Someone recently asked of me, and others, what tolerance means within a large family.
I think our "tolerance" ties right into our philosophy of homeschooling... that God created each of us with a purpose, that He gave us gifts and interests that, if allowed to bloom, further our preparation for fulfilling that purpose. I think being in a large family *and* homeschooling is what gives my children the freedom to develop as they are meant to... without undue judgement, and with acceptance for who they are.
My 18 year old likes colorful outfits... and people may think she looks strange, but she seems to be a trendsetter. Her one week in public high school she wore striped leggings... before that week they were considered outlandish, after that week our small town was full of teen girls wearing striped leggings. I actually accompanied her last night to her University book store, as she had some textbook returns and needed my debit card to credit the return on. As we were walking down the stairs to the book store a woman coming the opposite direction stopped and said "oh my! don't you look cute!" to Jane - I asked if she often received compliments on her clothing, which she designs and sews herself, and she said "oh yes, I often have people asking me where I bought something, or if I made it myself, and if I sell the clothes I make" - so I have to think she's not *too* outlandish. :) Who knows, maybe it may be a source of income for her some day, and aren't I glad I didn't reign that in? Often she will sew something, or alter thrift store clothes in some way, because she can't find what she wants in stores... and 6-12 months later Target and Delias stores are FULL of that outfit.
A friend and I were driving to a Bible study one night, and she asked me, "do you ever think of telling Jane to tone it down?" and I said "what do you mean?" and she said "all those outlandish colors and patterns she wears and the funny looking hats" and I just said "why?" And she didn't answer me... I guess she figured I didn't get it. But I did know what she meant. The clothing creativity thing gives Jane joy... why would I rob her of it to be in favor of what is trendy now? Especially when she seems to be right on the cusp of what will be trendy tomorrow? Her sisters LOVE her talents, take delight when she creates something for them, or one of their dolls. No matter what the world might think of her... at home she is always thought wonderful and has eight adoring fans.
There is also the "many hands make light work" and "we're all in this together" philosophy that a large family can have. We help the younger ones learn to help. We are accepting of their limitations, we are patient with their mistakes. Older ones are expected to help younger ones.
If I'm helping Steadfast with something, and Fanny needs to go to bed, one will change her diaper, while someone else finds her favorite blankie, another will warm her bedtime cup of warm milk, another will help her drink it and brush her teeth, and yet another will tuck her in bed and turn on her Fisher Price aquarium and kiss her nite nite. She's whisked off in seconds and safely tucked in by five sets of loving hands who adore her. It's a job I prefer to savor myself, for our babies grow far too fast, and I love that one on one time the bedtime ritual brings, but it's a blessing to know the times I can't be there, she still feels warm and loved and cared for.
If I'm busy working on a sewing project I can say "can someone take care of dinner?" and suddenly there will be one teen in the kitchen, another teen in the garden plucking fresh cucumbers or tomatoes, a five year old keeping Fanny happy while a 7yo and 8yo quickly put a cloth on the table and set it. Same with dinner clean up... I can leave the table to go breastfeed Bronwyn, and come back to find the table cleared, the floor swept, the dishwasher humming, and pans soaking. Not all put upon one child... but work shared by five.
And they pass on their skills. Elizabeth used to be the egg gatherer, she passed it on to Catherine. Elizabeth used to empty the trash and Mary would put in a new bag. Mary now empties the trash and Catherine puts in a new bag. Jane and Elizabeth used to empty the dishwasher together, now Elizabeth and Mary do. Jane used to fix lunch for the littles, now Elizabeth does with Mary as her helper. These are "passings of the baton" that I never orchestrated... it's how the large family lives together, breathes together, works together, helps each other and teaches each other. Just as, in playing school, Mary helped Catherine learn to read Bob Books and in turn Catherine is teaching Lydia... because it's *fun* to teach your little sisters new things, and then share in those skills together.
It's not that the children do all the work, and I do none of it. In a large family there is enough work to keep me busy 24 hours a day, and still have enough work left over to share. Even with school work AND chores, they have more free time than chore time. :) After all they need that free time to develop their own interests and talents that God has given them to nurture. :)