Teaching Life Skills

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teach your kids life skills


A few years ago I needed to have outpatient surgery. As a homeschool mom with two young daughters, I worried how daily household chores would get done. Thankfully the surgery was scheduled during summer, which meant I did not have to concern myself with math, history, or other “core” curriculum. However, I still needed a way to tackle the list of daily and weekly household chores.

Then it hit me: why not use this as an opportunity to teach my girls the value and importance of taking care of themselves and a home? I wanted to teach them greater responsibility, and holding them accountable for their work would be a great place to start. I hoped this process would result in my daughters feeling like they were important contributors to our family. After all, cleaning a dirty toilet has been known to strengthen my character.

I decided to research to see what other families have their children do at home. I found a variety of age appropriate chore charts online and appreciated their guidelines. Ultimately, decided to create one of my own. I knew the strengths and weaknesses of both our girls, and created a unique chore list for our own home, pet, and family needs. I hoped to challenge our girls, but also instill a sense of accomplishment each day.

I began by writing down a comprehensive list of all the jobs I complete in a day. My husband would be tackling the dishes, preparing our meals, and handling the removal of trash, so those tasks I left off the list. I didn’t need to add “brush teeth,” “take a shower,” or “get dressed” to the list because they were already completing these successfully. I put the tasks into two categories: daily and weekly.

Once I had a simplified list of chores, my husband and I had to contemplate if allowance would act as an incentive. We came to the decision that these chores were only for a few weeks while I recuperated; if we decided to continue them after the trial period, then we would discuss an appropriate allowance. We were not against giving an allowance for chores, but at this point, we wanted to encourage the intrinsic reward of a job well done.

The outpatient surgery was only a week away, so I quickly put our list into action. I shared the list of chores with my girls and began modeling the correct way to complete each job. I not only showed them how to do the job, but I used language to enhance the learning. For instance, when I was cleaning the toilet I explained that we use a “toilet brush” and “toilet bowl cleaner.” I described what I was doing; modeling how the task should be completed. I had each child take her turn while I observed. I was shocked that both girls loved cleaning the toilets!

The surgery passed and the time for sharing chores was technically over. I was happy to reclaim most of the household duties. I honestly missed vacuuming; I know, I’ve been called crazy for this. I did see a change in the girls, however. They had learned skills during this process, and I decided they should continue to help as part of participating members of our family.

Our girls continue to grow and ask to help out, often willingly, with different household chores. I have had to let go of perfectly folded clothing, and sometimes having the groceries put in the wrong locations, but overall I am proud of the accomplishments made with teaching chores to my homeschoolers.


Michelle Martin was born into a musical family and has been teaching music for over 20 years. Besides teaching piano and voice, Michelle is a performer, a choir director, a writer, a composer, and a homeschool mom. Most recently she has published three music curricula through Schoolhouse Teachers. Music has always been a passion for Michelle, and she believes exposing a child to music is just as important as learning math or science. Michelle lives with her husband, Jim, two daughters, Zoe and Eva, and a myriad of furry and aquatic friends.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).