Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's the end of the year as we know it...{Part two}

...Part Two of a rambling I began here


This focus, in my opinion, falls deeply and intimately under homeschooling but I have chosen to tease it out and reflect on it separately.  I don't think that the relationship between my two boys--its health or its continual development--would have taken as much precedence in their, or our, daily lives if they attended public school.  From my observations of friends and neighbors whose children are not homeschooled, once the children are spending the majority of their day away at school, there seems to be a significant shift of focus onto each individual child's relationships with other kids.  This phenomenon is really just a natural outcome of the "socialization" that occurs when you separate children by grade/age level and keep them together for the majority of the day.  And although this is the reality that most of us experienced and that still informs the way we view childhood, it by no means is the only or best experience.

My two boys spend an extraordinary amount of time together.  They even share a room and a bed so the togetherness is at a ridiculous level.  Ridiculous and wonderful.  I believe wholeheartedly that my boys are learning the fine art of socialization through every interaction they have with each other.

According to The Encyclopedia Britannica "socialization essentially represents the whole process of learning throughout the life course and is a central influence on the behaviour, beliefs, and actions of adults as well as of children."

As my boys navigate each and every conversation, quarrel, explanation, narration, aggravation...they are learning how to be real people in a world of real situations.  We wake up each morning with the crazy idea that simply by living our lives together we are learning important lessons about life, love, loss and longing.  This is our "life course" and, according to Britannica, it is the central influence on making us who we are in society.  By choosing to be together more often than apart, we are intentionally being the central influence on each other.  I think that is a good thing.

Because all this togetherness is not always butterflies and rainbows and unicorns dancing.  Oh no... far from it.  There are moments when anger fills the room and threatens to become king and commander.  Words fly off handles at break-neck speed and not everyone ducks in time to avoid the blow.  People disappoint and forget and hurt.  At the most basic level, people are people.  

And I don't believe that happens in the same way outside of the home.  Yes, there are mean girls and bullies and Queen bees in schools.  From personal experience, we know, all too well, the power of cliques and how quickly ugly words speed through a school.  But I don't believe those happenings are examples of people being people.  At least not real people.  Those are instances of people finding themselves threatened and afraid and in an attempt to not be done in by the crisis, put on a persona that will protect them and their perceived status.  They are not being real, in either their response or their continued putting on.  And this is the cycle that is perpetuated, year after year, ad nauseum.

As a family, we have decided to step out of that crazy house and, instead, face each other as we are.  It's risky, for sure, because someone might not like who we are at any given moment.  But it's real.  And I believe that this focus on being real is the most important work we are doing.  If my boys feel free to be who they really are, think of the potential.  When they are struck with an idea or a desire, they don't have to check to see if it is acceptable or popular.  They can simply run with it.  They will have the freedom to try on different hats in an environment that won't chastise them for their individuality.  They can become who they were created to be.  I believe this is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to each other.

Extract from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1881-1944)

‘What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’ ‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When someone loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ‘Does it hurt? Asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’ ‘I suppose you are real?’ said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse only smiled. ‘Someone made me Real,’ he said. ‘That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.’

Finding the gifts...

This has been the other theme of my year.  I've been inspired by Ann Voskamp, through her website and her book, and I have found that it has had a profound impact on my life.  

Life is a crazy, wonderful, difficult ride and without a lightning rod to help me take it all in, well...I don't do a very good job.  I'm a mess, actually.  
But I have found that when I intentionally look for God's fingerprints on everything, the discipline truly grounds me and protects me from destruction.  For on my own, I am vulnerable and weak and pretty much destined to mess up.  Royally.  But when I stop, even in front of the boiled-over oatmeal, and breathe in perspective and humility, the situation does not have power over me.  And that shifting of power, off the things of this world and onto the Giver of all things, radically transforms...both the moment and my heart.

And boy do I need transforming.

The discipline is simple enough, yet so foreign to the patterns of this world.  The instinct, the habit is to whine...complain...tread water in pools of pity.  The habit is to look for the why when really we should be looking for the because.  

Because He loved us first.
Because in Him, and through Him, love dwells among us.
Because, only when I embrace my weakness can His strength be fully manifested.

He is the Great because.  

And when we start looking and begin to actually count the gifts, the glimpses of His love, the evidence of His constant presence...well...
it is then that we can begin to really live.

I don't know about you but I want to be fully alive.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more. 
It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity. 
It can turn a meal into a feast,
a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. 
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow.
-Melody Beattie

So, as we wind up 2011, I look with wild anticipation at all that is in store for 2012.  I know that it won't be all good, I'm not that naive.  But I believe that entering into the freshness of a new year feels pretty good.  It has been written that His mercies are new every morning.  The gift of a new year is one example of God's mercy and grace and love.  Let's accept the gift and get on with the living it out.

Happy New Year!


  1. Beautifully written, Holly. I especially love the "Relationships" section: very nicely, wisely, and beautifully explained.

    ~Joy Bennett

  2. Love, love, love this, Holly. I completely agree. Happy new year to you!


  3. Loved this! Very well said. I'm going to look into that book ;)