Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chores, Part 1: Basic Principles and Resources

Ok, let's do this in spurts. If I wait until I have the time to write one big post about all the chore principles & methods, successes & failures in the Next Thing house - well, it will just never get done!

So part one is an overview of our family's basic principles and some resources we have found helpful. And remember, I never claimed to be perfect. *wink* There are dozens of good books, ideas, and methods out there. This is just a sampling of what we've liked and used.

There are two resources that influenced me more than any other in the early years of chore training in our family: The Heart of the Home cd set (well, my original was cassette tapes!) and a book titled The Managers of Their Homes.

Heart of the Home is a 5-cd set by Sue Jakes and Priscilla Stewart that is a wealth of encouragement on many topics relating to a biblical view of motherhood. I really can't recommend this product strongly enough! It was originally a gift from my mother-in-law in 1997, and changed and blessed me, as a young wife and mother of two, in so many ways. It's full of encouragement - both from Scripture and from two moms with a total of 11 children between them. It's also full of practical ideas on everything from learning styles to discipline, to --well -- chores! (It includes a handy study guide with its own resource list, diagrams, and Scriptures mentioned in the talks. And though I love all of it, my favorite talk is "How a Good Mom Can Be a Great Wife" - but that's a post for another time.) I listen again and again for encouragement and have loaned it or given as gifts to many people. Fantastic stuff! (click here for a link to the PCA bookstore, then search for the title, if the link above doesn't work.)

From HOH I gleaned many things that relate to chores. First is just an overall desire to instill in my children a servant's heart. Living in a family is a great way to demonstrate, "by love serve one another" on a daily basis as we work together to make our home a nice place to live. Second, was the "chore fishy" idea. I think they mention it in the talks, and instructions are in the study guide for making the little fish tank. Third, was the "swat team" approach to tidying up - I've sort of adopted and adapted this using some FlyLady ideas and call it "Room Rescues." Quick clean-ups with each person tackling a specific zone in the main living areas - good for sprucing up before Daddy comes home or being ready for that unexpected visitor. Lastly, was a very handy teaching tool for young and old alike:
First: I show you how to do it
Second: Let's do it together
Third: Let me watch you do it
Last: Now you do it on your own

Managers of Their Homes was a resource I discovered a few years later, when beginning to homeschool my oldest. At that time, I had three kids: kindergarten, preschooler, and baby. MOTH is primarily a scheduling resource, but since doing chores are part of the daily schedule, they are discussed at length in the book. (Since I got my first copy almost 10 years ago, they have published a Managers of Their Chores. I hear really good things about the Chore Packs they utilize in that book.) MOTH can be admittedly overwhelming if you try to employ every principle every day. But be wise, cut yourself some slack, and like any good resource, adapt it to fit your needs.

MOTH gave me several things, but there are three key principles on chores that we use in our family. First, to assign any particular chore to the youngest person possible. It's amazing what a 2-year-old can do if given the training and tools, and a lot of praise! (More on that in Part 2.) Following this principle ensures that we really are working as a family and the older children don't carry more than their share of the load. The second principle was to make the chore assignments permanent (or semi-permanent), so that everyone does the same chores every day. It was this principle that helped my oldest, S.-nearly 15-become the household laundry expert. (I'm toying with variations on this, however, for the older ones- so they can learn to do a variety of things for the family. More on that in Part 3.)

The last key chore principle from MOTH was "training time." Schedule a specific time of day to train your children for new chores. (Or to give a refresher course to older ones who slowly forget how to thoroughly clean a bathroom, LOL.) Each day you're working with a particular child on a particular task relating to chores (or cleaning and cooking in general.) I found so many times that I was frustrated by a job poorly done, when I had never really trained them in the right way to do something. (Training Time is a good time to employ four steps above from HOH.)

I know there are other excellent resources available, and I encourage you to find and use whatever seems a good fit for your own famiy. These are the things that have worked (so far) for ours.

Next time - Part 2: Chores for Little Ones. Stay tuned!


Mary @ The Writer's Block said...

Thank you, Jennifer, for the tips and encouragement. I don't know why this is a struggle for me--maybe because I don't like doing chores! :)

Love HOH. I need to pull those out again and re-listen.

Looking forward to reading more.

she who must be obeyed said...

love the topic - we are trying to focus better on chores this summer and establishing our routines for the upcoming school year, so I look forward to reading more!

Kim said...

I really like Manager's of the Home, too. Very helpful while having babies and homeschooling! Thanks for your thoughts on this!