By Guest Blogger Elizabeth Ruiz

It seems that everywhere I go I get stares, looks, comments, pointing, and the occasional under-breath snicker.  Do I invoke curiosity?  Do others look my way and feel wonder?  Believe me, probably all those feelings and more!  You’d think I was pretty special.  In a society where having 3 kids means having a big family, my crew of 8 kids is head turning!!  Welcome to my world!  We are a Catholic, homeschooling family of 8 kids ranging from toddlers to teens and everything in between.  We think large, travel large, and definitely live large.  How do we manage?  What does raising a large family look like?  I’m here to answer the most common questions I get and put your curiosity to rest.

Of course, no two days are alike.  There is always something to throw you off your schedule; but the key to bouncing back and staying on top of things is flexibility.  Routines are essential in a big family and habits are crucial.  Having a detailed hourly schedule for every member of the family (that includes the 1-year-old, too) is indispensable.  But regardless of the organization, the detailed plans, the bulleted lists – you’ll be drowning in frustration if you aren’t flexible enough to deal with whatever life throws at you.  And believe me, with eight children, life will throw plenty your way!

The fact that I homeschool always throws people off, too.  Believe me, I fantasize about dropping my kids off at some imaginary school and not being responsible for them for eight whole hours.  But then reality hits and I have three kids asking for their assignments for the day, while the two others are begging for me to never do grammar ever again.  Yes, I realize I chose this life and in all honesty, I love teaching my kids!  But homeschooling also means that my busy schedule just got busier.  There are books to organize, lessons to prepare, teaching to do, and papers to grade.

When you are teaching six different grade levels while keeping a toddler and baby entertained, you realize how easy it was back in the day when you only had five kids.  But then you also discover just how awesome and independent kids can be.  They adapt, learn to depend on themselves, and often become little teachers to their siblings, which shows true mastery of material.  I can’t remember the last time I had to teach a kid their shapes, colors, or addition math facts.  A lot of the basics are learned by watching others, listening in on lessons, and just day to day living.  When your school is your home, the learning never stops.

Life with a big family would be so easy if all we did was stay at home all day, every day.  But gone are the days of the secluded and disconnected homeschooler.  Now there are co-op classes to attend, practices to go to, and private lessons to prepare for.  Teen groups, play groups, book clubs, and friends take up almost as much time.  Multiply all these activities by eight children and you could easily find yourself drowning with things to do and people to see.  Being selective keeps me from turning into a full-time chauffeur, while still giving my kids plenty of things to do outside of the home.  Lucky for me, once my kids are all grown-up, I’m sure I’d make an excellent Uber driver!

But what about the real nitty-gritty stuff – meal times, chores, and all the little things in-between?  I do have to admit that things don’t always run smoothly.  There is always someone complaining that life isn’t fair, someone that doesn’t want to do their chores, and sibling arguments erupt sporadically over the course of the day.  Looking for shoes?  Most people have piles of unmatched socks.  Me?  I have piles of unmatched shoes to go with that.  Meal times consists of lots of food over a big table, but I insist on good manners and participation.  After dinner, the cook gets to relax while the rest of the family closes the kitchen (this means everything gets cleaned-up and put away).  In the end, it all gets done.  If you set high expectations for your kids, you’ll definitely get better results than if you set the bar too low.

Life in a family of ten is never dull.  There are messes to clean up, lots of food to cook, and the laundry pile is as tall as my house.  But I’m happy that my kids will always have someone to talk to and a whole team to always cheer them on.  They are each a blessing to me and each other.