The Work of Biography: The First Two Seven Year Cycles

I talked a little about my experience with doing biographical work at my Foundation Studies course in this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/09/01/the-work-of-the-biography/  . If you have not done the preliminary work outlined in that post, you may want to start that first and then return here to deepen your work.

Based upon some of the ideas in my course regarding each seven year cycle, I have formulated some open-ended questions for you to answer in order to take a closer look at your own journey. Continue reading

Keeping Healthy Through The Winter

The winters of 2012-2013 and the 2013-2014 could be particularly frigid, according to some reports. (Here is one I was looking at:  http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/combination-of-factors-could-m/36990).

This is also the time of year when many mothers, especially homeschooling mothers, find themselves in the throws of trying to homeschool, bake, cook, craft, make gifts, visit family and travel…and essentially overextend themselves and get sick on top of all the holiday bustle!  Many homeschooling mothers I know seem to have long-term health issues that affect their immune systems, which really doesn’t help as well!

One of the first things that I find helpful is to make sure warmth becomes a priority.  I love Green Mountain Organics, and I notice they are having a 10 percent off sale on all their warm woolens.  http://www.facebook.com/notes/green-mountain-organics/winter-woolen-sale/166623896683512.  If you are unfamiliar with the importance of warmth, this back post may be helpful to you:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/06/warmth-strength-and-freedom-by-mary-kelly-sutton/

Rest is another huge priority; and I think rest extends even past going to bed every night at a decent hour.  I think it also requires Continue reading

Relating And Connecting

I absolutely love the book, “Connecting With Young Children:  Educating The Will”, by Master Waldorf Kindergarten teacher Stephen Spitalny.  (If you have not read this book, I really think you should.  Here is the link for it:  http://www.amazon.com/Connecting-With-Young-Children-Educating/dp/1105320820/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351371198&sr=8-1&keywords=connecting+with+young+children+educating+the+will.  It is chock full of wonderful thoughts for the self development of the adult, how to guide small children, and yes, how to work with and shape the will forces of the young child.)

Mr.  Spitalny begins his book with this paragraph:  Continue reading

Getting Your Groove Back

I talk to mothers every, every day who are just plain overwhelmed.  They are single or their partners travel, they don’t have a community to lean on, their children are small, they are juggling so many things.

And when you are overwhelmed, you constantly feel scattered.  Disorganized.  Like there is not enough time. Perhaps you feel enmeshed with one particular child and out of balance in dealing with the needs of all of your multiple children.

I can only write these things as I have lived these things.  Life is not perfect, and parenting small children is not for the faint of heart.

The place to start, is yourself.   You are the key to your own overwhelm!   Continue reading

The Essential Soul Tasks Of The Early Years

Dearest Friends,

During my time of moving houses, I have had several very important issues swirling about in my head with no opportunity to write them down until tonight.  So, you will be seeing some deeply thought and deeply held posts coming from The Parenting Passageway over the next several days.

One thing that I was thinking about fervently was the essential soul tasks of the small child.  If you have been a long-time reader of this blog, I hope over the years I have convinced you of the utmost importance of the physical development of the small child through time and space outside.  We think of a very tiny child of ages birth through three as struggling through space over time to achieve being upright, then progressing to speech and from speech flowing into thought.  During the Early Years, we also develop our  twelve senses, and I often think of such things as the awareness of our bodies (what is us?  what is others?).  This is done through work and also through imaginative play.

But on the soul level, there is a very important task for this age, which is relating to others, and how the child finds their place within a group.  The small child’s experiences with trust of others, belonging with others, finding safety and acceptance of others and within others is all part of this experience.  So is the reverence that we often cannot fully see until we stand present with another.  I have had the wonderful experience of my almost three year old and his very best friend on earth whom I shall call Little Friend.  He and Little Friend adore each other; they run to see each other in the utter thrill that only two best friends can share and laugh in joy.  They chase “moonbears” (their code name for grasshoppers) through the grass, wonder at each spider web and bug, and show such deep reverence and awe at each step of Creation.  It is amazing to watch and it has shown me the deep ability of the small child to love outside of his own immediate family.  For some of you, this is a moment of “Duh!” and for some of you this is a moment of thoughtfulness.  If you can think back to your smallest days, where did you feel safe?  Where did you feel loved?  Where did you feel you belong?  Where were you part of a community?  Did you feel accepted and loved or on the outside?  Why?  How would you answer these questions about your own children?

I have received three separate emails this week asking about five or five and a half year olds and finding the balance of being home and the need for friends (or not).  I think many homeschoolers would say there is no need for interaction outside the family per se; especially perhaps for those with larger families.  But for those with smaller families or children who are close to age six with only a baby perhaps to “play” with, the question remains…  And then people tell me they have tried to look for community and nothing that resonates with them is available, so what do they do?  Do they do classes?  How do they meet people?  Is playing with a friend once a month or once every few months enough? Continue reading

The Melancholic Child–Ages 7 and Up

 

 

(This post is not meant to address children who are clinically depressed.  Please speak to a health care professional if you feel your child is depressed). 

 

Then you should know exactly which children lean toward

inner reflection and are inclined to brood over things; these are

the melancholic children. It is not easy to give them impressions

of the outer world. They brood quietly within themselves,

but this does not mean that they are unoccupied in their

inner being. On the contrary, we have the impression that they

are active inwardly.  – “Discussions With Teachers” Lecture One, Rudolf Steiner

 

Rudolf Steiner was not the first person to work with the ideas of the human temperaments;   the Greek physician Hippocrates incorporated the four temperaments into his medical work and the temperaments have made their way into medicine and psychology since then.  Rudolf Steiner linked the four temperaments to not only his ideas regarding the four fold human being, but also to the different developmental cycles of the human being.  For example, he felt the early childhood years of birth through seven were a predominantly sanguine time.

 

When we look at children, I have spoken to many mothers who feel the predominant temperament of their child is melancholic.  Many melancholic children have a particular physical body type – tall, slender, mournful eyes, a slow gait.  They tend to think a lot about the past, themselves, and they have a good memory concerning things that happen to themselves.   They tend to analyze, brood and have a strong attention to detail.  Many times they are bothered by the idea of imperfection.  I find many melancholic children in my own life can be rather inflexible, and when things do not happen according to the pictures or thoughts they have laid out, they can become extremely upset or angry.

 

Many times melancholic children seem to have a poor quality of relationships with others.  These may be the children who have only a few good friends.  They can be drawn into relationships if something strikes them as unjust or unfair; sticking up for the underdog is often part of a melancholic child’s connection and sympathy to another person’s pain and suffering.

 

Here is my area of caution after working with many families over the years:  Please do not confuse the melancholic child with something else.  I have talked to many mothers who felt their child was melancholic, but when I looked at the child in person and observed them and the family, it seemed to me that the whole family may have been in  a stressful, rough patch that was feeding the child’s feelings that the world was not a good place and that the child was working with this sad, unjust feeling as projected from the mother or other attachment figure in the family.  Once the family became stabilized, the child also stabilized.  This is not true melancholia as a temperamental trait. 

 

I have also seen videos of children with sensory issues whose parents were clearly worn out by a child’s behavior and sometimes the child would respond with complaining and  brooding to try to arouse the parent’s attention and sympathy.  This is a scenario too long and complicated to get into via electronic medium, but again, I don’t think that is a true melancholic child.  That is a child trying to elicit attention and increased energy from a parent.  The take away  message is that if your own energy is really low, your child may be acting melancholic to try to arouse something out of you!   We must always look to ourselves first. 

 

And complaining does not always equal a melancholic child either.  I think we have to look at the whole picture of the whole child.  A child may complain and feel lonely through the nine year change, for example, but that is a developmental stage, but not true melancholia as a tempermental trait.

 

The way to work with a melancholic, as advised by many resources, is to listen carefully to the melancholic child’s deep and brooding thoughts and to tell them stories about others who have suffered or times of your own suffering in order to connect.

 

I think this works well in a classroom,  and we can also use it in the home environment.  However, I think there is something more that should predominate with a melancholic child in the home environment:  we have to be careful to listen, but not be a captive stage for hours on end by long tales of the woe of the melancholic child.  This can be a tricky balance!  The melancholic child should not set the tone for the home; we should as parents set the tone for our house.   In the home environment where we are with our children 24/7, it is important to demonstrate to the melancholic child how we protect our own emotional boundaries because this is an important aspect of modeling emotional health for this temperament type.  We can carefully listen to our child and then say  that we have certainly heard them, and that we will carry their thoughts with us whilst we go do the dishes or brush the dog.  We can help engage these children in real work, and get them physically moving instead of wallowing in their own negativity.   I find melancholic children often need more exercise and sometimes even more opportunities to be socially drawn out  than they may be prone to want themselves.  Melancholic children are often happiest being creative and reading, which is wonderful, but physical movement and community is very important for these children. 

 

In my mind, this temperament also needs a strong religious and spiritual life as they grow into adolescence and adulthood in order to have something to hold onto. We want to balance these children and all four of the temperaments that are within them and within us all.

 

Blessings,
Carrie

The Journey Of Softening Ourselves

I wrote a variation on this post for my homeschooling group list, but thought the topic was important enough to share, so here are some of my thoughts on this topic for my readers here at The Parenting Passageway…

Many of us are attracted to Waldorf Education because we ourselves are in need of healing, and also because we want our children to have childhoods that they do not have to recover from.  (Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I fear for our nation because I worry the next generation will be too busy healing from their own childhoods and their own troubles and will not be strong enough to tackle the problems of the “other” within their communities—if we can only take care of ourselves, how can we hope to help with issues of peace, justice, education and more?  Just an aside note and digression…)

Sometimes we come to Waldorf Education with things that have helped buffer us against the world in the past:  sharp words, quick and sarcastic wit, a “I will get them before they get me” kind of attitude,  our misguided attempts at communicating whilst still protecting our own woundedness from the possibility from any further assault….

And then we enter the world of Waldorf Education; this beautiful lazured land of natural toys, gorgeous handwork, learning how to live a practical life, how to bring things in at the right time for our children.  We work and strive toward rhythm:   toward having calm and steady days.

But there is more, and that piece is ourselves.  Rudolf Steiner wrote that children respond not just to our teaching, but to WHO we are.  Who we are is precious, and in order to see that, sometimes we have to strip away some of the rough exterior buffers we have built up over the years, because the very way we carry ourselves,  dress ourselves, speak to our children and to others matters distinctly.  We then can  notice things in the world of Waldorf Education and wonder… Continue reading

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