Emptiness

In many ways, this has been one of the best summers I have ever had.  It has been a series of carefree camping, swimming and kayaking dates,  interspersed with lots of time with friends and family.  It has been wonderful and healing for my soul in so many ways.

My friend Catherine wrote a post about emptiness and about having compassion for oneself.  It is a must-read, as is the post she linked to as well: http://catherine-et-les-fees.blogspot.com/2013/06/emptiness.html

It so resonated with me because underneath my really fun summer, emptiness and grief has been a theme of this whole year for me.  Time can be so healing, but yet not enough time has passed, so those emotions and events are still there in my soul, digesting and breaking down.

Empty.  Drained. Exhausted.

Sad.

Not full, but empty.

There is still laughter and fun, but it is there underneath, this feeling.

Sometimes life is like this tide of outward expansion, inward contraction…full and empty, alone and then in companionship.  But it can be so hard when one feels so unsafe, so unprotected, so…challenged and swimming upstream at every turn.  It can be so hard when your “ho hum” has left the building and run away because you feel so raw about everything.

Yet, a curious thing has come out of this summer, simply because I really took some steps to protect myself in rest, to protect myself in peace.  The emptiness has not gone away, there are really raw moments,  but I am starting to see it all as something different.  I am starting to see it all as gifts.

A gift of Continue reading

Guest Post: Reflections On St. John’s Tide

Some of you may be familiar with  fiber artist and teacher Judy Forster from her handwork shop on Etsy called Mama’s Jude’s Plant Dyed Stuff (http://www.mamajudes.etsy.com ) and a post she wrote for this blog some time ago here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/28/handwork/.  Today she is sharing her personal reflections upon St. John’s Tide.

Judy Forster grew up in a family where all kinds of Handwork were important and appreciated. While working as an adjunct instructor of English, she was happily recruited to her first position teaching Handwork at the Susquehanna Waldorf School where her son was a kindergarten student and her husband had taught German. She completed the first Applied Arts training offered in the United States at Sunbridge College. Over the years, Judy has taught Handwork to students of all ages in Waldorf schools and private schools, for homeschool Collectives, and at summer camps. She is currently working at home while enjoying time with her younger daughter; her son is now graduated from college. Judy teaches homeschool students, homeschool parents, and runs her on-line business for naturally plant dyed stuff at  Mama Jude’s Plant Dyed Stuff.

This is Judy’s meditation on the meaning that St. John’s Tide holds for her:  Continue reading

The Nativity of St. John The Forerunner

 

Today is the day of St. John, the Forerunner!  It is a time where the earth is exhaling as if in a deep dream, the deepest of languid sleep,  the height of  summer light and a time where perhaps the Christian Celtic vision of the “thin places” – the veil between the material and spiritual worlds – is so readily apparent.

 

We can feel this rhythm within us, and with this special time in June comes this Feast.  St. John comes to us, with his fiery spirit reminiscent of the Prophet Elijah, to connect us to a sense of repentance, of anticipation, of movement forward with connection to Christ. 

 

There is a renewal held in fire and for centuries people have celebrated this time with bonfires on the tops of mountains and hill tops.  This makes me think of “Hind’s Feet On High Places”, where Hannah Hurnard writes, “The life of the praying person is a journey farther and farther up and farther in, to places God Himself has spoken about to the attentive heart.”

 

Where is your attention?

Where is your Holy Silence?

What is God telling you?

Where is your renewal and your reconnection to God?  What does that mean to you?

How are you being cleansed and renewed by the circumstances in your life?

 

There is a cleansing held in the water.  We see St. John the Forerunner conveying the great spirit of cleansing, of binding and abiding, in his baptism of Christ.  

This weekend I went tubing with a group of friends. It was fun, and it was so much like life. There were banks and shoals and rocks, fast water over rapids and slow lazily drifting pools.   If you didn’t work with the person you are connected with, you didn’t get very far.  If you were not thoroughly yoked to your partner, the rapids would take you apart.  You may have thought you had it all figured out because you had a pole in your hand to keep yourself from getting stranded, but then your pole would be swept away in the current and drift away and you were left with trying to figure out another plan and relying upon people who were coming down the river path to assist you.  Such a loss of control, swept along in the vastness of the current. 

So much like life, and so much to say about this time of cleansing and renewal. 

 

What can you let go of?  What is not serving you anymore and why are you holding onto it?

Who  and what needs to be in your life?

Is it really that serious or should you be floating instead of trying so hard to use your pole to push against the current?

Where is your cleansing and your freshness of the soul?  What are you doing spiritually to support yourself as you go “farther up and farther in”? 

 

Here is to a fresh vision, a new hope, a cleansing and renewing, a new chance for meaning,

Many blessings,
Carrie

Circle and Activities For St.John’s Tide

 

Happy Summer!  St. John’s Tide, or The Feast of The  Nativity of Saint John the Baptist as it called traditionally in the church, is almost upon us!  I have a back post about Midsummer Day/St. John’s Tide here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/09/midsummers-day-st-johns-tide-day/

 

Here are few things we are enjoying in our home as we prepare for this special day, both in church and at home.

 

Circle:

This is a tune from the “Summer” Wystones book:

In the Summer Garden

Where we singing go

Light is flowing

Glowing flowing while the roses grow

 

Then I will add this version which I made up, to the same tune:

In the Summer Garden

Where the sun’s a- glow

St. John’s coming

Making straight and narrow the paths go

 

A Traditional Waldorf Verse, found in many different sources:

I am the sun

And I bear with my might

The earth by day, the earth by might

I hold her fast, and my gifts I bestow

To everything on her, so that it may grow

Man and stone, flower and bee

All receive their light from me

Open thy heart like a little flower,

That with my light I may thee dower

Open thy heart, dear child, to me,

That we together one light may be.

 

Ring Game For The Young Child:

Sally go round the sun

Sally go round the moon

Sally go round the chimney tops

On A Sunday afternoon – whoops!

Saint John, who ate locusts and wild honey, makes me think of bees in this summertime.

Bees Verses:

Five Busy Bees

Five little busy bees on a day so sunny.

(Hold up all fingers.)

Number one said, I’d like to make some honey.

(Bend down number one.)

Number two said, Tell me where shall it be?

(Bend down second finger.)

Number three said, In the old honey-tree.

(Bend down third finger.)

Number four said, Let’s gather nectar sweet.

(Bend down fourth finger.)

Number five said, Let’s take pollen on our feet.

(Bend down thumb.)

Humming their busy little honeybee song.

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! (Fly fingers.)

From Nature Boxes for Early Childhood Educators, Debbi Williams, Story County Conservation Board

 

Here is the beehive, where are the bees?
     clench fist and bring out fingers quickly one by one
Hidden away were nobody sees
Watch and you will see them come out of their hives,
One, two, three, four, five,
Buzz, buzz, buzz.

 

One little bee blew and flew.
He met a friend, and that made two.

Two little bees, busy as could be–
Along came another and that made three.

Three little bees, wanted one more,
Found one soon and that made four.

Four little bees, going to the hive.
Spied their little brother, and that made five.

Five little bees working every hour–
Buzz away, bees, and find another flower.

And you could end with the traditional favorite:

Ring around the rosies

Pocket full of posies

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down

Cows are in the meadows

Eating buttercups

Thunder, lightning, we all stand up!

 

Some little activities to enjoy:

Read the story of Saint John from the Holy Bible  – such richness for all ages!

Make some small hanging suns – directions page 105  of the book “All Year Round”

Make some bees for your nature table:  http://ancienthearth2.blogspot.com/2010/07/summer-bees-needle-felting-tutorial.html  (no dry needle felting for young children, please! However,  they could paint rocks like little bees)

Wet –on-wet watercolor painting with yellow

There are stories in the back of the Summer Wynstones and also a story for older children in the back of the book, “All Year Round”. 

 

 

Many blessings on The Feast of The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist!

Blessings,
Carrie

Sunday Books On Summer Time: “Completing The Circle”

 

Yes, Sunday Books is apparently on “summer” time and today instead.  Summer is about relaxing, so please excuse the island time on The Parenting Passageway this week.  I hope you all are having a relaxing summer as well.

 

This chapter is about the esoteric view of the human being and its value in education.  Many of you who read this blog and are familiar with Waldorf Education are also familiar with how Rudolf Steiner viewed the human being in esoteric terms.   Steiner writes in many different terms for many different audiences.  He started in academic philosophy, wrote for workers and artists and for the public intellectuals, and later went on to write for a group of Theosophists who at that time of the era of  World War One in Germany were searching for spiritual renewal from the East and many of the terms Steiner used were from Ancient Hinduism in order to fit in with that audience.  He broke with this group ten years later, but the terms have remained.  (Poplawski makes a differentiation between the terms of Sanskrit and the terms Steiner used with the group of theosophists but it has been described to me in many lectures through my Foundation Studies that these are similar and used during this time period in Steiner’s writings).

 

(If you are Christian and having trouble with this esoteric view, all I can say is that whilst this chapter describes how Rudolf Steiner saw the body, soul and spirit of the human being using his terms, religious traditions have always discussed this.   I am Christian, and the Christian church has known and understood this for centuries.  Here is a link for my Christian readers and there are many more articles if one chooses to search:  http://en.allexperts.com/q/Eastern-Orthodox-1456/2010/12/Body-soul-spirit.htm. This is how, based upon my religious tradition, I work with my own children in my own homeschool – I consider the body, the physiological processes that make up the body and then  the soul with its parts of the  inner eye (the nous) and its passions (the “irrational part”).

 

So Steiner saw the human being as a physical body that is shared with also the mineral kingdom,  an etheric body of life forces that also are akin with the plant kingdom with its physical form and life forces, the astral body which we share with an animal kingdom where the animals also have a physical body with life forces but also passions, desires, will, consciousness. Lastly, the human being as an “I” is seen as Steiner by our spiritual self, which is a source of discernment, insight and conscience.  Poplawski points out that varying religious traditions talk about what happens to the “I” after death. 

 

Poplawski moves on to talk about the development of the human being in seven year cycles.  The infant is born with a body, the life forces, the soul and the spirit, but these unfold according to developmental stages.  The physical body develops slowly, the life forces of an infant are intertwined with those of its mother.  As these life forces become more independent from the mother, then the child becomes ready to develop memory and thinking at this time, which is why in Waldorf Education academics formally begin in the grades.  (Although I would also add this makes sense according to childhood development according to other schools of thought in education and psychology as well). 

 

Poplawski points out that the intertwining in the first period of the life forces is primarily dependent upon the mother but that during the second seven year cycle, the forces there are shaped by the emotional and moral life of the community around the child.  Poplawski also points out that this is the time to think still about protection of the child from harsh realities of adult life. 

 

Poplawski points out that the third seven year cycle is the realm of adolescence and that many children are being rushed into this cycle even though they are younger.  As the mother of an almost twelve year old, this particularly resonates with me.  Poplawski writes:

 

Between ages seven and fourteen, the child should be allowed to mature and develop at an unpressured pace, particularly in his feeling life. For this the child needs to be protected, held, and directed by his parents and teachers in their roles as loving but firm authority figures. The child will then feel safe to experiment in a playful and innocent fashion, instead of being thrust too early into the more complex and confusing realm of grownup love and hate, the extremes of agony and ecstasy and trauma. Media and commercialism are the most common culprits in stealing the innocence of children in stable families. In broken families, the
children are afflicted as well by parental tensions and conflicts. Too early an exposure to these influences and experiences can desensitize the child and maim his or her later ability to tackle the complex issues of human relationships with equanimity and common sense.
With the onset of adolescence, the feeling nature is released from the physical and etheric bodies and gradually becomes able to deal with the challenges of a more complicated emotional and social life. Parents and other adults around the child need to slowly relinquish the often uncomfortable role of authority figure that they have played. Virtually all traditional cultures have recognized the spiritual reality of the maturation of the child’s astral body and have marked this in “coming
of age” ceremonies. While these have largely disappeared in our culture, the Jewish bar mitzvah and Hispanic “sweet sixteen” celebrations are remnants of this tradition. Not until age twenty-one, though, is the individual fully accepted as an adult.

(Carrie’s note:  I think Poplawski is referring to the tradition of the Quinceneara in many Hispanic families and cultures, which is at age fifteen, not sixteen!)

We help the child develop through a steady rhythm, through being warm and loving, through consistent mealtimes and bedtimes, through protection from adult stresses and by providing a life that is simple.  The adult must work on themselves so they are not providing emotional outbursts in front of the children.  (Hard work!!)  A wholesome and whole foods diet is also important.  Clear and firm boundaries on behavior is also seen as extremely important in Waldorf parenting and education.  Boundaries are needed for a child to grow in a healthy way.  This can be very difficult for parents in this day and age who do not have a clear relationship to authority themselves.

 

For the older child, it is the unfolding soul that needs protecting. A child of
ten, or even of thirteen, is not ready to deal with the world of “drugs, sex, and rock and roll,” though in many instances this world may have already been thrust upon her. The attention and vigilance required of parents to create this protection for children and early teenage children is great and also time-consuming. Parents must stand not only as role models but as authority figures in providing guidance to their children. Being an authority figure does not mean being authoritarian.
Parents need to stay interested in what their children are interested in and maintain an active dialogue with them and their friends. But parents need to recognize that their primary role is not to be their child’s buddy, but rather to be a source of higher judgment that sets reasonable standards of behavior and follows through to see that they are observed.

 

We want to promote that which is true and good in the life of the grades aged child, and to protect children before the age of 14 from entering adolescence too soon.  Being in nature, cultivating a relationship to the arts and handwork and music is important.  Sports that are intensive can be more of a drain than a help. Chores and doing work for others, and being part of helping in a community is also extremely important.  Older children need the experience of caring for the poor, the aged, the young, the disabled and the ill.

 

Finally, each family needs a clear set of behavioral and moral standards that are made explicit, that are taught to the children, and that are modeled by the adults. Manners, civility, consideration of others, truthfulness and honesty, the treatment of all family members, friends, acquaintances, and strangers with respect, and speech that is civil and free of profanity are all part of this. There is a coarsening today in speech, behavior, and morals that can be redeemed only by conscious
and concerted efforts within each family.
Religious instruction and practice can also be important for a child, even if the parents themselves are not motivated in this direction.

Poplawski talks about how the adolescence needs space, and one or two wholesome activities to do…but how not to overdo activities.  The adolescent also needs even more time from parents to be at hand and vigilant as he or she explores the world. 

 

This all can sound demanding and perhaps can induce guilt in some parents, but Poplawski writes:

 

Fortunately, raising a child is not an exact science. There is a built-in forgiveness
factor and hence some room for flexibility. Make more time for your children,
especially as they grow older. Take frequent looks at your family and its life together.
Ask whether you meet your own standards of civility, of morals, of spirituality.
Finally, protect your children from losing their childhood prematurely—neither
you nor they will regret it.

 

This is a lot of food for thought, and I would encourage you to read this chapter for yourself and see what resonates with you.  This is available as a free ebook at the Waldorf Library on-line.

 

Blessings,
Carrie

Summer Rhythm

 

Happy Summer to all!  It is summer here in the United States, although some parts of the U.S. are having colder than usual weather, to be sure!

 

One thing in summer is to enjoy the expansive space and time of the endless days of heat, warmth and sunlight and a time of rest from academic work and a rhythm better suited to colder days.  However, I also receive many letters from readers asking about a rhythm to the days, about what to do with sibling bickering, should they continue doing circle time with smaller children…what  to do, what to do.

 

I used to not plan for summer at all and was content to let the endless days of swimming here in the Deep South unfold.  However, the older my children have gotten, and the more children we have had, it was clear some bit of rhythm was being craved by all.  Having a simple framework for when at home in the summer can be a big help towards staving off any summer bickering and a relief to children to know they have long stretches of time to play, but also special things to do, even at home that makes special summer memories.

 

For my youngest little three year old, I am thinking of having a small circle time of songs and fingerplays and footplays three days a week, along with a story this month.  We have been doing the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears for almost a month now, which is  still well-loved and enjoyed, so that will be the story I will continue.  My older children enjoy time for crafting, preparing for festivals, painting and baking, and all of us enjoy time to be with friends.  I look at what days we will be home and what days we will be out. I also look at what days we will swim, what days we will be with friends and are there any days of the week in which we may just be home (no swimming and no friends to play with but just a good ole’ family day).  I also use this summer time for things I mentioned a few posts back on a Simplicity Monday – decluttering, planning for fall homeschooling, and regular cleaning and cooking.

 

We have had an expansive time of summer so far with travel and horse camp, so this coming week will be a week to settle into summer and being home.   A sweet summer circle and story, crafting, Father’s Day preparations, and baking, along with lots of swimming and being with friends, should round out the week nicely.

 

If you are interested in ideas for summer, here are a few back posts that you may find enjoyable:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/06/09/guest-post-creating-a-magical-summer/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/05/24/summer-stories-and-summer-nature-table/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/07/21/summertime-bickering/

And the famous July Doldrums!  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/31/down-and-out-the-july-doldrums/  and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/07/05/the-july-doldrums-again/

 

Can’t wait to hear all of your wonderful ideas and plans for summer! 

Love,

Carrie

The Mood of Celebration–Part Two

I have had numerous requests to share my little monthly lists.  I am happy to share one with you, but I am not sure it will be of service to you other than to provide an example.  This is because these lists are very specific to my Anglican faith, and also to the seasonal changes within the climate and area of the country in which I live, and also to what I have available locally regarding celebration in food, events and  place.

For me, the weaving of the natural and the liturgical year is common to our family. So, to plan, the first thing I literally do is get out My Book of Common Prayer and find out when things such as Lent, Easter and Ascension are, Feast Days of Saints, and things that I just know from tradition within my Parish that happen each year.  I also try to think in terms of attending the Divine Liturgy itself, but  also what speaks to that particular season through nature because that is where  I can more show my children in our home what ties this whole season back to the Holy Trinity.

For example, the days between Easter and Pentecost, (when we celebrate when the church was born), is a time I like to think about family.  We are part of the family of humanity, we are part of the family of the Church, if we make a birthday cake for the church on Pentecost, what could we be doing to talk about the Church and family and us as the broader picture of Anglicans around the globe to lead up to this?  (Please remember that I have older children as well, so things are more direct for them than just the indirectness that goes on for a tiny child under the age of nine!)   The idea of family, of living in communion,  is a huge concept, but there are indirect ways to do this.  Or, for another example,  how about the days after Pentecost as a time of growth?  There are many sweet picture books about nature and growth to have in a book basket, many ways to experience a beautiful garden and how we grow as Christians.  These are just a few examples.

The second thing I do is just start making free form lists with what I associate with each month – bonfire?  certain foods?  certain events in our community? certain craft  or handwork projects?  certain songs?  I get out my memories, my notes from previous years, my Early Years books and make lists.

Then I can take these ideas and plug them into a monthly rhythm and a weekly rhythm.

So, here is an example for you, but you really need to sit down and do this for yourself.  I don’t mean this harshly, but if creating a family culture is important to you, if Waldorf homeschooling is important to you, then you will try to do your own lists after you see this example.  You must be a person of initiative in order to have this be true to your own family.

So, here is my list, for example, for September: Continue reading

The Mood of Celebration

I think one of the main things that we can give our small children is a sense of life as a celebration.  I don’t mean an all-out wild party, the way we often think of celebrating today, but a mood of joy,  a mood of anticipation and wonder and a happy feeling that we are at one with nature and the world.  A mood of celebration in the small child fosters a sense of unity and commonality with nature and others.

Ideally, once you have gone through cycles of celebration with the small child, with its wonder, anticipation and joy, these cycles will continue throughout the life of the people in the family and become an embedded part of that family;s particular culture. Continue reading