Why Homeschool? – Retaining Sibling Relationships

Why Homeschool? – Retaining Sibling Relationships
Another instalment in the “Why Homeschool?” series, this one looks at sustaining and deepening sibling relationships.

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?

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  1. Oh, I most DEFINITELY see my two children becoming much closer as a result of homeschooling. I have had several people comment recently how well my children get along and how protective/mothering my oldest daughter is of her little brother. That does my heart good. :-)

    • So good to hear (especially from a mother of a brother and sister pair). Brother / sister relationships are new to me. I have no idea what to expect, but it’s wonderful, so far!

  2. This really resounds with me. I was just reading it to Reesa (6 yrs old) and telling her how last year when she was at a school, her and LInden (4) didn’t get along very well. This year it’s so different. They play together, are friends, and not to say they don’t have their moments, but they are far less frequent, and to be honest, everyone has the patience to calmly deal with it for the most part. No school exhausting them and leaving them in bad moods, (I should include myself in that last statement as I was so uncomfortable with the school situation that I was also moody!)

    In terms of actually teaching the girls, well Linden is the same year as your big boy, and so this year she has been “tagging along” with homeschool, and learning quite a bit as she does so! I can tell that she’s going to be a completely different kind of learner from her sister, so that will present an interesting and fun challenge, but I’m ready for it! I have NO idea what it will be like to throw the littlest (11mo) into the mix eventually, but I imagine it will work out fine. I’ll be a good many years into homeschooling by then! :)

    • That’s so exciting! I definitely have to sit down with you for a chat. I’d love to hear about how things are going for you guys. 3 girl families are the best (except for boy/girl families of course). That’s a really good point about having the resources to deal with everything, including relationships, because they aren’t exhausted from school. Another plus. =)

  3. Yes, my kids who are all teens have remained the best of friends. I think moving a lot has contributed to that as much as homeschooling has though.

    • Good point. Moving can help a family to bond. I know we moved a fair bit when we were young, which may be part of why we were close as young children. Still, I’m sure homeschooling has contributed as well (educated guess!). Thanks for your comments!

  4. I am constantly amazed at the growing and changing relationship between my two, girl 9 and boy 6. Most of the time I cannot interrupt to get a certain task done, they just are so involved with each other and their imagination. They are getting to know LOTS about communication, and about working together, and about personal space and respect. They know each others intimate boundaries, and what makes each other smile. I think it is really important to focus on some fun and simple NVC (non-violent communication) activities throughout the years, as expressing emotions and understanding others with empathy is such a huge life skill that changes so much as they grow. They also have friends of diverse ages and combinations, providing them with diverse socialization. Thanks Kelly!

    • Thanks for your comments, Wendi. I love how you mention the development of empathy. If I think of the skills / traits that I hope my kids will develop, that one tops the list. Before kids, I never thought much about it, but now I can see how watching their relationship develop, apart from us, is such a treasure.

  5. Kelly,
    I am putting together the CM blog carnival tonight, but I couldn’t resist commenting on your post! I am a mom who is looking at this from ‘the other side’, lol. I homeschooled our two children, a girl and a boy, through high school. Our oldest is now in graduate school and her younger brother is a sophomore at college. They have always been best friends. When she was a senior and he was a freshman in college, she showed him the ropes, introduced him to all of her friends, helped him with laundry, took him with her to church, and so much more. They have a PRECIOUS relationship!

    I am so grateful! It has to be one of my favorite results of those homeschooling years!


    • That is wonderful to hear! Glad to hear my hypothesis bears fruit. I do hope my children end up like yours. I love hearing from veteran homeschoolers – especially good things! Looking forward to the Carnival tomorrow. All the best, Kelly

  6. I think homeschooling made my relationships with my siblings stronger, especially since I was so active in teaching the younger ones. However, I think it made it difficult to be independent.

  7. I’m popping over from the Homeschool Showcase. Thanks for this post! We are having a rough patch of bickering and bad attitudes here, so I appreciated the long-term perspective you laid out here in terms of sibling relationships :)

  8. My children are 14 and 11. They have their share of spats, but they are tight. It makes me happy.

  9. A few more thoughts:
    Good Sibling Relationships was DEFINITELY a part of our decision to homeschool. They are each other’s friends, and it is lovely to see. There are moments when they are hanging out together, by choice, when my mother love is on over load!
    I remember one night they were in the other room, doing chores in the family room. Suddenly I heard giggling and laughter and all of these plans for what they would do to improve the style of the room…!
    It was wonderful. My daughter can pull the “I’m a teenager and don’t have to get along with people right now” card and it hurts my son to be left out. When she lets it happen, they are the best of friends.
    They will reminisce, smile, and say “Good times, good times.”

    Loving your blog. I found you through the Carnival of Homeschooling.

    • So glad to hear the story of an older boy and girl getting along as friends. My two are still so young, but they really are friends, and I hope they never lose that. Thanks for visiting!



  1. Homeschool Showcase #91 | Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers - [...] Kelly @ The Homeschool Co-op continues her “Why Homeschool” series by looking at the impact of homeschooling on sibling…

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