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Best Friends For Life

by Debra Monte Wetzel

My decision to homeschool was both passionate and immediate. As soon as I looked down at my newborn son I knew I could never put him on a school bus and wave good-bye. Three boys and twelve years later neither my husband nor I have ever regretted that decision for a minute. Some days everything seems to click for us. Some days weíre not as lucky. But every day is an educational journey. One thing we never could have imagined though, is how close the boys would become in the process.

Of course, my neighbors think Iím crazy. The feeling is actually quite mutual. We are all so different yet fortunately; we are able to respect and even admire each otherís differences. They so love their time to themselves. They bask in the seven-plus hours of peace and quiet they have when they send their children off to school each day. They relish the order and neatness of their homes. They can exercise, go shopping or whatever else they choose to do during the day. And they can do it all alone. But I donít envy them one bit.

They cannot understand why I would ďwantĒ my children home with me all day long. ďHow do you get anything done?Ē ďDonít you ever need time for yourself?Ē they ask. Yes, the noise level is often deafening. The house is usually in utter chaos and there are always books everywhere! But that is exactly the way I want it. The things that need to get done, get done. And because we spend our days together instead of shuffling kids here and there, I actually do have a lot of time to myself. Not to mention that our no-homework evenings are stress-free and very relaxing.

What I never did expect was the bond my four sons have formed. It is natural and it is pure. Of course they love each other as all siblings do, but their connection is quite different and goes beyond that. They truly enjoy each otherís company. They can work and play together all day every day without much of a fuss. I know I am very lucky and it sounds unusual, but they seldom argue. Oh sure, there is the occasional argument, screaming or wrestling match over a toy or something. But honestly, for the most part, they get along just fine.
I believe part of the answer lies in the fact that they do spend so much time together. They understand each other like no one else could. Itís their natural rhythm that keeps them in sync. They know each otherís strengths as well as weaknesses. And because they know each other so well they also know how to avoid certain situations. They can read and sense each otherís moods. This in itself allows them to avoid many confrontations. Knowing when someone needs some space is a skill that is often learned the hard way. And knowing when someone needs some company is every bit as important, too.

Make no mistake, it is not just my sons who behave this way. There are over 130 families in our local homeschool group and I have watched them interact with their siblings as well. They all seem more connected, compassionate and respectful of one another. It is amazing to observe but they appear to have a basic and natural understanding of tolerance.

A problem that children who attend school have is that they spend so much of their time with friends, teachers and peers and away from their siblings. They grow apart and pick up behavior patterns from strangers. All of these different patterns are then forced to merge together within the family unit at the end of each day thus causing conflict. By that time of day everyone is hungry, tired and cranky. Add that to the bewitching hours around dinner to bedtime and you have a dangerous combination.

Like most things in life everything is a balancing act. You need to spend time apart as well as together as a family. But if the percentage of time spent together outweighs the time spent apart a healthier sense of self is achieved. I feel that most of the homeschooled children I know tend to be more outgoing than their contemporaries who spend their time in a school environment are. And because they spend so much time with adults as well as children their own age, I feel they are more confident and able to make friends more easily too. This enables them to see themselves as part of a larger whole. They do not feel insignificant but rather quite needed. 

Growing apart each day and then coming back together each evening is a daunting task. Donít misunderstand me. Outside influences are imperative for a well-rounded personality. My sons socialize every day with neighbors and friends both homeschooled and public school educated. But it is their solid foundation at home that keeps them close. When they spend time apart they certainly enjoy themselves but I can hear the excitement when they come together again to share their new experiences. They actually miss each other and look forward to spending time together again.

The time my sons spend together helps to build their confidence. They are more self-reliant as well as outgoing. They love to meet new people too, and yet they are never in need of stimulation when they are alone or have free time. They donít need me to entertain them or drive them from place to place all the time. They spend much of their time exploring and learning on their own as well as through our daily lessons together.

They definitely consider one another their best friends. They are always confiding in and talking to each other. Iím hoping this solid bond will remain intact throughout their lives. Outside influences are fine but shouldnít sever the bond they have established over the years. The boys always stand behind and defend one another. I am always outnumbered. But I donít mind a bit . . . itís a ďbrotherĒ thing. 
_______________

Debra Monte Wetzel, has written essays, poems, short stories and articles, as well as several childrenís books (awaiting publication). One of her articles appeared in Back Home Magazine. A poem is in the summer edition of Quiet Mountain Essays. She homeschools her four sons in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in Saratoga, New York.