Chores

As a homeschooling momma to four kids, the chores are never ending. Toys are spread across bedroom floors and a few are scattered into the living room. Craft papers spill out of a box. A paint project is left out on the table from the day before. Laundry baskets overflow with dirty clothes. The kitchen… Well, you get the idea.

My rule of thumb for mess has always been that if it can be cleaned in less time than it took to make it, then the mess is worth it. For example, playdough play can last for an hour or more, but clean up only takes five to ten minutes. Baking, icing, and decorating cupcakes takes much longer than the ten minutes it takes in to wipe down the kitchen afterward. Of course this rule was much easier for me when I only had one or two kids. It still works. I just have to convince the kids that it is now their job to do the clean up. My three girls will often throw caution to the wind and play such large games of Barbies or restaurant that the cleanup is huge. They take some coaxing, but they love the games enough to do it over and over again. My son is much more cautious and calculates his activities carefully before decided if the mess is worth the work to pick it up afterwards.

As for the everyday chores, I have tried various versions of chore systems to keep the kids involved in helping over the years. We have been stuck on the current one for about a year and it seems to work pretty well at this stage. In the morning I send them to do their “6 Jobs”. On the wall in the hallway, I have a little homemade chart with pictures for my non-reader.

1. Get dressed.

2. Put dirty clothes in the basket.

3. Fold and put their clean clothes away.

4. Tidy bedroom.

5. Make bed.

6. Family Job

The family job changes daily and seems to keep them from getting complacent.  The jobs include empting the dish washer, cleaning bathrooms, cooking dinner, tidying the living room, taking out trash.

I wash most of the the laundry because I like that job. I also clean most of the kitchen. Of course I cook with the kids, so this job is not really saving me from the work, but I have found that cooking is so much more fun when it is not done alone. I will write more about what I am learning here later.

My goal is to be a manager of my home instead of doing most of the chores on my own. There is much improvement still needed in my system, but I feel like it is a good start and a lot better than the days when I was doing all of the work by myself.

What kind of system do you use? I am always looking for new ideas.

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Lessons in the Kitchen

I hate cooking. I cannot tell you how much I dislike making dinner for my family. I know, I should relish the chance to make a nutritious meal for my hard working husband and amazing kids, but I don’t.

I don’t cook well. The food does not taste good. Edible, yes. Delicious? Not so much. I am a picky eater, and so are my kids. Seldom is a meal made that all six of us actually really like.

Add to this the fact that at 4:30 in the afternoon, when it is time to cook, everyone else is watching tv, playing, or resting. I am already tired, and on my selfish days feel cheated when I have to keep working.  Alone.

I have started making an occasional meal in my crockpot. I am still not a master of flavor, but at least if I use “Brockpot” (Yes, his service is so greatly appreciated that we named him), I can prepare the meal early in the day when I still have energy.  This takes care of one problem, but I still have kids that don’t like anything I cook in Brockpot. Instead of sending them to bed hungry, which I see as a punishment to mom as well as the child, I end up fixing a separate, kid friendly food for them. Alas, I still have a problem.

I recently added cooking dinner to my kids’ chore list. Of course I am not expecting them to cook alone, so I end up working along side of them. Yes, I am still tired and cooking dinner at 4:30. Yes, I am still flavor challenged. But one big thing has changed.

I am not working alone. And I do not have 4 kids walking in and out of the kitchen needing something or asking to stir when it is not convenient for me or whatever. The only people allowed in the kitchen are  me and the child whose day it is to cook.

Depending on the age of the younger cook, my job varies. For my 14 year old daughter, I mostly tidy the kitchen behind her. She likes to cook but not clean. Imagine that.  But I completely enjoy watching her cook and visiting with her.  My ten year old son cooks with his dad since he needs plenty of “man time” these days. It works out that he cooks on the two nights that I am out bringing girls to dance classes. My 8 year old daughter is really digging the kitchen scene. She is learning to flip pancakes, open cans, and cook on the stove.  I mostly watch over her safety since she likes to do it all. She spends an hour or more setting the table with the China dishes  and name tags with surprises underneath. This is not our  normal dinner practice, but when it is her turn, we eat restaurant style. She even takes our orders and serves our plates to us. The youngest girl, 6, mostly cuts up salads, stir pots of food, and sets up lots of pretend scenes according to whatever she has been playing lately. She is still very random, and I do most of the work, but she thrives on the undivided attention and, like the other three, is finding out that serving others is a joy.

Some of the benefits to being junior cook? They get to pick the meal… ahead of time of course. They get to taste test the food in progress. This helps me too, because now I don’t have to rely on my taste alone, which I have already admitted is not so good, to get a recipe right.  But the very best part? One-on-one time with that child. With four kids, they each get one or two nights a week to cook. During that time, we can talk about anything they want to talk about. We can eat what they want to eat. We can get to know each other better than we did before.

While I am with my kids for most of every day, I am doing a great deal of crowd control. These one-on-one dates are the best. This is one “chore” that I think we will keep doing.  I once heard that quantity time allows for quality time, and I think this might be what I see happening.