Summer Stories and Summer Nature Table

Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with summer and the small child under the age of 7:  is it better to keep the Circle Time/Story Time intact and going or to take a complete break?  Some mothers decide to stick to one or two seasonal songs and fingerplays and not do a full Circle Time, and to still tell a story a few days a week.  They leave the other days open for outings in berry pickings, lake swimming, creek exploring or beach fun.

There is one festival coming up to prepare for, and that is St. John’s Tide.  You can read more about  summer and  that particular festival here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/01/celebrating-summer-with-small-children-a-waldorf-perspective/  and here:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/09/midsummers-day-st-johns-tide-day/

To me, this is a very important festival.  It is the day in which the sunlight hours begin to actually decrease, and exactly a half year later we celebrate Christmas.  The book “Festivals With Children” by Brigitte Barz has many interesting suggestions regarding how to celebrate this special day and its significance.  She recommends a festival table set with a picture of St. John with a white lily to the left of the picture and a rose to the right of the picture to represent the beginning , the innocence of man versus the earth, the transformation of man into the future.

This book makes a beautiful comment about the Feast of St. John on page 74-75:

John the Baptist was the one who prepared the way for Christ.  He serves this function still today…”The way in which the inner soul of man is to be prepared is indicated by Luke’s invocation of the prophet Isaiah:  Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.” (Luke 3:4f)  Mountains and valleys are not only external objects of nature, they are also images of conditions within the soul.  We experience them in the life of feelings, as we swing between the heights of jubilant ecstasy to the depths of depression and despair.  The task of John is to hold the balance between these two extremes…..Of course, we cannot present the powerful words of John to children, at least not their content.  However, we can provide an image for them of the path of  inner development, in the form of the lily and the rose.”

Here are some suggestions for stories and songs.  Please add your favorites in the comment box!

Summer Stories:

  • For the five and a half and six year old:  “Goldener”  and “The Three Oranges” found in “Plays For Puppets” by Bronja Zahlingen.
  • “The Castle Under The Sea” for ages 6 and up – see Main Lesson
  • A simple “Midsummer’s Eve” story of half a page can be found in the Wynstones Summer book.  It may work for ages four and up depending upon your child.
  • “Holidays” – a story in the back of “All Year Round” for the pre-school child
  • Suzanne Down had a lovely story about a fish that was in a back issue of Living Crafts…Does anyone out there remember the exact title or issue?

Stories For the Feast of St. John:

  • The Six Swans by Brothers Grimm (ages 7 and up)
  • The Goose Girl by Brothers Grimm  (ages 7 and up)
  • Faithful John (ages 9 and up)
  • The Journey To The Sun, a Slovak folktale (ages 7 and up)

(These recommendations come from the book, “The Easter Story Book” by Ineke Verschuren)

  • St. John’s Gift in the Wynstones Summer book – ages six and half and up

Songs for Summer:

Song of the Midsummer Sun found in “All Year Round” – page 106

“Over In The Meadow”

Activities:

  • A St. John’s Tide walk
  • Inner work for the adult around raising our children with reverence and gratitude
  • Making Herbal bath bags, collecting and drying herbs
  • Making rose petal jam and rose petal sandwiches  – see “All Year Round”
  • Making a gold spiral or suns to hang up – see “All Year Round”

The Nature Table:

Beehive with bees and Summer Fairies for St. John’s Tide

For a more regular summer nature display, shells, a sand castle made from starch and wet sand, little boats of bark and twigs, little birds or swans with a pond are all suggested in the book, “The Nature Corner” on page 51, older edition.

Hope that helps you get planning.  For those of you wanting to read more, there is a little book entitled simply, “St John’s:  An Introductory Reader” by Rudolf Steiner where Matthew Barton has added commentary that may be valuable to you.  An important thing for Christians to do would be to attend church and celebrate this wonderful day!

Please take what resonates with you -

Many blessings,

Carrie

In These Dark Days

January can be such a difficult month in parenting.  The days can be dark and long.  Much of the U.S. has been under sub-zero temperatures, and that can make days with small children rather long indeed.  This can be the kind of month where mothers are feeling tired, cranky, even depressed or overwhelmed.

This is a good month to focus on the importance of warmth: warm thoughts, warm deeds, warm and gentle hands, quiet voices, warm clothing, warm foods. 

This is a good month to make sure you, Mama, are at  your peak physical and mental health.  Get those Vitamin D and thyroid levels checked; get screened for depression if you think that may be a possibility; menu plan for nourishing food.

This is a good month to tweak your rhythm or change it entirely.  What will your older child do whilst your younger one is trying to go to sleep?  What will you do to get out physical energy if you are stuck in the house because it is literally that cold? 

This is a good month to revisit singing and music to warm the atmosphere of the home.  Some of you have emailed and asked about music resources.  Here are a few of my favorites (if a book, also includes CD’s because I know some of you may not be able to read music!):

This is a good month to do some story-telling.  Try Suzanne Down’s Juniper Tree Puppetry website and sign up for her email newsletter:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/blog/

For inspiration in story-telling, how about this book by Nancy Mellon called “Body Eloquence”?  http://www.amazon.com/Body-Eloquence-Power-Awaken-Energies/dp/1604150289/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296213082&sr=8-1

This is a good month to do some some art with your children.   Pink and Green Mama reads this blog and has 400 projects on her website here:  http://pinkandgreenmama.blogspot.com

This is a good month to get ready for February festivals!  How about getting ready for Candlemas (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/29/the-magic-of-candlemas/),  Chinese New Year (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/09/chinese-new-year-in-the-waldorf-home/) or Valentine’s Day? 

Many blessings,

Carrie

What To Do With Homeschooling In December

Homeschooling in December can be challenging!  I find most mothers who do not plan to take most of December lighter or off completely feel burned out and then end up taking some or most of the month off anyway.

Many veteran homeschoolers will tell you that they plan in advance for December to be a great month of cooking, crafting, perhaps doing a lighter rhythm of school with math only or with activities revolving around the holidays.

I think this is a smart idea.  So many homeschoolers feel completely burned out by this time of year, and attempting to homeschool on top of all the cleaning, cooking, baking, crafting that goes with the holidays seems to put so many mothers on edge.  This is the time of year many mothers start posting on the Waldorf boards that maybe their children really need to go into Unschooling more or that Waldorf homeschooling is not working for them.  I doubt that is really what is needed, it just feels like it this time of year!  I wrote a series of posts last January about Waldorf and Unschooling, so if you are really curious you can look there, but sometimes I think what we all really need is a break.  Our bodies naturally are connected to the inner grace of this time period in the cycle of the year.

The Twelve Holy Nights between Christmas and Epiphany are a welcome time for me to read and dream and plan more than usual.  It helps me recharge for the next part of the school year. I hope you will plan to get some time for reading and relaxing yourself!

If you are searching for ideas for December Homeschooling, I suggest the following:

Marsha Johnson has a December block on her Yahoo!Group that encompasses a week of Hannukah studies and activities, a week of the Three Wise Men and a week around the Winter Solstice.  You can get this block for free by joining her Waldorf group:  waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com

Many homeschooling families also seem to use these two units from Elizabeth Foss over at Serendipity:

Christmas and Advent Around the World: http://www.elizabethfoss.com/serendipity/2010/11/christmas-and-advent-around-the-world.html

Tomie de Paola Christmas:  http://ebeth.typepad.com/reallearning/advent-and-christmas-with.html

What do you all like to do during December in your homeschool?

Many blessings,

Carrie

September Linky Love!

I just wanted to send some love to my top ten referrers…thank you all so very much.  You all inspire me!

Here is the TOP TEN:

  • aresohappy.squarespace.com
  • thewaldorfconnection.com
  • untroddenpaths.blogspot.com
  • simplicityparenting.com
  • ancienthearth2.blogspot.com
  • catherine-et-les-fees.blogspot.com
  • ourdayourjourney.blogspot.com
  • eileenspace.blogspot.com
  • chelseab.typepad.com
  • blumieboys.blogspot.com

 

I have been reading those, and here is a spot I have been enjoying as well:  http://www.anthromed.org/  I have also been enjoying re-reading “Kingdom of Childhood” for the Christopherus study.  Is anyone else over there?

And, I am soliciting ideas for what you would like to read in this space.  It is always a bit of a challenge, because some people read this blog for homeschooling, some parents don’t homeschool at all and read it for parenting inspiration….some people read this blog for information regarding Waldorf parenting/homeschooling and some people just skip that…You all keep me on my toes!  I just consider this a parenting blog that melds all my interests, passions and areas where I have some knowledge and I hope some of it helps someone…pretty simple.  :)  Anyway, please do let me know what you would like to read more about.  There are now over 640 posts on this blog, if you can believe that!

Love to you all,

Carrie

The Days of Summer

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Hope your days of Summer are going well!  Here are a few pictures of our favorite Summer activity – thank you to my dear friend Samantha Fogg of Work +Play Dog Training (http://workplaydogs.com/) for taking these shots. 

What you probably cannot tell  is that in the second picture our dog is towing the children back to shore.  Our dog just finished an introductory carting class and will soon be starting water rescue classes.  She is a good dog.  And no one is wearing sun hats in these pictures because no one would keep them on.  Such is the challenge of Summer!

Much love and many blessings,

Carrie

Some Quick Autumn Ideas For Waldorf Homeschool Kindergarten

I wrote a post some time back regarding tales for Autumn for Kindergarten here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/03/favorite-fall-tales-for-waldorf-kindergarten/

I was thinking about that post, and thinking about things I personally associate with Autumn.  It seems as if almost every Waldorf-y resource includes squirrels, chipmunks, leaves and acorns.  But here are a few other ideas:

  • How about a mouse and an apple house?  My homeschool group is getting ready to do some wet/dry felting to make a little apple house with two mice.  I also like the verse in Suzanne Down’s “Autumn Tales” book about  a mouse and  a spider who live in a little snug pumpkin house.  How cute is that for October!  You could turn that into a whole story – practice those storytelling skills!
  • How about something to do with deer in the forest?
  • For those of you at the beach, what is changing with the color of the water or the animals you are seeing?  Perhaps you could reflect that in your homeschool tales or nature tables.
  • I love geese and turkey for November, and notions of bears getting ready for a long Winter’s nap.
  • How about a groundhog (woodchuck) eating apples from the orchard and getting ready for Autumn and Winter?  I saw this idea in this sweet little book:  http://www.amazon.com/BLEST-CELEBRATION-Mary-Beth-Owens/dp/0689805462/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282352427&sr=8-1   There is essentially just a short poem to go with each month of the year.  I think you could easily turn this into a sweet little story. 

What do you associate with Autumn in your part of the world and how will your homeschool reflect that?

Many blessings,

Carrie

The July Doldrums- AGAIN?

Ah, it is that time of year!  The time of year when I want to flee out of the Deep South and go somewhere else!  (And since we just returned from vacation, I guess that won’t be happening, sniff).  Last year I wrote out some simple steps to help mothers deal with the July Doldrums (yes, this an official name now, LOL).  Here is that back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/31/down-and-out-the-july-doldrums/  and here are a few more ideas, suggestions and thoughts:

  • How has everyone done with establishing a Summer Rhythm?  If you have small children, they really cannot be left to just wander the house in the Summer and “find something to do” – essentially because this leads to the “Summer Bickering and Fighting”.  Summer can be a more expansive time, but please do be sure to plan some daily rest times and predictable bedtimes as well!
  • This is a great time of year to connect your children to nature with catching fireflies, swimming in lakes and oceans, hiking and camping.  For some more inspiration, please do catch this back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/01/celebrating-summer-with-small-children-a-waldorf-perspective/

On the home front, perhaps these posts will give you all some inspiration.  Here are a few oldies but goodies that perhaps you have not read if you are new to this blog:

  • How about focusing on your home?  One thing I do every Summer is go through my WHOLE house, the closets, the garage, the drawers, that storage upstairs and try to get everything in order for the upcoming school year.  Perhaps this post will serve as inspiration:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/12/is-your-home-a-sanctuary/
  • Need some parenting inspiration?  How about these posts?

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/16/mindful-parenting-practices-that-every-parent-should-know/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/08/embracing-and-uplifting/

Need some more inspiration?  Out in blog land, I am  enjoying some of Melisa Nielsen’s posts – this one on patience is worth a look: http://waldorfjourney.typepad.com/a_journey_through_waldorf/2010/07/are-you-patient.html

How about some Arts and Crafts?  The other blog I am really enjoying for all the wonderful arts and crafts ideas is from one of my readers!  Please see here for some great art projects:  http://pinkandgreenmama.blogspot.com/

Enjoy your Summer! (or Winter as it may be Down Under! :))

Many blessings,

Carrie

A Summer Parenting Project For You

Some adults say they are not religious, but that they are spiritual.  So, my question for all of us to ponder today is how we make our religion and/or our spirituality evident to our children through  ACTIVITY?  A child is about DOING.  How does your child see you express your religious and spiritual views?  Do you even know what these are?  And, if not, can you figure them out?

I like what Donna Simmons has to say in her Third Grade Syllabus regarding festivals:  “It seems right to me that as a child develops a new relationship to authority and to his sense of self and place in the world, hallmarks of the Nine Year Change, he needs opportunities  to deepen his relationship to the spiritual worlds.  And what is most important is that this take place via you, your family and your community.  Your child needs to see his parents and significant adults standing strongly in their beliefs.  It might be that some day your child’s path takes her quite some distance from your beliefs, but her first steps need to start from standing firmly beside you.”

I urge you to make one of your projects this summer to explore your own religious and/or spiritual beliefs – really figure out what resonates with you!  Then, can you use the summer to explore places of worship or other venues where you can be with people who have the same spiritual beliefs you do?  But the catch is this:   that place, that venue should  also  be a community  in which your children can participate.  Yes, this has to be something the family participates in, the child participates in, and something the child can see and do. 

The other catch is that you cannot bring your adult perfectionism to the table or your past experiences.  Pick what resonates with you from a clean slate and leave your baggage behind!  Try it! 

Children need this place of religious and spiritual orientation to start from.  Give them that boat to start in and show them which way to paddle.  If in the future, if they decide to throw away the oars and jump off the boat, that is okay – but you at least are giving them a place to start. 

A great meditative summer project!  Would love to hear what happens!

Many blessings,

Carrie

A Plea For Summer Vacation

In Waldorf Education, we have vacation in the month of December, we have two whole weeks around Easter, and we take a true Summer Vacation.

Summer Vacation in the United States seems to almost be becoming a thing of the past.  The shelves of Barnes and Noble are crammed with workbooks so your child will not be “ left behind”; every parenting magazine I pick up talks about reading and summer contests for reading so children don’t lose the ability to read; so many homeschoolers I know homeschool  through the summer months….

Ah, but I think in so many ways it is productive to focus on things other than the eyes as connected to the brain during Summer!   Summer is this time when we gloriously live in our senses and take in Nature and all of Creation in this beautiful running stream!  Why would we not work with this time of year instead of trying to work against it?  Growth occurs in the Summer in the body, in the way we process things through those twelve senses!  There are so many things to be learned in the Summer that  one cannot learn from any book and there are  so many skills to develop!

Here are a few examples:  picking fruit from thorny vines and having the sticky juice run down your arms, traveling to the lake, the mountains or the beach and walking barefoot over the sand or tree roots, weeding in the garden in the hot, canning, building, bonfires on St. John’s Tide, camping, fireworks, eating watermelon, swimming in a really cold lake.

If you must focus on something, my plea is to focus on the physical, the practical.  If your child is over five, can they swim really well?  Ride a bike?  Roller skate? Climb a tree?  Traverse the monkey bars by themselves?  Do they help with canning?  Can they clean?  How can they  help with camping?

Most of all, whilst the children play, this is your time to get your house in order for fall, your time to plan your fall homeschool year, and also your time to be outside making joyous memories with your family.

So, my plea is to make this a true vacation, but also to have a balance.  Please speak with your spouse and have at least once a week (or more!) in which you can plan for fall.  Sit down with a calendar and don’t plan to be out every single afternoon – also plan some time to get your house ready for fall.  Slow and steady wins the race for we adults…

But please let the children be on break!  They will come back tan and tall and ready to learn!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Summer and Preparation

Someone recently asked about how to get everything done and specifically  how I get everything done……You all know I don’t think we should be too hard on ourselves, because small children are only small once and you really cannot get things done with the same efficiency as you did prior to having small children around.  I certainly don’t get everything I want done, and I work in very small chunks of time, ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there.

However, even though we know we cannot get it ‘”all” done, we also know that if we have older children, there are some things that just HAVE to get done.  I do think it is important to plan in homeschooling, especially when you have multiple children that are older.  It is just too difficult to “fly by the seat of your pants” when you have babies and toddlers and older children, and with older children, there are skills to be acquired in their education.  Waldorf is rigorous!  More about homeschool planning in a minute…

From a parenting perspective and from  a Waldorf perspective, we also want to do things that build up our own inner life so we will be better parents and better teachers.  From a Waldorf perspective, we know that working with small children uses up our etheric forces, our life forces.  I think even non-Waldorf parents would agree that taking care of small children sometimes can be challenging and draining.  So one important thing to do in your summer planning is to consider activities that will replenish your etheric life.  In Waldorf, we often think of this as artistic activities:  art, music, handwork, drawing and painting.  Eurythmy  actually takes tremendous etheric forces and should not be done by pregnant women or women with children under the age of three as your etheric forces are so vitally tied to your small child.  Other ways to help your etheric body include warmth in the chest area, warming foods (some would say “rich” foods) and I would add sleep; really getting into a rhythmic pattern for your own sleeping and waking.

I have written many times that I do all my homeschool planning over the summer so it is all done by the time we start school in the fall.  I  mainly do this at night after my children are asleep because I do plan on the computer, or sometimes I get a half hour where the baby is asleep and my husband takes the older children to the pool or the park and I plan then.  I try to plan homeschool things for a half an hour to two hours a week over the Summer, and just work in those small but consistent chunks.

Reading Steiner is an important part of preparation for homeschooling, and if you are parenting, reading books regarding gentle discipline is very important to keep your mindset focused. Reading can be done in very small chunks indeed.  Lisa’s YahooGroups are studying “Practical Advice to Teachers” and also “Bees”…Please see here to join the fun!  steinerstudygroup@yahoogroups.com is the link for the “Practical Advice to Teachers” study group!  Even reading for five to ten minutes a day is better than nothing!  Slow but steady!

The other piece, for me at least, is I go through every single space in my home over the summer and declutter and move things and get everything tidy.  I have a small house, and with three children, “stuff” can really take over and pile-up if I am not consistent with it all.

So, in the summer, pretty much I work on the house in the morning in small spurts between fun with the children, in the afternoon we go to the pool and swim until we are ready to drop, and at night, at least for four nights a week I do homeschool lesson planning or my own work for a little bit before my husband and I spend time together.  We also plan “fun days” of going to the lake, or taking in a puppet show, or berry-picking and canning, but we also spend a good amount of time at home.  I tend to have my husband run the errands, or I do them around dinner time for an hour here or there.  I try to limit errand-running as much as possible!

I don’t know if that structure would be helpful to you, but in this summer I encourage you to think how you could get organized and prepared for  fall.  You will be so pleased how everything will be ready come fall!

Many blessings,

Carrie