Chore Time: Structure for Summer Break

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I don’t know about you, but I dreaded the end of the school year. The idea of long days with all the kids at home gave me the willies. Especially since two of them are used to spending significant parts of their days in highly structured, stimulating environments. I could see three months stretching before me, a long, desolate stretch of bored kids who are never happy and always wanting me to entertain them. The standard response moms give is to spend all day at the pool, but I have two headstrong little ones, and I’d need a clone to be safe there with them.

Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me to institute morning chore time right after breakfast. When we were kids, Mom got us up at 7:00 every summer morning to work in the garden for two hours. Of course, that was on normal days. When the produce started rolling in, it sometimes took a much bigger chunk of the day: cooking, straining and canning tomatoes, snapping and canning beans. Corn was an all-day event involving bushel baskets, wash tubs, aluminum pans and a visit from Grandma.

It’s not reasonable to expect that kind of help from children ages 6, 4 and 2. But I can ask for up to an hour of chores in the morning, followed by play time or a fun trip (library, playground, a visit to the creek, etc.)

It’s taken a little time to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. I’ve learned that we can’t all do the chores at the same time. The idea is to have them help me accomplish something, and if both the little ones are “working” at the same time, I don’t accomplish anything at all. I learned this the day I assigned folding laundry. If I didn’t watch Julianna, she wandered off and started looking at books. When I dragged her back out, whining and protesting, Nicholas disappeared into the bathroom and started pulling toilet paper. And that’s to say nothing of the “folding” these two do. (They can’t even carry a folded item and put it in the drawer without it coming unfolded!)

Here is a list of some of the chores we’ve done:

  • Cleaning bathrooms
  • Mopping floors
  • Running/folding laundry
  • Weeding the flower beds
  • Mixing bread
  • Watering the lawn
  • Picking strawberries
  • Straightening bedrooms
  • Picking up toys
  • Packing for a trip

Alex can go off and do a job on his own, although usually I have to make him go back and fix the parts he’s missed. But obviously, I have to be on hand with the little ones. So I’m also learning to adjust my expectations for my level of daily accomplishment. And although I am still not producing anywhere near the volume of writing that I did during the school year, at least the “I’m bored”’s are few and far between.

Of course, Julianna’s summer school finally ends tomorrow…so we’ll see what happens starting next week!

How do you handle structure for summer break? What tasks do you have your kids help out with around the house?

10 thoughts on “Chore Time: Structure for Summer Break

  1. I have teenagers, and for the last few summers I have referred to them as “the household staff”–or I’ll say they are being homeschooled in home economics using an experiential approach.

    The youngest spends six weeks in day camp, after which her siblings will add “nanny” to the list of household employees.

    Actually my big ones about went nuts the year I was on maternity leave during the summer with my youngest–I ended up putting them in camp just so they’d have something to do. It is where their friends were.

    • This is interesting, Ruth. I’m always worried about placing *too much* on Alex’s shoulders, esp. since he’s so far and away more developmentally mature than his siblings. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, not with the first two 21 months apart, but that’s life, as you well know. 🙂 I’m curious to get more details about this, if you’re willing to share!

  2. Marcie

    Ah,, Kate, you know I am one that looks forward to the lazy, unstructured days of summer! But, everyone needs some structure, so I do leave my kiddos a list every morning of jobs ranging from mundane household chores to academic work. And like you, all accomplished chores deserve a reward……play date, nature center, pool. We are already sad as we count the days until school resumes! :-(!

    • This weekend, we were at my brother-in-law’s house int he morning, and I was already feeling edgy. “What’s the plan?” I said. “What’s going on?” (because we had to go from there to my parents-in-laws’ house at some point). I cannot STAND sitting around doing nothing. There is nothing in the world that can make me more tense and crabby than doing nothing. Apparently I’m like a child that way: I need structure in order to be emotionally healthy. 🙂 To me, “relaxing” is going to do something enjoyable and/or productive.

  3. we have lists for the older two girls. My oldest has gotten pretty good at laundry and kitchen upkeep. My almost-8-year-old…….yeah…not so much. LOL but we keep working on it!

    • I can’t believe you’re commenting on blogs when you have a NEWBORN!!!! 🙂 But I’m glad you did, it reminded me that it was about time, and now I get to go read all about your cutie!

  4. Mine are all grown and out of the house so it’s been a while. When I was home with them we’d have chores but when I was working I’d leave lists and I was lucky if they got dome. But they were all really involved in sports which somehow became their “chores. Stopping by from Mama Kat’s.

  5. I am really scared this summer! Tyler had gone to daycare but after pre-K graduation on June 22nd, we have only signed him up for a month here and there of different camps, from nine to noon. Ahhhhh! I want him to have a good summer but I work part-time from home and how are we going to accomplish both?

    Its going to be an interesting summer!

    • I find it astonishing how late some schools run. You’re not the first person to talk about kids getting out of school late in June. When do you start???? How long is summer break??? Here, the goal is to be out as soon after Memorial Day as can possibly be arranged. But maybe we can manage that b/c we don’t usually get a lot of snow. I know my s-i-l in Boston has three or four random one-week breaks built into the school year, but it goes late. Maybe those are there to ease snow day schedules?

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