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

A Plough Monday Reflection: Gathering A Rhythm That Works For You

 

It is that time of year – almost time or completely time for back to school after a long winter break  for most parents and school-aged children. Whether you have children under the age of seven, children that you are homeschooling, or children attending school outside of the home, a good rhythm provides a beautiful anchor for your year of wonder, learning and love as a family.

 

Rhythm is what anchors us as human beings into the cosmos.  Our bodies are attuned to this rhythm if only we don’t dull our feelings and forget the seasonal ebb and tide that we too participate in, even if only at an unconscious level. 

 

I propose that you start this year with some quiet meditation and prayer as to what is really working in your family, and what is not working.  How can you garner a rhythm that works for you?  Do you need to cut back on outside activities?  If you are a working single parent, how would simplifying your schedule look for you?

 

I would love to see you start with YOU.  If you, as the mother and in conjunction with your partner or spouse, can set a rhythm for you  and the adults in your family, then you can slowly help your children come into rhythm.

 

Here are some areas to look at:

  • What time are you going to bed?  Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you up before your children, even if it is just by a few minutes?  If not, what is your plan in order to keep everyone happy whilst you fix breakfast, get dressed, get organized for the day?  Can you do any of it at night?
  • What do you do for yourself and how often?  When do you find time to pray and meditate?  Exercise?  Are there things you do for yourself on a daily basis that are just for you?
  • When do you have fun with your children and your family?  Daily, weekly?   When do you get to spend time with your children and just BE with them and enjoy them?
  • What nourishing images and beauty do you have in your home? 

 

I have always advised starting with the basics of sleeping and meal times. Then you can add in nurturing care of your home.  Some mothers who really need an intensive start up beginning to a new rhythm will enlist family or friend help in order to really get their home in as much order as possible and then work with a chore and menu system to maintain their space and time.

 

Then, please do look at what your family members are doing to help nurture your home.  A basic tenant of Waldorf parenting and homeschooling is that all family members can contribute to work in the home.  What are your children doing to help take care of your home?  Smaller children under the age of six weave in and out of work, but those six and up can and should certainly have responsibilities.

 

Lastly, I think it is important to evaluate your rhythm based upon the season.  Right now, in the United States, we are experiencing winter.  Winter requires a different pace than other seasons.  Winter requires a look at sleep; the sun is setting earlier and also rising later.  How do your sleep patterns take this into account?  What about food: warming foods and even spicier foods have been traditional for winter, along with herbs that support the immune system.  Warmth for the body is very important; we look at having up to three layers on top and two on the bottom.  I think winter can also be an important time to replenish oneself, to slow down, to reevaluate.  What does this look like for you?

 

I can’t wait to hear how all of you are doing after these holiday weeks.

Many blessings,
Carrie

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

Inadequate 24 Hours A Day

 

I told my husband the other day that on my bad days, I feel like mothering is a stint in being inadequate 24 hours a day.  I can’t meet everyone’s needs; there is no way that  I, as one single faulty human being, can fully meet the needs of the other four people in my immediate family (not to mention extended family and other obligations!)

 

Have you ever felt like that?  I have gone through periods of that in my mothering where I have felt more strongly like that than others, and I am sure you have too. 

 

I am constantly encouraging mothers in this really short season of mothering and especially for my homeschooling mothers to do the best they can to slow down, to not wear so many hats and to simplify things.

 

But even in doing all these things, you probably still are not going to be able to “do it all”.  Doing it all is a fallacy.

 

I can set priorities.

I can recognize that everyone in the family has needs, and I can see who desperately has to have their needs met first or right away and then work down the list.  I can’t meet everyone’s needs at the exact same moment.

I can enlist help – my spouse, my extended family, my neighbors, my intimate friends.

I can help my children learn and take on more responsibility as they grow.

I can set aside time to nurture myself so I can be centered and calm. 

I can allow other people to also nurture me.

 

When we homeschool, I do think we so set that as a priority and give up other things in terms of time and energy…more about that in another post.   It is more important than ever when we parent, and especially when we homeschool, to find the best ways to  simplify, prioritize, delegate, and to allow the family to work as a team.

 

If I can work from this space:

Time and space in the rhythm of the day to allow for connections, and yes, to allow for when challenges occur.

Time and space in the rhythm of the school year to make up any work that didn’t go as smoothly as I originally thought.

Time and space for when life intervenes.

Less hats, less obligations because right now parenting smaller children and homeschooling is the priority.

Doing our best to plan ahead so we have the financial resources available to homeschool and parent. 

A laid-back attitude to know that this is how mothering rolls.

A good sense of humor to address the needs of children in multiple ages.

Our family works as a team, and the children have ways to contribute as well.

To remember to have fun!  This season of mothering is really small.  Fun actually is a priority!!

 

…than life flows more abundantly and more freely, and I can feel free to know life is life, no one can be perfect, and that family life has its ups and downs, its connection and fun.

 

Many blessings,
Carrie