My husband and I decided to homeschool years before our first child was born. It was, in fact, something we decided before we were married. There were a number of reasons we wanted to homeschool and several benefits that we clearly expected.
But there have also been some unexpected benefits of homeschooling, some wonderful things that we didn’t even plan on that have happened because we homeschool. One of the best of these has been the strong relationships we have with our children and the relationships they have with each other.
Our children are now growing into young adults. I have two high school graduates and two middle schoolers. And the payoff of the great relationships we have is really apparent now. We enjoy strong relationships with our kids, and they enjoy good relationships with each other. Is it all always sunshine and roses? No. We are human and make mistakes and hurt each other. But at the core, we have these close and special relationships.
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There are several things about homeschooling that have contributed to the building of strong these strong relationships in our family. Some of these have been intentional choices we’ve made and some have happened unexpectedly. But all of them have contributed to strong family relationships.
We spend time together
Being together much of the time is a natural byproduct of homeschooling. We have been home together- at least the kids and I- most of the day, seven days a week. Because we’ve had so much time together, we’ve gotten to know each other very well. I know who my kids’ friends are. I know what they like and dislike. They know each other well. They have many, many shared experiences.
Because we’re together so much, there are many natural opportunities for good conversations and life lessons. I can have all the great plans in the world, but it seems like the meaningful life lessons happen in the midst of the ordinariness of every day, not in the times I’ve planned.
No matter how hard you try, I don’t think that “quality time” can ever equal the effect of great quantities of time spent together. You can’t beat the opportunities that arise in day to day life in those special, unplanned moments.
Our children have spent more time with each other than with same-age peers
My oldest child is six years older than my youngest. Had she been in a traditional school, she would have started going to school seven hours a day before her sister was ever born. They would rarely have spent time together. Summer does come, and the oldest would have been home. But she would have had friends from school and possibly summer activities with her peers. Those two sisters wouldn’t know each other very well.
Instead, they’ve been home together their whole lives. They are very close, and even though there are six years between them, they enjoy each other’s company. All of my kids have always had “built-in friends.” They have siblings. Yes, they argue like any siblings. But they also have a good time together. They have other friends as well, but, like many homeschooled kids I know, their friends aren’t all same age peers. They are friends in groups that often include their siblings as well.
Learning together opens up the opportunity for great conversations.
Remember those unexpected teaching moments I mentioned above? Often those have come about as we’re learning together. We’ll read about a concept or about historical events, and a conversation will ensue. Sometimes it’s a commentary. “Well, I don’t think it was right when…happened.” Sometimes it’s questioning. “So why did the country decide to do that after the war?” Sometimes it’s argument. “I don’t think that’s the best way to do it. This would be better.”
Learning about the world around us, past and present, opens the door for some interesting conversation. Reading good books inspires great discussions. The opportunity for these conversations comes about because we homeschool.
We have a unique teacher/learner relationship with our children
I can distinctly remember telling my mother at various times that she was wrong because my teacher told me differently, and my teacher was obviously right. My teacher had a level of authority because she knew things. She was the “gateway to knowledge” for me. I loved and respected my parents. But I didn’t really think they knew the things my teacher did. I know now, as an adult, that my parents were very intelligent. My father was a college professor for a time. But as a kid, I viewed my teachers as infallible.
In contrast, I’ve been the one who has had the opportunity to guide my kids into learning. I come to them as a fellow learner, someone who doesn’t know everything but who does know how to help them find out information and learn new things.
It has given us a different relationship. My kids know that I don’t know it all. But they also know that they can come to me with questions, and I can guide them and learn the answers with them. It has given us a unique and special relationship.
I do know families who have kids in traditional school and who go above and beyond to try to have a good relationship with them. It can happen when parents are deliberate and intentional. But homeschooling can help families to establish unique and special relationships by its very nature. It’s a benefit of homeschooling that I didn’t fully appreciate but that I am now so thankful for.
Leah Courtney is a homeschooling mom of four. She’s graduated two teens- one who’s a legal adult now! And she’s still homeschooling two middle schoolers. She loves all things book related, and in her- very rare- free time you can find her listening to audiobooks and coloring. You can read about her family and homeschooling life at As We Walk Along the Road.
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