Lessons from a Life Skills Day

Written by contributor Kris of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Housework and homeschooling.  Those two words don’t always go well together.  While my family does employ a chore chart that has served us for many years, there are also weeks when we’re so busy all we have time to do is “dump and run.”

Afterward, my house can look like it’s been hit by a tornado, stressing my clutter-free-loving soul.

It’s at those times that I may institute a life skills day.

This means my kids are going to get an up-close-and-personal lesson in vacuuming, dusting, laundry, and general housework.

It may sound like a homeschooling cop-out, to some folks, but I’ve found that some pretty valuable lessons can be learned during a life skills day.

1. Household Management

First and foremost, taking time to learn basic housekeeping prepares my kids for the day when they’ll manage their own homes.  Teaching my boy to do laundry and cook?  Yeah, my daughter-in-law is going to love me someday.

Instead of cramming Home Ec into a semester or two when my kids are high school age, they’ll learn important, but often overlooked household management skills over the course of their time at home.

2. Attention to Detail

Sometimes kids – and adults – rush through a job to get to something more fun.  It’s amazing how fast my three can finish housework on life skills days versus other days when I give them an hour to complete assigned chores before we start school.

In the rush to completion, attention to detail may be lacking.  Lucky for my kids, I’m around to inspect their work – and require them to re-do it when it’s sloppy.  They quickly learn that it takes much less time to vacuum the living room properly once than to re-do the job three times.

3. Cooperation

Life lesson:  Your sister might be more willing to pick up her mess in the living room so that you can vacuum, if you gather all your stuff so that she can dust.

Bickering only complicates matters, an observation that may come in handy at the office some day.

Photo by Darwin Bell

4. Perseverance

Cleaning toilets isn’t fun, but the whole bathroom looks better when it’s done.

Doing the hard (or just boring) tasks teaches kids they can enjoy the sense of accomplishment from a job well done even when the job isn’t fun.

5. Organization

Straightening up a seriously cluttered bedroom has to be one of the most intimidating tasks for a child, but it’s great for learning organizational skills.

Sorting Lego pieces, K’nex blocks, and action figures is great practice in categorizing for a younger child.  Not doing so is a valuable lesson in the importance of organization for an older child when he’s looking for missing pieces.

Today it’s Lego blocks and action figures; tomorrow it may be important documents and misplaced, overdue bills.

6. People Skills

Putting three kids to work on a toy-strewn playroom quickly teaches the life-lesson that you’re not always going to get along with the people you work with.  They may not do things the way you like them done or, worse, they may be content to sit back and look busy while you do all the work.

Dealing with siblings who are driving you crazy – but whom you really do love – is great practice for dealing with people who just drive you crazy.  It’s an opportunity to learn diplomacy, tact, negotiation, and conflict resolution.

So, you see, those days we’re tackling a messy house really do have value beyond maintaining Mom’s sanity.

Do you take an occasional life skills day?  What practical lessons do your kids learn?

About Kris

Kris Bales is the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest voice behind Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She and her husband of over 25 years are parents to two amazing teens and a homeschool grad. Kris has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. She also seems intent on becoming the crazy cat lady long before she's old and alone.


  1. I have to agree with your comment about your future daughter-in-law and how she will love your boy who knows how to cook and clean- I am living it!! I thank my mother-in-law for teaching my husband how to clean and cook, he has no troubles helping around the house- LOVE IT!! Great post too!

  2. We do take life skills days, there are days when the house is just a wreck and we take the whole day to clean it. Your right very valuable lessons come from that day.
    Cara’s latest post: Storytime Boxes from the Jefferson Parish Library – a review

  3. Reading this, you even have *me* thinking housework can be fun! I totally agree that the day-to-day stuff has so much more to teach than one block of Home-Ec at High School.
    Housework isn’t too enjoyable for any of us (it would have been nice to have had one or two kids who loved it, and who’d zoom through it with a smile on their faces, but hey-ho – this is the real world!)

  4. We have life skills days everyday at my house! My kiddos have heard many times that we all have to contribute to keeping our house tidy. We have chore time in the morning after breakfast and before school, and then again after dinner every night. It’s certainly not fun making sure the counters have actually been wiped down, but I figure the long term benefits outweigh the patience it takes to not just grab a cloth and start doing it myself.

  5. We have life skills day every Friday, after a spelling test and math. It teaches not only all the above skills but to really value both your home and your family, team work and the very important mind set of belonging in/to your family which is so important in our transient, non caring world.
    Joanne’s latest post: Beginner 101 Tab

  6. we just had one of these! sort of. we’re getting ready for a big move in a couple weeks and on monday my goal was to sort and downsize the kids’ toys by about half. i pulled all their toys out into the living room so my youngest could nap. my daughter helped me sorting the toys into different boxes and piles. it took much longer than i expected and it ended up being our school day. there was also a lot of clean-up involved after the fact 🙂
    andie’s latest post: about the hiatus in posts

  7. Thanks for this post.

    These are most certainly skills our young folks need. An awareness that someone else is not going to do it for you and confidence that someone else can’t do it better are essential concepts for getting on in this big world. Thanks for this perspective.

  8. Great post! They may not like us making sure they learn to do these things well and thoroughly at the moment, but as you’ve said, it will pay off in many ways in adult life!
    Jamie @ See Jamie blog’s latest post: Be Not Afraid to Have Children

  9. Your daughter-in-law IS going to love you someday!! I often think about that too — how valuable it will be for my son to know his way around the kitchen and have a good grasp of life skills and home maintenance.

    Thursday afternoons we focus on life skills here. My kids strip their beds and bring down dirty clothes. We re-organize books, they help with dishes and we set things right again before the weekend. There’s still lots of chores to be done throughout the week, but I hope the afternoons are setting a good foundation for when they get a little older.

    Great post!!

  10. When we were homeschooling, life skills were part of our day, school day if you will. There were certain things that had to be done after breakfast before devotions. And after they finished their school work (typically between 1 & 3 depending on their age) they had more major chores to do before they were free for the day. It was never perfect, but it was an expectation that it was to be done, so it got done more often than not!
    My kids are young adults now, and could take care of any house (if they HAD to!)
    Living the Balanced Life’s latest post: Respond- don’t react

  11. My Gran used to say that all children should leave home with the following home skills: Sew a button, made three good meals, the basic understanding of a washing machine and shoe cleaning.

    I also tell me kids that they need to help me, otherwise we don’t do all the things we want to do as a family. A few months ago they “shadowed” me whilst I did the daily chores, and then they each picked one they wanted to do regularly. Even my two year old has a turn at laying the table, which probably makes me sound really harsh.

  12. Love the point about your future daughter-in-law, Kris! I feel the same way. My three are still pretty young, but are becoming more and more independent and I can’t wait to start seeing more help around here.

    Thanks for the post!
    Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Lessons from a Life Skills Day

  13. Loved this post! I linked it to my blog. Planning on doing a lot of this in our homeschool :O)
    Moe’s latest post: Life Skills Day in the homeschool

  14. We’ve taken life skills days on occasion. When I really need to cook or clean, the kids get to help and we may or may not complete any bookwork. It is important for kids to learn how to keep house and it works best when you can all work along side each other and then they don’t think they are the only ones doing the work.
    Suanna’s latest post: Count it all joy!

  15. My mom instituted a rule that once we reached 12 years old, we (my siblings and I) were solely responsible for our own laundry. She, of course, showed us how to use the washer and dryer, but after that, it was up to us to make sure our laundry was done. I complained about it at first, but then, I really came to like the system. I liked the independence of not having to depend on others for my laundry.

  16. Apart from being a blessing to a wife/ husband one day, young children feel so good to be a useful member of the family. It builds their self-esteem to “be able” , even when they are young!
    My children can be helpful anywhere. I hope that they will effectively serve others, even when they visit friends and family.
    Right now, I need to continue training point 2, “Do it right the first time … ”
    Nadene’s latest post: Maybe List of Things To Do With Mom- ART!

  17. We do this to a degree, but I need to do more! I’m pregnant with our fifth child and have been incredibly sick for the entire pregnancy. The house shows it! Hubby and kids have been picking up some slack, but I think one big day of doing it together with lots of teaching how to do it right would do wonders around here. 🙂
    Magic and Mayhem’s latest post: Lesson Number One of Homeschooling

  18. Jennie G says:

    Life skills day. Love it! I think one of the most important things we learn on this earth is stewardship. I think life skills day helps us be better stewards of what we have. I will definitely have to try this. Thanks! (And I loved the chore chart link. Thank you. )

  19. I have 4 boys and one of my goals is to send them out in the world with the ability to care for themselves and others someday. I wish and pray for life partners to share the load, but for now, I am focused on teaching them to break apart a task and chech their own work. I don’t believe it has to be ‘fun’ for them, but I try and give them choices. I prefer to point out what a job well-done enables you to do – i.e. enjoy your organized bedroom, find your possessions, and invite people over!!

  20. I struggle to concentrate when the house is a mess, so sometimes before we can tackle academics we MUST tidy up. I am constantly saying, “One day when you have to manage a home….” to my daughter. I certainly hope it rubs off at some point.
    jimmie’s latest post: Notebooking Round-up for April

  21. “Dump and run”–I use that EXACT term to describe our hectic weeks. And if it weren’t for our chore system (we use a combination of Managers of Their Home and Confessions of a Homeschooler), we’d spend our non-hectic weeks cleaning up all the “dumps”.

  22. I actually added life skills at the outset and incorporated skills they need to learn; tying shoes, properly brushing hair, answering the phone, stranger danger, bicycle safety, etc.
    Kudos to you!

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