Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Children and Household Work

how do we bring them in?
A few points to keep in mind when you are seeking to involve children in the work of the household are: it may take longer than you’d like, it may get messy, much messier than when you do it on your own (and let the extra clean up be done joyfully too!) and it will make a difference in their lives, as well as in the life of the household.

Meaning, Purpose, Belonging
The contribution by children to the work of the household gives them a sense of meaning and purpose as well as a feeling of belonging. They learn that we all care for our home. With young children we do the work and make it inviting. We encourage them to come to it without demanding it by doing it joyfully, by making it delicious and inviting. Children imitate what is around them. Through repetition, daily work becomes part of their life, it becomes a healthy habit.

The young child, from birth to around the age of nine, learns primarily through imitation of the world around him or her. Whatever is happening in the child’s presence will be deeply absorbed by the child.

Have you seen the movie, Like Water for Chocolate? The opening scene with the onion? And then the results with the food, how deeply it touches everyone? The mood we are in when we do our work imbues whatever we are working on, as well as the environment, and becomes the feeling absorbed by those who experience it.

Sometimes and usually at some point, for some amount of time, not necessarily the entire task, children do join in for they are creatures of imitation and long to be close to us, to be  like us and do as we do, particularly strongly around the ages of three to five. Sometimes the child does not join in. That’s okay. Either way, the child  is experiencing the work habit deep within, by being in the presence of an adult who is doing productive work in a joyful mood repetitively. A child who does not imitate you at all may need some help to do so.

Simple Tools
In the olden days, someone was always doing work by hand: mending, hammering, sewing, digging, chopping something. Today we must consciously incorporate working with our hands in daily life if we want to do this type of work with the children. Provide child size tools that are solid and work: a broom, a small rake, a small snow shovel, a good small garden shovel. You can unscrew and remove the upper handle of a carper sweeper to make it child size if you have carpets to sweep. Let them do real work with real tools.

Whip cream by hand, make butter in a jar, make your own your own yoghurt, develop your own sourdough culture and knead your bread. Try making butter in a jar by shaking fresh cream. These are a few ways we can bring hand work to the kitchen.

Don’t feel like it is only in the kitchen and with the household chores that this kind of work can take place. I mention them because it is where many of us spend a good deal of time, cooking, cleaning and caring for the home.

Whatever is your passion, if you are an outdoors type and love to build with wood: fences, benches, house repair, whenever a child is around, do what you can by hand, sand by hand, drill by hand, pound nails with a hammer. The work you do with your hands creates an atmosphere that deeply nourishes your child.

Finish the Job
Remember to finish one task before going on to something else. It is better to do one task by hand, one simple task and complete it than begin many and let them linger, with no completion in sight. The completion of a task helps develop the will. Children can develop good habits overt time through imitation, which will pay off when they have the skills to do the work and contribute, in the family and later way down the road in their own lives. When we do less outside of the home, we have more time to be present in the tasks of homemaking with children. 

It is our WILL forces that we use to engage ourselves and our children. Children are all arms and legs, "show me what to do” and they will do it by our ACTION, our mood, our gesture.

Make it Easy 
I've used gates to keep the children in the kitchen and play area so the children are where I can see them.  I wear aprons for cooking, baking, cleaning and gardening. I encourage them to participate with their own aprons, a place to step up to the sink, these have varied over the years, a chair, an inverted wooden box, a crate, a step stool and jobs of their own, tasks of their own: drying, washing the table, setting the table...

In cultivating the will and the habit life the most important piece is to do the same chores in the same sequence each day and each week. After we eat, we clear the table, we wash the dishes, we sweep the floor….Repetition.

Songs, Verse and Nursery Rhymes
Songs, verse and nursery rhymes that are specific (for you) to your daily and weekly tasks can help ease a child into joining, make it familiar and inviting. I’ve written about nursery rhymes here.

"This is the way we sweep the floor, sweep the floor, sweep the floor so early in the morning…"

The next time you sweep the floor, wipe the table, or do another repetitive task, bring conscious awareness to your gesture, of what is the mood conveyed by your movements as you sweep or wipe. Ask yourself, “Am I sweeping rhythmically and with love for my work?" Or is it “let’s get this off the floor and be done with it?” To be honest, we all do both, depending on the circumstances and we all have the freedom to decide which one we want for our child to experience.

Mother Goose
Mother Goose nursery rhymes are a great resource for the early years from birth, even good up into the grades, but especially good in the early years, from birth to age seven or so. Here are few nursery rhymes, rhythmic verses you may already know to accompany the work you do.

For Chopping
Chop, chop
Choppity chop

Cut off the bottom
And cut off the top

What we have left,
We'll put in the pot

Chop, chop
Choppity, chop

At Tea Time
~ a nursery rhyme
Polly put the kettle on, Polly put the kettle on,
Polly put the kettle on, we'll all have tea.
Sukey take it off again, Sukey take it off again,
Sukey take it off again, they've all gone away

For Pancake Making
~ a nursery rhyme
Mix a pancake,
Stir a pancake,
Pop it in the pan;
Fry the pancake;
Toss the pancake,
Catch it if you can

In Short 
:: Keep the same sequence of chores, in the day, in the week
:: Imbue it with love and care
:: See it through
:: Sing as transition to the task, sing through the task
:: Remember the saying, "if they can walk, they can work"

This post is an adaptation of a response I wrote for the Yahoo Group I moderate, Waldorf Early Childhood ~ Bringing it Home. The group has gone rather quiet over the years.  I closed the archives when I became aware that my words were being paraphrased on another site offering a “new” early childhood curriculum, with no mention of where it came from. At first I was upset that my material had been used with no credit to me, and now after some time has passed, I take it as a compliment that my work is valued, is going out into the world, and is touching the lives of children and the future. 

Every now and then, I’ll share one of my posts from the Yahoo group archives with you here. While that group has seemingly gone to sleep, I still guide parents, homemakers, homeschoolers, and even unschoolers in establishing rhythm and other aspects of parenting and homeschooling through my eCourses, my Living Curriculum Program and Phone Consultations.

If you’d like to work with me and focus more on your daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms in a warm, wonderful and and wise community, consider joining my 8 week eCourse in June and July, Get Organized :: Sketch it Out! or if you’d like to focus intensively on your daily home rhythms, how to practically put into place harmonious rhythm and routine for living day to day, join my eCourse 30 Days to RhythmWhen Less is More :: Rhythm Boot Camp for the month of September. Between those two courses, in August my eCourse offering focuses on Creating a Family Home in reflection on the mood and practicality of our living spaces in preparation for the homemaking, homeschooling year.

All three of of these eCourses are designed to support you to establish your home rhythms, the first in planning out the homemaking, homeschooling year the second in organizing the physical space in your home and the third for 30 days of hands on doing, actual practice, step by step support in establishing home rhythm and routines through the month of September.

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  1. What a beautiful post and I am so saddened to read your work was taken and used by someone else!


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