For some reason, I find this second Rule very hard to describe. Let me give you some examples of things we make sure we do that strengthen our family. Some of them are stupid simple – which may be why writing this feels silly to me.
We eat together, particularly in the evening. Sometimes, the boys have a snack in the middle of the afternoon because having dinner together will mean that dinner isn’t until 8pm. (Of course, the boys think that we should have popcorn nearly every afternoon anyway. It’s the afternoon read aloud treat if we are at home together.) We do a large portion of our schoolwork together on the couches in the living room, and the younger boy who needs lots of snuggles sits very, very close to me and shares my book. The other guys sprawl out on couches or rug. And we discuss what we are reading together and on our own.
We have a common language. We discuss Ralph Moody and work ethic and economics and Frindle. We find ourselves singing history sentences or quoting poems we’ve memorized. We relate repeatedly through recitation and reading and discussion. This is simply our family culture.
We work together. There are five people and three businesses and two organizations in our house, which is no more than medium-sized. We have to keep our things put away, or there won’t be room for the next project. It only all fits because much of our work is done online. We do laundry and cook and clean together. And we try to find the fine line between personal responsibility and demonstrating love for another through service. These are habits we work on. I am still chief cook and housekeeper, but these boys are getting to be quite efficient.
We also relate in (debatably) less healthy way. Again, we have five people and three business and two other organizations running in our small to medium sized house. We get in each other’s space. Micah’s big Lego project may be accidentally damaged in a Nerf war, and Gideon’s art project might not fit well with my cooking chores. We have plenty of room for growth in the whole putting others first department. While we like our small house because it is easy to clean and in a cozy neighborhood, we have to manage the stuff in a way that is both functional and attractive. (And my version of attractive is not the same as the attractive designed by a boy.) We like each other – most of the time – but we are family, and we get on each others’ nerves also.
We go together out into the sunshine, to walk in a forest, to work in the garden, to run through the park. We often take a longer lunch to meet up with our buddies in the park to walk or fish or play. Sometimes we take a short lunch so we can meet up them a little later. Outdoors is good for us, and out is better together. We are very fortunate to have many home educating friends who live near our home or are frequently in our neighborhood. We are part of two different (and overlapping) home schooling communities, and we are part of a tiny church. We have a bunch of family around, including all of our kids’ grandparents. There is a lot of relating to do.