by Matthew McDill, August 2021
My dad always used to tell my sister and me: “You’ve got to learn to get along with each other. You two are best friends.” We would often make faces and deny this, but in the end, my sister and I were very good friends. This is the spirit in which my wife and I have raised our kids as well. Public school kids, like my sister and I, can certainly develop strong relationships. But there are some extra benefits and opportunities for strong family life and relationships when we homeschool.
Homeschool families usually develop close relationships because they spend more time together. They learn together, work together, play together, and eat together more than the average family. Spending more time together also presents its challenges. There is often yelling and fighting between siblings. I have heard some parents say that they put their children back in school because they could not get along with them. They said it was hard enough to be their parent; they couldn’t be their teacher as well. This is understandable because it is very challenging to spend a lot of time with people, living and working with them. But if we do not give up but grow through these challenges, we can learn how to love one another and enjoy strong relationships with each other. It is worth it!
We’ve had plenty of fights at our house between siblings and between parents and children. One of the lessons we have learned and taught our children is how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. Instead of lots of yelling, hitting, and tattling, we teach them another way. There are three simple steps: 1) Ask nicely; 2) If he won’t listen, warn him that you are going to tell a parent; 3) If there is still no response, go tell a parent.
If there is any yelling or hitting at our house, the one yelling and hitting gets in trouble no matter what the other offense may be. The most important issue is that they learn to talk with each other about their problems. When a child tells on a sibling, my first question is always, “Did you talk nicely to him or her about it?” If not, I will not listen to the child’s complaint. If they have, then I handle it in the fairest way possible. Sometimes I even have to call witnesses. The children quickly understand what the rules and expectations are. They learn not to come to parents if they haven’t tried to work it out among themselves. They learn what is right and wrong and only bring issues they believe to be right. They learn to listen to each other.
When families learn how to love one another and live life together, there is such wonderful fruit in the relationships that are built. I was recently able to enjoy this relational fruit when my family went on a camping trip. My oldest daughter and her husband and my two boys in college met Dana, me, and the six kids still living at home at a campground in the mountains. What a fun time! We had enough people to play volleyball as a family. We played in the lake, ate lots of food, roasted marshmallows, sang around the campfire, laughed, encouraged each other, and had lots of one-on-one conversations. I love seeing my little boys look up to their older brothers as their heroes and seeing my older boys play with and talk to their little brothers. I love seeing brothers hug their sisters and encourage them. I love seeing my teens talk to their older siblings and ask them for advice.
This kind of fruit comes by working through a lot of difficulties and many years of investment and growth. The years go by so fast. We captured that reality on this trip when my oldest daughter and son recreated a picture that we took almost twenty years ago in the exact same campground.
We are so thankful to God for our children, for homeschooling, and for the strong family life and relationships we have been able to build over the years.