I think every mom feels “mom guilt” at some point. When we started homeschooling, I felt the pressure more than ever before. I was responsible for training not only good humans but also educated good humans. I thought any negative behaviors or lack of knowledge in my children reflected a failure in me. As time has gone on, this thought has lessened, and we have moved from me teaching to us doing life together and learning alongside each other. This has also allowed me to look at everything as an educational opportunity . . . even chores.
After our morning time where my children, ages of 13, 10, and 6, all learn hymns, current events, history, and complete some memory work together, our second predictable point of the day is chores. We all spend time doing this together. It allows me to model habits of diligence and thoroughness, as well as the procedure for simple chores. It also allows me to use chores to fit their specific needs. Here are some examples:
My 13-year-old daughter, who developmentally is in a period of growth for executive functioning skills, requires practice to apply organization and time management. She has the same chore every day yet has to balance it with her specific daily chore requirement. Her responsibility is to wash the breakfast dishes and clean the kitchen. If she does not clean immediately after breakfast, she has the chance of having to also clean up after the snack, second breakfast, snack, lunch, etc., that my boys eat. Initially, we needed to go through her planner together to ensure she had adequate time; however, her time management, organization, and goal-directed persistence has consistently improved over time, so she now manages this independently.
After sitting for morning time, my 10-year-old son needs heavy work—any type of activity that pushes or pulls against the body—to help him feel calmer and increase his body awareness. His chores are often carrying laundry upstairs, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn in the summer. Completing these chores between blocks of academic work helps him to regulate his body and improve his focus.
My youngest, age 5, is still gaining upper body and core strength, as well as hand dexterity. He washes floorboards because it includes crawling, washes windows because it is a vertical surface, and sweeps floors because it requires upper body coordination. These chores provide the foundation of the motor skills to prepare him for handwriting.
I realize this is a different way of looking at chores because it focuses on the motor skills, process skills, or even social skills the chores build rather than thinking of them as simply life-skills training. Here are some examples of chores based on skills:
Stabilizing and aligning the body: wash floorboards, clean out lower cabinets, vacuum
Reaching: wash windows, dust high surfaces, unload the dishwasher and place dishes in high cabinets
Coordinating both sides of the body: fold dishtowels, wash dishes
Organizing: load and unload the dishwasher, sort laundry, sort silverware into the drawer
Sequencing: move laundry from washer to dryer; sweep, fill dustbin, and dump dirt; collect trash and take it out on trash day
Initiating: clean up toys, make the bed every morning, remove shoes upon entry
Approaching: request help from siblings or myself as needed
Questioning: discuss the purpose of chores in a respectful manner
Clarifying: ask about chore assignment or procedure
As you all do life together, you are able to notice the areas of life where your children thrive as well as where they lack certain skills that would impact their success in what they need and want to do. Being intentional throughout your day, including the daily assignments of chores, can influence children’s perceived success and relieve that mom guilt.
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational therapy practice framework (4th ed.). American Occupational Therapy. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.74S2001
Dawson, P., Guare, R. (2009). Smart but Scattered. Guilford Press: New York, NY.
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Sarah is an OT and home school mama whose zone of genius is bridging the gap between OT's and homeschool parents with resources to help them both thrive.