What do you do when you want to spend time with a friend but you've got a combined number of children that rivals the size of an actual school class?
My dear friend Lisa and I have been in the motherhood trenches together for over two decades. We both have 8 children, and I kid you not, awhile back we entered a Chinese restaurant after church and one of the diners there asked, with gaping mouth, "Is this a Sunday School class?"
Lisa and I have learned a lot about managing heaps of little children over the years. While we love to spend time together, we plan our days so that we aren't overcome with chaos. Maybe what we've implemented can be a help to you when you plan a day with friends:
1. Buy red plastic cups and label them with each child's name.
2. Plan a schedule for the time you'll be together. Likely you have order to your day at home - why abandon it when with another homeschooling family?
3. Pair up the children for periods of time. This has been a neat thing as we've seen different relationships between our children develop that might not have happened naturally. Now at 22 down to seven years old, they're genuinely interested in each other's lives.
They do activities we create for them for 15-30 minutes and then switch to another like schedule of activities, including everything from watching a video to helping each other with schoolwork to baking cookies. We are sensitive to the fact that the older ones like to spend time together playing games and such and so we schedule that for them, too.
4. Make a quiet hour mandatory. We have done this different ways: letting everyone be in one room together, pairing up children in different rooms, and separating everyone into different areas of the house. They read books for an hour and cannot socialize. Lisa and I then get an uninterrupted hour to chat together and the children get a rest.
5. Plan a service project to do together. One time we packed lunch bags to hand out to the homeless. Another time we filled a care package for missionary friends.
6. Use your time together as a mini co-op. What subjects do you both teach that you can pair up on? For example: One day I had planned to teach history to my children so Lisa left hers here while she ran errands and I taught the whole group our lesson for the day. Just as easy to teach eight as it is to teach four.