Morning chores were assigned according to the age of the child. Since our five boys' ages spanned almost ten years, their abilities were quite different. Each son was given as many chores as he was years of age. For example, the five-year-old had five daily chores—most of them to be completed before school while the older ones fed the animals. The eleven-year-old had eleven chores, some daily, some weekly, and some monthly. This was also the year of preparation for learning to take over his own laundry at age twelve. At each birthday each son received another responsibility along with new privileges. When the younger brothers complained that the older ones got to do things they weren't permitted to do yet, they were reminded that the older ones also had more responsibilities. To whom much is given, much is required.

When teaching a child to do a new chore, spend time with him demonstrating and then watching as he completes the chore himself. It may take several days (or weeks in the case of laundry) for him to faithfully remember all of the steps to doing the job right. Write on a file card what steps are necessary to complete the chore and post it in the room where he does that chore. If doing the dishes means wiping the counters, putting away the leftovers, and sweeping the floor, write those tasks on the card.

Then have periodic, unannounced inspections. It is important to realize that as a parent you can only expect what you inspect. Most adults wouldn't show up at work everyday if they thought no one would notice their absence. Be prepared to praise your child for the steps he has done well. Re-teach the other steps until you can count on him to do the job to the best of his ability. Do not expect adult level performance, but do expect effort and do encourage him for small victories.

Your family already has many routines that are working well for you. Periodically, evaluate them to see which ones need to be modified as your family's needs change. Routines keep you from having to start over every day with the basics of chores, discipline, and scheduling. Those decisions are already made and the tasks can be done rapidly because everyone knows what to expect. These structure-building routines allow us to be open to the fun surprises that God has planned to flesh out each new day.

Check back next week when "Mama" addresses academic preparations for the new school year.

© 2004 Marcia K. Washburn. Portions of this article were originally published in the CHEC Update Magazine and are used by permission. "Mama" Washburn writes from her nineteen years of experience as a homeschooling mom in rural eastern Colorado. She is a workshop speaker and is working on her second book. She can be contacted at marcia@chec.org

This article was published in the Jul/Aug '04 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, please visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.