Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Family Responsibilities

You'd think with me being such a list-maker that I would have gotten down a system for chore lists for the kids a lot sooner. Instead, it's taken me years. And that's with me working on it off and on the whole time.

Within the last six months, though, I think we've finally hit on a system that works for our family, so I thought I'd share.
It is, of course, a series of lists. :-/

For the kids' "Family Responsibilities" (read: chores/jobs), they each have a daily and a weekly list. The daily jobs are done daily (bet you figured that out on your own), and the weekly list has a different job for each day of the week maximum (the younger ones have some days without weekly jobs).

Thanks to the magic of Google Docs, you can see the kids' (relatively recent) lists here.
- MS
- JW
- MA

The chart has no more than seven slots for daily jobs (which includes school work and putting away school books) just by virtue of the way it's set up. I like that, because it forces me to move jobs on down the line if I want to give the oldest a new responsibility.

The last job on each child's chart is "white board list." This has solved one of the issues that has plagued me with job systems: what to do with the jobs that are not needed on a scheduled basis. Once or twice a week, they have laundry to put away (from their baskets that I sort clothes into), but it's dependent on when I've had time to bring in and fold laundry. Trash builds up irregularly, and I don't want a half-empty bag being taken out, so we (read: MS) don't take it out unless it's full. I'm available to do laundry on different days, so it needs moving (from the washer to the dryer or to the back door to be hung out) sporadically. Etc.

Each child (and adult, for that matter) has a section of a white board with their initials for me to dole out these randomly-occurring jobs (see pic). Again, I am helped by seeing how many jobs I'm assigning to each child, so it's easier to balance (something I struggled with when I was just announcing that a job needed to be done; I more often gave it to my oldest than was really fair/necessary).

It took several iterations of the lists for us to settle on one that works (some wrinkles that needed to be ironed out), but we've had the same ones for a while now.

Then, one day it occurred to me that we were repeating the same things each morning and each evening getting the kids ready for the day and ready for bed: take off your pull-up and get dressed (we have bed-wetting issues), brush your teeth, clear the table, etc. And it dawned on me: we need more lists! :-P

So, now each child has a "Morning List" and a "Bedtime List." Do you know how much easier it is to say, "Bedtime list time!" than it is to say, "Okay, JW & MA put on pull-ups, MS put toothpaste on toothbrushes, everybody make sure your teeth are brushed, don't forget a stuffed animal and a water bottle..."?

And, yes, we sneak an extra chore or two onto those lists, but that's just because it's where they belong in the day, so that's where they go.

Two of my older children (MS & MA) thrive on lists. The other (JW), thrives on routine and stability. Our Family Responsibility lists and our Morning and Bedtime lists help everyone (including Mommy) make it through their day successfully.

ETA: In case you look at the lists and think I'm cruel for having MS clean my room for me, let me explain: our bedroom is twice the size of the other two bedrooms, and is only half bedroom, actually. The other half is school room/kids' computer area/my desk/puzzles/etc. That's the half that MS straightens. There, now I feel better.

Monday, January 7, 2008


I was rooting around for a new devotional option for MS to use, because he finished the one he was working through before I expected him to (you teach a kid to do devotionals first thing out of bed each morning, and what does he do? goes and does it! :-), and we don't have anyone coming from the States until March to bring his next one. I've been meaning to write up what all the kids are doing now that we've finally gotten around to imparting the discipline of devotionals/Quiet Time, so I thought I'd do that while putting the next books on the right wishlists to help me remember to order them when I need to.

At some point while browsing a Christian bookstore, I picked up a devotional book for MS called Gotta Have God! for boys ages 6-9. I liked the format: topical, a Bible verse, short story, questions (with lines for answers), and a prayer and it seemed sound theologically. I was lackadaisical about reminding him to do them and the book kind of just sat there.

This school year, when I was deciding what we'd do for Bible, I decided we were just going to concentrate on getting the kids into the habit of daily Bible reading and devotional time. Just that. I thought maybe if I made it a part of my lesson plans and made it the only thing we were doing for Bible, we'd actually accomplish it.

Now, realize that we have an 8yo. We'd wanted to do this since he was 4. Or younger. I wish we had. At some point along the way, we at least made the ruling that the kids watched only "quiet time" videos when they first get up (they usually watch a video or two if they're up before the others' and breakfast isn't ready yet or on weekend mornings if ML and I are sleeping in), which meant that they watched Story Keepers or Veggie Tales or Praise Baby, so they were getting that input and had the understanding that there was something different and special about what you do first thing in the morning. We were taking baby steps.

The other day, I happened to look back at some notes I'd written when I was preparing lesson plans for this school year, and I remembered my goal for Bible for this year: concentrate on daily devotionals. Praise the Lord! It's happened! We've finally gotten there! A minor miracle and something I'm very grateful to the Lord for. He's been faithful to take us step-by-step to the point where the kids are either getting up and doing it on their own (MS), bugging us to do it with them (MA) or some combination of the above (JW). (Z will get his own book when we can actually understand what he'd be dictating to us. :-P)

As to what they're doing, we've stuck with the Gotta Have God! series and it's sister series for girls God and Me! (get it? "sister" series? rimshot, please). We've only come across one day's lesson that we didn't like the focus of (sorry, can't remember what it was), and that was out of the three books the kids are working through. Pretty good odds.

At this point, here's what the kids are doing:
- MS just finished Gotta Have God! Ages 6-9. He's started working through The One Year Book of Devotions for Boys, which was something we had on hand, and I have also been pleased with. He'll do that for this calendar year, and then pick up with Gotta Have God! Ages 6-9 Vol. 2. Once he's done with that, we'll get him the first and second ones for 10-12 year olds, potentially alternating with The One Year Book of Devotions for Boys, Vol. 2.
- JW is working through Gotta Have God! Ages 2-5 still (he's 6), because we got it for him late. He'll start on the 6-9 one as soon as he finishes this one.
- MA is doing God and Me! Ages 2-5 and will do volume 2 when she gets done and then move on to the older versions.

For those with kids that wouldn't be in those particular books but are still interested in the series, here are the other links:
- Girls: God and Me! Ages 6-9 Volume 1 and Volume 2, Ages 10-12 Volume 1 and Volume 2. The company also puts out a series of "Christian Girls' Guides" that look interesting, although I have not looked at them personally (and I haven't looked at any of the 10-12 year old books for either gender, either, so keep that in mind). There's one for friendship, the Bible, money, being your best, and your mom.