When I had so many small ones — at one time four children 6 and under — we had to be pretty scheduled just to keep up with cooking, laundry, etc., and accomplish school.
I recall perhaps not perfectly, but close:
Up, dressed, chores done and then breakfast served by 8:30. Breakfast was always something good, so there was an added incentive to do what you needed to do by 8:30. Chores were vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning the bathroom, dusting, putting out the trash, straightening bookshelves, picking up kindling or trash in the yard, working in the garden. I’d switch them up sometimes. Add in cleaning out the fridge, folding the laundry and putting it away or any special chores that only needed doing occasionally — cleaning the car!
After breakfast, everyone to the living room for Bible together, then I would read to them. Usually from the classics: Silas Marner, The Scarlet Letter, The Count of Montie Christo, etc. Often lighter stuff like the Hobbit or something by Mark Twain. I LOVED this time! I got to read good books and get school credits at the same time.
Then each dispersed to their own school work and I took care of whoever wasn’t school age yet and did my own work. That depended on the time of year . Summer held no school, but lots of gardening, and the kids had added chores. They would help in the garden for up to 1/2 hour at a time, but most of the day was their own. We were busy with camp and they helped with that. We lived on a 500 acre campground, so believe me, when there was no camp and chores were done, my kids kept busy, active and healthy and had a blast!
But during the school year . . . they went to do their own subjects, then broke for lunch. Everyone washed their own breakfast and lunch dishes PLUS two more. If they forgot to do their own dishes, I would call them back and they would do their own PLUS six more! That cut down on my dish doing I loved it when they forgot!
I would often have one or two of the kids who were old enough either watch the baby/toddler so I could make meals or help me in the kitchen with meal prep. We enjoyed this time together. I think I know I did, anyway.
When each child’s school was completed and checked and corrected, their time was their own unless I needed help with something. They didn’t have the option not to help and were trained to obey from a very young age, so I didn’t have to deal with stinky attitudes about helping out with extra stuff. I taught them that everyone had to pull their weight, that I was not a servant though I did most of the home keeping of course, but that we were in this together. This early training made a huge difference in making things more peaceful.
If a child occasionally experimented and tried to argue with me, I would tell them, “I don’t have to argue with you about this.” Or “I’ve told you the answer, so I’m done talking about it.” or “Begging won’t change a no to a yes.” Always calmly, and then I’d turn my attention to something else. This worked well to quell arguing. I suppose it sounds disrespectful? Not sure. My tone was not snotty, just matter of fact.
So far, if it sounds like we had everything under control always, we didn’t. None of us being perfect, you now. But it was peaceful a lot of the time, and people would comment that my kids were polite and well behaved even in our home. We treated them respectfully and make them treat us that way, too.
We had a blast, though. Lots of fun and kidding around. I loved their pretend and encouraged it. Loved the tents and forts. Love playing store even if it turned my living room and pantry area upside down for a while. I loved to help them set up tea parties for each other and cook with them.
We provided lots of creative stuff, but few toys. They had Legos, books by the 100′s, craft supplies — paper, glue, paints, construction paper, etc., modeling clay, material, and more. Some things could be gotten out whenever, some had to be asked for. That was so I knew who had the stuff out and could follow up on clean up if I needed to. Some times one child would make quite a lego mess, and in the last couple minutes another would come to play too, then the one who made the biggest mess and got the stuff out would say the other child was responsible or something. See? Not perfect . So I would make the other child help a bit, then the main messer would do the rest.
Clay and messy supplies were played with only at the kitchen table or outside.
Christmas time brought masses of cheap toys from extended family. I would let the kids have the main ones, but spirit away the little junk stuff. I would remind them that it would be all over their bedroom floors, they wouldn’t really want to play with it, but would get it out and then have to clean it up. I asked them to REALLY think about whether they wanted something or not, and then we’d get rid of a lot of it. I was respectful of their decisions if they decided to keep something.
Off and on I had a $.50 basket in the living room. If they left toys out, they went in the $.50 basket. If they wanted them back, they had to pay for them or work for them. That made them see whether they valued a toy or not. We got rid of stuff this way, too.
The older kids did the supper dishes. The smaller ones might play outside or I would read to them or they would play indoor games. We didn’t watch tv much. We did have one and my dh watched it a LOT untl 1993. Then we just watched news and special things like the Olympics. (Back to the present — we still don’t watch any weekly network fictional shows, but pbs is on a LOT. And we still watch the news, special stuff and . . . . WHEEL OF FORTUNE! And Biggest Loser )
The kids and I would often take walks in the evening — if it was getting dark out and we could see the moon — so much the better. I would sing a spooky song, we would tell jokes, stories about the day, whatever. Loved those times so much. Training would take place. Someone would say, “Wait while I . . . . “ I never wanted them to make people wait unless it was for a good reason. Not just on our walks, but in everything. If they NEEDED us to wait — tripped, lost a shoe, no problem. And if anyone wanted to wait for them, they could. But they learned that it’s not polite to keep people waiting for a frivolous thing, and we still had a blast. They could and did always catch up and no feelings hurt along the way.
I saw just about everything as an opportunity for training. Didn’t always do it right, often screwed up and had to apologize, wish I could redo some stuff, but I’m just telling mainly the things that worked. I really wanted our children to A. Be thoughtful of others and respectful and B. Keep the inside of home calm. No yelling or running inside — but outside — to your hearts content! And so our home was quite peaceful USUALLY for a family of 9. Then there were the times when Jake showed me tricks on the skateboard in the livingroom, Zeke jumped over a chair and bit through is tongue, Miranda fell over the back of a chair and split the corner of her eye open . . . etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. But those times made great stories! Right?
My dh cared for us well financially, loved us to death, but didn’t spend much time with me raising children. He worked full time and made knives all evening and weekend and watched tv. A good man, and I don’t wish any to disrespect him for this. I think this is probably normal, though I fought it inside until finally I realized that he didn’t have to meet my expectations and frankly COULDN’T meet all my needs, and I let him be himself and I let me be myself, and that was AWESOMELY freeing ! I just say this because I pretty much raised our children except I had not worries financially for anything. We lived on little, but I could squeeze a penny until Lincoln screamed! So we lived very, very well, I think. And had fun.
BUT Again — not to paint too rosy of a pix. When I was pregnant each time I was a worn out rag doll and things would go downhill. I would drag myself off the couch to do bare minimums. Sometimes I would just feel like giving up, but thankfully, I could tell the kids to do whatever I needed them to do and they would do it. And daily chores were still done every day by the kids. It just didn’t cover it all or last all day. One time I remember our house being a pigsty and I didn’t feel like I could do a thing about it. I had lain around for days w/no energy. And then company dropped in. A man my father’s age and his son who had lived in our house before us many years ago. I was completely ashamed and so sad that they had seen our home in shambles. This lit a fire under my tired butt and I found out I could move it even when I felt like I couldn’t . A good lesson. But I went through bad times like this and thinking my dh only wanted me for sex and to make him meals and do his laundry and raise the kids, blah blah blah. I had teenage rebellion BAD with two sons, not with any of the other five children, thank you, Lord. The last ones at home are soon to be 14 and 18, one is 20 and one 22. So I could still eek out a little teen rebellion, but it doesn’t look like there will be any? We’ll see.