Everyone has concerns when they start homeschooling or think about starting homeschooling. Some concerns are covering all the material, keeping them engaging, socialization, etc. My biggest concern is independence and responsibility.
I grew up in public schools and my parents education philosophy was fairly hands off. Don’t get me wrong – they cared immensely about our education. But they also valued independence and gave us space to navigate on our own.
We were responsible for getting ready for school, doing our school work, and in general, being prepared. We were expected to do our homework when we got home, but it wasn’t strictly enforced. As in, we knew what we were supposed to do but our parents did not hover over us to ensure it was getting done. If we needed help, they were there. But they weren’t stepping in trying to help even when we didn’t need it.
For big projects, they did not sit down and write out a plan for us. They did not baby us to make sure everything was done on time. That was up to us. We didn’t have bail-outs or anything. This isn’t to say my parents weren’t involved. They just intentionally stayed back and let us find our way.
Homeschooling just doesn’t work that way. And that’s not a flaw in homeschooling, I just have to find a way to make it work for us. I thought about emulating my experience in public school but the thought of giving my kids a long term assignment and then not helping them…I didn’t think it would work out. We don’t really do “assignments”.
In a way, responsibility comes up naturally. As my kids older they naturally take over certain parts of their day. Baloo started making his own breakfast when he was about 5, for instance.
But we’ve hit a point where I cannot maintain the household while also homeschooling (and going to graduate school and running my blog full time). I finally realized that five people live in this house and all five are capable of contributing to the household. But I don’t think it’s fair to say “Oh by the way, you’re in charge of cleaning the toilets now”. My husband and I work together and agree on how we handle certain tasks. I don’t think it’s fair to just pass off what we don’t want on the kids.
We started by having a (quick) discussion on responsibility. I asked the boys “What is responsibility?”. They naturally answered with “things you have to do” or “being able to take care of yourself”.
I took it a step further and said responsibility is deciding what needs to be done and what you want to be done. I told them, for instance, I like having the couch cleared off every day. Is it fair if I want the couch cleaned off and I tell Daddy he has to clean it? Not really.
We made a list of everything they wanted to be done in the house. We had a list of things like the cats to be fed, clothes to be clean and put away, toys to be in their place (easier to play with toys that are where you expect them!), and things of that nature.
Then we made a list of what they are willing to do. I’ll admit, I pushed them in a few areas. It started with “I just want to feed the cats!”. And I would ask them “Do you like having clean clothes? Then you probably want to help with laundry too”.
We ended up with a list of their responsibilities. I intentionally did not call it a chore chart. The word chore has turned into a negative point. While I realize the tasks are the same whether we call them chores or responsibilities, I feel that calling them a responsibility is uplifting whereas the word chore is a bit of a downer.
The next task was a bit harder. I needed a way for them to maintain their responsibilities without me being on top of them all the time. If I have to remind them to do their tasks everyday, it’s not them being responsible. Our deal is that they have to have the tasks done before they can play video games.
We have A.M. tasks, lunchtime tasks, and P.M./before bed tasks. I separated them this way to help them complete their tasks in small chunks. I don’t enforce when they are done just as long as they are done before video games are played.
They all share about the same tasks. If I had a toddler it would be different, but Logi-Bear is old enough to help with these things.
Here is a list of their responsibilities:
Put dishes in the sink/dishwasher (after every meal)
Put dirty laundry in hamper (a.m./p.m.)
Clean out litter box (on a rotating schedule, once a day)
Feed the cats (on a rotating schedule, once a day)
Pick up toys (at lunch and dinner time)
Laundry (once or twice a week)
Folding and putting away laundry (also once or twice a week)
Wash Sliding glass window (once a week)
Put shoes on shoe rack (once a week)
Wash doorknobs (once a week)
Clean counters (once a week)
The last four are a bit random – those are tasks they volunteered themselves and I just didn’t say no.
They do have other responsibilities that are not tracked or linked to video game time. They all make their own breakfasts or lunches from time to time. I don’t make them – I offer to make something with them and they’re usually quite excited to learn. After that, they’re more excited to offer to make meals on their own. I do try to ensure they know how to cook.
How the Responsibility Chart Works
Each child has a chart (this is a simple pocket chart from the Target One Spot. They’re inexpensive on Amazon now too).
They also have cards that represent the tasks they are responsible for (task cards coming in the newsletter later this week! Sign up now if you’d like a copy)
I set up our cards so the “done” slots were on top and the “to be done” were on bottom. Once they finish their tasks, they move the card from the bottom to the top.
To be honest, the boys like the responsibility chart. Baloo even made our cat (Toothless) a chart of his own. According to this chart, our cat is very responsible. He completes this chart every single day.
This chart has not solved all of our problems. But the boys have taken responsibility for their own tasks fairly well. They don’t mind doing them, as the list isn’t very long. Yet, I feel like they are upholding their end of the bargain.