Labor Day: Books to Get Your Kids Working!

“Of course ‘successful careers’ are important, but I would suggest thinking of them in the very different Christian paradigm of vocation.  Not, what career should I choose that will make me successful in the sense of making a lot of money, but what has God equipped me to do best and what is He calling me to do?   Most Christians find that the ‘successful career’ comes as a side-benefit to responding to God’s call, whereas if you follow success as an end in itself, you can lose your soul in pursuing it.”  Dr. Gene E. Veith, from our Interview with Dr. Veith: Part Two.

Happy Labor Day, everybody!  Now get back to work.  ha.  But really, I’m excited about the holiday in large part because I love my work so much.  Tending to home and family and writing about books!  Wouldn’t trade it for anything.  (Except maybe cupcakes.)

I thought it would be fun to think a little today about how to get your kids excited about work.  In general, our culture seems to have lost much of its understanding of the blessing of work.  Either work is an idol to which we go to find significance or we’re just “working for the weekend.”  That’s one reason I was so pleased that Dr. Gene Veith, Provost of Patrick Henry College, was willing to talk to us about education and work last May.  The word he used in his interview was “vocation.”  In an article entitled The Protestant Work Ethic with Ligonier Ministries, Dr. Veith explains:

‘Vocation’ is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” According to Luther, God calls each of us to various tasks and relationships. We have vocations in the family (marriage, parenthood), in the workplace (as master, servant, exercising our different talents in the way we make a living), and in the culture (as rulers, subjects, and citizens). We also have a vocation in the church (pastors, elders, organists, congregants), but the spiritual life is not to be lived out mainly in church and in church activities. Rather, when we come to church, we find the preaching of forgiveness for the sins we have committed in our vocations. Then, through Word and sacrament, our faith is strengthened. Our faith then bears fruit when we are sent back to our vocations in our families, our work, and our culture.

So now my mind is stretching, trying to put this in the context of teaching kids to love God through their work.  Early on in my mothering, I was given the advice by numerous sources (including Charlotte Mason’s works) to get my kids working early.  As soon as they are old enough to toddle, have them pick up their own toys or let them take a rag and scrub the baseboards.  The point wasn’t just to get free child labor.  The point was to help them practice working so that they could participate in the blessing of work within the family–learning skills that would be beneficial for their entire life as well as earning a place of significance within the family.  Of course, that’s been harder to do in every day life than I ever imagined.  Can I just say that taking care of a family, even in the best circumstances, is hard?!  And to add to the craziness another expectation that my two-year-old spend half an hour cleaning up the 1,000 cheerios he spilled into the couch…well, sometimes it’s just not doable.

But sometimes it is.  And if we are training our kids to be fruitful adults, or actually even to be fruitful kids by the time they are 6 or 7, it’s worth it.  It’s worth it.  It’s worth it.  Thankfully, I’m finally at the point where I can see the investment paying off.  My oldest still wouldn’t win any cleaning awards, but she can tackle a project with a song of praise on her lips (when she isn’t whining, of course).  And what a joy and blessing that is for me!  After reading Dr. Veith’s comments again, maybe I’ll talk about his ideas with my kids at breakfast today.  Ask them to think about how Sunday church–how the work of Christ on our behalf–has prepared them to do our work this week.  It would be a good exercise for me, too!

The Mary Poppins Effect

While there are many wonderful ideas and tools for teaching your kids the habit of loving God through work, one seems particularly relevant for our blog.  I can’t count the mileage we’ve gotten out of Mary Poppins’ Spoonful of Sugar song.  And that brings me to this principle: It’s easier to get your kids to work when they’ve read a book (or watched a movie) that glorifies hard working kids or makes work fun in some way.  So, here’s a list of books we’ve reviewed that do just that:

Can you think of any other good books to get kids working?  I think The Secret Garden is pretty positive about gardening as well as tending the metaphorical gardens in one’s care.  Any others?  I’d love to add some to my library cue!

COMMENTS

 

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24 Responses to Labor Day: Books to Get Your Kids Working!

  1. emily September 12, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Thanks, Betsy! I love good immigration stories.

  2. emily September 12, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Thanks, Betsy! I love good immigration stories.

  3. Betsy September 12, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Here’s another I just finished reading: Esperanza Rising by Ryan (2000 Pura Belpre Winner). Great look at Depression-era immigration/working in farm camps in CA/Depression. While some strike for better conditions, the book clearly supports working to feed/support your family no matter who you are or how old you are (everyone has a job that contributes). Slow beginning but worth the read. Middle Grades.

  4. Betsy September 12, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Here’s another I just finished reading: Esperanza Rising by Ryan (2000 Pura Belpre Winner). Great look at Depression-era immigration/working in farm camps in CA/Depression. While some strike for better conditions, the book clearly supports working to feed/support your family no matter who you are or how old you are (everyone has a job that contributes). Slow beginning but worth the read. Middle Grades.

  5. Sally Apokedak September 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Oh, I wish I had done a good job of this with my kids. I was poorly trained and I passed that poor training on to my children.

    Farmer Boy, came to my mind first, but I see someone else mentioned it.

    Here are some oldies and I can’t really remember how much the kids worked, but I seem to recall that they were always helping around the house or baking bread for the neighbors–The Five Little Peppers. I loved those books when I was young. The children were so old-fashioned but there was something so attractive about them. They were good and full of joy. I wanted that.

    The Henry Reed books were good, by Kieth Robertson. Henry was an entrepreneur. I can’t remember if he worked hard to help others or to make himself rich. I just remember that I liked him.

    In Summer of the Monkeys the boy works to buy a horse and then sacrifices his horse for something more important. (I haven’t read the book, I’m going on the movie.)

  6. Sally Apokedak September 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Oh, I wish I had done a good job of this with my kids. I was poorly trained and I passed that poor training on to my children.

    Farmer Boy, came to my mind first, but I see someone else mentioned it.

    Here are some oldies and I can’t really remember how much the kids worked, but I seem to recall that they were always helping around the house or baking bread for the neighbors–The Five Little Peppers. I loved those books when I was young. The children were so old-fashioned but there was something so attractive about them. They were good and full of joy. I wanted that.

    The Henry Reed books were good, by Kieth Robertson. Henry was an entrepreneur. I can’t remember if he worked hard to help others or to make himself rich. I just remember that I liked him.

    In Summer of the Monkeys the boy works to buy a horse and then sacrifices his horse for something more important. (I haven’t read the book, I’m going on the movie.)

  7. emily September 7, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Betsy and Shanna, Thanks for more great recommendations! I can’t wait to try some of these out.

  8. emily September 7, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Betsy and Shanna, Thanks for more great recommendations! I can’t wait to try some of these out.

  9. Shanna Gonzalez September 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Great essay! A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting (http://elbks.com/a0wwLO) tells the story of a boy and his grandfather seeking work, in which Abuelo quietly displays the beauty of dignity.

    Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite de Angeli (http://elbks.com/qLiXaH) – Yonie is a Pennsylvania Dutch boy whose misadventures turn serious when the barn catches fire in his parents’ absence, and he is left to care for the family’s stock. His choices will determine whether his Da will deem him worthy of greater responsibility.

    Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens (http://elbks.com/oj5kaf), a funny, gorgeously illustrated picture book in which the trickster hare swindles a sluggardly bear out of his property until the bear wises up and learns to tend his own crops.

    When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest and P.J. Lynch (http://elbks.com/o7HVCG) Jessie, a young pre-teen Jewish immigrant, must learn to make her living as a dressmaker in America. The gorgeously rendered paintings evoke a deep sense of beauty in this courageous young woman’s story, as over the years she saves enough to get her beloved grandmother to America before her wedding. A dedication to the author’s grandmother suggests there may be some family history in the narrative.

  10. Shanna Gonzalez September 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Great essay! A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting (http://elbks.com/a0wwLO) tells the story of a boy and his grandfather seeking work, in which Abuelo quietly displays the beauty of dignity.

    Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite de Angeli (http://elbks.com/qLiXaH) – Yonie is a Pennsylvania Dutch boy whose misadventures turn serious when the barn catches fire in his parents’ absence, and he is left to care for the family’s stock. His choices will determine whether his Da will deem him worthy of greater responsibility.

    Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens (http://elbks.com/oj5kaf), a funny, gorgeously illustrated picture book in which the trickster hare swindles a sluggardly bear out of his property until the bear wises up and learns to tend his own crops.

    When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest and P.J. Lynch (http://elbks.com/o7HVCG) Jessie, a young pre-teen Jewish immigrant, must learn to make her living as a dressmaker in America. The gorgeously rendered paintings evoke a deep sense of beauty in this courageous young woman’s story, as over the years she saves enough to get her beloved grandmother to America before her wedding. A dedication to the author’s grandmother suggests there may be some family history in the narrative.

  11. Betsy September 6, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    The first book about Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke contains a wonderful story about Anna, who lives in a rich family compound, wanting to join the poor girls selling oranges in the streets. (setting: Africa) What happens, and what Anna learns about the blessings and hardships of honest work, makes a terrific story about work. I love that her grandparents help her make restitution though their work with her. It’s an early chapter book and hard to find in the U.S. (published in Britain by an African-now-living-in-Wales professional storyteller; great books).

  12. Betsy September 6, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    The first book about Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke contains a wonderful story about Anna, who lives in a rich family compound, wanting to join the poor girls selling oranges in the streets. (setting: Africa) What happens, and what Anna learns about the blessings and hardships of honest work, makes a terrific story about work. I love that her grandparents help her make restitution though their work with her. It’s an early chapter book and hard to find in the U.S. (published in Britain by an African-now-living-in-Wales professional storyteller; great books).

  13. Janie September 5, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    Cathy: Do try to get hold of a copy of The Year Money Grew on Trees (see the link to our review, above). It didn’t get much press, but I thought it was quietly riveting. Lawn boy is good too, but more of a fairy tale.

  14. Janie September 5, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    Cathy: Do try to get hold of a copy of The Year Money Grew on Trees (see the link to our review, above). It didn’t get much press, but I thought it was quietly riveting. Lawn boy is good too, but more of a fairy tale.

  15. Cathy September 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    The Little House books – Laura works hard even as a young girl and faces her own attitudes about that work many times. Almanzo too works hard, so the boys have a good one in Farmer Boy.

    Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham is the story of Nathaniel Bowditch, famous American navigator. He is apprecticed as an 11 yo to a chandler and works hard there while also pursiung his dream of going to coolege by studying at night and in any free time. He goes to sea and works har there too. His work and attitude towards it helps others to do their work well.

    I’d love to know of some with more current settings. The things required of children in the colonial or pioneer years of our country are no longer necessary. Picking up toys or folding laundry doesn’t sound nearly so interesting to my 6 yo as milking a cow or churning butter! I like my above picks because both of them include working hard at schoolwork, which a huge part of our children’s lives.

  16. Cathy September 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    The Little House books – Laura works hard even as a young girl and faces her own attitudes about that work many times. Almanzo too works hard, so the boys have a good one in Farmer Boy.

    Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham is the story of Nathaniel Bowditch, famous American navigator. He is apprecticed as an 11 yo to a chandler and works hard there while also pursiung his dream of going to coolege by studying at night and in any free time. He goes to sea and works har there too. His work and attitude towards it helps others to do their work well.

    I’d love to know of some with more current settings. The things required of children in the colonial or pioneer years of our country are no longer necessary. Picking up toys or folding laundry doesn’t sound nearly so interesting to my 6 yo as milking a cow or churning butter! I like my above picks because both of them include working hard at schoolwork, which a huge part of our children’s lives.

  17. Brandy September 5, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    More girls with baked goods:
    Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland

    It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder (The MC here also as a baby sitting job she gets fired from and it is dealt with well. It certainly teaches the importance of responsibility.)

    Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
    (Doug’s job is hard and he perseveres at it even when it seems impossible.)

    The School Story by Andrew Clements

  18. Brandy September 5, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    More girls with baked goods:
    Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland

    It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder (The MC here also as a baby sitting job she gets fired from and it is dealt with well. It certainly teaches the importance of responsibility.)

    Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
    (Doug’s job is hard and he perseveres at it even when it seems impossible.)

    The School Story by Andrew Clements

  19. emily September 5, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Thanks so much, Sherry and Joy! Those are books I’m going to have to investigate further. Some I had heard of, but just hadn’t picked up. Will have to remedy that soon!

    Also, Joy, you get the prize for Most Convicting (in a good way) Comment of the Month for this: “Our attitude toward work is so influential to our own children, whether we treat it as irredeemably distasteful, as a harsh slave-master to our pride or as a gift of service to God and others.”

    Thanks for the reminder.

  20. emily September 5, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Thanks so much, Sherry and Joy! Those are books I’m going to have to investigate further. Some I had heard of, but just hadn’t picked up. Will have to remedy that soon!

    Also, Joy, you get the prize for Most Convicting (in a good way) Comment of the Month for this: “Our attitude toward work is so influential to our own children, whether we treat it as irredeemably distasteful, as a harsh slave-master to our pride or as a gift of service to God and others.”

    Thanks for the reminder.

  21. Sherry September 5, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies: http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=2160

    The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope WIlcock
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=183

    For adults and teens: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=13070

  22. Sherry September 5, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies: http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=2160

    The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope WIlcock
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=183

    For adults and teens: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=13070

  23. Joy Tucker September 5, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Emily,
    What a great article! Work is indeed a blessing especially if you live in a country where you have the freedom to pursue the gifts God has given you.

    Children are especially gifted with an innate interest in work that they see adults value. I am so glad that my own mother taught me to be able to learn the joy of keeping a home clean and attractive, even if it can be at times arduous and even impossible with small children and ill-health.

    Our attitude toward work is so influential to our own children, whether we treat it as irredeemably distasteful, as a harsh slave-master to our pride or as a gift of service to God and others.

    I think my favorite books about work are the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody. They are autobiographical, set in the early 1900′s. Most of the stories deal with Ralph’s work as a child to help support his family after his father died and are replete with fascinating detail about how he bargained for wages, used inventive tools to compensate for his small size and learned to become an astute judge of adult character. I read these books out loud to my children and they have read them on their own several times because they loved them so much.

  24. Joy Tucker September 5, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Emily,
    What a great article! Work is indeed a blessing especially if you live in a country where you have the freedom to pursue the gifts God has given you.

    Children are especially gifted with an innate interest in work that they see adults value. I am so glad that my own mother taught me to be able to learn the joy of keeping a home clean and attractive, even if it can be at times arduous and even impossible with small children and ill-health.

    Our attitude toward work is so influential to our own children, whether we treat it as irredeemably distasteful, as a harsh slave-master to our pride or as a gift of service to God and others.

    I think my favorite books about work are the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody. They are autobiographical, set in the early 1900′s. Most of the stories deal with Ralph’s work as a child to help support his family after his father died and are replete with fascinating detail about how he bargained for wages, used inventive tools to compensate for his small size and learned to become an astute judge of adult character. I read these books out loud to my children and they have read them on their own several times because they loved them so much.

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