Shaina asked in a recent comment and on the WTM board what was on our chore board. The board has actually been out of commission for a month or two now, but getting it back up was on my to-do list, so the comment was the push I needed to get it set up again.

The board is simply a large poster frame, which I write on with a wet-erase marker. It helped keep the household running while I was down and out with the baby after my C-section. But, we also ended up having some issues crop up because of the board, so I took it down for awhile.

Our issues were born from the personality tendencies my two oldest (and my oldest in particular) inherited from me: a strong distaste for rules-for-the-sake-of-rules. I had reasons for putting things in the order they were in, and had phrased the list on the board to make it clear that I wanted things done my way: First do these things, then do these other things.

Is that so hard? Is that such a big deal?

It was. And I foolishly turned this order-of-events into a power struggle. It went something like this:

Child: “But why can’t I do my piano practice before I clean the table?”
Me: “Because I said so!”
Child: grumble, grumble, grumble
Me: lecture on bad attitudes and obedience

a couple days later, said child has me:

Me: “Why are you laying around doing nothing?! There are things on the board you have left to do!”
Child: “The other kids haven’t finished breakfast, so I can’t clean the table yet, and you said I can’t do piano until after I’ve done my chores. And I finished my other chores.”
Me: GAH! clasps head in frustration

The board become an occasion for what I could easily interpret as defiance. And, I was reminded why I have never been able to keep a schedule. I have the same response as my children. I look at it and think, “But, I just made you up. You aren’t an authority. You can’t tell me what to do. Half the time, it doesn’t make sense to do it that way, in that order, for those times. So, what use are you, anyway?”

Interestingly, I took away the board, still required the exact same things, and, for the most part, the children did them without any conflict or friction. I didn’t even have to tell them (most of the time). They just did what they knew they were supposed to do. And, if they were playing or reading or goofing off before their morning things were done, they simply lost computer privileges for that day. No big deal to me, and devastation to them. Perfect.

They stopped feeling bossed. They knew what they were supposed to do, and – again, for the most part – just did it.

So, once again I learned my lesson that my children (and myself) respond better to autonomy than to rules-checklists.

Then, the second reason our board was out of commission for so long was that my two-year-old saw it leaning against the wall and thought it looked like a slide. And, what does one do on slides? Climb up them. He cracked the frame and put a few cracks along the plastic.

So, I hot glued the frame and, instead of writing on the board, stuck printed lists on it, covering the cracks.

Here it is:

chore board

Now it lists the morning things. These are the things that must be done before any playing or reading or goofing off. These are the things they should be busy with while I am eating breakfast, feeding the baby, changing diapers, starting laundry, and such. Usually we start Circle Time soon after they are done, and sometimes before they are done with math & piano, in which case those get bumped to their independent work time.

I’ve listed the morning things in the order I recommend, but they may use their own discretion and apply common sense to the situations that arise.

I also posted our most commonly applied consequences, in a don’t-say-I-didn’t-warn-you fashion. This posting is the warning.

The thing I like most about the board is that it means the requirements are not all in my own head, requiring me to be dictating everyone’s next move. Also, with the list right there in plain sight, no one can say, “I forgot.”

chore board

The second item on “Make sure you’re presentable” is “Is your shirt on the right way?” Why is that so hard?

I don’t know if it will do any good, but I added this little gem at the bottom of one of the pages:

Remember, you only get stronger and better and smarter by working at things that are challenging and difficult for you. Keep a stout heart and tackle hard things!

See, the board is for all of us.


  1. First comment: Wow! I’m glad I motivated you to put the board back up. I just had a c-section so this is perfect motivational timing for me too!

    Second comment: Hilarious! I could see all the above issues happening at my house, too.

    Third comment: Curiosity is killing me! I want to see the rest of the board!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow. I love this:

    “I look at it and think, “But, I just made you up. You aren’t an authority. You can’t tell me what to do. Half the time, it doesn’t make sense to do it that way, in that order, for those times. So, what use are you, anyway?””

    You know it is so good to hear that other adults struggle with rebellion against their own planning. My homeschooled daughter does just fine with our list and the schedule I’ve adopted from HigherUpandFurtherIn, but I still have to make myself follow it. (The parts that are out of my comfort zone)

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