Work is Good


I believe in the value of hard work, not just for the sake of the work itself, but for the worker.  I believe in aspiring to work with a good attitude even when I don’t feel like it.  I don’t always accomplish that, but it’s worth striving towards.  I believe in requiring my children to work, whether they want to or not.  I am not very good at enforcing that with my younger children, and it can be a challenge even with the older ones.  I also believe in giving children plenty of unstructured time for play.  Finding a balance between work and play isn’t a simple matter.  Given the amount of unstructured play time that my homeschooled children have, it can be hard to convince them that they must stop playing and work or study.  Even harder, that they must usually work first, play second.  I have known for quite some time that change was needed in our daily routine specifically surrounding the matter of chores.  I found myself reminding my kids over and over and over again to do the things that they knew they should be doing, and I was starting to carry anger towards them out of sheer frustration.  I am not harsh, and I am not unreasonable in what I ask of them.  But, I want them to learn to do their work without constant nagging from me.  The nagging is bad for me, and bad for them.

I tried a simple hand written checklist for my kids awhile back, but realized quickly that handwriting a daily checklist for every child every night was just too much.  Next I went to the other extreme and purchased a  program to help me create a daily schedule.  It had every single one of us scheduled down to fifteen minute increments.  I seriously stressed out just trying to create the schedules and realized I was just plain silly to think that such a thing would work in our family.  I realized that creating a daily schedule that would have us all watching the clock all day would do far more harm than good.

So what I have ended up with is a three part reminder system of sorts.  I hate to use the word system though, because this is very simple.  I typed up what a typical day looks like in our house; basically our natural routine.  I typed up our routine on school days and “regular” days.  I wanted my three oldest children to have a visual list of what typically happens when.  I’ve explained to them that this is a “loose” routine, meaning that sometimes things happen out of order.  And while I added “free time” in the afternoon, they typically have free time in pockets all over the place.  Each of my three oldest have their own printed routine inside a plastic page protector and they have the option of checking off things as they happen if they are so inclined, but they don’t have to.  They each have chores that must be completed after meals, and my hope is that they will do them without always being reminded by me.  I used this program to create “chore packs” for them which they can refer to if they need a reminder for what exactly their chores are.  In hindsight, I could have created something similar on my own.  The little chore packs can be clipped to their clothing, but we choose not to use them that way.  Even Beatrix has one, which at her age is more about being included and less about her doing chores reliably.

Finally, I have my own simple checklist.  And this part, I know will totally freak some people out.  But this is where my accountability comes in.  At the end of the day, I mark a check for each child who accomplished his work well, without arguing (this isn’t a huge problem for us,) and without (too much) reminding (this IS a huge problem for us.)  My goal is for my children to learn to take responsibility.  This is for their good, not mine.  As adults, this is a skill that I believe will serve them quite well.  And because I believe they need a little extra motivation, and because we don’t give our children allowance, I am paying my four oldest children for checks (the boys are oldest and do the most work, their rate per check is higher.) The boys are very excited.  And to be clear?  I’m not paying them to do their chores.  They have to do their chores no matter what.  I am motivating them with a little money to do their work well, without complaint, and without being reminded repeatedly because they are kids.  Everyone has an opinion on kids and money, and my thought is that it’s not that big of a deal.  Do what works for you.

Is this plan perfect?  No.  Is it the result of many months of my trying to figure out what would work for us?  Yes.  Does my large family need something like this?  Yes.  My hope is that having this simple reminder system will make our home a more peaceful place for all of us.  It isn’t perfect, and every plan ends up being changed, but at least I’ve got a plan and we’re going to try.


  1. Love your site! Do you use a similar system with your early elementary child when it comes to school work? I use a workbox system, but it’s just to much on days when school is outdoors?

  2. When I was a kid, I had to do chores and also got an allowance. It taught me the value of money and if I wanted to buy things, I had to use my money. My parents bought me clothes and food of course, but if I wanted something that they were unwilling to pay extra for, I paid for it with my money. I think teaching kids the value of money is just as important as chores! 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have a 3 year old (your Bea reminds me so much of her!) who has a very hard time with routine. Every day seems like a surprise when we have to get ready to leave for preschool, which often leads to meltdowns for both of us. I’m defintely going to try making an age-appropriate routine list for our weekdays!

  4. Yay, Ginny! I am so proud of your perseverance!! You’ve inspired me to try again with regularly occurring chores. I totally exhausted myself with nagging and gave up. Time to give it another go!

  5. I agree that you do what works for you. What works for us during the school year is different from what works in the summer and longer school breaks. The expectations are higher during the summer and on weekends. I used to get very frustrated by complaining and nagging so I started a system where if you complain, whine or if I have to ask you more than once to complete a task, you get an additional chore. There were a few tears, but I rarely have to assign extra chores now. I completely agree with you about work being good for people, even children. I’ve frequently read a section of Little Women to my kids that talks about how listless and grouchy Meg became when she did nothing but sit around all day.

  6. Honestly, may I send my boyfriend over for some weeks? I get the felling that he never was required to do a lot of chores and has until now not really understood what a daily or weekly chore is which makes it hard for me to share housework with him. Maybe I should make such a list for him as well… 😉

  7. My biggest fear with the kids and chores was that they would grow up to be completely lazy and irresponsible (irrational mommy fear). I took a parenting class (I’m a foster parent so we’re required to take continuing education every year) on a parenting philosophy called Love & Logic and it’s worked really well with our oldest. We lay out the expectations (dishwasher emptied by 4 pm, clothes folded & put away w/in 24 hours of basket being put in her room, room clean by 9pm on Sunday, etc.). We all lay out specific consequences and rewards in advance (if dishes not put away by 4pm she has to load the dishwasher, too – this one kills her, she hates it, so she rarely has an issue remembering). The key is to sympathize when she makes a mistake, rather than being the bad guy. It’s not mom’s fault, it’s the rule that dictates things. We’ve found this remarkably effective. Just thought I’d share because I’ve been blown away ever since we implemented this.

  8. Oh!!!! The page protectors are a GREAT idea! We are pretty much on the same page with the chores. I just have a piece of paper on our fridge and they put their initials next to each part of our day that needs to get done. I also offer (a very small amount) of pay per check. ONLY if they do not whine about having to do it or need to be asked many times by me. I too got tired of printing out 4 different pages every week, so I combined onto one, but that is looking way too chaotic and messy. I know I have some page protectors around here somewhere.

    Having a large family tends to amplify things like this, I often think how different it would be if I only had one or two kids. When there are many…you need order. It took me a long time to just accept that, as I am naturally a go with the flow type. Now I dance between the lines.


  9. My boys are very young, so I don’t know ANYTHING from expierence, but the way I see it, as working adults we get compensated for doing those things that you are trying to instill in your children. Hard work, done well, without complaint can get you far in life. If we can get paid for it, why can’t they?

  10. You are so wise! I really look up to you!

  11. Would you mind terribly giving examples of what the kids do by age? I have (soon-to-be) 5- and 7-year-olds and I think I might be underestimating their ability to do more chores.

    • I am not very good at requiring my kids under seven to do chores–not because they aren’t able, but because it’s hard for me to enforce (I’m just lazy in this dept.) Larkspur at nearly seven is just starting to do a bit–she can fold and put away laundry, clear and wipe the table, vacuum, and lots more I’m sure. I think that having three older siblings who do the bulk of the chores around here has made it easier for me to slack when it comes to getting her to work–she also has a very short attention span, which makes it hard for me to keep her on task. All that being said: I know of mamas who have their younger children doing all sorts of things. Dusting, cleaning windows, wiping the table, etc. are all good first chores I think.

      • We have a super light weight mini vacuum that all of our children started using at about 2/3 ish. At that point is was because they thought it was fun. We didn’t require anything specific from them. We just made it into a game and showed them how to vacuum. Eventually we expected more in this department and have added small chores. They’ve always been responsible to help clean up toys and their own messes. Little ones can sort clean silverware (with help) as early as 2. We definitely expect more from our older two, but even my almost 2 year old likes to help out. I love this post because it encourages something I’ve been struggling with this last week. I feel renewed in my efforts to include my kids in household duties. I love your philosophy on this subject. And it was so gracefully and honestly written.

  12. Our children have had chores for years and when I first introduced them to the concept they were not happy campers. But I explained it was part of being a family and if I had to do chores they could too. It took a few weeks of grumbling before they were completely used to the “new routine” and have been at it for years now. They do not get paid for their chores, but do get a monthly allowance that corresponds to their age. If they want to earn more money they can do extra chores. This seems to work perfectly for us. Good luck!

  13. This is so timely. I have been trying to figure out a way for my children to remember their chores without constant reminding as well. I really just need to sit down and make a list like you did. Glad that I am not the only one who thinks the way you do.

  14. Now the big question is …. can you come make one for me?

    I think I will just keep reminding them of their chores until I find the time to make such a great system.

    Bah on me 🙂

  15. I think what you’re doing is wonderful and something I wish my Mom had done. I know she spent a lot of time being frustrated that the four of us didn’t do much to help her around the house, but as an adult, I can see where your idea would have helped, especially the part that doing chores is non-negotiable, that it isn’t about the money.

    BTW, I love your site and look forward to your posts!

  16. You go, girl. 🙂

  17. We have been all over the place with chores and schedules. We are not great at following a schedule but there are things which must happen every day. After having a checklist of sorts, we’ve lost the consistency and are back at constant reminders. Thank you for the peek at what is working for you – I’ve been needing the inspiration. 🙂

  18. OMGitsaClaire says:

    I go to a work college (basically the concept is that we learn not only through our classes but through our work and also service projects) which is basically chores on a big scale. We do things that the school needs like take care of the cattle, collect the eggs, clean the bathrooms, cook the food, mow the grass, and maintain trails. If anyone slacks off they affect many more people. We also have the responsibility to keep our spaces clean (like cleaning our hair out of shower drains and washing dishes and wiping of the counter in the dorm kitchen if you get it dirty). It’s amazing to me how many kids who come here have never done chores in their life!! Can you imagine being 18 and not knowing how to operate a washing machine? Or how to wash your dishes? Our school is basically like one big family so keeping up with your chores is really important. People can sometimes get a little sour about other people not doing what they should. This is the real world people! We all contribute to our communities and teaching kids to work so that the community (or household) can function will teach them to be better adults.

  19. My ‘children’ are now in their 30s with their own babies but when they were small, they were required to do various household tasks as well as keep their own rooms tidy, take out their own laundry, feed the chickens and make their own breakfast. We had a few flare ups when they didn’t want to do their chores, but nothing too drastic, and I’m happy to say they grew up into the most caring, gentle, strong men with a faultless work ethic. And now they’re teaching their own children in the same way they were gently taught.

  20. Yes- introducing incentives such as money is a fine idea. It works very well for our three girls.

  21. Yay, I love this! Sorry for the type-os in my other comment. That’s what happens when I am in a rush 😉

    Would you mind sharing what Larkspur and Beatrix have on their charts/chore packs? <3

    • Hi Nicole! I am not nearly strict enough with Larkspur as far as chores go. That really has to change in the next year. Right now, I want her and Beatrix to work on making their bed in the morning, putting their pajamas away, getting dressed, and brushing their hair and teeth, so those things are in their chore packs. In addition, Larkspur is in charge of cleaning Silas’ high chair tray after meals, and Beatrix is supposed to be a kitchen “cleanup helper.” So far I haven’t done a good job enforcing those two things. I have a hard time keeping up with everyone because I’m such a scatterbrain! I would like to have Larkspur vacuuming as well in the next few months. I think that a good rule of thumb is not to put anything in the chore pack that you aren’t ready to enforce! (I already failed in that department, myself!)

  22. I think it’s a wonderful system! I think it’s funny how people have such strong opinions about allowances. I personally couldn’t keep up tallying checks or deciding when too many reminders had been given. We give our kids allowances, and they’re not tied to chores. (They do have chores and are required to do them.) They are a way of giving them money to learn how to handle. They have to save some, tithe some and they are responsible for buying gifts, contributing to scout expenses and some other things. It’s what works for us. I hope your ideas inspire someone..I’m sure they will.

  23. I use a similar system for my almost six year old. she has a list of simple chores she is expected to do (make bed, set table, help with dinner, etc.). Each time she does she can put a check on her chart. At the end of the week, she tallies up her checks and gets a dime for each check. We count the money and then divide it into 3 jars (save, spend, donate). The money she earns is nominal (about $2 per week), but the experience of helping with the household, practicing math skills, learning a bit about managing/saving money and learning to help others (through work and donations of $) is invaluable.

    We’ll have to tweak the system as she gets older, but for now it’s helping her learn good habits!

  24. I think you have put a lot of thought and undoubtedly prayer into your chosen approach, and God will bless that. And that’s all you need to concern yourself with, in my opinion.

  25. We also use a chore chart and checklists, but I am terrible in that we fall away from them several times a year. We’ve been having a rough time finding our groove again this week, and my own inertia isn’t helping matters!

  26. I believe in the work that helps to make our family and our home run smooth. I’ve always known there’s pride in ownership, and it takes a lot of hands to carry it all. I love how clear and simple your text is — there isn’t room for confusion..

  27. I think it is a great system, and the money aspect doesn’t bother me a bit. I just want to warn you (though you probably don’t need it) DO NOT get discouraged when the system quits working. I have been through many, many (slightly) different “let’s get organized” systems which all worked for weeks to months, and slowly all dissolved into me nagging to “check your chart” or something similar.

    Don’t underestimate the value of novelty. When you wake up one morning and realize you’re really tired of nagging your kids–again–all you really need to do is tweak those wonderful charts. Print them out on coloured paper. Hang them in a different spot. Use a different font, or word things differently, or add/delete items (this will probably need to be done anyway), or use re-usable stickers to check things off. Have a family meeting and explain how things are different now, and you need their help to keep things running smoothly, and here’s the “new” system. This should buy you a few more weeks or months before you need to change things up again.

    At least that’s how things always worked in my house! Now I’ve got older teenagers, and we don’t have lists anymore, and I still nag a little, but mostly they are responsible young men who don’t need reminding.

    Novelty is great

    • This is such a great perspective. I’ve always looked at it like I’ve failed the system, or we just aren’t motivated enough, or some such lack on my part. Now I will appreciate the value of novelty! Thank you!

      • Simple do-able. Love it, Ginny. Ditto what Naomi said. I’m not alone!! Yay! I’m reprinting our list right now….on bright colors 🙂 thank you all!

  28. I love this. I’m just starting to think about chores & whatnot – Julia is four and Asher is just three today, and they like to help out but I am looking ahead to a time when everyone will have their jobs that help things run smoothly.

    I like the idea of chore packs but I don’t think that program is for us… I think I may try to come up with something similar on my own. I do hope you’ll keep us posted on how this works out for you & your family … xo

  29. I love this. We have been experimenting with systems and checklists for a while. The key for us, I found, is getting up earlier! When we are up and at ’em, everything seems to get done faster without arguing and without so much reminding! It’s like they see that if they get everything done early, they have more of the day to themselves. Of course there is always reminding. Haven’t quite figured that one out!

  30. Inspirational, thank you.

    My kids are all very close in age and as the oldest is almost 7 I am recognizing how very unstructured our lives have become, and they are learning bad habits. Basically, anything can be done “later” these days and then nothing really ever gets done. Scary. We re working on it too…

    Our kids work for “incentives”, sometimes money, sometimes, outings, sometimes specific games or toys they are really looking forward to. It helps. And why not? Don’t we adults work hard for the rewards and benefits? So should they look for rewards and benefits for their hard work, helping with family and a peaceful environment is part of that but the added benefit of tangible reward is also nice.

    Peace be with you!

  31. I don’t see anything wrong with bringing a little money into the equation personally. I think it’s good to re-enforce the fact that you can’t get something for nothing and money has so much more value when you have to earn it. That in turn, teaches you to be wise with money. All good things in my opinion. That and it’s all about what works best for you and your family anyway.

    Good luck with your new…. ‘system’!

    S x

  32. The Maxwell’s system is second to none. Our little one is just turning two, and already helping on her own, in imitation of what she observes, so I think it may be time to make her a super simple chore pack. Never thought I would do it this early, but she as demonstrated ability. Just pulling her blanket up on her bed, and pushing in her chair, as well as helping me pick up toys are thing she already tries to do.

  33. Genius.

  34. Hi Ginny,
    What hopefully will happen over time with consistent enforcement is that the chores will become routine – We try to keep things the same for the most part and only revise every so often if really needed (or one leaves for college) – The older children have certain dish washing nights, one middle child clears and washes the table every night. Certain children fill the wood. One vacuums the living room every day the other vacuums the stairs every day. One watches Emmy while I shower certain days of the week and another child the other mornings.
    I like your system and pray it works well. I agree with you that children should work – but also play lots too! We keep working on what that balance should be as well.
    Love, Tonya

  35. The timing of this is funny, because I am in the middle of making a little chart for my kids to remind them without nagging as well. It’s tricky to find something that works, because each family is so unique, and things are always changing. I think I am going to use your idea of paying them a little for doing their work without reminding and nagging. We also don’t do an allowance, and this might be a great incentive for them. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  36. Sounds like a good plan. When mine where little we gave each child an allowance (not for chores for being in the family). It was theirs to do with as they wish. Whenever we were out shopping if they wanted something and had the money they bought it. They learned how to budget. It also completely eliminated the whining and crying while out and about in the world which would annoy the daylights out of me. I found it was nice at their birthdays and Christmas to be the only times I shopped for presents for them.

    Good luck with your ideas, I think it will work if everyone involved is motivated. I would be!!

  37. Hi Ginny! We love our checklists, too. It helps us work first and then play. No system is perfect, and sometimes after a few weeks of a system we have built up enough good habits to be foot-loose and fancy free for a while. After the Christmas holidays, we always need a system!

  38. I can relate to trying to find a system that works us – I scheduled our time at first, but then in morphed into a “this is the order we do things, at our own pace”. A natural rhythm has formed, and it works.

    I’m sure as my kids get older, and I have more of them, that a chore system will also have to be in place. Right now, mama does everything. And I try to “include” the littles as much as possible. = )

    Btw, I love the name Beatrix. So sweet.

  39. Oh Ginny!!! I am so excited over this post! I am on my way out the door so I’ll come back to read it all later but we have had our chore packs sitting here for months waiting for me to get it togetehr enoughto figure out how to use them. I only have my 3 little ones (currently!) but that’s enough for me to need things like this too. Can’t wait to come back and read all you have to say!! XOXO

  40. i think sometimes the people who don’t like the thing you are doing, are people who have one small child. i have a large family as well, and i can get pretty resentful being the only person who does any sort of chore around here. it isn’t like we live in a palace or have a farm. we live in the city, we have a regular city lot, a 1300 sqft house with 7 people living in it (my oldest is in college now). things just get messy when people live in a house. and i can not settle if i am climbing over toys, stepping on legos, or having my kitchen look like a total mess. i actually enjoy being a homemaker, doing chores, keeping my house clean… but i live with 6 other people and really it should be a team effort. we live in a community in our home, and i think it is ok for kids to learn to be helpful and work together for the “greater good” of the whole household. and what is that saying? many hands make light work. when we all work together it take 1/4 of the time then when i have to do it all myself. i think your plan looks good! 🙂

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