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Tips for Large Families

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Best Come-Back to Rude Questions

runaround Roo
My OB has six kids. He told me what his wife would say to people who were rude to her. She would say, "My husband and I have decided that, due to our superior genetic make-up, it is our duty to have a large family. How many children do YOU have?"

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The Big Picture

Maura:
Realizing that God is in control. He gave me this family with all of its strengths and weaknesses and it's not all up to me. He will provide to fill in the gaps. Along these same lines, I cannot care for all of my family's needs the instant that they occur. One of the greatest lessons that I and my children learn from our experience is patience. For them, it is a lesson in patience to wait until I can get to them. For me, it is to be patient with their immaturity.

Don't feel like you have to try to do as much as families with fewer children. I have recently started doing the 4 day schedule over five days and I take 1-1/2 years to do a core now. I don't supplement very much at all. (Very, very little supplementation.) This leaves us time for library books and some spontaneity. Also, we limit our children to one activity/school year/child. This limits our running around.

runaround Roo:
We also try very hard to foster independence. They put their own clothes away, keep track of their own schoolwork, butter their own bread, etc. We try to have them do whatever they reasonably CAN do. This can differ with the child, so we try to be sensitive, especially when assigning chores. Some chores just don't work well for some kids (or should I say that the other way, some kids are just not good with some chores?).

I pray a lot, a lot, a lot!!! We do paper routes in the morning and as I walk I ask God to protect my children from spiritual harm, grant them saving faith, encourage them when they are weak, give them an obedient spirit, and to calm my fears. And I try to remind myself that He is GOOD and He sees all and He knows I am but dust and will take care of us.

I never own anything that it would break my heart if it were broken. Maybe someday I'll own something nice, but for now, I'd rather not have to worry about "stuff". Everything gets so USED at our house, I don't want to be attached to any of it!!

5Kidsin5Years:
Keep first things first! The most important lesson I've learned was to keep my priorities straight. I'm a Christian so God comes first. That means hitting my knees in the morning before my feet hit the floor, even if it's just a 10 second dedication of my day to Him. It also means that I do my devotional time before starting school and certainly before checking email or these forums. One more implication of that is that I acknowledge that He may have an agenda for my day or my kids' day that is quite different from my Instructor's Guide! Sometimes discipline issues and heart issues override Language Arts or whatever. And that is OKAY!

Focus hard on the behavior issues and character. One whiny child is difficult. Several can feel unbearable! So really work on those issues...first time obedience, kindness, asking nicely, polite manners, etc. It makes everything much better and easier. Definitely worth the time!

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Going Out

ChrisD:
When I had 7 at home, six teenagers at one time, I found that scheduling equals peace. I had a rule that if it wasn't on the family calendar (big remarkable calendar), in advance, it was not going to happen, no ifs, ands or buts. This cut down tremendously on the last minute teen decisions to spend the night with so and so, or go to this or that function, without the proper planning. I think that one rule promoted much peace and harmony in the family. I also had chore schedules which rotated the kids and their duties which also took the squabbling level down several notches.

I had a one week rule for the calendar. They children were to come to me and discuss their plans one week in advance. It was their responsibility to get their busy social lives planned but they had to clear it with me and consider what was already on the calendar. I was the only one who added to the calendar. When we had dance lessons, play practice, soccer games, etc for all of them it was a total necessity. It also forced them to consider real time logistics as in how was it possible for me to be in two places at once. I also put on the calendar when I was going shopping and where so if someone needed something or just wanted to go to the mall, they knew when the bus was leaving (literally...big honking station wagon the kids called "the Hearse").

I was fairly inflexible about the calendar rule. Children will adapt when they absolutely have to and they had long since adapted to my ability to stick to my guns so I actually only had to endure test arguments from time to time. If you think about it, rarely is anything unable to be scheduled one week in advance. It just requires planning and teens are able to learn those skills if need be. With so many people in the family to consider its an absolute necessity in my opinion.

Oh...I also had the front porch rule. It simplified things. The rule was, regarding behavior, "If you can't do it on the front porch for the world to see, you can't do it. Simple." They still talk about that one. As the grandchildren get older I'll bet they get the same lecture!

runaround Roo:
We do role call in the van and everyone has to answer "buckled". We left a kid somewhere once and it was one of the SCARIEST things that ever happened to us. This way we know everybody's in and everybody's buckled. We have "trip shirts", too. The kids wear red and Dad and I wear bright orange. The littlest ones have our information ironed on a patch along the hem. We tell them that they have to stay where they can see us (it makes better sense to them than "stay where Mom can see you"). When everyone is dressed the same it makes it a whole lot easier to count. We went with high-visibility orange for the adults so they can spot us quickly. Everyone feels safer that way and it makes the big city zoo a lot more fun!!

Content~At~Home:
Limit extra-curricular & social activities, and try to choose something that the whole family can be involved with as opposed to running one child here, one there, etc... Try to run errands on those days when we're already going to be out of the house anyway. Also we screen calls during school hours and limit outside interruptions.

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Siblings

Maura:
Teach your children to partner with each other. Have olders help the youngers. Sometimes you can set them as partners---giving them a buddy to fix their sandwiches, push them up to the table, cross the parking lot, comb their hair, etc. Give them specific times to play with specific siblings. I don't do that last one all the time, but some moms find it helpful to have as a regular part of their schedule.

innercity-mom5:
I am amazed at how well (even at young ages) my kids are able to help care for their "buddy".... 10 year old daughter with 6.5 year old daughter.. 8 year old twin boys with 4 year old daughter. It is good responsibility for the older ones along with teaching the younger ones to respect the older sibling's help.

5Kidsin5Years:
Cross Pollination: When the triplets were born, my other two were only 3 and barely 5. I was used to giving my two boys lots of attention, reading to them a lot, and I was so afraid of how in the world could I give that to FIVE kids? I couldn't stretch that thin! I realized I was correct...I couldn't stretch that thin, and that was okay. The Mommy is important of course, but they do get a lot from each other...love, affection, interaction, learning, etc. I'm not worried anymore about that, and I know they're getting all they need, even if it's not all from me. Being a part of a big family has some major advantages! Yes, it's challenging but it really is a blessing.

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Organizing & Marking

Ottakee: Marking. Color code the kids
Each child from about 18 months on had their OWN color cup. That way we always knew which cup belonged to which child, no sharing germs, etc. You could easily do this with Tupperware type plates, cups, the plastic silverware, etc right down to towels and washcloths if you wanted. A Sharpie marker is YOUR friend: Use it to put 1 dot on clothes for the oldest, 2 dots for the next child, etc.----maybe dots for girls, x for boys.

Initial the toys. This is the BEST piece of wisdom I gleaned from the Pearl's. EACH child has a right to their OWN things. When I had 3 little ones within 15 months (4, 4, and 3) I would put an initial on EACH toy as it came in the house. It eliminated the "but I had it first" "but it is MINE" thing. The toy went to the owner, no questions asked. They were free to share, trade for a while, etc. but the toy had its owner. This made it SO much easier for sitters to know who had to pick up what, etc.

HSisfun:
I color-code their plates so I can tell who ate all their food once the plates were cleared. And they know they need to rinse & load their own plate into the dishwasher. It helps me when I'm serving a meal, too. I can adjust quantity and selection on each plate as I'm serving. Also I bought personalized towels for my dc from Lands' End. Now I know who's leaving their wet towel on the floor & who's already showered.

Maura:
A routine/schedule makes things smoother. Part of our day runs according to set times and the rest of it basically follows a routine. Set times in our day include: a wake up time, breakfast time, starting morning schoolwork, lunch time, starting afternoon schoolwork, naptime (for youngers), dinner time. I teach subjects according to a basic routine. Math for 7yo, math for 8yo, math for 9yo, ETC for 7yo, handwriting for 5yo, etc. (I don't allot set periods of time for this, I just move from one subject to the next. Since I maintain the same basic order every day, it makes decision making easier.) Instituting a daily naptime/quiet time for the family is a lifesaver. The littles nap, the olders work quietly and independently, and I have free time. Yeah!

angelsj:
Organize paperwork. Each child has a folder containing information about him. Medical records, immunizations, dental visits, birth certificates. I also have "collection" folders, where I will pull information I need. Ex. If I am taking one child to the doctor, I just take her file. If I am taking three or more, I will pull relevant information for them and collect it in another folder until the "bout" is over, then file it back appropriately.

5Kidsin5Years:
Rubbermaid Rubbermaid Rubbermaid! Everything goes in a bucket with a top. That means toys, magnet sets, baby dolls, craft supplies, crayons, markers, coloring books, batteries, etc. It's just a variation on the principle: A place for everything and everything in it's place. How they did that before Rubbermaid I have no clue! LOL

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House

Maura:
Involve your children in housework. Give them set chores to do every day.

angelsj:
Give each child their own storage space for school stuff. We buy stackable plastic drawers, but they need a place to put things that is all theirs. One child uses one of her desk drawers. I know a family that uses milk crates. But they need something.

Organize crafts, papers, scissors, etc. We have separate see-thru plastic containers for every type of toy, glue, paint, etc. Also each has everything needed to do projects with that. In other words, the "paint" box also has paintbrushes and paper. The "geoboards" box contains the books and rubber bands.

Chores, & family service We schedule chores, but sometimes everyone must pitch in and help when life demands. Part of what we are doing is to teach the next generation to be parents. What better way than to do so under parental supervision?

Content~At~Home:
Take the time to teach age appropriate homemaking/life skills starting when your children are young, and encourage/praise independence. They're usually so eager to learn and spend quality time with mom/dad. It takes more of mom/dad's time initially, but it pays off big-time later on when your older ones can step in and "run the house" if needed.

HSisfun:
We use the stairs going upstairs to organize dc's belongings which are out of place. The 1st step is the youngest's and so on. When I find miscellaneous stuff around the first floor, I put it on each dc's step. Then they can carry it up when they heading upstairs.

Maura:
Simplify wherever you can: Declutter. Buy different brands of underwear and socks for different kids. Several companies now make socks with a different marking on each size. Use those mesh lingerie bags to put socks in when they are dirty (one bag/child)---it really cuts down on laundry sorting! Mark clothes with a system. Oldest boy gets one line on the tags of his clothes, #2 boy gets two lines, #3 gets three, etc. When you pass them down to the next child, add another mark. Use a different symbol for girls.

runaround Roo:
One thing about the socks: We have a Central Sock Location (a hall closet). I buy a decent supply of boys' socks in each size and keep them all there. I do pair them but don't sort by size, just dump them in the basket. It simplifies the sock situation immensely. I used to do the girls' socks separately (because there's only TWO of them), but they just ended up using the boys' socks because they were so conveniently located. Oh, well.

I got rid of all the kids' dressers and put their clothes on open shelves (we built them into their closets). This way you can SEE what everyone has and what they need and nothing gets crammed back in behind a drawer and lost forever. At our old house we only had one bathroom and you had to walk through the laundry room to get there. We put in shelves to the ceiling and that was the "family wardrobe". It was SOOOO handy!! That's the only thing I miss about that house!! I'd do the family wardrobe thing again if I had a place for it!!

kidseverywhere
For us, 2 laundry baskets each works well. One in your bedroom for 'dirty' and you take it down to the laundry room and trade for your pile of clean as you go back up. Put the clean away and leave the empty basket in the closet for 'refilling'. I do the wash (my 11yo ds says I do it because it's quieter in the basement laundry room) but I only wash what is down there already. I do NOT bring it down or back up. Dh is the only exception.

Also take a look at Laundry: Conquering the Mountain.

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School

Maura:
I have "finished work" drawers for each of my children for them to put their completed papers in. I also have specific places for different subjects to be stored. You could also organize everything by child.

Teach more than one child at a time whenever it is feasible. I have four kids doing a first grade level art course together. They love doing it together.

Learn some flexibility with schooling. I taught Core K to my oldest child and about half of it to my second child when my oldest was five. At that time, I followed the K IG. Now, I am going through the K books in random order, primarily with my 7yo and 5yo, but the others are more than welcome to join in when they want. I don't do K every day, but I've got years to work through the material. Also, older children can read some of the school books to the youngers.

angelsj:
Match up where you can. My 14 and 16 yo do music appreciation class together. The 16 and 18 yo are both doing core 400. My 10 and 14 yo work on the same science (Rainbow, jr high) and core 5. The 4 1/2 and 6 yo are in the same math book. Everyone from 10-18 studied survival, fallacy and a jr economics course this year. And we often do read alouds that suit them all. Next year, I have decided to do core Alt-6 with adaptations for everyone from 5 to 17 (the 18 yo graduates this year). That should help a lot by having everyone on the same page.

Give the computer some use. Computer games abound for the younger set. Find a few good ones. Math on computer can make the facts fun. Next year two of the kids will do their science on computer. It makes grading MUCH easier. We also use Rosetta Stone for language. It is self checking for the most part.

Content~At~Home:
Use SL! It's easy to combine ages in the same core, easy to take school with us in the van if needed, and easy to open it up and get to work no matter where we left off. No time consuming planning on my part.

5Kidsin5Years:
Love 'em and Lump 'em! Everything I do should be done in love and oftentimes it's most helpful to lump the kids' learning together wherever I can. My kids fall into two groups... the older boys and the triplets so I do two Cores. But often they listen to each others' read aloud time and I say it's all good for them! That's one reason we love Sonlight...it's not all divided up between kids' ages.

Give them as much personal responsibility as they can handle. When my older kids were in about 3rd grade, I started giving them assignment sheets for each week. They had their readers, science, math, chores, reading to younger siblings, etc on there. When they'd crossed each thing off and I'd seen their work, they were free to have video time or free time. As time went on, their sheets included more things but it gave them so much freedom to know exactly what was coming. It also helped Mom not feel like the 'bad guy' for having to say "No, you can't have free time yet, you still have XYZ to do". Each weekend I get on the computer and just revise the past week's assignments so it doesn't take too much time. Very much worth the effort, and it teaches them great skills for life!

angelsj:
Let the kids do the record keeping Around age 9 or 10, each child gets a weekly schedule. THEY record everything they do each day on the schedule, then file it in their folder. At the end of the year, I have a complete record of what each one has done for the year.

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