Over at Carrot Ranch the weekly challenges continue, even though Charli Mills is up to her earlobes in MFA work and related happenings. The annual Rodeo, the Ranch writing contest, is also going on, until the end of the month supplanting the Tuesday columns and Monday’s Saddle Up Saloon feature. It sure is worth a visit to Carrot Ranch to read, write, and appreciate literary art.
This week the prompt is to, “in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about chores. It doesn’t have to be a western ranch chore; it can be any routine task. Go where the prompt leads!” I treaded word water for three 99 word essays before being led to a flash featuring that farm family and another unrelated totally fictitious take apropos of nothing.
I, and my brothers, always had chores. Aside from some gender discrepancies, typical for the times, I don’t resent having had chores; in fact appreciate the experiences and learning that came from them. When I was a teacher I often asked students and parents about chores at home. Repetitive tasks, such as setting the table, support number sense. As parental scaffolds fall away a child learns independence and problem solving skills in the endeavor to complete a chore. Balanced with play, meaningful chores provide a child a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of being a contributing family member.
How chores are perceived by a child, and by adults, depends on how they are presented; attitude and mindset matter. The first definition of chore is a routine task; routine, necessary tasks are not necessarily unpleasant. Shouldn’t there be joy and satisfaction in completing a necessary task? And can’t one bring joy to that task? That’d be a fine thing to model for a child. Chores can be a shared time of skill teaching, of story telling, of instilling habits of stewardship and responsibility. Let a child grow into what they are capable of and don’t forget to play.
Do what you love, love what you do. Because I am able to pretty much do things when I want to not when I have to, I have no chores. I get done what needs to get done without stress. In fact routine tasks reduce stress; so-called chores can be a relaxing time of contemplation and mindful mindlessness, often serving to unblock some other stoppage. Unforced, tasks go more smoothly and successfully; what seems a chore one day eventually becomes another day’s pleasant project, the delay often necessary subconscious problem solving. To master your tasks, don’t be a taskmaster.
Lost in Translation
“I learned a new word at school today.”
Hope’s dad continued scooping beans with his bread. “In the classroom or on the playground?”
He held his bread and looked up. “What word?”
“It started with a /c/ I think. Melinda made it seem like a bad word.” Hope continued while her parents exchanged glances. “It has to do with doing things you don’t want to do, and not getting to do fun things. Chores! That’s the word.”
“But Hope, you tend the chickens, and the garden; help us both out around the farm.”
“That’s fun! Mommy, what’s allowance?”
Tales Out of School
She loved the pedagogy, the art and science of teaching children, of engaging all learners. When she taught she learned, delving deeply into the topic when developing units of study. She led her students by following their lead. She relished helping her students make connections and demonstrate their learning creatively.
Then came the canned curriculum, the boxed units.
“This will be easier for all teachers.”
Easier isn’t better. Let me do it my way, she said.
“Curriculum delivery should all be the same. You can do your thing as long as you follow the program.”
Teaching became a chore.