Around the House,  Parenting

Back to School organization – Part 1

We LOVED our summer break this year! It was filled with just the right amount of travel, fun, sun, swimming, family time and relaxation. There was absolutely no routine and barely any expectations for our children, which is a wonderful way to spend the summer! That all came to a screeching halt the first week of August when all three of them started school. I’ll admit that I do enjoy routines and schedules, and since I don’t really have a Type A personality (at all), I am able to be flexible when it’s necessary. I am significantly more productive when I have a list, and sometimes I can go ’round and ’round in circles with housework when I don’t set my mind to completing one task at a time. I see that in our children as well, so I hoped that a daily task chart would help them be more responsible for themselves and guide them¬† in a way that lets them know exactly what is expected out of them each day. It helps me stay focused as well!

The pre-made chore charts are a great idea, and can be very convenient. I just had not found one that really met our children’s individual needs, and they ended up not being utilized. When I decided to try and come up with what we could use daily, here were my needs:

  1. Individual charts that could be customized for each child
  2. A way for our children to check off or mark when they completed a task
  3. An incentive for completing the tasks
  4. Something mobile that they could carry from one place to another
  5. A chart that can be used for an extended time, not printing a new sheet every day
  6. Something cute, of course

My first attempt was to just draw one for each child on some thick paper for the first day. The kids were excited about earning some money (they’ve never been offered an allowance!) and were less excited about no screen time. They all did wonderful, checking off their tasks with pencil so they could be erased. Even after erasing the pencil checks, they were very visible the next day and it was going to drive me crazy. Maybe I am a little bit Type A. I happened to be in Target that next day. It was my second morning alone. I did well to stay out of Target for an entire day, okay? Annnnyway, the Dollar Spot had these dry erase boards and I thought I would try them out. Later I ended up at the Dollar Tree and I will say that the $1 dry erase boards at Target were of a much higher quality than the ones Dollar Tree. Just FYI. So I rewrote the chart, editing it a little from the first day when I realized I needed to change it a bit for our older two, in permanent ink, onto the dry erase board. SUCCESS!! Well. Not quite yet. When we wiped off the check marks the next day that were made with a dry erase marker, the permanent marker wiped off as well. That also was annoying, and I knew it would get messy and eventually we would stop using them. I considered a couple different options, but here is what we ended up with and what is working so well for us now!

These plastic sheet protectors were at Dollar Tree in the school supplies, and our dry erase boards fit perfectly in there! Cue the celebration music!

I had already used my favorite tool, a hot glue gun, to attach the dry erase pen to the board. Otherwise, the pen was just not staying put. No one has time to go constantly searching for the dry erase marker. And so far they have done a good job about putting it back in its spot.

Our youngest is just beginning to learn to read. I wanted to draw pictures so he could recognize the task, but also write the words so he could start sounding out and learning to read as well.

The heavy duty magnet clips were also at Target and are holding them up well. The kids take them upstairs with them in the morning while they’re getting ready, then clip them back onto the fridge for after school. This has really helped them stay on task, feel like they are accomplishing things, and we survived an entire week with no TV, computer, ipad or video games. It was liberating! It forced me to stay off my phone in their presence, to play with them, and we were so busy doing all our tasks and playing together that we really didn’t even have time to even think about it!

Here’s an explanation of why I chose a few things on their lists.

  • Adding the Bible reading was crucial for us as a family. It instills a good habit in all of us, and typically I read aloud to everyone around a quiet kitchen table. I don’t want reading Scripture to seem like it’s just another task to check off a list, but realistically, once you start with after school sports, homework, etc. it can easily just be set aside. That is a failure on our part as parents if that happens. So we stop everything for about 20 minutes every afternoon, say a prayer to start (they take turns), and sit at the kitchen table instead of the couch to help with wigglers. That is on the list because it is important to us.
  • Our children love to leave their clothes wherever they take them off, so putting clothes in the laundry basket was something I wanted to add so they can get in the habit of doing that. They share one laundry basket, and it’s in the bathroom, so it’s not difficult.
  • I took the time with each of them to show them how to make their beds. That may sound silly, but the boys especially thought there was absolutely no way, no how, its not possible for them to make their beds. I quickly realized that they were picturing how their beds look when I make them, and I don’t expect that. But I showed them how to do it, step by step, practiced with them a few times, and they do great. I don’t expect perfection from a five year old, but I do expect them to try. Our daughter can make her bed just fine, she was just not in the habit of doing it.
  • I left the “chore” ambiguous so I could change it every day based on what needs to be done. Typically, its something as simple as taking clean towels to their bathroom, but occasionally, it’s more challenging. And I let them work together when it’s something bigger.
  • There were several Monday mornings last year that I opened lunchboxes that had salsa spilled in them on Friday afternoon. Or a half eaten banana. Unpleasant. So, I added “empty lunchbox” to help with that. I also have them wipe it out each afternoon with a Lysol wipe and place it back into their hanging backpacks.

If halfway through the year our needs change, I can just slide a piece of paper in there to cover the old list. The kids bring down their bed sheets once a week and I have showed them how to wash them. I usually help the boys, but they are at least learning the basics, and realizing that chores don’t magically happen. Someone is doing the cleaning up around here, and now it’s them! Mwwwaahahaha.¬† There is still plenty for me to do, we are just at the stage in life that they need to be more responsible, and I need to let them. That means I have to be understanding when they don’t complete tasks perfectly, but guide them in doing a better job while praising them for good efforts.

They all thoroughly enjoyed their screen time on the first Saturday. Funny enough, the older two mostly played math games on the computer together, HA!

The reason that their other reward is $2 is so they are allowed to keep $1 and give $1 to the collection plate on Sunday mornings. Hopefully this will instill in them the concept that our money is not truly ours, that it is a gift from God and we as Christians should use it to His glory. And also that other dollar can be saved and eventually they will add up and before you know it you an actually buy something you want, instead of just a pack of gum. They all readily placed their dollars into the collection plate Sunday, and funny enough, not one of them as asked me about the other dollar yet!

I tried to make a document with an example of one of the chore charts, but I’m not sure how great it is!

Chore Chart

Here are some samples of other great chore charts out there:

Printable Chore Chart

Dry Erase Chore Chart

Magnetic Chore Chart

I have a few more new tricks we are trying to stay more organized this school year, and I will share those soon! Enjoy the day!

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