Large Family Living on One Income

(Originally posted in 2014)

Being the stay-at-home mother of eleven children, I always face the inevitable question- How can you afford to live on one income? It’s not something I actively think about often because it’s been a way of life for such a long time now. Lately, though, I’ve been getting many inquiries about not only raising children on a tight budget but homeschooling them, too. Since I am a staunch homeschool advocate, I really want to encourage women that it can be done! Today, I’m writing the first of a two-part series about living and homeschooling with limited funds. My hope is to help some of you who want so badly to homeschool but aren’t sure whether or not you can afford it.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Part 1- Living Frugally

The most obvious place to start would be how to live within your means. I think the most important thing to remember in all of this is that it can be hard. You may not be able to get your hair and nails done or wear the latest fashion, but you need to put it into perspective. What are your priorities? Sort them out first. Make sure they are in line with being willing to sacrifice. Believe me, you will sacrifice, but it will be so worth it. Of course all families have different budgets, so this is just a glimpse on how my family manages.

We are a one-vehicle family, and it’s twelve years old. I know some of you are probably gasping in horror, but this situation is doable, especially if you look at the benefits like:

– No car payments
– Lower insurance rates
– Less gas consumption

We rent our house, instead of owning it. This may seem counter-intuitive at first because mortgages are usually less than rent rates, but think about it. If the roof needs to be repaired the basement floods, the furnace breaks down- it’s not our responsibility. We also don’t have a huge bank loan to pay off in this shaky economy.

We rarely go on vacations. I mean RARELY. The last one was almost two years ago when we drove 1,000 miles to Fort Leonard Wood, MO to see our oldest graduate from boot camp and AIT training. Before that was tent camping on the beach in Wildwood, NJ…eight years ago. And that one ended in disaster, as a tropical storm decided to show up and wash pretty much everything we had there out to sea. My husband and son were literally holding the tent we were in, so that it wouldn’t blow away, but that’s a story for another day.

We do a lot of shopping at Aldi. Have you seen their prices? We don’t go there every week because there are some things they don’t have that we like, but we do shop there twice a month.

We only go clothes shopping once a year, usually at Walmart or Target because they seem to have the lowest prices on clothing. The rest of the year we do get a lot of hand-me-downs from friends and our church has a clothing closet. In this case, my children are really a blessing because they are so thankful for the clothing we get from others and never complain about it, and when we do take them clothes shopping, it’s like Christmas to them.

Most of our furniture is secondhand. Again, our church is such a blessing because the Helping Hands Ministry will locate furniture for anyone who needs it and will help set up a way to either have it delivered or will at the very least help load it into your car.

– We rarely, if ever, go to the hairdresser. My daughter, Devin, is excellent at cutting hair. (Arianna’s getting pretty good, too!). Also, once a month, my church- yes, my church AGAIN- has a free haircut day using licensed hairstylists who are either members of our church or who generously volunteer their time.

Craigslist is our friend. All kidding aside, other than major Black Friday sales, this is how our family acquires electronics. We actually just bought three laptops for about $600. We’ve never had a problem yet!

Perhaps the most important thing is this- WE ARE ALL CONTENT WITH WHAT WE HAVE. In a culture that is obsessed with the next best thing, so far, my kids have never gotten upset that we don’t have every gadget known to man. They are very resourceful and truly appreciate everything they do have.

I hope this post has helped in some way! Part 2 will get down to the nitty gritty of how to homeschool with a limited income.

If you have any questions or have some more tips on living frugally, leave a comment! I always enjoy chatting with you!


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An Intimate Glimpse into Life with Ten Kids

Come join us for the day!

     Have you ever wondered what other people’s lives are actually like? Not the public, edited image, but everything- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
     Today I’m giving you the opportunity to witness my hectic life. Last Thursday, January 16, 2014, I chronicled my entire day, hour by hour for the world to see. I began at midnight and continued through the entire day until bedtime. So here we go, if you’re brave enough!

I’m starting with a list of family members for easy reference since there are so many of us.

Shawn- the Dad
Me (Shelly)- the Mom
Kenzie(8 months)

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin.

12am– I’m still awake. I just got done writing a post, so I’m a little wired. Kenzie, who’s teething, has just woken up and is very cranky. She falls back to sleep after a few minutes. I lie down on the sofa- we’re sleeping downstairs tonight, so Shawn can get some sleep before work.

12:45am- I start dozing off.

1am- Kenzie is awake again. After a few minutes of crankiness, she falls back asleep. I lie down again.

2am- Kenzie is not the culprit this time. I’ve woken up from a strange dream. (Something about me finding a gray hair and panicking. Don’t ask.)

3am- Kenzie’s awake again…

4:20- and again…

5:45- and again. I notice that Shawn has left for work. I’m already getting discouraged about what the day will bring after my lack of sleep. After Kenzie falls back asleep, I do, too.

7am- Ireland is awake at the crack of dawn, as usual, followed by a slew of early risers.


Yes, that’s Ireland in boy pajamas- a hand-me-down from Luke.


That’s Bailey with our kitten, Violet.


Summer makes herself comfortable anywhere.


That’s Arianna darting back upstairs after seeing Mom armed with a camera.

7:30- I give up on the notion of sleep and start checking emails, start a load of laundry, and proofread Dillon’s latest blog post. (He’s recently started a blog and posts 2-3 times a day.)

8am- By this point, everyone, except Devin, is awake. I make get breakfast out of the kitchen and bring it to the dining room.


Nutritious, right???



9am- Time for chores!


London vacuuming the living room

This may make it look like chores go off without a hitch, but today some of the kids, who shall remain nameless, do their share of complaining until loss of tablet privileges is mentioned.
     By this point Kenzie is still crabby and won’t nap, Ireland is crying because she wants a box like Bailey’s (he’s making it into a boat), and I am in desperate need of some coffee!


Bailey making his boat


Luke playing cars

     After filling up, I sweep the floor and vacuum again, which is dirty again already.

10:10- Kenzie is finally asleep, and I’m still in my pajamas.

10:30- I finally get dressed, start having the kids take turns showering/bathing, and do some more laundry.


We’ve actually run out of laundry detergent, and since I can’t afford to skip a day of washing clothes, I use baking soda.

10:45- Kenzie is already awake. Sigh.

11:00- Snacktime! Just a few crackers to hold them over until lunch, while I put laundry away, proofread another of Dillon’s posts, and give everyone their own clothes to put away.


Ireland with her clothes


Caollin, my free spirit, carrying her clothes upstairs with pants on her head

     By this time, I’m noticing that my ankle is really hurting, even though I don’t remember hurting it. Sigh. The curse of approaching 40. Yuck.

11:30- Everything has calmed down enough for me to do my personal devotions. Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible, if anyone is interested.

12pm- We have lunchmeat sandwiches for lunch. Afterwards, Arianna, London, and I do some Mad Libs. Dillon and Caollin are on their tablets, Bailey and Summer are on Leap Pads, and the other little ones are doing a puzzle.


Dillon on his tablet


Ireland playing a matching game

12:30- I check more emails and comment on other blog posts.

1pm- Devin has risen and graced us with her presence.


Time for family read-aloud. We’ve been reading Little House on the Prairie. The kids and I really enjoy it.


1:30- Devin starts her Swedish lessons using Mango Languages, while Dillon, Arianna, Caollin, and I pull out the atlas to plot countries from which people have read our blog posts. (Arianna blogs, too.)

1:45- Today is Ireland’s 4th birthday, so Arianna bakes her a cake. In the meantime, Dillon and I work on his Smithsonian volcano Kit, until we give up because the string is all tangled.




     Devin starts her schoolwork now, while the other kids play the game, Operation.


Devin hates algebra.

3pm- Shawn arrives home, Arianna decorates the cake, and we sing Happy Birthday to Ireland.



4pm- Chore time, again, and I start dinner- spaghetti.
     Afterwards we all pose for a family photo for Dillon’s blog. Then, Dillon, Arianna, and Caollin do their math.

5pm- We eat dinner and start to wind down. From this point until their bedtimes, nothing major happens. Just lots of puzzles, games, TV, and, of course, electronics.

8pm- Bailey, Luke, Ireland, and Summer go up to bed and listen to the Bible and their bedtime stories.


What we’re reading.

After they’re in bed- at least, before they come down five more times- I read the Message New Testament Bible to Devin, Dillon, Arianna, Caollin, and London. Then, I help Devin with some algebra she didn’t understand.

9pm- Caollin and London go to bed. Okay, they’re in their bedroom, but I doubt they’re sleeping. I correct any schoolwork that was done and write in the daily logs I have to keep for Devin, Dillon, Arianna, and Caollin. I truly despise this.

10pm- Kenzie is asleep for the night (I hope), and within the hour, I’m down for the count.

What’s your day like?

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Keeping a Clean(ish) House in the Midst of Chaos

”Clean” does not have to mean ”perfect.”


     Raising and homeschooling ten children can make housekeeping a bit… well, difficult. While my house will never be featured on ”Better Homes and Gardens”, I can assure you, it is possible to have a house that would be presentable for company, even when people are home all the time!
     Here are a few tips that may help you keep your sanity.

Assign chores to your children- even little ones can help. All of my children down to my 5-year old have daily chores.
     Our Chore List

– 14 yr. old- responsible for
   cleaning the litter box, cleaning
    the classroom, and washing
     dishes on Su, W, and F

– 13 yr. old- responsible for
   cleaning the dining room and washing dishes on M, Th, and Sat.

– 12 yr. old- responsible for cleaning the kitchen, bathroom (it’s tiny), and dishes on M, T, and F

– 9 yr. old- responsible for the living room and dishes on Sa, Su, and W

– 8 yr. old- She is our ”floater.” She covers the others while they’re washing dishes and dishes on Tu and Th

– 6 yr. old- responsible for cleaning the upstairs hallway

– 5 yr. old- He does the odds and ends jobs, like carrying dirty laundry downstairs, cleaning the landing of the stairs (our family’s catchall), or helping others if their rooms are especially messy

While our 2 & 4 yr. old don’t have assigned chores, they always ask where they can help, so I’ll just give them little things, like wiping things down with a rag, to do.

Do cleaning in short spurts throughout the day. I find it makes things so much easier to clean for a few minutes several times a day, rather than waiting until the mess will take hours. We usually aim for 9 am, 3 pm (before my husband comes home from work), and  sometimes after dinner. Most of the time I will do the after dinner clean-up myself. These cleaning bouts usually only take 10-15 minutes each. The kids will usually straighten their bedrooms 30 minutes before bedtime.

Let your older kids help with cooking and laundry. Having 12 people in the house means a lot of cooking and a lot of laundry. My 3 oldest each have a scheduled day to do their own laundry (I still end up doing a lot of theirs myself), and, as of right now, they each make dinner once a month. My 12 yr. old will often cook more than that because she loves being in the kitchen.


One of my daughter’s culinary creations

Have periodic ”deep cleaning” days. We honestly don’t do these very often (usually before holidays), but occasionally we will spend about 3-4 hours cleaning and organizing things that tend to get skipped. It’s like getting a clean slate. So refreshing.



Photos from our November deep cleaning session

With all this being said, though, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that ”clean” does not have to mean ”perfect.” While it’s important to have a home that is tidy, having a goal of perfection, especially if you have children, is only going to take you away from the things that are truly important.






A godly woman once said to me, ”What are your children going to remember when they grow up? How clean the house was, or how much you played with them?”

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