Katrina from “They All Call Me Mom”
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your family, and your blog?
My name is Katrina, and I live in southern California with my husband Rich, our nine children, and our little dog Milo. My husband is a fire fighter/paramedic, and we have been married for almost 20 years. Our children are (from oldest to youngest) Anthony, Audriana, Afton, Alex, Avery, Adam, Aislynn, Andrew and Aria. Yep, all A’s. I started my blog back in 2007 simply because I saw it as a form of journaling. I have always been a big journal keeper. I thought a blog would be a great way to document my life, my kids’ lives, and record all of our family memories in a way that was easy to share with friends and family. But when I started my blog, I actually had no idea that it was “public”. I was very new (and ignorant!) to the world of blogging, and I just assumed that unless I sent my link to people, no one would even know it existed. Then one day I got a comment on one of my blog posts from a complete stranger, and I was like, “Whoa…other people can read this?” Soon I was exploring other blogs out there, and I absolutely fell in love with the blogging world. And now, I would almost say I’m addicted!
As the mother of nine children, do you have any money saving tips or tricks you’ve picked up along the way?
Our biggest expenses for our family are food and gas. We can’t really do anything about the gas prices, and limiting our driving is nearly impossible when we have so many kids who need to be taken here and there on a daily basis.
But regarding our food expenses, I wish I could tell you that I clip and use coupons, but I don’t. It just takes way too much time to clip and sort, and to remember to use them. Instead we just buy a lot in bulk. We do a “Costco run” twice a month. We don’t eat out at restaurants a lot, but when we do the kids are able to order whatever meal they want minus the soft drinks. Instead, everyone drinks ice water. When drinks are $2.00 each, that’s a quick $22 that we can cut off our bill when we all just drink ice water. Our kids are so used to it that they never complain. They are just happy to be eating out!
How do you and your family stay organized and on top of everyone’s schedules?
With all of my kids except (the youngest one) involved in sports and many other social activities, I depend heavily on the white board that is hung up in our kitchen. Every night I write down the next day’s schedule on that white board, and everyone in the family knows to check it to see what’s going on during the day. Without it, we are lost!
Are there any specific challenges you face in having a large family and if so, how do you deal with those challenges?
Without a doubt the biggest challenge in having a large family is dividing my time among all the kids. I don’t go to bed at night wondering if the house was clean enough, but I do go to bed at night wondering if each child got what they needed from me that day. This can give me some serious “mommy guilt” if I am not careful.
To help with this, I have made up a check list for each child, and I glance at it each day and check things off as I go. For example, my youngest son is five years old. On his check list it might have things such as “read to him” and ”help him floss his teeth” and ”color with him” and “play checkers with him” and “teach him to make his bed” and many other things like that. I might have about twenty things listed on his check list, and if at the end of the day I can look at that list and see that half of them are checked off then I go to bed that night knowing he got what he needed from me that day.
While this might seem a bit strange and overboard, this visual reminder really does help me keep track of who is getting enough of my attention, or who isn’t. It’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle around here, and I just want to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone. Each child is very important, very special, and very deserving of my time.
What influenced your decision to home school your children and what are some of the things you have learned through this experience?
I began homeschooling back in 2001 when my then second grade daughter began struggling in school. She has learning disabilities due to a brain injury and had been keeping up with her classmates until that second grade year. She began to compare herself to her classmates’ work and would say things like, “Their work is better than mine” and ”I’m not as smart as they are” and it just about broke my heart. I was not getting good support with the school, and her teacher that year was a “permanent substitute” and was very mean and impatient with her. It was an awful year.
So, not knowing what else to do, I decided to teach her and her younger sister at home the following year. I was very unsure of myself during that first year. Was I teaching them enough? What if they don’t learn all that they need to learn? I had my doubts, that’s for sure. I learned so much during that first year. I realized that even if we only did two hours of work a day, the one-on-one with me was equal to being in school six hours a day with a class of 30 and just one teacher. We could condense a school day into a few hours in the morning, and then our afternoons were free. I love that about homeschooling. I also realized that first year that I made a pretty good teacher! At the end of the year, my first grader was doing second grade work, and my brain injured third grader had improved leaps and bounds.
Not only that, but she now had a teacher who truly understood her limitations as well as her strengths. Pulling her out of the school system for the next three years was the best thing that I could have done for her. She is a senior in high school now (back in the school system) and will be graduating with her class in the spring. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Do you have any advice for other moms who are just starting out homeschooling their children?
Yes! First, just know that its normal to feel as if you can’t do it. It’s normal to have doubts, especially in that first year.
Second, get connected to other homeschoolers. They are out there! Just search the internet for a homeschooling group near you. Being connected to a group of homeschooling friends is wonderful for your kids, but also for you. We homeschooling moms need all the support we can get, and you will find that in a good homeschooling group.
Last, remember that even your worst day homeschooling (when things just don’t go so well and you feel as if nothing was accomplished that day) is oftentimes better than a good day in normal school. The one-on-one time you are spending with your kids is priceless.
Do you or your family have a motto that you live by?
“It is what it is.” In other words, if you can’t change it, then learn to live with it and stop complaining!
“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” This is used a lot by both my husband and I. A few years ago, our oldest daughter almost died in a car accident. She sustained a brain injury and had three years of intense physical therapy to learn to walk and talk all over again, among other things. That experience gave us something to gage life by. Every other “problem” we had at the time seemed small compared to a severe brain injury. As a result of that experience, we truly do not “sweat the small stuff” around here, and we’ve found that 99.9% of the things we worry about can fall into the “small stuff” category.
Do you have any advice for other mom’s out there?
Take time out of your busy day to play with your child. Get off the phone, get off the computer, leave the housework for 30 minutes and just play with them. Play house with your three-year old. Color with your six year old. Go into your fifteen year old’s room, flop on the bed, and just talk to her. Your kids want and need your full attention. Give it to them. They will be grown and out of the house before you know it!
Be sure to take time out for yourself. This is so important! Every mom needs and deserves a break from her children. This doesn’t mean you have to leave the home. Just a quiet time in your room or taking a long, undisturbed bath can help you unwind and give you that peace that you are needing. Do you have older children? Pay them some money to entertain the younger ones for 30 minutes. And try to get together with your girlfriends at least twice a month. Girl time is invaluable!