The Lord Helps Those who Help Themselves

We have a good-sized garden, largely planted with sukuma (greens) which are a staple here along with ugali. Trouble is, we mzungus don’t eat that much of it and as a result, many of our neighbors have been invited to come and pick greens at will. And they do. But the plot has become rather neglected and overgrown, frankly, because the daily labor of wash, food preparation, schooling, and such is quite enough to fill my hours. I haven’t made the garden a priority.

But yesterday it came to my attention that the condition of our little shamba (farm) is bordering on shameful, and folks are talking. So, today I sent Isaiah out with the slasher to cut the overgrowth along our back fence, Rebekah stepped up to do laundry while Jonah cultivated around our various fruit trees and Deborah and I grabbed some hoes and weeded in the garden. I decided that two rows would suffice for today, and then we’d call it quits and move on to school.

Lo and behold, as we finished our second row (surprisingly, a good two hours’ work), my neighbor–one who regularly comes to pick our greens—sauntered over and grabbed Deborah’s hoe. So I kept on working a third row alongside of her. Not more than ten minutes had passed when a large group of teenaged girls came by and began loitering along our fence. Apparently the sight of a mzungu hoeing is amusing. Well, Christine let them have it and,  after a barrage of Bukusu (the local tribal dialect), most of the girls came into the yard. Several took over the hoes we had, a few started toward the back yard with the wheelbarrow full of weeds, and the rest headed for the swing set. It seemed they traded off play for labor amongst themselves and Christine made an excellent overseer. I finished up the “hard laundry” that Bekah couldn’t manage to scrub, and then went in to clean the kitchen floor (which had also been on my to-do list for this morning).

By the time noon rolled around, there was more play than work going on and some of the neighborhood “bad element” had snuck in under cover of all the activity to glance surreptitiously (and not so surreptitiously) at some of the kitchen things that I had moved outside in order to clean the floor, and into the kitchen itself. I ended up chasing everyone out of the yard, but not before about 3/4 of the garden had been cultivated.

Although “The Lord helps those who helps themselves” isn’t exactly a Biblical statement, it sure was true today. I’m praising God for a community of hard workers and glad to have gotten so much accomplished!










“It’s Just that I was Right in the Middle of my Chapter…”

Mornings are always busy here. We all get up early and, like it or not, seem to hit the ground running. Jobs, breakfast, usually more work, and then schooling. I try to balance the kids’ busy-ness with some little “breaks” built in, but sometimes there’s just too much to do!

When the children first get up, they’re expected to make their beds and get themselves presentable for the day, then have some Bible time or quiet reading time until we are all ready for family devotions. Lately, one of my children in particular has been absorbed in a personal reading book that apparently has been very captivating, so when we’ve asked them to “put the book down” to do the next thing, we’ve been met with a rather sour attitude in response. Unfortunately, the overtone tends to permeate the rest of the morning’s activities. Much gentle encouragement and prayer have been the general prescription, and usually after a while I get a hug and and apology.

Today, more of the same. After trying to get the kids to pitch in and work together to clear the table (while each one wanted to just do their own thing and let everyone else shoulder the burden), I assigned morning jobs and got some flack from said child who lately has been struggling to have a positive attitude about work responsibilities. After a short conversation (in which I didn’t really feel like being kind, but forced myself to anyway), the child said to me, “I’m sorry I had a bad attitude. It’s just that I was right in the middle of a chapter!” To which I could only express my agreement, because I’ve felt similar frustrations in being interrupted. Another opportunity to be reminded of the power of sympathy.

It has seemed to me that this particular child has had a bad attitude about work, and I’ve been trying to address it as such. Yet all the while I was missing the mark with my encouragements because I failed to see the “root cause.” It wasn’t laziness, as I assumed…it was just frustration in not getting to finish something started. Granted, we all must learn to sacrifice our personal preferences and serve others in love…but that is a process, isn’t it? So my lesson this morning is this: just as I need to address the “root causes” in my own spiritual growth in order to see victory, in the same way I need to commit my children to prayer and seek wisdom so that I can identify the root causes that drive their behavior, and address them effectively. Something else that I suppose I knew, but needs a reminder every once in a while.

(And, the “5-minute warning” prior to a change in activity never hurts, either. I tend to forget about that, too…)

“Cans, eh?”

One of the things we brought with us to Africa is our canning supplies. We were told that it is impossible to procure canning jars and canning pots here; people just don’t use them. I can understand why. With a practically year-round growing season, why would you? Not only that, but the amount of fuel required to pressure can (or even water bath can) is beyond the budget of most folks. Thus, dried everything: corn, beans, peas, mushrooms, etc.

But I have to admit, we mzungus like the flavor of fresh. And this mzungu Mama likes the ease of opening a couple of cans and having dinner 2/3 ready, versus spending the day cleaning, soaking, and cooking something…dry. Last but not least, the mzungu palate is a little more varied than that of the locals–we appreciate french beans (commonly called “green beans”), tomatoes, and sweet corn. Sweet corn is unheard of, and green beans and tomatoes are not always in season–and when not, they are more expensive than other food items.

We probably didn’t know it when we packed our gear, but as much as canning is certainly a novelty here, we are really going to appreciate having the technology at our disposal. We have recently bought 39 kilos of french beans for…very cheap…because they are ready and there’s not much market for them among the locals. Those who grow them want to sell them before the crop is spoiled. As well, just yesterday we harvested our crop of sweet corn–yum!! We’re looking forward to tomatoes, but…not yet.

In any case, we’ve already canned 42 quarts of beans and between yesterday and today, the same amount of sweet corn, plus an additional amount of beans.

People keep dropping in to see the process—they are quite intrigued. When we tell them that cans can keep food fresh on the shelf for…years…the typical response is, “Eh?!” (“Eh?” is a general expression of surprise or disbelief.)

Here are some photos from our work today:

Big girls snipping beans

Boys hard at work on corn

Rose and her son, Georgie, stopped by for a visit and stayed to help

“the Scripture says, “ You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “ The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18)

Micah hustling to bring more corn to the big boys

Cute baby…observing for now…but just wait!

Our Day, as of 1:35 PM

I usually get up early for my morning Quiet Time (the baby normally helps with that) but today it was, quite unusually, raining a bit in the early hours and I wanted to stay in bed. I got up at 6:10 when the baby cried, which is when all the bigger kids also started rolling out of bed. I fed the baby and handed him over to Deborah, who was the first girl up with hair brushed and ready to go for the day. She entertained Enoch in the living room while I got dressed.

I sent Isaiah next door to collect our two liters of milk and began setting the table for breakfast (cups for tea, a peanut butter coffee cake made the night before, and some bananas). Pastor David arrived from Nairobi at about 6:40 AM, having taken Easy Coach through the night. (He’s joining Marc and Tonny on a training mission…somewhere…for the next few days. Tonny had stayed overnight and surprisingly, even with all our noise, wasn’t up yet.) By now all the children were up and gathered in the living room, either having Bible time or chatting with their Dad and Pastor David. Thankfully Enoch, who had started the day rather cranky, was now pleasantly entertained by Pastor David’s charming smile and soothing manner.

By 7:10 Isaiah arrived with milk, which I boiled in preparation for making tea. Tonny finally got up and everyone washed their hands while I finished getting breakfast on the table. I emptied out the pan of coffee cake and everyone probably would have had more if there had been any. Afterwards, Marc left on his motorbike with our 11 year-old to pick up the battery he had left at the charging station over night. Isaiah chatted with the guys outside while Hannah cleared the table, Rebekah started dishes, and Deborah began the task of washing clothes. Our neighbor, Jane, had arrived to complete the task of transplanting some onions in our garden, which she had voluntarily begun the previous afternoon. Micah (4) and Jubilee (3) went out to “help.” I sat at the table and checked my email and Facebook while feeding Enoch. Then I sat on the couch (still with Enoch) and turned on the Kindle for some Bible reading (Psalm 31).

I swept out the kitchen, especially all the mud that had accumulated by the back door with just a few early morning trips to the out house. Tonny interrupted my task to ask if I could help him prepare a bath. I put on a big pot of water to boil, had Deborah take a break from laundry so I could borrow one of the big wash basins, and gathered all the supplies Tonny would need in the bathroom. Meanwhile, Baby Enoch entertained himself by playing with the piles of dirt that Hannah was sweeping from under the table. When moved, he would find his Dad’s Bible on the coffee table. When moved again, he meandered into the kitchen and discovered the electrical wires left disconnected when we had removed the battery the previous day. Then back again into the sitting room to find more trouble…

After setting Tonny up to bathe, I got the bin of clean laundry that had been taken in the previous afternoon but not yet put away, and I sorted it into piles. By now Hannah (after a few gentle reminders to stay focused on her work) had finished cleaning up from breakfast and I asked her to put away the folded and sorted clothes. Isaiah, temporarily distracted by a low-flying agricultural plane, was now reigned in to empty the indoor “pee bucket” that we keep in one of the stalls of our bathroom. (Now that the mosquitoes are out when the sun goes down, we use the emergency bucket as needed!) I also instructed him to roll up and shake out the throw rug in the sitting room and prepare for floor washing (which involves putting coffee and end tables up onto the couch and moving the toy box, shoe bin, and carpet out onto the veranda, then doing a thorough sweep of the concrete floor.) By now Jonah and Marc had returned, so I sent Jonah out to burn the garbage.

Marc, Pastor David, and Tonny left at about 9:00. Not much later, Jane came in from the garden and asked if I needed eggs. She scored really big last week in finding a place where we can get eggs in quantity–we got FIVE DOZEN and wasted little time in consuming them. We’re down to eating meat about once every 2-3 weeks, so eggs are a preferred source of protein. We normally can only get 3-4 eggs every few days, though. Anyway, I was happy to give her some money for another  four dozen, and the two older girls begged to go with her, so I agreed. First I had to scrounge a 5-gallon bucket from the veranda and clean it out for egg transport.

Meanwhile, Micah and Jubilee had begun playing but their diversion was neither messy nor loud, so I let them continue. Isaiah had finished clearing out the sitting room, so I put him on the mission of entertaining Enoch while I prepared to wash the floor (a task I had intended for Rebekah, who was now gone. But both girls had at least gotten through the laundry and dishes!) I set Jonah to cleaning his room and Hannah to washing about four pairs of very dirty flip-flops (necessary for using the outhouse, but not so nice to use when they leave your feet muddy.)

With everyone occupied, I was able to wash the sitting room floor and decided to do the bathroom and hallway as well. I started cleaning carrots, tomatoes, and peppers in preparation for supper, which will be vegetables and ugali. Realizing that lunch time was rapidly approaching, I put Jonah on prep duty, skinning unripe “cooking bananas,” which would be mashed and added to  rice for our meal. I asked Hannah if she could pick skuma (collards) to add to my veges for dinner. I confirmed that she knew how to do it, recalling that she had done so before with her sisters. Meanwhile, Jane arrived with the big girls and the eggs. Rebekah said that Auntie Jane’s “not too far” walk turned to to be pretty far, indeed, but…she wasn’t really tired. In a moment of distraction, Micah asked if he could go help Hannah cut skuma, and I agreed. Jane bounced Enoch and Jubilee in her lap while I put the eggs away, freeing Isaiah up to look for a recipe online, at my request. Today is one of our two weekly dessert nights, and I was unusually enticed by a recipe for Kentucky Butter Cake that I had seen on Facebook earlier.

Jane said her goodbyes and I began cleaning the skuma that Hannah and Micah had now brought in. I asked Rebekah to set the table, gave Isaiah permission to do some work on the computer in Excel, and gave Jonah direction on completing lunch preparation. Deborah entertained Enoch, who was now apparently complaining about Jane’s abrupt departure. A few minutes later, Jane returned, and in broken English explained that evidently Micah had gotten a little over-zealous in his skuma-cutting and  stripped about a dozen plants of all their leaves. I thanked her for the information and went inside, rather ungraciously reminding Hannah of her responsibility to supervise and direct her little brother, and Micah to slow down and (for the thousandth time?) please wait for directions instead of just jumping in to do the work!

I finished cleaning the skuma and then collected Micah and Hannah for hugs and kisses and an apology (will I ever learn?). Then, finally, we were ready for lunch–a rather late 1:20. And I sat down to blog, wondering if anyone would be interested in the minutiae of our day and realizing that schooling hadn’t been a thought in anyone’s mind…but, praise God, we’ve almost finished our 180 days anyway…

Our First “Self-Sufficiency” Day

Marc and I have noticed that here in Kenya, children are very often left to themselves. Usually, this is by necessity, because work for daily bread (whether working in the fields and at home, or wage-earning work, when it is available) is typically so demanding that parents aren’t left with much choice. In America, we took things for granted, like having a vehicle to hop into and a supermarket a short trip away. Here, you walk. Sometimes far. We always chuckle when we ask Jane how far away a particular destination is. She often shrugs and says, “Not far.” But it could be several kilometers–“not far,” indeed! We don’t leave our children home alone, but a single mother with few resources (or mom at home with Dad at work) sometimes has little choice.

When Marc went to Nairobi with our 10 year-old son a couple of weeks ago, he came back more than once to the house where he was staying to find the three children (ages 9 and under) home alone. He remarked that they were very well-behaved: no bickering, faithful behaviors (for the most part), and younger children who respected the authority of their older siblings in the parents’ stead.

We agreed, this would probably not be the case if we left all of our children home alone. My 10 year-old noted, “Well, they probably didn’t bicker because they had no toys to fight over.” Good point. As well, I don’t think our children have had enough opportunity to prove themselves responsible in taking care of their own needs for any extended period of time. They’ve only been apart from both of us a handful of times (usually when we go out to dinner to celebrate a birthday or anniversary), and the longest has been for the weekend, when they stayed with some friends of ours. Although we teach and train them in all things vital to home management, and they generally know our routines and expectations, they certainly derive a level of comfort in having an adult to fall back on. Unfortunately, I was sure that if left to their own devices, there are some things that they take for granted that would fall through the cracks.

So, with Marc and our oldest (a take-charge kinda kid) off to Nairobi for a few days, I decided to call a “Self-Sufficiency Day” for the rest of our crew, with the 10 year-old in charge. I thought it would be a good exercise for all of them. We went over the expectations, and I even wrote them on the chalkboard for reference. Things like:

  • Do it God’s Way! Love and serve one another. Please God with your attitude and your behavior.
  • Keep yourselves clean (hair, faces, feet, teeth) and LOOK AROUND to see what needs to be picked up around the house.
  • Remember to change the baby’s diaper.
  • Big kids, supervise little kids even if you are doing something else. Little kids, respect the authority of your older brothers and sisters.

And so on. They knew they would be responsible for their school work as well as home management, child care, and meal preparation. I would be closed in my bedroom and only available to receive meals or to feed the baby. (I also came out a couple of times to hook up the laptop and charge it on the inverter, but I told them to pretend I wasn’t there.)

My ten year-old spent part of the day before planning out AM and PM jobs for all the children, as well as meals. I have to admit, his choices were a little starchy (mandazi and tea for breakfast, beef broth with rice for lunch, and pasta for supper along with fried bananas and honey for dessert); however, I’m not sure how much better I would have done. The only fruit in the house was bananas and tomatoes. What can I say? We need to go to market! (That’s tomorrow…)

The morning went very well. My ten year-old kept everyone on-track and motivated in a very encouraging way. My oldest daughters teamed up to care for  the littles and did a super job, even when multi-tasking  to do their school work. My seven year-old did an admirable job with the laundry. (The only thing I had to return to the wash pile was a pair of jeans that needed a lot more elbow grease than she could muster. Ahhh, those boys of mine!)

The afternoon left something to be desired. The in-charge ten year-old got caught up in reading a new Thornton W. Burgess book that I had downloaded on the Kindle and before he knew it, it was 4:00 and everyone had far over-shot their afternoon “Free Time.” I actually had to prod them to move on with their afternoon responsibilities (including finishing their school work), which was a bit disappointing. I wondered what would have happened if I had not intervened? I guess I didn’t want to find out! However, after the reminder, things slipped back into gear. Jobs got done, supper got started, and school assignments got wrapped up.

I had given my 10 year-old a budget for the day of 200 shillings (roughly the equivalent of $2 and change, which buys quite a bit here). That would cover any supplies that we unexpectedly ran short of (such as laundry soap) or he could use it for some limited food items that could be purchased at the little shop/restaurant across the street (mostly staples like flour, oil, etc.). He considered buying the favorite “mandazi” from the restaurant at 50 shillings per bag of ten (and we’d need at least two bags); however, he did the math and realized that making them was much cheaper (and the recipe made a lot more–about 50!), so he was excited to make them himself. He ended up spending 18 shillings for 6 beef cubes, which he used to make broth for the lunch time rice, and he got a bag of sugar for 65 shillings to replenish our supply. Also, he ordered a litre of milk for 35 shillings to have tea for the next day. All in all, a total of 118 shillings spent for the day. Not bad. I had to chuckle, though, when I overheard him preparing breakfast in front of an audience of little people saying, “It’s almost ready! This is just taking a little longer than I thought!”

I sat down for supper with the crew and asked for their reactions. Over all, everyone was pleased with the day, though they admitted it was hard work.  Since this was the kids’ first “solo” day, I had made some suggestions for AM and PM jobs, but I’m hoping that after some repeats of this type of training they will be on the lookout for what needs to be done and will need less direction. A good first stab at self-sufficiency. We’ll keep practicing. My 9 year-old daughter can’t wait for the day she’s “in charge.” She’s pretty sure she can handle it.


Isaiah’s Recipe for Sweet and Spicy Wraps

Everyone agreed these were yummy. Dad said, “I think this is the best thing I’ve eaten since we’ve been in Kenya!” Made from ingredients we have on-hand. Some suggested adding cabbage to make it more filling and more like a Chinese egg roll, but Isaiah is sticking with the original recipe.



Sweet and Spicy Wraps
Serves 4


1-1/2 c. wheat flour

3/4 c. water

2 T. oil



1/2 small onion

2 spicy peppers (small, about 1-1/2″ long)

1 carrot

2 medium tomatoes

3 T. sugar


Dice the carrot, onion, peppers, and tomatoes. Mix together in a bowl, then pan fry until the onion is soft, adding oil to the pan as necessary. Remove from heat. Add sugar and mix. Set aside.

Mix the flour, water and oil in a bowl. Add more water or flour as needed to make a thick, non-sticky dough. Knead until it is uniform. Let it sit for 30 minutes under a damp towel. Separate into 8 equal parts. Roll out round until about 1/8″ to 3/16″ thick.

Evenly distribute filling in center of each wrap. Roll dough around filling like a burrito. Pan fry the rolls in a small amount of oil until the outside is crispy. Add oil to the pan as necessary.

Carrying Water…and Complaining

We are blessed to have a very healthy spring within about a 1/2 mile, but…the water doesn’t bring itself to our house! One of our most important (and time-consuming, and difficult) tasks here is water-gathering. We see Kenyan girls, from the youngest age, carrying water in small jugs on their small heads, so that by the time they are adults they can carry 5-gallon buckets (or larger) with NO cover WITHOUT SPILLING  A DROP. It is truly amazing. However, we have not been trained that way, so we depend on arm, leg, and back muscles for lugging containers–and we’ve not been well-trained even for that.

Unfortunately, because the task is one that we are not used to, and we must do it multiple times per day in order to do laundry, wash dishes, bathe, and cook food (not to mention drink!), it often involves complaining on the part of the children. They generally start off with the best of attitudes and intentions, but somewhere between the first and second trip of the morning (or maybe during the afternoon run), they begin to whine, bicker with one another over who carries what, and feel sorry for themselves over the trial that they are suffering.

We’re working on it. It is a character-training opportunity at its best. I’m reminding the children that we should “consider it all joy when [we] face trials of various kinds.” That God works all things for good, and that through adversity we are conformed to the image of Christ. Also, I’m trying to remind them (in an encouraging rather than condemning manner) that we are “supposed to” be a light and a witness to this community, showing the character of Christ so that people will see the Gospel of the Kingdom in action. It’s difficult, because when we go to gather water, it’s typically with an entourage–often as many as 20 children and usually an adult (one who has been more than helpful in fetching water for us, praise God!). They see when we do the task in a manner that glorifies God…and when we don’t.

I was very disappointed yesterday to send four of the children to the spring, with two of them tasked with trading off a large container of water between them, only to have one of them have a bit of a temper tantrum and (according to the siblings’ reports) “scream and cry and throw the jug on the ground” when said child felt that his/her sibling was not taking an appropriate turn. I find that it is sometimes difficult, as a parent, to balance challenging children in their growth and character, with potentially frustrating them with unrealistic expectations. It is necessary to discern what is a character deficiency, and what is simply a knee-jerk negative reaction to an excessive demand. There is a need for wisdom, as well as grace, to navigate these situations and redeem them for the glory of God. I pray that we are doing this successfully.

Please share your thoughts on how you have successfully (or unsuccessfully!) balanced these aspects of child training and made the most of every character-training opportunity.

Switching up the Routine

We’ve had a good routine for many years now.It helps us meet all of our goals and objectives for our family and attend to all the practical things that need doing. Even the littles know what to expect each day, and for the most part things move along pretty smoothly.

So you can understand how uncertain I was about changing things, when somehow the subject became a matter of family conversation. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

My oldest wanted more flexibility with how he used his time. I could concede that he is pretty responsible and would be able to manage things fairly well independently. My second son was good with the routine, though he recommended a minor change. He is, however, highly distractable when it comes to school work, so I was sure that totally independent time management would probably be an epic “fail” for him.

My personal concern with freeing up the schedule too much was that it would be chaotic in general, and that specifically, the littles wouldn’t have the structure that they needed. Also, I didn’t want everyone to be going their own way and miss out on valuable family time. Not to mention that I figured it would be a micro-management nightmare for me, trying to make sure that everyone was getting done what they needed to get done and not just wasting time.

So, after much discussion, we compromised and came up with something that everyone seemed happy with. We will begin our day with family Bible reading and prayer, then have about an hour to do morning jobs and either start school, read books, or enjoy some free time. Breakfast at 9:00 for everyone, followed by Circle Time (everyone participates). Between 10:00 and 12:00, the older children are free to do their schoolwork or have free time, with the stipulation that either Language Arts or Math must be done by lunch time. After lunch, the littles nap and I do something school-related with the big kids, then they have the afternoon to complete their independent work and enjoy whatever free time is left over. Afternoon jobs can be done “whenever,” as long as they are done by 5:00, at which time we’ll do something together as a family (read aloud, play a game, or whatever), and then make sure the house is in order and supper underway for Dad’s arrival home at about 6:30.

I still plan on managing time and tasks for the littles, of course, but I like having some “checkpoints” built into the routine so that even the big kids can manage things better and I have less worry that things will spiral out of control.

We’re on all of day two with this new schedule, and so far, so good. I’m optimistic that this will work fairly well for our family. If not, we’ll keep on tweaking it. On a positive note, my second-oldest is doing surprisingly well with getting his academics done–he’s finished his math in record time both days! Don’t know if this trend will continue but I hope so.

Busy Tomato Days

Last week we spent three days processing tomatoes. Looks like we will do the same this week. We planted a lot more tomato plants this year but are getting quite a bit less, due to lack of rain.

Last Monday, we had almost two, five-gallon buckets full of tomatoes. Here are some photos of the kids working:

Peeling and squeezing…

Bringing in carrots

Here’s the pot full:

And the gallon of tomato juice we made:

Seems a shame that we only made 3 quarts of spaghetti sauce for all that work! But it is yummy sauce, and really we only worked for a couple of hours, from start to finish.

The second tomato day last week, we made 2 more quarts of sauce, and the third day we did 4 quarts of salsa.

Today is another salsa day! Looks like we will get  4 quarts (which is good, since 3 of the 4 quarts from last week are already gone! How did that happen?) Today Rebekah (age eight) is pretty much running the show, as I’ve been busy with the baby (and blogging!). After a few times of going through the process, everyone knows how to do their part fairly well, with supervision.

Praising God for the harvest, and for the many hands that make light work.

"Don’t Send a 5 Year-Old to do a 12 Year-Old’s Job"

Yesterday we spent the evening working on garden chores as a family. My twelve year-old was tilling the rows while the other five children got busy with their various sized shovels and filled the garden cart with manure. Once the cart was full, we pulled it down the rows and spread it out evenly so that my 12 year-old could go by again and till it in. Our neighbor’s 14 year-old son made some attempt at helping for about fifteen minutes before he high-tailed it home.

During those first fifteen minutes, I commented about something that I wanted my four year-old to do differently. I’m not even sure now what it was, but I didn’t consider it a big deal–just a slight correction while at the same time I encouraged him about what a great job he was doing. (He’s a hard worker with a child-sized shovel and, oddly enough, prefers standing in a pile of manure in bare feet over boots.) My neighbor’s response to my comment made me smile. Assuming that I was upset about the quality of work, he said,  

“Don’t send a 5 year-old to do a 12 year-old’s job.”

 While I concede that in one sense he has a good point (for there are some things that a younger child certainly shouldn’t attempt in comparison to an older sibling or an adult), I also had to respond with my perspective. I said, “If you let a 5 year-old work with a 12 year-old, and do as much as he is able, he might surprise you! He gains confidence to do a job that might have been considered beyond his ability. He learns how much he can contribute to the family and to the successful completion of a task. And, he’ll probably be able to do the job of a 12 year-old very well by the time he is 8 or 9.”

I don’t believe in challenging our children in a way that will frustrate them; however, I do believe in encouraging them to help alongside of older siblings or adults so that they gain valuable skills and develop a desire to serve others. I’ve seen that as we do this, our younger children are ready to take on more advanced tasks much earlier than their older siblings were. Right now, my four year-old does dishes and really wants to mop the floors, though I limit his work to smaller areas like the bathroom. (He’s still not really good with the pre-mop sweeping.)

How do introduce your younger children to household work, and what’s your general feeling about letting them “have at it” even if they’re guaranteed not to do a perfect job?