Saturday Lists

My husband, Rick

My husband, Rick

All week long, little mishaps such as a broken pan handle or a burned-out light bulb can cause some frustration that dampens our joy a bit. They are little things, but they can be very annoying and inconvenient. I know I’m not the only mom who has lived with a broken drawer handle for months (or years) just because there is never time to fix it. And when it is finally fixed in 5 minutes, I find myself moaning, “Is that all it took?”, as I had fumbled with it constantly while doing my homemaking.

We found a solution that works at our house. Every time some little irritating household repair or need comes up, I jot it onto our Saturday List. This is just a piece of paper stuck on the front of the fridge. Just writing it on there gives me relief. I rest my mind, knowing it will be taken care of and I don’t have to feel frustrated with it. It will have its day!

Then, Saturday morning at breakfast, we assign names to the tasks. If the list is long, we star the top priorities, choose a reasonable amount and save the rest for next Saturday. Don’t burn out by working all day. Just a couple of morning hours is enough to get a lot done!



We ask the kids what jobs they want, and it is amazing how they will volunteer with eagerness. Perhaps it is to avoid being assigned something they like less, but I am happy for volunteers nevertheless! I jot their initial along with a parent’s name (if needed). After breakfast, it is time for family work time.

Dad and Mom do most of the work when kids are young, obviously, but the jobs do double duty. They not only get the chore done, but they give some precious one-on-one time, training at a parent’s side.


My son, Ammon

Dad and Ammon fixed the bathroom sink plug together this past Saturday, and Ammon learned something about how to be a man, as well as how to fix the sink. He finished the job feeling more capable, having spent some quality time with his Dad. Louisa and I baked the week’s whole wheat bread supply that afternoon. She did most of the measuring and mixing and will soon be baking it herself, I am sure. As kids grow, the parent becomes more of an overseer, watching as the child learns by doing it under his experienced eye.

Don’t get annoyed by the constant supply of irritating broken things. They are a unique educational opportunity, if we just see them for what they are!


May I recommend:

Kids to the Rescue!

Kids’ Gardening

Home Economics Course

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Self-Sufficient Little Ones


My granddaughter Rebekah (4)

“I want to do it myself!”

Sound familiar?

Starting at about one-and-a-half years old, children yearn to be capable and strongly resist any attempts to do things for them. You can launch your little child into feelings of healthy self-sufficiency and capability by making life a little easier to manage for them.

Look Who’s Feeding Baby

Begin with your baby that wants to feed himself. Instead of spooning the food in his mouth and fighting him for control, try something we stumbled onto years ago. Scoop the food into a clean plastic jar lid (mayonnaise size is good). Mashed potatoes, yams, applesauce, oatmeal and other thick foods work best. Give the lid to the baby in a highchair and he’ll pick it up and eat/suck/lick it out of the lid himself, quitting when he has had enough. You can offer him a few lids, with different foods in each, and finish up the job with a spoon if needed. Baby learns quickly to feed himself right along with the family.

selfreliancedshoesNo More Backwards

Toddlers want to dress themselves, but it can be a frustrating experience as they always seem to get things backwards and inside out. You can help little ones have success in dressing themselves by marking on the back of their clothing. A black dot made by a permanent marker on the inside back of their underwear, pants, dresses, skirts, etc. will make it easy to spot which direction to go. I mark the back because that is where most clothes have tags and they can eventually learn that the tag goes in the back.

On clothes that come in pairs, such as shoes, gloves, and slippers; you can write the first few letters of their first name on the left shoe and the remaining letters on the right shoe. Most little ones recognize their name and can line up their shoes right. You can also teach them that the buckles go on the outside so they never touch each other when they put their shoes together. Lining their shoes up before they put them on means less tears and fewer times with backward shoes. (We live in troubled times, and making a child’s name available to strangers out in public may not be a good idea. But you can still write their name in small letters that aren’t visible unless close up.)

Put in a few low hooks in your child’s closet, or where you hang your coats, so your little children can hang up their own jacket. It only takes 5 minutes to install the hooks and saves 500 minutes of picking their coats up off the floor because they can’t reach.

Easy Laundry

selfreliancedresserI sort laundry into bins with the children’s names on them, and then they come every morning during our chore time before breakfast and get their bins. I don’t fold the clothing. They are expected to do that when they put it in their drawers. Too many times I have watched mothers neatly fold stacks of clothing just to have the children crumble and stuff them in their drawers.

With toddlers and children up to age 8, I label the drawers with a picture so they know what goes where. Little children are fully capable of putting away their own clean laundry neatly and returning their bin to the laundry room. When they are little, it doesn’t matter so much if they are do a good job of folding their clothes as t-shirts and pajamas don’t wrinkle much anyway. As long as they are in the right drawers, life still goes along pretty smoothly when it is time to get dressed.


toothbrush-141105_1280I get my little ones in the habit after every single meal to do “hands, face, teeth”. Often they trot in and do it themselves, or I just mention the words and off they go. Of course, “hands, face, teeth” means to wash your hands and face and brush your teeth. After they do this little routine, they come running to me with their toothbrush and I “check” their teeth. A dentist told me that children cannot do an adequate job of cleaning their own teeth until about age 12. So I have them brush their teeth, and then I rebrush them as I “check” them. Anyway, the whole ,”hands, face, teeth” business is an excellent habit that even toddlers can be taught after every meal. It keeps sticky hands off the furniture, keeps them looking presentable, and insures that their teeth are kept clean.

Little ones can do a great deal to help themselves and it brings them feelings of being capable and independent. Just taking a few minutes to make life more manageable really pays off.


May I recommend:

Practice for Preschoolers

Kids to the Rescue!

Toddler Tote

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Kids to the Rescue! Training Children to Do Housekeeping

DCP_5869Emily is only six years old, but she loves to vacuum! She is too small to maneuver the vacuum cleaner very well, but that doesn’t matter. She is in training, and a partially-vacuumed carpet is better than an unvacuumed carpet!

When I began homeschooling ten years ago, I was in for a shock. “Where do you find the time to do homeschool in addition to the regular daily tasks you were accustomed to doing such as housework, grocery shopping, laundry, and gardening?”, I asked. After several months of exhaustive overload, I figured out the plain and obvious fact that there wasn’t enough mother to go around. From a sheer survival standpoint, I had to delegate the housekeeping duties. Now, looking back ten years later, I can see what a blessing in disguise it has been to not be able to keep up with my workload. As a result, my children are all well trained in housekeeping and cooking. They don’t balk at carrying a hefty portion of the housework chores. It really has become second nature to them, and each new little one that grows into toddlerhood in our home is expected to take on their portion of the work.

dishes-315084_1280No, they didn’t do it as well as I could, but then for several months there I wasn’t managing to do it at all so I decided a “child quality” job was just going to have to do. As the years have passed, the children have developed their skills through daily practice and can do the job as well and as quickly as I can. Best of all, they expect that they will do daily chores and help with meals. It would surprise them not to have their duties. We take off Sundays, holidays and one day a year on their birthday, we divide up their chores and they have a free day. By the manner in which they bumble around the house during chore time on their day off, I get the feeling that doing housework is like breathing. You don’t know what to do instead.

If you are trying to do it all by yourself, let your kids come to the rescue! In a large family, you will be stunned what can be accomplished in the half hour before breakfast. We get up at 6:30 AM for scripture study. Right after family prayer at 7:30 AM and before breakfast at 8:15, my entire house is cleaned . . .daily! Often the older children finish early and play their musical instruments for fun until breakfast is on. I always chuckle to see the little ones take their responsibilities so seriously. I finally realized that they feel loved and a real part of the family when they do their assignments. They are capable and contributing!

Of course the hardest part of getting children to do the housework is training them to do it, and consistently checking up so that they know it must always be done. As the months and years go by, they will become accustomed to the pattern and stop complaining about it! It becomes an ingrained habit. We do chores six days a week. On Sundays, the only chores that are done are the mealtime chores. It takes a parent or an older child to train children under six in doing their daily jobs. By the time they are six or seven, they are capable of doing almost any job in the house by themselves, including simple cooking.

spray-315164_1280It helps to have some good cleaning supplies. Old cotton towels cut in fourths, or old cotton cloth diapers are the best! Don’t try to use rags made from polyester as the water will just run right off rather than soak up. Keep an ample supply of cleaning cloths in a designated spot, right next to the cleaners. I use natural biodegradable cleaners, rather than grocery store stuff, just because I think it is safer for children to breathe and soak their hands in. Make sure you have enough labeled spray bottles to go around. Give the whole family a little training session about which cleaners go where: all purpose cleaner on all surfaces except mirrors and windows, glass cleaner on mirrors and windows, etc. Teach them to return cleaners and used cleaning cloths to your designated spot and hang them to dry before laundering.

I divide my house into areas such as living room, kitchen, pantry and mud room, upstairs bathroom, etc. Then a child is assigned two or three areas. The more children you have, the more cleaning your house will need but the less area each child will be assigned to do. Every area has a chart in a plastic page protector taped to the inside of a door or cabinet. The chart lists daily work needed for that room (Quick Clean), plus occasional work (Good Clean). For example, the bathroom chart Quick Clean requires cleaning the sink daily, but cleaning the bathtub is a Good Clean job only required on Wednesdays. At the bottom of the chart, I list infrequent jobs that must be done in that area. Once a month, on the first Friday, spots on the walls and the windowsills must be wiped down. The children do not mark on these charts, but just refer to them as they clean their assigned areas. Parents refer to them when they check the work. The littler children get drawings on their charts so they can participate too.

Ideally, children will grow past needing the charts. As my children have turned 12 or 13, I tell them that the chart is just a schoolmaster. Their goal is to keep their assigned areas C-L-E-A-N! They can train their eye to look for what needs doing. That is the long range goal.

The little ones, under six, are given jobs rather than assigned areas of the home. Right now, Ammon (4) daily folds the household laundry (towels, washcloths, tablecloths), takes the dirty clothes hamper to the laundry room, takes out all the garbage cans in the house, and scrubs the kitchen sink (2 x week).

Besides their assigned areas, each child and parent must maintain their own bedroom to the acceptable standard: no junk on floor, dust shouldn’t show, make your bed, change your bed sheets every other week. I’m still working on keeping my own room in order to the standard!

Mealtime chores are also divided up. The jobs are:

  1. cutlery-237802_1280set table, pour water in cups, put on serving spoons and trivets
  2. clear and wipe table and put away food
  3. sweep kitchen and dining room floor and spot clean
  4. unload and load dishwasher
  5. rinse and stack dishes that must be hand washed
  6. help with food preparation.

For the little ones, we have such jobs as “unload utensil bin in dishwasher” or “wipe off the countertops”. We also assign seating at the table for mealtimes and dish washing nights.

I rotate chores every three months. Children get proficient, and eventually bored, with their work after a few months. I am not walking around the house saying, “Who’s on the upstairs bathroom?” when I see a mess left like I used to when we changed chores every week because it is easier to remember. We keep chores for three month periods that naturally divide the year: Jan, Feb, Mar— Apr, May, June— July, Aug, Sept— Oct, Nov, Dec.

Is it necessary to check your children’s work? Only if you want them to do it. If you only check sporadically and let some things slip by, soon you will have trained your children to be sloppy in their work and to gamble not doing everything in the hopes that you won’t check up on it. The children aren’t trying to be bad; it is just human nature to do as little as possible if you never have to give an accounting.

Do I do chores? No, not in the sense that I take an area to clean daily. During our morning work time I do laundry, oversee training the little ones in doing their chores well, nurse the baby, start breakfast, clear off a counter, check the chores have been done, etc.

Louisa bakes cinnamon bread

Louisa bakes cinnamon bread

Developing some good habits will ease your workload too. One of those habits in our family is honking the horn as we pull in our driveway from grocery shopping. At the sound of the honking horn, all the children in the house come running to unload the groceries from the van into the house, and then from the bags into the freezer, fridge and cupboards. It only takes 15 minutes and the job is done, which is a nice ending to a tiring shopping trip. Another good habit is to have a “go through the house” time every morning orevening. Every person just walks through the house collecting anything that belongs to them as well as putting away anything they got out and left out, such as a stapler or schoolbook. If you do this daily, children get in the habit of picking up after themselves and it makes the task of cleaning that area much more pleasant for the person assigned. Little ones can be trained (and helped by the person assigned to that area) to clean up after themselves. There is only one problem with this little game: Mom and Dad soon realize that they are culprits in making messes and leave lots of stuff lying around too!

Although I was originally just trying to survive, I realize now that my children have received some much needed training in life skills. They know how to cook meals because they have all had a turn on helping with food preparation at my side. They know how to clean every room. They have the habit of doing chores before the day begins. We are a team, living together in the same house and sharing the upkeep of that house. I hope they make better husbands and wives because of these habits!


May I recommend:

Saturday Lists

Wonderful, Wonderful Chores!


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The "1/3 Plan" for Kids

onethird_plan_smallWhen I first began homeschooling many years ago, I heard an elderly educator give her “One Third Plan” for how to plan a child’s day. I was intrigued!

Once I took my children out of public school into homeschooling, I really wondered what I was supposed to be doing with them all day long. I wanted with all my heart to raise them right and to teach them what they would need to be happy, faithful, upright people who benefited the world in which they lived. I couldn’t keep them busy in homeschool from dawn to dusk, but I didn’t want them free playing all the time either. I thought long and hard about it, so when I heard the “One Third Plan”, I was all ears!

According to this dear speaker, a child’s “workday” (aside from grooming, eating, sleeping, devotional), was to be divided into 3 parts:


This was homeschool—reading, studying, learning, experiments, writing, doing projects, practicing music, and other mind-developing pursuits. This can be the most fun part of the day. When my boys were young, they always begged to do home school instead of outside work on a hot day!


Another 1/3 of a child’s day was to be spent doing for others: helping those in need, doing chores for the family, working in the garden (to sustain the family and share with others), serving neighbors, friends, and community. This is the hallmark of a true Christian, and it is essential children learn to serve others while they are young. Talk about who needs help at the dinner table, brainstorm what to do, and then engage them in your efforts to do for others, and they will learn at your side.


The last 1/3 of the child’s “workday” is to be devoted to developing his own little business, and working for his own money. We spend our adult lives daily dealing with money, and meeting our needs through working, producing and purchasing. Learning to work and learning money handling skills as a child is vital. When a child can see the fruits of his own labor and knows the freedom of spending his money as he wishes (even wasting it and learning the hard way), a whole new dimension of accountability and confidence settles over his personality and there is tremendous growth!

My children have had a host of little businesses, from selling eggs, to growing pumpkins, making jewelry, running clubs, and teaching classes or lessons. They have done simple assembly work, house-sitting, taking care of pets and more. They have also babysat and weeded and had other hourly jobs, teaching them the necessity of discovering what you love to do, rather than trading your time for something you find dreary. Hourly jobs also taught them that education was going to make a big difference in their future lifestyle as an adult.

Late afternoons, when the workday is done, there is time for friends and free time. Evenings when Daddy comes home—it is time to eat dinner together, visit with each other, read aloud, play games, crochet, listen to music together, draw, build legos, and enjoy relaxing.

The culture we live in is one in which kids are seriously over-entertained, and isolated from conversation with family members. Pop in a DVD. Play X-Box. Listen to your i-pod. Text your friends on your cell phone. While I haven’t always followed it, I have often thought of the “One Third Plan” over my years of raising children. It wouldn’t hurt American children, even a little bit!


May I recommend:

Setting Up a Family Schedule

What do you want Mommy to do?

The 21 Rules of This House

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Wonderful, Wonderful Chores!

cleaning-268126_1280Not too many people like the word “chores”, but oh, they can be wonderful! They are the best teacher you’ll ever find! They teach a host of skills and virtues such as self-control, “stick-to-it”-ness, joy in accomplishment, problem-solving, perseverance, and the work ethic. Plus, they lighten many a tired mom’s load.

What is enough and what is too much to expect from children? Here is an age appropriate guide-line (keeping in mind that each child has a unique ability level):

Help pick up toys with you working side by side
Wipe up a spill
Do a small specific task before the timer goes off
Wash a spot on a wall or door
Put books back on a shelf
Feed pets
Dust (put socks on his hands!)
Drag a light laundry basket or hamper to the laundry room

3-5 Years
All of the above, plus:
Dress themselves, to a degree
Brush their own teeth (you will still need to “check” those teeth!)
Wash themselves
Set the table
Make beds
Take plastic dishes over to counter after a meal
Wash dishes (after a manner)
Rinse non-breakable and non-heavy dishes
Pick up toys, if it is a small confined task and not a whole pile of assorted
toys dumped on the floor
Put clothes and shoes away
Sort things (spoons go here, forks go there)
Help cook
Put away groceries
Fold small items, such as pillowcases and dishtowels
Unwrap things (we buy a case of hand soap at a time and unwrap it to let it
harden so it lasts longer)
Match socks
Empty trash cans

6 to 8 Years
All of the above, plus:
Tie shoes
Hang up clothes on hangers
Change a baby’s diaper
Peel vegetables
Take care of pets with supervision
Take out trash
Set the table
Sort laundry and put it away
Load dishwasher
Wash dishes for real
Wash walls or mirrors with spray cleaner
Answer the phone and take messages
Get up with an alarm clock

9 to 12 Years
All of the above, plus
Do their own hair (girls can learn to fix their hair now)
Get themselves all dressed and ready by themselves
Follow a recipe
Bake bread
Clear the table
Do laundry
Change bedding
Scrub the bathtub
Mow the lawn
Do yard work
Watch small children

13 to 15 Years
All the above, plus
Grocery shop
Cook a full meal
Wash windows
Deep cleaning
Wash a car
Earn money and buy own clothes
Watch babies

16 Years and Up
All that an adult can do that does not require experience or mature judgment

Enjoy the help! Every mom needs it and pitching in on the work only makes the child a more wonderful human being!


My three grandbabies and my husband Rick



May I recommend:

Mad Kids & Work

The “1/3″ Plan for Kids


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Mad Kids & Work

Louisa was good-and-mad at me (and probably at herself, too). So, I did the unnatural thing: I assigned dishwashing duty to her. At first the pots and pans were being banged around and she was sulky, upset, and sure she was mistreated. Surprisingly, 10 minutes later she was humming happily.

Once again, I had witnessed the magic of work. Kids are wiggly and full of muscles that want to move and work and play. Sitting on a time-out chair can help them get madder. Put those muscles to work, and you’ll be surprised at how the anger dissipates!

Work seems to be a magic balm that can change a mood and make kids happy. Don’t choke! It is astonishing, but it is true.

The next time your child misbehaves and needs a punishment, don’t choose the time-out chair. Skip the lecture and the scolding. Pass by the guilt. Instead, try good, old-fashioned work. The results can convince the most unbelieving parent that America’s fine citizenship has been built on farm chores.


May I recommend:

Why Listen?

Spanking, Anyone?


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