But first... don't forget to check out Kendra's See Me Homeschool post from today!
Tune in tomorrow and Friday for the last two posts in the blog hop and link up your own See Me Homeschool posts until Saturday!
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In our home, stuff abounds. We have lots of it. Most of it is stuff we hold in common - food, books, art supplies, toys, and socks (because who has the time to truly sort socks...)
Things can get a little tricky in a family with a lot of kids when it comes to differentiating between what things belong to everyone and what things are ok for a single owner to keep as "private property." Even Birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, though often tagged for a single recipient, aren't always a cut and dry case of "private property." How can we live in a large family where things are shared out of necessity and practicality, but still respect our children's right (albeit small) to owning and caring for their own things?
Here are some of the general guidelines we try to keep in mind...
* Nothing we have is deserved. All we have is a gift; it's all part of the particular way in which God has blessed us in the present moment. All we have is a reflection of God's goodness and *should* be used for our own good (sanctification) and for His glory. (I say *should* because... well, you know... we're all still working on that one. Always.)
* Sharing is always encouraged. But it is not always required.
* "Equal" and "fair" will not always happen. You're right, little one. It may not be fair, but who said anything about fair?? It is what it is. There are times when a sibling will have something that another doesn't and he or she is not required to share it. But so will you be in that situation some day, little one. In the mean time, rejoice for your sibling, and go distract yourself from your sorrow with something else ;)
* You're expected to treat your things well if you expect to continue to call them "yours."
* Items that are the object of habitual bickering and conflict will be removed from the home, or at the very least will "disappear" for a while, no matter who they belong to.
* When ownership is called into question, Mom and Dad have the final say.
Living in fellowship and family with seven people in a house full of stuff means that questions of what's mine and what's ours are going to come up regularly. The way I see it, for our family, most of our belongings fall into one of five categories. These are they (along with some examples :) )
This doesn't apply very often, but occasionally I'll get all Socialist and insist that a thing is physically divided and everyone gets an equal portion. A sheet of stickers for example.
Also, if a child comes into the possession of a large snack, it will be divided equally and shared or not eaten at all.
We especially do this with candy received at Valentine's Day, All Saints Day (Halloween...), Easter, etc... Our kids don't keep their own candy, it goes into a communal pot and is shared in equal-ish proportions at times of Mom's choosing. (this is somewhat about sharing amongst family members, but is actually more about staying aware and in control of the sweets my son with diabetes eats. To clarify - he can eat it, I just have to see it and account for it, so there's no taking candy to rooms and eating in private...)
When something is distributed equally around here, everyone can do what they will with their portion, but when it's gone, it's gone. My kids have learned the definition and value of rationing - stickers and food alike - by this method :)
everyone is expected to share or take turns with the things we hold in common
Most food, books, toys, arts and crafts supplies, etc... etc... etc...
In general, we're not the type of family that buys duplicates of toys to placate the masses (the Fisher Price lawn mower has been the obvious exception). Taking turns is a thing in our family. It's not always done graciously, but we try to make it happen.
Books are almost entirely communal. Even if it's received as as a gift. It goes on the family bookshelf for all to enjoy. Even if it's something fairly specific - like a book about the life of Ruth. Just because you're name may happen to be Ruth, doesn't mean the book can be denied to everyone else in the family. Perhaps as the kids get older this will change, or perhaps Ruth will be permitted to take the Ruth book with her when she moves out and has her own apartment with her own bookshelves. But for now, our children don't "own" books.
"Yours to Share"
I coined this phrase a few years ago and use it all. the. time.
For us it means that something has a specific owner and that a sibling must ask to use it. However, when asked, the owner is expected to share it or lose their own privilege to use the item.
I really do use this "category" a lot and find it's a practical way to teach Christian charity in the home. It's a reflection of the concept that just as we have been blessed to receive, so we are called to share. It respects the right of ownership, and encourages generosity in turn.
For example, there was a lot of drama last year surrounding a coloring book that Aaron got for his birthday. Everyone wanted to use it, but the gift had been given to him. In cases such as these, I employ the "it's yours to share" principle. The other kids were not allowed to use the coloring book without asking Aaron first. Aaron was expected to let his sibling choose a picture to color, but he could deny their first request and let them have their second choice - for instance, his sister chose the excavator but Aaron really wanted to color it so he was permitted to say 'no,' but had to give her her second choice. It sounds more complicated than it is. Everyone "knows" it around here so it usually happens without a hitch... Ruth got paint markers for her birthday, Dominic has to ask to use them, Ruth is expected to say yes. Someone gets a Lego set or Calico Critters set for Christmas? They'll get to build it or use the gift first, but after that, they're expected to share upon request. The owner is protected from others just taking and using his or her things without permission, but he or she is also required to share those things when asked properly and politely. And if s/he doesn't want to share? They'll lose their privilege for that item for a while (and the other sibling gets it in the end anyway...)
Yours. For now.
This is probably nothing new for other large families. This covers those things that "belong" to someone for now because they fit - either by size, necessity, or common sense.
Like clothes and bikes.
And baby board books, that obviously don't belong to James, but there's clearly no reason for the older boys to be taking them out of his room and hoarding them in their own. Ahem.
Example: "For this summer, this bike is yours, and no one may borrow it without your permission, however, it was purchased with not-your-money and in a few years it will belong to your sister, so although it is "yours" right now, you may not trash it. You may not lose, give away, tamper with, or otherwise misuse "your" bike that technically is not "yours." "
As for clothes, size often determines ownership at any given time. But what if you have children who share a clothing size? This is the case with my older boys. For now, they are allowed to wear whatever is in the drawer, except for a few things which they've clearly designated as personal favorites, and they have an understanding between them that they will ask before wearing a brother's "favorite" article of clothing. Clothes are also to be cared for with the understanding that they belong to the family and need to be kept well for hand-me-downs. (Except jeans. It's against the laws of nature to expect that boys will not put holes in jeans, no matter how well they "care for them.")
Means that there is no question as to who it belongs to and that Mom will not require you to share it. In these cases, sharing is always encouraged, but not required.
There's not much that falls into this category...
These are items that have one specific owner, often because they were gifts, but not exclusively. It also includes things that the kids made (works of art, craft projects, model airplanes, Lego creations until they're demolished). It also applies to money that has been earned or was given to the kids as a gift and things they may have bought with their own money.
Things only remain "private property" if they're cared for properly and are not left laying all around the house after Mom's asked for them to be put away.
Things that definitively belong to one child or another cannot be taken or borrowed without asking, and even then, sharing is not guaranteed. I don't require the kids to share the things that are specifically "theirs" but often they do. So that's nice :)
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That's the way we handle most of the stuff in our home. How about you? How do you manage the issues of community and private property in your home?
(hehe... I just deleted a few notes that were left over from writing this post. Embarrassing :) When that happens again, as I'm sure it will, don't hesitate to tell me. I could use a good dose of humility now and then ;) )