To de-mystify why I count "chores" as an academic subject, first relieve yourself of the image that my 10 children are milking cows and chopping wood all day, and that their contribution actually makes our home cleaner. (It doesn't.... and it takes much longer than doing the chores myself, just like at everyone else's house.)
But. Children should be comfortable with basic household labor. It doesn't seem modern, or necessary--which is why we end up with doctorates don't know how to make a batch of cupcakes and college students who pay someone else to wash their laundry.
My kids are better behaved, more balanced, and more responsible after enduring some chores. Here's how we fit it in:
Last semester, I had them doing chores in the middle of the day, to break up our book work. Nightmare. My middle child would get too distracted, and his 15 minutes of work would take hours.
We moved the personal chores (like make your bed, get dressed, and brush your teeth) to the very beginning of the day. They do these independently while I check email and clean up breakfast.
After each meal or snack, they are not excused until they've cleared "their items," which means they clear a number of items corresponding to the number of years they are old.
Then we do a 10-minute Tidy (set a Timer and "clean the whole house") in the evening. I love the way the family walk-through encourages accountability. They realize; "oh, I guess I dumped that out today," or "whoops, I never put that back," and "geez, we really can clean the whole house in 10 minutes if we do it every night." I liked the new plan. I thought [A.] would respond better to this more impulsive, cooperative approach to chores. It almost worked. There's nothing stopping him from just groaning in the corner while his sister picks up the slack.
When our school year ends, I'm returning to our charted, task-oriented approach, where each individual will be responsible for a finite number of specific chores. Wish me luck. I call it an "intensive summer course" and they have few other responsibilities during summer break.
As far as specific chores go, I've based ours on the list of age-appropriate chores for children on this website.
During summer break, my older two are responsible for:
Gathering the trash
Folding the towels
Matching the socks
Emptying the dishwasher
Weeding the garden
Raking the leaves
Fetching the mail
Peeling potatoes or carrots
Replacing the toilet paper
Scrubbing fingerprints off walls
Putting away toys
Putting away clean clothes
Picking up dirty clothes
Setting the table
Throwing trash away
I just hope that the time we spend encouraging them to clean up after themselves and to contribute to the family will make them happier, more self-reliant adults with a solid respect for work done with their own hands.