Three Reasons I Need Rhythm…

I find many of us are still trying to get our rhythm back at this time of year.  I know I am!  Actually, in my world of the Anglican Communion, we are still in the season of Epiphany and now coming up to Lent, so there is this sense of still being in the middle of things in a way….and many of us find our children grow and change over the holidays, so whilst the work of the day may remain, perhaps meal times or outside times or bedtimes needs to shift around.  Never be afraid to make a rhythm that works for you!  I always start by looking at what pattern we are in, and then seeing if it needs to change…or maybe it is a real pattern that remains..

Rhythm is this idea of a flow to the day; it is not a schedule because it is  flow -oriented and not as time-oriented perhaps as a schedule (although there may be times assigned to meals and bedtime).  It provides an order to the day and a sense of strength for the parent because it takes away some of the thinking involved with every single decision we have to make in a day.  If you know your errand day is on Friday, then you don’t need to go out on Tuesday, for example.  If you know you always put your boots after your walk in one spot as part of cleaning up from your nature walk each day, then you don’t have to round up boots that land in various places.  Rhythm just IS, like the tide coming in and going out or sun coming up and setting.

The three reasons I  particularly need rhythm are:

To continually remind me of the importance of the home. In a society that often does not seem to value being home except for short pit stops between activities (even for small children), rhythm in my home reminds me of the time and care it takes to create a nourishing environment and that there is value in that for the health of all of us in the family.  Ideally, in a home full of rhythm, a small child would be able to tell what day of the week it is by the meaningful work being done in the home on those days.  For example,  perhaps Tuesdays are always ironing days or Thursdays are always bread making days or Mondays are always the cleaning of the home from the weekend.  Traditionally, Waldorf Education has assigned different work to different days based upon more planetary influences (does that sound esoteric enough?!), so there are suggestions from Waldorf kindergartens for different activities for different days of the week.

It reminds me of the importance of what I call “soul hygiene” – that there should be a time and place in the day for inner work, for physical activity outside, for sleep and rest.  This helps remind me to pace myself and to honor these activities.  This helps me remember my main goal of parenting is to help my children be healthy adults – healthy physically, emotionally, in how they see light in others and how they communicate with others, spiritually.

We set up the environment with care, which teaches me attentiveness to activities and models this for my children.  We might have a song or verses to go with the activity.  We put things away  and clean up with care.  Again, it forces me to slow down and see the value of the activities we are doing for the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.

Lastly, (yes, I couldn’t resist sneaking in reason number four!) is that rhythm is your aid to discipline.  When we know when things will happen and how it will happen, it cuts down arguing.  This time of year, that can be valuable.  It is even valuable for teenagers and older children.

How is your rhythm valuable to you?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Four Steps Toward Parenting Together

I have heard it said that parenting involves not just thinking alike, but thinking together.  Parenting in a relationship means that the needs and thoughts of both parties have to be considered and communicated and compromised upon.  It is hard work, but I encourage you to do the work.  If I have parents reading this who are in their 20s and early 30s, I really want to encourage you to do this work now.   I am in my 40s, and unfortunately there are many divorces going on amongst beautiful couples that we know – but most of the divorces had roots from when these couples were in their late twenties or early thirties.  So, I would like to share five tips for those working toward parenting (and unifying other aspects of their life as well!) together.

  1.  Parenting is just one aspect of how a couple communicates, respects and appreciates each other. I think “parenting” comes up as this hot button – whether it is breastfeeding, c0-sleeping, educational choices, discipline – but it really is a facet of: how do we communicate as a couple; does my spouse or partner respect me by listening to me and respecting my ideas and opinions as well; do we appreciate what each one of us brings to the table in this process?  What do we both really value most for our family life?
  2. If communication skills and compromise are difficult and you both feel as if you are just going over the same thing in a circular fashion with no compromise or resolution, get help from a third party (earlier rather than later!).  Many counselors work on a sliding scale, and many places of religious worship offer counseling as well. This chapter (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/08/26/overcome-gridlock-the-seven-principles-for-making-marriage-work/)  in Dr. Gottman’s book about overcoming gridlock could also be helpful to you as a process at home.
  3. Have a set time to address challenges that are coming up in family life.  When is actually a good time to talk through things that are important, where you can focus together without being interrupted?
  4. Cultivate some patience.  Not every issue in attempting to co-parent or be unified always works out in compromise; sometimes the differences are still there but they are livable differences.  Sometimes opinions change as one partner models things and shares with the other partner.

Many blessings,
Carrie

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: January

I love January with its beautiful and cozy inner light.  The lights of Christmas, the candles and outside lights are still up and we begin this month still within the Twelve Days of Christmas and the Holy Nights.  We find ourselves following the golden star to Epiphany and beyond in a cozy, quiet, stillness where dark skies, snowflakes (I am hoping!  It has been unseasonably warm here in the Deep South), tea by the fire predominates.  We can curl up with meal planning and garden planning and enjoy this time of rejuvenation under the mantle of peaceful family times.

Here are some of my favorite things for this month for the family:

  • Beautiful festival celebrations. I have several back posts about celebrating Christmastide, three or four about Three Kings Day/Epiphany, and several about the Holy Nights.
  • Creating music together, reading together wonderful read-alouds with popcorn, creating window stars and rose windows.
  • Taking long walks outside or hiking and looking at the lovely bare branches of the trees.
  • Taking the time to look at meal planning, organizing the home, along with a hard look at rhythm.  What is working, what is not working, what needs to be tweaked or changed?

Here are some of my favorite things for small children:

  • Fostering creative play.    I have detailed this in back posts, but suffice it to say that I think the   major components include paring down toys (not increasing the clutter as it might be tempting to do!  Keep throwing toys at them until one sticks is not a way to foster deep creative play, even though it is completely tempting in our desperate moments! :)), creating an inviting play environment, and having a steady rhythm of work in the home that the child can see, weave in and out of and imitate.
  • Warming rituals and warmth in clothing; in toys of natural materials; in an emotional warmth toward the small child; warming foods with bone broths and teas, hot water bottles.

Here are some of my favorite things for older children:

  • Vigorous outdoor exercise if at all possible.
  • Quiet moments of reverence before meals, before bed.  Finding ways that the older child can start to penetrate into the festivals of the month, whether this is in religious or spiritual ways or both.
  • Finding ways the older child can be helpful in the life of the family and in the community.
  • Warming rituals and foods.

Here are some of my favorite things for teens: 

  • Finding time to spend with your teen one on one so that child can talk about whatever is on their mind.  Combine that with something to do  physically,  or a special date out, and you have  intimate moments that are anything but ordinary.
  • Creating more complex crafts – straw stars, rose windows, more complex window stars, knitting and sewing, woodworking.  Basketry can feel meditative as well.
  • Fun and intriguing board games. There are so many wonderful ones out there right now to play!

Here are a few of my favorite things for my own health:

  • Making the time for health care appointments.  Get all those annual appointments out of the way and set up any appointments you need weekly or bi-monthly.
  • Creating a small desk space or crafting work space or updating the one you have!  Adding small quotes and things you find inspiring!
  • Making time to exercise in whatever capacity this means to you  – whether this is a vigorous hike, time at the gym, a yoga video.  Make time every day. Mark the time on the calendar because it IS an appointment worthy of your attention.  It has to be a priority in order for you to take care of everyone else and have balance.  Some of us are lucky enough to live on farms or other places where we have a good amount of physical exercise in everyday life, but most of us do not move nearly enough.
  • Menu planning and preparing freezer or crock pot meals.  Saturdays or Sundays could be a lovely time to do this, or pick your own afternoon during the week.
  • Inner work.  Now is a great time to renew your focus on sacred and holy reading, prayer and meditation, or just keeping silence.

Here are a few of my favorite things for homeschooling:

  • Check and see what supplies you have run out of mid-year and re-order.
  • See what you have really gotten through this fall, and adjust your schedule for the year accordingly.  Full confession – we are going to have to lengthen our school year by two weeks and probably knock out or condense down a block.  It happens, so don’t beat yourself up!  Life is still lovely.
  • Start planning for the upcoming school year.  So far I  have my start and end dates laid out,  block plans for what blocks I am doing when laid out for three grades, I have an idea for my high schooler’s year long courses what the flow will be, I have started digging into a few blocks that I have  the resources for,   and made a list of new resources I need to order or get through the library.  With three grades to put together from scratch, I am trying to be diligent so I don’t have to spend my entire summer planning!
  • For those of you who Waldorf homeschool, you might consider reading some of Steiner’s lectures.  Many of them are free on-line.

Please share with me your a few of your favorite things for January.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

Talking to Children About Healthy Sexuality and Sex

One often hears the horror stories about parents trying to give “the talk” to their children, complete with mumbling, inaccurate terminology and a look of relief when their child has no questions for them and both parties can flee from the room.

In the United States, 13 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15.  Seventy percent have had sexual intercourse by age 19.  We live in a country founded by people who thought sex was rather evil, and we as a nation are obsessed with sexuality and sex in our media.   It is an odd paradox to say the least.  Our children are bombarded with messages about body image daily.  The freedom of the Internet and media in many families has led the average age of children to see their first pornographic act on the Internet at age 11.

These are serious facts, and the discussions about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships to counteract the messages our children receive every day can only begin with YOU by layering in talks about these subjects from an early age in a healthy, developmentally appropriate way.

First of all, like all things in parenting. these discussion have to start with YOU.  How do you feel about Continue reading

Finding Peace in the Resentment

Oh, February, you got me again, I think.  I went into winter thinking all would be fine and all I know is for about three weeks I have felt….

Resentful.

Tired.

Without reserves.

Irritated.

A little lost with how to continue to juggle all of it in homeschooling and my own need for self-care and self-nourishment….Even frustrated….

Juggling children of three wildly different ages within the Waldorf curriculum is often difficult.  Going from nursery rhymes and baking and fingerplays  to geometry and algebra  and historical events back to drawings and working on basic early grades skills through mythology to fielding housework, outside activities, the unexpected is a tall order……Oh, February, really, it is too much for one mother at times.

And for everyone, the things that will drive one to darkness will be different.  For me, it is not the cooking or cleaning on top of homeschooling that trips me up.  Those things are fine.  The harder part is the mental exhaustion from the juggling of three very different ages, stages and attitudes.   I am so very tired by the end of teaching time for three separate people that I really can’t combine due to large age gaps…   The harder  and darker part for me is often juggling the “should” for each age and how the “should” would look if  the entire school day was devoted to each child’s  grade or developmental level…. and maybe there would be some hours for me…instead of an all day, all hours being “on” from 5:30 in the morning until 8 at night….Have you ever felt that way? Continue reading

Finding Peace in Lent

Several years ago I heard the bishop of Massachusetts, M. Thomas Shaw, speak at the cathedral in Boston of his experience of being in the Holy Land for Lent that year.  There it is summertime during the weeks before Easter, with the desert in full bloom, the trees laden with olives and figs, the hazy smell of ripe fruit and sound of buzzing insects filling the air.  As he moved through the days of prayer and reflection before Easter in the midst of such abundance and beauty he came to understand Lent as a time of being refreshed by a loving God instead of a time of arduous effort to improve.”  – page 52 from “Welcome to the Church Year:  An Introduction to the Seasons of the Episcopal Church” by Vicki K. Black

I think of Lent as both a time to be restored and renewed, and also a time of taking stock.  It is a time to strengthen the spiritual life.  It is a spiritual “check-in” and can be a time of healing in the most profound of ways.  It is time for a re-awakening of our spiritual life,  and for Christians this leads up to the renewal of our own baptismal vows on Easter as catechumens are baptized into Christianity.

These weeks of Lent are simpler, quieter and more harmonious than other weeks of the year if we let them be.   Continue reading

Monthly Anchor Points: February

Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

February and I have a love-hate relationship.  On the one hand, this is the month of LOVE and LIGHT.  It is a month about thinking about our own inner light and how do we let this light shine in service to others; how do we show our love for others?  We have no greater calling than to love our fellow human beings, beginning with those we live with right in our own homes.  On the other hand, February seems to be the month I least want to serve anyone.  It seems to be a rather cranky month for me at times, much like my July Doldrums….Many homeschooling mothers I speak with seem to feel the same way.

This month really does have an often quiet beauty about it. Continue reading