At first glance, chores might not seem all that important. And, let’s face it, on a scale of 1 to 10 how important is it that the living room gets vacuumed? Well, when you stack it up against your science lesson or intentionally spending time with your children, it probably won’t rank very high, right?
And yet, having clean dishes to cook with and eat off of, having clean bathrooms to use, and picking up the clutter from the floor so no one gets hurt is important.
Then why does it seems like the chores are there simply to taunt the children and mock momma?
There’s a very important key here: It’s not just about the chore itself.
There’s a much bigger picture to consider when it comes to chores. If you missed my last post on Why Chores Are An Important Part of Homeschooling, make sure you check it out. In it, we’ll explore this concept that chores are not just about the chore, but about teaching life lessons and character.
But what happens on a day to day basis?
Oh, it’s one thing to talk about the importance of chores. And when it comes to chores, sometimes it’s easier to talk big picture…but what happens when it comes to the day to day reality?
How do you do it? On a practical level, how do you tell your children what chores to do and make sure the chores get done?
Communicating the Chores
The first piece in this puzzle is to let your children know what chores they need to do. You can say “Do your chores!” until you’re blue in the face, but if you children don’t know what chores to do, nothing is going to get done! So, how do you make sure your children know what chores to do?
Well, you have a few options:
Assign Chores To Each Child
This first option seems like the most straightforward: Simply give each of your children a list of chores they must do. Now, when you use this option, there are a couple things to keep in mind:
First, make sure the chores you give each child are possible for that child to accomplish. For example, if you have a heavy vacuum cleaner, it might not be possible for your 3-year-old to vacuum the carpet. But, that same 3-year-old could run a dust mop over the kitchen floor.
Second, you want to have a way to keep track of what chores you give to each child and whether or not the chores get completed. More on that in a bit…
Allow Everyone to Choose Their Chores
Now, this idea might seem chaotic at first, but there is a way to do it without losing your marbles! And it has the added benefit of giving variety to the chores your children do. It helps eliminate the feeling of getting stuck with one chore all the time.
There’s something else that happens when children choose their own chores: They take more ownership of the chore. And when they take more ownership, they typically do a better job.
Now, there’s a bit of madness to this method, but there’s also method in the madness. One of the big elements in this option is making sure all the chores get done without repeating. In other words, you want to make sure all the rooms get vacuumed and the bathrooms get cleaned on a weekly basis without the bathrooms being ignored and the smallest room of your house getting vacuumed 15 times!
More on how to track this method in a bit…
Assign Only Certain Chores
You could also take a hybrid approach and assign only certain chores, leaving the rest up to claim on a first come, first serve basis.
Again, when you choose this method, you need a way to track it just like the ones above. More on this in a bit…
What Chores Can They Do
When it comes to deciding what chores your children are capable of doing, there’s one big thing to remember: Your children are capable of more than you think!
Now, you can find lists of what chores a child is capable of doing at each age. But there’s a bigger picture you don’t want to miss.
You see, every child, even from a really young age, is capable of helping in some way. Even little ones who aren’t even walking can help by picking up a toy and putting it in a basket with mommy or daddy’s help as they cheer them on.
As children grow, both physically and in maturity, they can take on more and more responsibility. One of the best ways to find out whether your child is capable of doing a chore is to have them do the chore with you. If you’re not sure your 4-year-old can handle the weight of your vacuum cleaner, have them help you vacuum one day and see if they can. If they do a good job, then they’re capable. If it’s a bit of a struggle because of the heft of your vacuum cleaner, you might need to wait until they have a little more height and strength.
In other words, match the chores your child does with their physical capabilities. But, don’t limit your children’s capabilities! Don’t think they can’t do something because they’re such-and-such an age. Test it out and see.
One area every child needs to take responsibility for is their own things. Even before your child can fully dress themself, they’re capable of picking up their dirty clothes and putting them in the dirty clothes hamper. Children can and should pick up the toys they got out. They should take responsibility for their own space.
Your Tracking System
It’s one thing to know whether you’re going to assign chores or let your children choose their own chores. But how do you keep track of what child is doing what chore? And how do you keep track of whether or not they’ve accomplished their chores?
There are so many chore cards and chore charts available that it’s easy to get lost in the choices. But what it really boils down to is this: Choose a chore chart or a chore tracking system that works for you and your family and that you can keep up. Whatever works for you to let your kids know what needs to be done and checks things off when they’re accomplished, use it.
There are two big categories most tracking systems fall into. The individual systems can look different depending on your style and what works for your family, but here are the two big categories:
This concept is pretty simple. It’s a chart that lists out the chores and responsibilities your child needs to accomplish. Typically, there’s also a way to check off or mark when the chore or responsibility is complete.
Now, these charts can hold just the chores around the house your child is responsible for (emptying the dishwasher, cleaning their room, sweeping the kitchen floor, cleaning the bathroom, etc.). Or they could include the chores as well as personal responsibilities like brushing your teeth, finishing your schoolwork, and combing your hair.
These charts can be a one-day-at-a-time chart or they can be a week-at-a-time chart. They can be a poster or piece of paper that lists everything out without needing to mark when each chore or task is done or there can be a space to mark off when each chore or task is complete. This could be a chart you create yourself and laminate so you can use it over and over with dry erase markers or it could be a magnet board where you simply move and reuse the magnets showing that each task is finished. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a chart! It could be a stack of index cards or cards on a ring where each chore to be accomplished for that day is listed on its own card.
No matter what chart or tracking method you choose, make sure it will work for you and your family. Also make sure adding this chore chart will help you, not create more work for you!
Chore logs are different from chore charts because they start out completely blank. Chore logs work best when you’re having your children choose their own chores.
There are two parts to this system. First, you need a list of chores to choose from. Now, this could be a list written out on a piece of paper. It could be a laminated piece of paper where you cross off each chore when it’s completed for the week. It could be a stack of index cards with one chore written on each one. It could be pieces of paper in a jar. Use your imagination on how this looks for your family, but the universal truth is: You need a list of chores for your children to choose from.
Second, you need a way to know which child has completed which chore. Now, this could be as simple as a half sheet of paper with your child’s name at the top. When they complete a chore and mom or dad checks it and approves of the job, the chore is written on the paper. Or, you could get a little fancier and design a card with a specific number of spots to fill out. For example, if your child need to complete 3 chores, then there are 3 spaces for the chores they need to complete.
Again, how these cards look will be unique to you and your family, but this universal fact remains: You need a way to track what chores each child has accomplished.
To Pay or Not to Pay
Some families give their children an allowance and expect them to do their chores. Some families like to pay their children when they do their chores. Some families give their children an allowance and dock their money if their chores aren’t done. Some families refuse to pay their children for what they feel should be a family responsibility.
Now, I’m not going to try and tell you what method you should choose for your family. But at the same time, allowances and money do get intermingled with chores, so it’s time to acknowledge the elephant in the room.
No matter where you land on this spectrum, there are two very important things I firmly believe every family needs to do:
Mom and dad need to be on the same page. You need to decide together how you’ll approach giving your child money or having your child earn money. Whatever you decide for your family, you need to be on the same page!
Consistency is key. When you decide on an approach, communicate that to your children and stick to it! Don’t change it up every week! Now, you can absolutely refine your approach until you find the one that works best for your family, but make the changes slowly and be sure to communicate the changes you decide to your children. When you decide on an approach, stick with it!
Over the years, our system has changed many times. When our children were little, we relied heavily on chore charts to keep us all on track making sure everyone brushed their teeth and did their chores.
As our children have grown, our system has gone through many changes…in fact, I couldn’t even give you a number of which system we’re on because we’ve gone through so many changes and refinements through the years!
Now, keep in mind: This is our system! Your system doesn’t have to look exactly like this! You’re not wrong if you use a different system!
Remember, just like your homeschooling and your organizing will be unique to you and your family, your chore system will be unique to you and your family. The best chore tracking system for you is one you help create and one you can keep going.
That being said, here’s what our system looks like for our 5 kids ranging from preschool up through middle school:
A couple years ago, my husband and I chose to stop giving our children an allowance when they reached age 5. Up until age 5, our children receive 75 cents every 2 weeks.
At the same time, we wanted to give our children a way to earn money. So, we decided to pay them commission for the chores they do. Each typical chore is worth 3 stars and each star equals 1 quarter or 25 cents. In other words, for each chore a child does, they can earn 75 cents.
The Assigned Chores
In our family, there are two chores everyone is responsible to do simply because they’re a member of the family and they live in this house: Kitchen Helper and Java Duty.
The Kitchen Helper chore includes emptying the dishwasher, reloading the dishwasher with any dirty dishes, wiping down the kitchen counters, and helping to make the meals for that day. Everyone takes a turn doing this chore on a different day of the week – even our preschooler! As our children have grown, many times they’ll make a meal for everyone all on their own.
Java is our hound dog. So, Java Duty simply means that whoever has this chore is responsible for making sure Java the dog has food and water that day. Again, everyone takes a turn with this chore throughout the week – on a different day than their Kitchen Helper day.
Choose Your Chore
Now, unloading the dishwasher and making sure the dog has food and water aren’t the only chores in our house! So I sat down with some index cards and a sharpie and listed out all the chores that need to be done on a regular basis. They include things like:
- Vacuuming (each room in the house has its own card)
- Cleaning the bathroom (each bathroom has its own card)
- Handles and Switches (Wiping down all the handles and switches in the house since they’re constantly in use. This chore is typically reserved for the youngest two.)
I also listed out other chores. You know, those ones that need to be done occasionally, but not weekly. They include things like:
- Dusting (each room in the house has its own card)
- Cleaning the back porch
- Picking up the dog poo in the back yard
- Cleaning the glass on the back door
Each of these chores has its own amount of stars that can be earned, ranging from 2 stars for the easy chores up to 8 stars for the harder, more involved chores.
All these index cards live in a pouch in our school room. This way, everyone knows where the cards are and can easily access them when they’re ready to do a chore or two.
Tracking the Chores
The other foundational piece of our chore system is our chore log. This is where we keep track of which child has done what chore and how many stars (how much money) they’ve earned.
Our chore logs are super simple! Each child get a half sheet of paper with a place for their name at the top. Underneath are the words “Week 1” followed by 5 lines to write completed chores on. At the end of each line are 3 boxes showing the typical amount of stars possible to earn for each chore. Then come the words “Week 2” followed by the same amount of lines and boxes.
We chose to design our chore logs this way because we pay our children for the chores they do every 2 weeks. This way, it’s very easy to see how many chores they did each week as well as count up the stars and see how much money they earned.
These chore logs live in a second pouch in our school room right next to the pouch with the chore cards.
Doing the Chores
Now, when it comes time to actually do the chores, the process is pretty simple. Our kids go to the pouch containing the chore cards and choose which chore they want to do. Let’s say they pick vacuuming the school rom. So, they get out the vacuum cleaner and complete that chore.
When they’re done with the chore, they bring the chore card and their own chore log to me. I check the work they did to be sure the chore was done well, write the chore on their chore log, and draw 3 stars in the boxes showing they earned 75 cents for completing that chore.
At this point, the chore log, goes back in the pouch where it lives and the chore card stays with me. This way, when the next person goes to choose a chore, vacuuming the school room is no longer an option. This helps us make sure all the chores around the house get done each week and the smallest room or two of the house don’t get vacuumed 8 times!
At the end of every week, I put all the chore cards back in their pouch. This allows my children to choose from the full range of chores and all the chores get completed each week.
One thing worth mentioning is our star ratings: Even though the typical star rating for most chores is 3 stars, my husband and I have the final say on how many stars each child earns in doing each chore. For example, if they do a mediocre job, we can give them 2 stars (usually along with an opportunity and instructions on how they can earn that third star). On the other hand, if they go over and above and do an incredible job, we can give them more stars. We’ve been known to give 4, 5, even 8 stars depending on the job.
In our family, pay day comes every other week. This is why our chore logs keep a record of how many chores and how much money each child has earned over the course of 2 weeks. On pay day, I collect all the chore logs and add up the money each child has earned. Then, we pay them their commission in cash.
Once everyone has been paid, I put 5 blank chore logs (one for each child) into the pouch in the school room and the 2 week cycle starts all over again.
One of the things we really like about this system is the built in motivation. You see, if our kids want spending money, they have to do their chores to earn the money. If they don’t do any chores, they don’t get any money. Simple as that!
Is It Worth It?
Let’s be honest: It takes time, effort and energy to create a system to track which child is doing what chore. On top of that, it takes a lot of time, effort, and energy to make sure your children are getting their chores done!
So, is it worth it? Is it worth the time, the hassle, the repetition, the frustration to make sure it all gets done?
Yes! Absolutely yes!
Remember, chores aren’t just about the chore itself. In giving your children chores, you’re teaching them responsibility, ownership, time management, consistency, follow through, and a host of other important qualities in a very tangible way. (Check out Why Chore are an Important Part of Homeschooling if you want to dive deeper into this concept.)
Yes, it might take a few tries to find the right system for you. Yes, it can get frustrating. Yes, it will take some extra time, especially at first.
But never forget: You can do this! You’re teaching your children in very practical ways even through chores around the house. Don’t give up. Don’t use one system just because someone else is using it. Keep at it until you find the right system that works for you and your family.
Remember, the best chore tracking system for you and your family is one you help create and one that you can keep going.
You’ve got this!
- Why Chores Are An Important Part of Homeschooling
- How To Conquer Your Laundry Pile
- 5 Easy Steps to Pick Up Your Room Quickly
- Quick, Simple Tricks To Stay On Top Of Cleaning
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.