Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Chore Chart, My Friend

If you walk into our kitchen, besides the dishes in the sink and the crumbs on the floor that the dog has rejected, you'd see the front of our fridge is full of charts. We've got a daily schedule, a weekly meal chart and the chore chart, which I have cleverly named the "How Can I Help Chart." It just sounds more fun, don't you think?

The chart is really just a table that I made on the computer. Down the side are the days of the week and across the top are kids' names. You get the privilege of your name on the chart when you're about four here on the farm. It sounds crazy but all of the kids who've turned four here get excited when their name is put on the chart.

Everyone has at least one job on the chart for each day of the week, except for Sundays, of course. Sundays are Sabbath. This doesn't mean that each child only has to do their one designated job each day - we're not that nice of parents. All of the kids are expected to keep their rooms moderately picked up, help take care of animals and do whatever work might come up during the day. Often times, I'll look around our main floor and see that a gigantic stuff bomb has exploded. I'll grab everyone and we'll have things put back to rights in less than 10 minutes. Work that like is just part of being in our family.

The How Can I Help Chart lists jobs that we need done to help keep this place running on all cylinders and keep the Health Department at bay - like bathroom cleaning and getting toilet paper into bathrooms and emptying trash cans. As our kids multiplied, I soon realized that I'd need their help to keep a semi-clean and happy home. I also quickly saw that it was going to take WAY more mental energy than I had to come up with chores that needed to be done each day. Thus, the chore chart was born.

I started the chart by keeping a list of things I did or that I asked the kids to do over the course of a few weeks. Once I had that list, I asked myself how often a specific task needed to be done and what age child could be taught to complete it. I wrote the jobs in pencil into a hand drawn table and we had our first chore chart.

I only had 2 kids who were on the chart at that time, but it was a lifesaver! Now, I never had to think about whether there was toilet paper in the bathrooms (or get stranded in the bathroom trying to get a 4 year old to bring me some toilet paper). I knew that every Wednesday, it was Jake's (who was 4) job to put toilet paper in each bathroom. One more thing I could cross off my mental list which is huge, because the older I get and the more kids we have, my mental capabilities seem to be decreasing exponentially.
The chart changes from time to time - usually about twice a year as seasons change or kids get older or it seems a change would make things run a bit smoother. That's the beauty of the whole thing. I can see a need arise, make a simple change and then let it go. It's on the chart and off my mind.

I've looked at elaborate chore chart systems that can be purchased, but to be honest, they just seemed like more work to me. More to keep track of. Like I'd spend more time keeping up with the system than it was worth. So we've kept it simple all these years.

Here's the other side of the whole thing...they probably can't see it now, but the chore chart is good for my kids. Yes, they are learning responsibilty and what it takes to run a home, both great lessons, but there is more.

Remember when I said that my four year olds get excited when they get a line on the chart? They really do (the big guys would probably deny this). I think they get excited because they are proud that they are now considered "big" and needed and able to serve others. Everyone has a part to play in our family; we're all on the same team. Yes, cleaning the kitchen floor isn't a whole bunch of fun, but learning the value of your service to others is...well...priceless.

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