September 29, 2013

Family Service: Our New Chore System Part 1 of 2

This post has been a long time coming. I intended to get this up last month but school started and pretty much all my free time went out the window. I do get some rare moments but they are few and far between. Originally I intended to tell you about our new chore system in one post but since I wanted to be thorough to help you understand it I felt it would be better broken up into two posts. The first post will be about how the chore system works and the second post will talk about our family guidelines that go along with the chore system as well as the blessings and consequence system we use.

Our family chore system needed an update. My poor oldest son had been doing virtually almost the same chores for 3-4 years! While he was so patient and diligent about it he was starting to get weary (and bored) and needed to be refreshed. He was up for new challenges and my youngest was up for more responsibility. I was also feeling like I had to constantly micro-manage what they were getting done and that the responsibilities among the boyes were imbalanced. I was getting weary with the way it was going.

I had been praying since the end of last school year about changing our chore system. I was asking the Lord to lead me in the right direction because I didn't want to set something up and have it fail or do it all in my own strength. He knows my kids best and me best so He knows how to direct me best. My husband and I were at our homeschool conference in June (I recommend everyone who homeschools or is thinking about homeschooling attends these once a year, they are so encouraging and renewing) and we came across a lady named Vicki Bentley. She created a book called "The Everyday Family Chore System." I started browsing through it and it seemed like it would be a great jumping off point for revamping our own chore system. My husband agreed and we took it home.

We spent some nights during the summer looking it over and coming up with a plan. My husband had some wonderful ideas for the "Star System" which I will get into later and he helped to implement this in our first week of school this year which was "Life Skills Week."

Life is school right? I certainly think so. We spent an entire week teaching life skills to our boys and training them on our new chore system as well as our expectations. It has really paid off as we are a month into it now and I am feeling like I am working myself out of a job. Yay! Sure, I will always have chores to do but they are capable young men and can certainly pull their weight around here - and they do.

Alright, let's get in to the chore system, how it looks and how it works. Our Family Service Chore System was inspired by Vicki Bentley's book that I linked above. We made it our own so not everything you see in the pictures are in her book. The idea is in her book. The design is what we came up with here. Her book does contain many pages of prewritten chores and chore cards that you can simply copy and laminated for your own use as well as ideas for implementation. You don't have to create your own system or cards if you get her book. I chose to create my own cards, chore labels and pictures because I needed our chores to be a little more specific to our family and the way things run around here.

Here is what the system looks like:
The left side is Cody's board. The middle is our Family Service verse - Colossians 3:22-24, "How To Do It" card box with the "Job Box" and the right is Corbin's board.

I purchase the teal boards at Target in the dollar bin. They are magnetic and came with the little flower magnets. I covered the magnets with what I wanted them to say - "Daily," "Weekly," and "Monthly."  I also purchased the middle organizer boxes at Target in the office supply section. They have worked out perfectly. The clothespins were purchased at Hobby Lobby and I didn't intend to do different colors for daily, weekly and monthly chores but Hobby Lobby ran out of clothespins (the ones I needed) so I had to improvise. I like it better this way anyway.

Here is it on the wall in our upstairs hallway by the boys rooms:

Here is a close up of both boards:

Here is how the chore system works.  There are clothespins for daily, weekly or monthly chores as well as two on each board for their morning routine and their evening routine. Each clothespin is color coded - yellow is daily, orange is weekly and green is a job that will only be done monthly (one a month.) 
On any given month they will have around 13 tasks to complete so what you see in the picture is a little sparse on the amount of chores I give them. They are of course age appropriate chores too. You would be surprised what your little ones can do though!

They boys morning routine will almost always be the same until they get older.  The chores on the morning routine are: have quiet time (we don't consider this a chore but it is a good reminder for the boys each morning), get dressed, make bed, put pj's away, wash hands, wash face, brush hair and brush teeth on it. The evening routine is: take a bath, brush hair, brush teeth and floss, put pj's on, put dirty clothes in the hamper, pick up all toys around the house, and make sure all surface areas of your room are clean. These will probably also change as they get older. For now though the evening and morning routine do not rotate each month. The rest of ALL the chores rotate each month. That means that Corbin and Cody will have different daily, weekly and monthly tasks for October than they did in September.  This helps them with boredom and helps me train them in all the chores not just certain ones. Even though they will grow up to be men they need to be capable to cook and do household task such as cleaning and keeping things orderly. It will hopefully greatly bless their future wives and will give them skills they need if they don't get married.

Daily Chores are things like sweep dining room after dinner, give water to the cat, empty the trash, help carry groceries, unload silverware, etc. These are things that almost always need to be done daily in our house. The weekly ones are things like sort laundry (yes we only do laundry ONE day during the week), vacuum couches, fold and put away laundry, etc.  The monthly chores are things that need to be done but not as often like sweep the front and back porch, mop the floors, organize book shelves, sweep in trash area under sink, etc.

Each week the boys also have a weekly clothespin that says "Job from the Job Box." This means that they get to choose a job to do from the white job box hanging on the wall. It is to be done on Friday or Saturday when we do our weekly chores. The "Job Box" jobs are things that I consider "spring cleaning" type of chores. Things like cleaning the front and back glass doors, wiping all switch plates int he house, wiping walls and baseboards.  They really like the "Job Box." Not because they really like the chores but because they really the surprise element of not knowing exactly what is in it.  This can also be used a disciplinary tool because even though they like the job box they don't always like to do what chore has to be done from the job box. I can assign them an extra job if needed. 

Poor Corbin, the first time he chose from the job box he was so excited. He smile quickly turned into a frown when he chose clean ALL trash cans inside and out! Awwwhhhh. I am such a mean mom.  Actually we helped him with that but it was a doozy.

In hindsight I may make choosing from the job box a monthly thing rather than weekly but we will see.

Here are pictures of the clothespins:

I typed the chores in Microsoft Word and printed them on colored cardstock. Then I laminated all of them and glued them on the appropriate clothespins with Tacky Glue.

Let's talk a little more about the "How to Do it Box" and the "Job Box."

 First we will start with the "How to Do It" Cards.
These are basically step-by-step instruction cards for each chore we have in our home.  They are reference cards. I am pretty particular about how things are cleaned here and want it learned "right." If they can do a thorough job and want to do that thorough job in their own way once they have learned my way then they are free to branch out a little.  For life skills week we went through a good portion of these cards and each chore to train them of what I expect for each chore. The cards are 4x6 cards laminated and filed under "Daily," "Weekly," and "Monthly" tasks. Each set has a "D," "W," or "M" written on the back of them in case I forget where each one goes or someone dumps over the file box and mixes them up.

Here is an example of a card:

It may seem a little excessive at first but our children need instruction. They need to know how. If they are not taught then they will not know your expectations and chances are they will not do a thorough and effective job. By the end of he second week the boys did not need to refer to the cards any longer because they knew the expectation. It has also helped when the boys don't do it properly to be able to refer them back to the card in order to remind them of the expectation. It eliminates the possibility for excuses as to why it was not done correctly and it eliminates laziness. When chores change again they will have a period of time that they will need to start referring to the "How To Do It" cards again to refresh themselves on the newly assigned chores.

The "Job Box" has less cards in it because it is just jobs that are "spring cleaning" type jobs. Each card in this box is 4 x6 and laminated as well. These also have a "J" written on the back of them so that I know they go in the job box.

These jobs are filed alphabetically in the file box. They are also step-by-step reference cards for the boys to use while doing each chore.
Here is a sample "Job Box" card:

I used Vicki's idea of clothespins because they are easy to rotate and add to. Each month I will change the boys assigned chores. They will likely have a few of the same but some news ones too. The use of the clothespins make it easy to switch things around and I can easily create another clothespin label if I need to add another chore to our system.

The boys are expected to have completed their morning routine but 8:30 AM each morning when we start breakfast. If they don't, they have a few choices which we will talk about in the next post on family guidelines, blessings and consequences.

Their daily chores they have until 5:30pm to complete which is before dinner time. There are some daily chores like giving the cat water that have to be done before breakfast and they know that. THey also have a half hour to complete any unfinished chores after dinner (like any dishes that need to be done, etc.) If they don't complete their daily chores by the time specified they have a choice too. We will talk about that in the next post. The weekly chores we do on Friday or Saturday and they must be completed by then or they get some consequences. Sundays are rest days for us. It is not that we don't have chores to do but our reward system is not implemented that day and it is a bit of a "lighter" day. The monthly chores are done at the end of each month right before rotation.

Since we have boys we think this system will be very effective in raising them to go out and submit to authority (their bosses someday), follow detailed directions and do a successful job using a good work ethic with integrity. We also like the blessings and consequence system because it parallels real life ahead for our boys growing into men. They will one day (like Daddy) go out and have a job where they get paid to do a good job. They will also continue to work without getting paid on the weekends (most likely.) In my next post I will talk about blessings but so you know, we do not pay our children real money to complete Family Service jobs. It is just that - Family Service. They do have one day out of the week (Sundays) in which they do their work without possibility of blessing (reward), much like a Daddy comes home to his family and continues to work without getting a pay check. I hope that all makes sense.

The last part in this post I am going to quickly talk about using this system for non-reading children. My youngest is not a reader yet and so obviously he can't read the cards. I decided to draw him pictures for every chore. I still go over the card with him orally and will continue to go over it with him until he does the job according to the card. I also went over each picture and what it meant. He almost knew all of them but my drawing skills have regressed to he couldn't tell some of them. Also, for things like setting the table I have drawn pictures on the back of the "How to Do It" card for him to know properly how to set a table. During training I make both of my boys participate in each chore so they know how to do it according to the card. After that, if it is not their chore for the month, they do not have to do it.

Here are what the pictures I drew for Cody's board look like:

I know this was a lengthy post but I hope that it has given you some ideas or inspiration for a chore system at our house. This system has been effective in redeeming the time, easing my need to micro-manage, nag and remind 500 times a day. It has given the boys some ownership over their daily tasks and abilities to have blessing or reap consequences depending on what they sewed that week. It has also helped a great deal in homeschool because we are able to start on time every day (unless something unforeseen happens) and we have been able to implement dinner at a certain time and usually have an hour to and hour and a half of family time to play or read at night.  We are not slaves to this schedule and we do have flexibility but this has created a great guideline for our family and I consider it an answered prayer.

Part 2 of this post talking about the blessings, consequences and family guidelines will be up on this week. Stay tuned....

**Updated** If you would like to read Part 2 please click here.

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For any and all health advice/suggestions and/or posts on this blog, I do not assume any liability for you. The posts and comments on this blog are not meant to be a substitute for your own practicing physician's care in your life. These posts are based on my experience and research in my own healing journey and are placed here to encourage and help those ailing with their health. We are all individuals and there is not ONE pat answer or resolution that applies to everyone across the board.