Thursday, October 3, 2013

A friend recently posted about how chores work in their household. Just a few hours before reading her blog update I had been outside documenting my own children completing their morning chores.

My friend's outline of their chore schedule is actually pretty similar to what we are trying to accomplish at our house. I recently read (in "Raising Real Men"....good book), how they tried to have chores doled out according to who was the youngest person who could successfully complete them. The idea was to keep the older kids learning new skills and start integrating the younger kids as they were able, and also keep everyone from getting stuck with same chores forever.

We are still experimenting with how to approach chores in our house, learning what system works for our family. However, our basic perspective is that our kids are participating members of our family and home. It takes everyone working together to run a home successfully. Someday they will have their own homes (and/or jobs) and they are learning valuable work skills and diligence now. Everyone has a few responsibilities and they are expected to complete them cheerfully. Part of this is training them to have "happy hearts" at all times (whistle while you work!), and part of it is using our discernment as parents in assigning jobs that the individual kids will have some satisfaction in, and helping and guiding them as necessary to avoid frustrations.

Our children are still young so responsibilities are still small. However, now is the time to get them involved. At this stage chores are (usually) still exciting and lots of fun! And the proud looks on their faces when they complete tasks by themselves is worth all the trouble of teaching them. At this stage it is always tempting for me to rush through and get things done in warp speed instead of taking half an hour to instruct and check up on a little one doing one little thing. Picking up the toy room takes at least twice as long when I let the kids take over, but they are learning to help clean up after themselves (and work together!). When the toy room has become utter chaos with twenty different kinds of toys strewn all over I let the kids pick out which types of toys they want to be in charge of and then send them in to do their thing. (As suggested in another great book... "Loving the Little Years".) This also helps solve the "I didn't get those toys out! That was .... (fill in the blank)". Sometimes just cleaning up after yourself and not being willing to help siblings can become a big selfish power struggle.

Besides helping clean up the toy room our kids have started clearing their plates after eating, unloading the silverware from the dishwasher, helping sort and put away laundry, baking/cooking and whatever other deep cleaning jobs I happen to be working on. If I am cheerful in doing the work they are usually exuberant in their desire to help. Favorites have been washing windows and mirrors, wiping the counters and floors (Amelia's current favorite activity - last week she scrubbed the entire upstairs floor just because she wanted to, even though I kept asking her if she was ready to be done yet!) and stirring food (with lots of taste testing, of course).  About once a week we try to have a "laundry party" to get all caught up with folding and sorting. It is fun piling up clothes all over the living room together and the kids get into it, trying to find their clothes as quickly as they can. With their exuberance and assistance I have begun to look forward to doing laundry!

Living on a farm our kids also have the opportunity to chip in with animal and garden care. It can get overwhelming and time consuming, but again, if I keep my attitude positive the children really enjoy helping take care of the animals. It also helps to read "Farmer Boy" and the "Little House" books so they are all striving to be like Laura and Almanzo! 

Most of the time the children are just tagging along behind me, watching and playing nearby. As little things come up, though, I try to keep them involved. William can open doors for me while I carry big feed sacks around. Amelia can hold the hose over the appropriate water containers and tell me when they are full. Margaret can carry out chicken scraps and collect the eggs. This was the first year the kids had their own garden plots and they are already discussing what they want to plant next year. The children also occasionally accompany Grandma and Papa to check on and feed cattle, check fencing, collect weeds and other essential ranch work. Margaret is already starting to pass me in her knowledge of ranch management and getting to know the bovine herd. This is a good thing, these skills and tidbits of wisdom are great, even if they don't all become farmers when they grow up (William's most recent career aspirations have been to become a UPS man).

This summer Margaret also added feeding Sackett his daily supplements to her job list. Every morning before breakfast she dutifully gets up and scoops his feed and medicine, calls him up to the gate and makes sure he finds his feed bucket. His eyesight is failing, poor old man, and he seems to go mostly by sound or touch. It is an endearing sight to see Margaret guiding him across the pasture to his bucket with her hand on his mane. Once Margaret started school it was a little much for her to get up and feed Sackett before rushing out the door, so this was William's chance to start chipping in. Margaret carefully instructed him on her methods and he started helping her for a few mornings. And then came his grand debut as sole Sackett feeder, and he was pleased as punch. While I care for the big horses he's out there carefully measuring feed. Now he's in charge on school mornings and Margaret still gets her time with Sackett on the other days.

Chore time is always enhanced when you have the proper gear and your trusty dog at your side.

Something else we have experimented with is having extra chores available with the allurement of getting paid for the work. Besides the daily jobs that they are expected to be diligent in to help keep our home running smoothly, I made up a list of deep cleaning type items that the kids have the option of doing if they are wanting to save up for a particular toy or item. Wages are pretty low (no need to bring out the big bucks yet when pennies still produce extreme gratification!) but we agreed to match the cost of "big" items if they worked hard for the first half. I'm not sure if I'm completely sold on this way of doing things yet, but we did use it a bit this year so the kids could all save up for their own special puzzles that they had been oogling over for months. They worked hard, counted their money once a week and, when they had saved up for half of the cost, purchased their puzzles with much happiness. It was valuable in teaching them some basic economics and gave them a sense of pride in having their own 'property'. So, we will see how we decide to work that into the system. Some day we would like to encourage them to develop their own little enterprises outside of the home and let them use that to make their own savings and purchases. 

As you can see, we are still tweaking our own system and working out the details. What has worked in your family? What great tidbits do you have from your childhood or experience with  your kids?


  1. These are great ideas, Elissa! I also struggle with wanting to get things done quickly, but when I do get Malachi helping out with moving the laundry from washer to dryer, or picking up his toys, it's much more satisfying for us both. It's amazing what little ones can accomplish when we have the patience to train & work with them. This was a good reminder re: the importance of keeping a cheerful attitude!

  2. It's just so much fun reading about your family's activities and the joy your kids find in the simple things of life. That is how it should be! :) As Mer said, it's great to be reminded of the value & power of a positive attitude.... like children's smiles or giggles, it's contagious!
    I remember the joy of naming our chickens (mostly after flowers, naturally!); that also made our early morning break-the-ice-on-top-of-the-water-dish a little less arduous, getting to know each chicken "personally" :)
    I love how you're delegating, and am quite fond of your photography in the midst of it! thanks for sharing!