Being down one child for the majority of each day is certainly strange. Bubby will get to enjoy some long walks alone with Jon or myself as we pick up her sister. She has unfettered access to the toys - no older sister "helpfully" directing her play - and lots of free cuddle time. The freedom seems to have gone to her head a bit: our normally pretty weird Bubby is now completely out to lunch. It's a whole lot of fun, honestly, watching just how strange she can really be. I think it will prove to be a very fun week for all.
Peanut's absence has got me thinking about school, though, and about one of the benefits of homeschooling that is infrequently discussed. How wonderful that our children who - as much as they may fight and argue, push and shove and hit and scream all-to-frequently - truly adore each other can spend their days together. Not only that, though, but Peanut has not yet learned to avoid younger children, to fear being perceived as a "baby" by virtue of playing with someone younger than she. This is a beautiful thing. Frequently she will come home from the park and remark to me about a new little friend she has made, telling me that the little girl or boy was very nice, or very cute, or very sweet, "just a little baby" while also telling me what fun she had playing with this child. No one has told her that such behaviour is considered odd, and for that I deeply thankful.
I want my children to appreciate people, full stop. People younger and older can make good friends, can make fun playmates, can make interesting companions. But traditional school can inadvertently send the message that it is appropriate to associate only within one twelve-month age span. Classmates may ridicule and shun those who entertain friendships from without their specific grade: I've certainly seen this myself. What I have never seen, however, is a homeschooled child react to younger or older children in such a manner, but instead have only ever seen home educated children welcome and embrace whatever playmates they encounter, regardless of age. Friends are chosen based on personality compatibility, rather than merely age or proximity. Perhaps worst of all, though, is watching siblings reject each other based on these same principles, because they are not the same age.
My daughters love each other immensely. Their love for one another is a fierce and wonderful love. Peanut is more distressed by Bubby's injuries - of which there have been many, in the past few months, including her own tooth through her upper lip - and is more deeply offended by any perceived slight or misdeed toward Bubby than even Bubby herself. And that is challenging and often infuriating - "Yes, Peanut I can take Bubby's toy if she is using it violently. No, screaming at me will not get her toy back for her." - and glorious and heartwarming. She wants so desperately to protect and care for her sister. And Bubby, likewise, wants to be with her Peanut, wants to bring Peanut her toys or books, things she knows Peanut likes to have near her or play with. They hug each other in greeting every morning. They tell stories with their Playmobil people together. They giggle - in excess, often - at the table. And while it is by-no-means perfect, it is wondrous.
Enrolling Peanut in school full-time would not guarantee an irreversible change to their relationship: I am certain of that. But I do appreciate that in choosing homeschooling, we have inadvertently avoided a scenario that may have threatened their burgeoning appreciation of one another. Because while Bubby is enjoying having the apartment to herself today, I expect elation when her big sister comes through the door this afternoon. She has, afterall, spent the majority of the afternoon singing songs about her.