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Most homeschool moms don’t just have full plates—they have full platters. Juggling homeschooling and housework, burping babies and taxiing teens, not to mention being a wife and just finding time to brush your teeth, is a daunting task. It seems every time we check one thing off our to-do list, we add two more.

Some jobs are big, others are small, but they all nag for our attention. I figured out once that I was responsible for trimming 128 finger- and toenails—and I’m not a manicurist!

What we need is staff: people who will bear some of the load so we can do the things only we can do. Where do we find this cadre of assistants? They’re already in view, clinging to our ankles, sitting at our tables, and drinking all of our milk. Our children can be the workforce that unloads the straw from Mama Camel’s back before it gives way.

You may remember an article I wrote a while back. At my husband’s suggestion, I hired our second-born son to do the family laundry until I could get back on my feet following a challenging pregnancy. What an eye-opener! It was a revelation that I didn’t have to do it all myself. Soon I had worked all of the boys into positions on my household staff.1

Birthday Chores

We decided that privileges would be tied to responsibilities. With each birthday, a child received a new chore, but he also earned new privileges not available to the younger siblings. If a child was 3 years old, he had three daily chores; if he was 12, he had 12 chores (some daily; some weekly or monthly). These were unpaid jobs, done because our sons lived in our house and received free food, lodging, clothing, and education. And, more importantly, because they needed to learn how to take care of themselves so my future daughters-in-law wouldn’t hate me.

Even the youngest preschooler can perform his own chores. This is a training time. At first, he won’t do the job perfectly, but he will learn day-by-day as you gently teach him. Have your little ones work beside you, not only to learn how to do their tasks, but to utilize the power of companionship. No one likes to be sent off to another room to do a job, but it’s not so bad if he can work alongside Mom or Dad. Many important conversations take place while making beds and dusting furniture.

Personal Chores for Preschoolers

A child in the 3-to-5-year-old range should become more independent each year and learn to handle most of his personal grooming. For example, you could list brushing his teeth as one of his chores at this age.

A child should also be responsible for as much of his own room as he is capable of cleaning—basically the floor and the bed, the room’s two largest surfaces. When these are tidy, the room looks clean, even if it’s not magazine perfect.

Here are some more tips that work well with little ones:

     •   For a young child, consider a puffy comforter bedspread that will be more forgiving when wrinkles are left beneath it. The child pulls up the sheet and comforter, plumps the pillows, and he’s done.

     •   Make it easy for him to keep his room tidy. Remove extra toys—the more he has, the more he (and you!) must clean around. Give away or sell unused toys, and store the rest in the attic, the basement, or on a high shelf. They will seem like new when you trade them for the toys he keeps in his room. Note the word trade.

     •   Store toys in easy-to-use containers. He is more likely to place toys on an open shelf or lidless bin than in drawers that require opening and closing for each item he puts away. He will learn valuable lessons about categorizing and sorting as you organize his room together.