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.