Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reminder packs: the housework system

When I was a kid, life was easy. Too easy?

I grew up in an amazing home, with two parents who loved me and my sisters dearly. We were always having "family time." I remember numerous camping trips (practically every weekend in the spring and fall,) trips to the lake and pool, traveling around to different states. When we lived on the east coast, my parents took us to the Charleston market and Kiawah Islands beaches all the time. We had game nights every weekend. We were given the choice throughout our school years to attend public school or be homeschooled. We had long talks on long walks, special days, and we were encouraged in everything we pursued. I had a wonderful childhood, and I'm still close to both of my parents, and talk to them every day.

Just wanted to start with that, before saying that I was ill-equipped for marriage and housekeeping. My Mom was a stay-at-home mom most of my childhood, and she took care of everything on her own. I don't believe it's because she thought it would be faster. And she certainly loved spending time with us. I think she just wanted us to be kids, have fun, relax. She was a good housekeeper, and she had it all under control. Why bother us with it? Three girls in the house were usually pretty peaceful. And not terribly messy. She would let us read, and she'd bring us fresh fruit to eat. Yes, okay, I was a bit spoiled (lucky? maybe. blessed? you bet!) At the time, it all seemed very normal.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't completely coddled! I did earn my own money, and I worked diligently in school. I helped my sisters. We loved to travel, but a tent was fine for the night. And we would walk for hours, on trails or shopping (it wasn't as if I had servants that carried me around, just so you get the right idea here.) We also never complained about hours of walking. It was wonderful just being together and talking.

Suddenly I got married (albeit very young,) and my house was messy. I mean, really messy. No one was cleaning it. I didn't know how to sweep. Or work a washing machine. I'd do some stuff here and there, but I also worked full time. When would the laundry end? It was a huge adjustment and I felt inadequate for the job. Then one day I realized that it was ME. I'd brought my bad habits and less-than-joyful-attitude about work into my marriage. I am a reasonably intelligent adult, but I was floundering in all of my endeavors because I was not accepting my responsibilities contentedly. It didn't seem like a good fit. ;-) It still doesn't feel natural for me, as it seems to for some. I'd rather paint and decorate than dust any day! I DO work hard on the house, but not necessarily consistently!

It's taken many years for me to get over my bad attitude and realize that the laundry is not going away on its own.

Although I *usually* keep my house decent now (maybe not so recently,) I still will find myself wanting "fun" time instead. I developed slothful habits from inconsistently helping as a child. It carried over: if I want a clean house now, I can quickly make it spotless. However, if I'd rather do something else, I just neglect my home and end up with tornado-looking-wreckage. Granted, I'm usually doing creative things with the kids. But there has to be a balance.

To top that off, I've always had a hard time figuring what what the kids should be doing. The Artist and Nature Man have been responsible for dishes for years, which is a huge burden off. But there are hundreds of other things to get done each day, and only one mommy. Plus cooking. Yep, homeschooled kids have to eat, too. How much work is too much for kids? It's hard for me to gauge. I tend to be on the lenient side, (big surprise there.) As in, it's been hard for me to enforce the simple rule, "Don't put it down, put it away." Because, really, it's easier to throw our flip flops right inside the door and take off running to the backyard for sprinkler time, rather than walking to closets to put them away. It's the simple stuff that builds up.

I finished reading Managers of Their Chores, and enjoyed it. I don't agree with everything, but there is much to glean. It's helped me SO much in just getting my chores listed, age-appropriate responsibilities, and sample schedules. We've started using "Reminder packs" (the Maxwells call them chore packs in the books, but I include more than chores and would like to avoid the negative connotation of "chores"...maybe it's just negative to me...?)

So far they are working GREAT! It helps keep our day flowing, and limits distractions. What is a "reminder pack" you ask? Why, it's a little name-tag-looking-do-dad that you clip handy-dandy to your shirt. Do the chore on top. Then move that one to the back and go to the next, until you get back to the beginning. Works wonders. For one thing, who doesn't love to wear clippy name tags?? Second, the cards have fun little pictures on them that I drew (while neglecting the laundry. Go ahead and laugh.) Yea for art! :-) Third, the kids are doing this "all by 'self," and they are proud of their accomplishments. They know that I'll check their work when they return the clippies. Everyone benefits from accountability, right? The "before" me would tell them to clean their rooms, and then I wouldn't check. Tsk, tsk.

This is also their chance to show off their awesome job.

Besides the typical chores, I also included things like "recite your memory verse," "have your prayer time," and "read to baby brother when you finish your work." It's nice to throw in some easy and fun things that we plan to do anyway.

Nature Man decided to have his prayer time

in the living room yesterday...

and look who watched and followed the example...

love it.

I hope I'm equipping the kids with good habits (and good attitudes,) strong work ethics, and consistency.

My parents were fabulous, just fabulous. I don't mean this as a criticism in any way. Hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it? Someday, despite all of my efforts, my kids will look back and decide to try something differently. I hope they'll say what I say now, "I had such an amazing childhood. Now, with my own kids, I think we'll try this..."

Btw, we do the scheduling throughout the school year, but I'm not great with it through the summer. I l-o-v-e to be outside, love to visit with people, and I love to craft/ paint/ sew/ etc. So we "wing" it throughout the warmer months. But now, hopefully, we'll just wing the middle part of the day, and keep the morning and evening more structured, with a smoothly running home.

Any tips on what works for your family?


Jerri Dalrymple said...

Sounds heavenly!

Just what are those Woods up to? said...

Have I ever told you how much I look up to you?

I see those pics of your kids praying and it makes my heart just about burst with how much I want that for my own kids, too.

And I think the clippie thing is a great idea ("I mean who dosn't love to wear fun clippie thingys?"--you are hilarious!)

I am the same way as you (surprise, we did have the same childhood! haha! and I wouldn't trade it for anything!) about housework! In the beginning of my marriage, my house was a disaster. And I still have to fight the mentality that house-work is an interruption from "real life" rather that actually a necessary part of life.

I think you're raising your kids similarly to how we were raised, and building on that some other things like consistent chores, etc. That's what I hope to do too (with much of your invaluable advice).

christine said...

Ok, I am right there with you!!! It is a constant battle for me as well because I didn't learn how to simply pick up after myself (much less do all the other wonderful household chores) along the way!! My parents worked all the time on the farm growing up and wanted something different for their kids. :) We are just starting to implement some things for the kids--but I love that idea!! Keep up the great work! :)

Adelia said...

Anything that works and inspires follow through is a good thing! Yay, for gleaning!

Shanda said...

Awesome! Love the clippie thingy's ;), love that you are being transparent enough to show that all of us as moms strive toward balance (but never completely obtain it!), and absolutely loved the photos of your sons praying!! Too precious!

I grew up with a "list" mom. Every morning she made, "the list." We each worked away on the list until it was done and then we could play. I am probably a bit out of balance in the opposite direction; but that is the beauty of learning from one another!

But my mom came from an abusive and neglectful home so she really had no idea how to play with us. But she did draw. I have had to learn how to do the "creative stuff" along the way. Praise God he allowed me to marry the most creative man alive! (O.k., maybe not the most...but you get the point!)

He effortlessly suggests that we turn refrigerator boxes into forts, we see how many bugs we really can attract to one slice of apple, molds just about anything out of play dough and clay, and inspires my kids to create on their own.

And this comment:
"Someday, despite all of my efforts, my kids will look back and decide to try something differently. I hope they'll say what I say now, "I had such an amazing childhood. Now, with my own kids, I think we'll try this..."

Amen & amen.

So glad we have connected in this blogging world!

Ann-Marie said...

Wendy - I totally connected with this post. I was brought up much the same way.

After we bought our first house, and I cleaned it top to bottom, the first thing I did was to call my mother and thank her for all those years of cleaning the house - I had no idea how HARD it was!

I'm learning a lot from your example - hopefully, we'll bring Sam up to be more self-sufficient than either of us were in those early years!

Stephanie @ My Answered Prayer said...

I too would rather be at the lake, water park, park just having fun with the kids and friends than cleaning house. I'm trying to find fun ways to get the kids to help around here. Thanks for the tips!