Does The Oldest Child Lead A Child-Led-Learning Household?

One of the questions I posed for myself at the beginning of this project was this: How much of who I am today is because of homeschooling?

But, this morning, my mom asked me this: How much of the way we homeschooled was shaped by the oldest kid in the family?

me and Mindy swimming, 1988

me and Mindy swimming, 1988

As my mom put it, my older sister had particular interests and styles of learning which, two years behind her, I was seeing, imitating, competing against, or just following along with. Certainly, we are all – always – shaped by our siblings. And I’ve talked about that. But in the context of child-led-learning households, maybe the oldest kid has particular power to shape the family path!

In the interview with my younger sister, who is a whole 7 years younger than me, she said that it took her a long time to reflect on how homeschooling set our family apart. Having two older sisters to look up to completely “normalized” our lifestyle to her – so much so that she says she didn’t reflect on the fact that none of the other kids in the neighborhood shared our lifestyle until a later age.

In the long run, my little sister had a more unique and individual unschooling experience as a child than us older two sibs just because of age gaps. But she saw us as examples and precedents.

My mom shared this article with me about the Harding family, who have 10 homeschooled children, the oldest six of whom have all begun college by the age of 12 years old. The parents insist that they’re very average people who simply succeeded in helping their children locate their passions at a young age. I guess most people would look first to the parents as setting this expectation for their children… But after the conversation with my mom this morning, we both kinda look at the oldest daughter as setting that family’s young-college trend.

Anyway… In my own family, I think my mom has questioned her young-motherhood navigation of child-led learning, wondering if all us kids had equal power to lead! But, in my own biased view as a middle-sister, being just a little younger was a great and lucky place to be. In many instances, I tagged along with my older sister’s discoveries and skills.

Here’s a clip from my mom’s old journal from Tuesday, November 24th, 1987. (As a refresher, this is written by my mom when I was 3, my older sister Mindy and our friend Camille are 5 years old):

We reviewed “AT” family words (Mindy and I) & worked on “ELL” family words (all 3 kids). Mindy & Camille combined initial consonants & endings much easier this time and got a great deal out of helping to make “instructional material” (illustrating words).

Lindsey doesn’t seem to have a clue of sound/letter combinations (which is fine!) but she wants to do what the big kids do SO BAD that I let her.

She does almost as well as the big kids, but seems to rely on memory, she hadly loks at words themselves!

It’s always interesting to see what interests them!

Of course, my older sister and I also had many innate differences in interests and inclinations. By the time we were teens, we had begun to differ greatly from each other in the types of pursuits that took up most of our time. Still, I think my older sister did steer our homeschooling some-what early on, and I thought the question my mom posed today was interesting, and worth pondering.