See Part 1 for the introduction to this series.
In Part 1 about raising six kids, I talked about finances. That's only part of the battle. A lot of what makes raising so many kids difficult is the sheer logistics of it all. From soccer to choir to parent-teacher conferences to birthday parties ... heck, just getting them ready in the morning is an exercise in logistical planning and execution.
My solution? Well, I don't have simple answers, but I can share what has helped keep me and my wife sane.
Organizing and Scheduling Six Kids
- The One Calendar that Unites them All. My wife and I used to have separate calendars, along with multiple school calendars, sports schedules, notices for school, and more. The side of our fridge was covered with these schedules, and it was a challenge to remember everything. Enter: Google Calendar. Now, we enter everything in one calendar. We do have separate sub-calendars for my work, my personal stuff, my wife's stuff, the kids, and my training, but it's all viewable on one calendar. Now, whenever we get a school calendar or sports schedule or notice for something at school, we quickly enter it into Gcal. Same thing with work appointments, meetings, classes, 5Ks and more. Now we can just look at the calendar, from work or home, and see what's going on that day, or the next day.
- Teach them to be self-sufficient. Sure, it's easier and faster to shower them and dress them yourself than to watch them do the same tasks much more slowly and incompetently. But try that with six kids. You'll go crazy. The answer is to teach them to do things themselves. It takes a little more time at first, but within a month, it will more than pay off. Now, our kids can not only shower and dress themselves (and pick out their own clothes) but feed themselves breakfast, clean their rooms, brush their teeth, comb their hair, get their stuff ready, wash their own dishes (well, not the youngest two, but the oldest four). The only thing I do in the morning is fix their lunches, and my wife irons their clothes. My oldest daughter, 13, can iron clothes too, and she has learned to help out with the babies and chores. They can all do chores too, like sweeping and mopping.
- Plan sufficient lead time. We used to think an hour to get ready was enough. And after our two new babies were born, we became late for everything. Now, we give ourselves more than two hours. While we could probably get ready in an hour, now our preparation time is much more relaxed. And we're more on time than before. Usually.
- Make a weekly dinner menu. Yeah, this isn't a new tip, but it's very useful. We plan out the dinners for the week -- and the kids can make suggestions -- and go shopping with that menu in hand, and the ingredients listed out. It also makes things easier come dinner time -- no decisions to make ... just whip out the ingredients and cook it up.
- Plan easy dinners. Anything that takes a lot of time to prepare is too much trouble. Spaghetti, chili, tacos, baked chicken (the healthy version of each) are some of our staples.
- Pack your gear by the door. Having a checklist for soccer gear, or other similar events, is a good idea. And when you're preparing for the upcoming day, start assembling all your stuff by the door, making sure you have everything, so that nothing is forgotten. Forgetting someone's cleats and having to turn the car around to get them is a pain.
- Pack a bag with extra clothes. We keep a small carry-on luggage packed with a couple of changes of clothes and underwear for each child stowed away in the car. If there's an accident, or some of the kids want to spend the night with grandparents, that bag will be very handy.
- Have a family meeting. I'll post more about this later in the series, but it's a good idea to have the whole family sit down once a week and talk about any issues that family members have. This communication is key to having a happy family.
- Everyone should eat together. We can't do this every day, but we try to sit down together and have dinner as a family. It's a good time to talk about each person's day.
- Have an inbox, and clear it often. All papers, bills, letters, flyers, schedules, school papers and more go straight into our single inbox. The inbox should be cleared every day or every other day -- just plow through it, one item at a time, making a decision, taking action, filing or trashing each item right away. Don't put it off or stuff will pile up!
- Teach the kids that everything has a place. Each thing in your home should have a "home". Teach the kids where that home is, and get them in the habit of putting it in its home. They'll never get perfect at it, but the more that everybody does this, the fewer things get lost. Also, clean as you go to keep the house fairly clean at all times.
- Declutter often. Get rid of the junk in your closets, that clutter up the house, that clutters the garage. Have regular decluttering days. Teach them to give away toys and clothes to charity. It's also a good idea to clear out old toys every time they get new ones on birthdays and especially Christmas.