We had a job board that we used to keep track of daily little tasks that the kids were expected to do. It changed as they grew, but it centered around the daily dinnertime tasks as the kids were still quite little. To keep the tasks small, we listed each item that needed to go on the table when they set it. This also helped them learn what to put on the table. It was big and ugly, with pictures since they couldn’t always read the words. Despite the appearance, it worked.
Now that they are older, the kids pretty much have a handle on the items that go on the table. When we moved, the board came down since the jobs were in flux and we hadn’t gotten to officially updating the board. The list of jobs expanded to include things like washing the table before and after dinner, sweeping/vacuuming up the floor after they drop half their dinner on it :), and emptying/refilling/running the dishwasher. Jointly, the 3 older ones set and clear the table as well. We cook the dinner and handle any portions of these other tasks that might be too much for the kids to handle. However, it’s a real team effort with everyone participating.
In the absence of the board, we started with what we thought was randomly assigning each of the tasks to the kids when it was time to prep for dinner. We just did this verbally, on the spot, on a day by day basis. However, we soon had a revolt on our hands. The kids seemed to think that the same person would get stuck with the harder job “every night” or that another had an unfair advantage, blah, blah blah. You know how it goes. Now, they all felt this way, so that kind of kills their credibility since if we were showing favoritism, by definition, one of them should have had it made, but I won’t disarm their argument with logic. However, I will admit that we did take a little bit of “parental license” in our job assignments. If one child was better at a task, we probably assigned it to them more often in the interest of getting quality results. Also, if the dishwasher had a lot of items that needed to go up high in the cupboards, we wouldn’t assign it to the littlest one. We thought it was fair to take those things into consideration, but we opted to let the majority rule and work on a new solution.
This is how our Daily Job Board was born. We created a rotating schedule of jobs that cycles every week. It began with the dinnertime chores but then expanded to include a variety of things that started to become difficult to manage. Let’s face it, there is only so much time between the time they come home from school and the time they go to bed. Another problem was that we needed to stagger certain things because you can’t have more than one kid doing it at the same time. For example, showering or practicing their instrument. You may recall a previous post, Organize Your Kids: Weekly Extras Calendar, where I detailed a different approach to handling the kids’ home responsibilities schedule. While they liked the freedom to choose, we weren’t getting the results we needed with it. So, we are temporarily taking this new approach until they are ready to try the more independent approach that we started with.
The current schedule has the following items:
- Sweep/vacuum floor
- Wash table/clear drainer
- Kitchen recycling
- Instrument practice
- Math practice
It’s just a spreadsheet with the tasks down the left and the days across the top. In the grid are the initials of the child who has that task for the day. In the rare case when 2 kids are assigned a task, we put both initials there. Each square is color coded to help the kids identify their tasks more easily. If you are a spreadsheet novice, just make the cells large enough to give you room to initial or check it off when it’s complete. Otherwise, you can do some cell merging on your day heading row to allow 2 cells in each day column, which is what we did. We use the left cell for the task assignment and the right cell for sign-off.
Some tasks are daily, such as the dinnertime tasks, but the other tasks are done twice a week or 3 times a week, etc. The schedule rotates, giving each kid a balanced load across the week while also distributing the showers and practices so that they aren’t competing with one another for hot water, noise space or computer time. Another consideration was that even if they can manage to fit it in, if every kid showers the same night, then there is no hot water for me to fit in a load of laundry that night. And in my house, I MUST do at least 1 load each night or I get very behind.
The math practice that we have listed varies depending on the child. We have a subscription to IXL, which is an online math practice site that is just fantastic. One of the kids uses another online site recommended by the school, but we haven’t been using that one long enough for me to form an opinion yet. We also have some other, non-computerized activities that we have them alternate through to help solidify their Math Facts.
The kids are still responsible for managing their own homework schedule and making it fit with what they have on the home schedule. The teachers already encourage this by giving them all the homework at the beginning of the week so that they can plan accordingly. This allows them to have some freedom and the opportunity to learn how to plan their time wisely. We definitely need them to keep working on that because as I said, we do intend to go back to the more independent schedule of our Weekly Extras Calendar method, but I think they weren’t quite ready for it when we introduced it. I think that our current schedule will form the good habits and then we will have greater success in the more independent model.
There are also some great benefits for the parents with this kind of schedule. As working parents with 4 kids, we certainly struggle with keeping everything in our heads. Remembering who did what when or who is due for what proved impossible. With this schedule, we have it covered! It’s now really easy to know what the kids should be doing and if we check them off as they do them, we also have a record of what they HAVE done. This helps when we have to sign off on their lesson practice sheets or their school planners. We can just check our home schedule and confirm it.
We also gain a certain level of peace. The kids still squawk about having the tasks to do in the first place, but we seem to have eliminated the complaints about unfair treatment and accusations of favoritism. At least in terms of these tasks We really do spend much less time arguing about how many times one person got a particular job or how they didn’t get the requisite number of practices in for a given week. The kids aren’t fighting anywhere near as much over who gets the computer or the shower. The schedule just prevents the conflict most of the time. That said, if 2 kids need the computer the same day, there is potentially a scuffle, but at least it isn’t all of them fighting for it. We just manage those as they come up, but it’s far less often now. And who wouldn’t welcome less fighting between siblings?
If you have an idea for keeping your home running smoothly, post a comment and tell us about it! We’re always searching for great solutions.