Laundry and Life Skills?

About 20 years ago I was a substitute teacher for junior high students where the home-economics teacher did not show up for the first day of school.  (She had been taken to the hospital for an emergency surgery the night before the first day of school and had no family to contact the school.) So I got the frantic call from the office when the students got to the room and it was locked.  I went into the classroom without any plan, and no idea of what to include or how to create a lesson plan for the foreseeable future for six classes each day of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.

On day one, I decided to teach the students how to do laundry.  They balked, they complained, they declared they would never need to do laundry; basically they were afraid of the unknown.  So we began by sorting them into laundry loads based on their shirt color.  Then we resorted by fabric type. We talked about the types of fabrics that cannot go in the washing machine and those that needed to be air dried.  It was BORING! to most of them but, I graded them on their newly acquired laundry prowess and entered a somewhat overly generous grade in the book mostly based on participation, grudging or not.

Their homework for the next day was to bring in a shirt with a button on it; as they walked in the door I took a scissors and cut one button off.  What an eye opener for me. These students had no clue how to sew on a button much less possess the skill to thread a needle.  One student told me she would never need to sew on a button.  I reminded her that she would probably be going away to college and who would sew it on for her?  Without blinking and eye, she looked at me and told me her maid.  I reminded her that “her maid” would most likely not accompany her to college and this student just shrugged and declared that a shirt without a button would be thrown away.  Taking the discussion a little further I asked if she had an unlimited budget for clothes and she said, “Daddy gives me a credit card to buy whatever I want.”  Want….not need, but want.  No concern for the cost.  No reverence for the privilege “Daddy” gave her allowing the unrestrained shopping.  No respect for the energy or effort “Daddy” put forward to make the money to fund that credit card.  And certainly no concern for the idea that throwing away a shirt because there was a button missing constituted a gross misuse of funds.  At the time, I thought “what a brat!”

The other day I was in a store and overheard some young ladies (and I use that term very loosely) discussing their credit card use. Their discussion piqued my interest and I somewhat voyeuristically listened in to this rather heated discussion. One of their parents cut her off, cut up her card; refusing to let her shop until she got a job and learned the value of money.  To these high school age girls this unforgiveable act constituted war.  The young miss’s words about her Mom’s actions were harsh, bordering on threatening.  I got the sense that neither of these two understood anything about budgeting, economics, and work ethics or performed any chores at home.

Which got me to thinking; do children even have chores anymore? Are we raising a generation of incompetents?  Will today’s children grow to adults without any basic home skills?  Providing a good life for our children is important but so is teaching children life skills.  Most kids I know today do not lift a finger at home; they do not know the pure pleasure of a job well done because they’ve never had a job or been responsible for chores at home.

Kids used to have paper routes.  They used to shovel snow and mow yards; now everyone seems to use a landscape service and get their news online.  Kids used to be responsible for keeping their rooms clean, doing their own laundry and helping out around the house. How sad that these people are growing up to be people that cannot scrub a floor, wash dishes, clean windows, do their own laundry or sew on a button.

As a substitute teacher I saw a wide range of students with varied abilities.  These students are our future. Our schools cannot teach children everything.  Learning needs to begin at home.  Are you teaching your children basic housekeeping skills?


  1. It’s frightening to think these students are our future leaders. I shudder when TPTB waste billions of pounds or dollars in the blink of an eye, having, to me, no real concept of how much money they are actually talking about. To them it’s just 1s and 0s on a spread sheet, with no counterbalance to offset their expenditure.
    Kids in my care had to earn their pocket money. To wash the car earned them £2. To wax and polish it, £4, to clean the inside a fiver. One lad did such a good job that when I came to turn the steering wheel, it slid out of my hands as he’d polished that too.
    My Dad told me I could have anything I wanted…………… provided I worked and saved for it. Good advice.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As you probably can tell I come from a family of workers. Mom and Dad were always satisfied if we did our best whatever we were attempting but totally disappointed if we did not give it our all. Love the memory of the kiddo that polished your steering wheel. You made me laugh. Thanks for sharing it.


      • He was a good kid, and loved football. He wanted a new pair of football boots and I told him honestly that I couldn’t afford them. So I said that if he did extra chores and worked towards paying half, then I’d pay the other half. He got himself a paper round, washed (and polished) cars, ran errands, and we bought his boots well in time for the football season. He was so proud of himself, and so he should be.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll bet he had a better appreciation for those boots also. I’ve always believed it’s a much better plan to expect them to actually put some effort into the funding of personal items. It teaches them responsibility and they learn to understand the value of things which leads to taking better care of those items.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good Morning, I enjoyed this post and as I read it, I stared at my 14 yr old daughter and thought, you must be a great teacher as I don’t think my own daughter would know how to sew on a button. I think its time to show her a few old basics to life. thank you so much for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure. It’s never too late to learn basics. Another thing we worked on later in the month I was with this group was budgeting and balancing a checkbook. Yikes! Did they have a difficult time with that! I felt like it probably was a better use of my time to try to explain financial responsibilities to them. But, that’s an entirely different idea for another post.


  3. I live in a smaller community in a county with 5 elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. A lot of the parents here don’t teach those skills to their kids, but our local County Extension Office has wonderful agents that go into the schools and teach life skills. They offer so many free classes, but very few parents take advantage of getting their kids involved.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m at the grandma stage of life and am not responsible for teaching such skills now. But I did teach them to my four children, three of whom were boys. All four could cook, clean, do laundry, and go grocery shopping before they left my home.

    I have excellent relationships with my daughters-in-law, and with my son-in-law 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I too am at that stage. My daughter is teaching my grandsons, 8 and 4 years old how to hold their own in the kitchen and they have chores but sadly she is the only mellinial I know that expects some form of housework, yard work or responsible activities from their children. I always believed if you start them off with small chores when they’re quite young the larger tasks are more readily acceptable when they are older and able to handle larger tasks

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. I also believe that having some share in keeping the family running, being a part of the work, is what builds confidence and a sense of worth in our children. Call me old-fashioned 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Both Mom and Dad were big time into life lessons, life skills and total independence for us. My Dad was a diesel mechanic and he made sure we each knew how to service our own car. As soon as we learned to drive, Dad had us in the garage rotating tires, changing the oil, replacing and gapping spark-plugs, etc. When I complained that I would never do this when I owned a car, Dad just smiled and said he was teaching me “how” it was done so I wouldn’t get taken by some less than honorable mechanic. Nice live lesson don’t you think?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh my goodness. This is all so true. I do fear for future generations, they know so little. I used to be a teacher, and once had to walk into a strange class, totally unprepared. I didn’t get them to learn anything so useful as laundry, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The ability to function as adults sadly is the most disheartening change in young people today. Parents should be teaching normal everyday life skills at home but unfortunately, today’s parents never learned those needed life skills from their parents…..and the vicious cycle continues. Most young people today have no idea how to budget, clean or extend the life of their stuff. I worry about the future.


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