Wednesday, September 12, 2012

First Grade in Our Home: Chores!

As I mentioned previously, our "handcraft" for this term is a new set of household chores. :)  With the baby coming, I have been working on training the children in several new weekly and monthly cleaning tasks. No lovely product to display except for a cleaner home, but my children know they are genuinely helping out the household and are learning valuable manual skills.  My daughter in particular has started to take a real interest in doing her chores carefully and to take pride in a job well-done.  And my son is able to use his boy-energy in a positive way to benefit the family.  So this has been great work for them, and it's definitely essential to the proper functioning of the home since I'm almost nine months pregnant now and not quite able to do all that I usually do. ;)  For the most part, I try to take Charlotte Mason's advice of giving them only tasks that they can "execute perfectly" and then putting in the time needed to train them properly so that thorough and satisfactory work will be the result.  This has been a slow (and sometimes frustrating!) job at times, but it is now bearing very good fruit.

And I'm sure this is obvious to most moms, but I finally got around to writing down the steps for each chore and boy, it is sure nice not to have to repeat myself over and over again!  Their daily chores are all posted on the wall, step-by-step, so they know when they have completed the task and when they have only half-finished.  (That said, they still make mistakes because they forget to refer to the lists, but I still maintain that having it written down saves my time and voice. ;))  Now I'm working on typing up their weekly and monthly tasks, including the new ones I've added over the last few weeks.

My older two also help me with spring cleaning or other special cleaning projects that arise.  For example, during Holy Week, we do a thorough cleaning of the house (our religious spin on Spring Cleaning).  They make a list of all the chores they do that week and we offer these little extra sacrifices to God for various intentions--it's a nice little tradition, and it sure does lead to more cheerful helpers!  And right now, I'm on a bit of a nesting kick, so we're cleaning all the tile grout throughout the house, washing windows, and cleaning out clutter.  Some chores they're excited to help with (my daughter has been begging to wash windows for weeks)...and the others are assigned to children in time-out. ;)  Unlike our routine cleaning, for these kinds of seasonal chores, I don't bother spending much time training the children carefully--I just throw various tasks at them with the trust that their attempt with at least be better than not having done it at all!  In addition to that, I have started to let my daughter help me with some of the baking and food preparation, which she loves.

Here's a list of what Vincent (6) and Gianna (almost-6) help with at this point in case you're looking for ideas for your own littles:

Before meals: make lunch; set table with dishes, waters, and food; help younger siblings to the table and serve them
After meals: clear table of dishes and food; wipe down table; vacuum under table; straighten dining room; help younger siblings wash up
Laundry: Collect laundry from around the house; move from washer to dryer; remove from dryer; fold and put away all laundry
Bath time: Hang up towels and wipe down bathroom floor after bath time
In the evenings: Straighten house before bedtime, including toys, books, and laundry
Outdoors: Put away all backyard toys before coming inside; wash up and change younger siblings into clean clothes

Gather library books to return
Wash library books and shelve in our bookshelves (yes, we do wash our library books! :))
Mop all floors
Dust all surfaces within reach
Wipe down kitchen appliances
Wash tables and chairs
Check stock and fill all paper products throughout the house: paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, wipes, etc.
Put outdoors clothes in laundry at the end of the week
Wash sandals
Help bring in and unpack groceries

Wash leather sofas
Wash baseboards
Wipe down light switches and door knobs
Wash inside and outside toys

And here's an idea of what my 3-year-old daughter does:
Helps set and clear table
Folds small towels and rags; matches socks
Helps put laundry away
Helps straighten house before bed
Dries floors after mopping
Wipes down children's table and chairs
Helps gather library books to return
Helps fill paper products throughout the house
Helps with dusting/washing throughout house

Next on my training list: emptying the dishwasher and wiping down the bathrooms. :)  If anyone has other suggestions to add to the chore lists, please do share.


  1. Wow!!! My almost-7-yo can be doing SO. MUCH. MORE!

    Thank you for this guilt-releasing post, I NEEDED this 5 years later! :-)

    1. Ha! I actually have to revisit this myself now and then because my younger ones sometimes get an easy lot since I have the Big Kids to help -- it's a good reminder to me that my 5yo and 6yo are definitely capable of quite a bit! :)

  2. This is SO encouraging as I currently have a 4 years and 8 month old daughter; I’m amazed that she will probably be able to do all of these things in a year and a half! And at the same time, I have my training cut out for me. :)

    My 3.5 year old daughter is pretty much *right* at your 3 YO list as well (but struggles mightily with actually following through and doing them, as a sanguine!). The almost-2 yr old will help sporadically with toy and clothing pick up (and loves unloading groceries, the silverware, and helping me transfer clothes from washer to dryer :)).

    Any tips on how you go about training the 4-6 year olds in the chores?

    1. Hi Nicole! Sorry to be so late in responding to this! At those ages, I make sure I give tasks they CAN do, I make sure all materials are easy to access, and then I spend a good amount of time on hands-on, process-based training. That means we go through the whole process together, each time. I don't take for granted that they know what "clean" means or "tidy" means -- these are terms it is easy to throw around, but if the aims are not super clear, it's really hard for littles to do satisfactory work. So I will take them and say, "Straighten the family room means...first, we're going to put all the toys in the bins. (Do that together.) Then, we're going to put all pillows back on the sofas. (Do that together.) Then we're going to fold throw blankets and place them on the backs of sofas. etc etc." until the task is completed.

      Once they seem to have the hang of it, we move it to an independent chore. That means they will do it on their own and have me check it when done. I also will put out a checklist for kids who need something visual to hold them accountable or kids that aren't very detail-oriented -- this allows them to self-correct, which is more effective than mom nagging. It might say "Toys in bins? Pillows on sofas? Blankets folded?" And they can refer to that when they're finished to make sure the items are complete before they come and tell me they're finished. I check it, if I see anything, I ask them with a nice voice, "Uh oh! Check the list!" Once they fix it, we rejoice at work well done. :)

      I still inspect periodically, and we retrain if things start to get sloppy.

      I hope that helps! :)