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"Territorial No More" - July 12, 2006

by Mary Jo Thayer

This is not a news flash, but it must be said that children argue with one another. Siblings argue best with one another. It's God's way of allowing us to knock off the rough edges to our personalities. That's the beauty of family life. No one comes out with square edges. Everyone who has ever had a sibling emerges into adulthood with their corners nicely rounded by their brothers and sisters. This can happen with hammering (i.e. outright slugging). This can happen with sanding (i.e. periodic doses of someone telling us what's wrong with us). And this can happen with nailing (i.e. being put in our place after we make a big mistake). I am sure all of you can come up with tool analogies of your own.

The point is this: siblings are good for each other. There is no greater gift two parents can give to their children than another sibling, even though it sometimes takes the siblings years to learn how to get along. This is okay. It's all part of the process. I believe homeschooling can speed this process along, and I have an illustration to prove it.

When our children were in school, there were days I dreaded their coming home. Not because I did not love my children or enjoy them or want to be with them. I dreaded their return, especially on Fridays, because I knew what was coming from a week of being cooped up in a classroom with 25 peers who thought, acted, and spoke the same. They were going to be territorial. This means that their siblings would seem to them to have little value. They would either be "too young" or "too stupid" or "too something else" according to one or the other.

For seven school years I put up with this. I would hear things like, "No, you can't touch MY things." "No, you can't come on MY side of the room." "No, you cannot play with so-and-so and me; she's MY friend not yours." Oh boy. That was so much fun. NOT!

Ten years ago we pulled our kids out to homeschoool them. They were ages three, six, eight, and ten. Want to know something? It might be a miracle, but I have really not had too much trouble with territories during the past decade. Why? Because every family we hung out with was a homeschooling family with several children. Everyone learned to play together. Occasionally, an older sib would put up a fuss if he was asked to babysit a little one too much, but other than that the older kids learned that little ones were just part of life. Everyone found their own peer groups at events, and quite frequently a teen could be spotted with a baby in his arms, and no one thought anything of it. It was just natural.

The other cool thing about homeschooling is that kids learn not only to socialize with peers, they are also sociable. That was one of the things that first attracted me to it. Having taught middle school and high school, I was on the look-out for mono-syllabic teens who could not look an adult in the eye or carry on a decent conversation without seeming as if we were cutting off their arms or ruining their social life. I found none. What I found were teens who seemed free and happy and eager to share with not only their peers, but also toddlers and adults. It's a homeschooling phenomenon!

My theory is this: put a nine-year-old in a room full of nine-year-olds and he will think, talk, and act exactly like he has been programmed to do: like a nine-year-old. Put him in a situation with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, teens, and adults, and he is likely to take on a much wider range to his personality and how he interacts with God's people in God's world. So, the next time someone worries about your kids and whether or not they are being properly socialized, assure them that "Yes, there are many opportunities to socialize with their peers and, better than that, there are many more opportunities to be sociable with people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and varieties." Hopefully, that will get them to thinking outside of their regular territory. It did me.

Used with Permission.
Mary Jo Thayer