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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What a chore!

As we are a homeschooling family, our house gets an average of 13,500 hours more wear and tear on it over a "school years" lifetime than the home of a non-homeschooling family. Trust me, when I tell you that can show quickly, I mean it.

All families must address the challenge of how to approach chores with their children. In our home, the ability to assign, check, and reassign daily chores is crucial if we want a standing house over time (said with a bit of drama to match the haggered defeat I feel when failed chore time gets the best of me.) So, what to do? It's the question we all ask occasionally.

We started a new chore system this year. It's one that has made its way around the internet and thankfully landed in my home. I believe it may have its roots in Managers of Their Chores by Teri Maxwell. I believe the Duggars use a form of it as well (if it works for their home, I'm thinking it's got to be good). And I was introduced to it by Courtney at Women Living well blog. Here's my take on it.

The children have a chore "pack" which they can wear like a necklace after school to complete their round of chores ("on your person" is a great tool for reducing, "I forgot," syndrome). I used a simple clear plastic I.D holder and simply hole punched it for tie-on strings. Then,...
  • I used patterned stock paper to make a fitted card that reads, "DONE" on the patterned (front) side and has the child's name written on the plain white (back) side.
  • I then cut multiple blank fitted cards on which I could write a single chore. Our list includes: unload dishwasher, transfer wet clothes to dryer and start, change cat litter, feed guinea pig, sweep out guinea pig's case, wipe bathroom sinks and mirrors, collect bathroom garbage, clean out van and put away non-garbage items found, sweep kitchen floor, vaccum upstairs, vaccum downstairs, put away all toys in playroom, dust furniture, wipe down railings, wipe down light switches and door knobs (assigned daily during times of illness), straighten bookshelf and book pile, straighten shoe rack. There is also a "morning chore" card that each child must complete, which includes brushing teeth and hair, make bed, get dressed, bring laundry baskets/dirty clothes down to laundry room.
  • Assigned chore cards are slid into the plastic sleeve front.
    As each chore is completed, the child takes that card and slides it behind the "DONE" side, to the back of the card, which has their name written on it.) This way, when all chores are completed, the child sees "DONE" and may bring his chore pack to me so I can verify that all work was completed.
  • Each day, I assign 2-3 cards (in addition to the morning chore card) to each child.
  • For Brandon, who is not yet reading, I sketched images of chores which he is able to complete on the back of a written chore card. That way, he can look at the picture and know what to do (ie. a shoe for the shoerack chore, a feather duster for the dusting chore)
  • Each day, I rotate cards, adding the chores that were not sent out the day before to complete, and rotating which chores each child receives.
  • For each day that chores are completed correctly, without complaint, and in a timely manner (which means right after schoolwork is completed), a dime is earned. Earn all 7 dimes for the week and chore reward is rounded up to $1. Complain, delay, or do chore hastily (and thus incorrectly) and that day's dime and the weekly $1 round-up is lost. Our goal is NOT to pay our children for chores, as they also receive a consequence if we determine their attitude toward serving one another is sinful (consequences might be something like no Wii for the weekend, or serving by doing extra chores).
  • Those who succeed in earning all four dollars in a given month will earn a bonus dollar for the month. They are setting goals for using their chore money toward a particular purchase and are using part of it to learn about ministry as well.

This system is working very well so far in our family (we're about 6 weeks into it.) A quick word on laundry too while I'm on the topic of chores. If you struggle to keep up with laundry like I used to (oh, the mountains of laundry that doubled as a "play hill" for my toddler many years back), then you might give these successfully applied tips a try as well.

I purchased small baskets from Dollar General (and other such stores) that could double as mini laundry baskets. It may take a bit of effort to find just the right ones (most are either too small or too big for this purpose), but it's worth the effort of finding them. They should be large enough to hold a full-sized basketball. I prefer the soft, pliable ones so a child can gather both hand grasps in a single hand for going up and down the stairs, but have also used hard plastic baskets as well.

Each day, my children are responsible for bringing these baskets down to the laundry room with any dirty clothes removed from the night before. They must also take these baskets up as they head off to bed each night, often full with clothes they must put away. If I am particularly busy in the laundry room on any given day, they must also put way clean clothes mid-day and return the basket to the laundry room until they again retrieve it at the end of the day.

I began this chore with each of my children at 3 years old (keeping the basket's weight light enough for my 3year old to carry so he/she could practice the chore with older siblings). I do not fuss over how neatly (or not, uh hem) the clothing is placed in the drawers for younger children. I consider wrinkles a minor inconvenience for me not having to trek up and down the stairs with umpteen loads of laundry each day myself. But older children (from about 8 years old and up) are expected to neatly put their clothes away. So, there you have it. And for the record, I am a daily laundry washer. I try to do at least one load every day for our family of 6. With the children helping me so much, it's not bad at all.

I would love to hear how chores "work" in your home.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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