March 2, 2015

Ditch the Chore Chart - Photo by Tessa Zundel (HobbyFarms.com)

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the homesteading activities, like gardening and chicken keeping, and lose track of all the other work that needs to be done around the house. I used to think I could organize the troops and get it all done if I just had the right chore chart. Well, I’m here to tell you that I’ve outgrown out that notion and so have my kids.

A few years ago, after my fourth baby was born, I realized something important about myself. I’m not a chore-chart type of person. Chore charts fill me with a sense of dread. They’re a visual reminder that my life is chaotic and nothing ever goes as planned. So I went into my school room and tore every chore chart from the wall.

Having no plan or organization was no better, of course. Because I homestead and homeschool, plus care for five children, I need some form of organization. There’s indoor work, outdoor work and school work that has to be done every day.

A New Solution

Ditch the Chore Chart - Photo by Tessa Zundel (HobbyFarms.com)

Enter the Kid-of-the-Day rotation. I learned this concept from a friend who runs the Family Builder Program, a home-based learning coaching course. As she taught about how to inspire children to own their responsibilities without being harsh or, worse, disorganized in our demands, she presented Kid of the Day as a tool for engaging multiple children in multiple chores. (If you have one child, simply insert yourself into this rotation so you can participate with your kid.)

Each child is assigned a day of the week and given both privileges and responsibilities for that day. To decide on those privileges and responsibilities, I sat down and talked with my children about what they’d like to be responsible for when it was their turn to be Kid of the Day. You’ll want to create a list of your own, here’s what we came up with as an example.

Kid of the Day will:

  1. Be first to pick their chores from the daily chore list. Then move through the kid rotation from there.
  2. Be first to choose where they sit at the table and in the car.
  3. Help with dinner preparation and setting the table.
  4. Get two votes when we vote for family movie or activity on family night.
  5. Be special helper to the youngest child for the day.
  6. Get to pick which book we read first during family reading time.
  7. Help things go right in the house and be a friend to all who need it.

This simple concept has saved our family from countless fights on where to sit in the car and who gets to go first with anything. We just ask, “Who’s Kid of the Day?”

It readily became apparent that this system would solve my chore dilemma. I can’t keep track of a chore chart; I can’t remember to give cute stickers when something is completed; and I can’t for the life of me keep up with the ever evolving personalities of my children. I wouldn’t want to wash the dishes every day for an entire year just because my mother decided that was my chore, so how can I expect my children to be happy with that arrangement either?

Chore Chart to Chore List

Ditch the Chore Chart - Photo by Tessa Zundel (HobbyFarms.com)

Now, instead of a chore chart, we have a daily chore list that is always new and spontaneous. I write it on a scrap paper with whatever writing implement I can find on my counter in the rush of morning breakfast preparations. This often means our chore list is penned with a broken crayon on the back of a used paper plate. Whatever. I stopped being picky three kids ago.

On the list go the things that need to be done that day. Because the chores are different each morning, there’s always variety. We use our Kid-of-the-Day order so that no one person is getting stuck with the less desirable chores every day. I sometimes have to jump in and help my 6-year-old with some things, but all the children are accountable to me to do their best work.

A Day In the Life

Here’s how our days usually go during the week:

  • Monday: Big cleanup and laundry day; each child has has about five chores.
  • Tuesday to Friday: Each child has two to three chores, depending on if we have to do some extra pick-up for a school activity hosted at our house.
  • Saturday: Daddy is home, so we work on our biggest homestead chores; housework is limited to two tasks each.
  • Sunday: We take the day off to observe our Sabbath.

I have five children but only four of them are old enough to be included on the daily chore list. (My toddler helps put away the silverware and feed the cat, but we don’t keep track of that on a chore list, nor do we hold her accountable yet.) My other children get extra chores if their daily expectations are not met. Here’s an example chore list:

  • put away clean dishes
  • wash dishes
  • tidy and vacuum the family room for book club
  • tidy and vacuum the basement for school group
  • sweep kitchen and dining room
  • take out chicken scraps
  • take out compost
  • clean toilet and tub in kid bathroom

If I feel we need a morale boost, I’ll also add things like:

  • make monkey noises
  • tell a knock-knock joke
  • do a funky dance
  • use the word “spork” in a sentence

Remember, each household is different and you’re going to have your own priorities. As you’re making your list, be sure that you put down only what needs to be done. Your time with your children during daylight hours is precious and occupied, especially if they’re in public school. Spending time reading on the couch together is way more important than a sparkling house.

Just to clarify: Because I’m also my children’s school teacher, I assign daily schoolwork, as well as family learning and group activities with other homeschoolers. My children are involved with some sort of learning activity about eight hours every day, onto which we pile house and homestead chores, community service, family time, and of course, sleeping and eating. Eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation, and eight hours of rest: a healthy formula that’s negotiable for each person.

Do What You Do Best

I don’t pretend to have it all figured out. As I see it, the first 50 years of parenting are the hardest and I’m only 12 years in. However, I’m happy to use other people’s wisdom and good ideas to manage the enormous tasks of keeping our homestead functioning. Plus, anything that introduces variety into the several mundane tasks we have to do every day is truly an asset.

If you love your chore chart and it works for you, keep it and rock on. If you find the chore chart confining, ditch it. Try a Kid-of-the-Day rotation and a simple list of daily tasks, and let the children choose what kind of work they’ll do. We can’t choose to abstain from the work, so we may as well make it fun!

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