The Homeschooler's Haunter
As it appeared in
The Catholic Family's Magnificat! Magazine
Copyright 1994. All Rights Reserved.
by Kathy Wagner
Yes, this alliterative title seems to be absolutely perfect. It could be rewritten by definition (my own) - The Work of Housekeeping: Something which recurs constantly and spontaneously to one who always has more to do than time permits.
I have not been blessed with an inborn tendency to cleanliness. I have been given the natural instinct typical of the pack rat. Consequently, I have had to learn how to organize my home the hard way - the live and learn way.
Last year, after 14 years of marriage and 5 children, I realized I had become a mother who occasionally ranted, "Clean up this mess, or else!" rather than a consistent orderly manager of a household. I knew what housework had to be done and when, but I never seemed to be able to get it done! My house was becoming a serious source of anxiety. Opening my eyes each morning to see my mess was really depressing me. Desperately, I prayed to the Lord to help me find a way to solve my dilemma.
I was inspired to have a family meeting to identify ways to improve our home life. We discussed various solutions to eliminate the perpetual untidiness of our house and selected the best. Our next move was to list the household chores and duties that needed to be done and make a schedule to accomplish them.
I am convinced that this solution was a Godsend because it has worked successfully in my home for almost a year now. All of my previous attempts to maintain order were very short lived. The beneficial plan that developed after my plea to the Lord is really quite simple.
Step One: the Family Meeting
This is and opportunity for all members of the house to voice their thoughts. Many intimate concerns can be revealed provided there is a loving environment in which to air them. It should definitely be a clan discussion and not a screaming tournament.
I led our initial meeting because I was literally at wit's end. I explained to the children how overwhelmed I was and told them I needed their help. I asked all the kids to think about our family life and honestly share their feelings. (This was a tear jerker for me because one of my sons said he felt like our family was falling apart!! He was right because I was falling apart.)
Step Two: Brainstorming to Identify Problems
Open and honest communication will maximize your success of identifying problems that need to be addressed. It's very important to write out everyone's comments so they can be looked at more closely. Making the list first, and discussing each one later, really helps you to focus on the statements without letting emotions interfere.
I used a marker on a huge sheet of newsprint to write out all our thoughts. We immediately noticed that the most troublesome area for us was, you guessed it, housework.
Step Three: Choosing a Solution
Everyone should be encouraged to supply a possible solution and each should be written down. If one comment is off the wall it will be quickly eliminated when deciding on the best option.
This was our easiest step because I had already considered all the options and knew which one our family would have to take. (However, that might not always be the case.) I still included everyone in this step so they could see for themselves that sharing the workload was the best decision for all of us.
Step Four: The Housework List
Once the course of action is decided upon, the next step is to break it down into manageable segments. For us, our identified problem was that the responsibility of doing the housework rested too much on Mom. Our best cure for this was to share the household duties. We next listed all the items that needed to be done in the house. Believe it or not, this took up two gigantic pieces of newsprint!
The next phase was to 1) combine chores when appropriate,(such as clean toilet, scrub tub, were combined to become clean bathroom), 2) eliminate items that were not relevant, (like eat breakfast), and 3) divide some further, (feed animals was broken down into feed cat and feed rabbits). When the list was edited to everyone's satisfaction, we decided how often each job should be done.
Step Five: Creating the Chore Schedule
All family members will have varying degrees of ability to perform each task on the housework list. The jobs need to be assigned only to those who can responsibly manage them. However, a job can be allotted to more than one person which would allow for a rotating schedule.
Our younger children were given simple tasks. The older children, Mom and Dad were assigned greater responsibilities.
Having this schedule, which is unique to our family, has made my life so much easier! It even resolved the eternal battle of who was going to sit in front seat of the car. The kids decided that whoever was on kitchen duty for the week would sit in the front. Our youngest son, who was not assigned kitchen yet, was granted front seat privileges every Tuesday.
The Vital Last Step: Ensuring Job Completion
Unusually, this responsibility will lie with Mom. (Unless you have an awesome husband!) You will have to make sure the children are adequately trained to complete each job properly and, undoubtedly, you'll have to give gentle reminders occasionally. Believe me, the time invested initially frees up your time on a daily basis throughout the year!
I naively had this pie in the sky image that our schedule would automatically make my children perfectly responsible. Boy, was I wrong! As the saying goes, "Children will be children." Eventually, I recognized that although the schedule was a great help it was not a complete relief of my responsibilities as a mother.
In time I even had to create consequences for jobs not done. I always tried to make the punishment fit the crime: If the kitchen table was not cleared off and the floor swept after the meal, the child responsible would have to do dishes for that meal. This helped my children learn quickly to do what was required of them.
I pray that through this personal experience, my children have learned the skill of organizing household duties and that they will value it enough to bring it into whatever vocation God has chosen for them - rather than having to learn it the hard way as I did!
Kathy Wagner and her husband Mark are the parents of five children. Kathleen founded the Erie Area Catholic Homeschoolers (EACH) in 1992.
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