Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Have a Large Family. Can I Still do This?

Yes, in fact homeschoolers average about one and a half more children than the general population. This may be because we tend to view children as more of a blessing than others do or because we find additional children to be less of a strain on our finances (no daycare expenses because Mom is home anyway and they can live in cheap play clothes instead of having to have the latest fashions.)

I have found a few strategies that have helped me. First of all, read the preceding section on decluttering and do it. It makes a big difference. And anyway, the more children you have the fewer toys each child needs. They have each other which is better than any toy could ever be.

Secondly, I mark all of each child’s belongings. Boys get O’s, girls get X’s. The oldest gets one, the second gets two, and so on. So my oldest son has O on each of his toys, pieces of clothing and school things. My second son has OO on everything, and my third son has OOO. I know in an instant who left their Hot Wheels in the hall and even a six year old can sort clean laundry into the correct basket if they are marked for each child also. 

And no fights over what belongs to whom.

I do not believe in forcing children to share their own toys. We have few “family toys” so nearly everything belongs to someone. 

As an adult, I don’t have to share my belongings if I don’t want to. If the law said that my neighbor could come into my yard and take my car anytime he wanted to, (“plbbbttt! I got it first!”) I would not feel like it was my car and I would do everything I could to stop him, even going outside the law. 

I am more willingly share my belongings when I feel I have the right to say yes or no. 

The same applies to children. 

In our home, no one is allowed to play with a toy that is not his without permission. They each have the right to say no and not share if they don’t want to. 

None of them have been very old before they figured out that it was to their benefit to share (“Sure you can play with my GI Joe if I can play with your new helicopter.”) They also discover (with a little encouragement) that it feels good to share and they learn to respect private property. (Of course I insist on tolerance for babies that haven’t learned any better yet.) 

I don’t allow them to take toys away if someone is playing without permission. They must come to me and I enforce the law, just as a policeman would do, or they are both in trouble.

Tattling is not allowed as it divides siblings and ruins relationships. Tattling is defined as telling on someone for the purpose of getting them in trouble. A legitimate complaint such as being hurt or the other child invading one’s private property, are not tattling. Neither is telling because someone is doing something dangerous (again, compare it to adult behavior; "my neighbor is littering his lawn" will be met with irritation by the police. "My neighbor stole my vacuum and is fixing to hit someone with it." will be taken care of.)

I have each child take a week’s turn being my helper. This gives me time with that child, they get a few extra privileges (such as the blue plate at dinner, and picking first choice for nap time and reading places), and they learn a few extra skills I would not have time to teach them otherwise, (such as making bread in our bread machine.)

We keep our computer and TV in the busiest part of our house, not in some secluded room away from everyone else. There is no sneaking around or doing anything you are not supposed to because everyone can see what you are doing at all times. This completely eliminates a whole host of potential problems.

I love the line towards the end of the book Cheaper By The Dozen (A family with twelve children. Book is a true story and totally different from the recent movie.) “Dad only had twelve children and Mom had twelve only children.” 

I heard of another family of twelve where, after the parent’s death, the children had a family reunion. One (now grown) child sheepishly admitted he had always known he was his parent’s favorite. His siblings replied with indignation and amazement. “You couldn’t have been, because I was mom and dad’s favorite!” Turns out each child thought they were their parent’s favorite. Now that is some good parenting! My goal in life!

I have only ever had two negative comments about the size of my family. Most of the time, when someone asks if they are all mine, they really want to tell me about them being the youngest of nine or the middle of seven or the oldest of twelve; or that they wanted more but couldn’t have them... Every one of them says it was a blast growing up in a large family.

If children are a gift of God as the Bible says (Psalms 127:3), than those with many children are being trusted with a very special gift. It is an honor to be picked out to bring up so many precious little children. We must trust God to help us raise them in the way He wants them to go. He will help us. He has helped others do the same thing. And we certainly won’t suffer from boredom.

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