Growing Up Unschooled...With Siblings

I read this post recently over at Un-Schooled, and all I could think as I read it was how very much I related to it.  Not the great-musicians-touring-Europe bit (I wish), but the relationship, the closeness, described between siblings.  And I just had to share my own relationship with my sister, and how I feel that relationship has been affected by unschooling.

Emilie (most often referred to as Em or Emi, if I'm the one doing the referring) is hands down my best friend in the entire world.

Emi, in summer '09.

She's 2 1/2 years younger than me (the half especially mattered when we were younger: doesn't a bigger sibling always want to claim as much of an older-and-thus-obviously-more-mature advantage as they can?), so when I first started going to kindergarten (which I continued to do for half a year) she was still too young for school (this was long enough ago that three was still considered too young for school!).  Every day when the bus came to pick me up, my mother would walk me the short distance to the end of our street, while Emi would stay by the window watching until I was picked up.  I think she was envious of me: that I got to go somewhere that seemed, at the time, exciting (though I was personally pretty ambivalent about my kindergarten experience, even at the time).  More than that, I think she just missed me.  We were used to spending all of our time together.

Me and Emi, circa '96 or '97
Once I left school, we fell back into a more familiar rhythm.   We spent our days playing, creating art, and going to various group activities.  When Emi reached school-age, there was never any suggestions of her going to school.

So we grew up together.  We played, learned, squabbled, and everything else siblings are supposed to do.

We liked baking... Circa 2000.

I mean, we certainly fought, and continue to fight, at times. When she was just a toddler I bit her on the face, and just a couple of years ago I gashed her arm open with my nails (then felt extremely bad about it for weeks, long after it had healed), among hundreds of other small fights that resulted in less spectacular displays of physical violence.  For a few years, when I was in my preteen to very early teenage years, we lost a lot of closeness, as I had definitely hit a new developmental stage, felt a lot older, and Emi was still a little kid.  But once she reached the preteen stage, we regained that closeness once more.

Me and Emi, with our dog, Flora, in '02.

Of course, virtually all siblings--be they unschoolers, homeschoolers, public and private schoolers, or freeschoolers--love their siblings.  Many, no matter what type of education they have, are even close to their siblings.  But sadly, there are also many who are not.

 To me, one of the greatest benefits of unschooling is the relationships I've developed with my family, which I definitely attribute at least in part to unschooling.  When in school, siblings spend every day appart from each other, in separate grades, classrooms, and even schools (though seeing as you're not supposed to be socializing in class, I suppose it wouldn't make much of a difference if siblings where in the same class, anyway).  Evenings are usually spent doing homework, or spending time with other friends.  There's a stigma attached to hanging out with people of different ages, and I've definitely also encountered a stigma to liking family members.  To many young people, actually liking a sibling enough to spend time with them just isn't cool.

So as unschoolers, we missed out on internalizing any siblings-are-uncool-and-so-is-anyone-younger-than-me messages.  But far more than that, we simply had the time to become such good friends!

Because that's what we are now: best friends.  Emi is now 17, and I'll be turning 20 in March.  Though we no longer share the same activities, we still share a fair amount of friends.  We hang out together.  We giggle and squee over sexy guys, watch shows and movies together, and endlessly discuss the plot, characters, and where it all might be heading.  We also discuss a huge array of other things: like sexism and anarchy, oppression and media and racism and gender and how we want to live our lives.  Problems with friends and things people said and how we can make a difference.  Sometimes we curl up together and talk until 4:00 am or later. 

Laughing at who knows what. Taken in 2007.

We've been known to laugh in synchronization, and even to burst out singing the exact same song at the exact same time, completely out of the blue.  We make comments and references that cause us both to burst into laughter, when no one else has a clue what we're talking about.  We exchange plenty of secrets that never go further than the two of us, and we almost always know what the other is getting at, even if we're exhausted and making no sense (which, being the very late night people we are, is a fairly frequent occurrence).
At a dance, in 2008.
Perhaps we would have been just as close had we gone to school.  But I'm oh so glad that our relationship was never put under the strain of the both of us growing up separately in school, so glad that our friendship could grow unhindered as we ourselves grew up!

Both of us looking kinda silly, but happy! June, '10.

Yeah, okay, I'm feeling kind of sappy now.  But, well, she's my sister.  I could go on so much longer: I could talk about how we've always looked out for and defended each other.  I could talk about how awesome (and witty, intelligent, hilarious, social, thoughtful, compassionate...) my sister is, and about all the cool things she does (like play snare drum in a Highland band, and be a Ninja--really, she takes Ninjitsu--and write novels, and sew plushies...), and all that jazz.  But I think I'm going to stop here, and finish instead with this quote from Kate, of Un-Schooled, who says it all so much better than I've managed to in this post:
"Going to school doesn’t mean not getting to know your own family. It doesn’t mean not becoming good friends with your siblings. But being unschooled means getting the chance to hang out with them all the time. To learn with them the way kids in school learn with their classmates. To learn with them in ways that classrooms can’t really ever encompass. Being unschooled means living together during the day as well as the evening and the winter as well as the summer. Not knowing that you’re supposed to be divided up into grade levels and younger kids are supposed to be boring and older kids are supposed to be off limits. Being unschooled means being in it together. Every day.
And I am so thankful that I got the chance to be with my brothers like that."

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