Why I Ditched The Chore Chart — But Not the Chores

Why I ditched the chore chart-- but not the chores

IMG_4919.PNGFor the past couple of years there has been a chore chart on our refrigerator.

I had listed a daily set of chores that each child would be responsible for based on ability. Occasionally I’d get the kids to complete the items on the list, but mostly the chart sat on the fridge and collected dust. When I asked them to do their chores, there was a chorus of complaints; whining and bickering would grate my nerves and cause me to grumble about how lucky they are and how I don’t make them do anything, grumble, grumble, grumble, stomp, stomp.

But not too long ago, I ditched the chart all together and started a new approach.

What appealed to me about a chore chart was that it’s pretty easy.  No questions really: each person has a chore, then they do it and check it off the list. I made it myself so each chore was appropriate for each age and nobody had more than two items a day.

My problem with it was 2 fold:

First, it was easy.
There was absolutely no thinking involved. The kids looked for their item on the chore list and nothing else, and completed their item regardless of whether or not it really needed to be done, or if something else needed more attention. The dishes could be piled high in the sink and on the counter, but if their job was to pick up the toys in the spotless living room, then that’s what they did and be off doing something else, with the dishes still in the sink.

Second, I took away the chance to do something too difficult.
Dividing chores up by age and ability stopped the kids from doing something that was a little too difficult for them.  If there’s such a thing as dumbing down chores, that’s what I had done.  Since then I learned that, with a little patience and practice, Marlowe at 3 can easily put his clothes on hangers and fold his own pants… but his previous chores had been wiping down tables or cabinets (a chore now most often handed to Langston… yes, the 18 month old).

So, we’ve switched up our morning chore routine to reflect what I want the kids to get out of chores rather than to just get things done.

Instead of telling the kids what to do each day, I now ask the kids to make observations themselves. Each day before we do our chores (for us this happens at our morning meeting before homeschool), I ask the boys to take a look around and see what might need to be done (I usually add one or two items that I’ve observed).  Then we create our list of chores for the day and they divide them up amongst themselves.

While I realize I’m a parent, and work all the time, I also do chores at this time so they see me pitch in and know that I am available to help them when necessary.

Now we do chores with much more frequency than we used to (nearly every day) and there’s hardly any grumbling anymore from any of us. Occasionally, I’ll get a heavy sigh or a groan when they sign up for a certain job, but the requirement isn’t to not like chores, just to do them, so I ignore it.

I can’t say our house is much cleaner (by afternoon everything has exploded again), but in my mind, a cleaner home is only a benefit of what chores really are: a chance to learn how to work together for the good of the household.

 

 

A Different Kind of First Halloween.

I’m not really a holiday person.

It’s not that I have anything against holidays; I understand why people love them, but they just aren’t my thing.

Halloween in particular; I might be able to get into the idea of Thanksgiving or the Christmas spirit for a little bit, but Halloween… not so much.

And so every year I thank God for Target and pre-made Halloween costumes.  I usually avoid even thinking about Halloween costumes until the week before. This year it went something like this:

What do you want to be? We’ve got a puppy costume in the attic. Boom. You’re a puppy. Adorable. What do you want to be? Grim Reaper. Fine. Here’s a big black thing for half off 3 sizes too big. Wear that and a glow light so you don’t get hit by a car. What do you want to be? Oh, you’re a baby. Excellent, you’re going to be adorable no matter what.  There’s a dinosaur costume in the attic next to the puppy one. Perfect.

So far, Halloween was going swimmingly. Except for one thing.

Hudson decided he wanted to be Peashooter from Plants vs. Zombies.

Hudson who won’t even wear a hat, a shirt with buttons, or a color other than blue really, wanted to be Peashooter for Halloween. And this time, Target failed me.

Hudson who actually WENT as the color blue last year because we couldn’t get him in a costume and he dresses in head to toe blue anyway. I had given up on the idea of Hudson ever dressing up for Halloween and this year he wanted to dress up in a costume, with a giant mask.

And that’s how I found myself at the store buying a pack of balloons, green spray paint, a green tee shirt, a small pile of felt, and craft foam on the day before Halloween.

Halloween supplies

Hudson sat and watched me construct every piece of that costume.  He made sure nobody touched the paper mache as it was drying and checked on the pieces we left to dry in the backyard. He made sure we didn’t lose or misplace a single component of that costume, and he made absolutely 100% sure that the leaf on the back of his Peashooter head was exactly at the right angle.

Halloween Peashooter costume

My son, who won’t wear a hat, a helmet, or a hood for more than a minute, put on a giant paper mache Peashooter head. He loved it (he tried it on several times during the construction). After it was finished, he wore his costume in the yard (carefully reaching up to make sure his leaf was still attached to the back), wore it for pictures in the park and, of course, put it on for Halloween night.

Halloween Peashooter Costume DIY Homemade

After visiting 3 houses, he declared he was done trick or treating (not being a big fan of candy to begin with).

“Well, that was Halloween,” he said as he stripped off the costume inside. “Now it’s time for Thanksgiving.”

 

 

Our First Year of Homeschool: Small Changes in Our First 2 Months.

Hello from the beach!

Homeschool on the beach

My mother in law invited us to join her on a short trip to North Myrtle Beach so we hopped in the car on Monday to join her. I thought for sure 70 degrees would be too cold for the kids to get in the water but I was wrong, and the kids spent the afternoon with their pants and shorts rolled up running in and out of the water with the tide.

Our first year of homeschool

Adjusting to our new homeschool life has certainly had it’s challenges but the freedom to do things like this make it worth it.

In the past few weeks we’ve been to Shenandoah, Northern Virginia, Maryland, Jamestown and now South Carolina.

We’re still in that deschooling phase, adjusting to our new way of life. I’ll admit I was occasionally frustrated that after 2 weeks of “deschooling” nobody suddenly woke up saying “I want to learn calculus” or “I can’t wait to go on a 3 hour hike today!”.

When people talk about deschooling, or unschooling for that matter, the narrative always seems to be “we relaxed and now my child is reading above grade level/is a math genius/designed a rocket that actually went to the moon and back”

But we’re not focused on the product, we’re focused on the process. And lately I’ve noticed some little things that are telling me that we’re on the right track.

Max, who hates learning, is asking more questions. “What kind of bug is that?” “Can I listen to that book while we drive?” “Can I take a picture of that?”

Hudson, who used to cry every time he had reading homework, sleeps with a giant stack of books in his bed. He looks at the pictures every night. He’s sounding words out on his own out of curiosity. And he’ll sit and listen to me read until I have no voice left.

Hudson’s speech therapist remarked that he seems like a “totally different kid” that he walks in more relaxed and ready to work.

The kids are asking to collect things. They are keeping themselves more entertained outside. And I even heard the words “I’ve been on the computer enough today” come from my 10 year old.

We haven’t made actual rockets, nobody has discovered a secret hidden genius. But we’re learning, and that’s what our homeschool is all about.

our process learning about homeschool

Making Acorn Beads

It’s been in the 80’s lately and not feeling too autumnal but cooler weather is on the way.

I noticed some huge acorns outside on our walk the other day and I forgot about a little craft I had not made in a long time: acorn beads.

I posted my bead on instagram and a couple people asked me about them so I thought I’d share a quick post on how to do it. It’s super a simple fall craft and can be made without any special materials.

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While the woods and streams already provide lots of entertainment, making acorn beads is one of those mindless activities great for conversation or passing the time.

First, you have to gather up your acorns. Nice big fat ones work best.

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Rub the outside on a rough rock (asphalt or concrete path actually works best). Rub both ends just enough to expose the soft nut on the inside.

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Then use a sharp stick (you can sharpen one on the asphalt too if you need) and start digging out the nut.

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Keep working until you make it all the way through.

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Once you’ve made it through the middle you’re done! String the beads on a necklace, paint them or decorate with them.

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Have fun making your beads!

 

Boys Will Be Boys: A Mother’s Plea For Help.

Sigh.

I can’t wait to talk about my weekend trip to WOW Summit but this seems to be more pressing given the circumstances.

As many of us have, I have been watching the recent news about Donald Trump’s comments with horror.

Just as I read in horror the coverage of Stanford University’s Brock Turner.

Just have I have sat in horror reflecting many, many comments which are explained away with statements like “boys will be boys”.

Yes, boys will be boys.

As you may have noticed… I’m surrounded by quite a few boys.  In addition to having 4 boys of my own and having been married for 10 years, I have a father and a brother and grew up having many male friends. Regardless of whether or not I had any of those, I live in a society dominated by “boys”.

Boys Will Be Boys A Mother's Plea For Help - A Multifaceted Mama

Over the years, I have learned a thing or two about boys:

I have learned that fart jokes are almost always funny.

I have learned to tolerate a little rough housing as long as they move the coffee table out of the way first.

I know that no matter how much I clean the bathroom it might never matter.

I know that they may have trouble expressing themselves, or freeze when you do. Boys might say things that make your eyes roll, because it’s gross or dense or just plain annoying.

I know a lot girls like the above too.

But I know something else about boys:

I know that they can listen.

I know that they, like girls, look up to role models.

I know they can control their behavior.

I know they can control what they say.

I know they can think of others before themselves.

I know they can treat people with respect.

I know they can understand the meaning of the word ‘stop’.

I know they can be caring brothers, and fathers, and friends.

I know they can tell the difference between right and wrong.

I know they can be emotional.

I know they take cues from their parents and our society.

And I know that boys can live up to the expectations we set for them.

These are the type of boys that I hope my boys will be.

Every day as I raise my 4 boys I remember this. Every day there is some example, somewhere that I can set for them… and every day there is some example somewhere that makes that job more difficult.

Sure, we all have our flaws, but being a boy doesn’t have to be a flaw. Being a boy doesn’t mean that they will be vulgar, or disrespectful. It doesn’t mean that they can ignore people’s boundaries. It doesn’t mean they can take what they want without asking.

We TEACH them what being a boy means. Every day. We show them what it means when we give them passes for bad behavior because they are “just being boys”.  We teach them that it’s okay to behave poorly when they see other “boys” get away with it.

And so, I am asking you to help me.  Give my sons the credit they deserve. Don’t write them off, hold them to a higher standard.  Give them role models who set the example of who boys can be.  Help me show them that boys can be strong without being cruel and that kindness and strength are not mutually exclusive.

Hold boys, including mine, accountable. Start when they’re little. They can take it. Don’t let them get away with being less than what we know they can be. They are better than that. I promise you I will do my absolute best to make sure that my boys live up to the standard we set for them.

Help me teach them what it means to be a boy.  Because, yes, boys will be boys… but eventually these boys will become men.

If this post resonates with you, please feel free to share.
Raising boys. Boys will be boys.

We’ve Got Work to Do.

Finding time to blog has been particularly difficult lately, but posting a picture with a little caption is a bit easier. If you want to keep up to date on what we’re doing in between blog posts please follow me on Instagram for more regular updates.

"I hate learning" homeschool challenge

One of the parenting moments I cherish the most are my talks with Max. I’ve been inviting Max out on a beach walk each day of our vacation and sometimes he takes me up on it.

“Mom, I’m never going to like learning.”

Silence.

“I mean, it’s nice to know stuff and I like the benefits of knowing things but I am never going to like actual learning.”

This is the kid that has basically every Pokemon memorized.  Who while at the aquarium, impressed strangers who overheard him telling me about parrotfish. The kid who enjoys reading and watching shows about trivia, and when I find something out to impress him usually responds with, “I know,” and gives me a fact I didn’t know back. Who tested into a center based gifted program at school and we didn’t even realize he was being tested for it…

… this person hates learning.

If learning is miserable to a kid like this, we’re basically all screwed.

This is my challenge for our homeschool year. After years of school I feel like now we have to go backwards in some ways instead of forward.  Back to the playing, the experimenting, back to the joyful and fun part of learning. And it makes me worry… is it possible to reframe our idea of learning and to find the joy in it?

Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but it’s scary to hear that your child hates learning when you are about to be the one responsible for their education. I realized that switching gears from learning by demand to learning out of joy is a little bit of a delicate process.  I don’t want to find myself being just another person who pushes them to the point that they completely lose interest and yet, trusting the process and allowing them to “learn nothing” while exploring their interests is mildly terrifying.

Since summer is winding down and the regular school year is approaching, I am curious to see how the kids will feel when they don’t go back to school with everyone else.
And as my husband is planning his year of teaching ahead, I am thinking about mine.

For the kids, I have two overarching goals for our first homeschool year:

  1. Redefine learning as something enjoyable that never stops.
  2. Reconnect with the outdoors (it’s not just a place you go to get from one building to another).

For myself I have a number of other goals:

  1. Learn to follow their lead.
  2. Manage my expectations.
  3. Learn when to give them a gentle push and when I’m pushing too far.
  4. Create an environment that gives them opportunities to discover new things.
  5. Make time to let them teach me about the things they love (this will involve many Pokemon lessons).
  6. Not go completely insane panic (too often).
  7. Slow down and enjoy our time together.

So while the school year is gearing up, we’re still winding down.

 

 

Your Baby at 6 Months: Painful.

 

Baby stage 6 months kissing mama

Langston turned 6 months old last week.

He sits up.
He has 5 teeth.
He drools.
He’s aaaaaalllmost ready to crawl.
He’s showing interest in food.
He plays with toys.
He laughs at his brothers.
He pulls the small hairs out of the back of my neck.
He claws my face with his razor sharp nails.
He eats my pony tail.
He sticks his fingers in my eyes and up my nose.
He bites my back when I wear him.

We have entered the painful stage of babyhood.
We don’t talk about this stage because we like to focus on how cute they are and they are really actively loving you back.  He just wants to love and be loved, and feel how squishy your eyeball is. He wants to play and cuddle and laugh at what you do when he bites your arm.  He wants your attention and your hair.

This is the stage where I get a little “touched out” by the end of the day.  My hair is always up in top knot and even then it’s not safe.

I love this stage… I think.  I’ll miss it… I think.

In the meantime, I’ll take lots of pictures because he’s pretty adorable.

 

Getting Into the Holiday Spirit… In 70 Degree Weather

It’s 70-something degrees in Richmond right now, and even through we are usually a bit warmer in December this is kinda ridiculous.

I’m not feelin’ it folks.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the warmth… but with the weather being what it is we pretty much skipped the Christmas activities for the weekend, the boys ran around in their underwear, and we did a little yard work and tree hugging.

Tree hugger boy

I’m kind of proud of myself because this fall we managed to squeeze in some fun seasonal stuff like apple picking and pumpkin patches I’m hoping to do the same this winter.  I had a few things on my Holiday “Bucket List” and we’re doing pretty well with them so far…

1. Get a Christmas tree and decorate it. Duh and check.

2. Bake some cookies and decorate them. Check.

3. Go to Lewis Ginter Botantical Gardens and check out their GardenFest of Lights… Check.

Dominion GardenFest Richmond Va

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Richmond GardenFest

 

If you’re in Richmond and you haven’t been there, it’s beautiful. I hate to admit that this was our first time going to see the lights (we’ve been to the garden many times) but it’s definitely going to be a new yearly tradition.  We brought the stroller for Marlowe but Hudson ended up riding in it instead.

Lewis Ginter Dominion GardenFest 2015

I really want to go ice skating, but that’s just weird in 70 degree weather, so we’ll have to wait. So I started making a few tags and ornaments for Christmas presents.

Each year we make some decorations for our tree, last year we did salt dough but I didn’t like how puffy they were. This year I used some air dry clay, which is awesome except that it takes about 2 days to fully dry which requires patience… not my strong suit.

DIY ornaments and gift tagsD

I’ll update with how they turn out in a billion years when they dry, get painted, then dry again.

Speaking of painting, I’m working on a little project which ties in with another item on the bucket list: Hot cocoa by the fire… but it’s not quite ready yet. I can’t wait to show it off.

And, lastly I’m updating my milk-making cookie recipe to make it easier to follow and a cookie-er texture… if that’s a thing.

Back to the holidays… are you getting winter weather where you are? Does the weather affect how you celebrate the holidays?

Teaching My Kids To Quit

Teaching Kids to QuitIn second grade, my son tested into a Center-Based Gifted program after a recommendation from his teacher.  The program was offered by the county and transportation was provided, and it required a lot of shuffling and some sacrifices for our family, but he decided to give it a shot.

Third grade at his new school proved to be a tough transition. It wasn’t the work necessarily, or the school itself, or the other kids, or the teacher. In fact, it was hard to pin point one thing in particular that made him miserable. Even after working hard and making the honor roll, he still wasn’t happy.

Each morning I told him that there are times in our life that are tough. There are obstacles in our way. There are people who are difficult to deal with.  I told him this year would teach him a  valuable lesson in how to overcome challenges.

In September, he gave Center-Based Gifted another try for fourth grade. Each morning the same pep talk: work hard, be tough, don’t give up, you can do it.  And each day he became more miserable than the last.

One morning he looked at me and simply said, “I’m not going.”

And I no longer believed the pep talk.

I laid out his options and let him decide what he wanted to do; a day later we were switching back to his old school.

We value tenacity so much in our culture. We value hard work and perseverance because those qualities are important for success.

But sometimes it’s empowering to quit.  It’s important to know when it’s time to switch tracks and move onto something else.  Sometimes, you have to cut your losses, call it quits and be ready to tackle something else.

Last week he brought home a stack of tests with A’s on them.  But more important than the grades, he has come back to life.  He’s happy again. Immediately after making the switch, it was as if a weight had lifted off his shoulders.

And really, looking at it objectively, the drawbacks were outweighing the benefits.  He saw that.  I didn’t.

So, I guess the lesson here is, never give up… until it’s time to quit.

 

 

How My 6 Year Old Views Social Media

I feel like the first thing babies see is the back of their mother’s iPhone case.
I take a lot of pictures of my kids with my phone.  It’s always with me, it’s quick, it’s easy and takes less than a second to share it with all my friends on Facebook.

Max knows this.  And being a natural clown, when he takes a particularly hilarious picture he says to me, “You have GOT to put that on Facebook!”
Of course, my 6 year old does not have a Facebook account, or a Twitter account or any other social media presence. But he knows I have one, and he knows he’s on it.

I brought out my phone to take a picture of Max holding his new baby brother. “Don’t mom,” he said, “Don’t put it on Facebook.” I promised I wouldn’t and I asked him why. “I don’t know,” he said after his signature thoughtful pause. “I just think some things are private.”

For a moment I was stunned.
He’s right though; some things are private and some things are better left unshared; at only 6 he’s developing a sense of what for him is public and what should remain private.  There are a handful of adults who clearly have not grasped this concept.

I find the differences in generations particularly fascinating, and I’ve read what little has been said about life for kids of Gen X and Gen Y.  When it comes to social media, the general consensus seems to be that the upcoming generation will be a little too “plugged in”
If that is the case, then it will be entirely our fault.
Our children will grow up with their first pictures on the internet for the world to see (and some of them will have pictures of their actual birth recorded via social media) through no choice of their own. And I think we assume that the over sharing will continue.

But I wonder if things might be different.

The pictures Max is okay with sharing seem to be creating a rather silly persona. I would hope that he would want to share what is meaningful, rather than just what is funny or what he thinks is cool, but he is only 6.  While it might seem silly, he’s clearly grasping a concept of his social media presence and he is already trying to control what that says about him.

On the other hand, growing up with your embarrassing stories and pictures posted on the internet for all the world to see might create a bit of a privacy backlash. At the very least, maybe they’ll understand what it’s for, or how to use it, where our generation has just become drunk with the power to broadcast every thought and image we have (from the awkward and private to utterly inane) to the world.

At least that’s my hope.

For now, I will ask him before I post pictures of him on Facebook, or the blog for that matter.  Expect only pictures of him being creatively dressed and making various kinds of faces or showing off drawings and art projects– and no darling pictures of him holding his baby brother for the first time.  Those more intimate moments, however beautiful, are private.