SummaryResponsibility is an utterly essential part of the homeschool curriculum and gives busy homeschooling moms and dads some much needed practical help.
This is the eighth article in the series How to Get an Elite Prep School Education on a Homeschool Budget.
Master teacher John Taylor Gatto identified fourteen themes that elite private schools inculcate in their students to prepare them to take on leadership positions in the professions, business and government. I am convinced that we home schooling parents should strongly consider integrating Mr. Gatto’s themes into our home learning.
More than ever, American society needs leaders who are well formed, not only academically, but also spiritually. Faithful Catholics will also see a need for energetic young people to enter the priesthood and consecrated life, and to serve our parishes and dioceses as faithful laymen. Gatto’s eighth theme considers, “Responsibility as an utterly essential part of the curriculum.”
He notes that children from wealthy, influential families are taught, “always to grab responsibility when it is offered and always to deliver more than is asked for.” In the case of prep school kids, responsibility might include caring for a horse. That is probably out of our reach, but here are four ways to develop a strong sense of responsibility and purpose in your children.
1. Chores, chores, and more chores.
From their earliest years, teach your children to care, first for their own needs, and then for the necessities of the household. Even toddlers can put their soiled clothing in a hamper, stow their pajamas under their pillows and their toys in the toy box. They can carry their dinner dishes to the sink, and help load and unload the dishwasher.
As they enter their school years, teach your children to perform every task that needs to be done in your home and yard. Children should be able to scramble eggs for themselves and their siblings, put together a salad, and bake brownies. They should know how to clean safely and properly every room in the house, including, bathrooms, and have the regular responsibility to keep some of these rooms shipshape.
Outside, teach them to water the garden, weed, and when they are old enough to understand safety precautions, mow and edge the lawn. One child should have the weekly job of cleaning out and vacuuming the family car.
Do not tolerate any whining! Accepting household responsibilities builds a hard work ethic and confidence in children.
2. Seek opportunities to work and serve in the community.
Your children should develop reputations as the “go to” kids in the neighborhood when someone needs a job done right. Encourage them to have small businesses babysitting, walking dogs for working neighbors, raking leaves, shoveling walks, and bringing in mail for people on vacation.
They will learn to interact with others and see that their best efforts are rewarded.
Encourage your kids to regard service to others as a way of life. Let them “grab responsibility” by carrying in bags for neighbors when they see them pull up with a car full of groceries and kids.
Have them ask elderly neighbors if they need food or medicine picked up, or some yard work done. Are there any public institutions, like the library or community hospital, that need volunteers? Encourage your children to get involved.
3. Help out at Church.
Does your parish have missalettes, those periodicals we use to follow along at Mass? Have your younger children take just a few minutes after Mass, go through the pews, return the missalettes to where they belong.
As they get older, encourage them to become altar servers, readers, religious education assistants, members of the choir or altar society, and ushers. Is there a pro-life group your teen can join? Look for ways to take on even more responsibilities. Perhaps your child can help schedule the altar servers and email the list. Parish groups are always looking for helpers to set up refreshments and pitch in with clean up.
High school students will find many opportunities to serve the church. Parishes often send a bus to Washington D.C. every year for the March for Life. Perhaps your teen can man a table after Mass signing up marchers and collecting donations to defray costs.
In Chicago, an organized group of Catholic teens crashed a pro-abortion rally. What a refreshingly wholesome contrast they were to the vulgar offensive speakers and marchers from the other side. When my daughter was in high school, she joined the Appalachian Service Project, rehabbing houses in poor rural areas. In one local parish, teens deliver meals to the sick or elderly.
My adult daughter volunteers with the Little Sisters of the Poor. No matter where you live, there are always opportunities to serve in the Church.
4. Seek Leadership Roles
Often clubs, scouts, and other organizations are looking for leaders because members hesitate to take on additional duties. Urge your children to fill the leadership void. Help them learn the skills they will need as part of their home schooling. Maybe they need to keep track of club expenses on an Excel spreadsheet, or send out group emails.
Pass on any knowledge you may have. If you never learned to use these tools yourself, you can always find free tutorials online. They will need interpersonal skills to build support and consensus within their organizations. They will have to learn time management. Someone has to captain the ship. It may as well be your child.
Leadership looks great on a college application and an employment resume. It is also terrific training for future education, jobs, and family management.
Requiring your children to take on more responsibility comes with the added bonus of giving busy homeschooling moms and dads some much needed practical help.