The Task Chart

You asked me to elaborate on chores.  The task chart is simply a way to keep track of our pegs.  Every day, certain things are accomplished upon waking, after breakfast, after lunch, before sports, after dinner and before bed.  I've taken this somewhat cumbersome, way-too-expensive chart I bought (and an additional one a friend bought and discarded) and adapted it to suit our needs. I liberally used a very fine Sharpie to remake the disks that came with the kit.  Alternatively, you could build your own board using screw hooks and keytags.

The children's names go down the left side. The timing pegs go across the top. There are rising habits, after breakfast tasks (not really chores, we're talking hygiene here), room zone chores, and table time. Table time gets one disk (for space economy) but there are several habits built into that block of time. Then there is lunch. There are after-lunch chores, and unit/nature time (again, one disk but many habits within a day and within a week). Then there are "get ready" tasks--when we get ready for whatever afternoon activities lie ahead and clean up any messes of the day. Before launching into the afternoon whirlwind, there is tea time and then we disperse to varied activities. When we all come back, dinner is the peg.  After dinner, we need to do clean-up chores and to prepare for the next day.  And there is the bedtime routine. Each column holds what the children have to complete within a certain block. 

The Room Zone is FLYlady for their rooms.  Every day of the week has a bedroom-oriented different task assigned:  dresser tops, under beds, closets, etc.

The beauty of the peg system is that I can lay out what is planned and/or expected early in the morning and the chart becomes the objective tasmaster and the compass.  Children like to know what's next.  They like to know what's expected.  In every room, there is a laminated list of the tasks for that room, broken into steps.  For instance, on the refrigerator is a detailed list of what consititutes a clean kitchen, from "wipe the stove" to "throw all dirty rags in the hamper and turn off the lights." The children cover completed tasks with a green disk on the chore chart and we all can see at a glance what has been covered. The double edge is that I am held accountable as well.  Am I moving through the day or did I get sidelined by the computer?  Incidentally, the task chart is within easy sight of said computer.

The beauty of bucking the complicated reward/punishment system is that I can intervene with mercy and grace.  If something doesn't happen because something better happened or because someone struggled, I don't have weigh the "fairness" of a uniform punishment. ("I got a demerit yesterday and you're not giving him one today!")  There is such a wide variety of ages, abilities, and personalities in this house that I could go nuts parcelling out task-based, or even behavior-based punishments. Essentially, if your tasks aren't completed, you don't play.  We play after table time in the morning and after unit time in the afternoon and after tea time and often, well into the dusk after dinner (there aren't enough columns for all the play times and no one has trouble remembering). Since play is built in several times during the day (with soccer practice and ballet being the biggies in the afternoon), that's usually incentive enough to complete the work. Essentially. Usually.  We're a family, not a factory.

Frequently, someone will go above and beyond. They'll do more or they'll be especially cheerful.  I make an effort to note that with sincere appreciation and truly thoughtful praise. My kind words are more sincere and more fruitful in the long run, in my opinion, than a disk to be traded in for a treat. And if someone slacks off, it's easy to point out how he or she is integral to the plan and the whole family depends on his or her cheerful cooperation. The point of doing work isn't for the arbitrary reward/avoidance of punishment.  We work to serve each other.  We work because it's our duty and when everyone recognizes the necessity of fulfilling duties, it just plain makes sense to work.

Incidentally, we're working on a better picture.  The board is white and the disks are shiny so photography is proving a challenge for me.  I'll call in my 17-year-old resident expert today.