The Twelve Days of Christmas and the Twelve Holy Nights is a time when we slow down and listen to our deep inner selves, and what the Divine Creator and spiritual world is presenting to us as we silence and still ourselves enough to listen. It is this time of year, that if we are open, we can see the year that is coming and wonder at some of the things of virtue of humanity in the world.
I was meditating today on the virtue of courage. In the Christian calendar, we see this virtue in the life story of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the church. This is also a traditional virtue for many who meditate during the twelve Holy Nights.
Courage encompasses so many things – courage helps us forgive the unforgiveable. Courage helps us to be honest in tough situations. Courage helps us to stick to our values and morals even when it is not popular. Courage helps us try things we are unsure of which is a way to grow and change. Courage helps us chart a new path and direction. Courage doesn’t promise safety, but the ability to move forward in strength even under the worst of circumstances.
Parenting takes courage. Boundaries are very important in parenting, and it takes courage to set a boundary and help children achieve a healthy balance between form and freedom.
I would love to hear your thoughts about courage and the role it plays in your life. How do you see courage within yourself for the upcoming year?
It is Christmas Eve Day, and in the midst of the last minute baking and preparations for tonight and tomorrow, there is a certain feeling of contentment that goes with this time of year. I love looking ahead and thinking about the wonderful and beautiful twelve days of Christmas and the Holy Nights.
These can be days of silence and wonder, days of cutting out media and spending time with the people you love most in person, days of connecting to nature and to the light within ourselves.
Within the Christian calendar, these days mark twelve days of Christmastide after fasting and preparing ourselves spiritually for this season. They are festive days, but also requiring a certain amount of thought. Where is the light within us and how do we reflect that light? There is a threefoldedness that occurs in the three days after Christmas with the feasts of St. Stephen, the first martyr; the feast of St. John the Evangelist and the feast day of The Holy Innocents that begs us to ask the questions how do we show generosity (especially to those different from us in spirit and also how do we materially show generosity to the poor?); how do we show light and wisdom in the words we speak like St. John; how do we advocate and help the innocents in our world – how do we protect them, seek justice for their tribulations and trials and renew our own faith in the Divine Creator and all of humanity?
This is a time to start with ourselves, but also a time for us to look within our own families. Continue reading
I last wrote a review regarding Christian books around Eastertide of this year. As always I am reading, reading, reading. I think I single handedly keep our church library busy! One book that is full of wonder and thought is the classic, “The Religious Potential of the Child” by Sofia Cavalletti, which I think should be a must-read for any parent interested in children and their relationship to God. This book was written after twenty-five years of work with children ages 3-11, and offer profound insight into spirituality and religion for the young child. To me personally, religion is first and foremost about love, joy, wonder and a personal relationship with Christ and this book captures this so well. I read this quite some time ago, and am glad I circled back around to it again as its words are so rich and profound for all of us as human beings.
What this book does to me, is to remind us that children can lead us to God and that we must not hinder them. Instead, we must envelop both the mystery of God and the mystery of the child. If we start with our own hunger to know and love this child before us, how much easier to find a path to the Divine!
The major themes of this book includes Christ as the Good Shepherd; the Eucharist and how this draws forth a response in us; Christ as a Light and how this transmits to a child through Baptism; and the mystery of Life itself. In this book is acknowledged the child’s ability to see the invisible, the child’s mysterious knowledge of God and the joy that can be found in God. The adult is not the “teacher” – both the adult and the child receive in wonder.
These wondering experiences are based in Christ – Christ as the mediator; Christ as seen from the Incarnation as a bond between man and God. There are wonderful indications in this book for working with small children using parables from the New Testament, particularly this image of Christ as the Good Shepherd, including modifications and presentation. Communal and personal meditation and art response are all part of wondering.
Interestingly, this book advocates waiting for Old Testament stories until the child is at least Continue reading
We are up to Chapter Five in this book, entitled, “Reading”. This is a wonderful chapter that I feel answers many parents’ questions about the Waldorf approach to reading. Before the child can read, the child’s view of the world comes from his or her own observations and what people have told him or her. Interactions between the child and others were how the child learned. In reading, the thoughts of another are revealed to the child, but in a way the child is on his or her own because the person who wrote the words is not there standing in front of the child. This explains a bit of why Waldorf education moves slowly in reading from whole to parts.
The author does not go into detail regarding how to derive the letters from pictures since that has been covered so extensively in other sources, but instead what to do once the child knows and can draw 6- 10 consonant sounds plus the vowels.
Her method often involves a passage she has chosen – a poem or a verse. She would invent a story that invokes a mood for that passage and then the child learns the poem by heart. After the child has learned the poem orally, the child sees it on the blackboard. The child copies the poem and then “reads” the poem whilst the teacher slides a stick along to practice the line. Sometimes the teacher stops reciting in the middle of the line and the child sees where they have stopped. A line might be spoken from the poem and the children search for which line it is on the board, and then many little exercises are invented, such as which word is longest, shortest, has two of the same letter in it, etc. Individual words are found and copied.
She reiterates that true reading generally happens within the first two and a third years of this process – so sometime generally before the second half of third grade.
“That will seldom be when the standardized tests think it should be. Mostly somewhat later, but there will then not be any “technical reading”; the child will read with comprehension straight away. This (Waldorf) method taxes faith and patience —— yours as well as the parents, but the rewards are great.”
We must not get impatient and nor must we do the work for the children who are not reading. If children come to class reading already, then the author points out they should get the above and also be reading. The readers should be reading! The classroom should have books available for the readers to read. Real reading is silent reading, it is having challenges to copy down and draw pictures of, or the readers can tell the class about a book they finished reading. If there are readers in the class, then the class has a class of readers and a class of non-readers and the school class should be treated as such.
Love this chapter!
I recently participated in my eighth year of preparing an Advent Spiral with community. Walking an Advent Spiral is often traditional for children in the older kindergarten and early grades within the Waldorf School. The spiral is not a religious ritual and it is also not explained to the children. Instead, walking the spiral is an experiential spiritual act to commemorate the lighting of our own inner light to carry us through the dark months of winter, and letting this let shine out through the darkness of humanity as well.
Within the Waldorf School environment, the Advent Spiral is set up already and magically appears before the children. Sometimes there is an Angel Guide to guide the children through the spiral to the center candle. The children usually hold an apple that has a beeswax candle in it, and then after their candle is lit they set it down on a spot within the spiral as they walk out.
In the home environment, there is a bit more to it since the spiral often needs to be assembled on the spot whilst families are present, especially because often families inspired by this type of festival are spread out throughout a geographic area and coming together from far distances. There are many ways to construct a festival for community; below follows just one way I have seen work well in the past.
So, before the spiral: Continue reading
I meet many homeschooling parents whose spouses travel extensively for a job. We have been in that position in our family as well. Every family and every travel schedule is different, but our situation was that for three years my husband traveled every week Monday through late Thursday night and then worked in town on Fridays. This schedule has lessened over the last two years, so I am glad, but over the way it certainly shaped the way I parented and homeschooled to an extent. I wanted to share some things that helped me survive the travel beat. Continue reading
I am trying to post a little wrap-up of each week of grades seven, four and five year old kindergarten year throughout the 36 weeks I have planned for school this year. I hope this will encourage mothers that are homeschooling multiple children (or who want to but are worried!), and encourage mothers that even homeschooling children of multiple ages who are far apart in age is doable. You can find week twelve here and further in back posts you can find a post pertaining to the first two days of school this year which gives insight to our general daily rhythm.
Changes in the Air: We took the week of Thanksgiving off, and I used a little bit of time during that week to play with the idea of a schedule with activities for each child in a time slot. I have not been a real “time” person before, but what I have found with having three children doing school this year, our five-year-old wanting more structure and needing more physical activity, both our older children tackling things that are demanding for them and needing me, and me needing some time for self-care, it seemed a schedule with times might be helpful. How many hours are realistically available to us in a day anyway? Could all of this even happen in a day? How long do all these activities and things take anyway? These were the questions I had when I started out. I found, yes, there are enough hours in the day and that assigning times and figuring out what each child was doing when and with whom and for how long actually was a helpful process to go through. I don’t feel like the timed schedule is a noose around my neck at all, and I feel comfortable jumping in if we are running late or things come up, but the older children have surprisingly embraced having a more “time exact” written down schedule and we are actually getting to extra foreign language, handwork , knitting for me and other things much more this week than before when we had a loose rhythm. So, time will tell if it holds!
Kindergarten: One of the days over Thanksgiving break, our five year old walked two miles to play at a nearby park in the morning and then we also hiked in the afternoon. This is the amount of activity he really needs to be happy. Our older children definitely had this and more when they were his age, but the trick has been trying to do this for our youngest whilst our older children need different things. So, having a schedule as mentioned above has helped. One morning I also have Continue reading