Art Supplies and Ideas for Small Spaces and Large Families

Children are natural artists. They will sketch and color on just about anything if left to their own devices. They don’t typically need encouragement to be artists (unless somewhere along the line they got the notion in their heads that they were NOT good at drawing – this is usually from an outside influence, and will take a lot of coaxing to correct – BUT, that is a totally different post ūüėČ ).

Obviously, we need to set boundaries for a child’s artistry (so they don’t draw on the walls!), but we most definitely should allow for creativity in our school day. ¬†Having art supplies at the ready is a must for any homeschool!

I have a unique situation in that I have a lot of kiddos of varying ages needing art supplies and a small space in which to store them – the art supplies, that is. ūüėČ ¬†Here are some of my favorite art supplies and ideas for small spaces and large families.

How to manage art with varying ages and abilities |

This post is sponsored by:Large Family Art Ideas |

Use coupon code:
10% off ART CLASS
+ 10% off all other SEE THE LIGHT products on the same order

Large Family Art Supplies

Keeping art supplies on hand for the large family can be a full time job!  I just discovered yesterday, my stock of glue sticks was frighteningly low, and I JUST bought a stash of them from our local store!

Years ago, I found a wonderful place to buy massive quantities of high quality supplies. ¬†In fact, I only had one child in school when I discovered Discount School Supply. ¬†When my son was 5, I placed a big order, and some of those supplies JUST ran out last year! ¬†That’s 12 years of stock! ¬†And I can honestly say the products were just as good 12 years later as they were when I first purchased them. ¬†(just typing all that brings me back to those early years of homeschooling…*sniff*…time goes so quickly)

So, let me give you a few suggestions from the Discount School Supply website that are large family friendly – you can click the pictures to see more information about them.

Large Family Art Supplies |

Large Family Art Supplies |

Large Family Art Supplies |

Large Family Art Supplies |

Pretty much anything you need art-wise can be purchased there for a great price!

Storage and Organization of Art Supplies

In our home, art supplies are kept in a few different areas. ¬†My recommendation for separating out art supplies would be based on RULES OF USAGE. ¬†In our house, there are 3 different Rules of Usage –
1.  Anyone can use any time.
2.  Only some can use any time.
3.  Supervised use only.

Anyone can use any time – Under our bookshelves, we have supplies I am okay with the children using on a daily basis without needing to ask.

Large Family Art Supplies | I love using the plastic containers you find at the store for around a $1 to fill with supplies.  I have a larger open one for pencils, erasers, and sharpeners (to allow for easy access), and several smaller closed ones for crayons, colored pencils, and markers (to allow for ease of transport).

I used to keep individual boxes for each child when I only had 4 children using supplies. ¬†I bought each child their “color” and wrote each of their names on the lid. ¬†However, now that there are 7 children using supplies, I haven’t found this method¬†to be the best choice. ¬†Instead, I have 4 crayon boxes, 1 colored pencil box, and 1 marker box that are able to be used communally. ¬†The markers (even though they are shown in this photo) are not allowed in this area. ¬†My daughter accidentally put them there when she was cleaning up.

Notebooks make up the main paper supply for this area because they are tidy. ¬†The children are allowed to use loose paper from time to time, but that falls into the next category…

Only some can use any time – The markers, loose paper, scissors, glue, and the more expensive art supplies belong in this group. ¬†I have these items on top of the bookshelf in the dining room in totes. ¬†My oldest daughter also has her own stash of expensive pencils, colored pencils, and charcoals in a locked box in her room. ¬†These were either gifts or purchases she made on her own, so they are “hers” and do not belong to the community at large.

Supervised use only РThe supervision-only items are on the top shelf of my closet in a bag I can easily pull down.  These items include seasonal art supplies (like those needed for Truth in the Tinsel) and the blacklight I use for the See the Light chalk art projects we do during the holidays.  I keep pipe cleaners and coffee filters, beads, and glitter in this bag, along with anything else that I would not want to be used without my permission.  I also keep paints and the bulk items I mentioned above on this shelf.

How to Incorporate Art into Your Homeschool

I believe¬†art belongs in nearly every aspect of your homeschool ¬†From your nature studies to history to math and beyond, I believe sketching and adding color to your work is a great way to truly enjoy studying¬†as long as your child doesn’t get wrapped up in the artistic side to the detriment of their studies. ¬†Don’t be afraid to let your child doodle while you teach or color their workbook after their lessons are finished. ¬†I always allow notebooks and pencils during Tapestry of Grace time, and I do not get wrapped around the axle over doodles in their math books.

I also think it is important to teach some formal art to give your child the tools to create something beautiful with a certain amount of mastery.  I recommend using an art program that incorporates many ages and stages and does not require a ton of extra supplies.  We use Art Class from See the Light Art.  You can read my full review HERE.  It spans the ages well with short lessons, solid instructions, and doable art projects that are beautiful!

Large Family Art |

Right now, you can get Art Class (and anything you else you order at the same time) 10% off + FREE SHIPPING in the U.S.  Coupon Code: VIRTUAL

Large Family Art Ideas |

Saving Art Projects

Every parent I know wonders how they are going to keep all the lovely art their child creates. ¬†Nearly every day, one of my children creates something that is super cool and something I would love to keep, but with a large family, these amazing works of art quickly become clutter. ¬†That’s why I LOVE the Keepy App. ¬†I can have as many children on the app as I want and all I have to do is snap a photo, add a few words about the project, and I am free to throw away the original. ¬†Yes, I do keep some REALLY phenomenal works of art, but those are few and far between and go into a file in the filing cabinet.

Unique Ways to Acquire Art Supplies

The last thing I want to address is how you can gather art supplies. ¬†The only word of caution I have here is that in the acquiring of supplies, be sure they don’t become clutter and chaos.

Make art supplies a gift РMy 4 year old got a big stash of art supplies for his birthday.  Most of these became community supplies because at his age, sharing is fun, but you can allow each child a small tote that is just their own.  Ask for art supplies as gifts or give them yourself Рthey are consumable and always welcome!

Recycle РBoxes, packing paper, jars, yarn, ribbon, sticks, and so much more can easily become art mediums.  The rule in our house is that you get to play with recycled items for a one day and then they must go to the trash (unless the thing created is well-constructed and will last a long time without becoming a big mess Рexample: the dollhouse my daughter made from a cardboard box).

Garage Sales – One of the best garage sale finds I made when my two oldest kids were little was a huge bag of notepads! ¬†You will often find these types of things grouped together and selling for little to nothing. ¬†You might also find some more specialized supplies, but be certain you NEED them before you buy, and be certain the quality is worth the cost. ¬†Low quality crayons and other supplies just aren’t worth it no matter how cheap.

Deconstructed Items – Search the term “UPCYCLE ART SUPPLIES” on Pinterest and you will find a treasure trove of ideas! ¬†Take a gander at the ideas there and start to see ordinary items in a new light.

No matter how you do art in your home, let it be free-flowing and fun! ¬†This isn’t a time to be strict and structured, and criticism needs to take a hike. ¬†In fact, I would even encourage mama to sit down and create alongside her children. ¬†Color, cut and paste, and enjoy the time with your children! ¬†You want art to be something your child has fond memories of!

Large Family Laundry Solutions

Several months ago, I asked on my Facebook page what one thing my readers found extremely difficult about homemaking. Laundry made the top 3.  Not surprising.

In a large family, laundry is mega-sized. ¬†The typical organization advice to do¬†laundry once or twice a week, or even to do one load of laundry a day is laughable (and slightly maddening) to the large family mom. ¬†That’s why I put¬†together this mega post on large family laundry solutions with systems I’ve used and systems other large family bloggers have¬†written about on their blogs.

Time to tackle Mt. Washmore!

Large Family Laundry Solutions {mega post} |

1. ¬†Teaching Your Kids to Do Their Own Laundry – This is the system we currently use. ¬†It keeps me from doing all the laundry by myself. ¬†In a large family, it isn’t ALL the kids doing their own laundry, but¬†older children assigned to do certain “groups” of laundry. ¬†Read the post, it will make more sense. ūüėČ

2. ¬†Room-by-Room Laundry System – This is how¬†I managed the laundry when the washer and dryer were located in the hallway. ¬†It is a good system to have in play when you don’t have the luxury of a laundry room.

3.  Shelf & Basket Laundry System РThis was the system we used when there were a few less children in the house and the laundry room was in the basement.

4. Individual Laundry Bags – This system uses no sorting and a pop-up laundry bag for each child.

5.  A Larger Shelf & Basket System РThis large family mom still uses a shelf & basket system effectively.  She also mentions how having large capacity machines save her time.  I agree with this (you can read about our large family washer here).

6.  Mega-Family Laundry System РThis post has tons of great tips from a mom of 15, including how to only wash towels once a week, and the idea of creating a sock station.

7.  Large Family, Small Laundry Room РThis post is a detailed explanation of how a family of 11 manages to keep up with the laundry.

8. ¬†Simplified Large Family Laundry Routine¬†– Don’t miss the link to her Family Closet post!

9. ¬†Laundry Closet – This is a different take on the “Family Closet” idea – a wooden shelved closet with baskets to keep things organized.

10.  Laundry Hacks for the Large family Рincluding color-coded laundry baskets and a community sock drawer!

11. Laundry Tubs – ¬†Really great post that gives a lot of ideas, including the use of tubs to sort. ¬†I’d also encourage you to read about her “dot system”.

Large Family Laundry Solutions {mega post} |

12.  Using the Washer as Your Hamper РThis post has a lot of neat ideas for your laundry room too!

13.  Large Family Laundry Tips from Huffington Post РGreat list of large family laundry hacks aggregated by Huff Post.

14.  Large Family Laundry at the Laundry Mat РThis post is focused on how to catch up with the laundry when it has grown beyond your control, but I know there are large families who have to use the laundry mat on a regular basis.

15.  Laundry as a Timer РThis mom of 4 does her laundry at night and cleans while she waits on the dryer.  She got the idea from another mom who does the same thing at 5 in the morning.

16.  Five Laundry Hacks from a Large-ish Family Рincludes how she reduced the number of clothing the children own to help out with the amount of laundry she has to do.

17. ¬†Grand Laundry Station – Tour of one large family mom’s laundry room and system.

18.  Laundry Tips from a Household of 12 РThis post has some good suggestions for getting it all done, including finding a place to fold that works for you and teaching all ages and abilities to put away their own laundry.

19.  Video Tour of Family Closet РStephanie from Keeper of the Home transformed the master bedroom closet into a Family Closet.

20.  Simplifying the Laundry Process with Simplified Sorting РThis mom brought her sorting to a super simple level Рrags, items that need to be washed separately, and everything else!

21. ¬†Mama’s Laundry Talk Pinterest Board for Laundry Routines

Large Family Laundry Solutions {mega post} |

22.  Detailed Laundry Routine РEvery day of the week has a specific purpose for the laundry.

23.  2 Washers, 2 Dryers & a Laundry Counter РWhat a blessing!

24. ¬†Duggar Family Laundry Room Video Tour – Had to throw it in – a girl can dream, can’t she?

Large Family Hacks - learn the little things that make their homes run smoother! |

Click here to read more Large Family Hacks!

How I Do Tapestry of Grace {Large Family, Loose Schedule}

I feel it’s important I begin this post with a disclaimer: ¬†I use Tapestry of Grace as a GUIDE with other things thrown in. ¬†I do not follow it to the letter. ¬†I’ve never followed it to the letter. ¬†I’ve never been able to make it work for our family “As Is”, but of all the curricula I’ve tried, it is Tapestry of Grace I come back to time and again.

I probably won’t win any Tapestry of Grace Awards (if there were such a thing) for being a great TOG mom, but I am a fan of the curriculum…the way I use it.

So, if I haven’t scared you off, read on…

You don't have to follow the entire schedule to a T to use Tapestry of Grace - this post shows how one family does TOG (planning, teaching, and tweaks) |

Tapestry of Grace is divided into 4 age/reasoning levels – Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. ¬†Think of these as Early Elementary, Older Elementary, Jr. High, and High School…ish.

I focus most of my attention on the 8 & up crowd, letting the 7 & under crew float in and out of the lessons. ¬†In fact, of late, I’ve instituted a Rest Time for those ages during our Tapestry Time. ¬†The 3 littlest boys are more distracting than anything and I figure their time will come when they are more mature. ¬†So, in Tapestry terms, that means I have 2 Upper Grammar students, 1 Dialectic (who will soon be moving up), and 1 Rhetoric (who will graduate this year).

So, now that you know WHO in our family does TOG, I can start at the beginning of an actual lesson plan and give you an idea of what that looks like and how I implement it.

Lesson Planning for Tapestry of Grace

Tapestry of Grace comes in 2 forms РPrint Edition and DE (Digital Edition). I prefer having the hard copy of TOG, but DE automatically updates.  This would be especially helpful for Year 4 (Modern Times).

Toward the end of each week, or over the weekend, I open my Tapestry notebook to the next lesson.  Marcia Sommerville (author of TOG) has graciously given things to look out for the next week at the end of every chapter, so I glance over those and make a mental note as I begin my planning.

I use a notepad and pen as my main tools, and I keep an internet capable device nearby because I find there are several things I want to look up as I work.

How we do Tapestry of Grace homeschool curriculum |

To lesson plan, I go through the Threads for the week and the Weekly Overview (shown above – the colors represent the different learning levels) and jot down everything I want to cover. ¬†I look over ALL levels because often there are projects or topics I want to use from other levels, or I have a child more or less advanced and would appreciate the assignments from a different level. ¬†If need be, I write the child’s name next to the assignment on my list, but that is usually only in the case of reading assignments.

Note: ¬†Most of the things we do in TOG, we do together. ¬†I’ve seen a tremendous¬†benefit from having everyone in the same room, no matter the learning level of the material being covered. ¬†Information gone over once gives a child a taste and may be enough to pass a test. ¬†Information gone over multiple times in multiple ways gives them understanding and mastery. ¬†For instance, my oldest daughter has been reading in Victorian Internet about the telegraph. ¬†The younger kids are studying Samuel Morse this week at their level. ¬†Megan was able to add information to their study as I read to them. ¬†Doing so solidifies her understanding of the material. ¬†This kind of education is priceless.

How We Do Tapestry of Grace {large family, loose schedule} - this post shows how one family uses TOG as a guide from lesson planning to actual teaching |

As you can see from my notes in the above photo, I’ve put names next to specific books – some of those are carry-overs from the previous week and some are new ones I found in the Reading Assignment pages of Tapestry.

NOTE: ¬†At the beginning of the year, I use Tapestry’s website to PRE-plan books I will need, so I’m not scrambling for resources. ¬†(click here to learn more about finding the books used in each year plan)

After I have all my “plans” on paper, I will reorder them if necessary, but most of the time I know where I want to start and what the general order should be, so¬†I simply cross off as I go throughout my week.

It is also at this time that I make notes on any items I need to shop for (pinata and candy in this case – I just don’t feel like making a pinata¬†this time). ¬†I also research any internet links I may want to use and either put them on my TOG Pinterest boards (shown below) or drop the links into Evernote. ¬†(Truth be told, there are many days that I research as I teach, pulling up maps and photos as I go.)

Follow Amy Roberts {Raising Arrows}’s board Tapestry of Grace Tips & Resources on Pinterest. Follow Amy Roberts {Raising Arrows}’s board Tapestry of Grace Year 1 on Pinterest.
Follow Amy Roberts {Raising Arrows}’s board Tapestry of Grace Year 2 on Pinterest. Follow Amy Roberts {Raising Arrows}’s board Tapestry of Grace Year 3 on Pinterest.
Follow Amy Roberts {Raising Arrows}’s board Tapestry of Grace Year 4 on Pinterest.
Note: You can see we are currently in Year 3 by how many more links there are on that board.

Where Does Tapestry of Grace Fit Into Our Day

Tapestry is an afternoon thing here. ¬†Our morning hours are spent mostly in workbooks. ¬†Tapestry of Grace is a sort of “slow-down” to our day. ¬†It usually consists of read-alouds, projects, and discussions. ¬†It never takes more than 2 hours.

Note:  The reading assignments from TOG are to be accomplished during morning school time.  They are not factored into this Tapestry Time.  So, for instance, Megan read in Victorian Internet during the morning time, and we discussed Samuel Morse during the afternoon hours.

What a Tapestry of Grace Week Looks Like

I always start by reading the General Information page from the chapter aloud to the children. ¬†This gives them an overview of what the week will be about. ¬†Then, I read from the History Core and In-Depth sources I’ve chosen. ¬†In this section’s case, the resource is¬†Abraham Lincoln’s World. ¬†I usually choose a resource from Upper Grammar or Dialectic to read to the group. ¬†We all learn something without it being over anyone’s head. ¬†Lastly, I hand them their Reading Assignments for the week. ¬†They are welcome to start reading or put it away in their box, knowing that the reading has been added to their morning school time for the rest of the week, and I will be checking in on their progress during the week.

Tuesday is usually spent discussing the main history threads and people focused on for the section. ¬†And here’s where I lose my Tapestry of Grace Mom Award – I read directly from the World Book notes in the Teacher’s Notes. *gasp*

How I Do Tapestry of Grace homeschool curriculum - from lesson planning to actual teaching |

As I stated earlier, I firmly believe that information should be digested several different ways, so even if the children are reading about a topic in their Reading Assignments, I still want them to hear it read aloud during our Tapestry Time.

For some people,¬†the idea of reading from an encyclopedia sounds¬†super boring, but I learned a knack for reading aloud with passion from my mom (THANKS, MOM!). ¬†I read with fervor, I interject questions and tidbits of my own, and many discussions ensue. ¬†I am not a teacher who refuses to stop for questions and comments (and diaper changes ūüėČ )

Another reason I am perfectly comfortable doing this is because Marcia has notes on the pages to keep me¬†from being sucked into World Book’s worldview (yes, World Book has a worldview).

This also allows me to avoid a lot of pre-planning. ¬†The World Book sections are included so mom can pre-read and know what the children are learning about. ¬†I don’t do that. (another *gasp*) ¬†I digest the information alongside my children. ¬†It works for us.

The last thing I do on Tuesdays is hand out any relevant notebooking pages (I have a membership to NotebookingPages), and I help the children remember and write down pertinent information for Presidents, countries, etc. ¬†I file those away in a collective TOG Notebook I keep for the children’s Tapestry of Grace pages.

Wednesday is usually the day we go over Tapestry of Grace Geography.  This day is spent at the table with tea and cookies because our maps are on the dining room wall.  We live in a smallish house and this was the best place for the maps.  (We print our maps from this site.)

This is also the day we start any weekly projects I’ve decided to tackle. ¬†I usually go for the easy projects – something that can easily be accomplished in 2 days.

Tapestry of Grace project |

This is the day we tie up loose ends.  We work through the remainder of the list, and we finish projects.  This is also the time I would have any discussions from Rhetoric that need to happen.  I do not do all the major Rhetoric discussions since they are more for a classroom setting, and we can accomplish just about the same amount in a family discussion over the World Book material. (see Tuesday)

We do not school on Friday because of Home Blessing.  If we are doing a Unit Celebration or other related party, it occurs on Friday or Saturday.  You might have noticed in my notes, we are having a Mexican-themed party this weekend!

Now,¬†let me give you a little broader picture, so you can see what I’m NOT doing…

What I Leave Out of Tapestry of Grace

1.  Writing РI have my own standards here, so I assign essays and research papers as needed.  ALL of my children write creatively on their own.  They got that bug from their mama.

2. ¬†Philosophy – We do an overview of philosophy, but I’ve never been a fan of the “dialogues” included in TOG.

3. ¬†Most worksheets – I don’t like busy work, and while the worksheets in TOG are well done, I can tell if my child is retaining information without the aid of worksheets, so we skip these.

4. ¬†Anything I feel is unnecessary for my child – This could be just about anything. ¬†Perhaps I know they have already studied a topic extensively or I don’t think they are old enough to understand myths or I don’t want to go as in-depth as TOG has them go on a subject. ¬†This is MY homeschool, I can use Tapestry the way I want/need to use it and still be a good mom. ūüėČ

I Don’t Do All of Tapestry, but I Still Think it is Worth It.

So, perhaps you are wondering why I still like Tapestry of Grace if I don’t do it 100%. ¬†Why not just use another curriculum that doesn’t have the extras? ¬†Why not piece together my own?

Well, I tried piecing together my own. ¬†It was a disaster. ¬†Tapestry of Grace keeps me on track, and as I said before, it is the curriculum I return to time and again. ¬†Here are a few of the reasons why…

1.  The hard work is done for me.  I cannot imagine the countless hours Scott and Marcia Sommerville put in to make TOG what it is.  It is massive, and everything I need is right at my fingertips without me needing to do all the hard work of gathering the information.

2. ¬†If I needed the extras, they’re already there. ¬†If sometime in the future, I decide to teach TOG a different way than I am now, I don’t have to scrap my old curriculum. ¬†Everything is there and next time I teach this unit, I can choose to do more (or less) without needing to go back to the drawing board, so to speak.

3. ¬†Our worldviews match. ¬†I am a Protestant Creationist Christian who believes God touches our lives every day in everything we do. ¬†This curriculum is decidedly from the same worldview. ¬†Yes, you can use it if you are not all of these things (and Marcia does a good job of letting you know where there might be a worldview clash), but I don’t need to filter a lot of stuff¬†from this curriculum. ¬†For a busy mom of many, this is a huge time savings.

4. ¬†The answers are provided. ¬†There are other curricula out there that do not help mom formulate answers. ¬†They offer questions and discussions, but no answers to those questions. ¬†I can’t manage that kind of curriculum. ¬†There are days when I am sick with morning sickness, have newborn brain, or just don’t have the energy to¬†wrap my brain around difficult concepts. ¬†I need someone to chew the information for me. ¬†I may not fully agree (but, I did say our worldviews match, so that helps), but at least I have something to go on. ¬†Thank you, TOG!

5. ¬†The chronology and interwoven topics suit my style. ¬†¬†I like to study history chronologically. ¬†I like to know the whole story. ¬† I like to see God’s hand in history. ¬†I like to have my school subjects weave in and out of each other. ¬†I have never found another curriculum that does this as well as TOG. ¬†Yes, I add in my own stuff, but like I said before, Tapestry of Grace is an indispensable guide for me to work from. ¬†It is what ties our entire homeschool together.

So, now you know how Tapestry of Grace can work for a family that wants to use TOG as a guide rather than a full-tilt Classical curriculum.  (Note:  You will need to add in Math and Science no matter how you choose to use Tapestry.)

Let me finish by saying that I believe history should be the basis of every homeschool education.  It is so rich and deep, that an understanding of it is the gateway to a well-rounded education.

“The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.”
~Theodore Roosevelt

Large Family Hacks – Play Shoes Crate

When you have a lot of kiddos, you have a lot of shoes!  They are everywhere all over the house, yet the crazy thing is it is next to impossible to find a matching pair when you need them!

Enter our newest organizational tool…the Play Shoes Crate!Large Family Hack - Play Shoe Crate to keep shoes contained and easily found! |

{affiliate links included}

Back when we used to do Workboxes, I purchased several black milk crates to house the files we were using for a modified workbox system.  However, years later, the milk crates were just taking up space in storage.  (Funny how I have storage items IN storage!)

With all these little boys, we end up with a lot of play shoes and no great place to put them Рespecially when they are muddy.  So, I decided to pull 2 of the crates out (black was definitely a good color choice!), and put one by each of the most used doors.

Large Family Hack - Play Shoe Crate |

Piling the shoes into the crate is easy work for any one of the children, and it keeps the floors by the doors free of shoe clutter and the shoes easy to find. ¬†On really muddy days, I’ll put a junk towel by the back door to line the shoes on and get them dry before putting them in the crate, but for the most part, when you come in from playing, your shoes go in the crate – thank you very much!

Large Family Hacks - learn the little things that make their homes run smoother! |

Find all the Large Family Hacks here!

Birthday Treats for Our Dog (and his human family!)

Our dog, Kip, turned one year old a few¬†weeks ago. Because everything in this household is cause for celebration, we decided to make him “Kip”cakes we could ALL enjoy!

Celebrate your dog's birthday with cupcakes they can eat and you can too! |

After searching through several recipes – some of which were said to be downright gross! – we settled on one that we tweaked a bit to make the perfect birthday treat for Kip AND the rest of the family!¬† It contains banana, carrot, honey and peanut butter – what’s not to love?! ¬†I posted this photo of our yummy creations on Instagram:

“Kip”cakes for Kip the Dog’s Birthday!

A photo posted by Amy Arrows (@amyarrows) on


Doggy Cupcakes (aka “KIP”cakes)

1/4 cup mashed banana
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350¬į,¬†and prepare a¬†large mini-muffin pan. (We like this muffin pan.) In a large mixing bowl, combine¬†the mashed¬†banana, peanut butter, oil, and vanilla. ¬† Stir¬†in the shredded carrot. Add¬†the flour and baking soda into the bowl and fold into the wet dough. Spoon the batter into the mini-muffin pan, filling about 3/4 of the way, and bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the muffins pull away from the sides and are nicely browned.

Let cool and then serve them up to your family and your family dog!

Cupcake treats for you AND your dog! | RaisingArrows.netThe cupcakes were VERY peanut buttery, and they did taste like something a dog would love (which he did). ¬†We added a bit extra for the humans by frosting them with cream cheese frosting. ¬†One recipe we found said the dog could have the cream cheese frosting too, but we decided this probably wasn’t the best idea.

Because Kip is a hunting dog Рa Tri-Color French Brittany to be exact Рwe keep him in sporting shape.  That means NO CREAM CHEESE FROSTING!  We do give him these treats: And for his birthday, he received this toy to put his treats in (KONG toys are AWESOME!  Kip can chew through anything, but NOT these!  The color of the KONG toy tells you how tough it is Рblack being the strongest.):


I have to admit, when we first got a dog I was pregnant with our 9th child, and I wasn’t real sure how I’d feel about having a dog. ¬†I have toddlers – who needs a dog?! ¬†But, he’s growing on me. ¬†He’s pretty well behaved, and he has brought a lot of joy (and pheasants) to¬†our family.

Happy 1st Birthday, Kip! A photo posted by Amy Arrows (@amyarrows) on

Large Family Photos

Large Family Photos - they can be stressful, comical, and downright crazy !  How to get a large family photo you love! |

You’ve decided it is time to get¬†all of your children in one photo, dressed in matching clothes, looking the same direction and smiling.

Good luck with that.

Large family photos aren’t just an exercise in patience and perseverance, they tend toward insanity on a whole new level. ¬†(Herding cats ring a bell? ) ¬†It’s time to find a better way! ¬†This post isn’t your typical “what to wear” or “be sure you feed them beforehand” advice. ¬†It’s full of fresh outside-the-box ideas to fit your fun outside-the-box family!

Click here to learn more about the photography bundle sale going on right now!

First, let me address the¬†million dollar question –

Should you hire a professional photographer?

Large Family Photos - they can be stressful, comical, and downright crazy!  How to get a large family photo you love! |

The photo above was taken by our bank as a free print (with the option to buy a whole package).  We chose to take our free print and run (thank you very much).  But, I use this photo as an example to help you make a wise decision about what kind of professional photographer to use and if it truly is necessary for your family.

I’m happy we got this photo. ¬†I spent a lot of time choosing clothing and trying not to look fat 2 months after giving birth to our 7th child. ¬†Notice, not everyone is smiling in the photo, and our usually bubbly little girl has a weird look¬†on her face. ¬†Oh, and notice the toddler? ¬†Terrified comes to mind.

Choosing to go with a professional photographer has it’s pros and cons, especially if you are choosing someone who either doesn’t know your family or someone who is in a hurry. ¬†This photographer needed to take the photo in our time slot and move on. ¬†He didn’t know us, and it showed. ¬†It’s also a very “stock” photo with a boring background and the usual “family pose” – ramped up to fit our family size.

Not all professional photos are like this (and some would argue this doesn’t even count as a “professional” photo), but the more frills you want, the more it is going to cost you. ¬†If you have a family friend who does professional photos, then by all means, go for it. ¬†But if you don’t, don’t worry that you will never have anything decent to share with grandparents and friends. ¬†There are ways of getting great shots that are share-worthy!
{affiliate links included}

How to get great photos of your large family

My first suggestion is to let go of the notion of the average family photo. ¬†I’m going to talk more about this in a moment, but some of my favorite photos of our family would fall into the category of “Lifestyle” photography. ¬†They are shots of us living life, acting naturally, and showing much more of our individual personalities than a stock photo could ever manage.

So, now that you are ready to think outside the box…

Idea #1:  Grouping method

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank |

Rather than trying to get ALL of the children in one shot, try grouping a few together at a time to get nice photos that really show their personalities.

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank |

Idea #2:  Lifestyle Photos

As I mentioned above, these are my favorites, and they are super popular right now!  Simply put, these are photos of your family living life.  They are candid shots that cannot be duplicated, thus making them signature pieces unique to your family.

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank |

Lifestyle photos are particularly beautiful done in black and white, and lend themselves to being used as “art” around your home.

ty and amy

Idea #3:  Take advantage of holidays and special outings

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank |

Typically, when we go out for field trips, vacations, or holidays, the kids are dressed in outfits that either match or are well put together (don’t ask me to do this any other day, please!) ¬†Take advantage of those days!

You can use these special outings to capture a set of lifestyle-type photos or to do a more “formal” family photo. ¬†The photo above was taken while on a field trip. ¬†The weather was gorgeous, the lighting just right, and the kids looked presentable!

If you want to get in on the photo as well, ask someone nearby to use your camera to take the photo.  Set the camera up for them (when in doubt, set it to Auto) and ask them to take several shots so you have plenty to choose from.

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank |

This Easter, we asked¬†my mom to take a photo of us¬†in her living room after church. ¬†My oldest daughter set the camera up, and handed it to Grandma. ¬†No, it isn’t professional-grade, but it is all of us together!

Idea #4:  Take Individual photos

We have started taking individual photos of all the kids every year.  I feel like this really shows their growth and captures more of their personalities.

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank | RaisingArrows.netThese can easily be put into a collage (more on that in a moment), or displayed separately.

Idea #5:  Raise a photographer

Ideas for Large Families to get great photos without breaking the bank |

Ideas for getting large family photos without breaking the bank |

There is nothing better than having a photographer in the house! ¬†All of our family memories are preserved on Megan’s external hard drive. ¬†At the end of the year, we pay her to put them into an album to be printed through Walgreens or Mixbook.

The only downside to having a photographer in the family is that she’s not in a lot of the lifestyle type photos because she’s the one taking them! ¬†The best thing to do in this case is either learn to use a timer so your child¬†can jump in on the shots, or have her set the specs for the photo and then hand the camera off to you (as we did in the photo below!).

Large Family Photos - how to get the best shots, make the most of your time, and not break the bank |

You can see more of her work here¬†–> Diverse Reflections

How to display your large family photos

Idea #1:  Photo collage

This is something we started doing several years ago. ¬†We would take individual photos of the children and then put them into an 8×10 collage on Walgreens‘ site or via PicMonkey. ¬†I am even able to add in Emily’s photo, making it a collage of ALL of the children. ¬†Daddy keeps one on his desk and we hand out the rest to grandparents. ¬†They are reasonably priced either through Walgreens or by putting it together yourself and printing on your own photo paper at home. ¬†It is also a very compact way to display your photos.

Idea #2:  Photo Wall, Shelf, or Frame

Another great way to display photos for a large family is via a photo wall or shelf.  I especially like this idea for lifestyle photos.  You can mix and match sizes, colors, and frames to create a very unique display that fits the decor of your home.  (Check out this post for more ideas on creating stunning photo walls.)

You can also purchase frames that create a photo wall effect for you.  For Christmas, my mother-in-law bought us a photo frame with plenty of spaces for individual photos.  Here are a couple of examples from Amazon:

You are able to get a lot of photos in a small space. ¬†It is also easy to snap a photo with your phone to share with family and friends like I did on Instagram. (you can follow me here –> @amyarrows)

These are my people! #2to1conf

A photo posted by Amy Arrows (@amyarrows) on

Idea #3:  Flip Book or Album

I used to scrapbook, but I simply do not have the time anymore. ¬†I’ve found it to be just as fun and rewarding for the family to have a flip book or family album to look at. ¬†My daughter and I keep our photos catalogued and then at the end of the year, put the photos into an album created on Walgreens or Mixbook. ¬†(I actually pay my daughter to put this together for our family since she is the one with most of the photos.)

A flip book is a great idea for grandparents or to keep in your diaper bag!

Idea #4:  Canvas Print

This is a really fun way to display your family photo!  If you get a good one (be sure the pixels are plenty big!), you can order a canvas print from Walgreens!  This makes for a great focal point for a room!

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas to get started with! ¬†I also have some large family photography ideas on my Large Family Living board on Pinterest, if you’d like to peruse it!

And perhaps you (or your budding photographer) are wanting to learn how to take better photos (even with your iPhone!).  Now is the time to grab some great resources to learn from!  Check out the Photography Bundle going on right now.  It is for a limited time only so HURRY!

We decided to buy the big “Business” package¬†as a school investment for our 14 year old. ¬†I’m so glad we did – my daughter is loving it and learning so much!