Raising happier homeschool siblings


The following is a post by contributor Kara Anderson.

“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.

Separate interests

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?

About Kara Anderson

Kara is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom, with a goal of encouraging fellow mamas in real-life homeschooling. She also's the happy co-host of The Homeschool Sisters podcast. Grab her free ebook: 7 Secrets the Happiest Homeschool Moms Know here.


  1. The timing of this is perfect. My 6 and 8 yr old sons do many things together (probably to make it easier for mom) and yet have quite different interests. I need to be more mindful of their individual needs.
    And since we are on a 6 week overseas trip, being together all….the….time is so much more apparent – I think one-on-one time with a parent is going to be important.
    Thanks for sharing all these thoughts.

  2. Thanks for sharing! I’ve been wondering about this very thing as I’m considering homeschooling my 7, 5 and 3-year-olds. They already have a lot of time together, as I’m a stay-at-home mom, and so, like you, most of our friends come in “families”. They’ve just this year started having a couple of their “own” friends, and I find the dynamic challenging, mostly because it’s new. Thanks for the tips—my two older kids are also doing two separate camps this year!

  3. What is a PANTS box?! I’ve got to hear more about this.

  4. PANTS stands for Personal Artifacts Never To be Shared — another name for a treasure box of sorts. My son and his pals are all big collectors — they love anything “rare.” The plan is to get together to make them each a box for their loot. PANTS sounds fun, though, right? (We stole it from Chuck.)
    Kara’s latest post: Why I’m throwing out the bucket.

  5. Oh I needed this post…thank you for sharing.
    Jill Foley’s latest post: Feels Like Summer

  6. Thanks! I started homeschooling my son 6 months ago and am considering homeschooling my daughter but was wary because I KNOW they will have “too much if each other” and bicker a lot. I love these tips and makes me feel like maybe this IS doable. Your descriptions of your son and daughter are SO much like my kids (ds is 10 and dd is 8), except the reading and math is switched for my kids, although my son does love to read too, and my daughter has a knack for math, but doesn’t love it like my son does.

    • Elaine, I promise, promise, promise it can be done. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes I declare, “independent study!” and we all go to our rooms for a bit to read, but the good always outweighs the bad, and I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything 🙂
      Kara’s latest post: Why I’m throwing out the bucket.

  7. I really like this post! I notice the same thing with mine–two years apart and they are best of friends but have their moments too. We planned our summer activities around ensuring they each get special one-on-one time with each of us, like you mentioned. It works wonders! Thanks for sharing, Kara!
    Kari Patterson’s latest post: From postpartum desperation into the Sacred Mundane {A journey into joy}

  8. Kristen says:

    Great article. I’m going to begin homeschooling my 6 & 8 year old daughters in the fall. They are best friends right now. They actually listed getting to spend more time together as a positive of homeschooling, yet I’ve been worried about the amount of time together on their relationship. I think I’ll look into having them do some separate afterschool activities.

  9. Thanks for these thoughts. We don’t homeschool, but we are home together a lot and both of my boys (3 and 6) are home for the summer. I’ve been working on finding ways to keep my sons from fighting all day. They just like yours – best of friends until they are not. Structure is so important for us…and some of the things you mentioned, like making sure we have one-on-one time. You’ve given me some new things to think about as well.
    Katie’s latest post: A thank you to our teachers

  10. Great insightful article. My kids are 17 months apart and have a bad habit of seeing them as twins. It doesn’t help they are the same size lol. They get along great most of the time. I have found it helps to figure in alone time for both of them so they don’t become bored with each other which can lead to all out war lol.

  11. I’ve been thinking about sibling relationships so much recently! My 5 & 4 yo are always together and usually get along great. Recently the 5 yo has been telling her little brother she wants time alone and he wants nothing more than to play with her all.the.time. We do one on one time as much as possible and the individual friendships you mentioned are hard to foster at this age but oh so important, especially for my oldest right now. I always thought the time siblings can spend together as such a positive of the homeschooling lifestyle, and I still do, but there are some challenges to it as well and it was great to hear your thoughts on it.
    Amy’s latest post: Homeschooling and Traveling

  12. My girls are 9, 9 and 8. We have been homeschooling since the beginning and they are best friends. Since I have 3 the dynamics get out of whack a lot when 2 want to play something but they have been working on playing by themselves when that happens. They do everything together, school, dance, soccer and even share a room. I struggle a lot with finding their individual desires and also alone time with each of them. I have been inspired to work harder at that. Thanks!

  13. This is great info! My two are often best friends, more so then they bicker.
    I notice with mine, one is normally content to fly under the wing of the other while the other is content being the talker for both, choice maker for both, etc….one is a leader and one is a follower; however, it’s time my quiet go with the flow finds a voice. 🙂 We recently started individual activities and it’s an interesting eye opener for an observant mama. 🙂

    • The younger of the older two let her brother be the performer (he sings and plays the guitar very well) until it came to her wedding reception. I suggested he sing to her and her groom. She replied, “This is my day, it’s not going to turn into ‘The Aaron Show.'”
      I love it when those compliant ones assert their selves. Those ‘eye opener’ moments.
      April’s latest post: HOMESCHOOL: The education of travel. Ecuador post #2

  14. My two that homeschooled at the same table are now 20 and 22. They are still the best and the worst of friends, they still say “Mom look at meeeeee”, and they still make plans together with their group of mutual friends. The alternative of everyone running different directions every morning, reconvening in front of the tv to eat supper at night, then retiring to separate rooms for homework was never an appealing scenario. They did go to the same camp though lol. It was wonderful for me and my 5 month old newcomer.
    I like the advice to find separate activities. You have to make a conscientious effort to make that happen. It’s usually more difficult but it’s worth it.
    April’s latest post: HOMESCHOOL: The education of travel. Ecuador post #2

  15. My kids are 9 (boy) & 10 (girl). We have our ups and downs, for sure. The plus side of having them so close in age is being able to use the same level curriculum. They do have different interests – my daughter dances, my son is in scouts and piano – but my daughter actually volunteered my son to play one of the male roles in the dance recital this year (which shocked me, as she always begs to do stuff without him). The past couple of months, though, have been a challenge, and had me wishing, for just a few minutes, to send them off to school and have 6 hours of relative peace here at home…then I realized that I wouldn’t have peace, because I would be worried about them in that environment. :-/ So, we continue on in our homeschool journey (starting our 6th year now). Most of the time, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  16. Fantastic article! My kiddos are close and together ALOT!! We recently came to the same conclusions you state here. We are making sure they each do their own thing-whether that is an activity or time at home. We are also doing the separate camps this summer which I very rarely do but I realized they do not all have the same interests. I tried to do a curriculum in which we all worked together but on different levels. They did not like it and requested to go back to our old ways where they each worked with me individually-yep, there is that fight for alone time with mom. 🙂 They teach me as much as I teach them. I love your suggestions. They are a terrific reminder!
    Sharon’s latest post: Get Out the Planner

  17. Good thoughts here. I have three kids who seem to be best friends/arch enemies most days of the week. Sometimes I think they just need a little space from one another!
    Hannah’s latest post: The Elusive Work/Life Balance (and how to achieve it)

  18. My homeschooled children are 3 1/2 years apart. Yes, sometimes (like you say) they are the best of friends. Other times they drive each other NUTS!!! This summer they are going to be away from each other for 2 weeks and I think it will be really good for them. My oldest leaves tomorrow morning for a mission trip and her brother hasn’t left her side today because I know he will miss her. 🙂

    I appreciate all of your suggestions — ones I will be taking. Thank you!
    Mary’s latest post: A Father Is…

  19. I have always wanted my two to be best friends! And for the most part, they are getting a lot better at playing together (ages almost 6 and 4). What drives me crazy is when the play wrestle!!!

    Anyway, I totally agree about them wanting and needing alone time with parents. My 6 year old calls it ‘Mommy time’ and she asks for it almost daily. It’s a good reminder that she NEEDS that. I would bet her live language is spending time together :). Thanks for this post
    Melissa’s latest post: Positive self talk for kids

  20. Love this (and generally enjoy your posts)!

  21. I loved this so much.
    The book – Siblings Without Rivalry – is also an excellent resource to help with this topic.

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