We’ve tried more than our share of family chore charts in this household. The moment I realized I was pregnant with twins and would have a 4 year old, a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and newborn twins all at once, I knew that my life was about to demand a level of organization that had thus far eluded me. I’ve always been able to keep a regimen of clutter-busting and a manageable laundry routine, but the homeschool year following the birth of my twins seemed to be my nemesis. How would I survive the demands? Since that year, we’ve had a variety of needs and struggles as it relates to getting everything done. Pregnancy is tough to mix with a demanding homeschool schedule. Nursing is even harder. But it doesn’t have to be impossible!
I’m certainly not a professional with all the answers, but I have learned quite a bit in our trial-and-error chore management attempts. I gleaned a great deal from Titus 2 ministries’ books Managers of Their Homes and Managers of Their Chores. These resources are an excellent tool for any large family mama’s arsenal. I used the suggested schedules exclusively for quite awhile, until I discovered that our family does particularly well with block-scheduling. That is, we get everything in an assigned block finished, then move on to the next block but we don’t assign exact times of the day to each block – they are just done in order. I don’t really look at the clock as I’ve been able to hone in to about how much time each block should take us to complete. Most days, we are able to smoothly go through our blocks one at a time without any hiccups. But some days, some blocks will take longer than others (for example the kids get their new piano theory lesson on Mondays, which takes a fair amount of time to teach and explain whereas for the rest of the week they are only doing their workbooks and flash cards to review – but it all happens within one assigned block of time). I don’t have a different schedule for Mondays just because the piano block takes longer. It seemed really labor-intensive to create a brand new schedule for every day where one task might require more time. I’d rather have one master schedule that we tweak a little in the moment as needed.
I’ve gone through years of printing chore charts on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, only to have it trashed by many little hands, or ignored because the print is too small to really get anything meaningful out of looking at it. We’ve done stickers, we’ve done jelly bean jars, money charts, nagging, and the Mom-does-everything approach. What a drag, especially Mom doing all the chores just to get them done! A recent project of mine has been to come up with a more permanent solution – one that could be adjusted as needed but that was well-thought-out enough that I could keep it for at least several months. It helps to have made a lot of mistakes in the process leading up to now when I basically have a pretty good idea of how I want my days to flow, and what kinds of chores are able to be delegated.
In order to help those mamas who have asked me to help them set up their own charts, I’m providing the following ideas as a sort of tutorial to get started. It should just be seen as a launching pad for ideas of your own, not a one-size-fits-all solution. I believe that the less we have to discuss, re-explain, and remind about the basic things that have to happen every day, the more we can accomplish, especially since each child is responsible for a variety of items. This has proven itself true over the weeks we’ve used this system. The children know what to expect, and they do it without needing to be pressed or nagged. They really enjoy knowing what comes next, and getting to move their little magnetic block from the “To Do” column to the “Done” column. Even Ketziah has her own set of magnets.
Here are the materials I used to make mine look a little more artistic and not such an eye-sore that I hate having it in a main room of the house (which is a key to actually getting everyone to use it).
8 1/2 x 11 “Pretty” Paper
A different color/design for each child (great time to use that set of scrapbook pages I’ve had for ages) with enough extra to create 1×1 squares for the magnets. These will be fed through your printer but you’ll need enough 1×1 squares for each block of time/chores you plan to have in a given day (I have 8 blocks of time per child, so 48 total 1×1 squares for our family). The squares will be glued to the magnets.
I had two 24×36 boards that I didn’t want to use because push pins spell disaster for kids managing their chore sections, but I also didn’t want to buy expensive aluminum magnetic boards. Dry erase boards would work well here too.
Cut to size for the re-purposed cork boards to render them magnetic! They are inexpensive and quite thin but have sharp edges once cut. Check the HVAC section of Home Depot. Stainless steel sheets are not magnetic, so get the galvanized steel ones.
Plenty of it – to firmly attach the metal to the cork boards.
Black Duct Tape
To cover the edges where the sheet metal meets the edge of the cork board and create a more uniformed look. It’s still not that pretty, but I don’t care as long as it’s not hideous. Black is definitely nicer-looking than the gray duct tape.
Dry Wall Anchors
Since there will be a fair amount of hands pushing and pulling on the boards on a daily basis sliding their magnets, I wanted something that wouldn’t tear out of the drywall after the first week. These need to be sturdy!
1×1 magnets to glue to the “pretty paper” – these are what the kids will slide back and forth each day from the To Do column to the Done column. You’ll also need magnets for the back of the actual chore lists.
Clear Glass Squares
I hot-glued these 1×1 jewelers’ glass squares (also very inexpensive on Etsy) to the paper-magnet squares I’d already assembled. They make it easier for little hands to grasp. You could also look for fun fridge magnets for each child, but all the ones I found were too expensive, small (thus choking hazards), and I needed more than most sets provided. Once again, making it myself proved handy!
I laminated everything to ensure that this chore chart lasts for quite awhile.
Digital Scrapbooking Elements
This was just for fun, but I selected a picture of each child and added some digital elements to them before printing. I think it adds a little something extra to each colorful section.
We put the items the children need to do on a daily basis on cards next to the magnets. Not everything is a chore – we have “Time with Jesus” as one of our first blocks as it’s something that just has to be part of our day. “Special Home Blessings” as we call them occur maybe once or twice a week, so they are only on the chore board as a reminder. There are several items not on the board – chores that we do on the weekends and all the things that I’m responsible for. Starting simple and measurable is key. The nice thing about the boards is that Mommy is held to it as much as the kids are. We have fresh air outside on the chart, so it happens every day regardless of weather and I have to say it has been amazing! It also doesn’t surprise the children when they come to the kitchen for their fermented cod liver oil – it’s on the chart and they only get to move their magnets once everything in the block is done. This kind of system has served to make my day much more streamlined. It’s not perfect, but there is a lot of potential here. It’s possible that some day the kiddos won’t need the reminder of a massive chore board, but until then this is the kind of thing that brings success to our school day.