Saturday, February 14, 2009

Unschooling Chores

I have been re-energized by some of my recent blog reading.

Reading the blogs of other unschoolers. Thinking about their ideas and lives. Remembering to adopt some similar attitudes and activities in our unschool.

Attitudes and activities towards things like cleaning. Or chores.

Now, we have never been the kind of family that was good with chore charts. I think if you are going to make such things work, you need consistency. And you need to be good at follow up - at making sure chores get done - and at inspection.

I am not good at any of these things. So, we gave away chore charts over ten years ago.

We just work on the everyone pitch in and help out clean.

Many times, this means I do more housework kind of stuff than others. That I am the one who cleans up more. Tidies up other people's messes.

But, I believe this to be a gift. I am given the gift of service. I am given the gift of family. Thank God, that I have a family to care for.

Before you raise your hands in horror, please know that I have feminist leanings...That I am a strong woman...That this attitude of service doesn't mean I am a doormat-slave-slash-servant. I am a servant in a vocational sense, in a serving others with joy sense. And I am free to ask for help, to ask others to do things, to make lists and say who wants to take a job. To ask for co-operation. It is my choice to clean. I could make other choices. Leave the mess. Pay someone to clean.

Many times, too, this everyone pitches in and helps out attitude means that some members of the family do more than others. Those who notice things more? Those who have more of a servant's heart? Those who are less likely to grumble if asked to do something?

I don't feel bad about this..I feel it is just part of life...

And it helps not to think of home maintenance as chores but as creating a home for those who live here and a welcome for those who visit.

I often re-arrange cushions or ornaments or chairs when cleaning; add some flowers; change prints or a centrepiece. Strew something new or different. Or just leave clear spaces for hanging out; reading nooks; music corners; a space for others to put their currently important things.

I feel free, too, to not be hindered by times and typical chore charts. Or cleaning routines. Who says we have to do a whole house at a time? Or one whole room? Or one chore? Or clean in the morning and rest in the afternoon/evening? Or do a whole, fantastic job? Bits and pieces, fits and starts, a wipe down here and a vaccuum there, a small amount every day, a good enough job may be all I have time for.

Suits me.
Step by step.

If I only have fifteen minutes to clean or tidy, I pick my area of most concern and I go. If someone walks by or needs me, I ask them to give me a hand so we can talk together, or I can carry a baby or toddler while cleaning with the other hand as I did when all were little, or I can smile at someone or listen to someone. From the middle of the clean.

It is amazing what can be done in fifteen minutes. Or at ten pm at night, when picking up the house before computer and bed. Or in the extra ten minutes when waiting for something to cook . ( Although be warned - don't get so involved that you forget about cooking and burn something..I speak from experience here!).

Yesterday, I was inspired by this blog post on cleaning in bursts while caring for the family. The pictures on this blog tell more than a thousand words. More than my word-y blog post.

Remembering my cleaning spurts, I started in on the second cutlery drawer in the kitchen - the one with the knives, the ice cream scoop, the wooden spoons, the measuring cups, name it. I tidied that drawer, threw away unwanted stuff ( who needs two boxes of confetti!) and sorted and categorised. In my fashion.

On a roll, I extended my cleaning spurt and cleaned down all the kitchen cupboard doors, went around the house wiping down skirting boards and marks off walls, cleaned the piano keys (hey, they are sparkling white again!) wiped down the kids' bathroom, tidied my bathroom, tidied two of the kids' rooms and ( roughly, organically, not artistically ) sorted their junk, ahem, items of concern, into boxes for them.

Woo hoo! An hour and one half later, this unschooling house looked better. I felt better. And I still had time to talk to dh and the kids, to answer their queries, as I worked.

Unschooling chores by working in service, with a positive attitude, in spurts and with others. Creating a new unschooling landscape. Doing cleaning while being with family..

A two -for- one.
And, as a reminder of that positive attitude, read this...The importance of a positive attitude towards creating a home was even emphasised in the 1800s, by the legendary Mrs. Beeton ~
AS WITH THE COMMANDER OF AN ARMY, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house. Her spirit will be seen through the whole establishment; and just in proportion as she performs her duties intelligently and thoroughly, so will her domestics follow in her path. Of all those acquirements, which more particularly belong to the feminine character, there are none which take a higher rank, in our estimation, than such as enter into a knowledge of household duties; for on these are perpetually dependent the happiness, comfort, and well-being of a family. In this opinion we are borne out by the author of “The Vicar of Wakefield,” who says: “The modest virgin, the prudent wife, and the careful matron, are much more serviceable in life than petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, or virago queens. She who makes her husband and her children happy, who reclaims the one from vice and trains up the other to virtue, is a much greater character than ladies described in romances, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind with shafts from their quiver, or their eyes.”
PURSUING THIS PICTURE, we may add, that to be a good housewife does not necessarily imply an abandonment of proper pleasures or amusing recreation; and we think it the more necessary to express this, as the performance of the duties of a mistress may, to some minds, perhaps seem to be incompatible with the enjoyment of life.....
GOOD TEMPER SHOULD BE CULTIVATED by every mistress, as upon it the welfare of the household may be said to turn; indeed, its influence can hardly be over-estimated, as it has the effect of moulding the characters of those around her, and of acting most beneficially on the happiness of the domestic circle. Every head of a household should strive to be cheerful, and should never fail to show a deep interest in all that appertains to the well-being of those who claim the protection of her roof. Gentleness, not partial and temporary, but universal and regular, should pervade her conduct; for where such a spirit is habitually manifested, it not only delights her children, but makes her domestics attentive and respectful; her visitors are also pleased by it, and their happiness is increased. Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management


Luke said...

I'm glad Mrs Beeton got a feature on the blog - and excited that I'm the first to comment!

Of course, she wasn't always great; fortifying tea with a raw egg is probably a mis-step...

Sara said...

Wow. Am I ever on the same page as you are with all of this. We women are truly the heart of our homes and the "happiness of the domestic circle" depends upon our strength of character. I'd like to write more, but am tired --thanks for good post. btw, I "school" like I clean, which fits what my hubby calls "the chip away concept"-- inviting others to "chip away" at various projects, trusting that everyone uses their very different gifts, even if the proportion seems irregular -- God bless regularity in prayer and irregularity in everything else -- or something like that -- LOL, small is beautiful

Leonie said...

Really like the term "chip away" - as it applies to cleaning, homeschooling ( and fitness!).

Anonymous said...

Dear Leonie, Thank you so much for this post! I needed to read this today... I made it to mass, did breakfast and a few things around here, checked the weather and saw snow for tonight, so decided to take the littles (11, 7, 5, and 3... they are our youngest 4 of 12) to the library to stock up on books and movies so everyone will be happy / busy tomorrow. Then, my 21yo borrowed my car, and unfortunately got in a fender-bender (she's not hurt, but I am once again w/o wheels for a while)... and I needed to comfort her, and be on the phone with insurance, bla, bla, bla... meanwhile, my plans to straighten up around here and put away Christmas things today went right out the window. Whatever. Tomorrow's another day. I thank God for the safety of my dear daughter, and move on. Thanks again, dear friend.

Leonie said...

Thank you. I am glad you commented as I really needed to read this myself today!