When I look ahead in our lives as homeschoolers, I sometimes find it hard to picture what it will be like. In our current state, we are preparing to “officially” start homeschooling in September, when our son reaches Kindergarten age. Although, with the exception of a few new activities, I don’t see our days actually changing much. We’ll still follow our interests, read tons of books, explore the outdoors, work on skills when it seems reasonable, and play (a lot!).
I do catch myself, however, thinking (and writing) of homeschooling in terms of my son. What will work best for him. What he needs. Why we started in the first place (it all began with a December birthday – a blessing in disguise). I sometimes forget that the homeschooling lifestyle involves his younger sister, too. And, when I think of homeschooling two kids of different ages, into the school years, my imagination sometimes comes up a little lacking.
When I was growing up (in a family of three girls – I’m the middle child), my sisters and I were fairly close. As young children, we played together all the time, and we shared a lot of the same interests (in my mind, pretty much everything, although I think my memories are selective). But, although we attended school together, it was in different grades. Therefore, we had completely different friends, and completely different social lives. Come to think of it, at this moment, I can recall a grand total of one time that I really socialized with one of my sisters at school. It was simply understood, at school, we belonged to different worlds.
As a result, we went through all of life’s stages fairly isolated. My older sister was alone in the hair-sprayed bangs / heavy metal stage, thankfully. But, in all seriousness, we didn’t really know what the other sisters were facing, socially. We all went through our various stages of “tough times,” and we rarely confided in each other, as friends. This makes me sad, in retrospect. Luckily, we have always gotten along extremely well, and are developing true friendships as adults.
Still, when I think of my own kids, I think of the blessing that homeschooling could be. The idea that my children won’t be age-segregated like my sister and I were. That they won’t automatically assume that they should have different friend groups, that don’t include each other. That they will have enough time together to grow into playmates, and true friends.
I recently read the book, Nutureshock, and there is a very interesting chapter in it on sibling relationships. It shares research that suggests that siblings that play collaboratively (not competitively) with one another stand a better of chance of becoming lifelong friends. The research also suggests that the relationship children have as young children, will, more or less, be the relationship they have later in life. This could be a good thing for school-going kids (as it was with me and my sisters), because, despite our segregated schooling, we ended up close and congenial as adults (as we were as small children).
In relation to homeschooling, I think it is very good news. Because, by spending real time together, throughout their childhoods, my children will gain extra chances to work together. To collaborate, and see value in each other. Not to be swayed by artificially segregated peer groups.
Now, I don’t mean to say that my children won’t have separate friends, or even separate friend groups. They will. They already do in some ways. But, they will also have common friends, and common friends groups. Of multiple ages, and different constitutions. This excites me, because they’ll be able to explore their relationship in different settings, in different ways.
And, the bottom line is, they’ll be spending more time together than their school-going peers. More time that will help them develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship. Your siblings are with you for life. I’ve seen too many people fractured from their siblings (as children and adults) to want this for my children. So, as I watch their little relationship developing so miraculously over the past few months (as my daughter learns to talk, and my son learns to listen), I’m excited for them. I’m excited for what their future will bring.
I’d love to hear from those of you homeschooling older siblings. How does it play out in your family? Do you see how their relationship benefits from homeschooling?