Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How we do it: part one

I think a good place to begin is with a disclaimer: I am not an expert, just a mom. I have six kids but I'm still new at it! My current methods have evolved and are subject to change at any time. What works for me,may not work for you so I will try to explain my reasons for my methods as I go.

It seems to me that the best way to go about this is to do it in installments. I will put all I can think of about each topic that comes to mind in individual posts. Then I will label the posts with the topic "how we do it" so that the posts can be gathered together with one click later on.

Also, if you think of anything you want to ask about--about the topic or other topics that interest you--please say so in your comments and I will try to answer them in this series of posts.

And without further ado, the topic of the day--

I debated about what to start with and decided to begin with my favorite thing instead of saving it till last. Our job system.(Vitali, age four, unloading the dishwasher)

It is important to begin at the beginning. I did not bring home three Russian-speaking boys and expect them to clean the living room the next week. I counted it as helping around the house if they didn't miss the toilet, for goodness sakes! We had a lot of work to do with the boys to get them to obey us (another topic--not sure if I'll do that one or not...) and it was all consuming for three weeks at least. Then for the following three or four weeks we were mostly consumed, followed by a couple more weeks that eventually and gradually morphed into days at a time where we would go to bed smiling and not completely exhausted. This period of time would certainly have been a recipe for failure for any attempt at structure in the area of housework. One day, after the storm had lifted and I was able to look around and survey the wreck of my routines, I was inspired with what is now our job system.

I should say that I rejected all ideas I had seen up until this point knowing that charts, rotation schedules, and the like would be disastrous failures for me. I needed something that required no maintenance on my part. No stickers to buy, no "Oh, yeah, it's Monday and I forgot to update the chart" business for me!

An adoption friend, Leslie, posted on her blog how she made a list of all the daily jobs she could think of and required the kids to each choose four a day to accomplish. I made mine a variation on this technique.

First, I started out like Leslie, I made a list. My children were all eight and under so the work needed to be appropriate for their ages. In making my list, I divided up some jobs. Like for instance, CLEAN THE KITCHEN overwhelms me and I knew that none of the kids could really do the counters yet anyway. So I divided that room like this, SWEEP THE FLOOR, and TIDY KITCHEN FLOOR, and CLEAR THE TABLE (breakfast). None of these jobs is all that hard in and of itself and I knew that could be key to our success.

Next, I got my supplies. Enthusiasm gave me focus and I put magnetic tape and magnetic adhesive sheets on my shopping list. Then, I typed, in easy to read capital letters, each separate job. I cut out and stuck these onto individual pieces of magnetic tape. In the end, I drew pictures on the tape too since only two of my six children could read English! Like I said, No maintenance for me!

Also, Most of the kids didn't even recognize their own names in print and in the interest of clarity and color, I had wallet sized pictures of the kids printed and I cut these out and stuck them onto the magnetic sheets. Even the littlest two. Can they clean the living room? Not alone, but I can go in there and do the job with them and be investing in my future and theirs too. One day, they'll surprise me and do the work themselves! For now, I am resolved to be joyful with their imperfection.

Each morning, and this has been fine-tuned, the kids do their Morning Routines: clothes on, teeth brushed, beds made, and THEN are allowed to go and choose their jobs for the day. This gives incentive to hurry and get the MR done so as to pick the favorite jobs! The oldest two each pick
three, the middle two pick two, and the small ones are supposed to pick one. (They don't always pick and then they don't always do the job since their success depends on me helping but I am just planting seeds with them right now anyway) They "pick" by taking a job-magnet and placing it under their picture, like a mini to-do list.

When each job is done, this method still allows for a closing action (like putting a star on a chart or marking something off of a list does) giving a sense of done-ness. They simply take the job from under their picture and return it to the space above. When they are done, There is nothing under their picture.

This week, I added a feature. I put a star sticker on the main jobs or "big" jobs. I made a new rule that each of the four older children needs to pick at least one "star" job with his/her other jobs. This makes sure that the last picker isn't left with the biggest jobs. This was a stroke of genius. :-) It has smoothed out that wrinkle very well.

Obviously, I homeschool and we are home all day. We do these jobs in the morning but no one here needs to be out the door at 7:00am. This system may need to be tweaked to have separate morning/afternoon sets of jobs, maybe on different colored papers. (Pick yellow in the morning and blue in the evening, for instance).

We don't do jobs on Sundays, but we sometimes do an extra job each on Saturdays. It varies. I told the kids it would. I also told them that I may say in the evening, "would you please_________" and still expect a willing helper. I haven't had anyone say, "But Mo-om, I did my jobs this morning!"

And, I mentioned being joyful in imperfection when it comes to the littlest ones. This applies to the older kids too! One job in the list is "Surprise". That is one that is an unknown until it has been chosen. (Usually, it is unknown to me, too. And I scramble to think of something!) This gives me the option of getting something small done that I may not need done daily but that needs done that day.

Max loves to get "surprise". The other day, Misha and Max were doing all their jobs together and for the surprise job I gave the task of helping me clean my room. (poor bedroom, it can get so neglected!) this is what my bed looked like when they were done:

Perfect? No!

Done? Yes.

H a l l e l u j a h !!



Debbie said...

Great! Thank you for this and letting us know that it didn't happen right when you got home with three non-English-speaking boys. :-) I appreciate your sharing with us!

Chad and Tara said...

Great idea! I may consider something similar to your job "chart" soon. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your next post of ideas on the next topic.


Kathy and Matt said...

I really like the approach you've taken. I've been trying a chore chart, most of which includes the basics the girls are supposed to do (make beds, clothes in the hamper, pick up toys, etc), but your approach is great because it lets them each have some control in picking the work they'll take on.
Thanks for this creative idea!

Stange Family said...

thank you...
I wish we lived near each other...I'd enjoy having you as a "close" friend instead of a "distant" friend. :)

Amblin said...

Wow!! This is wonderful! I am totally copying you! :) Thanks for the tips :)

Amblin said...

I hope you don't mind. I linked to this from my blog because it really is a great idea.

Megan said...

I am so excited to have found your blog! We are an adoptive homeschool family as well! There are NONE in our area, so it is fun to "know" another one. I found you through pay4adoption as we are in need of raising a good chunk of money to bring home our 3rd child, an almost 8 year old from Thailand. I would appreciate any ideas you can share with us. We have stepped out in faith through this whole adoption and God has provided each step of the way. Now we find ourselves humbly seeking help for our travel expenses. I LOVE this chart idea and will be implementing it very soon! I know you are one busy Mama, any advice you can share would be so appreciated! God bless~ Megan

Amy said...

What a neat system!
We have a weekly list that I vary every so often... that way the quickest child in the morning does not get the "good" chores all the time! hehe!
I can't wait to read more!
You kiddos are all so adorable!


Sheryl said...

Great Idea! Your family is so cute. I wish I had been so ingenius when my kids were small. You surely have talent in the organization department. It looks like a full proof system. God's blessings on you.

Mike and Christie said...

I love the refrigerator magnet idea. :)
FLEXIBLE and you don't have to cross anything out. :)

Natalia said...

Hi, I found your post on Tonya's blog--she found it on Amblin's, and I was so impressed I shared it on the Momys board. I hope that's okay. When we get it implemented in our house (I haven't even been to Walmart yet for the magnetic strip) I plan to link it on mine too!

Thanks so much! You are brilliant!

Dana said...

You are an inspiration! Just what I've been looking for. Thank you for taking the time to share.