Goodbye, Chores!

Goodbye, chores!

Hello, personal responsibilities and acts of service!

In preparation for this upcoming school year, I’m FINALLY getting around to reading Laying Down the Rails- A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook by Sonya Shafer. This book and its habit-training companion, Laying Down the Rails for Children by Lanaya Gore, are full of ideas and activities, thoughts and suggestions for cultivating habits of good character. Both books are causing me to think about our home and habits- what we do, why we do it, and the importance of these things in our lives.

“Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while.”

Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education

The books give reason and offer inspiration and encouragement for habit training. Over sixty habits are broken up into sections. It is suggested that parents learn how habits are formed, select one habit to focus and work on over several weeks, and be watchful each day to help children apply the concepts being learned.

Our family is starting with one of the “Decency and Propriety Habits” of cleanliness.

Cleanliness is being careful to keep clean to stay healthy and keep surroundings clean and orderly.

In thinking about how to go about keeping a clean and orderly house, chores always come to mind. Over the years, we’ve tried several different chore charts and systems with little success. With each new system, we usually got off to a great start, but quickly burned out with systems too elaborate to keep up with or not motivating enough to care about.

I needed a simplified system, one that was easy to keep up with and effective. We like simple charts. I started thinking about what might a chart look like and include for our household.

There are primarily two types of things I ask the kids to do around the house:

  • personal responsibilities– things like getting dressed, making beds, personal hygiene, and taking care of personal belongings and space. Things that benefit the individual person.
  • chores or jobs– Things like folding clothes, delivering them to the correct room, sweeping and vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms. Things that benefit others and the whole family.

From there, I made a personal responsibilities chart for each child to hang in their room. The other “chores/jobs” (things that needed to be done around the house), I hung on the side of the refrigerator and marked with a erasable marker with who is responsible to complete.

The plan is everyone is responsible, every day, for the things on their own chart and then we (as a family) will take an time in the morning or afternoon to do the other chart together. We’ll try it for a couple of weeks, revisit it, and adjust if necessary.

You may notice that instead of calling it “chores and jobs” on our chart, I’ve decided to call them “Acts of Service.” An acts of service is something one does to show love and care, respect, honor and value to others. When we clean and take care of our home and belongings, we are showing care, respect, honor, and value to God for his blessings and provision, and to each other.

Now let’s be honest….

Are acts of service still chores and jobs? Yes!

Does changing the language or the name make it magically different? No!

Will kids jump for joy and scurry off with a smile and a twirl when they see their name on the chart? Maybe. (most likely not)

It’s all in the presentation and explanation.

Whenever you are about to implement something new, I think it’s important to get your children involved in the process as much as possible. Make it fun! Take time to teach and explain. Allow your children to ask questions and offer suggestions. Come up with a plan together. Be ready to work hard and stick with it. Habit training is not easy. I think the mistake many people make (including myself, i.e. past chore systems) is doing too much, too fast, and not being consistent.

Please keep in mind, what works in one home, might not work in another. You need to find a system that works best for your family. This takes time, trial and errors, but I would encourage you to keep at it, keep trying, because the benefits of finding something that works will help prepare your children for life, as independent, responsible kids with a good work ethic. And that is a beautiful thing worth working for.

(Below are a few printable I’ve created that might be helpful if you are looking to start some habits of cleanliness in your home. I’m also in the process of creating a Pinterest board with ideas and activities to teach cleanliness. The link is below if you want to check it out and follow along. )


What Is Education?

Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy and methods motivate me to think about the definition and purpose of education. Her words have helped shape my personal philosophy of education, which gives focus, directs goals and provides reason to what we do in our homeschooling and why.

I believe education is a continuous process of developing character and cultivating knowledge to be used in life. It focuses on serving the individual child as is-mind, body, soul. It respects the child’s able, eager mind and places importance on his/her unique needs and capabilities. It employs teaching methods which encourage learning at different speeds, using appropriate leveled materials. Subjects are introduced though living ideas and relationships.  

I believe education should foster interests, develop lovers of literature and arts, encourage curiosity and creativity, and allow for play and outdoor time. It’s learning that lingers in nature, applauds observations and problem solving, and uses discussion as a showcase to express ideas. Most importantly (for me), it’s education in which Biblical Christianity is the truth and the foundation of all other knowledge.  

This may sound idealistic, too good to be true, but it is possible. Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. It’s the way our family strives to live out education in our home. Homeschooling provides us the time, flexibility and freedom to learn in these ways.

It’s always a process. I never feel we do “education” perfectly (perfect is boring, right?) I try to embrace mistakes as opportunities to learn and place high value on educating myself so I can educate others. I am constantly reevaluating and considering the options and the methods; considering each child’s needs as we go. As much as Charlotte Mason inspires me, I would not consider myself to be a “purist.” I use many of Miss Mason’s wonderful methods and ideas, but I use other methods as well. Methods that I’ve found to be effective and valuable through years of teaching experience.

As with many other parents and teachers, I feel a great weight of responsibility to ensure my children are prepared for life, for them to know the enjoyment of living. I cannot do this on my own. Our days are covered with prayer and we rely on a huge portion of grace and God-given strength. Each day, is a new adventure to look forward to. Homeschooling my children is a wonderful opportunity, a time to wonder and grow together as we explore and open the gift of education that is life.

You can learn more about Charlotte Mason and her methods from these books:

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Nature Print Eggs with Natural Dyes

natureprinteggs

This week we are learning about Romania and I wanted to find a craft to tie into our studies. I searched online for Romanian crafts ideas and pictures of leaf print eggs caught my attention. The eggs are dyed in natural dyes (which also tied in nicely with our medieval studies) and finding the little flowers, ferns, and tiny leaves to imprint on our eggs added to this week’s nature studies. Multi-subject lessons are the best! I’m not sure how Romanian these eggs are but they were fun to make and they are absolutely beautiful.

Just a few words to keep things real, this project was time consuming. From boiling the eggs, preparing the natural dyes, patience with the egg designs and waiting for the colors to come through, and the mess (oh, the mess!! see end of post) this is not your average-throw-a-color-tablet-in-a-cup-of-vinegar-and-add-an-egg type of thing. BUT if you are adventurous and like a good creative-challenge, this project is for you!!! (And my four year old stayed with us and enjoyed the project the whole time, so if he can do it…..)

Materials:

  • white eggs (hardboiled)
  • tumeric
  • beets
  • coffee
  • red cabbage
  • white vinegar
  • water
  • nylon knee highs
  • small hair elastics
  • small flowers, leaves, clovers
  • papertowels

Directions:

1.) Boil the eggs and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

2.) Search outside for small flowers, interesting leaves, ferns, and clovers. Cilantro and celery leaves would also work.

2.) Make the natural dyes. I followed Martha Stewart’s directions for dying eggs naturally.

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3.) Decorate the eggs. We noticed the condensation on the eggs (from being in the refrigerator) helped the leaves and petals stick better. If the eggshells were dry, we added a little moisture to the leaves to help keep things in place. This cut down on frustration levels for those with little hands. 🙂

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4.) Cover decorated egg with nylon. The foot of a knee high works great but since we only had two per package, we had to create our own “foot” with an extra small elastic. Pull nylon tightly around the egg to hold things in place.

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5.) Give the eggs a natural dye bath. The longer the eggs soak, the more vibrant the color. We left the eggs in the dye for a minimum of an hour. See Martha Stewart’s directions for time and color suggestions.

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6.) Cut off the nylon and peel off leaves and flowers. (We patted the egg dry with a paper towel before we cut the nylon. I am not sure if this make a difference in color but it made the eggs less slippery to work with.)

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7.) Observe and enjoy!!!

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And the promised TRUTH…(BUT it was worth it!!!)

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