Bill and Mary have a grandchild in every school year

Bill and Mary Harwood with their 18 grandchildren who, between them, cover every year of school, ranging from Summer Harwood (kinder), Chloe Harwood (prep), Thomas Campbell (grade one), Kate Porter (grade two), Connor and Lewis Harwood (both grade three), Patrick Porter, Andy Campbell and Jack Harwood (all grade four), Evan Harwood (grade five), Georgina Campbell (grade six), Sarah Porter (year seven), Simon Porter (year eight), Olivia and Joy Harwood (both year nine), Brooke Harwood (year 10), Amy Harwood (year 11) and Nathan Harwood (year 12). PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

Bill and Mary Harwood with their 18 grandchildren who, between them, cover every year of school, ranging from Summer Harwood (kinder), Chloe Harwood (prep), Thomas Campbell (grade one), Kate Porter (grade two), Connor and Lewis Harwood (both grade three), Patrick Porter, Andy Campbell and Jack Harwood (all grade four), Evan Harwood (grade five), Georgina Campbell (grade six), Sarah Porter (year seven), Simon Porter (year eight), Olivia and Joy Harwood (both year nine), Brooke Harwood (year 10), Amy Harwood (year 11) and Nathan Harwood (year 12). PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

COME school holidays, Bill and Mary Harwood’s Streatham farmhouse becomes a lively playground of mattresses and kids.

The proud grandparents have always adored their big brood and this year can finally boast of having a grandchild in every school level in Ballarat, from prep to year 12.

“We’ve had all the others but we’ve never had a year 12 until this year,” Mrs Harwood said.

“It’s my only claim to fame, I told someone recently.”

Their five sons and daughters were scattered across Australia and New Zealand but the whole family was living in the Ballarat region by last year.

"It's my only claim to fame, I told someone recently" - Mary Harwood

With 18 grandchildren between the ages of two and 17, the Harwoods have a lot of birthdays to remember and their family functions are always noisy affairs.

Two of the grandkids are only a day apart and the youngest five boys were born within a four-month window.

Dubbed the ‘best free baby sitters alive’ by their sons and daughters, the Harwoods often have 14 kids staying over at the one time, sleeping on every available couch and mattress and squeezing in two to a bed.

At meal times, a group sits elbow to elbow at the bench, but most of the kids just sit on a step in the kitchen.

Staying with Gran and ‘Billy Boy’ on the farm is so popular, the kids line up to go there every school holidays.

Being grandparents extends beyond the farmhouse too, with many a weekend spent travelling to and from sporting events around the region.

Of course, ‘Grandparents Day’ at the various schools is also a big occasion for them.

Mrs Harwood said the best thing about having so many grandchildren was the company, and her advice to other grandparents was simply to make the most of it.

“Take the opportunity if you get the chance to nourish and care for them and let them love you,” she said.

“You get to know them and they confide in me.”

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