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Happy Together: Homeschooling And Siblings

When you started homeschooling, perhaps you imagined your children happily working together—reading, cooking, gardening and learning. In your mind’s eye, your children would relish the opportunity to spend more time together and your family would become a model of closeness.

Inevitably, your bubble bursts. Children are children, and most siblings quarrel, at least some of the time. Some siblings quarrel more than others, depending on gender, personality, and individual circumstances. Learning to get along takes time and effort, but you can slowly nudge your children to peaceful cohabitation.

Expect A Transition Time

If your kids have been in public schools and are transitioning to homeschooling, plan on a few rocky weeks (or months). Going home for school has many wonderful benefits, one of which is that you get to spend more time together as a family. You’ll probably find, though, that this intensive family dynamic requires everyone to learn new skills. Kids who’ve been focused on peer relations or popular culture now spend more time with siblings and parents, requiring a shift in priorities. Communication skills become more important, and you’ll all need to muster an extra dose of patience, self-control, and love. Just know that this adjustment period doesn’t last forever. Forgive yourself and your kids when things don’t go smoothly and keep trying.

Pinpoint The Cause Of Conflict

Sometimes, it’s helpful to quietly observe your children’s conflicts. What motivates the conflicts—jealousy, boredom, or a need for attention? Understanding the root causes of conflict can help you find solutions. For example, Loulou Szal found that her son, who is hyperactive, often interrupted school sessions to get her attention. He seemed to go out of his way to bug his sister, which made her nervous and distracted. Loulou tried several strategies before finding one that worked. She explained to her son that his interruptions were making learning difficult. Whenever he interrupted, she added an extra fifteen minutes of homework to his schedule. He quickly learned to focus on his work so the family could play together later.

Children who’ve always gotten along may suddenly quarrel more as one approaches a new developmental phase. A child entering her teenage years, for example, may no longer want to play games, leaving a younger sibling feeling rejected. Talk through these situations so each child understands the other’s point of view. “Brandon feels sad because you seem too busy to play with him.” “Lacey is changing and learning new things. Don’t worry. Very soon, you’ll enjoy spending time together again.”

Articulate Your Family Priorities

Kids need to understand that having a peaceful family is important to you. Veteran homeschooling mom Marty Walden says, “For us, it has been a process of constantly affirming that siblings are a gift from God, not a torture to endure. As a family, we work around the house together, go to church, and do service projects together.” These experiences help children learn the skills they need to work together peacefully.

Curb Boredom

One of the most common reasons children fight is simply because they’re bored. Structure your day so children have enough to do to keep them busy. In the morning, you may have scripture study, chores, and school work. For many families, though, afternoons are more open, which is when fights often brew. Keep a variety of craft materials on hand and keep your house well-stocked with books. Encourage kids to play board games, make cookies, or work on a special project. And, don’t forget outside time. Boys especially tend to fight more when they’ve been cooped up inside too long. They need to get outside every day to blow off steam and get some exercise.

Sometimes, a change of scenery is called for. It’s January and you’ve been stuck inside for over a week. The kids are fighting and your nerves are shot. Take a break from your regular homeschooling routine. Go on a field trip, visit friends, or maybe even take a trip. Just getting out of the house can make everyone feel better.

Cultivate Individual Interests

Family closeness is good, but we all need our space, too. Encourage your kids to develop their own interests. One child may join 4-H, while another child attends karate lessons. Kids need time away from each other to focus on their own things. And while you’re at it, don’t forget your interests. Homeschooling parents need a break from the routine, as well. Take an exercise class, learn to knit, or go to a book club with your friends.

Kids don’t always recognize that they need time apart. When quarrels erupt at home, tell your kids, “It feels like you could use a little space. You don’t have to play together all day long. Why don’t you go play or read in your rooms alone for a while. You can play again later when you’re feeling better.”

Teach Skills For Solving Conflict

Kids don’t automatically know how to solve conflict. For that matter, conflict resolution is a tough thing for most adults to learn. But, just as you teach math or reading, you can teach kids how to solve their disagreements peacefully. First, establish some ground rules and consequences. It’s never okay to hit, kick, or otherwise physically hurt someone. It’s also not okay to use sarcasm or put-downs. Instead, teach kids skills for fostering cooperation. Kids can ask permission before taking a sibling’s toy. They can look for ways to help and serve each other. When fights inevitably erupt, kids can learn to look for solutions. Statements like “I don’t like it when you take my books without asking. Please stop,” diffuse conflict rather than escalate it.

Keep Your Eye On The Prize

You’re going to have rough days. Your children will inevitably drive each other—and you—crazy from time to time. But, homeschooling is first and foremost about creating strong family bonds, which you’re doing more than you realize.

Over time, most homeschooling families find that positive sibling experiences far outweigh the negative ones. Victoria Marin says of her two sons, “When in public school, the boys lived very parallel lives. My older son found his younger brother to be a bother. Very rarely did they participate in activities together. Quite often, they argued. My older son had very little tolerance for his brother.

When I began homeschooling and my sons were spending much more time together, they developed a true brotherly relationship. My older son supports his younger brother and assists with his studies. They spend time together playing games or just “hanging out.” My sons work as team to complete household chores. They are more tolerant of one another and have learned to respect the individual characteristics that make them who they are.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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