I have been thinking some about how we plan our activities and particularly how many things the kids do together versus how many things they get to do without siblings. With four kids close in age (5 years from oldest to youngest) it has been natural to put them in the same extracurricular classes as much as possible. They get to do more things that way without me having to drive around any more or to make our weekly schedule super crazy.
At the moment we have what is for us a very light schedule. Our only regular activities are:
gymnastics — all 4 kids
guitar — my older daughter only
dance — all but the older boy; the three classes are all on the same evening over the course of two hours but no two kids are in the same class
They also have Sunday school in which only the oldest two are in the same class. Until a couple of weeks ago, they were all in a Lego engineering class together and the younger three were in pottery together.
My older daughter is the one that has the issue with being with her siblings. She just feels a need for a break from them and some time to do her own thing. I suspect that a lot of it is that she tends to be stuck with the younger two who like to do whatever she does and who are chatty. I think she is perhaps a little embarrassed by them and they may occasionally tell stories in class that she doesn’t want told. She has said that they always follow her into classes which is not really fair since dance and pottery were both things my younger boy did first and she followed him into. When they were doing art class, it was definitely true that the younger ones began to tag along when they were old enough.
But I do understand her need for a break from them. As a homeschooling family, we do spend a lot of time together and being mostly introverted people, we do sometimes just need some space. Her little sister in particular shares a room with her and also tends to follow around and hang out with her friends.
I am also contemplating all this in light of the fact that our church plans to start a youth group soon. We are a small church and my older son at 12, going on 13, is one of the older kids. But in a few years we will begin to have quite a crop of teenagers. Honestly, I have no idea how the elders envision the youth group looking, but I know in our previous church it was an issue for some families that the youth group seemed to divide families and particularly that younger siblings felt left out. And in principle, I am not really keen on groups that divide the family or that segregate people by age. But, on the other hand, I see my daughter’s need for some space. So I guess the question I am struggling with is how much space is enough without making the younger kids feel left out. It is one of those “it’s hard to balance everyone’s needs” things.
I’d love to hear suggestions of what others have done. I’d also love to hear how other church youth groups have worked and what you have liked or not liked about them.