One of my readers asked how I keep the house clean and still find time to work with my kids in At Home Schooling a few times a week. The secret is chores.


There are quite a few good books that explain why chores are so important. Chores teach grit. With grit, a child will set big goals and continue to work toward those goals despite the obstacles or disadvantages. This child will close any gaps in education and eventually surpass her peers at MIT by work effort. Case closed. I added chores as one of our education goals.

Getting your child to do chores is a three stage effort.

In stage 1, you have to do all of the chores after you help them with math or test prep. Hopefully, your children are under the age of 6 at this time. They see you do all of the cleaning. I like to do it on Saturdays in one big 3 hour effort, one end of the house to the other. Chores are important, rewarding, and fun. If I hear you complain one more time about having to do your math I'm going to take that book away from you and give you this toilet brush.

In stage 2, they do their math while you clean the bathrooms or vacuum. When they have questions, you stop what you are doing and answer the question. The goal in this stage is to get your children to work independently. The other goal is that you are cleaning their bedroom or 2 days of dishes and if they complain about their work or try to get out of it, you'll be in the proper frame of mind to fulfill your role as a parent and enforce their 35 minutes of math. This stage should last from age 6 to 7. If you skipped this stage, you need to go through it for 6 weeks, even if your child is 12. Six is the magic number in psychology.

In the next stage, give your children all of the starter chores, like picking everything up so that you can vacuum. Look dude, I've got to vacuum the whole house and your crap is everywhere. Help out. You can give them the option of picking up before they do their math or vacuuming after the do their math. They will try each. Consider it vacuum practice. The ideal age is 8. Again, if you didn't think of this when they were 8, do it for 6 weeks.

In the next stage, you just slowly add to their list any chore that does not involve inhaling dangerous chemicals. You can pass on picking up, vacuuming, doing the dishes, paint the trim, resealing the flat roof on your building, weeding, sweeping the garage, anything you like.

You have to keep cleaning the toilets. At each stage, you showed that chores were very important by doing them. Your kids aren't dummies. They aren't going to practice their instruments because you demonstrated how unimportant music is by not practicing an instrument yourself. But they will vacuum if they see you cleaning a toilet.

The kids are at camp. I went up to the roof today with 2 five gallon drums of aluminum sealant. It didn't need it. When my oldest was 11, we spent 4 hours in 120 degree heat sealing the roof, and did such a good job that it will last twice as long as when I did it myself. Next year my sealant expert can do it himself.

When the oldest was at camp our vacation, the youngest got a double dose of chores. It takes a year to warm up, staring with taking the dishes out of the dishwasher. Since there were only 2 of us home, I added clearing the table, cleaning the dishes, vacuuming the kitchen, vacuuming the rest of the house, putting away 7 years of clutter in his bedroom, and painting the trim. In other words, a week of chores.

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