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?