My Summer Short List – Forming New Habits!

I love saving up big projects for summer.  One of my big projects every summer is teaching my littles new habits.  When our pace is slower and schedules looser, it allows me to patiently teach my littles the skills they need for the new habits without eating into our school day.  When these habits are well formed, it frees me up from being fully responsible for everyone’s work and gives them independence.  Win – win!

Here’s how we do this in our home:  

1. Make a short wish list.  My summer’s list includes:
– potty training my little girl,

– fine tuning our morning routine, 

– involving them more in kitchen work before each meal (emptying the dishwasher, making lunch, etc), 

– establishing clear expectations for cleaning up toys, and

– instructing them in bathroom cleanliness (rinsing the sink from toothpaste, emptying the trash when it’s full, etc) 

2. Communicate expectations clearly.  I’ve decided to post a simple checklist in my littles’ room with clothespins they can move down the list until they’ve completed everything on the list.  I doubt they will need this list for long, but it will be good for reminding them in the beginning.

3. Keep the standards simple for me and them.  If my standards are too complicated, they will not be able to maintain them and I will tire of enforcing them.  I start simple and modify them for the age of each little.  

4. Put easy-to-use systems in place so they can complete each task on their own.  For example, trash bags for their bathroom trash are stored in their bathroom where they can reach them.  Stools are nearby in most rooms.

4. Model when teaching a new task. Do it again and again. Being nearby for assistance as needed is also good to stave off frustration.  Give simple tips that are easy to remember.  (For example, I showed them that the widest seam on their sheets is the part that should be near their pillow.)

5. Encourage them when they want to quit or complain.  Even if it’s hard at first, they can learn this skill and they will be able to do it.  I have seen my littles develop confidence and independence through learning new skills. 

There are a few things I always tell my littles when we’re working together on life skills.  Why am I teaching you this?  1) Because we’re a team and we work together on our home.  Teaching you these skills will allow to contribute. and 2) So that you can do this when you grow up and have your own home.  

Once their expectations are set that they are responsible for the assigned task, they rarely complain about it and their skills improve with the practice.  As they say in Charlotte Mason circles, “laying down the rails” helps the train to run more smoothly.  I have absolutely seen this to be true in my home.  I encourage you to teach your children some basic skills as habits. Not only will your school day run more smoothly, but so will your home!

If you want to know more about the basics we start with, here are a few simple habits we’ve worked on over the years:

1. Removing shoes & putting them on shelves in the closet upon entering our home.  The same is true for hats.
2. Hang jackets by loops onto hangers.  We added a lower closet rod to our hall closet so the littles could reach.
3. Sweep the table, chairs, and floor after each meal with a small broom and dustpan. 
4. Place dishes by the sink or in the dishwasher after meals.
5. Rinse cups, then place them on counter after meals to be reused throughout the day.
6. (Keep in mind I have three boys!) “If you tinkle when you sprinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie!”
7. Move clean, folded clothes from the laundry basket into your dresser or closet.
8. Using the key to open and close the shed. 
9. Turning on the hose, adjusting the water flow, and watering the garden.
10. Weeding the garden.

This past year, a friend leant me Managers of Their Chores: A Practical Guide to Children’s Chores and Managers of Their Homes: A Practical Guide to Daily Scheduling for Christian Homeschooling Families.  I have not put the authors’ exact practices in place, but I learned so much to help me in conceptualizing a plan for our home.  If you’re looking for more details on how to get started, these books are great
for that.  

So, how about you? I’d love to hear what “rails” you’ve laid down to help your day and home run more smoothly! In fact, I’m sure all of us would! : )  So please share! 



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