How Tools For Godly Living Was Born (and why I think it’s important to teach children to do chores)

I started this blog (in May?) with a post about how Tools For Godly Living has grown up.  Recently, I’ve been asked, “But how was it born?”

One of the things that was very important to me in raising my kids was that they know how to do some basic chores.  There were a few reasons for this.

First of all, I believe that childhood is the time to train for adulthood. It seems like a no-brainer, but honestly, what I’ve seen is that many parents these days have so much pressure and are basically just trying to make it through life in one piece and don’t feel they have time or energy to really train their children.  (Me, too!)  We can get so caught up in soccer and work and church activities that we don’t have time or energy to teach them necessary skills for keeping a home.  Believe me, I understand.  I’ve spent the last 9 years as a single mother.  I have very little “free” time and when I have it, I’m exhausted.

Secondly, I wanted my children to learn responsibility.  I wanted my children to grow up with a sense of responsibility, not entitlement … and I wanted them to experience and get hooked on the wonderful sense of accomplishment.  I also wanted them to learn to practice what Jesus taught about serving others.

Third, it was a practical move for me.  I homeschool my kids and didn’t have money for curriculum, so I had to write my own.  That didn’t give me much time for taking care of the house, so I decided not to just teach my kids how to help with the house, but to let them do it.  This actually happened more quickly than I had planned.

When I was expecting our fourth child, I ended up spending 2 months in bed.  My 3 older girls, who were 6, 7, and 8 years old, knew all their basic chores, but I had always told them when to do what and had supervised, as well as doing a good deal of the housework myself.  I homeschooled them from bed during those 2 months of my pregnancy.  When I was finally able to get out of bed and go to the living room (which opened onto our dining room and kitchen), I braced myself for the horrible mess I would have to start tackling.  Instead, I was amazed:  My three little girls had kept the house spotless and running smoothly on their own initiative and without even telling me.  They were truly incredible.  And from that point on, they took over the housework with pride, freeing me up to not only write their curriculum, but share it with others, teach others how to homeschool, run an umbrella school, and teach another student in our home.

When they were ready to go on summer missions trips, they earned much of their money by doing housework for others.  When all three of them went away for the summer on Teen Missions trips, they were actually worried about how I would be able to run the house without them.  🙂

Today, all three girls have homes of their own, and I’m proud of how they have each found their own way to keep their homes and teach their children.  They got practice in teaching children to do chores, too.  They were 8, 9, and 10, when their little sister was born, and a couple years later, they were rewarded with a baby brother.  The three older girls helped teach the younger ones to do their chores … actually, I should say that they did most of the teaching and I may have helped!  And now, some of my grandchildren are using the same chores program their moms did.  🙂

At the time I started writing this book series, I only had girls, but I think these skills are important for boys, too, and my son has learned to do all of these things.  (He’s going to be quite a prize for some lucky girl!)  Many families bought the book to be used with their sons as well as their daughters.

My daughters were 3, 4, and 5 when I began having them doing a lot of chores.  Before that, they had helped in little ways — I remember my eldest daughter folding diapers and washcloths with me when she was 15 months old.

Now, before you start thinking of me as a boot camp drill sergeant, let me tell you that I believe life should be fun while you’re being responsible … and if not fun, at least very interesting.  I wanted to teach my children that keeping house could be joyful.  I didn’t want them to see it as drudgery, and I wanted them to know that serving others is very rewarding.

Along that line, I wanted my children to grow up knowing the satisfaction of delayed gratification — another element I think is sorely missing in our society; as a result, we have an epidemic of out of control debt, both on a familial and national level, and a society in which self-control is almost non-existent.

I set about to make our chore time into a club of sorts, where they could earn “tool tickets” to “buy” tools for their fun and growth (hence, the name “Tools for Godly Living” was born).

I’ll let you in on a secret:  Many of the things they were able to buy with their Tool Tickets were things I wanted to give them anyway.  Earning those things made it more fun … and you know how you place more value on things that you’ve worked for.  I bought things on sale, got a lot of Scholastic books for very little, thought of things they would enjoy doing, privileges like staying up an hour late, and made those into things they could buy with their Tool Tickets.  At the same time, I was teaching them some economic skills.

As my friends heard about what I was doing, they asked if I could show them how.  I ended up printing many copies of my children’s program out from my home printer.  Then, my best friend, Kathleen, called me and told me she and her husband were starting a publishing company and they wanted to publish my program as a series of books.  It took me aback, but it didn’t take long to realize that it made perfect sense.  We sold out our first small printing at a homeschool retreat, then started sharing the books (which had by then grown to a few titles) at homeschool conventions and through mail order.  (This was pretty much pre-internet, if you can imagine.)

Since Tools for Godly Living went out of print 10 years ago, I’ve had many requests for these books, especially for a new generation.  If you grew up with Tools, you’ll find that the new edition of Household Management (now called the 21st Century Kids Book of Chores) has similarities to the old one, but it’s also changed, as families and the way we keep house have changed in the past 20 years.  There are still Bible lessons and memory verses, and just as I did with the first edition, I’m asking the parents to teach their children how to do each chore.  There’s an extensive chapter (29 pages) for parents, explaining the book’s system, 10 pages about how to teach the chores (including some suggested resources and a step-by-step method for training your children to be able to independently do their chores), ideas for reward systems using various philosophies, an explanation of the memory verses and Bible lessons, along with some ways that often work with children for memorizing Scripture, things that are important to remember when teaching young children to study God’s Word, how to build good habits (including thoughts on the debate about whether or not to pay for chores), and ideas for effectively continuing with chores once children have completed the book.  The rest of the book is a program for teaching children to do chores in various rooms of the house, take care of their pets, and help with yard work.  It concludes with a chapter about getting ready for church (including their hearts) and the final chapter walks them through the steps of planning a party.  There is lots of review of previously learned skills throughout the book.  The 165-page book is spiral bound, which makes it much easier for kids to write in, and 6×9 inches, which I’ve found is just the perfect size for a parent to hold with one hand while checking chores.

Most of the above is an excerpt from the Intro to the 21st Century Kids Book of Chores.  The picture below is of some of the original Tools For Godly Living books.  Ordering info for the new Chores book is below.  Chore areas include bedroom, general housekeeping (dusting, vacuuming, picking up, taking initiative, etc.), kitchen, laundry, caring for a pet, bathroom, light yard work, getting ready for church, and planning a party.




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