Red Shoulder Hawk

Red Shoulder Hawk

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The family ecology

Belly is very adept at learning from her wee one. Add her to your list of people who are engaged in inventing a wholesome, sustainable future.

At my house, the chores seldom got done. Sure, the kids picked up their rooms when they tired of wading through two feet of clothes, toys, plates, spoons, books, bedding, half-built rockets, the odd telescope/microscope/486 computer case/bottles of air saved from around the country/dismantled furniture/unstuffed pillows/balloons/power tools/box of off-brand cereal to get to their beds. But the housekeeping chores were left all to me. Or Xena, but she's nearsighted and so doesn't see how dirty everything is. Plus, she gets home at bedtime after working forever and then going to night school.

I got tired of doing all the work or the equally unpleasant alternative, harping at people until they moved their lazy butts and then grumbled and griped their way through sweeping up the dining room or breaking dishes into the dishwasher.

Nika, my coach, asked me what the kids did understand. I said, "Ecology. They get the water cycle, the life cycle, the carbon cycle... Hey, I wonder if I can talk to them about the housekeeping in terms of an ecology?"

So we did. At a family meeting, I talked about how the ecology of our duties worked out so that I could stay focused on keeping my design clients happy. After that, chores went a little smoother.

Not long after, Caitlan made this Wheel of Chores. She'd seen a similar chart at the Sustainability Reasearch House at Merritt College. Eight chores, 4 people, and each Sunday we rotate the wheel and there's your duties for the week. Parents contribute too (this way, once every three weeks I'm sure the downstairs bathroom gets cleaned, for example).

No squawking, and no beating each other up if we blip, either. Since no one has any job for very long, we really do back each other up. If Xena lets the dirty dishes go on her last day, for example, she might do those plus an extra day's. Caitlan will sweep if I don't get to it.

It's been working out pretty well.

And if sometimes a kid has hidden their floor with all their stuff, well, at least there are clean dishes for setting the table.


  1. I gotta say, I love the approach. I have always felt that what is most often lacking is adults finding the right terms with which to communicate ideas to kids. Gotta make it make sense to them and when it makes sense it can become important to them as well. Beautiful resolution...I think I will borrow the *chore wheel* idea and see what I can come up with over here.


  2. The wheel was designed and built by the teenager. She presented a first draft, we made suggestions, and she made the finished wheel entirely out of scrap materials. There's a short nail into a sliver of wine cork through the center of the wheel so it'll turn.

    I glued give-away refrigerator magnet calendars from the real state agent to the back, so it could live on the refrigerator.

    I'd love to see what your wheel looks like. Perhaps we can create a gallery of them!