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I Hate Large, Homeschooling Familes

by Ian on October 15, 2006

Okay, okay, I admit it. The title was just a ploy to get you here to read this post. Before you pull out the knives, please agree to the following conditions and hear me out.

1) Put aside any personal affront you may take to what I am going to say and ask yourself "Does he make a valid point, in spite of any insult I may take from what is written?"

2) Don't post a reply that consists of some version of "Who does he think he is?" "I can't believe he is so judgmental!" "Does he think his family is above everyone else's?"

3) While it is always nice to read comments that affirm what I write, I am far more interested in hearing from people who can make a valid argument against what I am putting down here.

Agreed? Great. Let's get started.

To any of our friends who read this, please know that we love you, love your families and hope that this post won't do anything to harm that friendship. The only reason I am writing this post is because I truly think that the issue at hand is more important than the feelings that may get hurt.

I started writing this post eight years ago on the night before we moved from Dallas, TX to Denver, CO. That day we had several friends help us pack up a Ryder truck at our apartment and one family with several youngsters stayed for dinner. At this time we didn't have any children but had noticed a general tendency among our friends to be very lax about discipline and in many cases to be oblivious to their kids' behavior. We served pizza for dinner and one or more of the children thought that wiping the pizza on the dining room wall and on a pillow was a perfectly acceptable thing to do with pizza. To the best of my knowledge, the parents never knew this was happening. We took the pizza away from the kids and spent the latter part of evening cleaning the dining room wall (pizza sauce on a white wall) and washing bedding. What struck me about the incident is that the kids did this as if such behavior was normal and that the parents made no effort to keep the kids sitting in a safe place in the house while they were eating.

Over the years, we have witnessed in our own house:

  • company who brought red koolaid in sippy cups that got spilled on our carpets
  • numerous kids who wouldn't eat what was served and complained about the food
  • numerous children who thought that telling their parents "no" was acceptable - and got away with it
  • several occasions where a child would yell at mom, and dad wouldn't correct the child
  • countless instances of "if I have to tell you one more time" or "this is your last chance" when it wasn't and neither were the next dozen times
  • kids who intentionally dumped food on the carpet in front of their parents without any correction
  • parents who let kids wander around with food after we had told the kids to stay in the kitchen to eat
  • a caned headboard destroyed because a child thought it was a great thing to stick a toy sword through. Many times.
  • a bathroom covered with poop. I am not exaggerating, I really mean covered.

All of this I have been able to handle over the years because these things happened in our home and not in public. However, last week I realized that this behavior wasn't confined to the privacy of homes where the general public couldn't see. Last Friday a Mass was celebrated by the bishop for the homeschoolers in our diocese. Apart from the bishop, there were three other priests and a deacon assisting at the Mass. After the Mass, the children descended like a Mongol hoard on the reception tables and carried off plates piled high with what they didn't destroy. By the time the priests and bishop had gotten their vestments off and come out of the sacristy, the reception tables looked like a pack of wolves had been romping on them. After this incident, I decided that it was time to write this post, come what may.
We homeschoolers and we with large families take a certain pride in being "different". Unfortunately, that difference is frequently only visible by the magnified chaos that comes with having five undisciplined children instead of just one. Whether or not you want to admit it, homeschoolers and large families especially are highly visible in public, and people watch you. They watch you for two reasons: to snear or to find hope.

When they see you, which person walks away satisfied? Which one do you want to walk away satisfied? The Bible calls us to be lights on a hill. Pope John Paul II called the Church "a sign of contradiction" and by extension, parents who live out the Church's call of generosity to life and take seriously their call as the first and primary educators of their children are also that sign of contradiction. Can you honestly say that the way your children behave in public and the way you react to their behavior fits with that light on a hill? Is your children's behavior a sign of contradiction in a world where respect, manners and decency have been all but lost?

I would ask, no, plead with you to consider what impact you may have on those you encounter. When that unwed pregnant girl sees you with your five hellions at the grocery store, is she going to think that her boyfriend was right about a visit to Planned Parenthood? When the couple with two kids who is being pressured by their "friends" to "get fixed" see your family, are they more likely to agree with their friends? When the person who hates Catholics, Mormons or Christians in general because they "breed like rabbits" sees your family, are you giving them one more excuse for feeling the way they do?

Or, when those who live in the dreary reality of hedonistic America see your family do they think "This family is different. They have something I want"? Do people come up to you in restaurants and tell you how wonderful it is to see well-behaved children? I don't mean those that say you have a beautiful family, I mean those who specifically mention "well-behaved". Are you actually able to take your children to a restaurant nicer than McDonald's without ruining others' meals?

If you are unsure of the reaction your family provokes, you need to take a serious look at how your kids are being raised. Like it or not, your family is a tool of evangelization and by taking on the responsibility of a homeschooling and possibly large family, you are also taking on the responsibility of being a "poster child" for those actions. I would suggest that the following list is a good "public behavior" standard to work towards. By public, I mean in Church, in society and in friends' homes. I fully understand (from personal experience) that for some reason getting the children to behave as wonderfully at home as they do in public is not always feasible. But I also have yet to meet a family whose children are angels at home but demons in public. What goes on at home always shows in public.

For the kids:

  • I say "please" and "thank you" consistently, and, in general, without prompting.
  • I greet and say goodbye to adults when I see them.
  • I eat what is served without complaining.
  • I don't say "no" to my parents or to hosts when they tell me to do something.
  • I do what I am asked without arguing.
  • I help clean up any toys so that the play area is at least as clean as when I arrived.
  • I do not throw tantrums.
  • I do not break toys or furniture at a host's home. If this happens accidentally, I tell the host right away and apologize.
  • If I am old enough, I help clean the kitchen.
  • I don't constantly ask my parents to buy me things when we are shopping.
  • I do the best I can to help when my parents are running errands.
  • I say "thank you" when I receive a compliment.
  • If my parents say "no" to a request, I say "okay" and don't pout or ask again.

For the parents:

  • I pay attention to what my children are doing. If they are out of sight, I check on them regularly.
  • I do not let my children wander around with food or drinks. I make them eat at the table or I take the food and drinks away.
  • I don't let my children have food or drinks outside of the kitchen that can permanently stain carpets or furniture.
  • If a child tells me "no" I correct him. If he continues to say "no" I start taking away privileges until he either complies or is stuck in a corner for the rest of the visit or we leave.
  • If I make a threat of punishment, I mean it.
  • If I am the father and a child talks back to my wife, I discipline the child.
  • I clean my kids' faces and hands before they leave the table.
  • I make sure that my kids only take what they can eat or I serve them myself.
  • I make sure that clergy are served before my kids.
  • I insist that my children help clean up toys.
  • I do not make excuses for my children's behavior.

Getting to the point when you can be reasonably sure that your children will make a good impression in public takes three things: consistency, resolution and patience. It will not happen right away but if you consistently expect a high standard, your kids will step up. If you mean what you say, your kids will respect you.

In the end you will find that not only do you get a lot more compliments about your family, you will also find taking your family out can be enjoyable.

So what's it going to be? Are you going to be a sign of contradiction? Are you going to be the kind of family that an old couple with fragile antiques and a white carpet would feel safe inviting over for dinner? Are you going to be a ray of hope in a world that despises children? Are you going to be the encouragement a couple needs to be open to life?

I end where I began - by saying that I am not trying to hurt people's feelings, nor am I trying to insult anyone. This issue - Is your family a positive or a negative influence on the culture? - is too important to get tied up in hurt feelings. If we are truly going to build a Culture of Life, we are the ones responsible for making it a place people want to be.

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{ 105 comments… read them below or add one }

Debra Cross April 3, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Rebecca,
Just to respond and I know you wrote last year. You are not a bad mom.
I have a very strong willed 7 year old that throws tantrums. He never get’s
his way and he knows that now. He threw tantrums since 2 years old. My other
2 are less strong willed. They dont get what they want and as they saw that the
tantrums stopped. My 2 year old trys and he goes on his bed and he stops.

I dont think you are a bad mom at all, strong will is strong will.
Kids will try to get what they want even the best kid’s.

You are a mom guiding your kids like we all are and then there will be tantrums.

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Debra Cross April 3, 2007 at 1:41 pm

Rebecca,
I agree be slow to judge and I guess that is what I have been saying
all along. Despite the best efforts to stop the asking for pop’s or bugging
for the desert it is not neccessarily a reflection on parenting.

We must be slow to judge

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Cathy April 12, 2007 at 7:47 am

Unlike many of you, unfortunately I DO find a connection between homeschooling and bratty kids. I personally know WAY too many holier-than-thou Catholic parents who genuinely think that having more children makes you morally better. They then parade them around in public like a sort of Catholic Badge of Honor or something. Ironically, at the same time, like the irresponsible parents in the author’s blog, they can’t be bothered to teach their kids the very basics, like LISTENING TO THE HOSTESS when you’re in her house. I mean, DUH. In contrast, I know plenty of public-school-attending Catholic children with working mothers, whose behavior is exemplary. Their parents are managing to instill the right lessons in these kids even in the relatively little time they are able to spend with them!
One other issue that the author didn’t mention which I’ve encountered with these moral-high-ground types is a failure to send thank-you notes when someone (me) sends the kid a present. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard zilch after mailing a child a gift. When I was a kid I remember that I hated having to write thank-you’s, but my parents rightly made me do it! Is that a no-brainer or what?
In general, as tempting as it is to address my anger to the bratty kid, I try to focus any “punishment” on the parents. So, for example, when one righteous homeschooling family came to lunch and the little angels poured water all over the bookcase AND the books, that was their last invitation to my home–same with the self-satisfied Mom who thought it was cute when her brat decided to pound on my piano with his fists. And when each Mom in turn eventually mentioned that “hey, we ought to do that again some time (hint hint),” I said pretty directly that well, after the mess that I had to deal with last time, I’m not up for it. Of course Mom had conveniently forgotten all about it, so this was a reminder–and a lesson to HER that her own parental actions/omissions have consequences! Ditto with the thank-you cards: certainly I can overlook it here or there but after several years running, gifts from me WILL stop coming. And when Mom casually states that Little Angel hasn’t heard from me in a while, I politely respond that I had concluded that she wasn’t interested, since I hadn’t heard a peep from her after sending the last gift. Sadly, I feel that I have to train the PARENTS in the same way that we go about training our own children! Mom and Dad need to hear that there’s a cause-and-effect between their little monsters’ behavior and the way that their own adult friends interact with them. Perhaps after they’ve been socially ostracized completely, they’ll get the message. In the meantime, we have no moral obligation to keep inviting such families into our homes–make it clear to folks that you enjoy having them over because their kids make an effort to behave, and word about your general attitude will get around.

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Tito Galindo April 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm

this reply would scare anybody from wanting children. I’m all for discipline and good manners but i think even a poorly raised child is better than no child. I think reasonably happy parents are maybe as much if not more of a witness to the goodness of large families than exceptional behavior in the kids.

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jenna January 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Yikes, I think holier-than-thou is something you might want to look up. Come down off your high horse Cathy long enough to relish in the innocence and beauty of a child!

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Ian January 8, 2012 at 8:03 am

When children have no manners or discipline, there is very little beauty and only the innocence from knowing how to behave in public.

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Adia May 31, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Now, I think we are taking incidents a little out of context and ascribing them to a behavior pattern for homeschooled children. I think we should remember the author is just speaking in terms of managing our children with a high degree of consistency. Let’s not start thinking in generalities!

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Mrs. Johnson February 24, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Cathy, I have to say that while undisciplined children (& their parents) can certainly hurt our witness, so can an ungracious & judgmental attitude. Perhaps you should remember that we are all admonished to take the log out of our own eye before attempting to take the speck out of our brother’s eye, & that while we are to speak the truth, it is to be spoken in love. Your responses to mistakes made by others is not to lovingly & gently speak to them about it & resolve the issue, but rather to nurse a secret grudge, waiting for the opportune moment to slight or slam the “offender” in a way that can hurt them. How will this ever help them to mature? As for your comments about thank you notes being so obvious, you may well stop to think that many people were not raised the same as you. What you are pointing out is not sin, but a breach of etiquette. Frankly, I was brought up to believe that gifts are given without strings attached. Of course I appreciate a thank you, but if it’s not given, then I have an opportunity to extend grace to the person & work on my own attitude. An adult holding on to bitterness over a child omitting a thank you is a much more serious matter than the forgotten thanks. I know this is an old post, but I think this is worth saying in the hope that all of us can let go of the roots of bitterness that we hold on to, & really seek to build one another up in love.

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Michael March 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I realize this is a rather old post, but I think this is worth a comment. First, as Mrs. Johnson said, admonishments should be made in a loving and caring attitude. Secondly, we are not called to rant and rave about others, especially when it is a duty assigned by God, and needs reprimanded by God when it is not a serious offense. This sounds oddly like someone who is holding a grudge about a specific thing with the gift. I would invite the poster to look at a GRADE SCHOOL Baltimore Catechism under the fifth commandment and see what it says about grudges. I will agree with mom’s conveniently forgetting things, and something as bad as spilling water on books I would also not invite them back, as well as letting them know. But, I would not go as far as to generalize that all homeschooling families are like this. I would also go as far to say that I do not see them here being the trying to be the moral high ground. I would point out also that raising children is not all about manners, though that would be one of the things under this category, but to teach them necessary behavior to get to heaven. I also know many Catholic children who’s mothers work and the kids go to school, but I would argue that first, they are behaving this way around their mother. I am 14, and I see the difference often. The angels you would make them out to be are often the worst of the Catholic teenage crowd, or of the pre-teen crowd, as far as morals go. I have also seen kids that are home-schooled that do have less-than-perfect manners, but have as impeccable moral standards as you could wish for the ages involved. They are not uncouth and crass, but have a fine time without any unneeded innuendo; You will have to excuse me if I consider myself better versed in behavior of these age groups away from parents. Granted, I have seen opposite behavior from both groups, but that would be the generalization that I see. I know the about “those without guilt may through the first stone” to paraphrase, but honestly people need help and admonishment, not people who are too busy perfecting their glares to see their own behavior.

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Carla June 13, 2007 at 11:37 am

Dear Ian,

I came across this by accident while searching for something else. Hi, Megan! Did you have everyone over for Easter again this year?

Ian, you have some very good points and I found myself blushing at several of them. I do agree with Charlotte regarding picky eaters, however. I have determined over the course of many years that some battles are definitely worth fighting while others aren’t. I tend to think that if, as a parent, one is always in battle-mode, that each battle becomes somewhat less effective and children lose their respect for their parents. Have you every read C. S. Lewis’ biography? He lost all respect for his father who always ranted and raved at him. Now, I’m not suggesting that you think ranting and raving is the way to go about this, but the stress of constant battle-mode would (and sometimes has) brought me to that point. We do about the same as Charlotte regarding food. They are expected to try things, but don’t have to clear their plate. This has worked well with our oldest child, who now eats most everything happily enough. Our second oldest, however, is the pickiest child I have ever seen. The other children are not nearly so particular. I suffered greatly as a child because I was expected to clear rather large plates of food that I could barely stomach.

There is also the factor of how parents with many children began parenting with their first or first two children–the guinea pigs. With my two oldest children, I think that I really didn’t account for concupiscence sufficiently. As you all know, the younger children follow the older children’s example. This can be good or bad. I happen to know that you and your lovely wife come from large families, had younger siblings, and had the example of good parents that you could follow from the beginning. I was not so fortunate and have always felt that I had to figure things out on my own. Yes, our children behave well in restaurants most of the time, but all is far from perfect. There are a number of things I would do differently if I were starting again, and many of them are along the lines of your guidelines.

As another person wrote, it is also important to keep in mind the differences among children. Some children are easy from the beginning, and that’s wonderful. Others seem intent on making a large impression on everyone from the moment they are born. I have some of both. One family in particular gives me a great deal of hope. They have a large number of grown children, all of whom are delightful. When their children were young, the parents allowed them a great deal of freedom, but also had a great family culture. A professor whom we both admire commented on how badly behaved those children were, yet all of them are fantastic now. That same professor commented on how well-behaved another large family of children were. The parents were much stricter and set distinct limits, but they also had a strong family culture with very involved parents. Those children have not turned out so well. My point is that, in all things, we should remember that we are raising adults, not children. I think that, if the rules are too strict, there will be a desire to rebel as soon as rebellion is possible. While the ideal is well-behaved, peaceful children now and faithful, happy adults later, I guess one shouldn’t give up hope even if all isn’t perfect now.

Pax Christi,
Carla

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Florentius August 25, 2007 at 12:07 pm

This is a good post. Unfortunately, some homeschooling families who have gone a long ways toward removing the secular influences from their children’s education, have nonetheless drank long and deep at the font of modern parenting. Old-school parenting combined with home education and the Catholic Faith works brilliantly in the raising exceptional children and excellent Christians. It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it.

Personally, I don’t know how parents who have 5+ disorderly kids and who don’t enforce discipline and respect in the house and in public manage to stay sane.

In my opinion, you’ve got to get the oldest kids in line when they’re little–say starting at 2 years old. If you can get the first one behaving properly most of the time by the time he/she is four or five, it has a definite trickle-down effect on the others. If you wait longer than that, you may have a constant battle on your hands, and not just with one at a time.

My own parents will often give us a hard time for being too tough on our kids. Then, without missing a beat, they’ll marvel at how well-behaved and polite they are–as if one had nothing to do with the other…

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Manda September 8, 2007 at 11:54 am

I like your observations. Many of these are instances in my own family. I am a young mom of now five children. My dream was to have a BMW, designer clothes, and 2 children and a Golden Retriever. I have put my life and all its surprises in Gods hands. I had to let alot of my type A personality fly out the window with each addition to my family. I like the scenario you paint in regards to a large family being perfect little robots. I used to aim for those “compliments”. I still get them from time to ime. Those compliments do not fuel my desire for my kids to do their best. Sometimes I think God has something in mind during these not so perfect times our kids will be kids.

I fight a daily fight in dealing with consistancy. The biggest thing I have learned about a large family is you never know what is going on with other poeple. God has given me the grace to be more sympathetic to everyone. More kindness and a better attitude in general. I tend to ask a mom that seems to having a problem if she needs help. If I see out of control children I say a prayer for her family. (or secretly I think thank God my kids are not doing that at this moment.) Anyway, if I stopped having kids because of lifes little dramas I would be missing out on the most rewarding HARD work I have ever done.

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Patt November 7, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Excellent article! As a former homeschool group leader I saw this sort of behavior far too frequently. It was embarassing to take kids on field trips because they would be all over the place like a bunch of monkeys and their mothers were oblivious!
Thanks for addressing an issue far too many ignore. I have 3 boys and we always expected good behavior from them and never let them out of our sight unless they were going to a playroom or outside. Homeschoolers in general no matter what the size of their families have made bad impressions all over by lack of discipline. Of course it isn’t just homeschoolers, it seems to be modern parenting in general.

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tiffany December 4, 2007 at 9:50 pm

lets face it, 1 kid or 50 kids, a lot of parents this day in age don’t disaplen or follow through with their threats, and lots of other things. i have had similar sit. with homeschool kids, and of course more often with kids in public school with parents who work full time. but ya know some of those people don’t clame to be a light to the world. but homeschooling large families say they are, and i too cann’t stand to be around some of their kids just like anyone elses. so i say pick people to hang with that disapline like you and maybe it won’t be so frustrating, lol

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tiffany December 4, 2007 at 9:51 pm

by the way i really agreed with your article. my friends and i talk about the same issues.

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Denise April 21, 2008 at 6:35 pm

I am a homeschooling mom of 6 children. My family is a sign to the world that God is still loved and trusted, worshiped and served. I have gotten sneers in grocery stores even when my kids were behaving like angels! Sneers and gasps that have brought be to tears. But I have also been told how I have inspired others to be open to life giving love. One stranger told me when I was pregnant with my 6th baby, “You’re God’s kind of girl!” It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.
Another rule I would add for the children is that when at any large gathering, they never sit in the furniture if there is any adult without a seat!!

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Pippi May 29, 2008 at 3:20 pm

I agree with much of your post. I am a homeschooling Mom of 4 children, and my husband and I have worked REALLY hard to teach our children to behave well and to always consider how they are affecting others in anything that they do. We have, many times, over the years received compliments from strangers in public places about how well behaved our children are (particularly in restaurants). But we’ve spent a lot of time standing in lines patiently at Disneyland since they were all babies too, so they’ve had a LOT of experience at having to be patient, lol!

Oh, but we have kids like this in our extended family! My parents-in-law are raising the two daughters of their own adopted daughter. I find them nearly impossible to tolerate. In fact, we moved out of state and one of the first things I noticed was what an enormous relief it was to not have to deal with these issues anymore.

These two girls are similar in ages to two of my own children. And they absolutely refuse to share, they yank things away from others, push, shove, hit, yell, the works. They would climb all over our furniture, shoes on the couch, food on the carpet, etc., and my in-laws wouldn’t try to manage their behavior one bit! I even had to resort to having my children’s birthday parties at public venues because I just couldn’t tolerate these kids in my home…they would grab and try to rip open gifts that belonged to my children, scream to get to blow the candles out instead of the birthday child, etc., etc. We started having parties in places where only the gifts that they brought were even there (we’d leave all the others at home and have a private “family” party later that night after dinner), and where my children had enough room to “get away” from them when they needed to. What a hassle!

However, homeschooling had nothing to do with it. They aren’t homeschooled, they aren’t catholic, and they are the only 2 kids in their family or household. It just has to do with parenting. But like you, I find that many, many, many parents just do not put any effort into teaching their children to really think about how they are affecting others. I see it at parks, at the public schools (when my children were still attending), at restaurants, at movie theatres, at the mall, and at Disneyland. I always want to say to the parents, “Don’t you realize you are turning your children into people nobody can stand to be around? It’s really not fair to them to not be taught any better!” Of course, I’ve never actually said that, lol.

I haven’t had to be around these two particular girls in 3 years, and it has been so peaceful! We’re visiting them this Summer and although I’m going to do everything in my power to make it a good experience so that my husband can visit peacefully with his parents (I’m planning to jump in and play games with the kids, do arts/crafts, etc., to keep it from being a “freeform” play situation), I will be very glad when the 2 days (2 days? oh God.) are up!

It’s not homeschooling. Or catholicism. It’s neglectful parenting.

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Theresa July 29, 2008 at 4:38 am

I agree that we must be careful of the image we represent to society but as a homeschooling mother, albeit of a smaller number, I have not seen these problems. I know many homeschooling families and I have never met one yet that had serious discipline issues. Indeed all I have met have had wonderfully behaved, pleasant, and generous children.
J.M.J.
Theresa

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Taynia August 15, 2008 at 12:22 pm

you are absolutely right.

if I had kids I would probably home school but far too many of them that I know DO NOT DISCIPLINE or TRAIN their children sufficiently. they act like animals. I think the parents (moms especially) have bitten off more than they can chew and refuse to admit it.

homeschooling is fantastic. But not everyone is capable of it.

kids have to be trained and socialized. And the second one goes hand in hand with the first.

too bad they don’t consider what a poor witness they are giving…not only to homeschooling but to families and openness to life in general.

you’ll get no spanking form me. it was a great article.

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Jo Flemings September 20, 2008 at 10:06 am

This blog entry offended me. I am the mother of 13. One is a senior on a full merit based scholarship to a Catholic college, one is in formation for the priesthood with the Legionaries of Christ, one will be attending a Catholic university this fall, two are in high school, two in middle school, three in elementary school and two at home with their pregnant mother who by the end of 2009 will have spent 10 years of her life in the service of Jesus Christ pregnant and almost 10 years of her life nursing babies. This is not the life I foresaw for myself, it is one I live and thank God for out of obedience. I am a Catholic convert of 11 years.

While the offenses you have cataloged are legitimate why write this up in a public forum? Is that consistent with how Christ would have one deal with this?

How long have you been interfacing with home schoolers or large families? 20 years? Well, I have been around the block in 3 countries, 7 states, and two faith contexts as a home schooling mother of a “large” family. The best influence of a few rogue parents with unruly kids ( and it only takes two large families with crazy kids to wreak a whole lot of havoc) is one of charity and generous welcome and the example of holiness in their midst- usually a preaching of the gospel without words.

Very few of us were privileged to grow up in solid Catholic homes with good human and faith formation, and to continue into solid Catholic colleges or universities and then into professions that are supporting the Church. That makes a difference in how we parent our children.

Most people out there with more than 8 children – with some of them grown- have some serious difficulties among their brood. I have seen it everywhere, in the best of families. Many homeschooling families have fathers who travel for their work or who interact with the world to a serious degree and come home splattered with “Hittite blood” regularly and then make the heroic sacrifices of further serving in their local parishes or home school support groups. Mothers of large families are most often exhausted and somewhat disheartened if they are not shoring themselves up with a shield of misguided self-righteousness and cloistering themselves, in ways that might or might not be healthy, in order to protect themselves from corruption of their children or from situations where they are not in complete control of their children. When you have a large family it is hard to control all of the children all of the time and one difficult child can influence the entire group.

So what I hear you saying is basically if you don’t have control of your children, then get it or A) don’t take them anywhere, B) don’t have any more, and C) you should be ashamed of yourself. That cannot possibly what Jesus Christ meant by “suffer the little children to come unto me.”

I have had a $600 trampoline ruined by the visiting kid with a pocket knife; a carpet I had to pay a deposit for in an apartment I was renting with my own kids messed up by the red koolaid in a sippy cup by a wealthier relative’s child; and I have cleaned up bathrooms after other people’s boys who could not care less about cleanliness, hygiene or basic decorum, etc. For some reason while these issues were challenging to me because they cost me money and I wished they had not cost me money- I don’ think I would have ever thought of them as anything more than a part of the counting the cost of following Christ in the manner in which I find myself. My children have also ruined other people’s things, and I have eaten boatloads of humble pie over my failure as a mother according to the standards you have enumerated and received so much positive feedback for. I think it is part of my cross, because these things happen even when you are trying to do your best. We are human beings and none of us is perfect, sometimes we are on the receiving end of alot of people’s imperfections in rapid succession or in series. That is unfortunate. But for myself I would prefer to have someone else have pity and mercy on me when I fail and so I try to extend that same grace to others. This is the Kingdom of God after all.

I did not get that sense from your complaint and it hurt me as a family member in the household of Christ. I think you should have shared your offenses with the people who actually offended you in a manner that would be as painless to them as possible and not in a public forum that the casual web surfer looking for a reference for a home schooling support group might stumble over. And I think that would have been most consistent with how Jesus instructed us to deal with these kinds of things and with St. Paul’s definition of charity.

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Dr. Grow December 11, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I think you did a great job of explaining how this fell short of the mark. Particularly when you listed the A, B, C’s of what the message related is. My husband has been resisting posting a well-written and snide response to this post for two days, but I think reading your response will cool him off a bit.
We have five children (under age seven) and already follow 90% or so of the guidelines the post suggests. We can visit a house full of antiques, but I flee as quickly as possible, for my own sanity. Such a house is not designed to welcome children, even if the owners have not realized it.
I particularly appreciate your writing: “Mothers of large families are most often exhausted and somewhat disheartened if they are not shoring themselves up with a shield of misguided self-righteousness and cloistering themselves, in ways that might or might not be healthy, in order to protect themselves from corruption of their children or from situations where they are not in complete control of their children.” This is a trap I find myself falling into recently, even for Liturgy. I have very high standards. It pains me to see anyone (my child or a well-intentioned adult) hurt from a misunderstanding I could have avoided by staying home or keeping all children within earshot. But I know that the kids need to get out, and even their mistakes are allowed by God for His glory. People can avoid having children themselves, but God still provides children around them to teach them.
I suspect the owner of the blog has not had enough children to teach him humility yet. Perhaps a set of twin boys?

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Ian December 12, 2013 at 12:35 am

Actually, we have ten children between the ages of 13 and 2, six girls and four boys.

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Taynia September 24, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Quote:
“So what I hear you saying is basically if you don’t have control of your children, then get it or A) don’t take them anywhere, B) don’t have any more, and C) you should be ashamed of yourself. That cannot possibly what Jesus Christ meant by “suffer the little children to come unto me.”

really Jo?
I hear her saying TRAIN the children.

Jews at the time of Christ felt that only adults in the faith warranted access to God and the liturgy. He’s saying otherwise. All are welcome to come to him.

that’s not the complaint here with her article. The complaint is the out of control families that are thrust out there as this great “witness” to being open to Life when they are not. Others see such behavior, whether they are fellow parishioners or just secular society. It’s not a great witness or incentive because the way it comes across is that you have too many to handle ….and why would they want that? they’re not being shown the many positives of it because the lack of training is screaming louder than anything else.

and it IS lack of training. I can’t tell you how many homeschooling families I know and the dad is never around (shame on him) and the mom just doesn’t get how it should be done and so the kids just wind up animals. Too much attention on them too much of the day. The entire family’s world revolves around them. You wind up with spoiled undisciplined tyrants real quick that way.

And I think that she was perfectly right to post this in a public forum. These things need discussing. It’s that kind of secretive, just tell me so I can ignore you mentality that led to such a scandal with clergy abuse as well. I abhor such back room business.

Jesus was talking about mentioning people BY NAME. To take it up with them first. If they won’t listen take a couple others. then take them to the church, etc. And it was about bigger fish to fry than this to be sure.

I think those surfing for support would do well to read an article like this and avoid the pitfalls of such an enterprise. It’s important to know how ill behaved children come across to the world at large and how that trumps whatever other positive witness may be given by large homeschooling families.

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Ian September 24, 2008 at 3:31 pm

Thanks, Taynia. When I originally posted this article (I’m the dad) two years ago, there were a lot of people who, in spite of my reading notes up front, chose to read the post as something it was not.

I’m all in favor of large families (we have nine kids). What I don’t like, which is what you brought up, is families who don’t consider the witness they present when they are in public. It is one thing to see a wild child that the parents are trying to get under control and a completely different thing to see a wild child who is in control. Telling the difference is very easy.

That is what my post was about – parents who don’t think they are responsible for training their families to serve as good witnesses in the world.

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Michael Falcon October 9, 2008 at 10:47 pm

First of all, people took this in the wrong way because that is how you presented it. You posted it as hate mail–”I hate large homeschooling families.” If you r message was on the call to witness that homeschooling families should have on society this post should have been written in amore positive light–a message of encouragement. This is hate mail by fact not by intention.

This fallacy in the way you state your argument leaves room fro counter arguments. I have spent a good deal of time around public schoolers; the amount of profanity and sexuality that spews from their mouths is frightening. This argument would hold no ground to this article if you had written about how Catholics (not just homeschooling ones, but all) are called to witness. However you made this mistake and I want it answered. Where is the post “I hate public schoolers?” Where is the post “I hate democrats?” Where is the post “I hate Islam?” Don’t you see that this article rather than building up the Church lays ground work for tearing it down. Rather than cementing the stones of the Church you have weakened the foundation through this terrible article and lack of charity. Yes, correction is necessary, but this isn’t correction this is a blatant lack of charity. Charity is the most important of virtues, the apex of the crown, the brilliant diamond which crowns all virtues. By undermining this virtue you have harmed the integrity of the Church.

If you did not mean you hate large homeschooling catholic families then you should not have said it. These are the words that scar. Next time point out what is wrong and show a solution don’t just attack people, and be positive. This article is rife with negativity which is why it has hurt so many people.

Out.

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Ian October 10, 2008 at 11:30 am

To Michael: Obviously you didn’t bother to read the whole post as more than half of it was suggestions on how to make your family a good witness.

I didn’t write about Democrats or public school kids because they aren’t out there providing witness (good or bad) for large families. I specifically wrote about large homeschooling families because they are very visible witnesses to their vocation. Sometimes they give a good witness sometimes they give a bad one. Unfortunately, when it is bad, it is extra noticeable because of the size of the family.

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Taynia October 10, 2008 at 6:34 pm

You beat me to it Ian…..namely in pointing out that a lot of folks who are crying about this have in fact, FAILED TO READ YOUR WHOLE ARTICLE.

That is something in the blogging world that irritates me no end. Well…that and thin skinned whiners. Unfortunately the two tend to go hand in hand and one finds that those who don’t read an entire post but glom onto its title or one or two paragraphs tend to be the “rash” commenters.

Case in point:
Michael, you actually (with a straight face and all) want to label this post as HATE MAIL?? really?? because I figured you couldn’t possibly be serious about that. Neither “by fact nor intention” is this post hate mail. Frankly, the title is what the behavior of some of these families causes the world at large to feel. And that is unacceptable and should be publicly discussed. That sort of “witness” from them is what’s called into question.

what would charity have looked like in your world Michael?
privately taking the people aside and no one ever being able to discuss this important topic in the public light of day?

There is no logic to your stating that this has “weakened the church’s foundation”, “laid ground work for tearing it down”, and has “harmed the integrity of the Church”.

apart from the fact that all those things are impossible by nature, I think that if one actually feels that broaching this subject is THAT harmful and that this post is THAT dangerous then they need to come out of their super insulated home environment and get a load of the real world.

wow peoples.
wow.

This is my last comment.
I’m not gonna say any more here. I’m canceling the trackback on the comments just because the amount of anxious, don’t give the world ammunition against us, over-reactionary whining going on here is more than a logical adult can put up with….without utterly losing their patience.

it’s abnormal.
and sad.
….ranks right up there with those who want everything so “positive” all the time that we can’t score little league games anymore. I suppose we shouldn’t ever talk about the sex scandal either. That might be uncharitable and negative too.

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Ann Marie March 22, 2009 at 6:52 pm

I really loved this article and sent it to a lot of my friends. I got very positive remarks from most. I think the comments are almost as interesting. Several of my friends are going to use your checklist for the adults and the kids for their own families.

Those who complained or were offended really need to calm down and re-read your ENTIRE article. As explained, the title was tongue-in-cheek, and geared to get readers to read it (and it worked!) but I have learned over the years that some people really dislike anything that smacks of sarcasm. Personally, I like it!
You asked for thoughtful feedback, and until the end, you got it. The points made were very valid. Even the best of us needs a wake-up call sometimes. And with homeschooling families, sometimes it’s really hard to confront a good friend and say, hey, want some help with your kids? Because they often are offended. I think putting this in a public forum was a fantastic idea, doesn’t corner any one person (you don’t have to read it, after all), and I think some people took what you said far too seriously or focused too much on things that weren’t even said but that they themselves were touchy about.
Thank you for putting it on the table. It needed to be said!

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Carrie May 28, 2009 at 10:15 am

I have a “Large Catholic Family” of six children, although we do not homeschool. I read this with a very open mind. However, I was left asking, “What does ‘large, Catholic, Homeschooler’ have to do with your complaint?” It seems that your problem has nothing to do with that. What you “Hate” is undiciplined children. They come in all forms, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Irreligious, homeschooled, private-schooled and public-schooled. As for my family, I know that having many children means that my husband and I have a bigger job to do when it comes to discipline. We often receive compliments on our children’s behavior. Respectfully, I think you are enforcing an unfair stereotype.

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Ian June 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

You, like, many others completely missed my point. I never said that JUST large Catholic homeschooling families are a problem. What I said in the article, repeatedly, and again in the comments, repeatedly, is that as large Catholic homeschooling families we have a special obligation to set an example. When large Catholic homeschooling families are an atrocious example it bothers me more than other types because they are 1) high visibility and 2) should know better.

I also don’t see the same problem among the large Protestant homeschooling families that I know.

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Taynia June 4, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Your points are all valid that this could happen in ANY large homeschooling family. The problem (IMHO) is that is doesn’t.. I’ve only consistently seen this behavior (on the part of the kids) and attitude (on the part of the adults) in our Catholic families. And it begs the question: why?

In all fairness though Carrie I don’t see how this post reinforces a stereotype when undisciplined, raised-like-wolves children isn’t what the stereotype is to begin with.

I’d have to say that the “stereotypes” that I see out there about homeschooling fall more under the categories of:
1. cultish
2. isolationist
3. sheltered kids who have a complete lack of social skills for the real world and shrink into the wallpaper when they have to deal with strangers and
4. atrociously bad, matchy-match clothing that looks a bit freakish

Unruly kids, who not only get a pass from their parents but whose behavior is barely even noticed, wouldn’t be a stereotype I’d think of right off the bat.

and yet this is an issue that has come up again and again and again. I don’t know if we are to be so grateful that these people are actually living out their catholic marriage vows regarding being open to life that we are expected to just hold our collective tongues or what. When I’ve tactfully mentioned the unwelcome and atrocious behavior, I have repeatedly been treated to an attitude of superiority. As in: we are more Catholic than the pope and you couldn’t possibly understand.

I see an astonishingly bad example on our Catholic families parts in not even attempting to teach these kids basic social graces. Perhaps they do indeed need to brush shoulders and rub up against the Great Unwashed a little more often, despite their fears of contaminating the wee ones’ minds, so as to simply teach them how civilized society acts. Because at some point, unless they’re going to build a compound, they’ll have to venture out and contribute to the world outside their fences. And in that world, immoral as it may be, some basic rules apply.

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Michelle July 11, 2009 at 7:08 pm

I just found this article as I searching the internet for some info. I just have to say this article is excellent! I am a large homeschooling family (though protestant) and I have witnessed the same behavior by some other large homeschooling families.

Articles such as these remind me of WHY I put so much effort into teaching my children how to behave. One kid crying in a store for candy wouldn’t be so bad….SEVEN kids crying for candy….that’s a nightmare. Our families are sending a message, good or bad.

I didn’t read through all of the comments but some of them are very contrary to most home school families thinking. I don’t know of one family who wants to “build a compound” to keep our kids minds from being “contaminated”. Neither do we think our kids need 6+ hours a day with anti-God, cursing, bad attitudes, bullying, etc. in order to learn “social graces”. No. If home schooled children are misbehaving, it’s not because they lack social skills…it’s generally because they lack parents who are willing to do what it takes to teach these kids to use their social skills. And if those same parents had those kids in a public school, then the kids would just be yet another bad example of kids with bad social skills…only this time the parents would blame the public school….and the kids would have learned how to look “cool” while being bad.

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Kristi Kemp Fuller September 29, 2009 at 2:05 pm

I love this article! I am a Catholic with two young children. Regardless, if a child comes from a large or small family, is Catholic or not, is home schooled or not, etc…this article applies to everyone. I nannied for three years and I can tell you that it had a tremendous impact on how I am now raising my children. I was also a spoiled “only child” and that has also made me think carefully about how I want my children to behave. It horrifies me when I see so many kids today that seem to only think of themselves and their own immediate gradification. It is not their fault though, it is their parent’s fault. Not only is it important to disapline your children/ set an example but it is even more important to teach them the concept of “standing in someone elses shoes”. My daughter is only two and even though she is very intense with a will of iron she already says, “please, thank you, hello and goodbye”. This is probably mainly because she always hears my husband and I doing the same. My husband and I also are the type of people that treat a waitress with the same amount of respect that we would give to a senator. I could go on and on…the point is that to many children today (regardless of their demographics or background) are being raised to be selfish and greedy because their parents are often selfish and greedy. The parents who don’t take the time to set an example and to disapline their children are looking for the “easy way out” by just ignoring their kids or quickly pacifying them so they don’t have to deal with the behavior. In the end their children are the ones that will have to pay. Rather it means they lose friends, get into serious debt or become self destructive, sometime in their lives their greed and inconciderate behavior will catch up with them. One family that I nannied for had a great deal of money but their kids were miserable and selfish. In fact, their kids had very few friends because other children didn’t want to deal with them and their horrible behavior. The parents didn’t realize that by condoning the behavior and not correcting it they in the end were causing their children far more pain. Many parents think that if they see their child crying because they disaplined them then their child will never get over it. No, maybe instead, one day when the child is older they will thank the parents for displining them because they will have a more fulfilling and meaningful life. One last thought, I totally agree with the author that parents need to follow through with what they threaten or say. Best example I can give is this…One day I took my daughter grocery shopping. I had a cart full of groceries (it was about 45 minutes worth of shopping) and my daughter was throwing an absolute fit because she couldn’t get candy. I had told her “no” because she did not eat enough healthy food that day. She had a complete tantrum. I warned her once that if she did not stop we were going to leave the store and she would have to go straight to bed for the night. She kept on going. I found an employee in the grocery store and asked if they could save my cart because I needed to take my daughter home and I would be back to buy the groceries. They more than agreed. I took her home (total inconvenience) and told my husband what happened. I put her in her pajamas and put her to bed at 7 PM while she was screaming and crying. I told my husband under no circumstances was she to come out of her room (but that he should check on her periodically until she was asleep). I then went back to the store and finished my shopping. Needless to say, it was quite an inconvenience for me. But parenting my daughter always takes precident over shopping or anything else. Now when I take her to the store and she starts to act up all I say is “do we need to go home”? She says, “no mommy” and stops the behavior. Basically, she knows that I follow through with what I say even if it means disrupting my own life in the process. In the end she not only learned how to behave better but she has respect for me because she can trust me when I tell her I am going to do something. I also apply this to positive things. If I promise ice cream she gets ice cream. Anyway…this was a great article and I agree with this author on so many levels.

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Alysson November 19, 2009 at 12:09 am

This is not what I was looking for tonight, but it was a very entertaining article. I have 5 children and just found out we’re having another. I expect perfect behavior from my children anywhere outside of our own home, and anytime we go somewhere in public I give them the lecture of “do you want people to look at us and think I’m a bad mother with too many ill mannered kids, or do you want them to say how nice it would be to have a large, well-behaved family like ours?” My kids know what I expect and very rarely let me down. I have found that it is usually a specific age (3 or 4) that can cause the most trouble, but large or small, it is the parent that makes or breaks the opinion of others. There are attentive parents and there are oblivious parents; the number of children is not the problem.

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evangelical homeschool grad February 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Protestant homeschoolers are better-behaved because we beat our kids into submission. LOL. (I mean that affectionately, Mom!) Seriously, though, I think you can have:

1. perfectly behaved children

2. a lot of them

3. without hitting them even a little bit

But you can have two of those things, not all three.

Fact of the matter is that you can’t do the sort of intensive hovering “attentive” parenting with five kids that you could with two “properly spaced” kids, and if you aren’t willing to spank the kids to ensure compliance from an early age, you’re apt to wind up with a pretty unruly brood.

This, in my view, is more of a short-term problem than a long-term one, however. The great majority of unruly kids will actually turn out to be perfectly well-adjusted adults, and all the memories of the fights and spilled drinks and other minor childhood trivia will fade from view…

and twenty years hence those formerly unruly kids will be on the internet indignantly complaining about how “Parents these days don’t discipline their kids like they used to!” ;)

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evangelical homeschool grad February 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Anyway, the point of obeying God, in the end, is to obey. Sometimes it doesn’t look pretty and sometimes it makes you unhappy, but the point of the exercise is neither good PR nor personal happiness, but faith in God. :)

Some of these parents are apt to be overwhelmed, exhausted, and unsure of themselves. Been there, done that. Criticizing them in this aggressive fashion is seldom helpful, though.

You know something has to give, but you haven’t figured out what it is yet… maybe you need to sleep-train a baby so you can get enough sleep to be something other than a walking zombie.

Maybe you need to cut back your working hours so you can be more present in the family’s life (yes, I think it’s sad that Mom usually takes the fall for badly-behaved kids when Dad spends 70-plus hours a week at work! The poster who disinvites the mom after bad bahavior from the children probably doesn’t have an equivalent in the dad’s life; Mom’s contacts with the world outside her door shrink the more kids the couple produces anyway, no matter how angelic the youngsters are.)

Maybe it’s time to send some bigger kids off to public school for awhile.

Maybe it’s time to swallow your pride and let your extended family lend a hand for a time.

Maybe it’s time to take the doctor’s advice about putting your “spirited” ten-year old on Ritalin.

Whatever it is, it’s up to the parents to figure it out, and up to us to extend compassionate understanding and the benefit of the doubt. Even when it’s hard. Sigh.

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Jo Flemings February 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Dear Evangelical Homeschool Grad:

I love you! Thank you for your comments.

Is there anything I can do that might induce you to consider the truth claims of the Catholic Church? We can certainly use your balanced, thinking, humorous take on life!

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evangelical homeschool grad February 25, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Been thinkin’ about it. Mrs. Fleming. :D Thanks for the kind words.

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Jo April 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I liked this article. I agree with this article.
I don’t know how to achieve this with my family.
I have 5 boys, another child on the way. I’m not catholic – in fact I don’t even know what you would call us, apart from Bible believing, God seeking Christians, who know that our children should be better behaved,but just can’t seem to get them to the level they, as children being raised by believers, should be.
I know that it all falls back on us parents. If we have unruly children, then we, as the parents, have done something wrong, whether passively, or intentionally.
I just want to know how to get my children in line.
Actually, I just wish I could get some joy into our home. I think that would do it.
Any ideas?
Homeschooling has become a battle ground.
Home life has become a battle ground.
Dad desperately wants to come home, but has to work the hours he does to pay the bills.
I’m a shocking mum. I have high hopes, and ideas, just no idea how to attain them.
I’m kind of prattling now.
I long for my children to grow up the serve the Lord, that is my ultimate goal. I just don’t know what to do to reach it.

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Christie April 27, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Jo,
I have five and one on the way. Four boys, one girl and baby??. Boys respond to action and short commands. Girls can handle the explanations.
Boys need hands-on instruction. My 11 yo boy (eldest child) tells the little boys (5, 3, and 18 mo) he is buckling them into the fighter jet (i.e. car seat, stroller, grocery cart). It appeals to them and gives them imaginary play for at least…oh, 30 seconds. :)
My point is that trying to make it a “fun” event (even for only 30 seconds) gives that joy you might need to get from car to grocery store.
God’s grace will get you through the grocery store. It makes all the difference in the world to have Christ’s peace and joy central in YOUR life. I have to remind myself of this. Last time I was at Adoration I asked Jesus to help me to remember how at peace I felt RIGHT THEN when things were falling apart later. I can take a deep breath, or five, and remember that peace and it helps me get through whatever it may be at that time.
My husband travels extensively for his job. That is just the way it is right now. He isn’t the most hands-on guy at home. We live several hours to several days worth of travel from family. If I don’t hire help, I don’t have help.
The worst days are when I forget that inner peace. When I don’t follow my own discipline (get up on time, get a shower, get people on track for the day) and don’t insist on it from the kids (get up on time, get dressed, start laundry, pick up, start school etc.)
I also realized that a lot of our problems were because I had untreated post-partum depression. Sometimes mothers of large families don’t recognize it because of course everything is harder with more kids. Of course I can’t keep up with Mrs. Jones, she only has two and they are in school all day etc. etc. But the real problem is that there is depression masking everything else.
I only mention it because I wish I had someone else say something earlier. Getting help (counseling, exercise and medication) made a HUGE difference in my ability to tolerate day to day issues with patience and yes, sometimes, even with joy.
Many prayers and blessings to your crew of boys.

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John May 27, 2010 at 1:16 am

Hello, This is wonderful, you all should feel blessed and be thankful. GOD has allowed you to share in what he has seen from all his human childeren for thousands of years. One of the most annoying things children do is to bicker about each other, talk behind their backs, and/or just put each other down. You believe there are perfect children in the world and that you must be one of them. Fact is you are not perfect and neither are your children. Most (98%) people do stupid things in their lives and yet we feel we have a right to judge others. If you feel a person is without issues, well you have either just met a Saint or you need to check yourself. They probably have made a great many of mistakes and you are either unwilling or incapable of seeing them. There is no real formula for raising good children, except for praying A LOT!!! The rich and educated have just as many issues with their children as everyone else.
The other thing is, you who are complaining, must learn to take responsibility for your actions too. Every time a parent tells their children to call an adult by Mr/Mrs/Ms. (last name) don’t tell them, NO please call me by my first name. If you a child is playing with something and the parent tells them to stop, don’t get in the middle and tell the child it is alright!! You have just undermined the parents authority. If the child has done something wrong to you, then it is your place to tell the parent so the parent can do the dicipline.
Really, your compliments on how well-behaved my children are causes more problems. I would really have you say Hello and not mention their behavior becuase they have probably done something you haven’t seen. When you give a compliment in front of a child who is in trouble, you have again undermined the parents.
Another thing is if you are giving people gifts just for the praise and glory you are setting a bad example for my children. Say the Rosary and meditate on what is wrong with that idea. The statement with the priest and bishop not getting their pick of everything on the table. Yes you are right we should always think of others first. The problem with that isn’t just in big families, that problem stems from the attitude of society, “Worry about number one first”. What a fight to teach your childeren. Especially when you take them some where and most of the people have 1 or 2 childeren and they get anything they want.
The last response to some of you is you don’t know what happens when those childeren get home. I would not punish my children in front of you unless it was an extreme offense. Punishment should almost always done in private.
Do yourself a favor, quit complaining about everything and look for God in everything. You’ll find joy. Now if you want to look for the negative in everything Pray the Rosary and ask for help.
May GOD bless you all and help you to find peace and joy in all children. Remember there is only one who has the authority to Judge and it isn’t any of us.

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Sandi March 16, 2011 at 10:12 am

I enjoyed the article to a certain extent. I believe that many families lack discipline. It is especially hard with large families. We have 4 kids. When my husband and I were first married, about 20 years ago, we decided that our church needed some good parties and get-togethers. Our church was international in nature and most people had families who lived out of the country. So, we hosted just about every holiday event in our home. We thought long and hard about who we would invite. We started with those close to us and usually threw in a few newcomers or families that we didn’t know very well. This was aside from the regular smaller type dinner parties.

Lots of people together in one home eating and drinking means potential spills. Did we have creme colored carpet? Yes. Did we have breakables? Yes. Did we invite kids? Yes. No, “adult only” parties for us….and at that point we didn’t have ANY kids!!! We wanted people to feel welcomed. My husband & I decided that we were either going to spend the evening worrying about our carpet or we were going to relax and enjoy the fellowship with our friends. We felt that practicing the gift of hospitality was more important than the cost of our carpet.

We prayed together before each event. I think in the 10 years time that we lived in that city and had all of those parties we maybe had a couple of spills. Did we have to spot paint or clean walls? Yes! Did we have to sweep and mop up afterwards? Yes. Did we have to replace the carpet when we moved? Yes. Do we still have those life-long friendships? YES, YES, YES! I wouldn’t trade those days or those friends for anything. What a blessing they have been to us. They always said, as do our current friends, that “we know any party you have will be kid-friendly…”….this is our ministry to others. We accept them and their children. I think that if we had kept crossing people off of our list for parties because little Johnny walked around with his grape juice in a sippy cup we would have found ourselves to be very lonely.

No one is perfect. No child will act perfectly every time. The last thing I want is for a family or Mom to get a vibe from me that I disapprove of what their child is doing. I don’t want my guests walking on egg shells because their kid could possibly break something. Kids break things, kids spill, kids forget to flush the toilet, little boys forget to lift the seat up, kids may not say “please” or “thank you” every time.

I have general rules for kids in my home. I happen to be the Mom who hosts birthday parties and sleepovers at my house and sports parties and pizza parties, and spa parties…..so, yeah, lots of kids at my house. I set the meal on the dinner table along with drinks, napkins, etc. and I, or my husband, will say a prayer with the kids before we start eating. My kids stay at the table to eat and by example the other kids do as well. If one little one strays off with a slice of pizza, I will give him a napkin and walk him back over to the table. No big deal. I allow them to drink water in the living and game rooms and eat popcorn, too! I make the rounds to make sure everyone is supervised and try to have some sort of organization to their activities. I did have one little boy take out all of the color crayons every time and color the walls. He also enjoyed getting into my fridge. So, I had to use a bit more energy when he came over, but his love and hugs totally made up for it.

Some of the comments above gave me the impression that hostesses are keeping a checklist to see if little Suzy said “thank you” and “please” and if she doesn’t “well, her Mama just isn’t training her well enough and I don’t think little Suzy is going to come over and play with Tessa anymore”. Geez! I can only hope and pray that the grace and forgiveness that I give to other people’s children will someday be returned to my children. Isn’t that what the love of Christ is all about?

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Dom June 15, 2011 at 2:20 pm

A large family will be double judged anyway,a homeschooling family will also be double judged,so a large homeschooling family doesn’t stand a chance!
Well if all the best circumstances are there (smart,healthy kids and parents,help from the extended family etc),you will be extra well judged.But flaws will be extra badly judged,so I wouldn’t worry too much about being judged in public places.It is not fair compared to “regular”families.
What I would worry about is the attitude of my large homeschooling family:children must learn charity(which implies listening to the hostess,thinking about others before self,etc) and this is the reason for good manners,not whether or nor the pregnant girl is going to maybe abort seeing your family-what an unnecessary thought,source of anxiety!
Good manners take a lot of patience and training,but do it for the sake of love of your neighbor and to go to heaven,not for what people might think of you,this is very wrong,in that case you’ll end up doing so many wrong things for you and your family.
And also I would worry about not justifying wrong attitudes from my children,because we have many of them:do not start thinking you have too many of them to do a good job,or you become your worst judge and enemy and you will stop doing a good job altogether.Believe in the grace God sends you to train those kids well.
PS:I have 6 homeschooled children under 9 and doing my best.They generally behave well ,one of them is not as healthy and we are in strange situations sometimes because of that.

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Katherine July 10, 2011 at 10:42 am

Thanks so much for this. We’re are on our way to being a large Catholic homeschooling family (we’ve got three under five and counting). In my happiness to be open to life I do need to be aware of the message that we send to the world. While things are far from easy sometimes I do try to make sure that when we’re out in public others see the joy I have in being the mother of my little brood. But I also need to be sure that my children are a joy to be with as well.

Thank you for the encouragement, and I do think this post is to be taken as an encouragement to be the best parents we can be. :)

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kj July 30, 2011 at 11:18 pm

This is a good post, but may prove a little too harsh and judgemental. I think if you have been this upset about the children in your home making messes and acting out, you are probably not cut out to be a parent or spend much time with them. Parenting isn’t really for everyone. It should be, but it isn’t and that is the sad truth.

I don’t enjoy being around bratty children either, but I do know that all children will be bratty at some point and that is the time when they need to be corrected. There will be plenty of spilled milk along the way.

I agree that parents should strive to raise obedient, well-behaved, polite children whether they are Catholic, homeschooled, Protestant, or attending public school.

Children are individuals and if you are striving to control them rather than raise them, you may very well be heading toward a power struggle and rebellious children as a result.

I say this as a parent who is considered “strict” by most standards. Parents who try very hard to raise good children and do all the “right” things often still end up with problems as their children grow. I do find that strong-willed children tend to be highly intelligent.

Children I’ve encountered who seem to behave perfectly, are always clean, and never talk back leave me thinking there could be something seriously wrong going on at home. Most children do not behave perfectly all the time. Actually, most adults don’t either. That’s why we have to parent and train them with a lot of repitition.

I don’t believe for a minute homeschooled children are “brattier” than any other. There are slack and misinformed parents everywhere and it doesn’t matter what religion they are or how they are schooled.

I do find that children in the Catholic and public school systems have more in common than many Catholics seem to realize and they tend to be a lot more worldly than homeschooled kids.

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Mrs Ian Ferguson January 17, 2012 at 5:30 am

I found this post when searching for large homeschool family encouragement. I am a Christian and mother of 9 children with another on the way and I homeschool. Over the years my parents and my husbands parents (mainly mine because they are geographically closer) have been such a hinderance in our child-training efforts. It wasn’t until I had three children that I even realised I needed to train them at all. When I had four we had moved to get help, then my sister died (age 22) and we moved back again because of my sympathy for my parents. That may have been a mistake, but He is still in control and can turn all into good that love Him. My parents constantly undermine our parenting and I have not corrected the way I should because my parents believed using an implement to correct (as per the Bible) is child abuse. So out of fear (wrong I know) of losing our children to child services I withheld correction when I should have corrected. In Australia we have ratified the UN Rights of the Child Treaty and it is technically illegal to smack or say no to your child (which technically belongs to the state anyhow.) I do my best and lately I’ve been quite ill with this pregnancy and not up to speed, so to speak. As a side note, I was a strong willed child and I’ve been told and tested that I’m very bright but I have trouble believing it. I don’t believe He designs unintelligent people; although people can do foolish things. Our plan is to move as every time we put distance between me and my family we train way better and without fear. Our children can be better (I know this from a recent experience of distancing ourselves.) We do receive nice comments about our children when out but I’d like to do better in a positive way (positive toward our children.) I love my parents but I look forward to the day when they cease telling us what bad parents we are and how nice our children are. My dad once said to me “that if I didn’t turn out that is my fault and if my children don’t turn out that’s also my fault.” Huh?? I struggle with feelings of confidence and I can only put my faith in Him and His help. As I said recently to my mother-in-law “God trusts us with these children, do you?” Anyhow, now I’m rambling. I understand the point of the post. We have to be careful in how we help others, that it’s not offered from a place of superiority but humbleness of spirit. Just my .2c I appreciated the comments.

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Andrea Hougland August 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Hi. I just read your post and my heart goes out to you. I too have nine children…making us 11. There WILL ALWAYS be those that are critical…we (parents of large families) have increased our chances of criticism by procreating more so than most. Hang in there! Do what is right! Teach them by your example (as you know) and daily conversation. Many times during phone calls, people will ask where my kids are…they are right here. “They are so quiet” they are? People assume that I am running a circus or a zoo…however, they are people and they have learned from us their parents. I rarely raise my voice and NEVER spank them…no need to. Seriously, I can take them ANYWHERE and they behave.They are NOT perfect, but they aren’t expected to be. Children, like we adults, do care what people think about them and they want to be “liked”, so we have a responsibility to teach them what is respectable and acceptable…it is simple. Mom, you take care of yourself and love those babies knowing that you can NOT please all the people all of the time:) God Bless.

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Andrea Hougland August 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Hi. I am the mother of a large family of 11. I have not nor would I ever put up with such terrible mannerisms or behavior from my children. I am not sure they would even know how to be so thoughtless and rude. Usually, children learn and live by example, at least, that has been my experience. If they are out of line or no know any better, simple kind correction is enough. Children want to please their parents…they too want to be praised and even “liked” by others. I was and have always been aware of what they are doing…it is a part of parenting. I am not offended by what you, you raise good valid points, however, I believe that these issues occur in all family sizes. Again, I appreciate your frustration concerning these issues…good luck on getting those type of parents to take heed.

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Paige October 5, 2012 at 7:22 pm

I think what bothers me the most about the large families I know is that they whine about prejudice against their large families and then turn around and look down on those who choose to have fewer children. They preach and preach about how others should be accepting of them but see themselves as better than others because they “are doing what God commanded”.

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Shannon December 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

wow, this is actually a great encouragement to me, a mother of 8. We parents all need to hear this. There is no point in having all these children if we are not prepared (and determined ) to put in the work necessary to teach them proper behaviour/manners.

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Leigh February 6, 2013 at 2:59 pm

This sounds like you are against misbehaving children who are allowed to be disrespectful by parents who are lazy in directing and correcting their children. What does this have to do with “homeschooling”? Also, are you a Christian or parent? Is saying you “hate” someone or “something” behavior you want to model or present as a character trait of yourself? You are hopefully young and inexperienced and ignorant, I had judgmental ideas and thoughts before I lived through 40 years and raised 3 children.

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Ian February 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Leigh, I think you should go back and read the post again as well as the numerous replies to comments that I made. You will find answers to every question that you asked already there.

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Ky March 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Amen. I am a Mormon homeschool mom of six (5 boys & 1 girl). Kids will be kids, however, all of the outlined suggestions were spot on and I totally agree. It’s all about parenting. Great article, not offensive.

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Brandi September 21, 2013 at 10:57 am

Though I appreciate the “setting a good example in public” ideal of this article because I see far too many parents who just ignore what their kids are doing. I also find this post to be unrealistic, a childs age and developmental level should be considered. I would not expect a 2 year old to sit through mass, just as I would expect a parent to remove them if they were disturbing the parish. I wouldn’t expect a 1 year old not to touch a home full of breakables but I would expect a parent to therefore keep them within arms reach. I wouldn’t expect several children to be able to quietly entertain themselves in a not child friendly location for long periods, I would expect the parents to limit the visit and bring quiet entertainment. I wouldn’t expect a child to consistently make it through the grocery store without tantrums if the parents are setting limits. But then again, I’m weird because I say forget the don’t let the kids walk around with red kool aid, my answer is don’t give the kids kool aid at all.

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Janice January 10, 2014 at 10:29 pm

I could be the author of this post. Even though we homeschool our children, we typically avoid homeschool events. Why? Because most homeschool parents do not put reigns on their children and many times do not supervise them at all. What results is an environment that is unsafe, disrespectful and downright embarrassing. As a result, we have earned the “holier than thou” title from the “holier than thous!” The simple fact is that the homeschooling community has a much deserved reputation. By the way, Scripture says that one obedient child is a greater blessing than many disobedient ones.

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