We hit upon a method that works for our kids -- it teaches time management, estimation, and best of all, teamwork over competition.
We work as a team, starting with one room, usually the front room. On a legal pad, I make a short list of what needs to be done:
Pick stuff up off floor
Shake out rugs
Org book shelves
Then I ask the kids, "How long do you think this will take if we all work together?" They each chime in with their time estimate:
E 10 min
C 7 min
V 15 min
K 12 min
J 9 min
A 14 min
Then we set the timer and *go for it*! Their ability to estimate time and task length has really improved. I think it may help them with project management later. If nothing else, they are learning to deal with what happens when estimates are off, w-a-y off. (For example, we always underestimate how long the office will take -- all those little corners where stuff can hide.)
There are two "awards": 1. best estimate, 2. best dedication to the task. Each award is $1 and they work pretty hard for that dollar.
Then we move on to the next room and start the process over again, improving our skills incrementally.
There is definitely an element of competition, but it is appropriately placed -- it fuels them to work harder and faster. The overall goal is the success of the team. They grab whatever cleaning task that needs to be done and when they finish that, they help someone else. Everyone needs to help everyone else. That's the best part.
So, for now, I have a method that works. Seems like this is Chore Method #143, but it is working with this particular group of kids at this particular developmental phase.
And I have a relatively clean house. It is so divinely satisfying to be able to say that at least once a week.