Organizing Our Days — Worth Their Weight in Gold

Today I am going to share what we do for our chore cards! It’s been a process we’ve been developing with our children over the last year, but my husband made this comment the other day, when I referred one of our children to their chore cards and he bounded off to do so: “Those things have been worth their weight in gold around here lately.” I was so tickled that he noticed, and it encouraged me to share! I thought if my husband’s observant eye saw a positive difference in our home, it was worth sharing with others. If you’re looking to make chores a valuable part of your child’s schooling, as well as mostly enjoyable and more efficient, I hope this post aids you in such a quest!

Tackling chores as a homeschooling family with young children can be challenging. Like, what should I assign them? How often? Do I need to supervise? How do I teach them, and when their chore skills are waning, how do I reinforce their best efforts again? How do I keep them on task?! I will not attempt to solve all these challenges of doing chores at home with children, but I will share what’s been a positive experience as we’ve worked through these challenges in real time.

It’s been several years since we tossed the chore chart in our home and I have never regretted it! It did not work for us even after moving the chart from the children’s bedrooms to the main living and back again. We didn’t put all the magnets up for each chore ’til that night some days, and often pieces went missing. It was too much of a chore keeping track of 90 pieces…

So, we simplified. We started by assigning one chore per child for the entire school year, plus their personal belongings and hygiene. This was revolutionary! Now as my children have gotten older, we’ve added to that, but I focused on teaching them to do one thing and to do it well. At first it was easy to keep track because they were each responsible for their own things and one other chore. If they wanted to keep their toys, they needed to put them away and take care of them. Chore assignments went as follows:

  • JR (age 6) DISHES: This chore required my oldest to set and clear the table, and help put away clean dishes out of the dishwasher, as well as collect dirty cups from around the house.
  • P (age 4) ENTRIES: This chore entailed keeping the boot trays and shoe cubbies organized and picked up, and delivering items to the appropriate rooms that often collected in the front and back doorway. We have a low rack for children’s coats. Hanging coats on the low rack was great fine motor for my 4-year-old at the time!
  • J (age 2) TOWELS: My littlest sat with me while I folded laundry daily, and I handed all towels to her to fold as well as put away in a bottom drawer in either the kitchen for kitchen towels or the bathroom for bathroom towels, and she usually identified correctly where each towel was to be used.

At the time, these three areas covered most of our daily chores, and the children helped me with other things as they needed to be addressed. As their skills progressed, they each moved on to greater responsibilities, and we spent time learning new chores in the summer as we transitioned to each new “school year.”

I’m all about streamlining the tasks I have to do day-in and day-out at home. The positive reinforcement we’ve experienced through developing this consistent habit of familiar chores has convinced me to continue attacking chores in this way!

Today my children are 4, 6, and 8, so their abilities have increased significantly over the past years. I wanted a system to remind them of their chores, but to also keep things simple and in line with my chart tossing commitment. I scoured Pinterest and YouTube and came to an idea similar to Chore Cards, established by the Maxwell family. I wanted to further simplify their chore system, so I stuck with my previous joy of one new chore per school year and made permanent chore cards for morning with evening reminders on the reverse.

These chore cards my oldest helped me laminate, and they hang on a lanyard either around their neck or on the door knob to their bedroom. They initially wear them around their necks while carrying out their chores in the morning so they can refer to them if need be. A month or so into the school year, they hang on their doorknobs full time because they’ve memorized their new responsibilities, but I can always refer them back to them if they seem to be steering off course during our morning chore time.

I tell you so far it has been the solution to efficiency in this area of our schooling. My children love the emoji stickers on my iPad, as they often get to text Daddy when he’s away on long shifts, so I used the emojis to add pictures to the chores for my non-readers. Plus, pictures just make to-do lists more fun!

The refining process for gold requires high heat. Training our children to execute the daily responsibilities in their little lives will cause heat and friction at times, but the process will be worth it if you keep the goal in mind. Raising up children who radiate the character of responsible, reliable, and helpful youth will be worth all the hours of patient dedication on your part. Blessings to you as you continue in training your children in the school of daily life!


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Do you make New Year resolutions? I don’t. Too apt to break them and disappoint myself. This year, though, I decided on three, because they are what I’d label “way of life” or “stay the course” rather than radical changes. In fact, let’s just call them reminders rather than resolutions.

  1. I will start every day talking to God. I’d particularly like to ask Him to guide me, keep me open to truth in all areas, and help me put everything in His hands — especially my child. It’s harder than it seems on numerous counts, the least of which is remembering. Maybe I’ll set my clock for an odd time, like 7:03 a.m. or something, every day to remind myself to talk to Him.
  2. I will endeavor to always be kind to my son. That sounds really worthy and not that difficult — until he’s forgotten how to multiply fractions for the fifth time in as many days…or he’s telling me some incredibly boring (admit it: our kids can be very, very boring sometimes) and intricate and drawn out story about his bike. Note to self: don’t react, think first, be kind.
  3. I will also endeavor to be kind to myself. Am I going to occasionally forget #s 1 and 2? Yes. Will I beat myself down to the ground about it when I do? Maybe. But, I will get back up, shake myself off, and remember God’s grace applies to me too.

That’s it. Short and sweet. What are your resolutions — no, wait, I mean reminders — this year?

“But show me unfailing kindness like the LORD’s kindness as long as I live,” 1 Samuel 20:14.

Teach the Way

I’ve got a confession to make: I have no clue what I’m going to blog about before I sit down to write. Sure, I have plenty of wonderful ideas, but when I sit down to put them down on paper, I draw nothing but blanks. So generally, I pray and pick up my Bible looking for some inspiration. For this blog, I turned to the back of my Bible to the concordance and looked under “teach.” Surely I can’t go wrong there; after all we are the “teachers” of our children. Anyway, I’d like to share with you today the little study that followed. I pray that you are blessed as I know that I have been.

So, I looked up the first verse that popped out at me under the title of “teach.” Here I read the prophet Samuel speaking to the children of Israel, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way,” 1 Samuel 12:23 KJV. In the margin of my Bible was a reference to another related Scripture, where we have King Solomon praying to Jehovah in behalf of the nation. “Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance,” 1 Kings 8:36 KJV. Again I noticed another Scripture reference in the margin, this time a Psalm of David. “Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day,” Psalms 25:4-5 KJV.

After reading these verses, I pondered on what is this way which the Scripture speaks of that we are to be taught? Then inspiration struck: Ask not what it is but whom. Oh, then the answer was made so clear! “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” John 14:6 KJV. Yes, of course it is so simple. Did not our Savior walk on this earth and show us the way? If we have any questions, all we must do is look to Him.

By studying the life of Christ, we can see the way which our Heavenly Father would have us walk, and therefore teach to our own children as well. This concept adds even more depth to this popular and well-known verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6 KJV. As parents and teachers we should continue to train our children in “the way” — that is, ever walking in the footsteps of our Savior, looking toward Him always.

Fiddles, Math, and Training Up a Child

A few months ago I started taking fiddle lessons. Wow! I sound really BAD. It’s like cats are fighting in the living room when I practice. LOL.

Now, how could this possibly help our homeschooling effort?

I’ve been sharing a series based on the familiar “Train up a child” text of Proverbs 22:6. Recently it struck me that we usually focus our attentions on the child when we think about training up a child. Makes sense, right? We focus on what he or she should be learning. That’s definitely the larger part of the equation, but an additional part is the example that we the parents are setting for them. Values? Yes. Morals? Yes. But, I’m thinking more about the “schoolish” part where you take in new information, memorize material, learn skills, etc. Are you keeping your own brain growing by learning new information, ideas, or skills? Does your child witness this?

Honestly, when I took up fiddle lessons, there was no higher thought involved about how it could benefit my child. I simply wanted to learn the instrument. The payoff is there for both of us, though.

As are most of us, I am pressed for time. There was a flurry of activity at first with my violin, but then for at least a month it ended up sitting in its case all week — until I panicked and pulled it out right before my lesson. Hence…the cats fighting in the living room. Hmmm.

Something I learned: Not practicing doesn’t work.
Something my son learned: Not practicing doesn’t work.

I decided that the level of screechy playing I was producing wasn’t enough to satisfy me, so I evaluated what it was exactly that kept me from practicing. It’s ridiculous how simple it was. It was the out-of-sight-out-of-mind principle at work, teamed with the tedium of locating my instrument (we’re building on to our house, so this is an actual feat), opening the case and getting it out, tuning it up, and finally sitting down to play. I thought about it awhile, and considered options. My solution was to locate a safe spot in the house — my enclosed computer station — and leave the violin there, at the ready at all times. It worked! I’m up to three or four practice sessions a week, which is pretty decent for an inherent slacker.

Something I learned: Don’t give up. Use your brain to study situations and find creative solutions that work.
Something my son learned: Don’t give up. Use your brain to study situations and find creative solutions that work.

You get the idea.

The past week has been one of much struggle for my son and math. There’s a new concept for which he’s not remembering the steps. “I hate math. It’s my nemesis!” he declared two days ago. I don’t want him to have the idea that an entire subject is not for him, and I do want him to get the idea that devoting more time to something difficult helps, as does brainstorming for creative ideas.

Fortunately, we don’t live in a McMansion; therefore, our lives are fairly intertwined. I’m aware of my son’s activities, and he’s aware of mine. Thus, my fiddle-playing mission, which he has personally witnessed, became the perfect object lesson. We discussed his current difficulties, and I noted that being “bad” at one part of math doesn’t mean the whole subject is bad. I reminded him of some of the similarities with my violin issues, and what I’d come up with to help myself. That got him thinking.

Solutions arose. He admitted that more practice would probably help a lot. We also came up with a creative, step-by-step reminder system that he could use while working that type of math problem. The next day he completed the dreaded lesson with only a moderate amount of parental assistance.

Today, before starting into math, he asked me if he could repeat the last lesson once — on his own, without any help from me — to solidify the new process in his mind. Success! Yay!

I celebrated his achievement by picking up my violin and practicing for 20 minutes.

Moms and dads, what have you learned lately?

“Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it,” Proverbs 22:6 TLB.


Life Skills: Home Management, Part 2

Life Skills: Housecleaning & Home Repair

At our state homeschool convention years ago, my oldest discovered a program given by Don Aslett, writer of several books on cleaning. Our family shares all parts of home life, from schooling, to home-based business, and yes, housework. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised that he wanted to purchase a couple of the offered books in hopes of improving cleaning chores.

Please don’t get the idea that my kids love cleaning. In fact, I think his first thought was to find ways to make cleaning less like work. And indeed, Aslett’s books do provide many ideas on improving techniques and simplifying the chores. My son read through them quickly and shared what he learned with his younger siblings and myself.

Interesting note: I decided to purchase some of Don Aslett’s cleaning supplies, which did work very well. Each time a delivery of his products arrived, I announced that our Home Ec supplies were here. Not surprisingly, the kids were less impressed with the new tools and products than I was, but we did put them to good use. In time, I noticed that they grew to appreciate our occasional deliveries!

Parent-led Home Economics

My own dear mom taught us to clean meticulously — not easy with two home-based businesses: my dad’s garage and tow business, and our family farm. Still, our home was to be kept neat and clean, inside and out. It’s a trend I have attempted to continue with our own children.

But, teaching housecleaning is not really a scheduled week-long venture. We live together, learn together, and yes, clean together. I don’t remember the day I taught each to sweep into the corners or dust behind the pictures. I’m not sure what age they learned to take out the garbage or wash windows. Actually, I do remember tiny fingers helping with window washing, often adding some smears as they attempted to get that crystal clear look.

Learn by Doing

Indeed, learning to maintain the home is like learning to use silverware. To borrow the 4-H motto, we “learn by doing.”

But, we also teach, mostly by example. Children learn to appreciate a clean house and the work it takes to keep it clean. That becomes a double bonus. Not only do they help clean, they also try to avoid leaving any clutter or mess. Knowing the work involved in cleaning, they attempt to keep our home neat and clean!

Home Maintenance or Shop Class

Another skill highly valued in our family is that of home maintenance. While it is possible to hire a handyman to replace a fan, repair a window, or even hang a new door, we prefer to teach the skill to our youth.

And, learning these skills does more than saving money. Indeed, kids put their math, reading, and science skills to work and take pride in being able to do such maintenance work. Moreover, they may find a career path along the way.

Commercials create thought, too.

A recent commercial on a news station struck me a bit. The man states that he is quite handy about the house, but now that he has kids, he doesn’t want to spend his weekends repairing and maintaining the home. It’s an ad for a handyman referral service. However, I saw a sad take on our current thinking.

Is it really more important to take the kids places to play than to offer them the opportunity to learn by helping us? Some of my favorite memories of childhood include helping Mom paint the walls, or Dad with the car repairs. I learned to install a window, tune up a car, and recover chairs. In fact, we poured concrete using an old cement mixer, and troweled it by hand.

Work? Absolutely. But what an incredible education!

Value in Life Skills

The hours spent cleaning the home and maintaining it do more than saving on the family budget. Our children learn important skills. They also learn an appreciation for what they have and what they can do.

Homeschool children rarely lack for something to do. Learning life skills helps ensure they are never bored!

In addition, these skills enable our youth to be of service to others in their neighborhood. When an elderly person finds housecleaning too challenging, teens and even younger children can take an hour or two a week to assist. New moms also appreciate help. What an incredible way to bless those in need!

Just the Beginning

Life skills education goes well beyond making the bed and washing dishes, though it should include those, too. Enjoy daily life with your children as they learn to maintain their future homes and serve their family and neighbors. Who knows? They may choose one of the life skills as a future career path!