“Happy Children Do Chores,” an opinion piece that KF Dell’Antonia published in The New York Times on August 18th, states a firm opinion that all children should start doing household chores when they have reached the age of only 3 or 4. “Accept no excuses,” she writes.

“That’s a controversial premise,” the author writes, “though not everyone will admit it. A few parents will declare outright that their children are `too busy for chores’ or that `their job is school.’ Many more of us assign chores, or say we believe in them, but the chores just don’t get done.”

Without citing compelling research, she writes unequivocally that when children are assigned chores and actually do them, their families are happier and so are they. Her op-ed piece is an excerpt from her upcoming book, How to Be a Happier Parent.

We are somewhat skeptical about opinions that state that one practice or routine represents the correct way to raise all children. Isn’t it possible that some kids somewhere develop into perfectly fine and responsible adults, even if they were never asked to take out the trash or wash the dishes after dinner? Intellectual honesty leads to the conclusion that it is completely possible.

But the question of chores leads to another question, which has to do with learning technical skills . . .

Do Certain Chores Teach STEM Skills?

We know one man, now nearly age 70, who when in his childhood years was in charge of monitoring the coal furnace in his home. He reports that before he left for school, he stoked up the automatic coal feeder that was located on the side of the furnace. At the end of each day, he extracted a galvanized tub of coal ash from underneath the furnace and emptied it in the backyard it. When a rubber belt that provided power to the furnace’s main fan became slack, he learned to tighten up the assembly so the furnace continued to work properly. And when the belt broke, he knew how to replace it.

Learning those and other maintenance routines, he says, taught him a lot about machines, and a bit about combustion. He also says that he remembers feeling some pride about making sure that the heat would be functioning during the hours he was away at school. He also recalls that he learned a lot about mechanics from the hobbies he enjoyed in his spare time, which included making and flying gas-powered toy planes.

It seems likely that kids who are assigned the right kind of household duties might learn tech skills that will equip them for academic success. Kids who are in charge of watering the houseplants could learn about botany and agriculture. Kids who help change the oil in their family’s car could learn about automobiles and how they work.

So it seems logical to conclude that chores could teach more than discipline. If you are a parent with kids at home, why not look for ways to help them learn STEM skills and concepts by helping out?

What are American schools doing about CTE courses, STEM learning, and vocational prep today? Be sure to check out the latest research from the Student Research Foundation to learn more.

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