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Æthelthryth the Texan

Getting kids to give each other space while homeschooling

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If you have a couple of kids that for some reason, are really pushing one another’s buttons, what are your suggestions for giving them more space from each other, despite being home together 24/7? This would be my two youngest dd7&ds8- they have separate rooms, but a joint play room. Right now we are spending almost all morning every day in the pool and then do school after lunch. But they’re even bickering in the pool today to where I made everyone get out and go take showers an hour early. 

They do have separate extracurriculars from one another, but those don’t start until next month. This is highly unusual. But she’s being ultra sensitive and he’s being, to be frank, a jerk that doesn’t get why she gets so upset over things. (Case in point he pretends to pop his eyeball out all the time and it freaks her out.) I do skill subjects separately- things like read alouds etc obviously together. She’s very competitive with him and can’t keep up academically or physically speed wise say diving , which is understandable as they’re a year apart, but also she doesn’t get that of course he’s better at some stuff than she is because he’s got a year on her and completely different strengths.   

I grew up an only child so I have no frame of reference here. Please help before I pull my hair out. 

Edited by Æthelthryth the Texan

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We have territorial boundaries in the living room since my boys were very young, only my husband is less bothered about personal space. Good fences make good neighbors even though our “fences” are invisible. My kids love to have personal space and it helps preserve harmony since they don’t accidentally use their sibling’s textbooks or favorite stationary. I am big on personal space too and I have my favorite spot in the living room. 

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Probably this won’t be possible for you but mentioning  in case it might be.  We had a family of 5 kids homeschooling across street where two a year apart were having similar friction.  For awhile little brother came over to our house for a couple of hours per day and schooled with me.  Partly he used what ever his mom had for him.  But partly he used materials I had which gave him a break from anything that could be content competitive with his brother.  The initial reason was actually that he said I could explain math in a way he could understand, but I think the break from sibling rivalry was a help

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17 minutes ago, Pen said:

Probably this won’t be possible for you but mentioning  in case it might be.  We had a family of 5 kids homeschooling across street where two a year apart were having similar friction.  For awhile little brother came over to our house for a couple of hours per day and schooled with me.  Partly he used what ever his mom had for him.  But partly he used materials I had which gave him a break from anything that could be content competitive with his brother.  The initial reason was actually that he said I could explain math in a way he could understand, but I think the break from sibling rivalry was a help

Oh I wish I could find a way to do this. I feel like it would be great if I could.

We used to get our/their space by them going separately to stay with my parents a weekend, and they'd alternate. After they got older (and easier to keep up with both simultaneously for my parents) and went together it still worked well because ds would mostly be with Grandpa, and dd with Gma doing stuff throughout the day. But you know how all of that is going right now, with the health stuff, etc. So we haven't been seeing my parents as much- just for dinners really and talking on the phone- and they haven't stayed overnight since the week of the initial ER visit. 

13 minutes ago, Slache said:

More activity equals less talking. Wear him out.

Maybe go swimming twice a day?  You're from here, so you know in TX it's too hot to do anything else right now.- But the only time he shuts up is when he's underwater, or watching a screen in the house which I try to limit (and sometimes he's not even quite then.) I need to figure out something indoors to wear him out more. Maybe scrub the floors, LOL I agree with what you are saying- tired kids are usually good kids. She's on forced break from all her activities because of looming stress fractures for "overuse" as the ortho calls it, so I am sure that's not helping matters for her. Swimming was his #1 recommendation for her during this six week martial arts/dance break, so thank goodness we can still go swim. But today they were even fighting over areas of the pool. I'm like "it's a giant freaking pool!! Pick a side!" But then it was over rings, who could get more faster, who could swim from one side to the other faster, and he'd beat her and then she would cry. 

How she's acting reminds me honestly of how kids act right before they get sick, where they get sort of weepy over the tiniest things, but she's been doing it for a couple of weeks now, so I don't know what is going on exactly. I don't think he is acting that much different- she's just reacting to it a bit more. Come to think of it, she started getting this way after my Mom went into the hospital.......hmmmmm.......

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Sounds like my almost 12 and 13yo. They've always been like that. They are opposites in practically every way. Dd is sensitive. I'd say she's overly sensitive, but she's at that age. While ds is super logical and points out little things; he's working out when it's appropriate and when it's completely unnecessary and just picking. They are super competitive, so I've started giving them school work they can do on their own, at their own pace, without knowing how the other is doing.

We still do some things together, but routine helps avoid bickering and jealousy. For example, dd always starts the read aloud, then they switch off. It always has to be the same amount of pages for each. The key is laying down rules, establishing a routine and never ever straying from the routine that prevents meltdowns due to comparison. I've tried spelling together many many times, it never worked. 

They have their own spaces where they prefer to do their work, so once they know what to do they go off to their spot. 

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One thing that's been helpful to in solving a similar dynamic between DS1 and DS3 has been looking at how I might inadvertently be reinforcing DS1 for slowing DS3 down.  So, for example, if I say "No video games until your room is clean.", and DS1 can needle his brother until his brother stops cleaning and starts whining, and that means that DS1 gets to the video games first, and gets to play for a while without having to share the remote.  But if I say "No video games until both rooms are clean.", then suddenly DS1's motivation changes, and so his behavior changes.  Or, for example, for some reason both of my boys would rather sit in a captain's chair than the back of the mini van, but there's only one available.  So, they'd race and get competitive, which put DS3 at a disadvantage because he's younger and slower and led to squabbling about cheating.  Once we instituted a rules that one sits in the captain's chair on even numbered days, and one on odd numbered days, putting on shoes stopped being a competitive sport.  
 

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Would a big table with chairs far away and different curriculum even if they could join together be a help? 

Your dd may be out of sorts if she’s used to dance etc and can’t do that now?  Or is she having a low level of frequent pain? 

or timing and maybe upset because of grandma hospitalization is an interesting observation 

I feel out of sorts because of our own heat currently — not so hot as TX but 80-90s muggy, humid and we don’t have A/C — I feel itchy physically and , kind of like itchy emotionally too.  

 

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I only said to wear him out. It sounds like she needs the opposite. I would have him do the 7 Minute Workout app, c25k if you have a treadmill, etc. Mine do 8 counts (like burpees but meaner) and cardio videos. It doesn't sound like the pool is helping. It's very easy to get in the pool and not do anything. I would stop viewing the pool as a physical activity and start viewing it as a leisure activity, acknowledging that they need more physical activity. I don't care that it's a hundred degrees outside, I still make mine go for walks, in shorts, with water bottles. It's very tiring. And good for my mental state.

If we were talking about my daughter I would assume that she was emotionally overwhelmed and possibly hormonal. Our daughters are subject to our hormones whether or not they are of age. I would assign long Epsom salt baths, take time off school if you school year round, and buy her a new set of colored pencils. The point of the new pencils is that she would want to use them a lot in the very beginning which would encourage her to have a lot of silent, easy alone time.

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IF you school year around I would take next week off. I would walk around the house making a list of every single little thing that needs to be done. I would assign them tasks in opposite rooms. After 4 days of cleaning you will have a spotless home and tired children. On the 5th day you can go to the beach.

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No brilliant solution but they will grow out of it.  It was so bad and both Dh and I are much younger than our siblings so never experienced what two siblings who are close in age ......they know exactly how to set the other off.  We did not allow fists......their friends fought, truly threw punches and were a Girl/boy too,   beyond that nothing other than bribery worked.  

Now to give you hope for the future.......they recently decided to both do the same degree at the same school.  Admittedly after the first classes they will be on very different paths but are willing to continue to be together when they have choices.  They can’t wait to start!

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2 hours ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

they’re even bickering in the pool today

Could it be something simpler like they're tired, need to eat, need a break? Breaks are a great concept. A week off to clean like Slache is saying sounds good, hehe. But really, just saying it sounds like they need a break and sending them for a break can help. 

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2 hours ago, Pen said:

Would a big table with chairs far away and different curriculum even if they could join together be a help? 

Your dd may be out of sorts if she’s used to dance etc and can’t do that now?  Or is she having a low level of frequent pain? 

or timing and maybe upset because of grandma hospitalization is an interesting observation 

I feel out of sorts because of our own heat currently — not so hot as TX but 80-90s muggy, humid and we don’t have A/C — I feel itchy physically and , kind of like itchy emotionally too.  

 

Oh my word, I don't know how you make it with no AC in that! I'd be miserable too. 

In theory, she's not in pain. At least from what she said. He's had her on Aleve daily during this rest period to bring down the inflammation, with six weeks off of anything like dance, martial arts, long walks, no running etc. She says they are feeling much better. We got back on the 23rd for follow up imaging to see if it's better and if so, she'll be able to pick up at least one thing, which would be ballet for her for sure. 

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1 hour ago, mumto2 said:

No brilliant solution but they will grow out of it.  It was so bad and both Dh and I are much younger than our siblings so never experienced what two siblings who are close in age ......they know exactly how to set the other off.  We did not allow fists......their friends fought, truly threw punches and were a Girl/boy too,   beyond that nothing other than bribery worked.  

Now to give you hope for the future.......they recently decided to both do the same degree at the same school.  Admittedly after the first classes they will be on very different paths but are willing to continue to be together when they have choices.  They can’t wait to start!

That is hopeful! 

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My kids will bicker and pick on each other when we are on break from school. I think that, for them, it's a lack of schedule that causes it. Is this a new/summer thing, or was it happening when you were still doing school in the spring?

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Right now we can't do walks. She isn't supposed to do that right now- and I can't take just him and leave her. When they swim, they are very actively swimming the whole time, I'll say that. They are constantly diving, racing, getting rings, you name it. They still aren't at the lounging stage. I wish I'd been able to keep ds in martial arts, but when we went on break for dd, I put him on pause too, because again- can't really leave one behind while taking the other and she was already upset enough to have to pause. She's sat through enough of his activities I didn't want to add one thing she loves (more than him) and had to sit on the bench while he did lessons. 

We took the longest summer break we've ever taken and have just been back on a couple of weeks. There's no way I can break now- they'll get a break with a couple of out of town trips for a few days here and there, but we'll be in hotels for those which makes me even more 😬about if they're still bickering. 

I just told them they were going to have to use the playroom in shifts and they weren't allowed to talk to each other anymore today and they're like WHAT?!!? Why would you make us do that?!? Commence despair. And I've done school in full shifts with the other having to go to their room while I school one today. 

One problem is our house is super open concept, except for bedrooms, and it's one story, so unless you go to a bed/bath room, they can still see/hear each other. The other part of the living area is firmly staked for oldest who has already started some of her classes back so I also need some semblance of peace for her (I am anti-school in room alone all day). 

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3 minutes ago, silver said:

My kids will bicker and pick on each other when we are on break from school. I think that, for them, it's a lack of schedule that causes it. Is this a new/summer thing, or was it happening when you were still doing school in the spring?

It's very recent. Last 3 weeks or so? Usually they are best buds. 

They are usually bickery after about a week off without structure- or not so much bickery as whiney or just annoying to me. That's honestly why I always kept breaks really short until this year when I just needed a longer break from school. But they were GREAT for the first long stretch ever this summer while we were off. I kept delaying starting back they were being so good!  Then we started back, the leg overuse dx came in, and my Mom went into the hospital and it just sort of lost the magical mojo. They are worse when we aren't doing school right now. Like in the pool, around the house etc. While we are doing school, if one comes up while I'm working with the other, they know they're going to get handed a workbook to go somewhere with so they avoid me until called, LOL. 

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Oh and ds does work out with dh every night. He does a LOT of pull ups, push ups, sit ups etc. (age appropriate of course), but that's in the evenings. Dh has to leave so early wouldn't really work well for him to do it before, and call me selfish, but I cannot stand anyone talking to me while I lift weights, so I have banished them from the weight room while I work out. 

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Maybe we just need to go back to doing school in the morning. That is the usual status quo. Swimming in the morning was something I just carried over from break. It's so easy to get up, have them throw on suits and me grab coffee and walk outside to the pool for a few hours. Maybe that's making them overly tired though for school after? Idk. They've been sleeping really late lately too. Growth spurts maybe? 

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16 minutes ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

Maybe we just need to go back to doing school in the morning. That is the usual status quo. Swimming in the morning was something I just carried over from break. It's so easy to get up, have them throw on suits and me grab coffee and walk outside to the pool for a few hours. Maybe that's making them overly tired though for school after? Idk. They've been sleeping really late lately too. Growth spurts maybe? 

I like the idea of going back to the status quo. And maybe start drinking wine instead of coffee in the morning.

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3 hours ago, Slache said:

IF you school year around I would take next week off. I would walk around the house making a list of every single little thing that needs to be done. I would assign them tasks in opposite rooms. After 4 days of cleaning you will have a spotless home and tired children. On the 5th day you can go to the beach.

I have done something like that. It sort of backfired on me. They offer to take the day off to do housework instead of school work. 😂

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1 hour ago, Plum said:

I have done something like that. It sort of backfired on me. They offer to take the day off to do housework instead of school work. 😂

 

If this ever happens to me: I know it's wrong, but I don't want to be right. Clean house here we come! 😛 

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Some of my kids have gone through stages where one child will constantly annoy the other.  For the most part, I just let them work it out.  We've survived so far... 😉

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Your daughter is probably really missing dance and martial arts.  She may even be afraid she will never be able to go back.  Is your pool long enough to swim lengths?  1000 m swimming before playing may help.

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Dd loves her forts. She loves to read and do her work in there. 

Could you have them build a little forts or put up little tents in opposite corners of the playroom that could be their space to play? 

I know my dd and ds spend so much time together and they do get along well most of the time, but they get tired of each other just like anyone would. So it’s nice to do something separate from the other. 

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5 hours ago, kiwik said:

Your daughter is probably really missing dance and martial arts.  She may even be afraid she will never be able to go back.  Is your pool long enough to swim lengths?  1000 m swimming before playing may help.

It's long, so they can do laps, but she couldn't do 1000 meters- she doesn't have that type of stamina yet! 

The doctor told her that she will definitely be able to go back to at least ballet OR martial arts, so she knows that, but maybe she is worried she won't. I know they both miss martial arts. Ballet is easier to be missing, because it goes on break every summer anyway- the only difference this summer is she usually does ballet camps. I am hoping with the physical therapy exercises, she'll be able to go back after the check up. 

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Apparently there was a lot of toy overflow between the rooms- looks like ds's storm of books and drawing supplies had infiltrated her room, so we split everything back up yesterday and got rooms in order- everyone's own space set back up. Today seems off to a better start. Pool guy is treating the pool this morning so that was a built in excuse to not go swimming today. Fingers crossed. So far, so good, which is more than I can say the last few mornings! 

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We have a small house for 5 kids under 12, and I am considering using the library study rooms during the winter months, just to get us out.  My kids aren't super-competitive, but even so we all start to go a little crazy seeing the same few walls.   Would a change of environment be possible for you and your crew on occasion?

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28 minutes ago, lots of little ducklings said:

We have a small house for 5 kids under 12, and I am considering using the library study rooms during the winter months, just to get us out.  My kids aren't super-competitive, but even so we all start to go a little crazy seeing the same few walls.   Would a change of environment be possible for you and your crew on occasion?

It will be now that the public schools are back in session! They would probably think that’s cool to go to a library to work. Thanks for the suggestion. We might drive into town (to a better library than ours) to do that. 

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On 8/13/2019 at 12:59 PM, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

Maybe we just need to go back to doing school in the morning. That is the usual status quo. Swimming in the morning was something I just carried over from break. It's so easy to get up, have them throw on suits and me grab coffee and walk outside to the pool for a few hours. Maybe that's making them overly tired though for school after? Idk. They've been sleeping really late lately too. Growth spurts maybe? 

 

Try that. School before swimming.  

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Honestly, 8-9 was also the absolute worst age of pre-puberty hormones for us, too.  And you've got the injury/ reduced activity/ grandmother's health issues on top of it.  But even with no other stressors, we had soooo much drama and screaming at age 8-9 that I sent both of them to school at age 9.  My kids have at least so far been mostly delightful teens who I genuinely like, but I did NOT like them all that much at age 8.  Shudder.  

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Honestly? IMO, you’re just at the beginning of this. They’ve found a role that suits them.  He instigates and she’s sensitive to it. Let’s be straight, the eyeball thing was only surprising the first time when she really might have believed it. Now? Not so much.

Little girls tend to fall into pleaser roles and it fits nicely with being proper and good, also with being over sensitive and/or offended. You change the dynamic when you change the rules. Stop it immediately EVERY time, correct the wrong parties by recognizing what each is attempting to accomplish through their behavior, switch activity, and march on.

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