Home Educated Kids Fight and Disagree with Each Other Too
by Beverley Paine, Oct 2005
At a homeschooling gathering I attended recently two boys needed to be physically pulled apart during a nasty fight.
It's a shock to the system to see children fighting, that's for sure. Being an old hand at homeschooling gatherings I was fairly confident of the outcome and because of the way both mothers' responded to the situation the two boys were soon playing seemingly happily again under the watchful eye of all the adults present for another couple of hours. After one boy left, the other boy then went on to play with two other children from a non-homeschooling family. At times during the game it appeared as if war world three would break out: the children were playing what looked like Star Wars, but the adults kept our distance and sure enough, the aggression never escalated beyond the fantasy world children voraciously occupied.
I was reminded of how important it is for parents to be wary of intervening too soon: to be forever watchful and ready to jump in and stop inappropriate and dangerous behaviour (and it's never soon enough when anger replaces common sense and safety). Once we intervene it's really important for us to model behaviour that resolves conflict rather than escalate it. Learning that lesson was very hard for me as my parents often dished out 'rough justice': if one kid started a fight all three siblings were punished, usually with an arbitrary and painful smack. Sorting out the victims from the aggressors isn't that easy, and it's rarely black and white, with usually far too many shades of grey!
When judging incidences like this, children need to be given some leeway as they are prone to react rather than reflect first then act. They can't help it: experience teaches this skill. It's something we hopefully learn as we grow. It's easy for children to be physically hurt by each other when playing together on playground equipment. In this case, the child that was accidentally hurt reacted and that set up a chain of retaliation that didn't resolve itself quickly, as most incidences of this kind usually do. When the adults realised the kids no longer had control and were in need of help they acted quickly and responsibly.
I've seen this happen time and again at homeschooling gatherings. The other thing I've witnessed is how the two children (both boys and girls) tend to become firm friends, sometimes with an ongoing 'love/hate' relationship. I've learned to trust the children more as I've watched them quickly resolve their own disputes. It's too easy to jump in at the first sign of trouble between these rather passionate friendships... The ones I've known have had parents who always talk with their children about appropriate conflict resolution. I'm always impressed by how these children respond: they think through their behaviour, talk about their thoughts and feelings, work hard at finding solutions, and generally have considerable empathy for their 'victims'. I am so glad that these children are homeschooled. School life generally doesn't have time for these kids.
I've met homeschooling parents who, from the sidelines, view incidences like this, and then doubt homeschooling completely, saying that if we can't control our kids then perhaps we shouldn't be homeschooling. Or if homeschooling kids act out and misbehave then obviously homeschooling isn't an effective education. But this kind of incident happens everywhere there are children: at home among siblings, at school in the classroom and playground, in the park after school, and when homeschooling kids get together. There's hardly a book written for children that doesn't have a scrap between children somewhere in the pages! It's a part of growing up. What I like is how I, again and again, witness such incidences among homeschooling children and how the outcomes are very different to those I experienced as a child growing up, or what I have seen during my time volunteering at school when my children were young.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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