It’s that time of year again, when I pull out some paper and a pen and start making up our schedules for the coming year. You might think that entering our ninth year of homeschooling, that our schedule is all worked out and doesn’t change much. But you’d be wrong.
Every year I reevaluate. This includes, what I feel is important for them to learn, what’s been been working for each child and what could use improvement, how to keep the house running as smoothly as possible with as little possible unnecessary stress on my part, etc. I look at what’s working and put more of that in, look at what wasn’t as effective as I wanted and take that out.
Today I finished the yearly chore schedule, set to begin in a few days, in August. It is written out for through the end of July, and will go on the fridge tomorrow. I won’t make another chore chart for a year. What I did last year was break the jobs up into more frequent changes from child to child, because I was concerned that they might feel overwhelmed. For example, one child would do the dishes for the day. We do laundry three times a week, and each day, a different child would do that laundry. We clean the bathrooms three times a week, and each time a different pair of children was responsible for one of the bathrooms, with all the bathrooms rotated so each team cleaned every bathroom once a week.
Well, I’ve decided that this has required too much of my energy to monitor. And it’s annoying when someone tells me that so and so didn’t wash all of their dishes and left it for them, and they shouldn’t have to do it. Or something along those lines.
So my new plan is this: jobs will rotate monthly for most of the kids, twice a month for the 6 and 7 year olds. I seriously considered making each job a year long commitment, but it seemed too long to me, and this feels like the right balance for this year. I include only the chores that I think need to be regularly done to keep the house running smoothly, but there are jobs like nightly cleanups, which aren’t listed because we all do them together before dinner.
– bathrooms (clean three – I clean mine) – one child will do this all month, three times a week
– laundry (wash, hang outside, bring it in when it’s dry) – one child for the month, three times a week
– dishes – this is a pretty intensive job because we eat three home cooked meals daily and don’t use disposable dishes, so I’m only making it a two week commitment, meaning two kids a month share this job
So these four jobs are rotated between the oldest four (9.5, 12, 13, 15), scheduled so that each child has one job each month (this doesn’t include cleaning their rooms, which every child is supposed to do each morning). Obviously some months will be easier for one than another, but that’s okay, since everyone will rotate evenly through all the jobs so they’ll each get their easier months.
– sweep (living room and kitchen once a day, dining room after each meal) – this is for the 6 and 7 year olds – they will share this job, each doing it for two weeks.
– clear table after meals – this job goes to the child doing the sweeping for the two week duration. I saw last year that sometimes the person clearing the table swept the crumbs onto the floor and made more work for the person sweeping, so now one person will do both and we’ll eliminate that potential conflict.
– Set table – this is a two week job that alternates between the 6 and 7 year olds on the weeks they aren’t doing the sweep/clear table combo.
Part of assigning chores to kids is teaching them how to do the job right. I don’t expect them to know how to do their jobs. My 6 year old is really not good at sweeping. I think he likes to act like he can’t do it so he won’t have to do it. Guess what? I tell him he’s going to learn to do it well because if he can’t do it well, it shows he needs lots of practice. Said with love, of course.
Teaching the jobs can be time intensive at first, but it’s crucial to spend the time upfront clarifying your expectations and showing them how to do it. On Friday my 9 year old was baking bread, and I thought to myself that people who tell me how ‘lucky’ I am that my kids are so helpful and competent should have seen what my kitchen looked like. It was a disaster, with flour covering the counters, floors, some of the dishes in the cabinets above, and my son. Sometimes even I can hardly believe how big a mess a child who doesn’t yet know how to do something can make. But it’s all part of the learning process, and if you aren’t willing to let them do a job badly, they’ll never learn to do it well.
So that’s the new chore chart. Don’t think my kids greeted my comments about the change in how we’ll be doing chores this year with shrieks of delight. They didn’t, particularly the 7 and 9 year olds. (The two older girls will be back from camp tomorrow so they don’t yet know the fun that awaits them. :)) It takes a lot of thought to figure out a system that will be fair and effective, and I’m glad to have this done. Now I can move on to finishing up their yearly academic schedules, which I’m in the middle of.