Chores

There is no fancy title for the blog post because as far as I’m concerned, no matter how you  say it, a chore is a chore.

Well, sometimes the kids turn them into games. Then I guess a chore is a game.

So someone on a homeschooling Facebook group I am in asked about chores and how you get your kids to do them. You may think it strange that the topic of chores comes up in a homeschool group. But it is so very, very important.

The short version of WHY you need chores

While you are being mother/teacher your house may be going to pot because you aren’t being mother/housecleaner. There is only so much energy (physical, mental, and emotional) and TIME allotted to each of us every day. Unless you really love housecleaning and prioritize it in your day, you probably are going to have a hard time getting everything done. (If you didn’t know it yet, I do NOT love housecleaning.)

You need your children to do chores for your own wellbeing.

Furthermore, personal responsibility, cleanliness, and being part of a group effort are essential skills and habits children need to develop. How many college age kids leave home not knowing how to wash their own clothes, do their own dishes, vacuum or sweep the floor.  How about cleaning the bathroom? I once read an article which said that college kids aren’t eating cereal anymore because they are too lazy to wash the bowl and the spoon. (WHAT! I didn’t know you could get lazier than eating cereal!)

Your children need to do chores for their own wellbeing.

But it isn’t easy to get them to understand that. Or clean the bathroom. I’m not saying my kids are awesome at their chores. I can out clean them with the bathrooms and kitchen (ok, everything) any day of the week. But I am an adult. And they are just little children. In my opinion, the point of having the kids do the chores isn’t to keep my house sparkling clean. If that is what you want, you are just going to have to clean it all yourself. Or pay a professional. The point is that I cannot do it all, the kids need to learn these skills, and we need the house to be neat, hygienic, and livable.

You can probably guess my expectations here have diminished slightly over the years. You know, we are down to livable.

The short version of HOW you (can) do chores

I didn’t make up this pattern – someone said it may have come from the Boy Scouts or something – but I find it really valuable. When you introduce chores to your children, first you do the chores and explain it to the child as he watches you. Second, you and your child do the chore together while you explain how to do it. Third, your child does the chore while you watch – they could explain to you how they are doing it or if they need tips and encouragement still you could still talk them through it. And finally, the child does the chore without supervision. From time to time I have found it helpful to back up to a previous stage. Children go through different stages of life and emotional needs. If they need help for awhile, I don’t think it is bad to help them out. But always the goal is for them to do the chore on their own again. Maybe that’s another two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of thing.

And this takes time and patience. And more time. And a lot more patience. Sometimes years worth of time and patience.

Ah yes. Homeschooling and patience. (And love! that usually helps in the chore department, too!)

One key is to remember you are teaching them a skill. They don’t know how to do it. It is obvious to you, and technically the physical act may not be that hard to comprehend or even complete. But mentally, this can be very hard for the little ones. As a kid, did you like to do chores? It is overwhelming. (Sometimes it is still overwhelming for the grown ups.)

How we do chores at MY house (in case it is helpful for YOUR house)

My kids have morning and evening chores.

Fourth grader morning chores:

  • Practice Piano
  • Straighten Bedroom and make bed
  • Vacuum a room (a different room each day)
  • Pick the vegetables in the garden (until winter)
  • When the chickens are out, feed/water the chickens and collect the eggs
  • Put away clean clothes in laundry basket

Second grader morning chores:

  • Practice Piano
  • Straighten Bedroom and make bed
  • Straighten up Bathrooms and take down dirty laundry
  • Put away clean clothes in laundry basket

Kindergarten morning chores

  • Straighten Bedroom and make bed
  • Take out garbages
  • Put away clean clothes in laundry basket

Preschooler morning chores

  • Straighten Bedroom and make bed
  • Organize shoes in entryway
  • Clean up any stuff on the stairs
  • Put away clean clothes in laundry basket

This all needs to be done between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning. We don’t eat breakfast until the chores are done. Breakfast is from 8:30 to 9:00 at which point school starts. (OK, we aren’t that strict on time, but I do try to keep it as close as possible to the goal.) There are all kinds of chore charts and incentives for getting kids to do their chores. A life coach friend of mine years ago told me that most of those kind of systems work for about 4 months. I’ve done magnets, posters, sticker charts, treat buckets, etc. before, all until they fizzled out after about 4 months. Now days I just use the incentive of breakfast. So far that one still keeps them motivated. 😉

Mom chores (because if I am working too, the kids don’t feel like slaves as much… and vice versa.)

  • Dishes and kitchen clean up – usually involves wiping down countertops/table, filling and starting dishwasher (or emptying), and sweeping the floor
  • Laundry – I do one complete load of laundry every morning. The next day, before I put the new wet stuff into the dryer, I sort the dry laundry from the day before into each kids’ baskets and fold the towels, etc. I got that cute idea from Pinterest (back when I used to look at that stuff and think my life would someday be “cute.”

laundry-basket-dresser-2

This is what it really looks like – a hand me down desk (awesome) and a bunch of (clean!!) laundry, some of it even folded, and just waiting for someone to put it away. Just waiting… and waiting.                 Still waiting.

DSC05009

In the evening/late afternoon/30 minutes before dinner all of the kids are responsible for cleaning up the playroom/learning room. This ensures (kind of) that we are all ready for the next days’ school work. I don’t like doing school work in a messy room. Also, they have to work together on a bigger goal.

We are still working on this one. When the kids really can’t just get along at the end of the day then I send one up to straighten up the living room and another to set the table. We make it work.

Once a week the kids are supposed to clean the bathrooms. The two oldest have separate jobs. One is in charge of the toilet and floor while the other cleans the sink, counter, and mirror. I’m really bad about enforcing this during busy weeks. BUT this is an interesting idea that I also read on Facebook from the same comment thread as mentioned above. Instead of assigning someone an entire room, each room is broken down into various smaller chores. One chore is vacuuming. Another is picking up the toys. One might be organize the craft table. The last may be dusting. This is much less overwhelming that saying, “Go clean up the play room.”

Sometimes when the kids are fighting with each other or talking back and being rude we “redirect their energy” with things like vacuuming and cleaning baseboards. Other people call that “punishment.”

Also, after dinner we all work together to clean the kitchen. This has been a dream of my husband’s ever since he heard a cute little 8 year old boy tell about how much he loved cleaning the kitchen with his family and what a special bonding time it was for all of them. We have ambitious dreams in our family. (I’m not sure if that is a joke or not. It does seem kind of ambitious to have all 7 of us joyfully cleaning the kitchen together every evening.) So far it is working. There are 4 major jobs to choose from – the table, the counters, the floors, and the sink/dishes. Each child picks a job (each kid has a different day to choose first) and then the parents help out where needed. I say that it is working so far, but I have to mention that we have been working on this one for 5 years (ever since we heard that cute 8 year old testify of his joy of family kitchen cleaning time.)

There is something to be said here about age appropriateness. Five years ago I had a 4 year old, 3 year old, and 1 year old. Family kitchen cleaning time was more like a big mess. (You can google age appropriate chores and or search on Pinterest – cute lists and charts galore!!)

So you know, in all your chore giving/teaching/training/redirection of energy adventures remember to give it time.

And a lot of patience.

And throw in some love too. It helps.

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