A note from Jamie: I’ve been thinking about this post lately while riding the waves of sibling rivalry. Can you relate? For many of us, the hope of close sibling relationships is one of our reasons for homeschooling. These words from Stefani remind us why. This post originally published on May 5, 2010.
One for all and all for one!
That was the solemn promise of the Three Musketeers.
It’s the unofficial motto of Switzerland.
It is also one of the driving ideals behind many homeschooling families’ decision to learn at home.
Homeschooling is a promise that we, as a family, are in this thing together–all of us championing each individual, and each individual giving his best for the family.
Each day of living and working alongside each other in a home learning environment, our children are learning to empathize, to celebrate the achievements of others, to respectfully disagree, to encourage, sacrifice, and lead. Beyond academics–they are also learning how to be parents, spouses, professionals and citizens.
Let’s face it though, when we are educating children of different ages, personalities, needs and goals, we often find ourselves running in six directions at once–a far cry from the unity-building that we dreamed of.
So how can we honor the individuality of our children and at the same time foster family togetherness?
It helps to be intentional about creating an atmosphere of brotherhood. In the same way that we surround ourselves with good books that inspire a love of reading, we set out to create an environment that is rich in opportunities to grow loving relationships.
Here are some of the ways that we make family unity a core subject in our homeschool.
We celebrate each other’s accomplishments. When one of our boys has mastered his “times 3” facts, added a new specimen to his beetle collection, or learned all the letters in the alphabet, we are quick to honor the occasion with a special meal, a kitchen dance party, or a construction paper card.
The lesson: A brother’s victory is a victory for us all.
We catch each other when we fall. When a music performance doesn’t go particularly well, an experiment goes awry or a “contraption” doesn’t work as intended, we help our boys to find real, concrete ways to help their brothers get back up and press on.
The lesson: A brother’s defeat is a call for reinforcements.
Show and Tell
We talk to each other about our goals and ideas, and we involve each other in our efforts. Even our littlest family member learned early on that a brother is a powerful ally in learning endeavors.
When he began learning to read he would say, “Brothers I’m going to try to read now, come and watch me!” The older boys listened with baited breath while he sounded out “c-a-t…. caaaaaaat.” When he finally pronounced “cat” the room erupted with “You did it! That’s great! Do another one!”
The lesson: It is always easier to gather up the courage to tackle a difficult task when you know that your brothers are beside you.
Viva La Difference
When our oldest boy has a karate belt test, we are all there to grip our seats and will him through it, even though none of us understands a word of korean or knows if he’s doing his moves correctly.
The lesson: I care about what you care about because I care about YOU.
Put Your Backs Into It
We work toward common goals. Plant a small garden together. Work together to put on a variety show for family or friends. Tape up a big piece of paper and, together, draw a new world. Put on gloves, grab some trash bags, and clean up a favorite hiking trail or park.
The lesson: We are strong as individuals, but we are unstoppable as a team.
Practice Trickle Down Education
Often, as a homeschooling mom, I feel like the full weight of my children’s education rests squarely on my shoulders, when in truth I have strong young men to help me bear the load. Once a child learns a new task or idea, we encourage him to share it with his brothers.
An older boy can read to a younger one. He can teach his little brother to set the table, count by fives or play chopsticks on the piano, and in doing so he comes to understand that his knowledge holds real value not only for himself, but for his family.
The lesson: Each new bit of wisdom gained is a treasure to share.
My older boys are having a blast reliving some of their greatest hits in homeschooling through my youngest. They love seeing their old easy reader books come out again. I often hear, “Oh I remember that one! I loved that one!”
They reminded me when our youngest was learning the letter B that it was time to make butter again, just as they had done at his age. We put cream in jar and shake it in a B shape while singing, “B is for b b b butter!”
When we are working together to help our youngest learn something new, my older boys are learning that childhood is precious, short and worth cherishing. They are learning that having a younger person around is a real gift!
The lesson: Our siblings multiply our opportunities to savor the best parts of growing up.
“Help your brother’s boat across, and your own will also reach the shore.” ~ Hindu Proverb
How do your foster strong sibling relationships in your homeschool environment?