it was to see them working alongside Daddy — with their own tools! We can still maintain the balance of work/study/service. Some days are almost all books, and some are more heavy on the service or work. But, I would not trade the experience that they had working with Daddy — it’s real life, and he really did need them!

Resources:

  1. White, E.G. (1954) Child Guidance. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald.
  2. White, E.G. (1897) Healthful Living. Battle Creek, MI: Medical Missionary Board.
  3. White, E.G. (1901) Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press.

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.

Assigning Chores and Making Them Interesting

Family chores are tasks that contribute to keeping a household running smoothly. They are duties that the whole family participates in, not just mom, dad, or children. Certain tasks may always belong to specific individuals in the family, but the others can be divided up and traded off to make things more interesting for everyone. When working with children, it is important to remember that they are best motivated with mom or dad working with them. This doesn’t mean that the parents are doing the children’s chores, but rather that everyone has a designated time when they are all doing their assigned chores.

Some chores are automatic and should be done routinely every day. When waking up in the morning, children can get dressed, comb their hair, make their bed, tidy their room, put their dirty clothes in the laundry room, feed the pets, and set the table for breakfast. When required routinely, these tasks become habit and over time they will happen automatically. In our family, the rule was that pets always get fed before humans. This included the sheep, pony, turkey, and chickens!

Other tasks may not be so routine. If there is more than one child in the family, it is more interesting to trade off, especially if there are some jobs that are not as desirable as others. Some of the techniques we used in our family for allotting chores included the following:

  1. Write down all the tasks that need done on individual slips of paper. Take turns pulling a chore out of a hat, going back and forth until all the chores are selected.
  2. Make a list of chores that need done. Take turns having the children choose which chores they would like to sign up for. Use a different colored marker for each child and highlight those items they chose. This gives them a sense of empowerment, as they get to choose their chores. It’s true that these are the same chores that could simply be assigned.
  3. Sign up for some chores and that are traded off weekly with another family member. For example, empty the dishwasher for one week, and for the next week fill it. Empty the wastebaskets in the house one week, and the next week sweep the kitchen floor. Some chores won’t be as desirable as others, but the child knows that once the week is up, they get a break the next week while another family member does the task.
  4. Allow for something interesting to happen while a chore is being done. Folding laundry while watching a nature DVD turns the task into a family event.
  5. Occasionally make a game out of household chores. Hide a surprise under objects that the child can find when dusting the furniture. A nickel under a vase, a stick of sugarless gum behind a picture frame, or a coupon for a cookie from mom all provide incentive and challenge.
  6. If the house has become cluttered, set the oven timer for five minutes and have everyone pick things up and put them away, counting how many objects they cared for. Have a reward for the person that put the most things away. The reward may simply be that mom or dad will do their next assigned chore.
  7. Another technique for a cluttered house is to give each person the task of putting away 20 things. This is conducted like a race, seeing who can put away 20 things fastest.
  8. Teach children to put away things as they complete a project. Toys, craft supplies, and school books used should be put away before they move on to another activity. After a meal, have each family member take their dirty dishes to the sink. It helps if they are asked to each choose three or four things on the table and carry them to the kitchen as well.
  9. Make a chore chart. Give children a sticker for completing each chore. At the end of the week, count their stickers. Have a reward system where the children receive a prize for achieving their goal. Stickers are not given for chores done in a complaining manner, even if the chore was eventually completed.
  10. Chores work best if done on a consistent schedule. Our family found that the time between breakfast and starting school activities for the day worked best. Generally an hour is enough time to allot for daily family chores.

Age appropriate chores can be assigned from toddler years until a child leaves home. They help to establish habits of good home management, and the child will reap rewards for a lifetime! Useful work is a strong component in educating the whole child.

Homeschool to Entrepreneur Writer

The love of reading

Katie is the youngest of four children, all homeschooled by their mom. From the time Katie was a baby, she loved books. Her older brothers and her parents read to her every day. Bible stories and Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories were among her favorites. She also loved stories about animals, as well as children’s books such as the Dr. Seuss books.

As her reading skills grew, so did her love of reading. She loved the internet, as it gave her an endless amount of material to read on all subjects.

young-girl-computerDuring her younger years, Katie also discovered she enjoyed writing as much as she loved reading. Although she was quite adept at most of her school subjects, she wrote with great enthusiasm. Her mother noted that whatever Katie’s future held, her writing skills would be a huge asset to her. As a teen, she explored possible career paths, most of which included college. Her mom helped guide her, but Katie was not yet sure what direction to take.

The skill becomes the career

While on the internet one day reading some blogs, Katie came across a blog on how to become a blogger. She searched for more information on blogging, then on other forms of writing. Her mom said that Katie was so immersed in what she was reading that she didn’t notice the time. When her mom came in the room to remind her they needed to leave for the youth group meeting, Katie could not stop talking about what she had discovered.

Katie’s mom laughs that Katie didn’t seem to stop for a breath the entire drive to the youth group meeting that night. Her excitement over her new-found career path just seemed to bubble from her.

Katie spent the next couple of days on career exploration centered on an online writing career. She discovered that while blogging was certainly a good possible choice, many other options existed, too.

College at least delayed

Katie decided that she would try a career in online writing before considering college. Never excited about spending time and money on college, she felt an enthusiasm for being able to jump into a career without that expense. Some of her friends encouraged her to consider college now, with them. But, her path was different.

Fast forward two years

While some of her friends chose local or distance colleges, others chose vocational schools, and still others pursued jobs, Katie poured herself into writing. She began with writing articles for others, usually at no pay. She was just gaining experience. Soon, she had offers for paid content.

teen-girl-computerAlthough she already had a computer and basic necessities for writing, she used her income to purchase a few more necessities, and even invested in an online freelance writer course.

One of her favorite memories is when a few of her close friends came home on break from college. While they were quite happy with their chosen college route, Katie’s writing career truly impressed them. She showed them her office, a remodel of her schooling area, where she was able to write. When the reunion was over, Katie quickly made notes about the stories they told of their college experiences. She used those notes to write more freelance articles for pay!

Freelance Entrepreneur

Katie did not truly make much of a profit the first year, as much of the small amount she was paid was reinvested. But, before her college-educated friends received their bachelor’s degrees, Katie’s monthly income was quite impressive. She has decided that the freelance entrepreneur lifestyle is perfect for her, though admits it would not work for everyone.

She credits her homeschool years and the freedom they allowed her to pursue her own path. While she might have found this path from any education, Katie believes that the encouragement from her mom and dad, as well as the homeschool education, helped her refine her career choice. She states that without the reading and writing through the years, her life might be quite different.

Katie recently started writing a book, in addition to her content writing. Now engaged, she plans to continue her online business when married, too. She is sure that it will allow her to homeschool their own children in the future, too.