“Before I knew it, it was time to set the table for lunch. Josiah and I raced to see who could get done with our jobs first. I slowed down at the end so Josiah could catch up---then I let him win! Mommy took me into her room alone and gave me a million hugs. She said she was so happy that I was learning to see how others feel—and that I make Josiah feel important. I think she’ll probably tell Daddy, and he’ll say, “Jonathan, Mommy told me a good report about you!” I love it when he says that—he always has a big smile on his face and tears in his eyes when he does.”*
Whenever I talk about children and chores, people always want to know exactly how our chore day runs. You are in luck! I am in the middle of revising our chore schedule for the spring. (I usually alter our schedule, chore charts, etc. two to four times a year. I love planning!)
Tomorrow I will begin posting our current chore schedule. Before that, however, I want to share two rules of thumb that we have adhered to in our home concerning distributing jobs. We learned both of these things about twenty years ago at a Gregg Harris workshop—and they have helped us in the management of our home so much.
1. Give the job to the youngest person who can handle it.
When we first heard Mr. Harris say this, we had four kids seven and under—and we looked at each other and practically laughed out loud. We had more work than any two people could manage—Ray working seventy hours a week as the controller of an automotive plant; me homeschooling and doing private tutoring while caring for that many little kids (and five acres, a swimming pool, and a half acre (it seemed!) garden). However, we went home and took his advice to heart right away. If there was a task or chore that Joshua (age seven) or Kayla (age four) could handle, we assigned it to them. And you know what? We found that when we examined our life more closely, there were many things that Joshua could do—and Kayla was smart and able and followed suit in learning many jobs as well.
Throughout the years, this little bit of wisdom has meant a lot to us in managing our home and getting a lot accomplished. It meant that the youngest one who could do it did the laundry each day (for the girls, this was age six or seven; for the boys, age nine or so). It meant that the youngest one who could do it did the dishes (not just the silverware or cups!). It meant that the youngest one who could be on lunch duty successfully got lunch duty. It also meant that as each child matured, he or she learned more and more skills—and freed Mom up to teach the other kids more, train hearts, cook from scratch (thus, reducing our grocery budget), garden and can (again reducing our grocery budget), etc.
With this approach, even when the kids were fairly young, our chore sessions were extremely productive. And you know what? The kids were proud of their work! They loved not having token jobs. They loved telling relatives how much they could do. Every new recipe that a child learned to prepare, every new household task one became efficient in was cause for bragging to these kids! We were a family of chorers—working together to make things happen at home. (And we continue to be a family of chorers—working together to make things happen at home—and around the world now! smile…)
2. Think, “What can I do right now that nobody but I can do?”
This kind of goes hand in hand with Mr. Harris’ first tip—and expands on it. He recommended that in delegating work to family members, we consider that Mom should think of her work as the things that “nobody but I can do.” We thought about this and realized there was a lot of truth in it. There are so many tasks and jobs in the home that nobody but Mom can do (especially if you are a homeschooler).
Nobody but Mom could nurse the babies. Nobody but Mom (oftentimes) can do correspondences; do library business; plan menus; prepare recipes; do initial organization of bookcases, file cabinets, etc.; cook for company for many years; organize freezers the way she wants them; deep clean; etc. Add to that for homeschoolers—plan and purchase curriculum; plan the daily schedule; create lesson plans/kids’ school schedules; monitor said schedules; and much, much more.
Mr. Harris encouraged us (and Ray took this quite literally, which helped us immensely) to have Mom doing the things that only she could do and let Dad and the kids do the other things whenever possible. (Obviously, there are many things that only Dad can do, too, and we had to consider that as well.) For us, this meant that when we had family work session, Mom would do the things that only she could do (i.e. not frying hamburger, which anybody ten and over could do), Dad would oversee and work with the kids on their jobs, and the littles would do easier tasks.
This eventually carried over to the older kids. Once they could do harder jobs (for the girls this was editing and writing for our publishing company; now for the two older boys it is printing and binding curriculum and taking telephone orders), they did those—and younger ones took the easier jobs.
This approach helped Mom get more things accomplished, but it also put a sense of pride and accomplishment within our kids. Kara was rarely asked to unload the dishes or sweep the floor during her high school years. She could fix entire meals or do grocery shopping—why would she unload dishes? Jonathan, at seventeen, doesn’t fold and put away towels. He runs lawn equipment, takes the boys to things, and binds books.
This concept is not a demeaning one—but rather an empowering one. “I have skills. I have needed skills that make my family successful! I can do many things that others have not been trained in. I am grateful to be a part of this family and to have learned the things that I have learned.” Truly, these two approaches to household management (and now to management of our publishing company) have helped us achieve many of our family goals and given our children life-long skills and confidence.
*For the complete story of “Jonathan’s Journal, follow this link: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/03/day-seventy-eight-introducing-jonathans.html