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In this episode, Pam tackles listener questions about sibling dynamics within the homeschooling setting. Are you perplexed about what happens when a younger child surpasses an older sibling in skills like math or reading? Or you’re trying to navigate the challenge of keeping an older child engaged in learning while younger siblings are at play. 

Pam offers a deep dive into these challenges, drawing from personal experience and providing actionable strategies. She emphasizes recognizing individual strengths, considering unique curriculums, and establishing clear boundaries between siblings. Whether you’re a homeschooling veteran or just starting, this episode is packed with practical advice and encouragement. 

Key Takeaways

  • It’s not uncommon for younger siblings to catch up or surpass their older siblings in subjects like math or reading.
  • Rather than emphasizing areas of competition, highlight each child’s unique skills and talents, whether in academics, arts, or other fields.
  • Using different curriculums for siblings can prevent direct comparison, which can alleviate potential tensions.
  • Programs without grade levels or ones labeled with non-specific markers (e.g., alpha, beta) can reduce comparison opportunities.
  • Speak to the child who’s excelling about being sensitive to their sibling’s feelings.
  • While older siblings might have more responsibilities, they should also be given unique privileges or perks to compensate.
  • Especially for younger kids, short lessons can be more effective and engaging. The emphasis should be on the quality of time spent, not the quantity.
  • Homeschooling, with its challenges, inherently builds character. Recognize that even the simple act of completing a lesson contributes to this.
  • Morning Time is an effective tool for combining lessons and can be tailored to suit multiple age groups, offering both structured and freeform learning opportunities.

Resources

Listen to the Podcast

Pam Barnhill:

Hey. Hey. We are answering listener questions on today’s episode of the 10 Minutes to a Better Home School podcast. Hi, everyone. I’m Pam Barnhill, and welcome to episode 76 of the podcast It is so good to have you here today, and we’ll answer some listener questions. Now if you have a question that you would like to submit for the podcast, you can send those to info at pambarnhill.com and just put “podcast question” in the subject line, and we will collect those up and in the future, do another listener question episode. And if we start getting more questions, we might start doing the particular kinds of episodes just a little more often. So I wanna jump right into it today, and I’m affectionately calling this episode, the sibling episode because many of these questions ended up being about siblings.

Pam Barnhill:

let’s start with this question from a mom who asks, how do you handle when younger siblings catch up to and pass older siblings in skill subjects. So we’re talking about something like math or reading where you have an older child, and their younger sibling is just catching them and passing them in those skill subjects. We had this happen in our house. So, my second child passed my first child in math. And for some reason, it wasn’t a problem for us. I think it was primarily due to the personality of both of those kids. They’re both pretty laid-back in personality and so it didn’t really bother either one of them. I like to joke that I don’t have an oldest child because my oldest child does not have an oldest child’s personality, but I understand this can sometimes be a problem.

Pam Barnhill:

So what are a few things that you can do? And the first thing I would encourage you to do is to focus on the strengths that individual strengths of each child. And so my first child knew that math was not necessarily one of her individual strengths, but she knew that she was very good at writing, very, very good at public speaking. She was a great musician. So she had all of these skills and talents. Math just didn’t happen to be one of those talents, and so we spent a lot of time pointing out the talents that she did have and the things that she was really good at. And quite honestly, I think she could see there were several things that she was much stronger than her brother, even though he was a little bit stronger in math. So I think it’s essential to focus on the individual strengths and talents of your children. So it’s not just academics, or it’s not just one kind of academics, but, hey, you’re good at this.

Pam Barnhill:

You’re good at that. Even if the other child is kind of coming up close behind on some of the subjects. And then the other thing I would encourage you to do if this is a problem in your home school is use a different program. So use different math programs or use different reading programs. I know we often like to buy one book, one curriculum and think, oh, all we gotta do is get the student book next time and, you know, all of my other kids can use the same program. And if it’s becoming a sticking point in your home school where one child is feeling hurt, or upset that a sibling is passing them. If you’re using 2 separate programs, then it it not always easy to see that that is the case that that’s going on. They haven’t they haven’t done the same book that I haven’t passed me in that book.

Pam Barnhill:

So it’s much more difficult to see and compare if the child if the other child is using a different program. And then always like to avoid programs that have a grade number on them if at all possible. I just really don’t find that helpful in my home school. sometimes I need children to work ahead of their grade level, and sometimes I need children to work behind their grade level for the material is appropriate for the material to be appropriate. And so having that grade level doesn’t work. And so once again, if there’s no grade level on the program, if the program, you know, has level a or level b or our math program. We used Math U See. He had alpha, beta, and gamma on it, then it’s a lot harder, though, not impossible, for kids to know where their sibling is at in the program.

Pam Barnhill:

And so that could be another thing as well. And then, finally, take aside the child who has moved ahead of the other child and say, hey, maybe math is not something that we talk about with your sibling. and just talk about how it could be a little worrisome or a little hurtful to know that your younger sibling is ahead of you. So, you know, this doesn’t always work. It depends on the personality of the younger sibling, but sometimes they’re happy not to make the child feel bad by talking about all of these hard math things that they’re doing So it’s worth trying to have that conversation even though net may or may not work. So those would be just a few things that I would do.

Moving on to our next question, this mom wants to know, how do you help your oldest child understand the need to do school work while younger siblings just play, is there a way to psych up that K-2 oldest kid? Oh, I can remember these days when I had a six-  and seven-year-old who was supposed to be doing school, and she had younger siblings who didn’t have to do school at all.

Pam Barnhill:

And so it was a little bit of a sticking point. She was not always happy about having to sit and do school. And I think this happens a lot when you have a six and a seven-year-old who has younger siblings. So there are a few different things that you can do. And the first thing is to make sure that older sibling has some perks and advantages that only they get to experience because they are the older child. So maybe they get to stay up a little later. Maybe there’s something they get to go do with Dad. There’s got to be some kind of perk or advantage to being the older kid, some kind of privilege you get for being older that the younger kids don’t get.

Pam Barnhill:

And then, you know, I would point that out. Like, you get this privilege. You get this advantage because you’re older. That’s one of the advantages, but now you also have the responsibility to sit down and do your schoolwork. And the other thing I would do is make sure the lessons for the six or seven-year-old are super short. If you have a house full of kids, even just two little kids, and your oldest is 6 or 7, and you have another one that’s three, four, five years old, a lot of your school can be this fun morning time you do together and just short lessons in reading math, maybe some and some handwriting for that older child lessons that honestly take up less than an hour of their day outside the morning time that you’re doing with everyone together. And so this becomes a very short period of time in their day and also a special time you two get to spend together while their siblings are playing. So kind of make it fun.

Pam Barnhill:

Point out the privileges that they get in other places just for being older and then also keep those lessons super short. And then the last thing I would say is, “suck it up, buttercup.” This is just one of the abilities that come with being older, and you have to sit here and do school. We’ll make it as enjoyable and sure as possible, but this is part of the character-building that comes from homeschooling. We often think we’ve got to go out and buy a particular virtues or character program when we’re building character just by sitting and doing the math lesson. My friend, Mystie Winckler has a fabulous blog post on that. We’ll link in the show notes for you. And so this is part of the character building right there.

Pam Barnhill:

And then, finally, the last question today is, well, how do you juggle lessons with a five-year-old and a seven-year-old? And I’ve already kind of touched on this in answering the last question, and you juggle lessons with a five-year-old and a seven-year-old by doing Morning Time. And honestly, for the five-year-old, morning time is just about all they need to do. Up until my kids were age six, anything outside of morning time was basically an invitation. Would you like to practice your reading today? Would you like to work on a little bit of math? And if they said no, I didn’t push it before they were six years old. And the seven-year-old would do those short lessons that we talked about. And for the most part, everything else, all of those beautiful picture books, all the great books about science and about history, all the games that we played, the art projects that we did, the fun that we had, all of the rest of that stuff happened in Morning Time. And I tell you what, I love my teenagers so much, but I also remember fondly the days when I had a seven-year-old and a five-year-old.

Pam Barnhill:

And homeschooling was just fabulous then because we just laughed and learned so much together. So really lean in and enjoy those times, those short lessons, and don’t get stressed out. You will be amazed at how much that seven-year-old picks up in those short lessons just done consistently every single day, with a morning time thrown in. So that would is what I would encourage you to do.

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