Benefiting from Summer Chores

This week seven-year-old Mary, eleven-year-old Anna, and I spent fifteen minutes each day polishing kitchen cabinets. That is a task that looked daunting to me, although I am serious about trying to tackle it at least once a year. My engineer husband has convinced me that if I want my kitchen cabinets to stay nice, I need to take care of them properly. As we evaluated this need and my time, we realized that this was the perfect opportunity to include the girls in a job where they could work with Mom. Each day it seemed that our fifteen minutes was up almost as soon as we started. Our time was filled with happy chatter, typical of mommies and their little girls.

After two days, our nine-year-old son said he would like to join us in our project. At that point, I headed to the store to purchase two more bottles of furniture polish. As we polished and buffed, I asked the children if they could explain the purpose of what we were doing. They did well in knowing that the polish cleaned and protected the wood. Next I questioned them on why we wanted to take care of the cabinets. They decided it was so that they would stay in good condition and look pretty. I presented them with a third question, asking why we wouldn’t just let them get messed up and then replace them. That question was a stumper for them. In their minds, it sounded reasonable just to have Daddy buy new cabinets when they no longer looked acceptable. This headed us into a discussion of being good stewards of what Jesus has given to us. That evening in our family Bible time, stewardship came up. Jesse piped in with, “Oh, yes, Mommy talked to us about being good stewards this morning when we were working on the cabinets.”

15-Minute-Chore-Time Nets Results

A simple fifteen minutes of time with my children for several days has netted our family many positive benefits. (For further information, see Managers of Their Homes.) The girls have learned a skill they may need in their own homes one day. They are being taught in one of the areas that Titus 2:4-5 tells the older women to teach the younger women, and that is in being a keeper at home. My son experienced the pleasure found in volunteering to give of his time to help another—to take joy in serving rather than having to be served. We enjoyed fellowship and spiritual discussions. In addition, the cabinets will all be polished with just a few more days of work.

Summer, if you don’t school through it, is the perfect time to dig into household cleaning and organizing tasks that don’t fit into normal homeschooling days and weeks. Rather than dreading these jobs, we can enlist the help of the children and discover benefits similar to those our family found in our cabinet-polishing. My girls didn’t complain at all when I explained to them what we were going to do—not on the first day or on subsequent days. They now look at the cabinets with a sense of accomplishment in their eyes. I expect they will be even more careful in the future to have dry hands when they open the cabinet doors and to use the handles. They have seen firsthand how much work it takes to keep up the cabinets. They don’t want to make more work.

Consider jobs in your home that need to be done and figure out how to work with your children. Our thirteen-year-old and fifteen-year-old sons are taking over the boys’ bathroom cleaning from their twenty-five-year-old brother, who will add one more sibling to the two he is already teaching piano to this year in lieu of extra cleaning chores. The boys will trade off weeks to do the bathroom cleaning. This week I cleaned their bathroom, explaining step by step what I was doing. For several weeks, I plan to be an observer of the bathroom cleaning until I feel they are consistently doing a good, thorough job. The boys are motivated to learn to maintain their bathroom well because, if they do, Daddy may consider it for a needed remodeling.

Here are some verses that have helped Steve and me to see that teaching our children to work will be helpful to them as they grow up. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11). “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Proverbs 13:4). “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing” (Proverbs 20:4).

Steve and I know how much more we enjoy a work project when we can do it together. We have some fond memories of painting rooms in houses we lived in when first married. Steve did the rolling; I did the trim. We worked until we collapsed at night and talked the whole time. The same would be true for our children. Doing a project with Dad or Mom helps the time pass quickly while experiencing the joy of fellowship.

For many homeschoolers, we have several more weeks of summer left before beginning our new school year. I encourage you to target a bit of this time for working on cleaning and organizing tasks with your children. It is also a prime opportunity to teach them how to do new chores. Working together makes the children more willing participants. May we be moms who help our children toward diligence and away from the curse of being a sluggard.