The following is a post by contributor Kara Anderson of Quill and Camera.
“You are so lucky,” the woman said frowning. “My kids can barely be in a room together, and yours are best friends.
“Do you think it’s because you homeschool?”
Sure. She was seeing one of those adorable moments, when my son opened a package of two crackers and gave my daughter one without her even asking.
It was wonderful and sweet. I love those moments.
But maybe if I am being honest, I should tell you about the other moments, the ones I’m not so proud of, the ones that are also probably because of homeschooling, the ones where they pickpickpick, until one of them snaps, and a door gets slammed, a toy gets tossed, or feelings get hurt.
Yes. My children are the best of friends.
And sometimes, they drive each other up a wall.
Because they are together so very much.
They share our little space. They share friends. They share books and toys and Mom’s attention. Three years apart, they share a lot of interests too, which is great … until it isn’t.
It’s a double-edged sword of homeschooling for certain, and lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to helping my kids be happier homeschooling siblings.
I know that in our hardest sibling moments, it’s usually just the expression of the too much of this homeschool life, of living together without enough breaks or chances to be themselves, by themselves.
So here are some of the things that I am working on this summer for the sake of family sanity.
When we sat down to look at camps and summer activities this year, my daughter expressed an interest in attending the outdoor camp my son has gone to for the past two years. BUT, she also mentioned trying another camp.
I gently guided her toward the second camp.
As a mom, I could see the obvious advantages of having my kids attend camp together (a whole week kid-free – oh the organizing and brownie-eating I could do!) but it seemed like even more of an advantage for them to each have an opportunity to explore their own interests, have some time on their own, and have the chance to make new friends.
Alone time with parents
This is huge for my kids, and I suspect, most kids. But for those of us who homeschool, I think one-on-one time can be so valuable.
Whether we really see it or not, siblings kind of can’t help but fight for our attention a little.
They may not be physical about it, but the “Mom, can you help me?” “Mom, I need yooooou,” “Mom, can you look at my project?” is a definite manifestation of wanting our undivided attention.
I am making an effort to spend one-on-one time with each of my kids, doing something they enjoy. Another benefit of them going to separate camps!
Discovering their own identities
I mentioned that my kids share a lot of interests. In a close family, that can happen. But when I look a little deeper, I can see that they do have things that are their very own.
My daughter likes dressing up, singing, math and working with animals.
My son loves reading, computer programming, LEGO and drawing.
So those are the places to give them space — to help them make space.
Those are the places to make sure they can shine.
Fostering solo friendships
We have the greatest friends. Seriously. During a recent health crisis in our family, it was our friends who saved us.
But as homeschoolers, we have a tendency to befriend families. So I am looking at ways to help my kids foster their closest friendships independently.
My daughter and I are planning a pamper party for her girlfriends. My son and I are going to make PANTS (Personal Artifacts Never To be Shared) boxes soon with his pals.
Emphasize the best parts of being siblings
I like to remind my kids that siblings aren’t always THE WORST.
I am lucky to have a wonderful sister, but I tell my kids that we weren’t always best friends.
I also tell them I am proud during those “cracker moments.” I try to point out the times when having a sibling is a good thing – a built-in best buddy and protector.
Teaching them alone, and together
We’ve been homeschooling now for five years, and I am realizing that every year it shifts – what I can and can’t teach them together.
This year, they used the same math program, but we took different approaches to many other subjects.
We still read together every day.
But I never try to force them into the same mold if it isn’t fitting. The beauty of homeschooling is that we never have to do that!
Being present for my kids
I’ve decided that the best thing I can do to help my kids find harmony is to be present for them.
This seems obvious right? But it’s tough. I know in my heart that I could do better here, because I know when I am distracted, that’s often when the arguments break out.
And so, I try to be there, knowing they are forced to share more than other kids; knowing that it’s a pro and con of homeschooling that we are together so much.
But I also know that someday not so far away, we will probably remember mostly the pros.
We will remember these days shared, and it will all seem like it was a pretty good idea.
How are you raising happier homeschool siblings?