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“I Can” Homeschool and Chore Chart

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 22, 2010


   One of Charlotte Mason’s mottos for children was, “I can, I ought, I will”, so I suppose it’s only appropriate that our family’s way of rewarding our children for their daily routine, chores, and anything “well done” is called “I-Cans”.  

    I first got this inspiration from a friend who showed us her I-Cans.    Over the years I’ve tweaked the system to meet the needs of our family. 

   Below is a picture of our I-cans (my first pictures on the blog–I’m so excited!)   I made the I-Cans by copying and pasting the phrase “I Can” over and over on a sheet of paper, and then having my son draw and add the “eye” picture (on Photoshop.)  Next I drew circles around them.  My I-Cans are between the size of a quarter and half dollar, so that they fit inside our pocket chart perfectly.  Once I had a page of I-Cans, I went to a copy center and had several sheets copied onto heavy paper, and then cut them out.  I made our I- Cans in a different color for each boy.  You could also make special colors to indicate special rewards. (Another option:  Use tickets.  You can find tickets–the kind they use at raffles–at school supply stores in several different colors.)

      We use our I-Cans in two different ways; in our chart, and on a pin.  Notice the holes punched in the I-Cans?  This is to accomodate the pins.  (I used a tiny hole punch.)  We put the I-Cans onto baby diaper pins and pin them to the children’s shirts, where they become a constant reminder of how the children are behaving that day (or not.) 

     Each child starts the day with ten I-Can’s.  Everytime they are naughty, they have to give up an I Can (rule: give it up nicely or lose another for bad attitude.)  Every time I catch them being good or doing something extra nice, I reward them with an I-Can.  At the end of the day, we count and see what they have left.  If they have more than five left, they get another  I-Can and/or some small instant reward. 

     Every night before bed we count that day’s I-Cans and “bank” them (save them in the bank).   Our bank is inside the door of our kitchen pantry, and our chore chart is on the outside, secured with Command Adhesive strips. 

     Friday is Banking Day.  Fridays are the only days that the children are allowed to count all their I-Cans.  Each week, the boys have a choice:  Do I trade in my I-Cans for a short-term reward? (This would be small treats like choosing a movie to watch at home, a small toy like a Matchbox car or bouncy ball, sidewalk chalk, or a candy bar–we love the dollar section at Target for our prizes.)  Do I save up my I-Cans for a better reward (a trip to the ice cream shop, going to an appropriate movie at the theatre, etc), or do I save for a month or more for something I really want?  (The best rewards take a long time to earn.)  We might buy a Lego set that they really want and place it on the fireplace mantel for them to drool over.  We label it with the number of I-Can’s they’ll need to earn it.  A set worth $25 might “cost” the boys 300-400 I-Cans.  Another option is to assign a dollar amount for each I-Can (ten cents each, for instance), but this can get too expensive!

         I use a pocket chart from the school supply store to make our chart.  You can order one like mine HERE, but there are many different chart options available.  HERE is another one from Amazon (chores only); HERE are some different ideas for using charts and some FREE printable charts. 

      My chart has three rows for each boy; each of the rows is highlighted with his I-Can colors.  The first row lays out our morning routine; the second row our school day, and the third row highlights behavior.  That leaves one extra row.  We call this row weekly “priviledge.”  I made the labels on our chart with my P-Touch.  Take a look:

Priviledge close up chart

   To the left is a close-up of   the “priviledge” row.  Each week one of the boys is on “priveledge.”  Whoever is on priviledge (we call it “Josh’s week” or “Ben’s week”) gets to do certain special things (priviledges), but in exchage for the priviledge, extra chores are assigned.  “Priviledge” solves a lot of problems for me.  Whose turn is it to get the mail?  Whose turn is it to choose a movie if they can’t agree?  Who gets to choose their seat in the car?  Who gets to sit on my left side (don’t ask why–I have no idea why they’d fight over this) during story time?   Who gets to pick the story at bedtime (if I’m offering a choice),  and who gets to choose the story tape to listen to at bedtime?  The answer is always on the chart.  

      To make the marker so that the boys can see their names, I glued two “I-can’s” –one for each boy, in his colors–back-to-back onto a small piece of cardboard (about two inches high) and then laminated it. 

      The extra chores in exchange for for “priviledge” are:  Go-fer (bring things to mom/run inside and grab the cell phone, etc), pick up dog poop (once a day), laundry helper (tote and carry, help fold or put away as needed), check animals daily (food/water), and take the garbage/garbage cans out (as needed), wipe the outside of the toilet (daily.)  Remember, my boys are 9 and 7.

     Every morning we do our first row (with one exception these are “before school” chores.)  As the boys finish each chore, they earn an I-Can.  Our morning chores are (from top to bottom):

Breakfast, vitiamins; one of the boys has “inhaler” on his chart (for asthma), and the other has “fingernails” (he is a nail biter, so we inspect his fingernails, and paint them with something like “Thum“.)  They must eat what they are offered at breakfast and cheerfully take their inhaler or get their fingernails painted to earn an I-Can.

-The next pocket is dress, (get dressed appropriately for the day), laundry (pick up any clothes on the floor and put jammies away), and bed (straighten.)

-The next pocket is teeth (brush), face (wash) and hair (comb.)

-The next pockets say:  Josh-unload dishwasher; Ben-wipe bathroom sinks/counters and “bathroom check” (look for anything left on the floor, check hand-towels and toilet paper.)

-The final chore box isn’t entirely done before school.  It says: Josh-lunch table (clear food away and wipe table) and garbage out (kitchen); Ben-breakfast table, floor under table and floor patrol (look around in the family room for toys left out, and pick them up.)  Wiping the table without making a worse mess is a skill we are still working on.

-The school row is the same for each boy.  Right now it is slighly out of order, but we use it as-is.  The pockets are (from top to bottom): Bible, memory (memory verse/recitation practice), hymn; unit, game; math; reading, copywork; speech (speech therapy practice) and PE/play (outside time.)  I didn’t add rewards for art, music, etc, since the boys love to do them so much.

-The final row is our behavior row, and it too is the same for each boy.   In that row we have: Obey, Honor; Cheerful, Helper, Share; Worker, Picked up; Good Eater.

     Our I-Can Rules: 

-Each chore or school subject completed cheerfully and well earns an I-Can. 

-At the end of the day, we go over the behavior chart and add I-Can’s for good behavior.  Alternate idea:  Go over the behavior portion of the chart at noontime, too. 

-Once I-Cans are in the chart or in the bank, they cannot be taken away; these have been earned.  Only the I-Can’s pinned to their shirt can be taken away for bad behavior.

-At the end of each day, we put the I-Cans earned for that day in the bank. 

-Banking day is the only day the boys can count their I-Cans and retrieve their prizes.

Rules for pins:

-When you “lose” an I-Can from your pin, you must hand it over cheerfully or you will lose another one for bad attitude.

–No asking or hinting for I-Cans.  Mom can’t see everything; sometimes doing good is its own reward.

-You can tell Mom when your brother deserves and I-Can (when he does something extra nice for you); but you may NOT tell (tattle) on your brother, saying he deserves to have one taken away.  Mom decides this.

-Be careful with your I-Cans:  No bending them or getting them wet.

-Five or more I-Can’s left on the pin at the end of the day earns an extra I-Can and/OR a small treat (right away.)

-You may not remove your I-Can’s from your shirt after Mom pins them on you, or you lose them all.

     It sounds complicated, but once you get going on it, a chart like this works really well.  Just make sure your children know all the I-Can rules before you begin enforcing them.  You should also be sure that your children understand your house rules, so that they understand which behaviors might result in losing an I-Can.

     Final tips:  Teach one new chore at a time.  Teach it in the four step process:  Show them how to do it, help them do it, watch them do it, inspect the job they’ve done.  Inspection is extremely important!

-Remember that the goal is to develop a routine that becomes a habit.   Working cheerfully, properly, and well should also become a habit (eventually!)

-Make sure your chores are developmentally appropriate.  Preschoolers can do chores like straightening beds, feeding pets (dry food), sorting laundry, tote and carry, picking up after themselves, wiping counters (if you ring out the rag), vaccuming, sweeping, dusting, and so on.  For ideas about teaching your children to work, check out the books below.

Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field

401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

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4 Responses to ““I Can” Homeschool and Chore Chart”

  1. adminsst said

    This looks like a cool idea for a chore chart. I like the idea of having the I Cans on them at all times, and if they misbehave they lose or if they do sometihng good they can earn some. Really neat idea!

  2. My kids also argue over who gets to sit on the left (on the sofa, in the car, at the table, and read aloud, etc.) My son, who is VERY meticulous, decided one day that the left was his favorite and wanted to be on the left at all times. His sister finds this as a point of contention for contentions sake (even though she still doesn’t know her right from her left very well). Kids do the darnedest things!

  3. Catherine said

    Hi! I know I am late on finding this but a friend just sent this site to me and I love it!! Just a quick question- what would you consider a small instant reward? We do a treasure box at the end of the week but I am not sure what would be appropriate for a daily reward?

    thanks so much for all you’re doing!!!!

    • Catherine,
      Glad you found me, and I’m happy you are enjoying the site. To answer your question: We don’t use “small instant rewards” often–usually the boys are happy with extra I-Cans (especially if I have something set out that they really want to earn.) But here are a few things they enjoy: A packet of fruit snacks, a small candy or a piece of gum (yeah, I know…but sometimes they can be an amazing modivator), a treat such as 15 minutes playtime on an educational computer game, small toys such as a bouncy ball or matchbox car…that type of thing. If you look at a dollar store or the birthday section of Target (where they sell the goodies for birthday party “treat” bags), you’ll find lots of goodies.
      We’ve also done rewards such as going out to ice-cream, playing a favorite game, etc.
      Hope this helps!
      ~Susan

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