Cultivating The Energy: The Inner Work of Advent

A mom wrote in and asked what to do with a household that i s very calm and soothing, a household that is very conducive to rest but really needs a kick of energy!  What to do?

I think one thing to think about is this issue of balance. There  is an anthroposophic meditative exercise called The Preview where you essentially run through your day in your head before you really get up.  So, I would encourage you to make this part of your meditative practice.  When you run through your day in your head, where are the points of energy?  Where is the music, the singing, the movement. the running around outside, the scrubbing of the floor, the work? 

Many children need help in being quiet, but I also have run across quite a few who are only quiet and are very content to sit and look at book after book or draw for hours and hours on end and would prefer to be inside rather than outside expending energy.  Sometimes this is necessary, for example, if you live in an area where the weather is truly frigid and you cannot get outside, but I would also encourage you to look at balance.  Can you promote movement inside with very active circle times or singing games?  Can you set up an obstacle course inside?  Most of all, if your children are under 9, can you structure the environment so they have active things to do and put up the books and crayons and such that they come down only at certain times?  Balance, balance, balance.

Getting everyone together several times a day to sing and play singing games is an excellent way to promote some energy!  If you have forgotten all the singing games from your childhood, “Lavender’s Blue Dilly Dilly” by Mary Thienes Schunemann has 28 singing games in it: http://www.naturallyyoucansing.com/books/lavender.htm

Other mothers I know in this situation have had success in looking at themselves.  Think about your own energy and where you are.  Are you stuck?  We want things to be calm at home, but I also think when we model to a child that during “down time” we are always sitting down knitting or reading as opposed to singing a song while we scrub something or grabbing a shovel and heading out to the garden, we send a message as to what kinds of activities are important.  Our children are the great imitators!  What kind of energy are you showing your children?

If your own personal energy is lower than you think it should be, please try this post to assist you:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/06/making-yourself-a-priority-in-the-parenting-equation/

I think energy is also seasonal though as well. In the Northern Hemisphere, this just seems to be the time to hunker down and enjoy the warmth of inside right now, with increased energy and vitality to come as the days warm.  Bringing in the light with the Winter Festivals is an important shift of energy for our yearly rhythm.  

Look toward the balance of your day and your activities,

Carrie

Cultivating the Quiet: The Inner Work of Advent

Donna Simmons stayed at my house a bit back, and one of the things she commented on was how quiet our house is after seven at night.  The house is dim, you can hear the wind or rain outside and the house is quiet with small snoring sounds coming from the dog :) and/or children.

This comment led me to think of the tone of our home, the energy of our home.  What is the energy like in your home?  Does the energy in your home change over the course of the day? What changes the energy in your home?  Is your home quiet during the day t any point?  Are your children ever quiet or just going, going, going? 

I think there are three main stumbling blocks to achieving quiet in the home.  The first one is visual clutter, and I think with the holidays right around the corner this is an important one to consider.

I wrote this post last year at this time (click here for the full post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/23/holiday-gifts-for-children-how-much-is-too-much/ ).  Here is part of that post, referring to gift-giving surrounding the holidays:

Unfortunately, in our society, the person(s) many families are most likely to spend the most money on are their children.  Whew.  I invite you to make yourself a cup of tea, and have your husband take your kids to the park for a few hours.  Now go into their rooms and the playroom and look at the amount of stuff that is there.  Seriously.  Count the number of puzzles they have, the number of pairs of shoes, how many bags and boxes of craft supplies there are. How many board games do they have?  How many dress up clothes?

The first step is always the hardest.  I invite you to think about purging at least a third or more of your toys this holiday season.  If you cannot purge them all, or you do purge all the junky made in China plastic toys and have some nice open ended toys to keep, here is a thought for you.  Some families pack up toys and  put them away somewhere.  Then they rotate the toys so only a few things are down at a time.  The toys can be changed out either monthly or seasonally.”

Where are you going to put the new holiday things? Think about that a bit this week! I would like to challenge you to use some of this time to de-clutter your physical space.  It seems every good Waldorf Early Years teacher worth their salt  knows that when a child is starting to get wound up, just straightening the space around the child helps shift the energy and is calming.  Think about your child’s room, and how you could make that a calming space to relax.

The second challenge to achieving quiet is VERBAL clutter.  Stop sharing so many details of your adult life with your child!  Even a seven, eight or nine-year old does not need to know many of the things we” overshare”.  It is only in this day and age we have the expression “TMI”!     Can you share your adult conversations with adults, and your children conversations  with your children?  Keep asking yourself, does my child really need the ten minute adult thinking process of how many outside activities they can do and why, about the child down the street and why their family does X and we don’t, about this and that.  Really?

Think about how much space and quiet you are cultivating between your words.  Model for your child your thinking in silence, drawing a conclusion after thought, and then saying your thoughtfully worded conclusion (not the thought process).  This a wonderful skill for a child to see!

The other place to reduce your verbal clutter is to stop asking them how they feel.  Children under the age of 9 change emotions on a dime, and to put too much weight on how they feel at any given moment is an awful lot of pressure.  Kim John Payne talks about this in his book “Simplicity Parenting

On page 199, Kim John Payne writes this wonderful food for thought:  “Children under nine certainly have feelings, but much of the time those feelings are unconscious, undifferentiated.  In any kind of conflict or upset, if asked how they feel, most kids will say, very honestly, “Bad.”  They feel bad.  To dissect and parse that, to push and push, imagining that they are hiding a much more subtle and nuanced feeling or reply, is invasive.  It is also usually unproductive, expect in perhaps making a child nervous.  While young children have feelings, they only slowly become aware of them.  Until the age of ten or so, their emotional consciousness and vocabulary are too premature to stand up to what we ask of them in our emotional monitoring and hovering.”

There is much more in this section about emotional intelligence and how this develops, is fascinating.  “(Emotional intelligence) can’t be bought or rushed.  It develops with the slow emergence of identity, and the gradual accumulation of life experiences.  When we push a young child toward an awareness they don’t yet have, we transpose our own emotions, and our own voice, on theirs.  We overwhelm them  For the first nine or ten years children learn mainly through imitation.  Your emotions and they way that you manage them, is the model they “imprint”, more than what you say or instruct about emotions.”

Here is a worksheet to review your level of “information simplicity” with your child from Kim John Payne’s website:  http://www.thechildtoday.com/files/SimplicityReviewForm

His book is just excellent, please see the link for it on Amazon here:  http://www.amazon.com/Simplicity-Parenting-Extraordinary-Calmer-Happier/dp/0345507975/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260846766&sr=8-1

So many of the things we talk about on this blog are here in this book;  I am sure you will enjoy Kim John Payne’s writing.  His stories of working with parents and helping parents with their challenges are amazing!  Read this book and enjoy!

If you need more help, please see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/14/stop-talking/

and this:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/

Remember Carrie’s Golden Rule:  The less you say, the more weight your words will hold.  Smile and be warm, give hugs, but try less speaking and more listening!

The third challenge to achieving quiet is too much PHYSICAL ENERGY.  Mot children under the age of 9 need hours outside running off steam.  Without getting that physical energy out, you are setting yourself up for children who are bouncing off the walls and who cannot be involved in something focused; it also sets one up to listen to a lot of chatter!

Calm, quiet times,

Carrie

Cultivating the Early Bedtime for Yourself: The Inner Work of Advent

I have to confess, I am not a morning person.  In college, I was pretty rhythmical and got up at 6 AM almost every day in order to go workout, but I also didn’t have to talk!  I am working hard to go to bed and get up and be pleasant, LOL.  (Again, I don’t mind being up, it is more the being up and talking :))  Are you a morning person?  Are you up before your children?

In order to have any sort of a chance to be a morning person, you have to actually go to bed at a decent time.  And to go to bed at a decent time, you have to get off your computer, stop your reading or knitting, and go to bed!  Many mothers I know seem to have no problems setting limits on the TV, but have difficulty turning off the computer or putting down their crafting.  What are your own limits for your computer time??

One thing that helps many mothers is to have a nighttime routine.  This may include making sure the kitchen is cleaned up, having  things ready for homeschool the next day, having clothes laid out for family members, taking a bath or shower if need be.  The morning sure goes so much easier when you prepare the night before!

Many mothers ask how they can get up early and ahead of their family if they are co-sleeping; in other words, the minute they put their feet on the floor their child wakes up.  That is frustrating and a challenge!  One thing I think about it is what if you used this early time to sit on a chair in your room with a small booklight and use this early time, even if it is only ten minutes, to read something that is uplifting to you?  This season of your children being small and co-sleeping will not last forever!  Your child is a precious gift, and I think when we can just approach this with a “ho-hum” attitude that “Mommy is awake and doing her special work” rather than “I can’t believe this child is up again!  I never get any time to myself!” things go so, so  much better.  Think positively on the fact that your child may sleep or rest and give you ten minutes to start this special work on preparing yourself to be a good Mommy for the day!  I think too, if you can be persistent over time, your child will see you are not up doing anything “fun” and may at least learn to rest through this time.  Too often we give up after only a few days of trying!

Some mothers say they cannot get up early because their children are already up so early.  This too, is a season that will not last forever.  How about trying to get up even 15 minutes ahead of your children?  How about using a special night light that tells children when they can be “up” and that they must rest in their beds until that light is on……Here is an example of one my husband’s friend created: http://www.goodnitelite.com/index.php?page=product   He gave us one to try yesterday and we tried it last night.  Our girls really liked it, because they knew when it was time to get up even though it was dark outside and my oldest, who is an early riser, didn’t seem to feel so preoccupied with checking the time every few minutes to see if it was time to get up.

Some mothers say they don’t want to go to bed because this is their time with their husband.  I understand that; I love my time with my husband as well!  However, one trend I notice is that husbands and wives are on their separate computers at night for several hours and then come together for talking and intimacy.  How about trying to shorten your computer, reading, crafting, or TV time so you can be together or plan to spend time together first?  Isn’t your relationship with your spouse much more important than your reading time?

Some couples also have designated nights to work on things on the computer or in reading material, and designated “nights off” where they just come together!  How wonderful!

Going to bed and being refreshed benefits you and your whole family!

Happy meditating on this important subject,

Carrie

Cultivating the FUN: The Inner Work of Advent

Why is it that FUN is the first thing that often seems to run out the door when trying to “get it all done”?  I alluded to this in my last post about trying to put people before things, think about this time with small children as a season so as to not get so upset that every single thing is not being done from scratch right at this point.  It takes time to build traditions in the family, your children will  be watching you for many years as you build up the time you spend crafting, sewing, knitting, as they grow!  They will not remember that when they were two years old you did not knit all their winter sweaters by hand!  I promise!

So  where is the FUN??

I think FUN should be as much as a priority as crafting, sewing, cooking and cleaning.  And judging from the mothers I speak with, this is an area that is highly challenging for many of them and  they find this  difficult to develop.  “I just am not silly.  I can’t be silly.”  “It is hard for me to relax and spend time with my children without seeing everything else I should be doing.”  “My husband is the one that really can get down on the floor and have fun with them!”

Okay, yes, but  think back to some skill you had to learn – knitting, sewing, parenting in general! etc.  Did you just throw up your hands and say, “I can’t knit!  I just am not a knitter!” My point is that these things take time to develop.

Here is my Advent Adventure for you.  And here is the best part:  you only need ten minutes a day!  Set a timer if you have to, and set aside five minutes a day to just roll around on the floor with your kids climbing all over you.  Maybe the dog will join in!  Call it Monster or whatever you want to call it and just hug each other and wrestle and have fun!  If that doesn’t appeal to you, how about a five minute game of hide and go seek or tag?  Or five minutes of horsie rides?

For your second five minutes, try to cultivate a playful and FUN attitude whilst you are doing some of that work.  Make pancakes as part of a restaurant, do laundry as part of a pretend dry cleaners, use a silly voice, sing a silly song whilst you are doing something.  Too often we show our children that work is not fun; show them that anything can be fun if one has the right attitude!

Be in Joy this holiday season!

Carrie

Cultivating The Ability To Stay Home: The Inner Work of Advent

Usually a post on this topic causes a response to well up inside one’s soul, either because it is an area one feels passionate about or it is an area of intense difficulty and challenge.  I wrote about this awhile back in this post:     http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/but-when-i-stay-homeeverything-falls-apart/ and feel it is time to examine this issue again.

In the Early Years of Waldorf, the years some would call “Waldorf Preschool” and “Waldorf Kindergarten”, a child should be firmly entrenched in the home.  A typical parent in today’s society equates exposing their child to lots of different places and things in the Early Years to further developed language skills, social skills and other Advanced Things.

I would like to put forth something different.

What if this beautifully enriching environment could be your own home?  A beautiful, peaceful place of rhythm, of oral storytelling and singing, of artistic endeavors, of outside time in nature?

It can be, but it requires work on your part.  It requires careful evaluation of outside activities and the ability to say “no”, which is often difficult.  It also involves coming to terms with the idea that your child is not missing something but not being involved in ice skating lessons, art classes, choir practice, drama, soccer all at one time.

Someone wrote regarding my post on “Hopeless With Waldorf” (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/12/hopeless-with-waldorf/)  that they could not believe I advocated for no classes, no playgroups  for a four-year-old.  I have discussed playgroups at length on this blog – I do believe  that most  playdates (which typically are playgroups)  are usually more for the parent than the child at any age under four and a half, and that even ages four and a half, five and six are often rocky ages for friendships.  Reading any text on normal child development for these ages will point this out.    The best socialization for a child of these early ages is still with the family, and then perhaps a one on one playdate in a natural area that begins with a structured activity and then progresses to free play where parents are involved in watching their children and helping their children socially “work things out”.  If a mother needs support due to being under parenting stress and such, and that occurs at a playgroup, then I would say I am for that – anything that provides the mother support so she can make a comfortable home for herself, her spouse and her children, but to weigh that with how the child behaves after a playgroup and to work with that and be responsive to that.

In many areas, there are many, many options available for homeschoolers.  In my large metropolitan area, there are all kinds of classes for homeschoolers – art, music, academic classes, homeschool sports, and the list goes on.  All of it sounds wonderful, but often requires further investigation.  First of all, because we are Waldorf homeschoolers, often the classes for the Early Years are pushing academics or things that just come later in the curriculum. We must evaluate if this is okay and valid, or not worthy at this point.

We must also look at the impact of being outside of our homes many days of the week for activities on top of  going to a co-op or grocery store and running errands if we must bring our children to these places as well.  Weekends may also involve going out to church or somewhere else.

I am not an advocate of isolation, I am far too social  and extroverted myself for that!    But, if you can spend the majority of your days at home you will notice your days relaxing into a flow, your children being able to find something to do without you directing it, and your children will stop asking you, “Where are we going today?”

If we can nurture the ability of the child to have balance, to be able to rest after lunch and go to bed early, to be comfortable being by oneself and yes, later in a group, then we are working toward Balance.  There are so many children that are over-stimulated at an early age by classes and activities they really do not know how to be alone, how to create their own play and how to be comfortable alone.

This is also important practice for moving into the Grades for homeschooling, where one needs to be home to accomplish academic work.  A Main Lesson plus other extra lessons can take at least part of the morning, and if one has multiple children to homeschool, the entire morning and even the early part of the afternoon may be needed to finish (especially as one moves up in the grades!)  For the Early Years and even the Early Grades, it is also  important the child has unhurried time in nature and for free play, for their own pursuits.  This is an extreme advantage of homeschooling, but often one area parents must work to take advantage of.

As this year comes to a close and the New Year begins, I urge you to look at and list your outside commitments and see if all are necessary or how you could free up more time just to be home.  On the flip side, if you are home all the time and you have older children who now do need to go a few places and have friendships that have become very important, I urge you to look how you could accomplish that and nurture that.  Friendships become important, and as homeschoolers, we often have to work to have opportunities to meet with other like-minded families.  The world does open up, and an older child should be going to the museum and doing some things outside of the home. Now is the time!

Happy meditating on this important subject,

Carrie

Wreaths Across America

 

CHRISTMAS AT  ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY –This was sent to me by my dad.  Thanks Dad!

Arlington National Cemetery

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Rest easy, sleep well my brothers.

Know the line has held, your job is done.

Rest easy, sleep well.

Others have taken up where you fell, the line has held.

Peace, peace, and farewell…

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Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths — some 5,000 — are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine . The owner, Morill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He’s done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one of the poorest parts of the state.

Here is a link on the Worcester Wreath Company about their involvement in the Wreaths Across America program: http://www.worcesterwreath.com/News/ 

I don’t know if any anyone out there orders a wreath for the holidays or not, but please consider ordering one from this company or ordering a wreath on behalf of a deceased veteran here:  http://wreathsacrossamerica.org/.  It looks like now there are places in all 50 states where wreaths are placed.

Thank you, Morrill Worcester, and the Wreaths Across America program for your service to our deceased veterans. 

Many blessings,

Carrie

This Week in our December Waldorf Homeschool

This is the quick snapshot peek into our recent days with our Second Grader, Kindergartner and seven-week-old:

On Monday, we got up and went for a walk.  My almost five year old can now ride a two-wheeled bike all by herself and is excited about trying this out each and every day!  We came home to jump rope to jumping rhymes and snack.  Then I took out my flute and we did a little circle for Advent tailored to my Kindergartner and I told the story, “The White Bird”.  Then we launched into my second grader’s Main Lesson, which really was a combination of Math from November that we are a bit behind on with a new baby in the house and Language Arts for December. The Math Lesson we did was review of some times tables through movement, and then we did the story and freehand drawing for the sixes times table from Dorothy Harrer’s  math lessons book.  This lesson is about a King and his six sons  living in a six-sided kingdom and the drawing progresses from a hexagon to a six-pointed star to finding the triangles within the hexagon-star.  Each of the colors used in this drawing relates back to certain soul qualities and was exceptionally lovely (This lesson is copyrighted or I would share more, but it was beautiful!).  Then my second grader copied a poem about Winter into her Poetry Main Lesson Book after we stood up and recited it together.  After that, we started our Saints block with a story about Saint Nicholas.  Then our German tutor arrived for some much-needed help and we made plans for Advent crafts and baking as part of our German lessons.  During my oldest child’s Main Lesson, my younger one was eating more snacks, playing with a wooden dollhouse and then I gave her butcher block paper and markers to draw roads for her wooden mini- rollie car.  After our German tutor left, we ate lunch, had some quiet time and did some Advent crafting! 

On Tuesday, we jumped rope to begin and we have also been drawing with our feet once a week for my oldest (although my Kindergartner likes to watch this!)  We did our Kindergarten things and then we pursued more math by reviewing all times tables we have covered so far (with special emphasis of those 6’s from yesterday and the relationship between the products of the 3’s times table and the products of the 6’s times table) with jumping and stomping, snapping and clapping, bean bag tossing.  We also went back and reviewed time and copied a poem in our Main Lesson Book for remembering seconds, minutes, hours, days. My oldest then had another poem to copy in her Poetry Main Lesson Book about Winter and we re-visited the story of Saint Nicholas with some vocabulary/spelling words that I wrote on the board.  Then we made cookie dough and put it in the refrigerator and played indoors and outdoors the rest of the day!  We also made a no-cook salt dough recipe, but it was not nearly as nice as the cooked kind.  I had a little story to go with the making of the salt dough.

On Wednesday, we started with Kindergarten things again and making a peace dove for our Christmas tree with a star on the forehead just like White Bird in the story.  We went into math, reviewing place value that we already covered with the help of Donna Simmons’ squirrels and moving into adding two and three digit numbers with carrying (my daughter’s request to practice, so we did several blackboards full of problems I made up of the top pf my head) and ended by introducing the 11 times table.  Then my oldest copied the 6’s times table into her Main Lesson Book  (Not the best three day rhythm for math at this point, but playing catch-up has kind of thrown me off!).  We re-visited the story of Saint Nicholas and drew a picture with a summary in the Main Lesson Book and reviewed all the spelling/vocabulary words from the previous day.  Then our Spanish tutor arrived for some reading.  After  lunch I read a chapter from the new Gnome book by Sieglinde de Francesca called “A Donsy of Gnomes”. (http://www.teachwonderment.wahmweb.com/store/ – I promise I will do a review of this book at some point on this blog!)  The first story is about Pebble, who gathers bits of fallen stars and grows them into crystals as a crystal gardener.  It was pouring down rain, and I happened to have one of those “grow your own crystal” kits in my closet so we pulled that out so we could be crystal gardeners too!   After that we cut out cookies from the cookie dough we made yesterday in star shapes and I told the story of “The Smallest Star” from Seasons of Joy’s Advent Ebook.  The rest of the day was for playing and building forts and giant train tracks all over!

And somewhere in all this was not only the sweetest little baby :) but also two needy dogs and the household chores. 

Just a quick peek at part of our week,

Carrie

Cultivating Boundaries: The Inner Work of Advent

Like so many of my posts, they just come to me in a spurt of doing something else and I am drawn to sit down and write.  What came to me today is this notion of working on boundaries, and today I would like to talk about boundaries for ourselves.

I see so many mothers who seem to feel almost defeated by parenting and homeschooling, or often feel apologetic for “not doing more”.  I think we need to set a boundary on our own negative thoughts!  Why we are kinder to strangers than to ourselves??

When a child is learning to walk or ride a bike, we provide support and encouragement, not a bunch of comments that will tear that child down.  Let’s vow to give ourselves that same kind of  support and encouragement as we learn and grow.

I have spoken with mothers who literally cannot find one nice thing to say about themselves.  If this is you, ask the people who know you best what nice things they would say about you, your best traits and your best talents.  Write it down if you have to!  Affirm yourself, and have confidence!  You are a wonderful human being and a wonderful parent!  Your child picked you to be their parent for a reason!

Let us also learn to set boundaries with those who are negative toward us.  People who quiz our children on what they are learning in homeschool, people who have only negative things to say about the way we do things or our opinions need the boundaries that we provide them!

Stop expecting perfection out of yourself, your family and your homeschooling.  No one is perfect, yet how often do we act as if the world is coming to an end when things don’t go as we planned?  We all do the best we can do at that moment with the information we have at the time.

And do not compare! It is very easy to look at more experienced homeschooling families who have older children and think they must do everything perfectly.  Every family and every homeschool has its own strengths and weaknesses; just like teachers in a public or private school have their own strengths and weaknesses.  Be content that your children are right where they should be!

Cultivate a few good, trustworthy friends; the kind of friends who will tell you if you are doing something that really does need a second opinion!  But most of all, learn to trust yourself.  Pray and meditate, learn to trust what God is telling you and learn to trust your own gut responses.  How often we negate our own responses to things instead of being confident in our own intuition!

Let your quiet confidence lead you!

Carrie

Cultivating Rhythm: The Inner Work of Advent

I hear from many mothers of small children who are concerned about their ability to homeschool because their lives are “chaotic” without much rhythm.  They wonder, can I homeschool if I am hopelessly disorganized and lacking in rhythm?

My first answer to this is to be easy with yourself.  If you have three or four small children under the age of 5, know that your life will look so much different than when those same children are much older.  Be easy, forgive yourself.  Sometimes it really does deserve a medal just to get through the day with everyone fed!

However, my second answer to this is yes, think how one can cultivate order and rhythm out of chaos.  Please don’t just throw up your hands and give up and not try.    Children by their nature are often irregular and need your help to obtain some kind of rhythm to their days and weeks.  And yes, Waldorf homeschooling in the grades will certainly be much more successful if you have basic rhythms for rest, food, outside time in place!

In Waldorf, rhythm is extremely important. Steiner recognized 12 senses (if you need a remedial on this, please hit the “12 senses” tag in the tag box).  We look for development for the lower four of these senses during the first seven year cycle in particular and rhythm is important in developing three out of these four senses – The Sense of Life, The Sense of Movement, and The Sense of Balance.   The Sense of Life is the Sense of Well-Being, of feeling “all is well with the world”, a sense of wonder and awe, an inner flexibility.   On The Association for A Healing Education website, Nettie Fabrie, who I believe is a Waldorf Remedial teacher on the West Coast, was quoted as saying that children who do not have this Sense of Life/Sense of Well-Being often have feelings of being unsafe, of fear and of guilt, sometimes with heightened addictive tendencies.  The Sense of Life/Well-Being has direct correlation and development to the Sense of Thought later on.  The Sense of Movement provides qualities of industry, purpose, healthy purposeful movements, connectedness to the body and knowing where one’s space is and ends. I am a physical therapist, and in one sense we would call this the proprioceptive system, but it also is so much more! The lack of  Sense of Movement can manifest itself in children as failure to pick up nonverbal or societal subtleties, depression and inwardness, inattentiveness and fidgety movements.  The Sense of Movement is intimately connected to language later on.   The Sense of Balance provides a feeling of inner balance, an ability to move between tension and rest, a sense of appropriateness, the ability to calm oneself, the ability to give focused attention.  An obvious lack of development of this sense would include impulsivity, inability to slow down, inner agitation.  The sense is connected to the Sense of Hearing later on.  Obviously, this is a glance at this topic, but something to consider and think about.   A sense of rhythm is one thing that is very important to developing all three of the four of these lower senses! 

In practical terms, the foundations we lay are the foundations that our children may keep later on and come back to, even if they are rejected at points as the child grows.  I liken this to this small example:  I had one child who dealt with sleeping in a sling a lot with no set nap schedule, and one child who had a consistent nap schedule.  Guess which child took naps longest?  The one where it was part of the routine.   I am not saying rhythm is the only reason why this was so, but rhythm certainly can be your helpmate.

Rhythm can provide you with a balance.  If you never take time to care for yourself, always going from one thing to the next until you fall over at night, how will your children learn balance?  They are watching and imitating you!  Remember, rhythm is not about a Schedule with Checkboxes.  But it is about a general order, a general flow and that balance of rest and energy, tension and ease.

Here are some open-ended questions regarding rhythm:

  • Do you have rhythms set around mealtimes and rest and bed times?
  • What is your rhythm for  your own inner work, your own work you may do for pay, and other roles you may play besides Wife and Mother?
  • What kind of rhythm do you have for spending time with your partner? 
  • Do you have a general rhythm for taking care of your own health?
  • What is your rhythm for homeschooling?
  • What is the rhythm for balancing being home and being outside of your home?  Are you always going, going, going?  Do you find it difficult to say no to outside things?
  • Do you have seasonal rhythms?  What festivals speak to you –why and why not?

Perhaps as part of your work during this Advent, you can meditate on the concept of rhythm and what that means to you, what it means to your children, and how what rhythm means to you and your children may change as your children age.

Many blessings and peace on this wonderful Advent night,

Carrie

Cultivating Gratitude: The Inner Work Of Advent

There is a lot of buzz these days around the word gratitude.  Gratitude journals, counting things to be thankful for, making lists of things we are grateful for before meals, an Attitude of Gratitude,  have all been popularized.

Gratitude is an important piece of this time of year, and a work for exploring the inner soul of Advent.  As a Christian at this time of year, I have gratitude for  a Creator who  experienced  life as a mere man.  He is always accessible and ever-present within me, as He has walked this path and experienced the heart ache, the challenges, the temptation, the joy and the sadness of being human.  Such openness and intimacy in that relationship.

John F. Kennedy reportedly said this:  “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

How often do we fail to live up to that highest challenge?  How often do we complain to our girlfriends about what our husbands don’t do?  About the challenging spots our children are in developmentally?  About the never-ending chores of maintaining a home?  The never-ending planning for homeschooling and the actual hours spent in lessons, sometimes with children who seem far from appreciative?

How can we live in gratitude?  If we can model this, then our children will surely imitate what is in our hearts.  Our home will have a different tone as we do this. 

To me the key is this:  if I can radiate a positive attitude within  myself  no matter what the circumstance, then I am expressing gratitude.

A mother within Melisa Nielsen’s “Be A Beacon” program had a wonderful idea regarding stopping negativity. She said one thing to consider would be to wear a bracelet, rubber band, etc on your wrist and if you had a negative thought, just take it off and switch it to the other wrist.  No judging, just move the bracelet. The goal, of course, would be to see how many minutes, hours or days one could keep the bracelet on the original wrist.

Back to JJFK’s statement!  This week, can you show your family how much you appreciate them?  Even better if you can do this with joyous action, not only  words.  Show your spouse how much you love and respect them.   Show your children your respect and love for them.  Enjoy cleaning your home and making it nice for your family!  By taking care of the people, pets and things that we love, we are showing our gratitude that they are in our lives.

Is there someone that helps bring back the spark within you after it has been extinguished?  Your spouse, for certain, but perhaps also a close friend?  Does that person know that?  It is never to late to tell them! 

With your children, can you start to cultivate gratitude in them?  An excellent start is by modeling a positive attitude and taking care of your family and  environment in a joyful manner.  Then, can you reach out to help others in your neighborhood, within your circle of friends or within your community?  This helps to build gratitude and appreciate for what gifts we have and can use to help others.  Every day, bit by bit, year by year, we build our children’s hearts.  Let us be thankful for the opportunity!

Many blessings,

Carrie

PS – Please see Melisa Nielsen’s excellent comment below!  It is not too late to join her program if you are interested!!