Have you ever looked at your kids and wonder where you went wrong, why (despite your constant training) they just refuse to conform to your rules? Sometimes matters of the heart are a direct result of matters of the body, or vice versa, however you want to look at it. Sometimes that rebellion you see is less a result of direct intent than it is of wandering minds and excess energy. It is impossible to expect compliance of the mind without also training the body.
I’m not talking about prison camps where inmates mindlessly (and pointlessly) crush rocks all day long, just some good old fashioned work that the child can take pride in and truly benefits the family. A sense of family is easily instilled by working together as a group for mutual benefit.
Family work should be a required part of any successful homeschool in my opinion. Of course we have daily chores that not only keep our household running smoothly but also tend to teach the importance of thinking of others. My children have their assigned room that they must clean daily, regardless of who made the mess. Believe me, the culprit is quickly made to understand the importance of cleaning up after themselves when a sibling is forced to clean up after them. Sometimes the disapproval of their peers can rectify a poor habit much more quickly and effectively than a nagging mother!
By far the greatest benefit though comes from work of a much less mundane manner. Cleaning can be a mind numbing and monotonous task, and for the sake of actually accomplishing something in the day we all break up, go to our designated areas and come back together when it is done. This solitary work is good, but sometimes the fact that it benefits everyone is lost in the monotony of it all. Hard work, done as a family group, builds ties, strengthens bodies, and brings minds into a respectful state of compliance in an almost magical way.
For example, we have been having a few discipline problems here lately, a little lying, a little laziness, and a little disrespect have been quickly ripping through the loving family foundation that we have been trying to create. A few days ago we decided randomly that there was some yard work that needed done. It started with mowing the grass (which is happily my job since it gives me a break from the constant “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” of my everyday life). This is a lot more work than it sounds like as we have a one acre plot located on a major corner of our subdivision. It seems like everyone who stops at the corner decides to clean out their car and dump their trash in our yard (makes me wonder if their mothers taught them anything about respecting others property!) this makes for lots to clean up, and it is just the beginning. With our 30+ trees in the yard there is always a huge amount of sticks and limbs that need to be picked up and moved to the burn pile as well.
Usually there is at least one boy close by (but at a safe distance if the mower were to sling anything) ready to come running if I point. I put on the brakes, turn off the blades, point at the stick or trash on the ground in front of me, and they come running to clean it up. This is great fun for them and keeps them active and occupied the entire time I mow. On the occasion that I am in the backyard and find something needing to be picked up I simply whip around to the front of the yard and give one of the boys a ride to the area. They love this part since they get a free lawn mower ride out of the deal.
After mowing it was time to trim back some new growth. This is a much bigger deal than it sounds like. There are constantly saplings taking roots in various parts of the yard, either because we were lazy and haven’t bothered with it yet (gasp!) or because they were hiding in some forgotten corner of the yard and just now caught our attention. Our trees also grow at an alarming rate and what at the beginning of spring was a branch too high to reach is now one that is dragging the ground, making it difficult to mow around and disrupting the flow of the yard.
We spent a few hours sawing through these new trees and dragging branches (adults only!), and dragging the waste to our burn pile. This work has proven to our children time and time again that life is truly mind over matter. Some of these “branches” are huge, and look like a whole tree in and of themselves. Many are too large for a child to move by themselves, but some are actually quite light, they just look really heavy. After initial resistance to even try, we convinced the kids that they could do it! After just a few tugs everything began to move and a sense of awe and pride welled up in their eyes. After that everyone was hard at task strengthening their bodies, developing persistence, learning teamwork, and using up all that extra energy so they could get a great nights sleep. Not only does my yard look amazing, but the kids are suddenly well behaved, happy to comply, and busy looking after each other. Even if I didn’t have the benefit of my yard looking nice, it was worth every bit of hard work and blood (yeah, I’m a bit clumsy), just for the mental transformation in my children!