Thursday, August 28, 2008

Smooth and Easy Days

The Charlotte Mason carnival this time around centers on the forming of habits, of which she has much to say. While I hardly think that forming of habits guarantees smooth and easy days (we all still remain human), I do agree that they make the days smoother and easier. That said, I wanted to begin with a Charlotte Mason quote that inspired me in the instilling of habits, or rather the continuation thereof, in my children:

The child must not be left to his human nature . . . the child who is not being constantly raised to a higher and a higher platform will sink to a lower and a lower. Wherefore, it is as much the parent's duty to educate his child into moral strength and purpose and intellectual activity as it is to feed him and clothe him; and that in spite of his nature, if it must be so.

One follow up to that comes a few pages later when she says, "Habit may be a lever."

I don't ever want learning to lie stagnant in my home or in the lives of my children. In homeschooling them I desire them to reach their fullest, God-given potential and (hopefully) even enjoy the process. Habit provides a lever in this process. While still young and growing, children are becoming who they will be. Parents must keep a watchful eye to instill habits that develop into character that will reflect God's presence. The Bible provides the solid foundation, the source of information and motivation, and the goals we should reach for. Habits instill these traits into their lives in a concrete, practical way. Brick by brick their character grows, the fruit of their righteousness blooms, their maturity comes about.

The first habits that we work on instilling in our home center around chores. While chores are the physical outworking of the habit, the underlying fruit is unmistakable. Obedience, responsibility, cheerfulness, diligence, attention, just to name a few. All of these come up in conversations on a weekly basis in our household as we seek to instill the habit of daily chores in our children. I always try to refer them back to a Scripture reference as well to remind them that these expectations are not just from me.

The practical . . . Lofty goals are all well and good, but how to accomplish them is another matter. I have tried various chore programs over the years and have recently struck on one that works well for us. Springboarding from an idea I came across earlier this year in relation to character cards, I decided to make chore cards.

Each child has two envelopes inside the pantry door, one with their name, one with their name and "done" written after it. Each day, they should work their way through each card. I have the chores broken down into four time periods. 'A' chores should be done before breakfast (or immediately after, if not complete), 'B' chores after breakfast, 'C' chores after lunch, and 'D' chores after dinner. Each child spend about one hour on chores, the younger ones a bit less, the older a bit more. The younger the child the more simple each card, and I drew some simple pictures on my 4 year old's cards. She begged for her own envelope, otherwise I probably would have waited a year to start this for her. Shows just how well this system has worked for us!

Here is a peek inside my oldest son's (11yo) envelope:

A Chores (a card with each):
- Shower/dressed (comb hair)
- Clean room (make bed and vacuum)
- Garbage (empty all cans into main one and take out bag when full; on Wednesday take down to curb before 8:00)
- Clean bathroom toilets and sweep
- Start a load of laundry

B Chores:
- Wipe counters and sweep kitchen
- Brush teeth
- Laundry in dryer

C Chores:
- Wipe counters and sweep kitchen
- Brush teeth
- Laundry out of dryer
- Pick up 10 things around house

Group chores (these we do together and cover the rest of the main house cleaning that needs doing -- vacuum, windows, dusting, etc.)

D chores:
- Wipe counters and sweep kitchen
- Brush teeth
- Laundry baskets away
- Pick up 10 things
- Anything else? (this is my favorite, often nothing else needs doing, but some days I have one other small job that didn't get squeezed in anywhere else, this simple question takes care of those things. And, on days he can't force a smile, he asks it this way:

(the smile behind the paper was just as big over the ingenuity of the idea)

These cards have helped me hold them accountable, made their expectations very clear, and kept us all on the same page, or card.

I've also found that these envelopes are a great place to leave little "love" notes for my kids to start their day out well.

As I wrote in an earlier post in my gleanings from Charlotte Mason's first book, habits need reinforcing and consistent accountability even beyond mastery. Habit truly does dominate our actions throughout each day. I do think that habit differs from character (just because a child always turns off the light doesn't equate responsibility), but they may be intertwined at times, and habits can be teaching opportunities for character.

Also, growing good habits in our children takes diligent, consistent effort. Mason's tips have influenced how I will approach habits. She said that we sometimes try to come up with rewards when instilling a new behavior, but the habit gained is reward in itself. Nothing against sticker charts, and fun rewards, but I realized that I don't really need to 'come up' with anything. The success of the habit will instill pride and joy in the child without it, and sometimes the reward may become the focus of the change rather than the habit. I saw this in my own children some time ago when they kept their room clean to earn a prize. It worked, but then fell apart once achieved. A habit is for life.

And that, leads into the other point that stuck with me . . . don't let them slip when they start showing success in an area. Sometimes we grow lax and think since they do a good job most of the time, I won't worry about this one time they forgot. This starts the cycle all over again, sometimes from an even worse place. I must remain consistent throughout and consistent until the end.

Other habits I want to add in once these chore cards are secure . . . individual Bible reading, hobby time, exercise, and taking initiative. I love the resources from Character first and have often used their book and pamphlets.

From laying down the rails, to keeping them on the track, habits are an important part of maturing and an important part of our parenting task.


keri said...

Your chore cards are a wonderful idea for keeping order in the home!

Shanna said...

I love the smile on the paper! I may need to make one for myself!

5intow said...

Ain't that the truth, Shanna, ain't that the truth!


jamie in rose cottage said...

I love this idea of the chore cards!!! I am going to have to get busy and make some myself. Thanks for sharing your idea!