The Work of The Biography

 

One of the most important things Waldorf teachers do in their teacher training is to look at their own biographies.  It is a vital step, because children respond to not just WHAT we teach, but WHO we are.  This is true in parenting as well.

 

I am in my second year of Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy and the Arts, and we are doing some biography work.  It is very interesting, and I wanted to share some of the resources and exercises as we go along for those of you who are interested in this kind of work for your own personal development in teaching and parenting.

 

Many of you know that Rudolf Steiner looked at the human lifespan on earth as working in seven year cycles ( although he was not the only one who looked at the human lifespan through seven year cycles).  He saw the human being as a threefold human being, so when we look at biography we must consider the physical body, the soul (Bernard Lievegoed refers to this as the psyche in his book, “Phases:  The Spiritual Rhythms of Adult Life”  http://www.amazon.com/Phases-Spiritual-Rhythms-Adult-Life/dp/1855840561/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346523969&sr=8-1&keywords=phases+by+bernard+lievegoed) and the spirit (which, again Bernard Lievegoed refers to as the “biographical skeleton” in his book).

 

One of the first exercises we did in class was to take an index card and write one word or phrase that describes our physical body in the upper left hand corner and in the right hand corner we were to write down several “themes” that one could see at work in our life.  In the center of the index card, we had to make a list of important events in our life.  We had about five minutes to do this, so you could not sit and think for too long… (If you are going to do this, please grab an index card and do it before you read the next SPOILER part!!)

 

It was interesting to see how some people wrote down lots and lots from their childhood, and how some wrote almost nothing from their childhood but a lot from their adult life.  Some people put things in their biography like when they learned to ride a bike without training wheels and some put in their college degrees….

 

One of the major resources I like for understanding the human life span is Betty Staley’s, “Tapestries” – I went through this book chapter by chapter and you can see those posts here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/category/book-reviews/tapestries/

 

In our course we are referring to Bernard Lievegoed’s work, which I like, and also this book, which is out of print: “The Human Life” by George and Gisela O’Neil:  http://www.amazon.com/Human-Life-George-ONeil/dp/092997901X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346524057&sr=1-1&keywords=the+human+life+george+oneil

 

Food for thought this Labor Day weekend,

Carrie

A Plumb Line

I listened to a truly fantastic homily this past Sunday that was based upon the plumb line described in the Holy Book of Amos.

Do you know what a plumb line truly is?  Sure, we have all heard of a plumb line but here is the dictionary definition:

line with weight attached: a line to which a weight is attached to find the depth of water or to verify a true vertical alignment

 

 

The homily went on to discuss the life of Maria Montessori, which in and of itself was fascinating.  You can read more about her life here:  http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/montessori2.html and here: http://montessori.org.au/montessori/biography.htm . Her private life, not generally spoken of, must certainly have been painful to her  and yet  in the deepening of her Roman Catholic faith (http://www.pathsoflearning.net/articles_Montessori.php), via monastic retreats, she found her plumb line.

 

So, this got me thinking: what is our plumb line as parents?  As a homeschooling family? Continue reading

The Rant: Get Out Of Your Own Way!

 

Okay, today I am less in encouraging mode and more in rant-y mode, so if you are not in the mood for a kick in the pants kind of post, do feel absolutely free to check back in tomorrow.  That’s the disclaimer.  And here it is, bluntly:

 

Folks, I want you all to stop researching, and start making some decisions and DOING.  If what you decide doesn’t work out the way you want, you can tweak things.  You can change your mind, if it is something to do with parenting or discipline.  If it is something to do with curriculum choices for homeschooling, you can jump off the pages and make it more your own, if it is a curriculum you bought –  bring it alive for your child (or re-sell the darn thing!)  Make a decision, stick to it and give it some time, and then tweak or change.  You can do this!  Get out of your own way!  Do what your heart is calling you to do, without fear!  I am less interested in why something WON’T work then how to MAKE it work.  Try it!

 

I am meeting more and more mothers lately who are so lovely and sweet but they seem so driven by pure and utter fear.  Fear of being judged of others.  Fear of “since I can’t do it 150 percent “right” –whatever that is- I won’t do it at all!”  Fear of failure.  Fear of making a commitment, even though they keep circling back around to the same things over and over.

 

If fear, negativity and anxiety are fueling you, no wonder you feel paralyzed in making decisions!!  The more you get used to doing a REASONABLE amount of looking at the issues and making a decision and moving forward, the more you will get used to ACTION.

 

Action takes practice.  It doesn’t always feel “safe”.  But everything in life has pros and cons, polarities.  There is no 100 percent failsafe.  Have courage, have joy, take action and move forward!  It only takes baby steps and dipping a toe in, not this headlong dive into perfection and dogmatic thinking – and that is whether it is homeschooling, positive discipline or attachment parenting.  Be proud of the small successes and keep moving forward.

 

Create an action plan for whatever challenge you are facing.  And part of your action plan should be to do something small for yourself everyday.  Some of the mothers I meet I think are partially paralyzed because there is nothing for them at all,  they are pouring everything into their children, and they are harried, hurried and worn-out. 

 

Help yourself out by taking on only what you can handle!  Are you rushing around every morning and afternoon and squishing homeschooling in around all that?  Where is your time for your action plan if you are not home?  I had a dear, dear friend say to me several weekends ago, ‘You know, Carrie, I cannot hear that still small voice of God, I cannot find and listen to my own intuition, if I am just rushing around.”

 

YES, dear sweet friend, YES. 

 

Take care of business first; discern what is essential, create an action plan, and each day do something small to help you reach your goal.  Start somewhere.  No one will fault you for being where you are, but now is the time to move forward!  Make decisions, take time to see how things work out, and then tweak or change.  But move forward, and quit swimming in circles over fear, judgment, negativity, semantics, or pressure. 

 

It is spring, there is new growth and change in the air, and  a perfect time to start getting ready for fall school!

 

There, was that so bad?

Love,

Carrie

Simple Is Enough

I had two great conversations the other day, one with a dear friend about the challenges this particular generation of children is facing.  Her theory as to why children have more sensory challenges, obesity, attention deficit – in other words, why are these children so darn unhealthy – is, in her mind, a mixture of things:  environment, too much stimulation, schedules that are like an adult, too much of making the child a miniature adult, diet, lack of physical work and movement.

Then I had another conversation, this time with a dear friend and physical therapy colleague.  She is in geriatrics, but specifically wondered why she is seeing more and more dementia and Alzheimer’s-type symptoms in patients of even younger ages than before.  “The people I am seeing, HAD those kinds of childhoods that you wish for – eating local, farm-raised food before agribusiness became huge, collecting eggs and walking to school, playing outside for hours on end in rivers and creeks and the mountainside.  So why are these folks getting dementia at such a relatively young age?”

Of course, no one knows for sure; these are the kind of rhetorical things physical therapists and I am sure other health care professionals sit around and ponder.  We all wonder.

I am sure it is all the things of childhood, but also mixed with all the things of adulthood:  taking adults who were used to moving a lot to moving them into jobs that were more sitting than usual, more modern conveniences than ever that also cause decreased movement, a more toxic environment, an increasingly over-stimulating environment ( the friend from my first conversation was remarking that now when you go into a grocery store, there may be TV’s in the shopping cart, cows mooing in the diary section, dancing vegetables with loud thunder that mists over the veggies!  How true!)

But I think it is also community – or lack thereof.  The church or synagogue may not be the same hub of the neighborhood it once was, which is a shame for many reasons and on many levels but also on a health level:  one six year study showed Continue reading

Another Question From The Field: Balance In Homemaking

This question came in awhile ago and I have been pondering it since in the back of my mind.  I was not certain I had anything valuable to add;   some things ”just are”
in life, but then I did think of something I wanted to say (uh, and it turned out to be way more than I expected, so you may need a cup of tea! LOL)   Here is the original comment/question:

Here is a very honest admission for you: I get no satisfaction of out homekeeping and I am quite certain that I never will :) I *can* do all the things: cook delicious meals every day, ferment, and mill my own flour, I can sew and knit and paint, I can keep the home clean and in reasonable order. But when that is all I do, I can feel my soul slowly dying! I go through seasons of pulling myself together and even enjoying my tasks, and then falling apart, throwing in a towel, because after all, what’s the point? Yes, this is a lovely way to live, to have a cozy home and good food, but I.am.miserable. I’ve been told all manner of things: I’m lazy, I need to change my attitude, I need to get therapy to deal with some deep-seated resentment and blah-blah-blah. I feel that the truth is simpler than that. I am someone who is extremely extroverted, requires massive amounts of regular intellectual stimulation, and a great deal of variety in life :) There must be a way to find some kind of balance. I realize that my children are young (2, 4.5, and one on the way), I am quite realistic about the care, time and effort they require at this stage of life. But I just can’t give up my sanity and my very essence to keeping the home.
Thoughts? thanks!

That is really hard and I think so many of us as mothers can identify with the feelings expressed in this comment.  It can be so hard to do all the things we might think need to be associated with homemaking and parenting, to make things “right”.  Maybe there is also a bit of perfectionism hidden within many of us – if we don’t do all these things, then our children will not do well.  This can make things seem burdensome or a chore instead of light and lovely.  And, it all can be such a big burden – why do I have to be The Queen of My Home? Can’t someone else do it?  I just want to take the day off!  There are days I feel that way as well. Continue reading

The Sacred Art of Self-Care

Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin
As self-neglecting.  -
From William Shakespeare’s Henry V

I am so pleased that Kyrie is doing a series on “The Ordinary Arts”  that make up the fabric of our lives. Her first post is up here   http://www.aresohappy.com/home/2011/10/17/ordinary-arts-the-art-of-self-care.html, and she has invited us to write our own thoughts on this important topic.

To me, the Ordinary Arts is finding the holy in the ordinary.  The beautiful in the mundane.  The “big”  in those really small moments of life.

On Easter Monday of this year, I wrote a post about “The Sacred In The Ordinary” (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/04/25/the-sacred-in-the-ordinary/).  This is an important topic – in the repetitive tasks that make up the care of small children, in the repetitive tasks of what really constitutes homemaking and nurturing the home, can we turn this into a sacred act, a gift to receive and to be given? Continue reading

Fearless Parenting

Fearless parenting means seeing that the world is a good place and being able to unequivocally transmit this to our children.  Things may happen in life, things may happen in parenting, and yet things work out.  Life moves and the Creator is in the eddies and tidepools of the Cosmos.

If you think you are a fearless parent yet constantly have a barrage of how things “have” to be, if you think your child needs a perfect childhood with no stress in  order to achieve being an optimal adult, if things are so carefully orchestrated and everything has to be just so,  then  I would still say you are parenting out of fear and not being fearless.

Being fearless in parenting does not mean that we don’t protect our children, or that we throw our small children out to the wolves.  No  We do our best..  But this does mean that we establish communities of trust, that we trust and have an inherent sense that new experiences for our children will be good.  We also trust that our children will do the right thing as they grow into independence.  We are there to help, to encourage, to support, that we guide, but we cannot walk this journey for our children.  They have come here with their own gifts, their own talents from God, and He has a plan for their lives in His infinite wisdom that shall be good.

This sense of goodness is based upon reverence.  Reverence is well-established not only through a religious life, but  through the way we play out our own feelings of gratitude and our own feelings of awe and wonder at the world.  Continue reading

Feeling Grateful and Gracious

 

What a year, and what a summer!  Overwhelming, muddled at times, yet still with so much joy and so many blessings; so many opportunities for discernment.  You may have caught part of my musings of all this  in the post “Gaining Clarity”, but something I kept coming back to again and again this summer is this idea of feeling grateful and being gracious no matter where we find ourselves.  What an important and challenging thing to work on for ourselves,and for our children to see.

 

It can be easy to feel grateful when things are going well, and so much easier to be kind and gracious in those circumstances. However, how much more important is it for us to be able to see our times of more turbulence, whether outward or inward, as opportunities to express our gratitude and to show others how gracious we can be? Continue reading

Our Final Post of “Growing Into Motherhood”–Cathy’s Story

 

This is the very last story in our series of long-time readers’ journeys into motherhood.  They have really been wonderful to read and ponder, and this last story is no exception.  I love this idea of “conscious incompetence” that Cathy writes about.  Please do read and enjoy!  Here is her story for your inspiration: Continue reading

“Growing Into Motherhood”–Sarah’s Story

 

This is one of the final two stories in this series:   a different Sarah than the last post, and another wonderful journey!   Here is Sarah’s story for your inspiration, consideration and thought:

 

Growing into Young Motherhood

 

Almost nine years ago I began my journey through motherhood. I was 21 years old, still in university and had been married for two whole weeks when I found out I was expecting an unexpected honeymoon baby.

 

I was shocked and scared and really stressed out and remained that way for the next nine months. I tried to convince myself that nothing much would change….I’d always wanted children and even if this was a lot earlier than I’d planned and since I was under a lot of pressure from family and friends to “get my life back on track” after the baby was born I figured that is what I’d have to do.

 

Deep down I didn’t think it was going to be that simple. I had always wanted to be home with my children when they were little and the thought of signing a baby up for daycare at 3 months old while I went back to school felt wrong to me.

 

It turns out my daughter Sophia, now 8, agreed. A stressful pregnancy and a difficult birth had led to a little baby who had a very, very hard time adjusting to the life in the outside world. We used to joke that she had only come with two settings…nursing and screaming…only it didn’t feel like a joke. My husband and I got a crash course in attachment parenting from our newborn even though we had never heard of it. We held her all the time. She would only sleep more than 20 minutes if she was on one of us and all our attempts at bottles and soothers and the crib were for nought. My plan to nurse for two weeks went out the window….it was the only thing that went right it seemed. Soon my plan for full time school changed to part time, then to one course then to maybe next year. Continue reading