Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chores...continued, Thank you!

There were so many great responses from you all, that I want to put them in a separate post. Thank you for writing, thank you for your perspectives, your ideas and your respect for different ways of looking at the subject!

Here are the posts, in order, as well as some quotes from email responses.

Blogger Lisa Musil, Military Wife, Mom to 9 said...

There are nine of us under the roof--my husband and I, our four birth children, ranging in age from 9 to 2, our grandson, age 2, and our foster daughter (17) and her 1 yo daughter. My husband earns the income and generally tries to clean up after himself. I am the "manager / supervisor". I make sure everything gets done--and I do a fair amount of the day-to-day upkeep. The three older kids take turns doing dishes. They've elected to take those a week at a time--so they have 2 weeks off at a time from dishes. Since I've gone back to school the new plan is that we will tackle the "big" chores together omn the weekends--not sure how this will work yet....

August 28, 2009 6:53 AM

A Homeschool Story said...


Thank you, I appreciate your perspective from a mixed-generation household. I wonder if having "a week off" really helps keep everyone in good cheer. I'll have to think about how that one would work out for us.

Good luck with school!

August 29, 2009 10:01 PM

Blogger Amy said...

Hi, Came here from your post on the unschooler yahoo group. Here is my opinion on the excerpt you posted. I think she should have a career in politics b/c she has put a great spin on the topic and almost makes you feel guilty if you were to "force" your child to do chores at the expense of your relationship. But let's look at another situation. What if she got the same reaction when she asked her daughter to brush her teeth? Would she rather just let her daughter's teeth rot out of her head so as not to withdraw from the bank of her good relationship with her? IMHO, it IS putting the child first when they learn to be a responsible member of the family, and by extension, our society. There is a natural power struggle within the parent/child relationship and it sounds like she has decided to let her daughter win. (mother to an almost 3 yo and a 4 1/2 yo)

August 28, 2009 7:30 AM

Blogger Amy said...

I wanted to add that I am sorry if I came off harsh on my comment the other day. I have spent the week reading through every post on this blog, and it has given me a new perspective on our lifestyles here in America.

August 29, 2009 8:52 AM

Blogger A Homeschool Story said...

Hi Amy,

Thank you, your post made me laugh. As someone involved with LLL, politics and churches as well, it has become harder for me to accept a "party line" as a cure-all for everyone's problems.

I hold dearly to ever-improving communication with my children, no buts. However, improving does not mean always winning or losing a debate. Improving means coming to an understanding and then accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, sometimes despite our feelings on the subject. Does this need to cause door-slamming and yelling? The goal is for it all to be done in peace and contentment!

And no, you were not harsh, you were respectfully expressing your doubts.

August 29, 2009 10:10 PM

Anonymous Amy said...

We have 6 in our famiy: Dad, Mom, 12yo, 9yo, 7yo and 2yo. Dad earns the money that pays for uor house, fun etc. Folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, taking out trash and recycling are all chores that are split among the 3 older kids. 2 yo 'helps.' They also have to pick up toys (usually at some multiple of their age - 12 yo picks up 24, 7yo picks up 14 etc.) I cook, shop, school the kids, load the dishwasher and wash laundry. Yes, there are arguments, but they get rewards - clean dishes, clean clothes and an inch or two on the floor to play. I don't remember my own childhood chorers as damaging my relationship with my parents.

August 28, 2009 7:32 AM

A Homeschool Story said...

Amy 2,

Thank you for posting. I am glad to hear that chores getting done did not damage your relationship with your parents. I did have an email from someone who mentioned great resentment of their parents all through childhood because of work they were expected to contribute to the household.

I like your natural distribution of tasks in a household; Dad working for food, everyone helping to make it all happen. It sounds so logical and irrefutable, as though it would make sense, even to a child.

August 29, 2009 10:13 PM

Email responses:

I read through your blog and have my opinion. I am not a maid. We all make the mess, we all clean it up. I will take the kitchen (although the older girls have to put the dishes away). Then they alternate picking rooms that they want to do. They pick a number and who comes closest gets first choice. Now Emma (5), whose only responsibility used to be straigtening shoes, wants a room too. So she gets one room and the other girls get 2 rooms each. Sometimes they just need to be picked up; other times they need to be dusted and swept. I usually tell the girls after the rooms are chosen if they need additional attention. They also have their daily chores. Hannah has to sort laundry (and occasionally switch loads); Kaity does recycling. They both pick up dog poo and put dishes away.

They can't play outside or do anything fun till homework and chores are done.

My response:

From one no-nonsense woman, who accomplishes great things and has from a very young age, thank you!

I only had two children but was a
single parent who was exhausted every day from working to provide a
living and maintaining every aspect of the lives of three people. If my
kids didn't see chores as part of the requirements of everyday living in
our little house, I would be dead! I could not have provided the
"extras" for them, ones they wanted, such as camping trips, local
outings, discussion times, reading books together, putting on family
plays, making a garden, cooking together. I would have been doing all
the chores while they....what? Didn't learn the joy of accomplishing
something. Children can be taught that chores maintain an environment so
that environment can maintain them and pleasures in life.

We used Family Meetings once a week and amazing things happened. (My 10
year old son took over doing the family laundry for the summer and did it

My response:

Thank you, also, for the reminder of all the time the children are saving you by helping out, thus improving their own quality of life.

From Melisa Nielson, website;, Waldorf homeschooing consultant:
You know... I do believe that we have to preserve the relationship and I think my take on it is a bit different - feel free to quote me here.

When it comes to a small child, they are learning through imitation, we clean, they clean. When they hit about 9yrs, some children really start resisting. They need a little direction in my opinion - especially with a larger family - say three or more children. I have the chore chart - it is down to the 9s! We had fighting over prayers even so we cut that out by giving each child a day where they are responsible for all the meal prayers. Mom and Dad need to be models too so we are included on the chore chart. The fighting about chores is down to almost none - I don't yell about the chores, I give a reminder in the morning - then the chores are done before play time... period. I wouldn't spend a ton of time fighting about it. I think so many times we worry about hurting feelings or damaging them for life - the real damage comes when we release children on the world that don't know how to do dishes or fold laundry. You don't have to fight about the chores - just remind them firmly - I rarely fight since the chart is done. A simple question is given at breakfast "who has KP today?" The children with KP speak up and I give them any extra thoughts I have about the kitchen, after breakfast it is done. The child on laundry starts the dryer and the timer - when it goes off he/she folds and lets me know they've moved the laundry so I can put in another load. If I am asked "can I go play?" or if a friend shows up at the door - I ask "are your chores caught up?" If the answer is no then they can either let their friend help or they can be quick to do their chores and then go play.

I don't think chores have to be a huge pain - or a life changing fight. Mom has a choice. I totally agree with saving the relationship - but you don't have to lose your house in the process! Both can be accomplished. I say if you are fighting about it then there may be something else at play - are you up on your inner work? it takes two to fight, lol... if one side doesn't then there is no fight.

My response:

Thank you, Melisa, words of wisdom from a smart mother of four.

There is a great quantity of responses from a relaxed homeschooling list that I am part of, thank you all. I am going to request your permission before posting your comments, they will be included soon, I hope! The list:

Blogger zamozo said...

We're a family of four - 2 adults, 2 kids (18 & 11)
We don't and never have assigned chores. Hubby and I both work. I don't work full time but we do operate three businesses out of our home and I work away from home 10 - 20 hours per week. My full-time stay-at-home mom friends ask me how I keep my house clean. The key for me has been to maintain a positive and pleasant attitude about cleaning.(We also don't have pets - per everyone's agreement.) Now that my kids are older they frequently ask me how they can help when I'm tidying for company. From time-to-time, I ask politely for their help, even when company isn't coming. They know that they can say, "no" and I won't get upset. I try not to interrupt them when they're involved in something important to them and I usually phrase my request with a flexible timeline such as, "Honey, when you're finished playing that game, would you please gather up the dirty dishes and bring them to the kitchen?" We have no negative bouts over housework and my kids are learning how to do various household tasks (it's not rocket science) and are very responsible members of our family. My 11 yo likes to surprise me sometimes by cleaning and arranging a certain area of the house.

It really does work but it may take awhile to reach a point this cooperative and happy if there's been nagging and coercion in the past.

August 28, 2009 8:05 AM

Blogger zamozo said...

I just read some more wise words from Joyce Fetterol. These were on an e-list and she was writing about requiring kids to prepare their own food when they don't want to eat what was fixed for dinner -- different situation but similar emotions and goals:
What you wrote above is very goal oriented, the objective being to
move the child from dependence to independence. Unschooling takes a
less direct route that happens to end up at the same destination. The
mindset of the unschooler is to help them and support them. (Which is
different than a mindset of doing everything for them.) The *side
effect* of that is kids who do more and more for themselves on their
own schedule. (Whole) humans all naturally want to feel competent. If
we step back and give the kids the impression we expect them to be
independent, it can make them more dependent. It can feel like a
withdrawal of love.

August 28, 2009 8:32 AM


Blogger A Homeschool Story said...


Thank you for your thoughts. You make such a good point with the statement; "a pleasant and positive attitude," because our attitudes as adults are the catalyst for creating and maintaining the atmosphere in our homes.

Learning to phrase requests in a non-threatening way is a much nicer way than its opposite. It does seem that when time presses, things don't always come out as kindly as we would like them to.

Paying attention to the present and remembering to insert a pause between action and reaction is vital.

August 29, 2009 10:20 PM

Blogger Tamara said...

Hi! Got your email and thought I'd come check it out.

Like everything in the AP community, it seems to come down to those who are more Dr Sears/mainstream AP (which often has a natural living component and isn't what most people mean by mainstream parenting), and those following the TCS philosophy. TCS makes some good points, with their extreme anti-coercion stance, but frankly, IMO, isn't practical for people who have more than one child. I know some people who make it work, but it's far from easy, and even they don't follow it to the letter.

So, at the risk of writing a novel, I'll say that growing up as the oldest of 6, some resentment of having to be "jr. mom" is just par for the course. And there are always times when each of us just. don't. wanna.

I don't know if you're looking for concrete ideas? Can the kids earn "free passes" to get out of a particular job once a week or so? What about folding it into homeschooling - each week/month as you study a different form of government/society/economy, redistribute the chores as they would look in that place and time. How would chores be distributed in a communist household? In a feudal realm? In a capitalist society, can the kids with money pay the other kids to do their work for them? What rate for chores will the market bear? What if the "poorer" kids unionize?

August 28, 2009 8:58 AM

Blogger A Homeschool Story said...

Thank you, Tamara,

You have such good common sense and such a no-nonsense vision of household matters. I love your ideas for teaching social history through work, that's fun.

I had to look up "TCS"; had never heard the term, though I know families who practice this and have great kids.

I personally, refuse to be labeled and squished into a limited group mind-set on any topic. Does this mean that I refuse to commit? No, it means I choose to think it out for myself, take what makes intelligent sense for me and let others make the same decisions.

August 30, 2009 7:23 AM

Blogger zamozo said...

Having read her website extensively and followed her writings on e-lists I can confidently say that Joyce Fetterol is not a follower of TCS, nor am I. There are elements of TCS philosophy that are shared with the principles of unschooling but I find their claims and methods extremely impractical and frankly, coercive in spite of their claims to the contrary. I think that Joyce advocates for respectful and non-adversarial parenting with the goal of a positive relationship with her child above most all other goals.

If Joyce's writings intrigue you, I encourage you to read more at her site and Sandra Dodd's. Join the Always Learning yahoo group where you read TONS of their ideas and suggestions.

I don't, however, wish to get into a blog comment debate so I'll end my commenting with this post.

August 28, 2009 9:21 AM

Blogger Tamara said...

Huh, guess I stirred something up (unwittingly, that's for sure)! I'm not familiar with Fetterol, nor am I a homeschooler or unschooler. Therefore, I'm sure my perspective is oversimplified and relatively uninformed. I certainly didn't mean to turn your comments into a debate - I've avoided that place for the last 7 years and didn't mean to bring any of it here! My apologies for butting in!

August 28, 2009 4:27 PM

Blogger Tammy said...

We've had a chore chart posted on the fridge for as long as the kids can remember. The only thing that changes with it is occasionally I reprint it with the chores shuffled around so they all get experience and time enough to master each thing that needs done to keep a house running smoothly. I grew up with one brother and no other siblings and our house was just magically clean all the time because my mom did everything while we were gone. I left home not knowing how to do anything. It was horribly embarassing to have to ask people how to do simple things like clean a toilet and do laundry. I think we do kids a big disservice in not letting them take part in keeping the family home clean. It teaches them skills they need to know in life and adds yet another thread that bonds our family together. Working together (or sometimes alone) in making the home a peaceful and organized and lovely place is always a good thing in my mind.

August 28, 2009 6:11 PM

DeleteBlogger A Homeschool Story said...

Hi Tammy,

Thank you for your encouraging words. My mother, bless her, she reads my blog, did everything too. It was as you said; "magically (and perfectly) cleaned" while I was at school. While the house was always nice for us, my own housekeeping skills were non-existent when I left home.

The chore chart has created a space in which the details of what needs to be done are clear. The arguments the kids are having happen when a chore is not on the chart; clean the rat cage, help pick up the playroom...everyone thinks everyone else is doing less than the other.

I think, in the end, that our system is for the best. Yes, children are part of the household too. Yes, they deserve respect and kind treatment. They also deserve to be trusted with some responsibility, for the good of the household and their own training and sense of worth.

I greatly admire those whose temperament and patience allows them to gently request a child's help and then accept an eventual "no,". Some days I am OK with that, and then I make requests. Other days, for efficiency's sake, I will simply state a need, point to the chore chart, and expect what needs to be done to get done. Many times, when the kids are deeply involved in an activity or having a hard time of it, my husband or I will simply do a job. The point, after all, is not to make a point, it is to have a reasonably clean, pleasant home to live in.

August 30, 2009 7:51 AM


Friday, August 28, 2009

Chores and the Child

Running a household with five children is a task. Not an insurmountable task, but one that takes a bit of doing and concentration. Naturally, we have elected to share the chores associated with keeping the house from falling down around our ears with the older part of the population of minors. It just makes sense on many levels; helping out so that Mama is not all the way worn out at the end of the day, learning responsibility and useful skills, freeing up time by working together so that we can do more pleasant things; read aloud, go out, hang out and play a game, go for a walk, etc. I also believe in giving them chores to do that are real work, so that they can see the difference they make in the house. Most days everything goes smoothly and the children are very helpful. There are days, though, when I am more fatigued from all the encouraging (insisting insistently) I need to do in order for jobs to get done that I would be by just doing it myself. There are also days when the fighting over who needs to do which chore which day is beyond battle-zone-bad. And yes, the chore chart is on the fridge!

I just came across an article that made me stop and think; here is an extract and a link: the question; is it really worth all of the angst I need to go through to get them to carry out their chores? Would it be better to do it myself? What do you think? How does it work in your house?

Article extract from:

a wonderful unschooling blog! Tomorrow, we will hear from the other side of the coin.

"I don't know how you arrived at the conclusion that chores belong to the parents

It's not a universal truth. It's a mindset that helps me achieve my goal. My primary goal isn't improving the state of my house. My primary goal is improving my relationship with my daughter. My goal is to put the relationship first and then figure out how to fit other things in without damaging the relationship.

Most parents say "I put my children first BUT ..." But that "but" changes the statement. If you've ever made a child cry or get angry or slam doors over something to do with the house then at those times the house is coming first and the child is coming second. Most parents may feel the times their children come first are enough to balance out the times they don't. (Even more important, I think, is what the children think!)

If that's your thought, then none of this will make sense.

But one thing that shifted my thinking was realizing I was making withdrawals from my relationship with my daughter to pay for something that would be gone tomorrow. And I'd have to do that everyday. In 10 years what would I have to show for all those withdrawals?"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday We Wash

So what does a homeschooler do all day? Just like "normal" people; we cook, we clean, we wash and dry doll clothes. The girls spent a looong time washing out their dolls' wardrobes and delicate handknits.

We also build; with blocks, with sand, with glue and light bulbs and spray paint. We visit with grama and grampa, pass from daisy to brownie scouts. We star in musicals, play at the beach and color ourselves blue.
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Daisy to Brownie Bridging Ceremony

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