Twelve people living, eating, and sleeping in one house necessitates time spent maintaining order and cleanliness. Homeschooling means that we are home making messes all day rather than heading off to school and work. Homeschooling also entails a higher level of mess and clutter in the form of books and educational materials. So how does a busy mom of many keep order in the home?
Everyone should have their own responsibilities to help with the household responsibilities. (Here is our current chore list.) How can you accomplish this?
Train your children to work.
1. Start young. Young children love to help mommy. Let them help you as you go about your work. If you have them with you while you are working think of ways that they can help. If you give them the opportunity, you will be surprised to see how helpful they will become and how much they will learn. Watching is learning at this stage.
As they become more capable, give them their own chores. This gives them a sense of pride in their accomplishment and allows them to feel that they are really helping mommy.
We use kid friendly cleaning products. White vinegar for disinfecting, baking soda for scouring, etc.
A 2 year old can:
- Help load the washer and dryer.
- Empty small trash cans.
- Run simple errands like fetching the diapers and wipes.
- Help add ingredients while you cook.
- Sweep the floor using a small dust pan and brush.
- Help dust.
- Move things while you vacuum.
- Put their own toys away.
A 3 year old can:
- Empty the silverware from the dishwasher.
- Wipe down the babies high chair.
- Make their own bed.
- Help fold laundry.
- Use a damp cloth to clean the bathroom counter and sinks, or the baseboards. A 3 year old LOVES to use a damp cloth.
- Run errands.
- Pick up a room.
A 4 year old can:
- Fold and put away their own laundry.
- Clear and wipe the table.
- Empty a rack of the dishwasher depending on where your dishes are stored.
- Sweep the floor.
- Wash some dishes and load a dishwasher.
2. Give them real responsibilities.
At 4 years our children get “real chores”. I view this as the real beginning of chore training. They are assigned an area of the house that they are responsible to tidy and clean. This allows them to take more responsibility and gives us the opportunity to train them to be diligent as they move through several different tasks. The area that we assign is well suited for training and includes tidying, wiping, dusting and sweeping for more practice. I list exactly what they need to do each day and then check when they are done.
Daddy gets more involved at this stage as he will frequently ask who is responsible for an area of the home and then will tell them how wonderful it is looking. Our children are so excited when daddy notices their area. There is certainly a sense of pride in a job well done and an area that is clean and tidy.
3. Set high standards.
Consider what constitutes a job well done for each child and write it out as concretely as you can. Then consistently check to make sure your child is meeting your standard. If not ask them to return to the area and correct what still needs work.
I like for our daily chores to take no longer than 30 minutes and we frequently use a timer to see who can make it within the time limit.
More tips on teaching children diligence in their work.
1. Determine how you want to organize your chores. Do you want to organize your chores by task (i.e. child A vacuum and child B dusts)? We did this exclusively when we had all small children. Do you want to give each child an area of responsibility (i.e. child A cleans the living room and child B cleans the bathroom)? We use this system currently and love it!
2. Decide how much time you want to devote to chores each day. Decide if you want to have more than one assigned time. We have two different times during the day that we have chores assigned. See a simple version of our schedule.
3. List what needs to be done each day. Decide how much time each task should take.
4. Assign tasks to each child. I assign a chore to whomever is the youngest child that can safely complete it. This stretches those little ones and doesn’t overburden the older ones.
- This does mean more supervision and oversight on your part, as you train your children to work hard.
- A benefit to this practice, that I am seeing now, is that it frees the older ones up to serve in areas that they are gifted or that they have a particular interest.
5. Clearly communicate each child’s responsibilities to them. I like to have it written down, that way if when I forget I can just look at the list.
6. Check every chore, everyday. Well, only do this if you actually want the chores done well.
Have fun and work along side your children.
1. Change it up. When your children are generally diligent in their work, have fun with chore time.
- Try team chores. Divide your home into two fairly equal (as far as chores) parts and then divide you and your children into two teams and let them race to get all the chores done. Let the little ones or the big ones be team captains.
- Give them a day off of cleaning chores. We do this every weekend and occasionally during the week. Everything needs to be picked up, but nothing needs to be dusted, swept, wiped, etc.
2. Enjoy working with your children. Pick a day to work with each of your children on their task. In our house I have deep cleaning tasks in each of my children’s areas, so on the day that I am working in their area, we enjoy special time working together.
All of my children enjoy helping me in the kitchen or doing outside tasks. I use this time to enjoy and talk with my children. Try to include your children in your life as much as possible, they love being with you, take advantage of that to learn their heart and their thoughts.
3. Have contests with prizes, or not. One of my favorite contests is the bedroom contest. We have two bedrooms for the children, the girls are in one and the boys in the other. Every morning I check the bedrooms to see who did a better job. I am picky, checking under the beds, in the closets, etc. The prize? During Christmas time the winning room got to display the table tree in their bedroom for the day. Currently they just get bragging rites. If both bedrooms are amazingly clean and they tie for at least 3 days during the week, we pick something extra special to do or eat on Family Fun Night (Friday). This happens more often than you suppose. Our children are very motivated by this game.
We have also had penny jars. Each child has a jar with their name on it and each day that they finish their chore on time and meet the standards we have set, they get a penny to put in their jar. When they get to a certain number of pennies they get a prize. We use a lot of special time rather than special things for prizes.
Chores do not have to be drudgery. A lot of it is in our attitude. This is one of the ways that we can serve Christ by serving our families.