Sini Joshy highlights that during this time of homebased learning, along with schoolwork, it is a good time to begin involving the children in household chores so that it becomes a habit

Home-based learning is something that our young children in Singapore had to get accustomed to since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The country was placed under ‘circuit breaker phase’ which meant you could not leave the house for any reason other than exercise or essential work. Hence children had to continue being home-schooled with online support from teachers. The kids loved that they could sleep longer in the mornings without the typical school rush. However, the day began by going straight from the bed to the laptop. After a few hours of staring at the screen, they would look for ways to unwind. It was indeed a struggle for parents to manage them at home since they were missing their favourite outdoor activities. This led to the kids spending the rest of their day either watching TV or playing on their phones.

That got us parents thinking – is home-based learning only about completing school lessons at home? Is it not true that our homes are the children’s first school and that parents are the primary teachers? In the mad rush of daily life, this is one truth we often forget or sometimes ignore.

In a bid to ensure that their children excel, most parents invest a lot of time and finances in finding the appropriate extracurricular activity. While parents are burdened with getting their kids to these different extracurricular activities on time, and though children find themselves engaged through it, most of the time they are also overwhelmed with organised recreation.

Today’s generation can handle the most advanced technologies with ease. However, because of parents not allowing their children to carry out even the smallest household chores, i.e. folding laundry, they struggle to get things done by themselves. Consequently, they must rely on others in the family for help and fail to adopt the habit of helping with things at home. As the Bible says in Sirach 40:18 “Life is sweet for the self-reliant and the worker, but he who finds treasure is better off than both.” Are we, the parents, denying them the opportunity to learn to be self-sufficient in their daily activities by being overprotective? Something for us to think hard about!

During this time of home-based learning, along with schoolwork, it is a good time to begin involving the children in household chores so that it becomes a habit. Just like the school timetable, it would be great to have a timetable to help with the work at home, along with a list of chores that the children can do. Without differentiating between boys and girls, all jobs in the house should be distributed equally among the children.

Without too much hand holding from parents, children are more likely to become self-reliant, and it is a great way to boost their self-confidence. When kids work together in cooperation with their siblings, they will also pick up some essential skills like teamwork which will be useful in the future. While teaching them different jobs around the house, it is particularly important to emphasise to children that every job has its own dignity and value and that it must be done with due diligence and earnestness. “Whatever work you find to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Cleanliness of our dwelling place is the responsibility of every single person who lives there. Children should be instructed to keep their rooms and surroundings clean from a young age, so that it becomes a norm and a habit. In this way, they will learn to keep whatever area they use clean and tidy at all times. Try and involve kids whenever you are cleaning the house, even just to watch and learn. One area of the house that kids mess up the most but are most reluctant to help with is the toilet. Including them while cleaning the toilet will help them to use toilets in schools and public places with care.

Other small tasks they can help with are setting the table for meals, clearing the table after a meal and washing dishes. Once they realise the difficulties in cleaning the house, kids will become less likely to cause a mess. Keeping the house clean and tidy is a challenge when you have young kids. Teaching good habits like putting away the toys neatly after playtime or returning the books to the shelf where they belong after reading will go a long way. Encourage children to do the jobs by themselves no matter how long it takes and resist the temptation of helping them just to speed up the process.

Putting clothes for wash, spreading them out to dry and folding them once done are all simple tasks that kids can be involved in. If they have folded their own clothes and kept them neatly in the cupboard, it will remain so for a longer time as they will come to appreciate the time and effort needed to do the job. Thus, the problem of a messy wardrobe could be solved!

Most kids are reluctant or picky eaters. One way to tackle this is to involve them in the preparation of meals. They can do simple things like rinsing rice, cutting or peeling vegetables, grinding ingredients or even tasting the food while cooking. It is surprising to see how children’s attitude to eating changes when they have a hand in the process, with less complaints and grumbling. Trying a new recipe is also an exciting way to engage the kids and the parents in the kitchen and a great way to encourage an interest in cooking. If the dish is the child’s choice, then the enthusiasm is doubled! Such engagements also give you the opportunity to highlight the advantages of healthy and balanced meals, instead of binging on junk food and sticking to specific types of food. If you have room to grow some vegetables in your garden or kitchen area, it would be a great opportunity to nurture some good habits like caring for delicate things, the value of pesticide-free vegetables and a chance to highlight the difficulties that farmers go through to bring good produce to the market.

Older children in the house can be given tasks that need more responsibility and skill, i.e. grocery shopping for essential things. Being entrusted with money gives them a sense of responsibility and could also help them appreciate the cost of living while teaching them to spend money wisely. It is also sensible to teach them basic sewing skills like stitching buttons, to avoid them having to rely on others.

If there are older members of the family staying with you, such as grandparents, then encourage kids to be involved in their care by making sure to check upon them once in a while and help them with what they need. This will teach kids respect, responsible behaviour and good moral values.

Every child holds promise for the future. They should not only excel in academics or art or sport, but also have good moral and social values. It is the duty of every parent to ensure that their children are formed in a wholesome manner. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

May every household have such home-based learning.

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