Today I have another treat for you! My friend Sherry, a homeschooling mom of 15, is sharing one of her best large family mom tricks to keep her ship running, automation. Sherry is an encouragement and I’m sure you’ll enjoy what she shares with us today! ~ Jamerrill
Automation: A Must for Large Family Moms
As a homeschooling mom of 15 children, people are always asking me, “How do you do it all?” To which I reply,
I’m just like any other mom. I don’t have eight arms and eyes in the back of my head. I don’t have 36 hours each day, and I am not an endowed with the strength of Wonder Woman. If I took inventory, this would be the sum total of my entire stock:
God in me.
That’s it. No special gifting or talents. No particular inclination to large family life from a young age. No family background of hugely successful large family living. It’s all Him gifting and qualifying me as I go along.
One of the ways He does this is to change my mind, to change my patterns of thinking so that I can make the best use of what I have in my hand. This is truly a miracle, since we all have brains that are subject to the destruction of this fallen earth. Truthfully, a continuous study of God’s Word has made all the difference in the way I think, and then makes all the difference in the creative ideas that come to my mind.
Among these creative ideas are ways to streamline my life and make the best use of the time and energy I do have at my disposal. In order to do this I have to live by certain principles which help minimize time/emotion/strength drain and aid me in making decisions and plans. They are:
Since I know you are probably dying to know what in the world I mean by all this, I would like to take a few posts to explain. Today I would like to begin with the area most moms feel very guilty about using.
When it comes to large family entertainment, everyone loves the movie Cheaper by the Dozen. Our family has watched it numerous times (a conservative number of views would be around 20).
One of the things I always watched it for was to find out how the mom managed to keep her house clean, her children neat (even down to dressing them in uniforms) and had time to participate in Mr. Gilbraith’s business.
Then I would become slightly depressed when I realized the Gilbraiths had…wait for it…
A housekeeper! And not the once-a-week kind, either. This lady lived with the Gilbraiths, made all of the meals, washed the dishes, even did the cloth diapers (this I found out from reading the book by the same title)! No wonder the mom had time to travel and give lectures with her husband.
For a while I actually prayed for a housekeeper, or some kind of help, myself. After all, our children are spaced an average of 18 months apart, meaning I was almost always caring for a baby and a whole parcel of little ones while pregnant. The demands of my life often threatened to outstrip my strength.
Well, instead of giving me a live-in maid (thank God He gives us the desires of our hearts, and not the desires of our lips!), He gave me wisdom. This wisdom is of a very particular type. It is the sort that says, “Find the simplest, easiest way to do things.”
So this is what He has led me to do:
What exactly do I mean when I say, “Automation”? Specifically this:
Did you catch that–“reducing human [mom] intervention to a minimum.”
That’s my goal. There are definitely things I need, and want, to be directly involved in. However, if I try and keep my finger touching every. last. detail. of our lives, I find that I actually neglect the most important parts.
Yes, I have servants, they are just different types, such as:
I pray for the best, most efficient washer, dryer, and dishwasher we can afford. I have a vacuum cleaner for each of the three floors of our house (no dragging a machine up and down the stairs). I have a food processor, and a huge mixer. For homeschooling, I have an office quality printer/copier so I don’t have to go out to make copies.
This means I often swim against the current. For instance, I used disposable diapers for the last 12 of our 15 children. I buy water in individual bottles. We eat hotdogs at least twice a week, along-side pre-made French fries. I am not opposed to buying pre-cut veggies or paper cups and plates if I need them. Home-made fried chicken is the best, but store-bought (with premade potato salad) does just as fine for picnics.
My phone–I take advantage of the alarms, the reminders, the timer, and every app that makes my life just a little easier.
I have even been known to cut corners on our holiday feasts. Especially when we are dealing with a new baby, illness, or any other life-change, pre-baked pies, canned corn, store-made rolls, and stove-top stuffing are just the thing to keep a family satisfied and a tired mom happy.
When I shop, I use the free services provided, such as Sam’s Club Pickup and Walmart’s Store Pickup. I reserve my books at the library so all I have to do is pick them up.
As far as homeschooling goes, there are numerous online learning services I have used, such as typing tutors, Khan Academy, Duolingo, and Xtra Math.
I try to streamline routine tasks as much as possible. We have a flow to our days, no matter what activities are going on. Everyone knows we will be cleaning ourselves, our rooms, and our beds before we will start projects or do anything else. And we have a set way we clean things, such as having permanent assignments for who will do the dishes or vacuum the stairs. This way there are no surprises or guessing or asking mom, “What am I supposed to do?” or having someone lurk on a device and pretend they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing. (A place for everyone and everyone in their places).
I also try and have stations set up for things we do routinely. there are cupboards and draws set aside for baking, with flour, rolling pin, baking soda, etc. right there within easy reach of each other to save wasted motion. The coffee maker is right next to the toaster and bread box. The mugs are in the cupboard directly above, and the coffee, sugar, and creamer are in the cupboard below.
I like using the McGuffey readers because they offer a most excellent and almost complete language arts program that I don’t even have to think about. I just assign one lesson after the other and the children become competent readers and writers almost effortlessly.
I do love my planner. In fact, I’m sort of a planner addict. Whenever I am in a store or online planners make me giddy! Thankfully, I have this thing called “self-control” (a fruit of the Spirit, see Galatians 5:22-23), so I have been able to keep myself to using only one planner at a time 🙂
My current one is filled with finances, homeschool, and life (such as schedules and appointments). It is also where I keep track of my business online. I automate my life with this tool by planning out my days, usually either the night before or second thing in the morning (first thing is the Word and prayer). It’s so liberating to know what I need to get done when.
Now, before you start wondering how I have everything handled so well and can get so much accomplished, I would like to make some important confessions:
- My gardens are for fun, but I don’t grow food for the family.
- I don’t bake my own bread (well, occasionally, when we are hungry for it).
- I don’t make my own clothes (thrift store finds are almost always cheaper).
- If a thrifted piece of clothing needs a button or a stitch or two, I give it away (I make exceptions for items that are excellent or cherished).
I am not really a purist, except in my faith. You know, I’m not married to being crunchy or anything else, really. I have definite goals, but they are linked to eternal values rather than trends or the fears of society. If God leads me to do something specific for our health, I will comply. Other than that, I am more of a pragmatist. If it works, I’m all for it!
Of course, there is a balance!
I weigh the costs carefully. I try and look at the big picture of my life. If I am relying too much on automation, I assume I am losing focus, either doing too much or too little, and I begin to reevaluate and cut back. I often find it is due to too many distractions or not being willing to engage my children to do a healthy amount of work for their own good and the good of others.
So, don’t be ashamed when you purchase the occasional ready-made-meal or have someone else shop for your groceries. This means you will have more time and energy to sit and actually listen to your husband or play a game of checkers with your little treasures.
You might even be able to fit in that much-needed nap!
Sherry Hayes is the homeschooling mom of 15 children. She lives at the foot of the Rocky Mountains where she walks with Jesus and shares His abundant life with her husband, David. Besides laughing with her family, some of her favorite things are long walks, vintage learning, and all things creative. For more of what she’s up to, click over to her blog, Mom Delights.