Family togetherness and affection brought to you by…
Well, maybe not. There are other families whose siblings are close in relationship. But, I certainly think homeschooling creates an environment that encourages sibling-togetherness. Maybe forces it, even. 😉 In a good way, though.
I am the second of four siblings. Growing up, we were way NOT close. We were all adversaries, in fact. Part of that (maybe most of it) was due to our unstable family situation. I don’t know for certain — haven’t read any studies or anything on it — but it seems to me that in families full of abuse, it might be common to either 1) develop an intense, protective closeness between siblings; or 2) develop an “every man for himself” mentality. Ours was the second.
Also, in traditional school settings, kids are completely age/grade segregated. In my own experience in school, the common mentality was that everyone a grade younger was such a baby. And everyone a year advanced was so unattainably mature. Mixing between the grades — friendships, or just playing together — was extremely rare. I found somewhat of an exception in team sports, where one is assessed by her skill, rather than her grade level. Still, there was still the aura of superiority that emanated from one’s elders, which we, in turn, passed onto those below us. One even avoided one’s own siblings at school.
In contrast, visit any homeschooling group, and you will see 11-year-olds playing happily with four-year-olds, boys and girls together. Contrary to the beliefs of the general population, there have been studies that show that homeschooled kids perform more naturally in social situations with a wide variety of ages and with those of the opposite gender. They’re just used to, on a daily basis, interacting with a wide variety of ages, and they’re not brought up to see differently-aged humans — even adults — as the enemy.
It literally wasn’t until I was 17 and my sister was 15 that we started to get along and develop some camaraderie. It wasn’t until my college years that my brother, three years older, and I developed even a tolerance for each other, let alone friendship. Now, I am very close to both my younger sister and my older brother. I love them both very dearly, and they, likewise.
My younger brother, though… born only five and a half years after me, it’s as if we’re removed by an entire generation. We were never ever close, and still struggle to maintain relationship. It’s not like we dislike each other; when we talk or see each other, there’s lots of love and the conversation flows. But, we only talk about twice a year, and see each other about once every two years. That’s a travesty. We’ve discussed it, and while we each value the other, it’s just hard to create new habits of relationship. We virtually never interacted as children. Then, I left home for college at 18, so for many of his growing-up years, we were separated by miles. As adults, we have EXTREMELY different lives. He is single and reads tarot cards for a living in the French Quarter of New Orleans. However, I think theological and social divides are less divisive between us than simply not developing the habit of family togetherness.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that homeschooling will keep my children close in relationship. But, I think they’re off to a way better start, with each other, than I ever was with my sibs.