On the “how will I teach the older kids while the younger ones are demanding my attention” issue I’d like to point out something I see happening at our terrific village public school. They’re spending a lot of time and energy on activities and programs designed to help kids develop a sense of community, of interdependence, of empathy, to learn the skills of sharing and appreciating each other, of getting to know people who aren’t more or less exactly their age and academic level. These are innovative, worthwhile programs like a nursing home outreach program, a community service and outdoor program, a “Roots of Empathy” program that brings a mother and baby into the classroom every week or two for the whole school year, peer recognition, buddy programs between middle schoolers and primary schoolers and so on. Great stuff!
But here’s the thing. My kids, of whom there are four spread over a 9-year age-range, have got all this experience, and more, simply by being at home and out and about in the real world with each other. These innovative, holistic, community-minded school-based programs are all just artificial substitutes for family.
At home my kids have garnered copious experience accommodating to the competing needs and the variety of interests and limitations of family members of differing ages and abilities, appreciating the value of relationships that span age-groups and even generations, learning the relationship skills necessary for getting along with the people they love and live with. It’s all built into the “sibling curriculum” in a homeschooling family. The “sibling curriculum” is not a complication in homeschooling — it’s an enrichment course, or even a core part of the program, that many schools are eagerly trying to emulate.