These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: February

Generally, February is one of my most hated months of the year.  There.  I admitted it.  However, this year I am determined to change my own attitude and find all the beauty in this month of love and kindness!  Who is with me?

February starts out with the beauty of Epiphany , the fun of Carnival, the love of Valentine’s Day and then we go into the Lenten season of quiet and silence.  This should make for a beautiful month!

Here are some of my favorite things this month for our family:

  • The festivals!

Candlemas  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2016/01/31/beautiful-meditative-candlemas/

Chinese New Year:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/09/chinese-new-year-in-the-waldorf-home/

Valentine’s Day

Lent:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/18/lent-in-the-waldorf-home/

  • Fostering Community.  We stayed at home more throughout the fall, but recently added in some Waldorf based classes two days a week for our smallest child.  I am looking forward to seeing beautiful people who love Waldorf homeschooling several times a week now!  We also joined a homeschool field trip group and we have not many field trips planned, but a few.  For us, this is a small miracle because I am not a very field trip oriented person as much  as I would like to be.  We have already been on several field trips this school year and have a few more planned.  Hopefully, the love of community will keep February looking bright!
  • Fostering health -keeping all of us moving and outside should help keep all of us happy.  We are having a little activity challenge to make movement one of the first things in our day after breakfast and chores.  We hope to instill a habit in our children to take care of themselves daily with movement that will stick as they grow older.
  • Kindness – in this month of love, I want to really emphasize kindness and manners. Manners are just a way we show kindness to one another.  In small children, this is done through modeling.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers  can receive more direct instruction.

Here are a few of my favorite things for small children:

  • Rest and sleep.  I think February is the perfect month to focus on rest and sleep and solitude.
  • Working with beeswax.  It is sweet to set up a little scene with natural objects, make a little something out of beeswax and add it to the scene, and then let your little one try!
  • Changing the nature table.  We changed ours this week to coincide with Candlemas and we have on it a picture of St. Offerus.
  • We also have a little bare tree, but with a few bees, to remind us of the gifts of the bees in our beeswax candles of Candlemas, a little wooden groundhog, a wooden angel to remind us of Lent, and some small winter animals.  During Lent, we most likely will add a bowl of mixed soil and ash that will remain empty until we plant some seed for an Easter garden, and a little vase of bare branches or pussy willows.
  • Focusing on ME modeling good manners and kindness, and clear thought by my clear speech.

Here are a few of my favorite things for older children:

  • Celebrating Lent by creating a mood of silence and quiet each day.  This can be getting up early to see the sunrise, it can be taking a few minutes before bed with a lit candle, it can be understanding more deeply what goes on in church during the Lenten services.  It can be learning new prayers or about a new Holy Man or Holy Woman.
  • Learning to cook simple meals that are in the spirit of Lent – more plant-based foods, less sweets, more simplicity.
  • Focusing on ME modeling really good manners and kindness, and clear thought by the way I structure my clear speech.
  • Vigorous exercise.  The children I have noticed lately ages 10 and up are fairly bouncing off the walls.  This is the age to have opportunities for the children to move!

Here are a few of my favorite things for teens: 

  • To talk directly about sacrifice during Lent.  An idea of perhaps not just “giving up” in the traditional sense (“I am going to give up candy”) but this idea of what we really want to cultivate that is hard sometimes.  Cultivating kindess and inclusion, even when we don’t want to.  Cultivating perseverance.  Cultivating a good attitude when we just want to be snappish.
  • Vigorous exercise!
  • Creating things of beauty for the home during this time. I especially like rose windows and transparencies.  Teens are really able to do these well!

Here are a few of my favorite things for my own health:

  • Adaptogenic herbs.  I am not a herbalist, but I have been reading Susun Weed’s books and putting together some teas for my own usage.
  • Follow up from any doctor’s appointments from last month where the results need follow up.
  • Simple, clean meals for Lent.
  • Vigorous exercise!

Here are a few of my favorite things for homeschooling:

  • Double check materials if you didn’t order last month and get re-stocked.
  • If you don’t have your start and end dates, vacation dates, blocks and length of blocks planned – get moving!  Make a goal to plan at least two or three blocks this month, so order the resources you need to be able to do this.

Please share what is inspiring you this month!

Blessings,
Carrie

Block Layout Plan for Sixth Grade Waldorf Homeschooling

This fall will be my second time through sixth grade.  I have a plan made of our block layout and thought I would share for anyone else getting ready to start planning sixth grade.  This is only one way of many ways to do this, of course, but perhaps it will stimulate some of your own ideas as well.

This is what I am planning on doing:

Physics – 4 weeks

Geometry – 3 weeks

Business Math – 3 weeks

Roman History – 6 weeks

Christmas Break

Medieval History – 4 weeks

Astronomy – 3 weeks

Medieval Africa and Japan – 3 weeks ( an out of the box block!)

Mineralogy – 4 weeks

European Geography – 3 weeks

 

How is your planning coming along for fall?  If you get your start dates, end dates and vacation dates planned, you can start planning out your blocks and how long you think they may last.  Then you can start getting resources and digging in to the flow of a block!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Weeks Nineteen and Twenty of Homeschooling Eighth, Fifth and Kindy

This is the week of Candlemas, the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, and I find us just turning past the halfway point of our total number of school weeks this year.  If you want to know what we were doing in weeks seventeen and eighteen, try this back post http://theparentingpassageway.com/2016/01/21/weeks-seventeen-and-eighteen-of-homeschooling-eighth-grade-fifth-grade-and-kindy/.

Kindergarten –  I really cracked down on our rhythm in week nineteen and we have worked hard to stay on task with meaningful work and festival preparations for Candlemas.  One of our favorite activities for this week’s Candlemas festival was making little beeswax walnut boats with candles.  We also made earth candles at our homeschool classes, and rolled beeswax sheet candles at home.    This week was the beginning of our two day a week forest kindergarten program and our kindergartener was very happy to spend time with friends and be in the woods.  We feel extremely fortunate to have such a program available in our area.

Fifth Grade – Last week we finished up Ancient Africa.  I mainly focused on Nubia, Kush, Meroe, the Mbuti and the San, with more to come in sixth and seventh grades.   Our fifth grader did a beautiful pastel picture of the African pharaohs that ruled Egypt and we talked about how there are actually more pyramids in Sudan than there are in Egypt.  Ancient African history is so fascinating!   We then  moved into Ancient China and talked about the geography of the land, and extensively about the Gobi Desert and the Bactrian camel  and camel caravans.   Our fifth grader wrote a little piece from the first person perspective about being a camel puller on a caravan and also modeled a camel in clay.  We reviewed some Chinese legends and learned about the biographies of  Confucius and Lao Tzu, and the Great Wall of China.  My original plan was to move into math and the Ancient Americas this week but my fifth grader is begging to start Greek Mythology, so we started at the end of this week with the land of Greece and introducing Mount Olympus and the battle of the Titans.  I don’t mind moving blocks around at all.  This year has just been like that, so I am just going with the flow of it.

We finished reading “The Golden Goblet”  for our Egyptian studies and now we are reading “Understood Betsy”, which to me is a rather regional New England book that was one of my favorites when I was a child.  A lot of the read-alouds I have chosen for this second half of the school year have to do with regions in the United States in preparation for our final block which will be North American Geography.  We are still working hard on math – all four processes, fractions, a little bit with decimals.  We are also working with spelling and spelling rules.  Our fifth grader is also doing some handwork in a class that meets the same time as our kindergartener is in forest kindergarten, and working hard in choir and for the church’s spring musical.  Our fifth grader will also be taking part in a play some homeschoolers are putting on for studies in Greek Mythology, and of course, the beloved barn shows are starting back this month as well.

Eighth Grade  – We wrapped up physics with making flying objects and learning about gravity, lift, thrust and drag, and about wings and rotors.  Great fun!  We studied many, many biographies of aviators, as I mentioned in the last post in this series, and our eighth grader completed a pencil drawing of Amelia Earhart that turned out well.

We started our Geography of Asia block with a review of the geography and some of the history of China, along with a pencil drawing;  then we mainly focused on the Chinese Cultural Revolution and a comparison and contrast of  Mao Zedong/Tse-Tung and Chiang Kai -Shek.  After that,  we moved into Korea and a discussion of the geography and history of Ancient Korea and more modern history including the division of North and South Korea, the DMZ,  and what life may be like in North Korea.  We are now talking about Japan and Japanese history.  We will have Vietnam, and Borneo to talk about and then we will move into Oceania.  After this block, we will jump into Oceanography, which my inner marine lover is heartily looking forward to!

We finished our read aloud, “The Brooklyn Bridge” by Karen Hesse (please, please pre-read for your eighth grader as it is a wonderful book but has some more mature themes and may not be wonderful for very sensitive children) and we are now reading “Water Buffalo Days:Growing Up in Vietnam” , obviously about Vietnam, which we will cover next week.  I also have the books “Red Scarf Girl” and “The Good Earth” tapped to read for this block.

We are also working hard on ratios, direct and inverse proportions for math, and high school Spanish.  Choir and preparing for the  church musical and now a fortunate turn to have a class in doll-making for our eighth grader, is  also keeping us busy.  Horse shows are starting up again this month, so we are also busy at the barn.

I would love to hear what you are working on.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Depletion and Hibernation

Today is Candlemas, also known to some as Groundhog Day.   I often think of that little groundhog this time of year, venturing out to see if winter will continue for another six weeks.  It made me think of the periods of winter in my life and how sometimes I felt ready to venture out of the hibernation hole to test the waters, and how sometimes I decided I needed longer in my hibernation hole or, conversely,  that yes indeed, now was the time to seize the day!

Have you ever gone through periods where you just felt so….shy? inward? … depleted?  like you needed a break from other mothers in real life or beautiful blog pictures that make you feel unworthy as a mother?  Periods where you needed a break even from extended family?  So much judging goes around mothering in our culture.  We are all like little isolated islands without much in the way of support so what should be a cooperative endeavor ends up as a competitive event! Sometimes we just need a break from anything outside of our families and our homes because we are plain burned out.  Have you ever been pulled that way and honored it for a season?

A little hibernation and shutting out of the outside world can be a way to lie fallow for awhile.  Pulling in allows a little of the pressure to slide off, a little pace of slowing down, and a release of not having to put oneself “out there” for anything but the most supportive listening of the closest and most intimate of family members or friends.

We are coming up to Lent soon.  Perhaps during this Lenten season, you will take the time to pull in and hibernate, but not due to any outside pressure or insecurity.  Perhaps this time you will pull in and take this time to restore yourself.

Restore your confidence.

Restore your feelings that you worthy of love.

Restore your feelings that you matter.

Restore your feelings that you are just right the way you are.  If you want to improve or change something do it  because you feel illuminated and led to, not from any feelings of unworthiness or shame or guilt.

Restore your physical health.  Sleeping enough, exercising, eating healthy food, taking care of yourself are all things to be done so you can be a light for your family.  And your children notice.  You are modeling for them how to slow down, how to get enough rest and how to be healthy.  It is worthy.

Restore your positive attitude.  Life should be joyful; there should be joy in ordinary moments.

Restore your sense of fun!

Restore your faith in something much, much bigger, wider and deeper than yourself.  Where do you find light?  Seek out your light.

Restore your sense of love, compassion, empathy.

Restore your sense of the big picture.

Restore your vision, mission and priorities.

Don’t be afraid to hibernate, but do it to restore, renew, refresh yourself.  I will be hibernating with you, and refreshing myself and my deepest intentions and priorities.  Please share your hibernation journey with me.  What has helped you restore the most in your moments of hibernation? What helped you come out of your shell again?   What did you learn in the fallow periods?

Love,

Carrie

 

Beautiful, Meditative Candlemas

Candle candle burning bright

Winter’s halfway done tonight

With a-glowing we are knowing

Spring will come again

-Candlemas Verse, Unknown Author

Have you ever been just so weary?  So exhausted?  If you have tiny children you see those sweet little bodies to fill with warming foods and coaxing into rest and sleep; if you have elementary-aged children  you are helping to balance burgeoning minds with wonder and bodies with rest and exercise; if you have teenagers maybe you are dealing with restless energy heading toward an uncertain future…and in between all of this you are cooking, cleaning, nourishing a spouse or partner perhaps, and maybe trying to take care of your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs so you can be on your game to do it all again tomorrow.

I feel your weariness.  I feel your exhaustion .  I feel you trying to hold on in order to nourish everything and everyone in your life.

I think Candlemas (February 2nd) feels this too.  Candlemas is this beautiful, quiet, still pause to remind us of hope.  Spring will come again.  Light will come to the world.  Newness can grow out of old.  Growth can come out of weary.

Candlemas can be the most lovely day to start with a beautiful breakfast of sunny yellow pancakes or crepes.  Candle dipping is such a meditative activity for the day; a gesture of bringing light into the winter of the world and the winter of our souls.   Other ways to work with candles include making earth candles, floating candles, or rolling beeswax candles.  We can offer stories of our friends the bees who give us fragrant, smooth beeswax as their offering.  We can offer this as a time of the half-way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.  If you could have a bonfire, that could be a beautiful way to end the day.

If you are looking for some more ideas regarding this festival, here are a few back posts regarding the Feast of St. Brigid, Candlemas and Groundhog Day.

I have a few other suggestions for this day.  Perhaps this would be a beautiful half-way point to survey yourself.  What is your self-care?  Where are things between you and your spouse or partner?  How much sleep and exercise are you eating?  What can  you do to nourish yourself on this special day of light and love so you can shine light on and love your little corner of the world?

Love to you on Candlemas,

Carrie

 

 

 

Three Reasons I Need Rhythm…

I find many of us are still trying to get our rhythm back at this time of year.  I know I am!  Actually, in my world of the Anglican Communion, we are still in the season of Epiphany and now coming up to Lent, so there is this sense of still being in the middle of things in a way….and many of us find our children grow and change over the holidays, so whilst the work of the day may remain, perhaps meal times or outside times or bedtimes needs to shift around.  Never be afraid to make a rhythm that works for you!  I always start by looking at what pattern we are in, and then seeing if it needs to change…or maybe it is a real pattern that remains..

Rhythm is this idea of a flow to the day; it is not a schedule because it is  flow -oriented and not as time-oriented perhaps as a schedule (although there may be times assigned to meals and bedtime).  It provides an order to the day and a sense of strength for the parent because it takes away some of the thinking involved with every single decision we have to make in a day.  If you know your errand day is on Friday, then you don’t need to go out on Tuesday, for example.  If you know you always put your boots after your walk in one spot as part of cleaning up from your nature walk each day, then you don’t have to round up boots that land in various places.  Rhythm just IS, like the tide coming in and going out or sun coming up and setting.

The three reasons I  particularly need rhythm are:

To continually remind me of the importance of the home. In a society that often does not seem to value being home except for short pit stops between activities (even for small children), rhythm in my home reminds me of the time and care it takes to create a nourishing environment and that there is value in that for the health of all of us in the family.  Ideally, in a home full of rhythm, a small child would be able to tell what day of the week it is by the meaningful work being done in the home on those days.  For example,  perhaps Tuesdays are always ironing days or Thursdays are always bread making days or Mondays are always the cleaning of the home from the weekend.  Traditionally, Waldorf Education has assigned different work to different days based upon more planetary influences (does that sound esoteric enough?!), so there are suggestions from Waldorf kindergartens for different activities for different days of the week.

It reminds me of the importance of what I call “soul hygiene” – that there should be a time and place in the day for inner work, for physical activity outside, for sleep and rest.  This helps remind me to pace myself and to honor these activities.  This helps me remember my main goal of parenting is to help my children be healthy adults – healthy physically, emotionally, in how they see light in others and how they communicate with others, spiritually.

We set up the environment with care, which teaches me attentiveness to activities and models this for my children.  We might have a song or verses to go with the activity.  We put things away  and clean up with care.  Again, it forces me to slow down and see the value of the activities we are doing for the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.

Lastly, (yes, I couldn’t resist sneaking in reason number four!) is that rhythm is your aid to discipline.  When we know when things will happen and how it will happen, it cuts down arguing.  This time of year, that can be valuable.  It is even valuable for teenagers and older children.

How is your rhythm valuable to you?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Four Steps Toward Parenting Together

I have heard it said that parenting involves not just thinking alike, but thinking together.  Parenting in a relationship means that the needs and thoughts of both parties have to be considered and communicated and compromised upon.  It is hard work, but I encourage you to do the work.  If I have parents reading this who are in their 20s and early 30s, I really want to encourage you to do this work now.   I am in my 40s, and unfortunately there are many divorces going on amongst beautiful couples that we know – but most of the divorces had roots from when these couples were in their late twenties or early thirties.  So, I would like to share five tips for those working toward parenting (and unifying other aspects of their life as well!) together.

  1.  Parenting is just one aspect of how a couple communicates, respects and appreciates each other. I think “parenting” comes up as this hot button – whether it is breastfeeding, c0-sleeping, educational choices, discipline – but it really is a facet of: how do we communicate as a couple; does my spouse or partner respect me by listening to me and respecting my ideas and opinions as well; do we appreciate what each one of us brings to the table in this process?  What do we both really value most for our family life?
  2. If communication skills and compromise are difficult and you both feel as if you are just going over the same thing in a circular fashion with no compromise or resolution, get help from a third party (earlier rather than later!).  Many counselors work on a sliding scale, and many places of religious worship offer counseling as well. This chapter (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/08/26/overcome-gridlock-the-seven-principles-for-making-marriage-work/)  in Dr. Gottman’s book about overcoming gridlock could also be helpful to you as a process at home.
  3. Have a set time to address challenges that are coming up in family life.  When is actually a good time to talk through things that are important, where you can focus together without being interrupted?
  4. Cultivate some patience.  Not every issue in attempting to co-parent or be unified always works out in compromise; sometimes the differences are still there but they are livable differences.  Sometimes opinions change as one partner models things and shares with the other partner.

Many blessings,
Carrie