Monday, June 25, 2007

Family Operations Center

Okay, I know I promised (some time ago now) that I would share the terribly interesting details about the Family Operations Center. The pictures have been here just waiting-breathless with anticipation for my captioning. So, here goes...

As you walk in to the house from the garage, the door to the FOC (I know that sounds slightly offensive, but the full name is just too long to type out each time...)is located directly ahead. Hanging on the wall to the left of the door above the lightswitch is our key/note organizer. This is the place where the keys land as soon as we walk in and it has saved countless hours attempting to locate our missing keys. We also keep this organizer stocked with pencils, pens, notepads of paper, the "extra" cell phone, and the grocery fliers for that week. It makes it very easy as we are running out the door, especially during the school year, to write a last minute absence note (if one were to be last-minute in those sort of things...) or jot a quick grocery list down before leaving.
*In the future, we are planning to add a shoe holder of some sort directly below this organizer. Suggestions are welcome and appreciated!*
To the left of the door when walking into the FOC, is the backpack/coat/ hat/ glove bench. Even the dynamic duo can hang up their own coat or backpack here by standing on the bench seat. There are six hooks, which allows each child to have one (unless the ark grows at which point, I think we'd look to add additional ones-hooks, that is). Each of the older children has one of the baskets on the top shelf for their hat, mittens, gloves, etc...If they are wet, they can dry them off first in the laundry tub (located just to the left of the bench) or the dryer (located next to the laundry tub). Either way, they are dry and put away before the next use. The smaller baskets has made it much easier for each child to monitor their own winter gear without digging through a heap of everyone's fuzzy mittens and hats! The little kids have two bins on the bottom. One is for their hats and one is for their gloves. Even they have been able to follow this system and keep their hats and gloves together through this past winter. The last bin belongs to the Captain and I. We can actually find our own winter gloves without searching through toy boxes or kid's backpacks because someone got *confused* while dressing for the cold.
These cork boards were purchased at our local Office Max ($9.99/4 pack)and the dry erase/ bulletin board is from Target ($16.99 in the store, but not available on their website). The library pocket cards on each cork board and the chart on the bulletin board are from the local teacher supply store. (ed. note: I just can't help myself when I get in those stores...once a teacher, always a teacher--especially in September!)
Each of the kids has their own cork square with a library pocket card attached and bearing their name. As soon as they receive an important paper from school, sports, is thumbtacked immediately to their board. This has accomplished two things: first, it has enabled me to see the surface of my kitchen counter on a consistent basis and second, all those important papers don't seem to go missing any more. During the school year each of the school-aged children had a "What do you need today?" list also attached to their square (unfortunately, I threw this past year's lists out already, I know, I know, but the year was OVER already, people!) The gist of each of these lists, which helped me as well as them, was to break down the school week M-F and show for each day what "special" items each child might need. For example, if it's Wednesday, it's library for B and H's class so they need to have their library books. During the first six weeks of school, before we left the house, it was common practice for me to call out, "What do you need today? Have you checked your list?" Eventually, it became habit (most of the time) but there were some of those mornings when, well, you know...The last item on the square is the library pocket card. Two examples are shown below.
Shown above is one of the three younger kid's cards. Each one has three "jobs" on it. Everyone has the same last two jobs, which basically amounts to helping keep their room and the family room tidy. In addition to those two jobs, each child has one *special* job for the week (Sunday to Sunday). There are pictures to go with the *special* jobs so it can be easily "read" by a pre-schooler.
Shown above here is an example of one of the three older children's cards. Again, these are picked on Sunday night, so each card is used for one week. All of the cards go back in the pile after dinner on Sunday night and everyone picks again. Sometimes a new card is drawn, but not necessarily. When some of the children (who shall remain nameless) continued to draw the same card repeated times, the suggestion was made (by the aforementioned children) to be allowed to *trade* with a sibling. We did consider it...for about 10 seconds...and then decided that it was not a bad thing to have to do the same job more than one week in a row. As a matter of fact, it has shown itself to be a good thing. Nothing has made them more proficient at some of these jobs than practice and learning to do something that is boring or monotonous, while still contributing to the greater good of society, is a valuable lesson for our children. Additionally, the more often the same child performs the same chores, the more ownership is taken for that particular responsibility. When I hear a child say to a sibling, "Now, when you get out of the car, make sure you take out all of those books you brought with you and don't forget your juice cup, either!" I have to smile to myself--not just because of my pride in their actions but because not only is the task accomplished, but I need not be the chief nagger about it.

Finally, on the dry erase/bulletin board we keep a chart where the children can check off when they are finished for the day with all of their jobs. The younger ones, who need assistance, receive help from their buddy. (If you notice on the top of each of the older children's cards, there is the name of a younger child assigned to be their "buddy" for that week.) While it is not necessary for anyone to put a star or a smile face in the box each day, we've found that the idea of having a clear, specific, finite list for what is expected each day and the opportunity to "cross it off" leaves everyone with a healthy sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. We've used the dry erase board (which is also magnetic) to leave each other messages, create countdowns to special visitors arriving or events happening and to write a note of encouragement or just something humorous to kick off the week.

All in all, I'd have to say that it is a fluid program--as the children grow and change, parts of it will change as well; but for now it is one for which we are pleasantly content with its results.


5KidMom said...

We have pieces of this system going on at our house, but the whole thing together is rather brilliant. Good job, Mom!!!

Life in Fitzville said...

Yes, I am incredibly impressed! The best thing hubby ever did for me was to build a cubby area. Each of ours has their own cubby, locker shaped, with a long coat/backpack hanging spot, a big space at the bottom for shoes/boots, and a space at the top for hats/gloves. I love the individual bulletin boards. I have a table top file organizer that they put their papers in after school... but with my mommy brain it's 'out of sight, out of mind' and things still get forgotten.

Are you and the captain both very organized? I think that is the biggest challenges here... we are two of the most scattered people ever.

patjrsmom said...

We try to be organized. We generally have attempted to have a system for things BUT there is always a time when we just feel unmotivated to act on the follow-through. The sin of sloth comes to mind...

Becky said...

I love it!!! The teacher in me can so relate! I am going to be re-doing our mudroom entry area. It's so crowded:( I'm also going to be putting up a COO-center of operations in the kitchen. A big bulletin board on the wall with calendars, charts for chores and reward chart along with kid art. Today is our first day of summer so I better get started!

:: Suzanne :: said...

That is so awesome. I'm inspired.

If you would like to join in the June Adoption Blogpost Round-up (and I am hoping that you do), our theme this month is Attachment. For more information and to find Mr. Linky, please visit the Adoption BlogPost Round-up post at :: Adventures In Daily Living :: .



patjrsmom said...

Hi Suzanne,

I'd love to join in for the June round-up. I've actually been thinking a lot about attachment lately. I'll get something together and get it linked off to you as well as provide a link from my blog.

Thanks for letting me know!