Lately I’ve been watching my children together and admiring the relationships that are developing between them. The way that they greet each other after they have been apart. The way they help and encourage each other. The way the big girls always have time to play with their little sister or show her interesting things, even when they’re playing with friends. The way they ask for a snack not only for themselves but for their sisters too. The way they stand up for each other. The imaginary games they play together. How they learn from each other. The amount of times a day they giggle and cuddle together.
Oh, it’s addictive to watch! Of course it’s not all sunshine and daisies. They argue like normal siblings do too. But on the whole they are fabulous friends and they love each other to pieces.
Sometimes I wonder if I would have had to sacrifice some of this if they went to school/kindy. After all, they would be spending the majority of their waking hours apart during the week. Would they have still been as close as they are now? My eldest daughter would have started school less than a month after her baby sister was born, meaning she would have much less time to get to know her new sister than she had when her first sister was born. Would that have impacted their relationship?
Before we decided to homeschool someone once commented to me about my first two children that ‘they won’t always want to play with each other so much. Pretty soon she’ll be off to school and complaining about her little sister trying to hang out with her and her friends’. It made me sad that this was just an accepted fact. That the introduction of school seemed to mean a greater focus on developing relationships with peers and less so with siblings. Is this true? The amount of times homeschoolers get asked about socialisation seems to suggest so. Everyone seems to believe that when your child turns five, friends become the most important thing. They must get enough time with friends!
Sometimes I even get the impression that siblings can be too close. When people offer opinions like ‘it’s good for them to have time apart’, without any suggestion from me that they are needing some space. Sure, if they need some time apart then they absolutely can, but it’s also not a bad thing to spend a lot of time together.
There’s so much focus on making friends, socialisation, and getting opportunities to work in groups and I feel like people discount the role of siblings in this. As if socialisation with siblings doesn’t count. In fact, at these young ages especially, I think it counts a whole lot! The family is where we first learn social skills. Where we test out our behaviours on people who love us unconditionally. Where we learn conflict resolution, sharing, and compromise. Your best friend can be your brother or sister, and that is not a bad thing. You can learn from and with your siblings just as you can with peers.
My children will have no trouble making friends, I know that. Friends come and go throughout your life, but a sibling will always be there. They are one of the most important people in your life. One of the perks of homeschooling is that we can give them so much time to learn and grow together and to deepen these relationships. Though I feel like this is not seen as one of the ‘legitimate reasons’ to homeschool. Sibling relationships are somehow not valued enough. I’m going to have to disagree with that, this is one of the biggest benefits for us and something I definitely would not trade.