When I started this adventure, I admit, I was scared, TERRIFIED, at the thought of my girls home all day, EVERYDAY with me! I would have bet my car that they would be at each other's throats every 5 minutes! In preparation for this, I separated them as much as possible to give them their own spaces. They were sharing a room, so I moved them into separate rooms. I signed them up for different activities (one is in gymnastics, the other dance), I had a plan for when Frank was home, to do (what I call) divide and conquer activities. This is when we each take 1 to do something alone with them.
How wrong I was! My girls have never played so nicely together! Don't get me wrong, they were pretty good to start with. But for the last 2 years, my older child was increasingly getting annoyed with her younger sister, wanting alone time, snapping at her, not wanting to include her, calling her a baby......Sounds familiar right? I assumed this was all normal, sibling rivalry and that the older child was becoming more independent and didn't want her little sister tagging along. I remember feeling that way about my younger brothers.
Well I'm here to tell you that this does NOT have to be considered normal behavior! In fact, it seems (in our case) to be a direct side effect to being a part of the competitive, sometimes harsh, stress-inducing school phenomenon. I didn't see it right away. All summer we went about our regular routine and slowly Thing 1 became less and less harsh towards her sister. This was typical of summer. I used to say "I'm going to get her back for a while!" in reference to Thing 1 and summer. Maybe you have noticed this in your kids too?
When it became blazingly clear was when school started and we didn't go, but participated in sports with school peers. Now, to my friends (and others) who I continue to see on a regular basis with my kids, I am NOT talking about your kids in particular, I'm actually not talking about ANY kids in particular. The phenomenon is not about the individual kids, or what individual kids may or may not do, it's about the kids together in an organized setting and the pretense it creates. It was almost like Thing 1 had to put on her game face for those encounters! And then it took several hours for her to let go of the game face once she was home! I was dumbfounded!
But it makes sense. Think about going to middle school. For most, this was a stressful time, filled with worries about what your peers might say or do to you. Did I wear the right outfit? Am I in the right club? Did I join the right sport? Am I sitting at the right lunch table? Did I say the right thing? And many of you might say 'But that is middle school, not first or second grade." But I beg to differ. I don't think those sort of social parameters just crop up out of nowhere in 6th grade. They develop slowly over years of being together.
I can tell you that in our homeschool co-ops, there's almost none of this. And it's not because it's 4 best friends playing together. One of our co-ops has around 30 kids, the other group has about 14 kids. They range in age from 4 through teenagers. The kids are pretty cooperative, helpful to each other, and I've never seen a fight. Now I'm not saying there isn't a snippy comment here and there, but overall, I have yet to see any real excluding, or the negativity toward one another that you see frequently in school settings. It could be a by product of like-minded parents and their children, but we are all from different backgrounds, with different beliefs about parenting, so I don't think so. I truly think it is the facade school produces, that increases kids' stress and creates a situation where they all need to put on their GAME FACE!
So if a major reason you are NOT considering homeschooling is because you think your children with have a bloody, fight to the death, cage match on week 2, I am here to tell you they won't. There will be adjustments and what people call 'deschooling' but my kids have never got along better! And although Thing 1 has her own room now, she has yet to spend a night in it!