Celebrating Lent and Holy Week With Children

 

Holy Week is upon us!  I wanted to share a few ideas with you all about celebrating Lent and Holy Week.  Lent is such a beautiful time.  I love what Orthodox Christian priest Anthony Coniaris writes in his book, “ Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home”:

It is significant that Lent happens to coincide with Spring in the northern climes.  I think there is a wonderful lesson for us in this happy coincidence.  Lent should be for all of us a period of placing ourselves in the position where the best things can happen for us.  That position for Orthodox Christians is the presence of Christ, where the Sun of His love and power can shine into our arid souls to bring about a real awakening, a real springtime of the soul.

 

Here are some brief suggestions for celebrating Lent and Holy Week:

  • Attend church.  As believers in Christ, we are designed to be in community with one another so church attendance should have a priority in this season.  Attend church on Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, any of the services available for celebrating Saints, and attending the liturgies available during Holy Week all lead to a meaningful and beautiful Easter celebration.  Children learn by doing and modeling what we are doing.
  • In the Anglican Communion, some of my favorite and special Saint days and feasts during Lent  include St. David on March 1 (eat leek and potato soup, daffodil crafts, and see the story about St. David at www.mainlesson.com); St. Patrick on March 17th, St. Joseph on March 19th, The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary on March 25th, and Innocent of Alaska on March 30th.  The Anglican Communion also marks the lives of Dietrich Bonehoeffer on April 9th (which would be wonderful for eighth graders and up to study), and on the life of Adoniram Judson on April 12 (there are several good biographies of him available for older grades aged children). 
  • Establish a Lenten mood by doing something small, such as taking the time to listen to the birds sing every morning during Lent or watching the sunset every night.  This small act of breathing into the world and work of our Creator is so meaningful.
  • At the beginning of Lent, use wooden letters available and “bury” the alleluia that is not said during Lenten liturgies.  See Elizabeth Foss’ blog for more details here:  http://www.elizabethfoss.com/reallearning/2013/02/preparing-for-lent.html
  • Create a Lenten calendar.
  • Collect alms for your particular religious denomination or a monastery or convent.  During Lent many Anglican parishes collect for the United Thank Offering or Episcopal Relief and Development.
  • Daily prayer is so important.  In the Anglican tradition, The Book of Common Prayer has many places to start with prayer.
  • Fasting and confession are integral parts of Lent. Please discuss with your parish priest or spiritual father what is right for your family.
  • My favorite books for Lent include “Kevin and the Blackbird’s Nest”, “Ravens of Farne”, “Rechenka’s Eggs”, “Petook” and “The Legend of the Three Trees”.  We have many books for Lent and Eastertide, and continue to build up our collection over the years.
  • With older children especially, I think one can really get into meaningful conversations about prayer, the role of prayer, and about what God is doing in their lives.
  • Gratitude lists
  • Make pretzels together.
  • Crafts for young ones include wind rings and wind wands, walnut boats to sale, God’s eyes
  • Lenten spring cleaning!
  • Elizabeth Foss featured Kristin’s Crafts for Kids on her blog.  You can learn more here:  http://kristinscraftsforkids.blogspot.com/2014/02/craft-kits-for-lent.html

 

Blessed Holy Week to my Christian readers, and peace to all,

Carrie

Children First, From the Start

 

 

With interest, I read this 35 paged report called “Putting Children First”  available here:  http://www.savechildhood.net/putting-children-first.html.  This is a United Kingdom publication, but the challenges these children are facing are similar to here in the United States:

 

Young children today are subject to a range of cultural pressures that were simply unknown to previous generations. Family life has significantly changed, they live in a rapidly advancing digital world, they are much less trusted and more controlled, they have fewer freedoms and significantly less access to nature, they are highly vulnerable
to the dangers of commercialisation and sexualisation and the quality and depth of their learning in the early years has moved from being intrinsically connected to family and community to become increasingly seen as primarily a preparation for later schooling. Child wellbeing in the UK has been the subject of increasing concern. Currently one
in ten children is being diagnosed with a mental health disorder,4 one in three is clinically obese,5 one in 12 of our adolescents deliberately harm themselves and nearly 80,000 children and young people currently suffer from severe depression including 8,000 children aged under 10 years of age. This is a deeply worrying situation that needs to be
tackled head on.

 

We are dealing with a pandemic crisis in childhood.  If this was bubonic plague attacking our children, the government and every citizen would be concerned.  But to hear of isolated cases of a mental health disorder in a teenager,  or isolated cutting and additive behaviors,  isolated cases of obesity within one area – no one seems to really be paying that much attention on a national level.   There have been different movements in the United States focusing on different aspects of children’s health and education, but no one movement that encompasses the many branches needed to bring healing to this generation has taken place.  I have not seen any public health campaigns for the things that I think would make the most lasting impressions upon helping our children. 

 

What would it look like to really help our children get the best start?  Here some ideas, but there are certainly many more areas so feel free to add yours in the comment box below!

  • To help parents in a holistic manner so an expectant mother and father could take good care of themselves, know and understand about pregnancy, birth, infant development
  • To help the medical community in the US understand fully what natural childbirth really means.
  • To increase the rates of Baby-Friendly Hospitals in the US:  http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/
  • To support mothers after they give birth through home visits by trained professionals to help with adjustment to parenthood
  • To really investigate the efficacy and benefit/risk ratio of the current childhood vaccine schedule in the United States
  • To provide longer maternity and paternity leaves – maybe even paid leaves like other countries!!
  • To help mothers understand infant and toddler development through available community  parenting classes and yes, even electronic support through email or a nationwide website or national developmental hotline.
  • To support parents in staying home with their children.  Inequities need to be addressed in helpful ways to support parents and their children.
  • To provide child care for children whose families really need it in a way that doesn’t damage the child – see Lifeways of North  America   (http://lifewaysnorthamerica.org/) as an organization whose models are helpful in this area.  For an example of this in an environment that is a low-income, urban environment see The Sophia Project in Oakland, California: http://www.sophiaproject.org/graphics/OnlineNewsletterSP08.pdf  
  • Make child care providers and teachers one of the top job fields, some of the hardest and most competitively admitted college programs.  Look at the Finnish model for teachers and how they are trained, treated, and compensated.
  • To investigate truly the myth of starting school at an early age.  From the report cited above:

Nearly 9 in 10 of the world’s nations currently have a school starting age of 6 or 7 – and hardly any countries have England’s effective start-­‐
ing age of 4. We believe that English children are significantly disadvantaged by such an early start.
“There is no evidence that a child who spends more time learning through lessons – as opposed to learning through play – will ‘do better’ in the long run. In fact, research suggests the opposite; that too formal too soon can be dangerously counterproductive. In 14 of the 15 countries that scored higher than England in a major study of reading and literacy in 2006, children did not enter school until they were six or seven. And more children read for pleasure in most of those countries than do so in England”
Professor Robin Alexander, Cambridge Primary Review

  • Protect childhood from a consumer culture and instead emphasize  time with family.
  • Provide public media campaigns on reducing activities outside the home for all children so children can be unhurried and not rushed and have time for play.
  • Prioritize connection with nature; provide a public campaign with use of the nature pyramid.   There was a diagram of one nature pyramid shared on Facebook from Naturally Learning that I liked best but I cannot find a link right now.  If I find it, I will post it for you all.     Help improve opportunities for movement, especially for urban areas, for all and for all children within the school day.
  • Emphasize the dangers of year round competitive sports for small children and emphasize the wonders of play, games and nature for all ages.
  • Look at education as a holistic, healing event for a child and teenager.  Emphasize movement and games, working with the hands, crafts,music and art along with academics for school aged children.   Start formal schooling around the age of 6 and a half or seven, like most countries do.

 

There are so many more areas and angles to explore in this, but that is the small beginnings I have been holding in my brain lately.  If you would like to support this sort of  work  in the United States, I suggest checking out the website “Alliance For Childhood” here:  http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/

 

Many blessings and love. Let’s be the change we wish to see in the world.

Love,

Carrie

31 Days to the Inner Rhythm of the Heart: Day Twenty-Eight

 

Our 31 days to the inner rhythm of the heart, the root foundation of a house of peace, is in progress.  In the vein of those who are setting a New Year’s intention with “one word”, I offer the word of today to you: self-restraint. Read on for more

Self-restraint is one of the most important tools we can teach our children, and yet it is often an area in which I see parents struggle themselves.  It is hard to teach that which we do not have or know.  Self-control, self-restraint, is what keeps over-the-top emotional responses in check.  Without self-control, this is so very difficult and I think leads to a house full  of yelling, strife and anger.

Many mothers I meet have, often at the root of anger and yelling, a sense of anxiety, worry or helplessness.  Self-restraint often checks this underlying root problem by providing a bit of a reality check, a bit of detachment for the moment perhaps, and enables us to reject the negativity within.

This may be perhaps one of the hardest things to develop in ourselves, and yet, we must try.  Many articles that one reads about self-control has to do with eating and advises things such as being positive, having a plan in place, having support.  These are things that I advised in the beginning of this series – keeping a journal, having an accountability partner, and looking at self-care.  Do you eat, sleep, exercise?  This is a piece that is the foundation of everything else.

But I think the other piece to this is a more side-ways approach.  Anything that you set your mind to and start and finish from beginning to end helps build self-control and self-restraint.  Many of the mothers I meet and talk to say they are so scattered with everything that needs to happen that they feel they cannot complete anything.  So, practice putting the essential in order and doing the essential completely first.  This works on self-restraint and self-control and will carry over into your parenting.  Other ways we naturally model this is through such disciplines as religious fasting, following an exercise program, following a way to clean our homes during the week, having a rhythm to our days.  All of these steps help build inner self-control.

I think the other piece is to be decisive. Making choices, following through, and being confident will also translate into a parenting that is sure-footed and controlled.  There is such a huge amount of information out there today related to any aspect of parenting, schooling, homeschooling.  An ability to weed through that in some way and make the choices that are right for you and your family in a timely way will also help develop your self-restraint and control.

Lastly, working on what we say and how we say it is so important.  Listening to the other carefully without an agenda, without a judgment is the first step.  To pause, breathe, think and then respond is the last step – if a response is even needed. With children, we often need a calm follow-through in order to help further guide a child’s actions since they often do not work well off of words alone.

 

Think of all the ways in which you build up your self-restraint, and build upon your successes.

 

Blessings and love,
Carrie

31 Days to the Inner Rhythm of the Heart: Day Twenty-Seven

 

 

Our 31 days to the inner rhythm of the heart, the root foundation of a house of peace, is in progress.  In the vein of those who are setting a New Year’s intention with “one word”, I offer the word of today to you: together. Read on for more

“The Barna Group, a national research group devoted to studying the religious sphere, recently published the results of another long-term study in a book called Unchristian……But the single biggest take-away I  gleaned from reading this book was the important difference between providing youth activities for children, essentially entertaining them and doing things for them, and actually including them in spiritually formative and meaningful ways or doing things with them.”

From “Orthodox Christian Parenting:  Cultivating God’s Creation” by Zoe Press

I am reading this book right now, and this quote really struck me as being indicative of what we have done to the lives of our children in modern society.  It has turned into entertaining our children through activities outside the home. We talk to children as if nothing of import can go on within the home and family, but instead we wait for the big day for the child to move beyond the family by attending school, by being able to do x, y and z.  And yet, in order for children to have a firm footing in not just childhood, but in the teenaged years especially, we need to be be WITH our children and do things WITH our children.  The quote above applied to religious matters, but really also applies to life with children.

If you are having trouble with yelling at your children, then I suggest that you look at TOGETHER.  How are you together with your children and are you present?  When would that happen? What is interfering in that?  Too many outside activities?  What do you do together to build positive memories of time spent together?  How are you passing your values  on to your children through your actions and through time together?

If you are yelling at your children, perhaps you need more time together to solve that challenge,  not less.

I invite you to consider this.

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Where to Find Information About Waldorf Homeschooling

 

In the past, many mothers found information about Waldorf Education by attending something at a school, a Steiner playgroup, or attending a curriculum fair at a Waldorf homeschooling group.  It was an in-person experience and it was an experience that perhaps built through a school year or through seasons.  There is something so wonderful about experiencing Waldorf education in person through a group, a workshop, a study group.  It may be at a “school” and yes, school is different than homeschooling children of different grades, but it is not a bad starting point to gleam ideas and understand the atmosphere a great teacher can hold.

 

At some point, gathering information seems to have moved from an in-person experience to an experience of Yahoo groups or forums and then into blogs.  Now it seems the information gathering has moved to mainly Facebook groups.  I am not currently on ANY Waldorf homeschooling or Steiner-related Facebook groups due to the tone of these groups and the lack of information presented in a detailed way.

 

  • If you are truly interested in Waldorf homeschooling and want to learn more, here are some ideas to support and encourage you:
  • Look for programs based from a Waldorf school, a Waldorf farm program or other Waldorf based program where trained teachers could be helpful.
  • You could also look at trainings through Lifeways, Sophia’s Hearth, a Foundation Studies program that has come to your city, or  other training program.
  • You could read Steiner, and look at curriculum and resources for yourself and decide what is right for you and your family after you discern what you are looking for.  In the United States,  you can join the Rudolf Steiner College Library to see even more books, including many that are out of print.   There are also many free e-books available at the Waldorf Library On-Line.  Many, many free ebooks!! Check there before you buy something because you may be surprised that it is there!  Get with other Waldorf homeschooling mothers in your area, and look at each other’s resources.
  • You could contact a Waldorf homeschooling group or even a single Waldorf homeschooling family in your area.  Christopherus Homeschool Resources Inc keeps an international list here: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/resources-for-waldorf-homeschooling-and-conscious-parenting/networking-for-groups-and-individuals.html
  • I maintain an impartial presence regarding curriculum. or curriculum providers.  Again, some are more true to Waldorf pedagogy than others so if you are looking for curriculum that is true to Steiner’s work, do your research for yourself.   If I use something and I love it, I will say it in my posts on different grades.    Different curriculum and different resources speaks to different people.  Do your research. If you want this path, then you will find places to ask questions and take the time to study yourself.
  • The free files at Marsha Johnson’s waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com are wonderful and show how a homeschooler could put a Main Lesson together,  but I do not recommend any Yahoo!Groups nor Facebook groups.
  • A curriculum consultant could be helpful, if it is the right person for where you are.  Again though, I  STRONGLY feel more that the tools for this path lie within you and less within outside people.  I absolutely will not comment on curriculum consultants because I feel you can do this!

 

If you really want to do this, like anything in life, you can do it with some work and striving.  I have been homeschool planning on and off since February, and I am a busy person.  You can do this too!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

31 Days to the Inner Rhythm of the Heart: Day Twenty-Six

 

Our 31 days to the inner rhythm of the heart, the root foundation of a house of peace, is in progress.  In the vein of those who are setting a New Year’s intention with “one word”, I offer the word of today to you: struggle. Read on for more

 

One thing I have noticed lately, being forty three and all, is that life just seems to get messier and messier.  When I was in my twenties and thirties, I had this vision that things would be “settled” when I was in my forties, and all should be well by then.

 

All things are well, but perhaps not in the same way I was thinking back then.  Because as one ages, and as one’s children ages, I think life gets even messier.  And mess is a good thing.  It is the genesis of growth, of wisdom, of humility. 

 

Struggle is a part of our biography as human beings who develop throughout the life span, and if parenting is part of that development, you can bet that struggle will be involved.  Whether this is figuring how to cultivate certain inner qualities within yourself, or help guide your children toward adulthood, or figure out what your family’s values really are, life has a way of being a struggle and sometimes a muddle before things become crystal clear.

 

Being okay with struggle is part of rising up above parenting.  I think an essential tool toward regaining your inner rhythm of your heart is to be able to sit in silence and try to be peaceful with the struggle.  The struggle will pass, and all shall be well.

 

Love,
Carrie

Links to Change How You Think

 

Here are a few lovely links to start your week.  This one is about the danger of  children specializing in sports at a young age with many supporting references:

http://changingthegameproject.com/is-it-wise-to-specialize/

 

It is planning time for homeschoolers, and many of the Waldorf homeschooling Facebook groups are full of threads about choosing curriculum.  So, I  love this post from Rachel over at Ducks in the Pond for her reminder that YOU are the curriculum.  In Waldorf Education, YOU are the teacher and the guide.  YOU matter.   YOU are the curriculum.   Here is that post:  http://ducksinthepond.com/2014/03/20/therealcurriculuminawaldorfhomeschool/

 

Reluctant cursive writer?  Try Sheila’s post over at Sure As the World: http://sureastheworld.com/2014/03/25/cursive-writing/

 

Lisa’s post here about pulling in children closer when they are having challenges is spot on: http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2014/03/pull-them-in-closer.html

 

Many blessings,
Carrie