Yep! We consider child labor laws to be as new of a concept as public education so we throw it all out the window. Just kidding! Sort of. As Tonya says, "I honestly don't know what I would do without my girlies! They are my right hand helpers."
You see, all of us don't just sit at a desk and lead our children in the Pledge of Allegiance and other school activities all day. We have busy lives. Marion helps her husband run a farm and the farm store. Tonya helps her husband run a church and cleans the occasional house to add to the family income as well as the church (which her kids help with, too---what a ministry opportunity!). Jessica takes up the slack while her husband goes back to school, and I do some work from home to help the family income while my husband works long and varied hours.
The key to having children help around the house is to start them young. Wee little ones love being with Mommy, so this is a great time to train them on basic chores. My toddlers have especially loved pulling laundry out of the dryer and emptying the lint catcher. Tonya starts hers out with emptying the trash. The idea is that if a child can take toys out of the toy box, he can put them back in. This seems perfectly logical, but the application gets a little tricky at times!
We know that age and grade are just a standardized way to classify unstandardized kids. Different children are ready for different chores at different times. Our job is to plug them into the "team", as I like to call it around our house. We depend a lot on our older children. Jessica's older girls each have a bathroom that they are responsible to clean, can do the dishes alone and help the younger ones hang up clothes when they can't reach the clothes rack. Tonya's oldest can bake and take care of breakfast and supper. Tonya and I depend on our oldest to babysit our youngest children as well. Washing laundry is also on our chore lists for our older girls.
Making work fun is not always possible, but we all pull out our "Mary Poppins" tricks when possible. For Marion, it is a Celtic Christmas CD her girls love all year round. She also uses a timer to let them "race" to get done. On cleaning day, I separate us into "teams" and have each team complete their list and check it off. It's hilarious to see the "boy team". My 18-month-old bumps down the steps on his belly clutching pillow cases to carry to the laundry room to be washed while his brothers carry the rest down.
Chore charts are great for little ones. I have a hard time keeping with them, but I always think they look so fun. Like this one:
Life Lessons Learned
Although our children help us a lot, the main reason we teach them to work is for their own benefit---not just ours. As Jessica says,
"The small rewards they do receive from time to time are an added benefit to the plain ol' feeling of accomplishment they feel after completing a task, the housekeeping skills they're learning in preparation for keeping their own home one day, and the knowledge that they're doing their part to help the household run smoothly."