I have been pondering the question of how to organize our morning routine and our chores for many months...probably since the beginning of the year. I was delighted when the workbox yahoo group had a very indepth discussion on the topic. I also read the book A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion
and got some terrific ideas. Then my friend from church told me about a system she had put together for her young children as well. So my subconscious had plenty of ammunition to keep it firing and it FINALLY came up with something that seems to be working pretty well in the 3 days I have been putting it to the test.
Here's what I needed from a chore system:
I wanted ONE chart for both morning routine and chores.
I needed REAL, meaningful work to get done at an age appropriate level.
I needed it to be motivating, simple, easy to use. I also need it to be flexible enough to roll with a very unpredictable group of kids. And because I rarely hold myself to a rigid set of steps to complete each day, I didn't feel like the chart should always be the same for them either. There needed to be an element of choice, of ownership, of pride.
Here's what our chart looks like at the beginning of the day:
The 2yo is not included on the chart yet. But he does get to help out when he can and gets the same sort of "reward" as the girls do when/if he does.
I put magnetic tape on the back so it can hang on my fridge and I can slide it up out of 2yo's reach. I got this pocket chart at the dollar bin at Target.
The row of icons just under each girl's name is the morning routine. It's the same for them both:
eat, toilet, brush teeth, get dressed, put PJs away, brush hair. Each completed icon gets 1/2 of a "bean" (explained later). So finishing the morning routine = 3 beans for each girl. A half bean icon is placed in front of each completed step of the morning routine so that it is visually obvious how they're progressing along.
Then I get out my box of chore tickets.
And I choose a variety of chores that actually need to get done that day (i.e. work that I would do myself anyway, but would like them to complete.)
I lay those chosen tickets out on the table and let each girl choose their own chores. Each chore has a "bean" value. My 6yo needs to choose enough chores to add up to 5 beans. The 3yo only needs to choose enough chores to add up to 3 beans. And I'm finding that we may need to start her out even more slowly, and that perhaps the 6yo could handle more responsibility. But we'll see...
Anyway, after they've chosen their chores, the chore tickets go into the second row of the pocket chart below their names:
In this example, she has chosen to collect all the laundry and take it downstairs for 3 beans. She also chose to empty the dish drainer for 1 bean and put away her own pile of laundry for 1 bean. That's five beans. So here's what it looks like after she does the work:
Then we count all the beans she has earned that day. A typical day would be a total of 8 beans for the 6yo and 6 beans for the 3yo. So we get real lima beans and put them in the jar :
When the jar is full they will get to do something special. They've already decided that they want to go to a paint your own pottery place and have a fun day making a special piece.
I'd also add, that they can earn beans in other ways besides chores. I try to "catch" them doing nice things for each other and for the family. Good deeds, no matter how small, are noticed and rewarded with a bean or two. I try to resist the tempation of removing beans for bad behavior. But I confess that on one particularly exhausting and frustrating day, I dumped out the jar and made them start over. I wouldn't do it again. It's very discouraging for the kids.
My only other comment is that we need to set some ground rules for how quickly the chores need to be done. Before we start school? Before they can go play? Before dinner? BEfore bed? See, that's where the flexibility part comes in. Sometimes I don't get my work done until weeelllll into the night. But for consistency sake, I think the rule will be that chores must be done before school UNLESS they have chosen a chore that cannot be completed until later in the day such as setting the table for dinner or clearing the dinner dishes.
Another flexibility plus of this system: I have some blank tickets that I can use at a moments notice should a "new chore" present itself. For example, tomorrow I think I'll write one for "clean out the microwave." That will probably be a 4 or 5 bean job.
I've also told the girls that if they'd like to do MORE than the required number of beans, they can choose between receiving the extra beans or receiving a dime for each extra bean they've earned. For example, if my 6yo did 8 beans worth of chores in a day, then she could choose to receive all 8 beans, or to receive 5 beans plus $0.30. It's one more way to help her feel some ownership/control in the process. Plus it teaches decision making, math skills, and money management as she earns more.
There you have it. Our new system. Let me know if you ever decide to give it a try yourself and how it worked for you? And any suggestions for improving it?
UPDATED AUGUST 9 2010: I'm glad that this post has been helpful to some of you. I've had several requests over the past year or so for copies of the chore chart images I used. I'd be happy to share....if I could find them! I simply don't know what happened to them. The hard drive monster ate them. But all you really need to do is search the google images clip art for the images you need. Good luck!
Oh, I should also note, that a year later, we don't even really need the chart anymore, which I consider a blessing since charts are not my thing. We still use the bean jar, just not the chart.