Gathering Grace

In the midst of planning, many mothers can caught up with looking at every program out there, and then extend into looking at  almost every homeschool philosophy out there. Have you ever felt like that?

It can be the same way with parenting:  such division and derision: the “mommy wars”, the strife over feeding methods, discipline methods, so many  decisions to make, so many times of wondering.  “Am I doing the right thing?  Am I going down the right path?”

Being a mother, being a parent, can be so hard.

There is a lot of talk in homeschooling circles about the formative years of birth through seven being about training the will or creating good habits.  Yet, this passage speaks of the balance to me:

In the spiritual education of children, our first concern is not to train their wills, but to attract grace – by our life and prayer – to their environment, and to let each child’s heart become attached to grace. Theological discussion with children is a very small proportion of Christian education. Prayer that God will touch them with grace is a permanent dimension of all our dealings with children, even when they are not with us.

Protopresbyter George Metallinos, recalling the holy Elder Porphyrios: ‘He told me that I must deal with one of my children by praying a lot more. He specifically said to me about that child, “Whatever you would say to that child […], say it to God. Kneel before God and through the grace of God, your words will be conveyed to your child.” About my other child, he said to me: “[…] He listens, but he easily forgets. Therefore, again you will kneel and you will ask for God’s grace, so that your fatherly words will fall upon good soil and will be able to bear fruit.”**

*Fr. Theokletos Dionysiatis, “Between Heaven and Earth [in Greek], (Athens, 1955), p. 130.

 

So, if the Early Years has another dimension outside of training wills, forming habits for the body and within the home, I believe it resides in gathering grace for our children.

We can do this through having a strong prayer life.  There are so many things where we will not know we are “doing the right thing” until our child is an adult.  Prayer is a lifeline.

We can get lost amidst the myriad of decisions, and  we can pray that we do not lose sight of the big picture of things we want to impart to our children before they are out on their own.  We can pray for that, and we can pray to have grace when we and our children make mistakes.

The base of all of this is to have peace in our hearts, and to show this to our children in an outward way that they can see through our actions. May they see us praying, reading and studying the Bible, participating in the life of the Church Year.

May we also gather grace by having meekness and quietness in how we speak to others; we must show them love and kindness.  This is the outward manifestation of peace in our hearts.

May we gather grace by living joyfully  in simplicity and in a strong rhythm.

Let us never forget that humility, meekness, serving others, joy and peacefulness are what lies underneath all the parenting and homeschooling decisions.

Many blessings as you decide things today,

Carrie

What’s On My Heart–Links to Read and Love

Planning is still on my mind.  I have enjoyed looking through these samples of main lesson book pages from every grade here:  http://www.waldorftoday.com/gallery/Main+Lesson+Book+Pages/

I have also enjoyed following along with how Sheila and Rachel are doing their planning here:  http://sureastheworld.com/2012/06/18/planning-611-617/  (this is one in a series) and Rachel’s here:  http://justtosay.typepad.com/just-to-say/2012/06/planning.html

I am using this link from The Department of Religious Education from The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to help plan our religious education for the year:  http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/resources/

More on planning to come!

I have also been thinking of my reader Jane, who has started a website to encourage single ladies to wait patiently for the right man;  a man who will love and respect them and help create a positive family culture as they marry and raise children.  She asked me if any of my readers who are happily married would be willing to share their inspiring story of finding each other or other encouragement for her single ladies.  Here is the link: http://www.gettingtotruelove.com/tell-your-inspirational-love-story/.  Thank you, Jane.

For my families who have children affected by sensory processing challenges:  http://www.sensorysmarts.com/july_tips.html provides some great tips specific to summer and sensory challenges.

As always, I continue to find so many of my readers’ blogs inspiring, like this post by Kara: http://www.rockingranola.com/2012/06/slow-learner_14.html and this post by Annette (so happy she is blogging again and taking readers on a journey through the day in a series of posts!  Do check it out!):  http://ourseasonsofjoy.com/rhythms-and-routines/good-morning-dear-earth/  If you are sharing something wonderful on your blog and you would like my readers to know about it, please do go ahead and link below.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Day Eight: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

With the publication of such important works as “Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv, hopefully parents everywhere are considering the importance of  nature, being in nature, and the foundational learning that occurs from spending time in nature.

I have mentioned many times that I bank on a extraordinary amount of outside time for small children under the age of seven – three to four hours a day  is not too much, and some children may need many more hours.   Young children need the sensory experiences of being in their bodies:   pushing, pulling, tugging, lugging, digging, moving, rolling in order to establish the fundamental bodily senses as a  proper foundation for later academic experiences.

If being outside is new to you or you need some ideas about what to do outside, here is a very, very popular post regarding connecting your child to nature: Continue reading

Get Your Planning On! Chores and Movement: Where Do They Fit?

A few posts back, I  shared the daily planning form that I am going to use this year.  Several folks wondered about that all important movement that children need and that I keep talking about, and also about chores.  So here are some of the ideas that work for me personally, and maybe some of it will resonate with you.  Take what works for your family!

MOVEMENT:  Continue reading

“The Two Kinds Of Marital Conflict”: The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work

We are up to the seventh chapter!  Who out there is reading along?

This chapter brings up a really great point that no one ever talks about in marriage:  that there is two types of conflict in marriage.  One is the type of conflict that has a resolution, but the other type is perpetual and ongoing!  That’s what no one ever says, right?  That some marital conflict just IS and may be ongoing.

Dr. Gottman actually estimates that almost 70 percent of marital conflict is perpetual!  Wow!  He writes, “Time and again when we do four year follow-ups of couples, we find that they are still arguing about precisely the same issue.”

And guess what?  Despite the same perpetual problems and conflict, these couple remain happy and satisfied within their marriages!  This is because “they’ve learned to keep it in its place and to have a sense of humor about it.”

Problems are an inevitable part of intimately loving and living with someone else.  If we can develop strategies to cope with these problems, then we can live with it.  The difference is that in an unstable marriage, these perpetual problems kill the marriage because instead of coping with the problem, the couple just “gets gridlocked over it.”  Continue reading

The Older Baby Who Can’t Be Put Down

 

I had a really sweet first time mother write in and ask me about her older baby who wants to be held all the time.  Do you all remember that stage with your very first child?  When there were no other children around?

 

Her question involved another aspect as well:  that of parenting alone for long hours on end and how to get that break when, as the parent, we are just about to lose it.  I think many of us have been there, and I wanted to provide some encouragement.  Perhaps you all have your own experiences to add in, if you can remember that far back to your first child and that sort of mobile and needy one year old stage.

 

Dear Sweet Mama,

,
I think it is really common for an infant of birth through even three year of age to want to be held frequently. In some cultures, infants don’t even touch the ground until the baby turns one year old.  In our society,  many parents use slings, particularly putting your older infant on your back, as a solution to this dilemma. I am a huge fan of slings, particularly wearing an infant or toddler on my back so I can go about my own work – which is work around my home or garden.  Some families are really lucky and have a lot of other adult family members around.  But in American society, most of us are not that lucky.  Often we are the only ones home alone with an infant for long stretches of time.

 

So, this leads to another point….

 

Attached infants can also learn to be happy and not be held 24/7,if you work in short spurts and think ahead about the environment you are setting up for this.  For an older infant or child who is used to being held a lot,  it takes time to know that this is a rhythm, a pattern and an okay place to be.   Sometimes tying it to some particular task you are doing can be successful for the little one who is truly not used to it.  So, maybe you would like to start with putting your infant down whilst you unload your dishwasher. Take the silverware out in case your older baby can pull up and get into the sharp silverware and set them down on a blanket whilst you are unloading the dishwasher.  Sing to them heartily!  Smile at them!  Think about distraction and including them whilst they are down there. Or, set them up to play with a small tray of water on a sheet or in the sink whilst you unload the dishwasher or in the sink.  You have to think of distraction,  and also be cheery and confident they can survive without being held for ten minutes so long as they are safe.

 

You can also get down and play with your child on the floor, but I think what most parents are striving for is to have their hands free for a few moments and have their baby not be wailing. 

 

As far as what to do when you are ready to lose it….We all have moments like this in parenting, especially I think with the first child.  If your infant is in a safe place where they cannot hurt themselves, you can set your baby down. Your baby will cry, you may cry too, but again, if your baby is safe and you are nearby,  they are not going to die by crying. Sometimes too,  just changing the scenery by going outside together, setting your baby down in the grass, or taking a walk together, can also diffuse the moment.

 

The bigger issue is to think about prevention, and also to have that plan for what you are going to do when those inevitable moments happen.  Think about and plan within your family’s schedule what breaks you need throughout the week, make sure you are eating and sleeping well (nap when your baby naps! for the whole first year or even the whole first two years if you can get it!) think about who you can call to talk you off the ledge at that moment, keep reminding yourself what is normal for that age so you are not expecting too much, love your child, get outside, form a community, pray and develop yourself through your own inner work (religion, spirituality, whatever you call it and whatever it is to you) and enjoy your baby.  We were not meant to take care of a baby all  alone for hours on end – I don’t believe. Community is so important!

Again, make sure you have someone you can call in the moment – a friend, a family member – who could come if you called or you could at least call any day or night. And communicate with your spouse – parenting is hard work, and it is important you have at least some time to yourself each week  for a few hours, if not a period of time each day. Parenting with a partner should be just that, working to create a family culture together.

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Get Your Planning On: A Daily Homeschool Form You Can Use

I want to point out here something really, really important.  You are not trying to re-create a Waldorf School in your home.  Life is the curriculum.  The liturgical year, the birthdays, the appointments, the car breaking down, cooking, feeding the animals – that is all the curriculum for home learners.

There has been bigish (LOL) debate or discussion in the past about unschooling versus Waldorf homeschooling.  This is sort of moot in a way because by homeschooling I think there is automatically going to be “what comes up” as learning.  People have asked me how to reconcile “what Waldorf brings in when” with “what comes up” or “what my child wants to learn”.  I wrote a little about that in this post:  To me, if you are familiar with the development of the child, it is not hard to bring things in a developmentally appropriate way that still fits your family.

So, I am saying all this to say:  you don’t, you won’t, you don’t want to be perfect.  Take a daily rhythm that fits your family and now make your daily planning form.  And know that because you are running your home and your life, and not a school classroom with 30 children, there is room to wiggle.

Maybe on one block you combine all your children together into one main lesson period and rotate around between them.  Maybe you normally combine everyone and on some lesson blocks you try to work with some of the children individually.  Maybe most mornings you start with a gathering time, and today you decide you everyone needs a walk.  Don’t feel like your rhythm is a noose around your neck, and stop abandoning Waldorf because you don’t think you can do it perfectly.

So, since I don’t know what your rhythm looks like, I can only really share with you my daily planning form.  I essentially do plan two main lessons that are not too long, and they may be done outside so my toddler can roam free.  Or I might combine everyone at the same time.  It depends upon my mood.  I try to shoot for one time slot after lunch where I might be able to work on a little “extra lesson” – ie, a different subject.  My second grader will have an extra lesson of math each week on Thursdays, and my fifth grader will have extra lessons scheduled M,T, W to do either grammar, math or whatever it is that we need to get to.  In the past I have done mainly the main  lesson and worked in other things at the end as I needed to, but with a fifth grader this year I wanted to try it this way. That is the joy of homeschooling:  you try things, you tweak things, you go looser, you go tighter.

So my main idea of a rhythm looks like this right now, totally subject to change: Continue reading

The Follow-Up To Day Seven Of Twenty More Days Toward More Mindful Mothering

The question of the week is:   “How many activities is right for the older ( aged 9 and up) child?”

That is a hard one, isn’t it?  I bet if you asked 100  homeschooling families, you might get close to 100 different answers!  I think different families, even families who love homeschooling in a similar way,  still have different values and different ways of approaching things.

Many homeschooling families seem to be reluctant to do activities for their child over the age of nine because of the impact this has on the younger children in the family – the driving, the time involved, the financial end of things.  I do understand.  That is a consideration.

However, looking at a nine or ten year old developmentally, it is not that the family is less important to a 9 year old, but most 9 and 10 year olds are appreciative of some space and time to be with their peers, to be separate from their younger siblings, and happy to try out something new with a trusted adult outside of the family. The world is opening up, and these older children need opportunities to be a part of it in a protected and healthy way.   Other trusted adults can be an important and welcome part of a nine and ten year old’s life.

If you are planning to homeschool high school, there may another angle to think about activities from as well. Continue reading

Get Your Planning On: A Weekly Homeschooling Form You Can Use

My next step after figuring out the general seasonal and liturgical tone for each block, along with careful observation of my children and goal setting comes in making up a form each week that will entail some of the things that will run each week through our block.

I usually do it in a simple list format, and for me, my weekly list looks like this: (my notes are in the parentheses) Continue reading

Get Your Planning On: A Homeschooling Form You Can Use

Child’s Name Child’s Name Child’s Name Child’s Name
Block Name
Academic Goal
Artistic Goal
Spiritual Development Goal
Feasts of the Church
(insert your own religious practice here)
Important Dates
Misc Notes

This is a sample of the kind of form I fill out at the start of every block for children in the grades (although I did devote one column toward themes I am thinking about for our almost three-year-old).  Once you have gone through the steps I outlined here in this post, you can go through this form and start thinking about where your individual child is, and what you are hoping to accomplish in this particular block.  Knowing the calendar of your religious practice and other important dates also helps to set the tone around the block.  Life is the curriculum!

Here is a sample of this form, filled in briefly for my first block. Continue reading