Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry can be hard on any family, but it’s that much harder in a homeschooling family, especially when you’re teaching multiple children. We’ve had our share of struggles with sibling rivalry, and although the struggles are of course outweighed by the joys of siblings we still have to find ways to accomplish our schoolwork.

Little BROTHERS. That’s what my daughter says, quite frequently, whenever she is interrupted, pulled on, called out to, or otherwise bothered. She has definitely put up with her fair share of little brotherliness without TOO much complaining. I’m tempted to say she might even enjoy the break if the little brother is interrupting something she wasn’t really in the mood to work on, but I won’t go that far.

Our first – or possibly second – year of homeschooling was a definite challenge. Teresa’s little brother was about 2 or 3 and busy busy busy. It was hugely frustrating to work with her and keep him entertained. Now she’s in 5th grade, that busy little brother is in 2nd grade, and we still have a 4 year old and a 2 year old to contend with … life has gotten much more interesting.

There are times when I have the two older kids at the table where I can identify the rivalry at work. My daughter is the least guilty of this at her age, so most often it is her younger brother – the 2nd grader – who will initiate it. If he thinks I’ve spent too much time with my daughter he’ll suddenly “forget” something basic to get me over to where he’s working. As I try to teach him this thing he “forgot” again, my daughter will sense that I’m perhaps being played and call me back. This begins the push and pull that can derail even the best of school days.

Once we start down that track, add in a 4 year old who wants to be 10 but can’t quite stop being 4 and a 2 year old who is 2 in EVERY sense of the word, and you have a recipe for something that’s a cross between chaos and a headache. In the midst of all this I have to somehow impart the day’s lessons and not get too frazzled, which isn’t always easy to accomplish.

With all that being said, this is one of the myriad of reasons that certain people point to as a downside to homeschooling. But I respectfully beg to differ. In the “real world” you have interruptions, multiple things vying for your attention, and yes, your siblings exist there too. Perhaps learning in an environment that is as varied as the outside world will help to prepare for it that much more? I think so.

So the next time my daughter complains about her “Little BROTHERS” I’ll just remind her that in their own small way, they’re helping her learn. I’m pretty sure I can predict the response I’ll get, but I’ll say it anyhow.


My daughter is what some would call sharp-witted. She has been described as precocious, sarcastic, witty, and funny by family members and friends alike. I say this not as a boast, but to set the stage for you so you’ll understand where I’m coming from. It can be a pleasure, a joy even, homeschooling a 5th grader with a penchant for sarcastic retorts. Well, it can be a joy on most days. However, there are other days – I must admit – where the last thing I want is an eye roll and a sharp comment, even if it’s said in good fun, which it always is.

I have had days where between the two year old, the four year old, and the seven year old (who is also homeschooled), that I come to my fifth grade daughter with anything BUT patience. And I sit down with her to work on her schoolwork, and she’s being sarcastic and trying my patience, without even meaning to, and I snap. I do. I tell her to get serious, get back to work, and then look up and see the hurt in her eyes.

At her age, in fifth grade, she has a knack for hurt feelings. It goes along with that age I suppose. And nothing derails a school day more than a little girl edging toward teenager with a heart full of hurt feelings. At this point, Teresa can’t concentrate on her language arts, her math, or anything else. These are the moments when I have to reassure her that I was being unfair, apologize, and then give us all a break. Take 15 minutes, step away from the schoolwork, and maybe even run around outside for a few minutes … because ultimately the problem wasn’t hers, it was mine.

She’s got a knack for the quick comeback, and I’m proud of that verbal ability of hers. And I need to remember to take 5 minutes every once in awhile, and restore some of my patience, because to do anything less than appreciate that quality in her is to do her a disservice.