Monday, May 14, 2012

Cleaning With Children

Yes, with them.  Not after them, not around them, not behind them.  With them.  Because I have this weird sense of self-preservation that demands I not clean every little mess that every little person makes lest I be chained to my house for life.

Trying to keep the house orderly while homeschooling and being present with my children is an ever-evolving undertaking.  We've done daily task assignments, weekly task rotations, whatever mamma hollers out to do at any given time randomness (which never goes out of style and we still ascribe to) all in an effort to find the system that works best for our family

One of my mentors has twelve children, so when she speaks, I listen. She spoke of longer term job assignments and I jumped right on that boat. So I began assigning a chore for the week. This was okay, but I still wasn't happy.  And we all know that if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

So we divided the house into zones. This is super easy in our house. There are four main rooms on the downstairs level and four kids who are old enough to be in on the workload. The first Monday of each month, the kids rotate zones. The Living Room, the Dining Room, the Kitchen, the School Room. I also assign Laundry Helper to one of the older three.

I chose to assign zones for an entire month at a time. This allows the child working in each zone to take ownership of their zone. They have time to really learn the ins and outs. This is especially helpful with the Kitchen Helper and the Laundry Helper (since these are huge undertakings in our house, these two assignments do not fall to the same child). A month gives time to learn more cooking skills, become more familiar with where the little odds and ends belong when unstacking the dishwasher, learn to better separate laundry and watch for stains.

This approach has revolutionized my life. The older two kids work almost wholly independently. Elizabeth and Anna require more direction, but are enthusiastic and love having their own tasks.

In making this switch, I have to readjust my expectations each month. If it is Thomas' month in the kitchen, he stacks and unstacks the dishwasher without assistance. He makes simple meals with little or no assistance. If it is Elizabeth's month to be Kitchen Helper, I am right beside her the entire time. If Sarah Grace is doing the School Room, everything is neat and orderly. If Anna has the Living Room, I have to remind her of each task to do and pitch in with some of it.

The first week of each month is a refresher course for each child, and that week tends to be a bit slower. After a few days in their new zones though, they really do very well. The first month of this new system left me at loose ends because of the amount of free time I found myself with. I now fill that time with more reading to the kids and more just being present.  It is very much so win-win.

How do you handle household cleaning responsibilities at your house? Do your kids help, and if so, how much?

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