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My nieces ages 6 and 9yr. just moved in with us due to neglect and sexual abuse. They are foster kids in our home which comes with a set of rules. We will get monthly home inspections to see that they are followed. My kids ages 3yr.boy and 6yr. girl have always either slept with each other or with us but social services is against that. We had to set up separate beds in separate rooms for them. My hubby is laying with my 3 yr. old right now in the boy room and my daughter laid quietly until her cousins fell asleep (all 3 girls share a room) and then tiptoed out to find me and is asleep next to me. Kids in foster care have to go to school so we are doing the 8:00 bedtime and more routines just to make it through the day. My nieces can't handle the freedom of unschooling just yet (probably not for quite some times). They would stay up all night and still have to face teachers expectations at school the next day. They would eat til they are sick. They eat like another meal may not come due to their past experiences.
but my kids are beginning to struggle with the rules and routines I had to lay down. Can I do it one way with my nieces and another with my kids without causing conflict? My nieces don't want to go to bed if my kids are awake. When my nieces get ready for school, it's hard not to wake my kids accidently. How can I give my kids unlimited food access and choices when my nieces are not capable of that options without becoming ill? My nieces do better with predictable structure to their time but my kids prefer more flexibility.
My nieces are gone from 7:45 until 4:15 during the day M-F so much of our day is usual I fear our unschooling lifestyle is coming to an end though. I feel the need to be strict with some of my rules to make sure everyone is safe. I feel like I can't follow my kids interest as much because I have a lot to do. any suggestions?
I doubt you can have two standards while both sets of kids are with each other. That will cause strife.
If you can get your kids involved in deciding how to make happen what their cousins need, that's might work. They're a bit young to put off needs for someone else over the long haul but it might not be impossible. Depends on their personalities. Be open to them talking about what's hard. Be open to brainstorming solutions together.
Then during the day when the nieces are at school you can live your free lives. The tricky part is treating the girls' return from school not as a negative downer returning to restrictions but of loving them up in a way that they need right now. If someone complains acknowledge it and come up with a solution to it or put it on the list of things to think about. If your kids know you're taking their needs seriously they'll be more willing to let some things slide than if you tried to make them let them slide.
Bottom line will depend on your kids' personalities. Some kids are more naturally needy and compromising in the evening might be hard. And if they do have the personalities to be able to set aside their needs temporarily each day, the second factor is how full to the brim they feel in their needs department so they're able to give.
Can I do it one way with my nieces and another with my kids without causing conflict?
Probably not. Unschoolers live a pretty glamorous life by standards of school kids - they get to stay up as late as they want, eat whatever whenever they want, and lounge around the house all day watching tv if they want. That's going to be a source of friction at the least.
That being said, you don't "have to" go all the way over to "tough love" in order to parent your new kids. You can help them have more choices in their lives and extend to them kindness and compassion now without turning all your interactions into lessons of one kind or another.
My nieces can't handle the freedom of unschooling just yet (probably not for quite some times).
Your nieces Are Not Permitted the freedom of unschooling so you don't actually know what they can "handle". During the day they are in a place where what they do is restricted. They can't eat what they want or when they want - only what they can bring or buy and only during a short period of time. They can't sleep when or how much they want, either. It's unreasonable to expect them to behave like kids who are unschooling or even deschooling. They're stuck.
But you can still treat them gently and give them more choices at home. If they dislike school, then downplay the "value" of school and grades and tests. One of the most valuable things I was ever told as a school-kid was that grades and tests are for teachers - they tell you how well teachers are doing their jobs. Getting a "bad grade" means your teacher fell down on the job and didn't make the subject material interesting or meaningful. That's sometime to offer them.
They would stay up all night and still have to face teachers expectations at school the next day. They would eat til they are sick. They eat like another meal may not come due to their past experiences.
You can still gradually give them more options and say yes more. It's not something to rush into, but something to pursue wholeheartedly. Look for gentle parenting resources for kids in school. Do you know the Consensual Living yahoo group? That may be an excellent place to get some ideas and advice: