I get asked a lot of questions, about living with eight kids and homeschooling and life in general, via email and just lately on instagram… some of them are easy, some of them are awkward and some, I discard as they arrive. But I thought I would gather up a few of them and answer them as best I could…
Se7en + 1 Reader Questions…
- This is our Top Instagram Question at the Moment: “Whatever Happened to Hood #1?”
- How do you Cope When the Neighbours Disrupt School?
- How Old are your Kids when they Start Chores?
- How Do you Find Time to Clean your House and do School?
- What do you do when your Children Refuse to Hike, Go to Bed, do their Schoolwork?
- What is our Morning Routine like?
- How do you survive on a single income?
- Do You Ever Run Out Of Things to Blog About?
There has been a noticeable gap in our instagram feed as most of our outings and hiking happen during the week and towards the end of last year Hood #1 slipped seamlessly from school into a summer job and then into college. On the one hand it was all a bit of a surprise, I was just teaching him to read a year or two back (time literally flies) and on the other hand it wasn’t as big a deal as everyone said it would be, for anyone… it was time and it is his season to spread his wings. He is loving college, there is lots to learn and friends to be made, what’s not to love? Of course we miss him on our outings, but he is still very much around and a big part of our lives. I know for parents of little people it is hard to believe, but your kids will grow up. It appears that the jump from traditional schooling to real life is a fairly large one, with a distinct school leaving event and closure, before you launch onwards… well with homeschooling it appears that the transition is slightly seamless. From a lifestyle of learning at the kitchen table or the couch, the transition to learning at lectures hasn’t really changed this students heart for learning, or his desire to share what he has learnt. So hood #1 has neither vanished, nor fallen off the earth, but while we are out adventuring in the middle of the week he is in lectures.
This was an unusual question… because right now our neighbours are the least disruptive ever. That being said the hardest neighbours for us to homeschool along side were actually homeschoolers. Their kids were up way before ours and while they did a couple of workbooks and watched a lot of educational videos… it wasn’t the same style of school as ours. Honestly, our school can linger for hours because we have discovered a book we can’t stop reading or an art project becomes an all day project and we won’t even mention science days. Our schedule is a very relaxed one, loosely fitted around meals… So it is very difficult to have small people at your front door or window asking, “Are you done yet?” because the answer is almost always, “No, we are not done learning yet!!!” What I did create to ease the obvious differences in learning style was create an hour or two one or two afternoons a week… when we were open for play. And if we did do something outdoors, and we tend to live outdoors, then we had to accept that we would have small (and mostly) disruptive guests along. The battle was continuous and relentless with their small children wanting to play at our house long before I had had my first coffee every day, there were more than a few days when I was overwhelmed and had to literally remind myself, out-loud, to be gracious. Seasons change… and neighbours move on, or ours tend to(!!!), so don’t let the neighbours be the deciding factor in any of your real life decisions…
I have written a series on chores before… but let’s see, I cannot remember a time when my kids didn’t have a few household jobs. Chores are part of the culture of being a family, they give us all a sense of belonging… I want my kids to have ownership of their place in their home and chores are the way that we achieve that. We aren’t perfect at them, and I fail at consistency often, but just by having chores in place means that we have set a standard… dinner doesn’t happen until the laundry is done, breakfast doesn’t happen before beds are made and so on. Honestly, if your kids are old enough to unpack anything then they are old enough to pack it back… and I have never known a one year old who didn’t like sorting, sort the recycling into the right box… tots love mud, give them the job of putting veggie peels on the compost pile… it doesn’t take too much creative thought to connect the right kid with the right chore. And honestly, if they can drive an iPad they can figure out how any appliance works… the washer for instance is a fairly easy machine to work. The younger your kids start helping the better, they see it as a way of life… there is nothing quite as helpful and energetic as an enthusiastic toddler… (or unhelpful depending how good you are at assigning chores).
I stopped trying to clean and do school ages ago, school time is for school time… not for social media, and certainly not for cleaning. It doesn’t take long to clean our house and because we have a team we can literally do it in mad dash twenty minutes: One person gets the bathroom, one person sweeps all the dirt into little piles and another scoops that up… and so it goes. Our home is far from perfectly clean, but we do like to keep it visitor ready. We have keep our home fairly tidy because for ten of us, the space is pretty small… you have to clean up from breakfast to do school, you have to pack away your school work to have lunch, because it all happens at the same table. So keeping it tidy is a good place to start with keeping the house clean, it is so much easier to quickly sweep the floors of a tidy house, than to sweep the floors of a messy home. We tend to avoid creating galactic messes, rather than spending time cleaning… So we clean as we go, we have zones for everything: we only ever eat in the kitchen or outdoors, we only ever play with LEGO in one room, we only ever do arts and crafts in the kitchen. And otherwise get rid of all the stuff. The more stuff you have, the more mess you have and the harder it is to clean. Forget about Marie Kondo here, we are talking about survival, toss everything and thank me later. Without a doubt the less stuff you have the easier it is to clean, and nothing sparks joy if you have to continuously shuffle it around to clean.
My kids don’t refuse to do stuff… it just wouldn’t occur to me that they would, and so I don’t think it would occur to them. (However, they may choose to ignore me… but that wasn’t the question!!!) Of course they want to go to bed, I am most likely reading a good book to them; not to mention taking a nap while they drift off to sleep next to me. Of course they want to go hiking… I just can’t imagine saying, “Anyone for a walk?” And nobody joining me… I am not in that space yet… maybe when our kids are older and they would rather collapse on the couch, but at this stage every body wants to do stuff. Okay, they may refuse to do math, or a certain aspect of school… but most of their work is interest driven and so they want to do it, they get up in the morning wanting to carry on from where they were the day before. And nearly all their school they eventually get around too. Like all of us, they all have their pet downfalls, some of them are notoriously bad at doing their particular chore… but there is a domino effect and when one thing stops working, then other things stop working… a chore undone, inevitably means that the next meal will be be late, which means that the culprit will be very unpopular. I am patient, I am not in a rush, I can generally wait!!!
Well, this is an interesting question and you are about to discover that I am not a shining example of pre-dawn productivity… I know all the world’s go-getters are up before dawn with incredible routines: exercise, journaling, yoga and meditation, and more… but I am not a go getter, I am just a mom. I am the mother that firmly believes: never wake a sleeping baby. And that quickly became: never wake a sleeping child, and well teenagers… they don’t wake up in the early morning and that’s fine with me. So… we rouse about eight or 8:30, and there is a deep respect for those that are sleeping in our house, you may not wake anyone for any reason, unless you want to sweep the driveway on your own (for some reason this is dreaded above all dreadful things!!!). If you absolutely cannot remain in bed another minute… then you may go to the couch and read a book… but most folk tend to stay in bed until we are all awake. Otherwise, the morning begins the night before with leaving the kitchen clean and tidy, and if the washer is full then a load of laundry gets done while we are sleeping. So upon waking there are dinner dishes from the night before to pack away and laundry to hang, while breakfast is made. I have to have a plan for breakfast or everything fall apart… but mostly I have a plan and we are good to go. By breakfast time: chores are done, beds are made and kids are dressed and I do none of that… haven’t for years. Even the smallest person can pull a duvet straight and dress themselves, maybe with a little help from an older sibling, but they definitely don’t need help from me. From Breakfast we slide into our family school and so the day rolls on from there and usually by nine-o’clock we are all up and going. I have to say that I would never have to chosen to homeschool because mornings are so much easier, but after adding new babies into our family and the associated late nights, not to mention blogging… I am very grateful for our slow starts that we could never achieve if I had to get eight kids into four or five different schools each morning.
This question is usually followed by a “Oh, you blog, you must earn buckets.” Hmmm I do blog, it is work… but no I don’t earn an income from it, not even coffee money. I do occasionally earn outings to events that my kids would never have the opportunity to go to otherwise. So blogging has bought my kids fun opportunities, a trip to the movies once or twice and so on. Back to “How do you survive on one-income… it is tricky, it is sometimes really tight… harder than you can imagine, and yet we always seem to make it through. Our kids find themselves living in a land where a lot of their friends have way more than they do, in terms of stuff, activities, holidays and so on… and other friends who have way, way less. They can see the best and worst of both worlds… Turns out that heaps of belongings and extramural and nearly all the outings and functions that are considered essential to life, one can quite easily live without, in fact most of the world lives without them. Many of our lifestyle choices are made because they are good choices and often those choices turn out to be more economical choices.
So where do we cut down on costs: We seek out free opportunities and activities for our kids, our family activities are all free… hiking free trails, reading library books, and trips to the beach are all free. We have our food budget down to a fine art, cooking from scratch is a lifestyle choice and it turns out to be more economical. But we do have lean weeks from time to time… my kids call them rice weeks, for obvious reason. We have a fairly small house and our kids all share rooms, they don’t have a lot of space for stuff, and I don’t want to spend my life organising our small space – it is easier to just not have extra stuff. Each child has a shelf of their clothes I wouldn’t want more for them to have to look after: 2 short tops and bottoms and two long tops and bottoms, pretty much does it. Definitely no piles of anything, no seasonal clothes put aside, what you see is what they have and there is enough. They can’t wear more than one outfit at a time anyway. Shoes are another story… I pray for shoes!!!
Other lifestyle choices may have been forced on us and have turned out to be good ones… When our car broke down a few years back, like most people in the world, we couldn’t just replace it… we had two years to learn to live without a car… and we will never look back. Now we use our car at most once a week… and choose to walk everywhere. And just before you think you couldn’t possibly survive without a car, imagine
no squabbling over who sits where… every.single.time.you.go.out. Another life style choice is homeschooling… homeschooling turns out to be drastically cheaper for us than other schooling would be, especially since our kids down the line use most of the same resources; It turns out that single income living demands a certain lifestyle, but it is the lifestyle we would choose even if we had two incomes. We don’t have any magical tricks on how to transform money into masses of money, but I think being content with what you have and not bothering about what the proverbial neighbours are doing goes a long way to making your single salary stretch.
Never, ever. Ever. We blog about our life and times… the projects that we are working on and outings that we have done lately. We seem to always be doing something, learning something and somehow creating heaps of blog post ideas as we go along. It helps to have readers ask questions, because then I know what they want to be reading… but mostly the story of our life and times just keeps on flowing, and the blog just keeps on blogging. Life with eight kids does mean that there is never, ever a dull moment!!! If you would like to ask us questions, feel free to ask away… I will make every effort to answer as best I can!!!