My two sons are close in age—12 months and 3 weeks apart, to be exact. While this closeness has benefited many aspects of our homeschooling journey, it’s also handed us a few challenges as well.
If your kids are close in age, it’s common to find they’re able to do their subjects together using the same curriculum or study. When my sons were younger, they were separated for a time in math and language arts to solidify their understanding. Now that they are older, however, we’re able to do everything together. My sons often say it’s easier for them to learn together. To be completely honest, it’s easier for me as the teacher when it’s set up that way. With two kids close in age, I don’t have to bounce from explaining addition to geometry to multiplication to trigonometry in the span of an hour. When we’re learning pre-algebra, our house is all about pre-algebra.
When kids learn things together and think of themselves as studying on the same level, this can cause issues if one child suddenly struggles with something—especially if it happens to be the older child. They can sometimes feel they should understand something to the same capacity as their near age sibling. It is important for kids to understand that even though they are close in age, they may grasp things differently than their sibling, regardless of who is older.
It’s easy to forget this truth as a parent. When kids are learning the same thing at the same time, some parents will start to see them as the same kid: you will view your instruction as teaching the subject to one child. It’s important to remember your children are still separate entities with different learning styles and preferences and resist the urge to become frustrated when their differences throw a wrench into their usual similarities.
Stages of Learning Benefits
With siblings close in age, you go through a phase and then it’s done! You rarely have to revisit things. When handwriting or multiplication is learned, it’s learned. Other than occasional review, there is no need to go back. I don’t have to reteach a topic four years later because a younger sibling needs it.
Stages of Learning Challenges
When other homeschooling parents ask me for tips on how to teach something, it can sometimes be hard for me to offer advice because I’ve usually had only one pass at teaching it. Parents who have had to teach it to multiple kids over multiple years often have more tricks up their sleeves.
Another challenge to having siblings close in age, especially if you only have two kids, is that you’re done with homeschooling in one fell swoop. While it’s convenient that we only have to do each stage one time, it ultimately means our homeschooling adventure will end in one twelve month period in the future. A few years ago, I would have thought of this as a blessing. The closer I get to the sudden stop at the end, however, the harder it is to swallow.
There is no one else I need to keep entertained while my sons do school. If my sons were to have a much younger sibling added to the mix, that younger sibling would certainly take my attention as well as theirs. The fact that my sons are close in age has allowed us to take advantage of hardcore, laser-focus on topics they want to study and large projects they want to do.
Since we tend to focus on our own homes, we can be clueless about the struggles of other homeschool parents because they’re outside our own realm of experience.
- Attempting to entertain a toddler while the older kids are doing a science experiment?
- Trying to figure out a way to teach a historical event to children who are in five different levels of understanding?
- Teaching several different kinds of math or language arts concepts throughout the day…everyday?
It’s amazing what other families have their hands busy with!
I don’t necessarily think that having kids close in age guarantees they will get along, but it does happen to be the case in our house. My sons really are the best of friends. It’s been so amazing to watch their relationship tighten into an unbreakable bond, and I’d like to think that some part of that was made more solid because of our choice to homeschool.
Having kids who get along isn’t always a walk in the park, however. I don’t usually have to listen to a lot of bickering, but there is a flipside to this. There have been times I feel like I’m trying to teach two best friends who are plotting against the teacher. They’re always having such a good time with each other that they’re not always listening to me. Remember when you were in school and the teacher would separate the friends who were always talking and giggling during class? That’s my living room during writing, history, and math.
Homeschooling siblings close in age has several benefits and challenges, and they all add to the adventure. Identify the benefits and be thankful for them! Use the challenges to grow in your understanding of what it means to be a flexible, problem-solving homeschool family.
About the Author
Amy Dingmann lives in Minnesota with her husband where they have been homeschooling their two sons since 2007. Her hobbies include filling up her sons’ bottomless pits, drinking a lot of strong coffee, and smiling. Her least favorite subject is math. Her favorite subjects are everything else. She likes talking to other homeschooling parents and assuring them that even though they worry they’re totally screwing things up, they actually totally and completely rock. Amy blogs at The Hmmmschooling Mom, and works as an author/speaker on homeschooling and parenting/family topics.