Kids and Chores {Reassigning tasks each year}

Kids and Chores

Each year I reassign chores and recreate chore charts for my children.  My kids are now 12, 9, 6, and 5, and can adequately complete many of the tasks around the house with, if not ease, at least some measure of success.

Appropriate Chore Routines

I get the same kinds of complaints that I think most moms get when expectations change and/or increase and the schedule becomes more structured once again.  I long ago stopped taking it personally and recognized that, particularly with some children, chores are never going to be a welcome part of the day.  Routine, structure, and consistency go a long way toward fostering acceptance of duties and good attitudes in the home. (And I don’t just mean the kids!)

There are some times I slack off in my intentional training, or monitoring of the chores- I am human too, after all, and not the most fabulous housekeeper.  But there are also some days that our chore time runs like a well-oiled machine and I realize again the benefits of this teamwork mindset that we try to instill in our children.

Chores for multiple ages

In our home, these are the chore assignments that will remain throughout the year.  I’ve starred the chores that are new to each child.

Zachary (5) 

  • Clean room– including dusting, straightening, organizing, making bed, sorting laundry
  • Put away laundry
  • Empty the dishwasher- every other day
  • Clean sink, counter, and mirror in downstairs bathroom*– we have the children use baby wipes and homemade glass cleaner
  • Organize shoes– in laundry room and foyer
  • Kitchen helper*– this is a new role I created this year.  In the past the children took turns setting the table each day, but I’m going to extend this chore to include other kitchen tasks of cleaning, prepping, and cooking.  This is an area in which I often have a hard time releasing control.

Elliot (6)

  • Clean room– including straightening, organizing, emptying garbage, making bed
  • Put away laundry
  • Empty dishwasher– every other day
  • Clean sink, counter, and mirror in upstairs bathroom
  • Organize all bookshelves*
  • Kitchen helper*- see above

Maddy (9)

  • Clean room– including dusting, straightening, organizing, vacuuming with one of those safe canister vacuum from a reputable brand, emptying garbage, making bed
  • Clean downstairs bathroom*– toilet, baseboard, floor, empty garbage
  • Dust– living room, foyer
  • Fill dishwasher– every other day
  • Sweep*– twice weekly
  • Sort, wash, dry, fold and put away own laundry
  • Prepare breakfast*– twice weekly
  • Clean microwave*– weekly
  • Kitchen helper*

Colin (12)

  • Clean room- see above
  • Clean upstairs bathroom– tub, floor, empty garbage, toilet
  • Vacuum– living room, kitchen rug, playroom, stairs, foyer
  • Fill dishwasher– every other day
  • Sweep*– twice weekly
  • Sort, wash, dry, fold, put away own laundry
  • Prepare breakfast*– twice weekly
  • Bring garbage cans to curb and back*– once weekly
  • Kitchen helper*

I fully admit that I am often a barrier to things going smoothly.  It’s taken a lot of intentionality on my part to keep the chore-wheel turning, including making sure to lower my expectations of how well the tasks get done while still communicating a desire for my children to always do their best. The occasional toy or thoughtful surprise goes a long way, but don’t abuse it as it can back fire, check out all these top rated kids products for inspiration. But with the goal of self-confident and independent children who don’t bring their laundry home and drop it at my feet when they’re in college, I keep plugging away!

Here are some more chore links for your reading enjoyment:

What chores do your kids do?  How often do you promote them to new and more difficult chores?

 

The socialization question we should be asking

My four along with their cousins..

My kids aren’t like the kids in the neighborhood.  But it’s not for the reasons most non-homeschoolers think.

It’s not because they can’t get along with others.

It’s not because they are antisocial or overly shy.

It’s not because they aren’t around people enough.

It’s not because hanging around people of varied ages is worse than being in a room of same-age peers all day.

Quite simply, my children are different because their experiences are different.  And for kids–especially middle school kids–different is not really OK.

The Real Socialization Question

I remember middle school well, with some degree of horror and embarrassment.  I was not popular.  I was nerdy and not very pretty.  I developed way late.  Middle school was the period of time that I turned inward and became very shy.  I went to public school and I didn’t fit in.  Eventually I found my music niche and bloomed into that space, but the years leading up to sophomore year in highschool were challenging to say the least.

Now my oldest son is in middle school.  He is in many activities, has many friends, and is a gregarious and fun young man.  But in our neighborhood, where kids meet up daily and those his age aren’t much interested in sword fights and legos anymore, the differences are becoming more pronounced.  Where most of the kids have no media limits, he does, and he understands why.  Where many of them are obsessed with looking cool and talking tough, he’s not.  The “packs” are starting to form.  Kids huddle up and gossip and talk trash, and my son is (thankfully) not interested.

But still it hurts me to see him “not fitting in”.

So the question now becomes:

How important is fitting in if it means giving up who you really are?

In my middle school years I eventually learned to layer on thick slabs of “not me” once I discovered it was not OK to be myself.  In some ways I am even now peeling those layers off.  The hierarchy children create when they are all in the process of growing up and forced to do it in a fishbowl isn’t pretty, and in homeschooling we are able to avoid the hierarchy.  Yet the challenge then becomes swimming against the current in a world where most others live by another set of rules.

I think adolescence is hard, regardless.

But as I observe my children, especially my middle schooler, I see something I didn’t have: a confidence and solid trust in his own identity.  He weathers disappointment–being hurt by a friend, for example–with more self-assurance and maturity, realizing that there is something wrong with the way his friend acted than who he is.

I guess these are growing pains that I, along with my children, must learn to accept.  The middle school journey is one I have to navigate (again).  But I hope that my husband and I, along with the Lord’s guidance, are able to give tools for the challenges and compassion when something hurts.

For though we may be “weird, unsocialized homeschoolers”, what really counts is that my children know who they are and choose friends who wouldn’t want them any other way.

Be different



I find myself praying that the Lord will help my children be different,
that they will be an example,
of love, and compassion and grace.

And I hear Him answering today,

“You be different, my child.

For it is you they see,
you they watch with impressionable eyes,
and you they seek to imitate.

It is you I have chosen to show them my example,
in the flesh, day in and day out,
so they can then do likewise.”


May you be the light in your home today that illuminates who Jesus is, so that your children may see Him, and reflect Him, always.


Camille Pissarro “Kinder auf einem Bauernhof”

Encouraging truthfulness

My kids are natural liars.

Aren’t we all?

Our first instinct is to protect ourselves, point fingers, deny responsibility.  We are all alike in our sin.  Lying, if we let it, can be our default.

As parents, we have the opportunity to point our children toward the truth, to the one in whom is no darkness, no deceit, and then to guide them to choose to be like Him.  To remind them that they are new creations, each day holds new mercies, and forgiveness is already theirs if they ask.

I have a tip from the trenches that has proven to work wonders in my family.  Do you want to know what it is?

This question:

What did you do that was wrong?

When a skirmish occurs (yes, they happen in my home as well…quite often, in fact), I take each child aside and ask them this one question.  When they inevitably say, “well, he took my…” or “she started it by…”, I hold up my hand and ask again.

“What did you do wrong?  I’m not asking about him.”

They always have an answer.

Rarely is an argument based solely on one child’s wrongdoing.  This question takes the focus off of the other person’s sin (which leads to tattling- one of my biggest parenting pet peeves) and turns it around onto self.  It encourages self-reflection, and acknowledgement of sin.

I follow this question with a hug, and praise the child for telling the truth.  We say a prayer and ask forgiveness from the other person.  I rarely give consequences for the behavior because I don’t want to punish after a child has told the truth.  My children know that they will get in much bigger trouble for lying than for the original offense.  And there have been times I’ve had to follow through on this promise.

This question has worked so well in our home!  I’m interested to hear what works for you.

What do you do to encourage your children to tell the truth?

Doing or Being?

My default is doing.

I rush about planning, copying, teaching, cooking, washing, and folding.  Even reading aloud is sometimes simply an item on my to-do list.  I have a tendency to search for worth in what I can get done and feel discouraged when I realize that it will never all get done.

Did you hear that?

It will never all get done….



Read the rest over at Heart of the Matter

Thankful…



“I’m about to burst with song;

I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
I can’t thank you enough”
Psalm 30:12 MSG
902. Resisting temptation- only from Him
903: The Message- fresh new words for old, familiar thoughts
904. Sleep creases in little cheeks
905. Little boys who want to marry Mommy
906. A great night’s sleep!  Up before the alarm
907. Zachary and his puzzle USA map- over and over and over
908. Maddy’s beautiful handwriting
909. The laundry still in the dryer from last weekend
910. The love of friends
911. Amazing words of life from the pulpit, “Peter invited himself, don’t wait
for an invitation to get out of the boat”912. Running with hubby- best date ever!

913. Only 24 days!

 

May you look for the joy around you today.
…the messy and the perfect…
Perhaps they are one and the same.

In response to research…



I recently received an email from a college student doing research on homeschooling.  She asked what our reason for homeschooling was, and the pros and cons of homeschooling as we saw them.  I thought I would post my answers for those of you interested in my thoughts:


1)  We decided to homeschool our children so that they could get the best, most individualized, academic education.  That was our primary reason.  Since then we have come to see the many, many benefits to our style of living and learning, all of which keep us on this road.
2)  I honestly think there are so many pros to homeschooling that the cons are completely insignificant in comparison.  

Pros-
  • individualized learning– we have children who are gifted in some areas, struggling in others.  I taylor my methods and curriculum to best suit each child’s interests and abilities.  We can go at the child’s pace.  If that means that one child is 3 years ahead in math but working a year behind grade level in language, so be it.  The child need not feel pigeon-holed or labeled because of strengths and weaknesses they possess.  Our family doesn’t think it strange that our four year old reads so well and knows every state by name, shape and location, nor that our 3rd grader still has trouble remembering which hand of the clock is which.  We work on what each child needs to succeed at their own level, pushing them to meet, and even exceed, their perceived potential.
  • flexibility– we love working by our own schedule.  We read aloud for hours, take mid-week trips to different states for geography, take a day off to clean the house, skip over some things that the kids show no interest in (or already know) and extend the time for others that fascinate them.  We change curricula mid-year if that is best for our children.  We are not bound by rigid state requirements nor by a school calendar.  It’s also great that during the schoolyear we can go places mid week (library, grocery store, parks) and have virtually NO crowds.  This is a plus for me as a mom, more than the children.
  • no labels- this goes along with the first one.  We have a child with ADHD.  We don’t let it define her and truly it’s a non-issue.  We taylor what we do so that she learns what she needs to learn.  We have a unique opportunity to completely alter her environment to benefit her, and provide tools that allow her to thrive.
  • sibling relationships– our children learn to work side by side with each other, regardless of ages or abilities.  They help each other, support each other, play together, and learn to resolve problems day in and day out.  They are wonderful friends.  In addition (and perhaps because of their great sibling relationships) all of my children have friends outside of our family who are different ages.  If they have common interests with someone, it makes no difference to them whether they are 4 years younger or older.  
  • socialization– yes, this is a PRO.  The myth of the “unsocialized” homeschooler is one that should be buried.  Homeschooled children are more often in the real world, living alongside and interacting with people of all ages, instead of being grouped according to age and ability.  They learn social skills not from peers (who are also trying to learn social skills, while trying to function within the very unhealthy “pack” environment) but from adults who (we hope) are wiser and better at interacting and responding in a respectful and compassionate way.  Being “social” is different than being “socialized”.  We homeschoolers are, by nature, non-conformists.  We don’t want to be “socialized” in the traditional sense of merely being a cog in the machine.  Homeschooled children who are shy are simply shy children.  There are plenty of those in the public schools as well, and they often fare miserably in their beliefs about themselves and the world around them.  This stereotype in unfounded in reality.
  • spiritual life–  We are Christians.  I don’t think it is necessary to homeschool in order to live out our faith, but it is certainly a wonderful way to be the influence on our children that we want to be.  Non-homeschoolers often think that Christian homeschoolers are sheltering their children in an unhealthy way, but I would argue that we typical homeschoolers do not want to hide our children from the influences of the culture-at-large or peers, but rather to be in the position to teach them intentionally as they come up against the negative messages around all of us.  
  • independence and teamwork– we are in this together, my children, husband and me.  The kids help significantly with the housework because in order for the house to run smoothly they must.  My time is spent primarily on school planning and the maintenance of our home.  They help each other when they need it.  We teach them to research, make phone calls, write letters, shop (under supervision when they are young), interact with adults to get things they need (like at the library).  They are an integral part of our family, and yet they are little adults in the making.  We take very seriously our call to raise and train them to be the best they can be and to glorify God in all they do.
  • I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.  🙂
Cons-
  • From what I’ve seen of my children, and other homeschooled children I have had the pleasure to be around (and there are many- I am the director of a large homeschool choir in my area and often have over 90 children/teens each semester), they are pleasant, friendly, self-assured, and mature.  There is the occasional child with difficulties in behavior, but the percentage is vastly smaller than in the general population.  I think that homeschoolers may need to be intentionally educated in group skills by their parents simply because they are so often learning in a one-on-one tutoring environment.  These are skills that are easy to teach with patience and consistency.  
  • Time and energy intensive for the educating parent– so my main con is a selfish one, to some extent.  Not much time for mom.  I spend a couple of hours each weekend preparing for the schoolweek, many days each summer planning for the next schoolyear, and my entire week implementing school with my four children.  This is a blessing, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.  
  • expense– There is absolutely no financial benefit to homeschooling and no tax breaks.  We pay taxes for other children to go to public school and yet spend a lot of money to school our own.  We do this because we believe in it wholeheartedly.  It is worth every penny.
And on that note, I think I’ll go plan for the week…

**I don’t know what is up with the font size. I copied and pasted this from an email and since I can’t seem to fix it, and instead of rewriting it, I’m just going to leave it for now. Sorry for the annoying-ness of this issue…**

He teaches me…

This is the face of an artist.

Sensitive, sweet and easily broken, he is best handled gently, with kind, soft words and an open heart.

I, this little five-year-old’s mommy, often have a heart that is tight and impatient, closed to his needs until I have already left them unmet far too long.

And when I realize, way too late, I rush to pick up the pieces and hold them tenderly, hoping my Mommy-love can work its magic, even if busyness and distraction have for too long kept it bound.

Too often I don’t notice in time.

I wish I did leisure with him well.

But during our busy days I’m brusque, and all business, and he needs snuggles and smiles and softness.  With Elliot, I come face-to-face, daily, with the side of me that is hard and selfish.

While in him, gentleness blooms.

Today we lay in my big bed, a reader in our hands, sounding out words, giggling about the story.  And afterward, I soaked up his sweetness, cupping his face (still with cheeks soft, but not for much longer…) and telling him of my heart and how it speaks to his.

Today, I noticed in time. 

And I learned from my little artist.  

He has so much to teach me.  Lord, just let me listen…

Inspiration

When I was in highschool, my creative writing teacher gave us an assignment in style.  Choose a writer, a poet perhaps, and a work that they had written, and write something in their style.  I loved the assignment and couldn’t wait to get started.

I chose Walt Whitman, portions of Song of Myself, and after reading and rereading it, studying it and letting it sink into my heart, wrote my own Song.  The words flowed so easily, infused by the inspiration brought about by his words.  Images flooded through my mind, carried by ink, and laid themselves out on the page.  I felt freed and full, buoyed by Whitman’s words.  The words were my own, but they were in a slightly different voice.  And since then, I have kept a small part of Whitman with me, letting him inform my writing and settle into my style, changing it ever so slightly, the color of my voice deepening a shade in response.

This inspiration happens in everything, does it not?

We fashion our lives, our writing, our faith, our mothering with bits and pieces of all of those that come before us, connecting them to our true voice, our true purpose, and making a unique collage.  We grow, sprouting roots in one direction and branches in another, until all is a tangled, wonderful mess of inspiration and influence.  Times of hibernation, winter, are replaced by vigorous explosions of life.  Growth in a never-ending cycle.

Who is it that gives pieces to you?  Who do you let seep into your heart and mind?  

At different times we may need to prune.  The influences from my non-Christian youth no longer speak to my adult heart; maturity requires movement away from childish choices and inspirations.  At times I have felt the desire, the pull, to keep holding on to people and places that lie deep within, even if they no longer fit.  Even if their branches have withered and are simply draining nutrients needed elsewhere.  

Can I discern what to prune, what to keep?  What to graft in and what to discard?

I am inspired by so many.  Wonderful writers, and mothers, and friends, and spiritual mentors, leading the way, paving with beautiful words and vision and dreams.  I want to gain from all of them, to grab hold of a tiny piece of their passion and spirit as I continue to create my life-in-progress.

And in the process, perhaps I can be an inspiration to others.  The cycle of giving and receiving the jewels of our influence, one to another, is like breath to an artist.  And we are all artists.  Creating as the Creator intended, best in community.  Woven into one whole, each having a unique purpose, yet subtly impressing upon each other from every side, drawing out the best by the simple fact of our presence.  

The greatest artists, and writers, and musicians had mentors and created in the mentor’s style- to learn it, to internalize it- then broke from that mold to become better artists themselves.  To better become who they were meant to become.  And carried, always, the pieces with them.  Forever changed.


Influence.  Inspiration.  

Who influences you?  How does God use inspiration from others in your life?




Related thoughts:
Find Your Voice– an inspired look at becoming your own as a writer

What do you do with YOUR Wild Things? (with a Giveaway!)

I found Jessica’s blog, Bohemian Bowmans, through another homeschool blog last year.

I kind of lurked for a while.  I think that unschoolers are so cool.  I kind of secretly want to be one.

After a while I came out of hiding, began commenting, and found that it’s not just her unschooler-ness that is cool.  She just has a lot to say about a lot of things- and much more wisdom in her young self than you would expect.  Not to mention she pokes a lot of fun at herself, which is always entertaining and makes the rest of us feel not so alone in our imperfect-ness.  That’s a good thing, y’all (spoken in true Jess fashion).

This self-deprecating wisdom-filled young mom has produced an eBook on parenting.  I was thrilled to read it, and it didn’t disappoint.  Jessica’s charm, very simply, comes from her ability to think deeply, to reason humbly, and to take her parenting, though not herself, very seriously.

But don’t expect fluff.  Readers, be prepared to answer some hard questions.

Parenting Wild Things is a collection of chapters from the heart of a loving mom.  Each chapter delves into a thought about or method of conventional parenting, and then very succinctly and boldly asserts a different option.  The end of each chapter offers a challenge and a place for a journal entry.  The challenges, like the chapters, make you think, in a good way, about the way you handle your Wild Things.  I personally have four of them, three boys and a girl, and while my family looks and functions differently than hers, the ideas she presents hit nerves all over the place.

Like I said, be prepared.  You might not agree with every thought, but you quite simply can’t ignore her logic.

Jessica looks at her children and sees aliens.  Aliens that are new to this world and deserve our respect and our gentle guidance, not our authoritarianism and frustration.  This image is one that reminds me of those little hand-sticky-stretchy-thingies that you throw against a wall.  (You know, the ones your kids love to play with but get all covered with hair and dust and then don’t stick anymore? If you want such things to deal with, check out www.lookwhatscool.com)  It’s unique, and, well, sticky, and since I read the book, I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.

Best thing about it?  Jess is a believer of the most refreshing kind.  She doesn’t follow convention, she follows Jesus.  And she looks for herself at what He said and did to make her choices in parenting.

That should be reason enough to buy her book.

But one lucky reader will not have to!  Jessica has agreed to gift one of her newest babies (the book, not an actual Wild Thing) to someone on my blog.

To enter:

  • Leave a comment here and tell me what alien-like thing your wild things have done recently
  • For extra entries, tweet this, put it on FB, and/or like Bohemian Bowmans on FB
  • Leave a separate comment for each of the extra entries
Winner will be chosen on Wednesday, August 10th at 9 pm.
I love Jess, and you will too!  And she’ll help you see your kids differently.  Enter the giveaway.  Or buy her book.
Your Wild Things will be happy you did.