When Sibling Squabbles Derail Your Homeschool Schedule

You know what it’s like. You’ve spent the entire summer planning, curating beautiful curriculum, and organizing a lovely, color-coded schedule.

Certainly, your homeschool days will be full to the brim with good things. You’ve planned for everything.

Everything, that is, except the inevitable sibling squabbles. And now you feel like huge amounts of every school day are being washed down the drain of “who had it first and who touched it last” or other similarly monumental life issues.


What your planning overlooked

It’s so easy and refreshing to plan things. Charts, spreadsheets, textbooks, and art study pieces can be arranged just so. You can put them into groups and boxes and label them in predictable ways. People, not so much.

One of the things I adore about Pam’s Plan Your Year guide is that it isn’t intended to be a people-proof system. Instead, it teaches us how to plan a year with our people in mind.

It didn’t take me long to realize I had missed a very vital part of the planning process. In considering the vision I had of the perfect homeschool day, I missed the fact that my children are not perfect and neither am I (though I’m pretty close). My perfect plan ignored the most important factor of all: the person in front of me.

When Sibling Squabbles Derail Your Homeschool Schedule Pam Barnhill

See, our job as homeschool moms isn’t just to cram some math into them and squeeze some writing out of them. In fact, many of us made the choice to homeschool because we didn’t want our children educated in an assembly line fashion.

But it’s still challenging to know what to do with all of those messy, unpredictable, unplanned sibling squabbles. Right in the middle of math. Or (gasp) prayer time!

Educating the whole child

This summer as you plan for next school year, don’t be afraid to plan for educating the whole child. Not just his brain. Not just his muscles. But his heart and soul as well.

In Plan Your Year, Pam helps us to begin the planning journey, not with a curriculum catalog or a stack of post-it notes, but with a vision. A vision of our children as adults.

Ask yourself, as your children graduate from your homeschool and leave your home, what kind of person do you want to see before you? What skills do you want them to be proficient at? What books do you want them to have read? What ideas do you want them to have been exposed to?

When Sibling Squabbles Derail Your Homeschool Schedule Pam Barnhill

Don’t narrow down “ideas” to geometric theorems or laws of physics. Ideas also include loving our neighbor. Considering situations from another person’s perspective. How blessed it is to give, not just receive.

Are those some ideas you want your children to be exposed to during the course of your homeschool? Are those some of the good, beautiful, and true things that you want to bring before your children as a part of the buffet of their education?

Leaving margins, but not too much

There are two opposite extremes in the homeschool that (at least in our home) seem to contribute to extra sibling tension. They are too much free time or not enough free time.

You can probably imagine how too much free time could lead to restless natives. They get bored. They don’t know what to do with themselves and they start picking fights with each other for fun.

You know your own children best, but most children need a healthy amount of structure in their days. The order and regularity are comforting and calming.

When Sibling Squabbles Derail Your Homeschool Schedule Pam Barnhill

On the other hand, too little free time can also lead to sibling tension. Whenever we feel there is a scarcity of something, we can be tempted to hoard and get stingy with it. This is true of time as well.

Think about how differently you feel towards a child who cannot find his shoes when you are running late, verse a child who cannot find his shoes when there’s nothing significant looming on the horizon. We tend to panic when we feel someone is taking something from us of which we have very little.

It’s hard to love a little brother tagging along when you have a scant five minutes before the next task or assignment begins. It’s hard to be patient with someone else who is having a turn with a toy you wanted if this is the only free-time window available today.

Adequate margins breed generosity of time and a relaxed atmosphere where relationships can trump tasks. If you’ve already planned for it, it doesn’t feel like a waste. It feels like a productive use of the time block you’ve set aside for it.

When Sibling Squabbles Derail Your Homeschool Schedule Pam Barnhill

Choosing resources that compliment your goals

We’re familiar with picking curriculum that aligns with our philosophy of education. But do you also purchase curriculum (or omit purchasing curriculum) to align with your family culture?

That artist picture study, that hands-on science experiment subscription, that song-based Latin program may be really awesome stuff (the Latin program especially …).

But if adding that item to your cart, your shelf, and your schedule leads to minimal margins and time-tension, does it actually align with your homeschool goals?

On the other hand, if one of your goals is to grow family relationships and strengthen the bonds of sibling affection, are you choosing materials that will support those goals and put those ideas before your children?

After all, isn’t love of siblings one of the true, good, and beautiful things worth learning to care about as a part of a rich home education?

This definitely counts as homeschool planning!



  • Great article, Lynna. It is so important to remember the relationships. That is really what this life is all about!

  • Elisabeth says:

    This is beautiful and on point. Our home is currently far too much unstructured time–and yet full of panic as well, as everyone is vying for attention, space, and significance. The grownups have been in survival mode for too long! Hoping that my planning will lead us step by step to just enough structure and less stressful days. Thanks for your wise advice!

    • Thank you, Elisabeth. I totally hear you. We’ve been on both ends of this at various times – too structured and not enough structure. It’s a constant process of evaluation and tweaking in the homeschool because people change, seasons change, and needs change! No need to beat yourself up. You’ve just observed an area ripe for improvement, so embrace it and take the opportunity!

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