There is great excitement here this morning, among the Blossoms and Bees! We have brand new birds in the nesting box. The pictures were taken when they were less than a half hour old. Cigar anyone?
There is great excitement here this morning, among the Blossoms and Bees! We have brand new birds in the nesting box. The pictures were taken when they were less than a half hour old. Cigar anyone?
I was just blessed with two days of cherished friendship. My best friend from college came to visit. Her husband had a business trip a few hours away and he and my husband jumped through some big traveling hoops to make it possible for Jan to spend the time at my house.
We talked and talked and talked. There was some looking back, way back, to our days together at the University of Virginia. We remembered learning to write a unit study and not learning to manage a classroom. We talked about the twaddle we sat through and we appreciated the teachers who really did inspire us. She's now a teacher and an administrator a small classical school. (Hey, me too ;-). Funny how we both discovered Latin at the same time, far, far from the grounds of that school which supposedly embodies the Thomas Jefferson Education. We giggled with my children about a ridiculous four credit course entirely devoted to rubber cement and exacto knives. We cleaned out my learning room and pored over books and started planning yet another unit. I showed her the world of lapbooks (and we laughed some more about proficiency in cutting and pasting). We traded ideas and solved each other's problems.
But it wasn't all "professional." My husband marveled at how we could pick up right where we left off fifteen years ago, sharing stories and hearts and souls. We had long talks that left me feeling full. This time, though, there were new dimensions. We were able to look back with some perspective on mistakes made and lessons learned. And we were able to look ahead with considerably more confidence than either of us had when we were 19.
Finally, there was the dimension the men in our lives brought to our friendship. Jan knew Mike when we were in college. She oohed and ahhed over my engagement ring and helped me plan my wedding. But I never knew her husband, except through letters and cards and phone calls. On her final night at my house, he came to stay. He's perfect for her and I so enjoyed getting to know him. The four of us stayed up talking way too late and I thought with a little pang how it just seemed like we'd all been great friends forever--and then how far away they really live.
Still, I sit here tonight amazed by God's provision. After what has easily been the loneliest time of my life, He brought my husband and hers together to make it possible for us all to truly fill up on friendship. Amazing. Really.
The Bonny Glen is a "must stop" today. First of all, you can read why Lissa might have to break down and do laundry after all. And then you can get all the great links at the Fourth Edition of the Carnival of Children's Literature. It's always a perfect day for a carnival in the blogosphere!
I took this quiz and discovered I'm a "know thyself mother." “I believe the joy of motherhood is self-discovery—for them and for me.” HT: Maureen at Trinity Prep School
I took this quiz and discovered I'm a "know thyself mother."
“I believe the joy of motherhood is self-discovery—for them and for me.”
HT: Maureen at Trinity Prep School
Stephen on Thursday morning: Mom, if I put my soccer socks in the laundry today, do you think they'll be ready by Saturday?
Me (with some confidence): Absolutely. I'll make sure they are.
Stephen: Yeah, but will we be able to find them or will they get lost in the piles?
Okay, so he's got me there.
As happens so often in our home, we interrupted this month’s carefully planned lessons for a rabbit trail. This one was HUGE, all encompassing, and (assuming everything takes root) will live for years in our hearts and our yard. We planted gardens.
We approached this otherwise humble task in my usual, somewhat overzealous way. We looked at the plot in the backyard and then at the sides of the house and then at the front of the house and decided it all must be planted.
So, after consulting and virtually consuming all the gardening resources listed in the “Garden Inspiration” sidebar and drilling my friends at 4Real, we imported forty cubic yards of dirt and compost and other assorted layering material. These regularly delivered piles of dirt effectively pulled us from the table in the learning room, out of doors. And the education my husband and I were getting naturally spilled over and thoroughly drenched the children. Time to bring in the books!
The first bunch of books was emergency ordered: Nicholas was suddenly terrified of bugs—bees in particular—and boycotting the entire endeavor. He refused to come inside. So we began with The Bee Tree, Patricia Polacco’s tale of a child’s and her gandfather’s raucous romp through the village, gathering friends and neighbors, while they chased a bee in search of a whole tree full of bees. Surely, these critters were not to be feared if some people actually go off looking for them. We examined a honeycomb and made buttermilk biscuits and honey for tea time. After The Bee Tree, Dad sat and read The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive. There’s nothing like facts, endearingly presented, to disarm the fear and equip a boy with the power of knowledge! We drew some bees for nature journals and talked the poor creatures to death. Finally, on an absolutely perfect spring day, Nicholas could no longer resist the draw of that huge pile of dirt—he had to get outside and play, bees or no bees.
Now, our reading could turn to the gardens themselves. No garden trail is complete without The Secret Garden. We listened to the audio version in the car last week. Now, we’re poking our way through Inside the Secret Garden,which is just crammed full of more information about the beloved book. We’re sneaking just a little history and geography into an otherwise nature-oriented study. Also, there are some must eat recipes (don’t the descriptions of Dickon’s mother’s cooking make you want to eat?), and some crafts we’ll try just as soon as it rains and we come inside. I’m particularly looking forward to making plant markers with stones and a gardening tool rack out of a sturdy twig.
We began our planting with the vegetable garden, so our reading began there, too. Lois Ehlert’s Growing Vegetable Soup tells the story of planting and growing a garden which will yield “the best soup ever.” This is a very simple book with clean, bold graphics. It is at once garden inspiration and reading practice for my beginners. There is even a recipe to try once the young gardener’s kitchen garden begins to yield its bounty. From there, I couldn’t resist Fanny at Chez Panisse, a book for longer attention spans and grwoing vegetable cooks. How can we talk about kitchen gardens without talking about Alice Walters, founder of Chez Panisse, the ultimate vegetable garden restaurant? This book tells the story of Fanny, Alice’s daughter, who grew up in the restaurant.
Once the veggies were safely in the ground, we moved on to the strawberry patch. We planted the strawberries and then we rimmed the garden with sunflower seeds and marigolds. To truly appreciate what we’d done, we had to first understand a little about seeds. Gail Gibbon’s science picture books are always winners, never dumbed-down and containing more than enough information to cover the material as well as most middle school science books;they are accessible to all my children. We read From Seed to Plant and then Eric Carle’s endearing The Tiny Seed and then we consulted the ultimate authority, Miss Frizzle and the Magic Schoolbus. Now, the children were all eagerly anticipating watching tiny sprouts spring from the ground. From knowledge gained in these books, they were able to closely examine seeds and to draw and label seed and plant parts for their nature notebooks.
Stephen was a bit troubled by the seed to plant lifecycle. How did the first plants grow? Where did the first seeds come from? Which came first the chicken or the egg? We took a quick trip to the atrium to present a lesson on Creation.
But what would we truly have when we had sunflowers? We would have the lovely, gigantic flowers that make Eve Bunting’s Sunflower Houses. Their story is told in rhythmic rhyme with bright pictures and a joyful celebration of the lifecycle of the sunflower seed. Sunflower Sal is a girl after my own heart: she simply can't sew (yet) and so she sets out to plant a quilt. Her arrangement of sunflowers around the beds yields a living quilt that is lovely to behold. Finally, one cannot think of lovely sunflowers without thinking of Van Gogh. Laurence Anholt’s Camille and the Sunflowers takes us to the world of a little boy named Camille who lived “where the sunflowers grew so high they looked like real suns—a whole field of burning yellow suns.” Vincent Van Gogh lived in Camille’s world too and the story tells of what happens when they encounter each other. Stephen was taken with this book and when he recognized some of the pictures in the book, he dug up our picture study prints. He and Nicholas worked on sunflower masterpieces of their won. Glimpses of Van Gogh masterpieces will surely inspire dragging the easel out to the garden as soon as our sunflowers bloom.
Next to the strawberry patch, we’ve planted an herb garden that flows into a flower bed. Why, we found ourselves Planting a Rainbow! There is an abundance of flower names in this simple bold book, with each variety color-coded and clearly labeled. As simple as those pictures are, they are far more complex in Jack's Garden. This darling story builds on itself, modeled after “The House the Jack Built.” It’s crammed full of well-labeled flower varieties and birds and insects which accompany a truly engaging, rollicking text.
No garden study is complete without some attention to the butterflies. In Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert, we discovered a slightly more sophisticated layered book than the perennial favorite The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Waiting for Wings tells of the caterpillars’ transformation and then the butterflies’ flight to a waiting garden. There, we learn a little about butterfly behavior, all on bold, splashy pages. That is followed by butterfly identification pages, butterfly information pages, and very general directions for our next project: planting a butterfly garden. From the boldness of Ehlert’s book, we moved to the lyrical language of Joanne Ryder and the detailed brilliance of Lynne Cherry in Where Butterflies Grow. This book tells the story of the caterpillar and butterfly again and then gives some more specifics on butterfly gardens and the behavior of butterflies in those gardens. I’m a big fan of the author/illustrator combination and this book didn’t disappoint me. Nicholas, on the other hand, commented on page 2 that he, “already knows what’s going to happen. That caterpillar is going to turn into a butterfly.” Okay, so it is a familiar plot.
We drew the lifecycle of the butterfly and researched what plants we could plant to attract butterflies in our garden. We’re still watching for butterflies we can photograph and observe in real life.
From the butterflies, I took a very natural diversion to a much less traveled path. What is a garden without fairies, at least the fairies of our imaginations? Fairy Flight poses the question: Are butterflies really fairies in disguise? My two littlest children are truly still wrestling with this. I've never wished I'd vidoeotaped storytime so much as when I introduced this book and Fairy Houses. The latter book reads like a very happy dream, complete with instructions on how to make fairy houses. My children could hardly sleep in anticipation of giving it a try. And when the dream is over, what fun it is to awaken to Fairies: Petal People You Make Yourself , another of the great Klutz craft books. Therein is the perfect craft for a rainy day that keeps us inside.
This is one unit that was very light on crafts or planned activities for paper and pencil. Most of learning has taken place outside in the dirt. We’ve talked about the grownup gardening books and the information they contained, planned together and worked really hard at making our vision a reality. All of our garden activities are being chronicled on our online nature journal, Blossoms and Bees. The children and I have recorded our outdoor adventures, along with photos and poetry. It's an ongoing project, for as long as they and the plants keep growing! Please drop by and visit our yard and let us know you came.
For my children, blogging is a new medium, a new way to express themselves and a very rewarding way for to publish their work almost instantly. They are able to keep meticulous records of what we’ve planted and how to care for it. Our success and failures will be there for us to consult later and for the whole world to see. Considering I had no formal language arts lessons planned, a whole lot of copy work was done in the midst of our gardening and much was learned about the publishing process. From a mound of dirt, to bountiful, beautiful banners in our yard, this is a rabbit trail that will truly live forever in their memories and their futures.
Note that all the books are pictured and linked on the sidebar in the Rabbit Trail Basket.
Apparently, I'm not alone out there in my thoughts regarding fertility and how true openness to life is our path to sanctity. Helen at Castle of the Immaculate, writes compellingly about real openness to God's plan. We need to be talking about this issue; there is so much confusion and misinformation out there. Some of the busiest people I know--mothers of many--are the ones who must tell the younger women of great gifts He has for them if only they will utter a fiat of total abandonment!
The corollary to the the task chart, of course, is that you must teach a child how to do the chores and you must accept, if you assign the task to a four-year-old, that the chore will be done as well as a four-year-old can do it. Sometimes, that is considerably well. Other times, the four-year-old simply does not do the task as well as a 44-year-old. He just plain can't. Our children do not come to us fully equipped for adulthood. Furthermore, this is a process of learning. Children do not come wired to hear something once and to understand it and implement it every time for ever more. That's why we have about two decades to train them before we launch them. Instead, they come knowing very little about practical life and they are dependent upon our patience and perseverance to learn the lessons they need and to learn them well.
So there it is again. In order to improve our children, we must improve ourselves. We must be patient. We must show them again and again how to complete something well. This requires some acceptance on our part of the limitations of the child. If you want your house to look like it's been cleaned by a team of capable women, hire a team of capable women. But if you want your children to care for your house, work with them to do the best you all can and then accept that you are not a team of capable women. You're all still learning.
We must persevere in outlining the steps involved in a job well done and in holding the children accountable to the clearly delineated standard. We cannot do this from an Easy Chair. We cannot hang a chore chart and tell them to consult it and expect the house to be clean at the end of the day. They are not maids for whom we leave a list and a check. They are children who need our constant care and guidance. We must move with them, beside them, working together towards all matter of goals.
We're working towards a clean and orderly house, to be sure. But we're also working towards loftier goals: a spirit of cooperation,determination to do a good job, gentleness and sweetness towards each other as we work, even gratitude for the house we keep and the work it entails. These are goals beyond a child's understanding. They must witness those attitudes in their parents, they must absorb them from the atmosphere in our homes and in the goodness of our demeanor. And they're not going to get it from someone who commands and directs. They'll only truly learn it from someone who journeys alongside them--who works,both manually and spiritually--striving to do well.
What does it do? This was Katie's first glimpse of a sewing machine.She really had no idea what it was or what it did!
Early yesterday morning, inspired by this darling dress on Shel's Needleworks, I decided to try again to learn to sew. First, I had to find the sewing machine, a gift from my husband on our first anniversary (I had grand sewing plans back then). That took us about twenty minutes. After unearthing it from its basement hiding place, we dusted it. I quickly found the manual and we discovered that it does indeed work! Mary Beth and I took a few practice runs on some scrap fabric, fixed a maternity top, and agreed to go to the fabric store this week. Oh, and we might need to move our Mary Altar; it sits atop my mother's sewing machine cabinet. I thought the furniture made a lovely table but perhaps I should actually use it for its intended purpose. It wouldn't take me so long to find the sewing machine.
to inhale the sweetness of May! Visit Cottage Blessings where Alice has lovingly collected Marian tributes from all over cyberspace. What beautiful expressions of devotion to Our Lady.
When I was a little girl, my sister and I played house all the time. Before we played, however, I think we might have done something unique to our family. We sat down with the Ethan Allen catalog and made a list of what all the rooms in our house looked like. Looking back, it makes sense: one of our aunts is a very successful designer, the other a reowned collector of fine art, and my mother had a knack known to few military wives: she could transform any house into a beautifully decorated home in 48 hours flat. "The way it looked" was in our blood.
The weekend before I was married, my fiance and I went furniture shopping. We didn't go to Ethan Allen. This outing was my first understanding of household budget. We bought a living room set. The couch and loveseat were mediocre, but we both agreed that the tables were heirlooms. One was a sofa table, lovely cherry with graceful legs--I could just imagine a collection of baby pictures displayed upon it. The other table was a coffee table with drop leaves. I'd always wanted a dropleaf table and this one made me feel as if I was indeed moving from playing house to being a real grownup.
I set about decorating that first house, with some help from the experts in my family and the cheerful willingness of my new husband. I remember my mother-in-law commenting that it looked like a little dollhouse. All that first year, as my belly swelled with life, we feathered that little nest just so.
Then the baby was born, a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who charmed us from the very first moment and still charms us every day. I remember the first time I put him in the stroller to go for a walk. We went with my friend Mary and her baby girl, born just few days after Michael. As we left the little dollhouse and set off down the street, I couldn't shake that feeling of playing house. Everything looked just perfect.
The baby grew. He loved to draw. He loved to paint. He loved a little motorcycle given to him by Uncle David. He was just one baby and his impact on the dollhouse aesthetically was all positive. There was a beautifully decorated nursery where he never slept (he much preferred our bed), but it looked good. And how things looked was still really important to me.
One day, the angel boy took that precious motorcycle and vroomed it across the living room table. The scratches were deep and ugly. I stood there, in that moment, faced with making a decision which would shape my life in our home. Would I yell and cry and banish him from that room (this would have been nearly impossible since the room stood between the front door and rest of the house)? What was I going to do with my expectation that all things look perfect and the reality of life with children? I knelt beside him, told him how much I liked that table, how much I loved him, and how we weren't going to play with the motorcycle on the table again. Together, we moved outside to the deck with the motorcycle. While out there, I consciously resolved to encourage him. Not to encourage him to destroy, but certainly to encourage his expression. With this particular child, that encouragement has meant baskets and baskets of pastels and colored pencils and even a little paint. And there have been reams of paper devoted to his exuberance. Every once in awhile, it has meant scrubbing stray marks from furniture and walls ('though less so as he's grown:-).
The episode clearly made an impression on me. It was nearly eighteen years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. There have been six more toddlers to follow Michael and several of them have left their impressions on our house. That table has seen more abuse, more scratches, and even a Sharpie illlustration (easily removed with Magic Eraser). The truth is, my house looks nothing like the house of the designer, the art collector, my mother or my sister. But I have more children than all of them put together and my reality is not the Ethan Allen catalog. Every day, I have to consciously decide that people are more important than things.
I still shoot for beautiful, but I'm learning to accept that there is much more to beautiful than the way things look. For instance, I think seven pairs of muddy boots in the mudroom after a day in the bluebells is beautiful. I think that two blond toddlers in the tub with fingerpaint is darling beyond words. I think that a general mess in the kitchen when we all cook together brings the concept of a dollhouse to a whole new level. I want things to look well. But more importantly, I want them to truly be well.
And what of the little boy? He might just have a greater appreciation for beauty than his mom. He's a gifted artist with an eye for style (and a perpetually messy bedroom). He remembers the motorcycle. And he knows my soul. This year, a couple of weeks before Mother's Day, he spirited that old dropleaf table away. He returned it last night. He had stripped that table and then poured his heart into it and painted on the table in an altogether grown up way, making it more beautiful than it ever was in the furniture showroom or the early dollhouse. And, as children often do, he taught his mother a very valuable lesson about what's really important in life.
The table, today, with sunflowers, and bluebells, and busy bees:
And Mary Beth chose these coasters to go with it. Please click on the pictures to see more detail:
Willa Ryan, one of my favorite mentors, has written eloquently on mentoring. This series is for Titus 2 women and young moms alike. Come to think of it, many of us are both Titus 2 women and women who still look to the wisdom of mentors...
"Studies have shown that the more books in a child's home the more likely that the child will be intelligent. The books in this home are not confined to the learning room but are esily available in every room in the house. They are in baskets in the family room, the living room, and the bathroom. They are on bedside tables, in bags to take to the pool, and on tapes in the car. And they are not the dumbed-down, insipid books that Charlotte Mason would call "twaddle." They are books of high moral quality, full of worthy ideas and fine language. They are living books."--from Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home
I've tried to share my baskets with you here. In the sidebars are virtual baskets of books we are enjoying right now in our home. I hope you'll read along with us!
We are learning to respect the "rhythms" of Mother Nature this week while we try to haul and spread dirt and plant flowers between the raindrops falling on the blossoms and the bees.
Inside, we are clearly headed down a garden rabbit trail, gathering books about gardening, books set in gardens and even a book or two about writing about gardens. Right now, it's mostly only bedtime reading-- for me and the children. We're all actually dreaming about gardens. Only 5 cubic yards of dirt and 22 perennials-to-plant to go and I'll actually have time to get our "trail" on paper for you here. Stay tuned.
Lissa has posted an interesting commentary on Latin Centered curriculum in the Bonny Glen. Of course, interesting blog posts by Lissa always start interesting conversations at the 4Realearning board.
In Covenanted Happiness, Msgr. Cormac Burke writes,
Spouses need to improve in life--to rise above their present worth--if they are to retain their partner's love. It is good therefore--it is essential--that each spouse sacrifices himself or herself for the other.But it is doubtful if any husband and wife, on their own, can inspire each other indefinitely to generosity and self-sacrifice. Children can and do draw from parents a degree of sacrifice to which neither parent alone could probably inspire the other. It is for the sake of their children that parents most easily rise above themselves. Parental love is the most naturally disinterested kind of love. In this way, as they sacrifice themselves for their children, each parent actually improves and becomes--in his or her partner's eyes also--a truly more loveable person.
What does that mean, exactly? What does it mean, practically? Msgr Burke is a priest. What can he know about the daily sacrifices made by two people who live together in marriage? Well, he knows what doesn’t work. In his position as a judge of the Roman Rota, he’s seen a lot of failed marriages, listened to a lot of sad stories. And he can draw on the collective experiences of many couples who didn’t grow. But he’s never gotten up in the morning to discover the toilet seat up and the toothpaste top discarded—by someone else. He’s never had to choose whether to stay up and resolve the argument or go to bed angry. So the lofty philosophy above might need a little practical illumination.
In the beginning, it’s easy to serve your husband. The sun rises and sets upon his shoulders. Everything about him draws you closer. Serving him actually serves you; there is so much romance to be had in return for your good will. But as time goes on, the rain falls occasionally and every good turn isn’t always met by a better one. A child is born. A husband might actually panic at first. This eight pound wonder seems to draw so much attention, so much affection, away from him and towards the baby. How is learning to be a mother going to make us better wives and lovers?
When we commit our mothering to our pursuit of holiness, it all falls in line. At first, it’s physical. We carry the child within in us and so we abolish all physical vices. Now, we eat according to that impossible chart in What to Eat When You’re Expecting. We don’t even dream of sipping the foam off our husband’s beer. We gulp down cod liver oil when just the thought of it makes us gag. We smile when people assure us that nausea and vomiting are “good things.” Giving up chocolate for Lent is easy compared to this new offering of physical sacrifice. We begin to understand what self-sacrifice really looks like. Every day is a little Lent, a little more leaning on the Holy Spirit, a little less leaning on ourselves.
And then the baby is born. We learn that we never have to set an alarm again and that five hours straight is a good night’s sleep. As regularly as the monastery bells, the baby calls us to physical mortification--to hours upon hours of quiet prayer accompanied only by the squeak of the rocker and the swallows of baby at the breast. And somewhere, in the quiet of the early morning, just before dawn breaks, we look at the baby and we recognize that we want to be a better person because of her. We pray for strength and grace and wisdom; we ask for holiness.
We know that we are tired and so we beg for patience because we don’t want to be cranky and demanding mothers. Nor do we want to be cranky and demanding wives. We begin to recognize that in order to shape our children into holy little beings, we have to be holy beings. We can’t ask of them what we don’t ask of ourselves. We want nothing more than to deliver them safely to heaven, so we begin to look carefully at our own journey. And we learn to pray, really pray.
The children grow. We begin to recognize that in order to inspire good attitudes and cheerful cooperation, we have to have good attitudes and cooperate cheerfully. When we are tired, when we are pulled in a million directions, when we are crucified--just a little--a dozen times a day, we pray that we can be kind and gentle and good. We notice that when we treat our husbands with kindness, our children treat each other with kindness. Those little people who look so much like us challenge us. They reflect us. They beg us to work on our own sanctity—for their sakes, for our sakes, for heaven’s sake.
A house full of children requires all the sacrifices of a small household multiplied many times over. There is more of everything—sleepless nights, illnesses, laundry, meals, sacrifices. More opportunities to die to oneself provided graciously by our loving Father and Creator. And more grace. More is required of everyone to get along with so many personalities. More is learned by everyone about how God is diverse and complex and reflects His image in a myriad of people right under our own roofs. Each one unique. Each one precious. Each one challenging us to learn to love more, to learn to love better.
Our edges grow softer. Our hearts open wider. With each baby, as our bodies grow a bit rounder, a bit more feminine, true grace begins to grow. And that grace allows us to be a more empathetic wife, a more tender lover. It allows us to push beyond the fatigue to listen to the long story at the end of the long business trip. It reminds us that a backrub and a warm mug are comforting whether you are 4 or 14 or 40. The infinite grace for which we pray with every squeak of the rocker is poured generously into our souls. God knows that mothering a large family requires heroic effort. God knows that providing for a large family requires heroic sacrifice. God knows that keeping a marriage healthy and holy in the midst of the cacophony and chaos of many children is a challenge no couple can meet on its own. And God smiles on those couples and grants them every grace they need. He so wants them to ask—sometimes to beg-- to be totally dependent on Him. To be sure, they will fall to their knees in utter desperation. And as surely as the sun rises, with every baby, He showers a bounty of blessing and more than enough of everything needed for the journey to heaven.
The Carnival of Homeschooling is posted at Why Homeschool. You'll find Real Learning there, nestled between two very pithy Albert Einstein quotes. There are so many great posts; grab a cup of tea--it's better than the Sunday paper!
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.