A great controversy exists in psychology regarding the relationship between the development of children's personalities and their birth order within the family. After homeschooling my children, one theory I do agree with is the firstborn syndrome. My 18-month-old daughter initially displayed her firstborn characteristics when I brought home her new baby brother. Setting him next to her in the recliner, I could see a look that told me she was not about to share her parents' attention with this new intruder. From that time on, she was always "top dog" in our homeschool family. In schoolwork or play, she was always the leader in control. Although her brother, standing six feet tall, finally outgrew her, the thought to take over never occurred to him. Her rank and authority as the first in the family dictated an unspoken respect and overpowered even his size.

Although the firstborn may not always be the leader in every family, many stories in the Old Testament illustrate the importance of the firstborn's position within the family. Stories such as Jacob stealing Esau's birthright, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb for the firstborn of every Hebrew family, and the principle of the double portion of inheritance found in Deuteronomy 21:17 clearly reveal the special blessings and responsibilities given only to the firstborn. Christ Himself, the Son of God, is called the firstborn in Colossians 1:15: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature."

How do you treat the firstborn in your homeschooling family? Like most parents, you probably strive to treat each of your children equally, but do you find yourself disciplining your oldest more strictly? Subconsciously, you may feel that you must make an example of your first child, so the rest of your children turn out right. Perhaps it's time to give credit to our firstborn children and acknowledge the responsibilities they bear in being the oldest and bearing the brunt of our parenting and homeschooling mistakes. Although each child is precious within the family, take a moment today to acknowledge the special blessing of your oldest child who is the beginning of your strength (Deuteronomy 21:17)!

Lord, thank You for the blessing of each child You have given to our family. Give me wisdom to acknowledge my oldest for his place in the family and show me how to teach him to follow You. In Jesus' name, Amen.