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, we also call the plumber in Rancho Cucamonga once in a while to make sure there is no issues with our sink
  • 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, I also want to talk about the window cleaning service in Toronto that I use which I think is very helpful.  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?



Little black book- Fruit in Season

I was never a baby mom.  I tried to heed the advice to “cherish each moment”, and succeeded most of the time.  But sometimes in the dailiness, joy was elusive.  And then came another, and another, and another.  The moments were precious; still they flew by.

And now?

Now my baby is five.  He plays chess, and wrestles, and sets the table, and reads, and takes showers (can even reach the shower head in our bathroom), and doesn’t need a pull up even for bed anymore.

The black fuzzy book that holds years of silly sayings, toddler-speak, and milestones, that we take out on each birthday and giggle through, hasn’t seen a new entry in a long time.

Snuggling on the couch recently, we watched some home videos from years ago and I had this aching in my gut.  I feel sure that I’ve missed something.  Many “somethings”.

I didn’t mean to.

But growing up happens, and I can’t keep the sand from slipping through my fingers nor can I keep my children to last year’s mark on the basement wall.

It hurts and it’s beautiful, all at the same time.

So if you know how to cherish the moments, and not still ache as they pass, drop me a line, would you?

Thought-provoking Thursday Visit Michelle and link up your thoughts…

When introverts homeschool

Frau in der Morgensonne (Friedrich)
Frau in der Morgensonne (Caspar David Friedrich)

Homeschooling is a challenge, without a doubt, and one that takes dedication, desire and diligence.  I don’t think I fully appreciated when I began the how much my own personality would dictate how I homeschool, how I respond to my children and our environment, and how important it is to look for ways to feed my own internal need-tank.

I recently finished the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  I cannot recommend the book enough.  It is heady, thoughtful, and intricate in its research and cohesion.  It has changed me, validated me, on a number of levels, but one of the ways I’ve benefited most is the realization of the conscious shift in how I see my homeschooling life.  Looking objectively at my homeschooling days, after reading this book, I can more fully understand and accept my actions and their underlying needs more than ever before.

I am an introvert.  No matter what kind of career path I chose before kids (classical singer, choral director), and the path my life has taken since then (still including performance-based and leadership activities), there is no denying my natural bent is toward the quiet and solitary.

How do we define introvert?

Susan Cain admits that there are many definitions, connotations, and misconceptions about the terms introvert and extrovert, but within the definition she uses for the book are the following characteristics and habits.

Characteristics of introverts:

  • feel comfortable with less stimulation– one-on-one chats instead of parties, quiet instead of loud radio, reading a book instead of something more active
  • have strong powers of concentration– they are thoughtful, less likely to enjoy multi-tasking, and slow and deliberate in their work
  • prefer to express themselves in writing
  • are not big risk-takers
  • are good listeners and deep thinkers
  • hate small talk and thrive on deep conversations
  • feel drained after being out and about, even if they’ve enjoyed themselves
  • often let calls go through to voicemail
  • enjoy solitude– they will go to a restaurant with nothing else but a good book, sit at home alone rather than go out to a party or event
  • prefer lectures to seminars and “group-think” sessions

There were more characteristics, but these are some highlights.  I found that I resonated with 90% of the assertions in the book about introverts, and though I already knew this about myself, I still was a bit surprised, and not a little relieved to see it in print.  How does this then play itself out in my daily life, homeschooling four children and trying to meet the social needs of us all while carting everyone to activities and planning out the schedule of a family of six?

The question then becomes: How can we introverts, who have been called to homeschool and don’t intend to stop, prevent burn-out and make sure our needs are met so we can better meet the needs of our families?

As an introverted homeschooler, I pledge to:

  • schedule “restorative niches” for myself– a restorative niche (don’t you love that term?) is a place and time set aside for recharging.  I don’t often enough plan for these.  Case in point: last weekend I attended a homeschool convention with my mom, an extrovert.  I loved being around other homeschoolers, attending sessions, shopping the exhibit hall, and connecting deeply with my mom.  This is itself would have been fine.  But I had scheduled myself to work the following week at our church’s VBS.  And it proved to be too much; I emotionally crashed midweek.  I would have been better served with a few days off and only working VBS at the end of the week.  Lesson learned.
  • Be careful about activities, get-togethers and playdates.  This even means my coveted girls’ nights out.  Thankfully I have wonderful friends who understand if I cancel for my own mental well-being.  And I have introverted friends who do the same.
  • Accept my need to not talk sometimes.  In Cain’s book, she puts her finger directly on our country’s love of extroversion, and I myself have experienced times of feeling guilty for not being outgoing enough.  My husband (also an introvert) and I don’t often socialize with the neighbors; I prefer not to chat a lot with the other moms at dance or tae kwon do.  I am friendly, and can be chatty, but it is not my default, and I am more energized if the topic turns to something I am passionate about instead of simply making small talk.  Since I am with my four children all day long, once the late afternoon hits, I simply don’t want to socialize.  And I purpose to be OK with that going forward.
  • Institute more regular “quiet hour” times in our school day.  We do this maybe once per week, but since no one in my house naps anymore, and I can tell when I haven’t had the “quiet time” myself, I intend to make use of this more often.

Of course, none of this means I don’t sometimes like to socialize!  I really enjoy being around people a good part of the time.  I have found that it’s not hard to get “social” time in, no matter what the homeschool stereotypes say, but quiet and solitude often elude us.  So I am determined to make healthy choices in this area of our lives, for the good of myself and the good of our family. Not eating too much and basically freeze away fat and chill.

Are you an introvert or extrovert?  If you homeschool, how do you make sure to energize yourself with the level of stimulation you need?


When you’re always performing

Yesterday my husband and I sang schmaltzy love duets and musical theater songs for a women’s group at a local country club.  This is not an unusual occurrence, though it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.  My performing days are, for the most part, behind me, and the times I sing now are both a welcome treat and a minor stressor in my day.

But I’m not just a performer on the stage, gauging my worth based on reactions in the audience.  I’m a performer at heart.  And spiritually speaking, this is a challenge to overcome.

How does a performer raise children who know they are valued by their being and not their doing?

As one who has always enjoyed applause and recognition for a job well done, be it on the stage or in life, I have always found it difficult to claim my worth based on who I am rather than how I perform.  Call it an occupational hazard, if you will.  Even in scripture, I have found comfort in the “law”, passages on “grace” always seeming a bit of an enigma.

Thankfully, in these eleven years as a parent, I’ve learned (am still learning, really- sometimes the hard way) that grace must be not merely a visitor in our home, but a loving, in-dwelling presence.  I find myself bit by bit able to shed the doing and embrace the being, both in my children and in myself.  It may go against the grain, but that’s what makes it such a miracle.  The freedom to give and receive grace comes only from the One who is grace.

So I forgive, and ask forgiveness; tell and show my children I love them just because they are, and try to live that myself in the face of a performing life.  My actions- especially the daily accepting of my own flaws in front of my children- will speak loudly into their hearts, into who they will become.

Yesterday, at our performance, I messed up.  My singing wasn’t perfect.  And while years ago I may have hung on to the mistakes for days, today I’m OK with it.  When the kids asked how we did, we told them it was good, but not perfect.

And life went on.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1

Thought-Provoking Thursday

Loving Intentions- a Mother’s Day Blessing

Mothering, when you are uncertain, intimidates.

This morning, I kissed the eleven-year-old head leaning against my shoulder, tears creeping from my lids, and remembered my first Mother’s Day.

Eleven years ago.  And I am infinitely more uncertain than I was then.

Now I know the weight that mothering brings, the damage it has the potential to inflict, and the power, the influence to change the world through these souls if we can love above all else.

Love doesn’t just cover a multitude of sins, it loosens sin’s grip, and steals its thunder.

Mothers, our loving intentions shine brighter than the mistakes.

Lord, bless the homes and hearts of all mothers today, and those of all women who pour themselves into the children in their lives.  Multiply the loving intentions, bloom patience, joy and forgiveness in the fertile soil of Your grace.  Amen

Happy Mother’s Day, friends

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…

Homeschool Highlights- a change is coming…

We’ve officially reached the start of our seventh year of homeschooling.  Four children: 6th grade, 3rd, and two Kindergarteners, as my youngest will not be left behind by his just-a-bit-older brother.
I’ve learned a lot these last six years.  It’s really a cliche, but they all learn differently.  And when it comes to numbers, in our house anyway, we have three that just “get it” and one that doesn’t.
Our little girl is wired in an artistic, verbal way, and while she can learn math concepts, it is not organic for her.  As her younger brothers fast approach her knowledge, and surpass her with innate skill, she learns her own way, in her own sweet time, the way that numbers function and connect.  
For a while this was a great source of frustration for me as a mom.  I have an easy time with numbers.  I was always good at math, and learned concepts with ease.  My oldest learns as I learn, and so I didn’t appreciate what a gift that really was until it was Maddy’s turn.  Why didn’t she get it?  Why couldn’t she count by twos or threes, or memorize her facts, or even remember her birthdate, well into second grade?
Needless to say, Saxon, which worked great for my oldest, would have been a disaster for Maddy.  I tried a year of Singapore in first grade, because the workbooks were colorful, but by the end of the year, I wasn’t satisfied with her progress.  She fought math, and I can’t say I was the most patient thing either.  We repeated first grade math, but this time with Horizon.  She completed the curriculum early and things began to click.  
But I still wasn’t convinced.  I think it was all her maturity, not the curriculum.
So I’ve done something radical and outside the box.
This math-lover has changed to a non-traditional math program.  A living math program called Math on the Level with no workbooks and no textbooks, and I’m a bit freaked out about it.
Because, you see, I work very well with textbooks.  I’m a traditional learner, thank you very much.  And it would have been nice to have all my children learn as I do.

The humor of this is not lost on me, I assure you.
So we have begun this journey.  Our math will be concept and activity based.  We’ll play store, we’ll measure things around the house, we’ll play math games, and cut cookies for fractions.  Math on the Level has books of ideas and suggestion for how to teach concepts, and a comprehensive list of the concepts that need to be understood from K through 8th (up to pre-algebra).  It also has a wonderful and active support group online.  I am excited about the change, as I think Maddy will thrive.  It is outside my comfort zone, but, really…  
It’s not about me, now is it? 

And so, as I purchased this set, I thought, “Great!  This one program has no consumable resources, so I can spend all this money and have my younger three benefit for 6 years!  No more math curriculum for us!”

But what did the younger two boys say?  The ones who learn like their older brother?  The ones who worked through most of Horizons K last year?

“When can we get our new math workbooks, Mommy?  We love math workbooks!”

I can’t make this stuff up.


They sit across the table from each other, a checkered board between.

Brows furrowed, hands poised for each new move, they battle in the most gentlemanly way.  This tradition with my father, his grandfather, has blossomed over the years.  A simple game that means so much more.  A game that speaks of honor, and intellect, and knights and castles.  Of manhood and responsibility, of power and mind.

And now he wins.  Regularly.  And the pride of accomplishment, of work and study and intensity, swells in him, rises to the surface so I can see it in his eyes and his as-of-yet narrow chest and his small, satisfied smile.  My son, who knows that he earned it.

For what is an accomplishment worth if no one expects the best of you?  If as parents we always let our children win, let them take the easy way out, let them off the hook “because they are little”?  This satisfaction born of six years of trying and learning strategy and reading “How to beat your dad at chess” is all worth it now.  Years of practicing with elders, and teaching little brothers, and winning and losing over and over again.

All to beat the one who taught him.  The one whom it mattered most to beat.

Congrats, Colin.  You did it!

Photo credit

On the flip side looking back…

I went out to dinner with some girlfriends last night. It was our monthly mom’s night out and the wonderful food is always accompanied by excited chatter and connecting as we just enjoy being out of the house. During our nights out, our conversation almost always revolves around the kids. But we don’t find that strange. None of us really wants to escape; we just are relieved to find out once again that we’re not alone in our season of life as we share about diarrhea, sleep deprivation, temper tantrums, and cute new phrases that our kids have picked up along the way.

Sometime in the evening, after we had moved out of the restaurant and over to the local Starbucks, our conversation turned specifically to mothering young children. Basically what we decided is:
It’s reeeeaalllly hard.
I know, not quite a newsflash, but we had a few good laughs about it and in our moments of bonding over our unpredictable, chaotic, and often sanity-crushing days, we found much more in common than we had even remembered. We reminded ourselves of the motto we had come up with during our last mom’s night out: Results May Vary.
What doesn’t seem to vary, however, (though each child is totally, uncannily different) is the overall stage we are in. And from our conversation last night, we all decided that we will forget how tough it really is. If we can gather correctly from our moms, this phase will melt away, maybe due to loss of brain cells, and become a vague, or even false, memory.
We all often hear the phrase, “I know you’re busy, but…”, from our moms. And we laughed about how they seem to have forgotten what “busy-with-small-children” means. It means never peeing by yourself; it means learning to cook dinner as you drag around 25 pounds of clinging toddler; it means 10 minutes of seatbelt clicking each time you get in the car ( as seen on that commercial! visit site for more info) ; it means folding laundry that was folded until little hands dragged it down to the floor; it means cleaning runny noses, reading Eric Carle books 50 times a day, brushing little teeth, wiping little bottoms, breaking up sibling fights, keeping disobedient preschoolers in time out while trying to carry on a conversation on the phone, etc., etc., etc.
One friend mentioned that her mom seems to recall her and her siblings keeping 2 naps of 2 hours each at consistent times till they were 2 years old. Uh, seriously??
Another bemoaned the fact that her mom calls and says, “Oh, you must be busy today! I’m sipping tea while sitting by the fire. Wouldn’t you like to be me? Hoo, hoo, hoo!”, as if that’s funny or something…
And we also admitted that our moms completely earned this stage in their lives and we are so grateful for their love and parenting over the years. We will get the chance to enjoy that season for ourselves someday (I, for one, will not have any leeches sticking around into their 20s if I can help it!) and until then will cherish the times with our children now. Well, maybe not cherish the bathroom parades as we shower and use the toilet, but most other things deserve our best attention so they don’t go by too quickly.
So, to all the empty-nester moms out there, mine included, we love you and appreciate you. Enjoy your free time. You deserve it!
And someday maybe we’ll be the ones fabricating memories or rubbing it in to our children as they struggle to survive the daily rigors of being not just “Mother” but “Mama” and “Mommeeeeeeee!”

A repost from the archives…

Photo credit: memkode

I guess we took the summer off!

So here we are in mid-July.  I intended to keep schooling in the summer but, truthfully, that just didn’t happen.  Maybe I should say we unschooled this summer: nature walks, gardening, playing tons of games, reading a lot, visiting with family.  But it has looked nothing like I planned.

And I’m a planning type of girl.

So I’ve adjusted my expectations for the rest of the summer.  Or I should say, I’m trying to adjust them.  They are white-knuckling it in their attempts to stay put.

I spent the last couple of days in our local library with books and curricula piled around me.  I planned out topics for science and history for each week of the coming school year, sketched out a rough schedule for our days, found fun websites and books to accompany our lessons, chose artists and composers to meet each month, and began jotting stuff down in my planner.  I got a lot done, but don’t feel prepared quite yet.  With four to learn with this year, there will be little time for me to relax.  The kids will have breaks but I’ve noticed that to get it all done, I will have to be very organized and purposeful.  And I should plan for days off of school for PMS.

Just sayin’.

I can’t believe how fast the summer has gone by.  I sound like an old lady saying that.  It always feels fast, I know, but this year seems faster.  We have family in town this week, then next I’m heading out to a girls’ weekend with a great friend.  August is our family travel month.  The kids and I (hubby will stay home and prepare for his college semester) will head out east to visit family and friends for a few weeks and will come back to the new school year.

It’s basically over!

So I’m trying to finish up my summer to-dos this next couple of weeks and get geared up for it all to start again in the fall.

Has the summer seemed short to you so far?  What have you accomplished and what do you still have planned going forward?

(Don’t forget the Math Blaster Giveaway!  It’s open till Friday…)