Raising 14 Kids
If you think your life is hectic, consider what it's like raising (and home-schooling) this many children! Here, one mom shares the story of her family -- and her faith.
Compared with the average American family, ours is very unusual. My husband, Jim Bob, and I have 14 children. We've been blessed with nine boys and five girls, including two sets of twins. Our oldest son, Joshua, is 15. The youngest, Justin, is 10 months. We are evangelical Christians and decided to let God dictate the size of our family. To us, each child is a joy, a gift from the Lord.
We live in a part of the country where many people share our beliefs -- Springdale, a city of 50,000 in northwest Arkansas. Like many families we know, we home-school our kids. We feel it's the best way to teach our Christian values. Above all, we want to inspire our children to turn their hearts toward God.
Plenty of parents get frazzled with only a couple of children, so people wonder how we can possibly take care of 14. Believe it or not, I don't find it all that difficult. One key is organization. A huge master schedule for all the kids' activities nearly covers a door in our kitchen. I also keep a weekday schedule for each child. Jim Bob doesn't work a typical 9 to 5 job: He's a real-estate investor and is involved in local politics. He served in our state legislature for four years and last year ran unsuccessfully in the U.S. Senate primary. He's busy, but he manages to find time to come home during the day to help out.
Our household runs smoothly because everyone pitches in. Each older child acts as a "buddy" to a younger one. In the morning, the older siblings make sure their younger buddies are changed, washed, and dressed. They watch over them at meals, help them with their schoolwork, and even put them down for naps. The older kids have other chores too, like cleaning the garage and helping prepare meals. We view chores as opportunities to serve the family -- and to serve God.
Our mornings are busy: I nurse the baby, get the kids breakfast, and then we come together for morning prayers. After that, the older kids might do schoolwork or practice the violin or piano. I do chores and try to keep the little ones occupied. In the afternoon, I conduct our school. We work on some subjects as a group, and I also give each child projects appropriate for his or her grade level. Our curriculum emphasizes character -- honesty, integrity, initiative, and responsibility. Our motto is "Joy" -- for Jesus first, others second, yourself last.
We usually all eat dinner together at around 5 p.m. The three oldest plan and prepare evening meals. They like to do that because they get to choose the menus! Our day ends with baths and then Bible study with Daddy. The boys sleep in the master bedroom, and the girls sleep in a room with bunk beds. (Jim Bob and I have a small room, but we're in the process of building a bigger house, so soon we'll all have more space.) Once the kids are in bed, Jim Bob and I have a little time alone together. Our schedule is less hectic on the weekends, with Saturdays for rest and Sundays for worship.