Tips for larger family living

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There’s been a lot of coverage in the news over the last few weeks about large US families, and it’s fair to say that many people are curious about how they run, hence the popularity of TV programmes such as ’19 kids and counting’. Glossing over the many and various religious and political agendas flying around (I coirish-600uld write at least ten polemical posts on all of that, but I won’t), in this post I’d like to peel back the layers a bit of our own household.

We often have anything up to eight people around at home at any one time, and all this needs a careful hand at the tiller in order to prevent chaos. Here are ten ways larger families streamline life to make more time for the important things, such as hanging out with the kids.

1. Try not to do more laundry in a day that you can wash, dry and put away. This avoids your home looking like a refugee camp.

2. If your house looks like a tip, go around with an empty laundry basket and pick up all the rogue items lying around in the wrong place, and put them in it. Then make one of the kids put it all away. Pay them to do this if necessary.

3. If you find a room hard to tidy up, you either have too much stuff or not enough shelving. Sort out either or both of those to remove mess and related energy drain.

4. Children do not need to attend dozens of expensive clubs in order to mature properly, with parents driving them around like wannabe Uber chauffeurs. To simplify children’s extra-curricular lives, allow everyone a maximum of one after school music activity and one sports activity a week, preferably in similar times and locations, and that’s it. If these can take place at their school at minimal cost, so much the better. If they don’t want to do extra-curricular activities, that’s fine. Let them just play out with their friends after school.

5. Your home is not a restaurant. Allow people to eat three square meals a day, the same food at the same time, then the kitchen is closed. No grazing, no picking, no making of mess. If people are hungry between meals, direct them to the fruit bowl, or if they are teenagers or sporty people, allow them to make toast as long as they clear up afterwards. You will save money and a lot of time cleaning if you are suitably draconian about this. It also becomes easier to manage your children’s weight and nutritional intake properly.

6. Specify quiet hours where people need to keep noise and music down in order for everyone to get enough rest. Ours are 9pm to 7am, for example. Yours will depend on the ages of your children, working hours and so on.

7.  When there are a few things that are getting annoying, such as acts of selfishness or rule breaching, we call a family meeting. Everyone sits around the table, we all get refreshments, and we have an agenda. We discuss the points of annoyance and agree a way forward. We then sign a short agreement confirming what has been said.  It works miracles, frankly.

8. If children repeatedly get in trouble with school for forgetting homework, uniform, PE kit, lunch money and so on, make them responsible for the consequences rather than you. After alerting the school to your cunning plan, supply them with a list of what is required on which day, and stick it up somewhere obvious. Do not run into school with forgotten items for them. Allow them to get into trouble and get detentions if necessary. They will soon work out what they need to remember. If you mention this at a parents’ evening consultation, any teacher will back you up. Teachers love nothing more than children learning to take responsibility for their own stuff, supported by parents.

9. There’s a lot to be said for keeping a Box of Last Resort to hand. You can find out how to create one here.

10. When the going gets tough, the tough go out for a family walk. Many arguments and difficulties are caused by sitting around the house too much. Fresh air followed by a hot chocolate or a cup of tea can solve a lot of problems.


2 thoughts on “Tips for larger family living

    Grace said:
    17 February, 2016 at 7:30 am

    very useful tips! I learn a lot about it, it’s not just e thing to raise children! moreover, when a large family is easier in the sense that children are childhood are more independent. in such cases, they may even get an education without going to school! In some cases it is even much better than if they were in school

      Sandra Bradley responded:
      17 February, 2016 at 8:49 am

      To respond to your point about home schooling being better than attending normal school, this can be the case, but that argument needs qualification. In my other job as an international education expert, I recently had cause to analyse a cross-section of representative educational materials used by (mainly) religious US home schoolers. They were very limited in scope and relied on knowledge recall skills to memorise what were pretty dated curriculum concepts, which could then be readily tested by non-experts to confirm that children had, in fact, learned *something*. So the writers had just picked the easy things to teach and taught them simplistically, rather than really engaging with the subject matter and thinking through what children actually *needed*. In particular, the scientific education on offer was completely flawed to the point where it would have been comical, if it wasn’t so serious that children were being so grossly misled and misdirected. In fact it wouldn’t be going too far to say it was peddling utter rubbish disguised as knowledge. The publishers concerned should have been ashamed of themselves, but no, they were raking in the cash on the back end of this. I say this as a committed Christian, by the way, so it is not that I am anti-religious or anything like that.

      All that having been said, if home education is delivered intelligently by people who take the trouble to acquaint themselves with learning pedagogical skills, it can be a useful way of bringing children on as long as socialisation needs aren’t ignored. In other words, it is vital children have the opportunity to engage with others outside the home in a regular, structured way, so they can develop useful dispositions allowing resilience and adaptability in later life. Many parents manage this to good effect. But it only works if parents have had a rigorous education themselves, otherwise knowledge and learning become a rapidly diminishing resource. I have seen this in the case of parents who finished formal education at the equivalent of upper primary or lower secondary level, who in most cases seem poorly equipped to deliver the full range of subject knowledge and learning skills their children need. In such cases I do think there is a role for the authorities in ensuring children aren’t being short changed in educational terms simply because their parents didn’t have a lot of schooling. This should mean offering support in the home environment to ensure children have equal opportunities.

      I will shut up now and put my housekeeping hat back on ;.)

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