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 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

Are You Raising A Potted Plant?

 

There should be warning signs for parents on every child in America:  “Warning!  This is not a potted plant!  This is a human being that needs sunshine, free play in nature and lots of movement throughout the entire lifespan!  Warning!”

 

Too often our children today are treated like potted plants. Sterile, not moving, in a pot, watching only one view because the inherent nature of the human being to move is essentially ignored by our predominate educational system, our medical system, and our society at large. 

 

Children of all ages, birth through twenty-one, need to MOVE.  Children birth through age seven should be developing their will, their doing.  Movement also is learning.  I have read research estimates that 80 percent of the brain is devoted to taking in sensory information and deciding what to do with that information.    Almost any long-time teacher will tell you that most children are kinesthetic learners. 

 

We know from current research that school aged children need at least three to four hours a day of true rough and tumble outside play. Heavy work benefits ALL children and ALL adults.  We are wired for it!

 

In a classroom setting, just having ten minute breaks to really move every two hours can completely increase learning.  According to a 2006 study in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, children with ADHD who take movement breaks for ten minutes every two hours show a 20 percent improvement in “on-task behavior.”

 

In Waldorf Education, we look at movement to be about a third of our learning time if possible.  We play movement games for math, we walk our forms before we draw them, we have eurythmy and Bothmer gymnastics in the Waldorf School setting, we include folk dancing in the curriculum for certain grades, we have drama and gardening.

 

You CAN do this at home and it will not complicate your homeschool, but enhance it!

 

Simple ways to start:

 

Finally, are you moving in your free time?  Are you cleaning, gardening, working? Hiking and biking and swimming and skating?  Or are you sitting down on your computer?  Just sayin’.  Smile

 

Happy Moving!

Carrie

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

The Six/Seven Change and Community

There was a very wise post this morning on the waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com list by list owner and veteran Waldorf teacher Marsha Johnson.  You will the entire post for your reading pleasure below, but I wanted to add a few comments.

I agree and feel the same way as Marsha Johnson:  I think community is so important.  How homeschoolers get this community may look different from homeschooling family to homeschooling family.  Some homeschooling families get this through a place of worship and that is their community that they see numerous times a week.  Some get it through a homeschooling group.  Some get it through a large extended family with many brothers and sisters and cousins, and some get it though a neighborhood setting.  I too, feel sad to hear of homeschooling children who are all alone or older homeschooling children who never have contact with children their own age.  It is one thing to say that homeschooled children do wonderful with people of all ages – they typically do, and that is wonderful!- but they also, as they get older need time with other ten year olds and other twelve year olds and as much as they love their brothers and sisters, they will welcome some time to be with children their own age without smaller ones about.

As you plan for fall, please be sure to put in community.  Time for you to have community and time for your children to have community.  We are not fully human until we can look each other in the eyes and be together.   It is so important, and should be an important part of your homeschooling plan:  movement, art, the academic pieces, practical work and community.  Together, this makes a wonderful homeschooling experience and also eases many of the pangs of the ages of development change.

Here is Marsha Johnson’s post: Continue reading

Rhythm: Part Three

Once you have the basics of going to bed, waking up, naps and food happening around the same time each day, you can now look at planning perhaps the most important part of the day:  how you will spend time with your children if you are the parent of small children, or how you will set up your homeschooling day if you have children in the grades (or a combination of children in the grades and small children not yet in the grades! Smile)  This post is mainly about the Early Years, with food for thought for the grades. Continue reading

Preferred Parent Of The Week

This is the term my husband and I used frequently when our older children were smaller:  preferred parent of the week.  You are probably familiar with this phenomenon if you too  have small children whose temperaments are not so laid back…”no, no, MAMA DO!”  or “I don’t want you!! I waaaaannnnntttt Daaaaddddyyy!!”

I honestly wonder, in those of you with big families, does this occur much past the third child?  It seems to me, by necessity, that the youngest members of the family often get used to older brothers and sisters helping out, and the flexibility that develops from that precludes the “Preferred Parent Of The Week” syndrome.  I would love to hear from you if you have a comment on that!

Parents always want to know how to handle this.  In our family, we didn’t argue about this for the sake of arguing (“No, you must have Daddy put your fork on the table!”) for small things, but there were certainly times when a child’s desires could not be accommodated.  Mama had the wailing baby, so yes, little four year old, Daddy will have to give the bath.  And yes, there would be wailing.  But Daddy is a parent too.

It can be hard for parents going through this for the first time to  not feel baffled and hurt, especially fathers.  One has to carry on in good humor, this is a small child!  They say all kinds of things and have all kinds of feelings!  Once fathers realize this can be a very normal phase, I think many of them can sort of shore themselves up and not take it so personally.  Whenever our children would go through that, we would just look at it other and shrug, “Guess you’re PPW this week!”

It is important to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing and also a very matter-of-fact, less words, less explaining kind of manner when things are not going the way the child wants.

I have a very astute friend who pointed out that if Dad is never on the “preferred list” for baths, ouchies, bedtime, etc that she wondered if the father and child were doing anything positive through play at all first.  It is hard to expect the child to want Dad during those tired, hungry, hurt and whiny kind of times if the child and father have no positive bond together during happy times.  There should always be time in the family schedule for FUN, with BOTH parents. Build on a happy platform of play as a foundation!

I would love to hear your experiences with “PPW”.

Blessings,
Carrie

More Virtual Tea: The Twelve Senses In Homeschooling

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Happy New Year’s to you all!  Many best and bright wishes to my readers in this lovely New Year!

Many of you know that given my background as a physical therapist and homeschooling parent, work revolving around the twelve senses as set forth by Rudolf Steiner has been fascinating to me.    Some of the therapists and neuroscientists I have spoken to feel there are anywhere from 75 to over a hundred senses, but I feel these twelve are a fine place to start.  They are well-organized and clear, and I think it is a piece that is accessible for all educators, not just Waldorf/Steiner educators and should be of particular importance to us as homeschool educators and as parents.

Lisa Boisvert-Mackensie was kind enough to continue a virtual tea with me regarding some of the fundamental pillars of Waldorf Education.  You can see those posts here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/12/20/the-three-artistic-pillars-of-waldorf-homeschooling/ and here:  http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2011/12/as-person-who-has-straddled-worlds-of.html  and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/12/21/more-about-the-artistic-pillars-of-waldorf-education-a-virtual-tea/

Lisa’s last virtual tea post on the twelve senses ( here is the link:  http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2011/12/lemniscate-and-senses.html)  inspired me to draw the image above.  It was originally presented in horizontal form in a lecture I heard in the fall  by Douglas Gerwin, but after I really sat with this information, slept on it, let it lie fallow for a bit,  I drew this vertical figure. This vertical figure reminds me of the upright human being; it reminds me that we all have these twelve senses, and that having all of these senses fully developed leads to the freedom to give and receive love. One can have all the knowledge and training and facts in a field, and if one cannot rule over oneself, if one cannot see another’s view, if one can relate to another person, if one cannot use their knowledge and training for the love of humanity, what good does it really do?

This figure also reminds me that Continue reading