I had heard many times, in the homeschool community, that one of the benefits of homeschooling is the relationship between siblings; that homeschooled siblings end up having deeper, more meaningful relationships that last into their futures.
What I thought, when I heard this, was that my kids would never fight, that we would not experience conflict in our family, and that there would be a beautiful unity between our children, in our home, always.
I fell into a trap – a trap of misunderstanding that led to unfair expectations of my children, and a trap that led to feelings of inadequacy and failure in myself.
The reality was, my kids did fight. We did have conflict in our house and I felt like there was something wrong with our family because of this.
When I looked around my house, I saw, in one moment, my kids being best friends, inseparable, the greatest of playmates… and the next moment, it was like a war was erupting between them and I couldn’t get there fast enough.
Did they lie, those older moms talking of the deep and meaningful relationships their children had, attributing it to raising their kids at home, together?
Or am I a failure?
Actually, it was neither.
What I failed to understand was that fruit doesn’t grow overnight.
‘Deep and meaningful relationships’ does not mean there is not conflict or disagreement.
It is not only untrue that homeschool children don’t have the occasional disagreement and conflict, but I would be willing to guess that families that homeschool will most likely have more conflict than others.
Why? Because they are together all day; they live the day-in, day-out, nitty-gritty, can’t walk-away- daily- grind, together.
I would also be willing to bet that this is exactly why those families and siblings tend to have a deeper, closer relationship in the long run.
Think about it: It is impossible to fight with someone that you are rarely with, and when you are, it is such a novelty that you don’t have much to have conflict over. There just aren’t the opportunities. Conflict would be far less if everyone left first thing in the morning and didn’t come back together until nearly dinnertime.
Because our children are together all day, living life together, they have more opportunities for conflict; but I also have more opportunities to equip them how to deal with conflict, God’s way, through loving patience, sacrifice, and communication; learning to love when someone is unlovable; learning to stick around when it’s hard, learning to share their things, their time, and their space.
Yes, children in a classroom setting must deal with one another each day as well, but there we often see conflict dealt with through bullying, stonewalling, casting out, retreating, or just walking away.
In a home, our kids can’t just ‘move their desk’ or ‘find a new friend’ when conflict arises.
They are forced to learn how to work through challenges.
The sibling relationships that are cultivated in a homeschool family aren’t set apart because the kids have less conflict. No, they are set apart because they have more opportunity to learn how to deal with conflict rightly, with your guidance, pointing them to God’s word.
This is all beautiful preparation for their future, for marriage.
We have more opportunities for conflict with our spouses than we do with someone that we only see occasionally. We have opportunities every day for conflict, and we have opportunities to honor God in that conflict. We cannot just walk away and find someone new. We must work through these conflicts, together. This does not come naturally; it is something we must learn, and, as homeschool mommas, we get the opportunity to teach these principals to our children early on, in the safe and stable context of home, so that they carry it into their future.
As my children grow, I begin to see the deeper relationships grow with them. They can talk about anything and everything, they always having each other’s backs, they can share inside jokes, walk down memory lane, and know one another on a deeper level.
I observe them depend on one another’s strengths and make up for the other’s weaknesses.
Sure, there is still the occasional fight, the moments they antagonize one another and flip out over tiny things, because… well… because they are human, but I am watching the fruit of our training grow, and I know this is fruit that will continue to grow long after they leave our home.
So, moms, rather than get exasperated when your kids fight, rather than question if what you are doing is really working, lift your eyes up to the One who uniquely created them, then placed you all together under one roof, praising Him for opportunities to show your kids how to work through conflict, knowing that you are investing, not just in the moment, but in the future.