Monday, June 17, 2013

The School of Home Skills

{This post, like most of my posts that discuss books, contains affiliate links. However, I was in no other way compensated for the honest mention of this book.}

One of my goals I listed for 2013 was to "work with the kids on responsibility and finishing tasks to completion."  I mentioned in my May goal check-in that we were making some progress, but I've been kind of discouraged that I was having to make constant reminders about a chore routine we've been working on since August!  

I'm partly to blame.  I've become a crutch for them.  They forget to do something and so I remind them...which means now they wait for me to remind them instead of doing what they know they need to do!  Clearly, we need a change.

Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma is changing our summer.  In the book, Kay realizes that her five children (ages 4-14) believe life revolves around them so they expect her to do for them what they feel they can't do for themselves.  She begins a one-year experiment, choosing a different area to focus on each month.  Bedrooms and clutter come first.  She requires each child to make their bed and keep their bedroom and bathroom area tidy without reminder every day or face monetary consequence.  Next she moves on to cooking, where she has each child take over preparing dinner one evening a week.  Her goal for their year was to 1) equip her children with skills that they could use to perform tasks confidently and well,  and 2) help her family learn a life of service to others.

Before I finished the book (probably before I even finished the second chapter), I was figuring how I could apply some of Kay's ideas in our home.  In their defense, my kids already do a lot to help around the house.  They unload the dishwasher, feed and walk the dog, make their beds, set and clear the table, put away laundry, dust and vacuum their rooms, and help gather trash.  They are diligent workers (after they are reminded!), but they tend to view work an interference to their play, instead of a necessary part of life and family.

I wasn't looking for a year-long project so I decided to scale down and teach them a new skill each week of the summer.   We began with laundry.  I called it Laundry School and on Monday morning, I gathered the three oldest kids (ages 10, 8, and 6) into the laundry room and taught them the basics of sorting, how to choose what temperature to wash different items, how to measure detergent, and how to use the controls on both the washer and dryer. 


At the beginning, I walked them through all the steps each time we did laundry.  Once they caught on (which was rather quickly),  I sent them to do the laundry as a group.  If one child forgot a step, another child was sure to remember.  I expected a lot of hesitation, but instead every one of them was enthused.  One day, Gavin lifted the lid of the washer to add another item and saw the water level rising.  He yelled for Owen to join him so they could watch together!

fascinated as they watch the basin fill with water

For their final exam at Laundry School,  each child was given full responsibility of the laundry for one day.  One son asked, "What would happen if I flunked my test?  Would that mean I wouldn't have to do laundry anymore?"  My answer?  "No.  It means you have to start laundry school all over again."  He passed his test, as did his siblings. 

Over the next few months, we intend to teach them about:
  • cleaning and vacuuming the van
  • gathering the trash, taking it out to the shed, and replacing the bag
  • loading the dishwasher
  • hand washing and drying dishes
  • pumping gas
  • putting away groceries and finding things in the cabinets
  • sweeping and scrubbing non-carpeted floors
  • learning the use of all the vacuum cleaner attachments
  • changing a lightbulb
  • inserting batteries properly
  • chopping fruit and vegetables with a knife
  • following basic recipes
  • using the outside hose
I don't intend to transfer all the work of our household over to them, but I want them to know how things work and to have  knowledge and confidence as they grow into young adults who will need these skills to run their own homes.  


  1. Fun! I read that book last January and have to be honesther life/lifestyle was so different than mine. It shocked me that Mrs. Wyma’s children (as old as 14) didn’t even know how to make their beds, clean their own rooms, or wash their laundry. She and their twice weekly maid did it all and had effectively handicapped the children. Even my 2 and 3 year olds clean their rooms and have chores, and all my kids do laundry teamed up by bedroom. I did like some of her monthly goals for the children aimed at the older ones and got a few ideas from the book.

    I've been doing a series on chores at my blog if you want to hear how our large family does it. We've been able to keep consistent even with back to back babies, one who has had more than 100 medical appointments, 2 back surgeries, and 6 brain surgeries in the last 16 months. Here's the most recent post with links to the others at the bottom of it:

    I love reading your blog, by the way! I don't always have time to comment, but it's one of my favorites.

  2. Brilliant!

    Like yours, my kids are good helpers and workers - they just have gotten used to my telling them to do something or reminding. That's exactly what we need to work on!

    Thanks for the push to work on this!


  3. Our kids have loved (for the most part) the extra responsibilities they've been given at home. Cooking is still a favorite, but they also love to vacuum and do the laundry.

    Oddly enough, Eliya (3 yrs) LOVES folding laundry. If there is a pile of laundry out when she wakes up, she usually just starts folding. The other day I walked into the living room to see stacks of newly folded towels :)

    Right now, our major issue is completely cleaning up one toy or plaything before moving on to something else. I thought this was something we had already learned, but I think I've been too lenient recently and the kids have slipped back into bad habits. Any tips?

  4. Oh, and I'm glad you liked the book :)

  5. I think the thing that I love the most about this post (besides the photos of my adorable grandchildren!) is that there is purpose and direction in this. I think that too often parenting comes down to just getting through the day. How much better to prayerfully consider "What do I want my children to know? and "How can I prepare them for the future? and What can we do to build purpose into the day-to-day? Children love to be a part of "real life" and part of the team!

    Cheers to you!


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