How to Manage a Large Family (plus Home school!)

By Melissa Martin

Meet an ambitious mother of eleven children who also home schools her brood.  If you’ve ever thought of having a large family or home schooling your kids you’ll appreciate the wisdom and experience Melissa brings to the table.

1. Did you always want a large family?

  Growing up, I always wanted to have 3 children, just like my parents. I started my marriage with 2 step-children from my husband's first marriage. When we had our first child, I had made it to 3 already. Reaching my desire to have 3 natural born children, we had 5 children altogether. One more in the house didn't seem to matter. Now, as a mother of 11 children, I am glad I had more than 3. I couldn't imagine life without any one of my blessings.

2. What is the most difficult aspect of having nine children?

  When they get sick. It usually starts with one and takes a week or more to pass through the family. The already large work load increases. Less help is had and there is even more cleaning, more laundry and more dishes needing to be done. We have been blessed that they don't get sick too often.

3. What is the most rewarding aspect of being a mother to nine children?

     Knowing that I am making a positive impact on the world. Raising 11 children to hopefully be good, honest, hard working citizens. Seeing the children grow and mature into such special unique individuals. Each child has different talents and gifts. As they grow older and begin to make their way into the world, it is so cool to see all of our hard work producing good fruit. They are something to be proud of.

4. Has being a mother become easier or more difficult with time?

   I think it has become easier with time. Wisdom comes with age. There are new challenges and questions every day, but I have learned that I can only do so much. The rest is up to God. Tomorrow is another day.

5. What, in your opinion, is the most challenging age when raising a child and why?

 Everyone has heard of the "terrible twos" or the "terrible teens." Not in our family. The most challenging age for us has been the "trying threes." This seems to be the age where they are caught between wanting to grow up and still wanting to be babies. Our youngest is 3 now and she can really be a handful at times. 

6. What are the most important considerations for a woman who wants to have a large family?

 Do you love your job? Of course you love your children, but do you love being a mother? Is there nothing else you would rather do? A family of any size is a lot of work. Having a large family super-sizes everything. Meal planning, cooking, cleaning, laundry, playing, loving, fretting, etc. It is a full time job with lots of overtime.


7. Do you ever just want to run away from home?  (Seriously, does it ever become too overwhelming?).

 Of course! There are days where I think I must be crazy to think I can handle raising this many children. It is only by the grace of God that I make it through each day. The work is never ending but the blessings are too. 

8. Why did you decide to home school?

 I was home schooled the last two years of high school and knew then that I wanted to home school my children someday. There are many reasons. Most importantly, I believe  it is my responsibility. According to scripture, I am responsible for the training of my children. I want to impart my worldview to my children and not leave it up to someone else. They are well rounded socially. My kids have friends from ages 9 months to 90. I get to spend quality time with my children. They can explore areas of interest. We enjoy the flexibility of schedules. And the list goes on. 

9. Is it difficult teaching to so many different grade levels?

We do a lot of learning through everyday living. Learning how to balance a checkbook, looking up where a certain country is on the map after hearing something on the news or listening to Grandpa talk about how life was during the Great Depression. It's always fun and educational to go on a trip to a National Park or visit a museum. Some subjects are taught together. Everyone can enjoy a literature book or history story together. Doing a science project together as a family is exciting. Then there is independent learning. In subjects like Math, they work through the lessons on their own and come to me for help when they don't understand a particular concept.

10. How do you keep the family organized (school, meals, laundry, etc.)?

 We post a monthly family calendar with pictures (for the non-readers), work schedules and events on it. Everyone does their share with the work. They take turns making meals for the family. All of the kids cook. Even the 3 year-old can fix an egg or grilled cheese by herself. They all do their own laundry as soon as they can reach their clothes out of the wash machine. They each have a "dish day" in which they are in charge of doing all of the dishes. Each one has a common room to maintain. They have to keep it picked up daily and super clean it weekly. The grocery shopping list is divided up when we go to the store together. They have a schedule for school work and are expected to accomplish the assignments.

11. Do you and your husband get any alone time?  Do you have to schedule it?

 Now that some of the kids are older, we do get time alone more often. It usually involves a trip to Menards or the grocery store together. We even get away for an  overnight alone once in awhile. It was harder when they were all young. Often times the baby would be brought with while the others were cared for by grandparents. And yes, sometimes we just have to put something on the schedule. 

12. What mothering wisdom have you learned over the years?  Can you share a few mothering tips?

 1. Follow your heart. If it breaks your heart to listen to your newborn crying in the crib, pick him up and enjoy the short time he will want to be held in your arms and snuggled.

2. Take time. Life is short. Stop doing the dishes and look your child in the eyes and really listen when they are trying to tell you something. 

3. Do the best you possibly can and don't compare yourself to someone else.

 4. Make lots of good memories. These don't have to cost a lot of money. They will last a lifetime and be worth every minute.