I’ve mentioned that we homeschool our four daughters. By we I mean my wife does the teaching and I just sleep with the teacher to ensure all our kids graduate as valedictorians. But homeschooling does give us a very visible reality which exists in any family – older siblings teaching the younger ones. I’ve really noticed it with the baby (yes, even though she’s almost two she’s still “the baby”). She is absorbing so much information, like a sponge, due to being around her sisters both when they’re being taught and just engaging her outside of school time. In fact, it was just the other night when I was reading waiting for her to get tired to go to bed (she’s a night-owl like her daddy) and she floored me with her counting. I didn’t hear the full sequence as I was engrossed in an article, but I heard her talking and the clicking of the beads on her abacus. I listened more intently towards the end to hear, “seventy, eighty, ninety, one-hundred,” with a click as she tapped the ten beads in each row. She looked at me and smiled. I told her how proud I was of her. My little Einstein in training.
Yet, like I said, it is the moments when her older sisters teach her that I find most fascinating and/or sweet. Our five-year-old is kind of the manners police, to a degree. She’s all about please, thank you and you’re welcome. When I give her a snack which she’s asked for (with a please) she’ll say thank you right away. If I forget the you’re welcome, she’ll thank me a little louder. Sometimes she has to get my attention even more; “Daddy! Thank you!” It’s good to have her re-training me on my manners as well. When she plays with her little sister she’s always teaching her please, thank you and you’re welcome. Although five-year-olds will forget their manners from time to time, she’s pretty consistent and this will only help the baby learn these good manners all the better.
Our eleven-year-old is a very bright, creative soul. She has been a master at teaching the baby creative play. From traditional song-and-dance games that little ones play to music and art, kid number two is really showing the baby how to use and incorporate her imagination into her daily life. I see a lot of similarities between the two; all our children are bright but these two seem to have exceptional intelligence. (From their mother, obviously. Have you read the crap I put in here?) So, I think our eleven-year-old really bonds with the baby on the creative side. I hope she continues to do so.
My fifteen-year-old has been teaching her little siblings the longest, of course. And she sure has taken a very active role in teaching her newest little sister. The baby can identify all five members of the band R5 and knows more than most about British boy band One Direction. The advantages of having a teenage sister. Last week, while driving home from their homeschool co-op, the teenager held up her binder with the picture of R5 lead singer Ross Lynch – her crush – and asked, “Baby, who’s that?” From the seat behind me I heard, “ROSS!” “Good girl,” replied my teenager. As she was putting the binder back in her book bag, another quote came from the seat behind me. “Ross is hot.” My teenager’s jaw dropped, her eyes grew wide with fear as she looked at me and went immediately on the defensive. “I DIDN’T TELL HER TO SAY THAT!” I couldn’t help but smile when I told her, “No, but she’s learned it from you the past few months.”
But her three older sisters aren’t the only little teachers in the house. Having a teen and a tween who’d rather not be doing schoolwork, occasionally the volume between parents and kids can exceed acceptable levels. Yes, we’re not a perfect household and do have some verbal sparring matches when it comes to teaching our two eldest their expected responsibilities. When things get a little loud, the baby will quietly play and sing to herself and her toys. I noticed this is her coping mechanism. So, we’re trying a lot harder to keep things calm, because her usual boisterous singing is a sign of happiness, but the quiet singing is a sign for us all to chill out. Yes, she’s quite the little teacher herself.