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. )