(Spoiler Alert: I don’t)
This is a big-picture, mindset type post. If you need specific teaching tips for homeschooling a large family read my article Teaching Multiple Ages and Grades in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, it’s free to read online.
This is one of the first questions I get when meeting new people. Even before they know I homeschool, because I have six kids, the jaw drops and they ask “how”? I smile and laugh, and usually avoid answering the question.
I don’t know if they really want an answer. It is a loaded question. A long answer.
Although I have realized lately, I could answer with one word: rhythm.
But that is not the sort of answer people want, they want nitty-gritty daily life details.
So how do I survive and thrive with so much responsibility on my shoulders?
I don’t do it all.
The truth is, I live in a community. It is called a family. We have a larger family than some, and while this means there is more work to be done to care for our family, it also means there are more members to help with this work.
Moms, we need to view ourselves as directors of our communities. Even if you only have one kid. Even if you are a single mom. Your family is a little community and when you recognize and honor that, a mindset shift makes the impossible become reality.
It is not my job to do all the things. It is my job to make sure all the things get done.
Teaching your kids to actively be a part of your family community is one of the best things you can do for them. Life skills are important, but being part of a community where you are needed and contribute is about more than life skills. It is about being needed, having confidence, learning how to serve, learning how to be served (sometimes this is the lesson us moms need to learn).
Kids who are part of a community are more grateful, naturally, without having to really stop and talk about it.
If you know what a pain it is to do all the dishes, you are grateful when it is not your turn.
If you just spent an hour and a half cooking a nutritious delicious meal, you are grateful that there is someone else to put the food away.
If you mow the lawn while your brother weed wacks, you are grateful you don’t have to do both.
We all have jobs. All the jobs matter. We work together and get it done. This creates a deep bond within the community of your family.
It takes a lot of loads off you. It changes your job. It changes your kids. It changes your family.
Please stop trying to do it all, and instead create systems for getting it all done. Even if you think it is a pain. Even if you know you could do it all faster and better yourself. It is a disservice to your family when you don’t include them in the daily to-dos of life.
I don’t cook breakfast for my kids. They have known how to fry an egg since they were four and everyone feeds themselves for this meal. Lunch is leftovers. I cook dinner a few days a week. The other days are covered by my 11 and ups. When you turn 11 in our house, you are assigned a day where you cook. Mom helps as needed, depending on age, skill level, and recipes. I don’t put food away. I don’t do dishes. I don’t sweep. I don’t wipe the table. I do wipe the counter sometimes. I clean the stove. I clean out the refrigerator. I only clean the master bathroom. I only vacuum my own bedroom. My kids vacuum other places. I decide where things go. I don’t do everyone’s laundry. I do one load a week, for my clothes and my husband’s nice clothes. He washes the rest of his clothes, and each kid has their own basket and washes their own load once a week. When they were too little for this, we all did one load a day together, everyone pulling out their clothes from the load and folding and putting it away themselves (from about age 3 or 4). Only babies can’t fold their own clothes. Everyone doing one load a week is not too much. Me doing 8 loads a week would be too much.
I say all this to give you ideas of what I mean when a say I don’t do it all, but it all gets done. And while it may seem like I work my kids too hard, believe me, they don’t spend that much time on household chores. Just like I don’t spend that much time on household chores. Things stay mostly decent when we all do our job, and if the house devolves into chaos, I call a cleansing day and we all work together for several hours to bring things back to a state of order.
I had no choice in getting my kids involved and teaching them how to cook and clean young. I needed their help. But I am eternally grateful for that need. Because I see something beautiful in my kids as they grow into adolescents and teens, humble confidence. Scrubbing the toilet keeps you humble. Knowing how to take care of yourself keeps you confident.
I couldn’t have known when I had 6 kids ages 8 and under, how much I was developing their character as we emptied that laundry basket together. But I see it now, and I encourage you to spend time focusing on this. No amount of talking about what humility means, or trying to tell your kids to be confident can replace being a needed part of a community, a person who has plenty of practice getting in and doing the job because it needs doing, no matter how gross or dull that job is.
This is life, let them live it.
Do you avoid giving your kids chores, or following through with making them do the chores because of whining? Check out Mom’s Magic Irresponsibility Repentance Machine to find out why my kids don’t whine (most of the time) about the work that needs to be done.