Day Nine of Twenty Days Toward More Mindful Mothering

 

I think for many parents the ability to set limits and boundaries in a calm manner can be such a hard thing.

First of all, as a first-time attached parent, we have to learn how to surrender to this wee being and share our bodies, our time, our lives. We have to make the transition from being perhaps an outside-the-home career woman who has a schedule and deadlines to meet  and control over time to an extent to slowing down to the home environment where we are lucky to get a shower! We have visions based upon parenting books we read that the baby will sleep a lot and we will have all this time to clean our house and walk on our treadmills or something and quickly realize that is not reality with an infant. It can take time to transition into relaxing into our baby’s cues for breastfeeding, for sleep. Once we do that, and are nursing and sharing proximity in sleep and realizing that the child does not view himself as separate from us, we learn to surrender and have an ebb and flow of connection with our child.

However, then there comes the assertion of will from the child. We start to realize that the child is pushing against the forms of the day, the rhythm we have so carefully crafted. It seems so unfair after we worked so hard to learn to surrender and to connect!   Some people see this transition point as defiance, but in the land of Waldorf Education and even in the land of traditional childhood development pushing against the forms of the day is not seen as caused by  the child being malicious or trying to be devious! The child is learning, the child is realizing they are a person onto themselves.  However, this can be a frustrating time in parenting a small child because the child does have an idea of what they want, and  they do live in the moment without much thought of what happens before or after an action.    If you need further help, here is a post to help you: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

 

With our first child, we may slowly start to realize the child is not the same as us; not a psychological extension of us. We start to realize that the needs of the whole family absolutely do count and not just the needs of the child. Some parents realize these things earlier than others. Some parents come to this rather late, and because they are totally fed up and feel as if they must have done everything wrong as a parent because why else would their child act this way?

 

Some parents get truly frustrated and they say to me things such as: “I tell them what to do and they run the other way!” or other parents say, “I get frustrated because I am so mad and ready to lose it and they SMILE at me or LAUGH!” Continue reading

Part Two, Day Eight: Twenty Days Toward More Mindful Mothering

 

(You can see the first part of Day Eight here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/06/25/day-eight-twenty-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/)

 

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Watching a flower bloom is like watching a child grow in nature….their bodies growing bigger and stronger, developing all of their senses.

 

A wonderful exercise that I did in my Foundation Studies course was to draw a flower every day, bud stage through the final phases of the petals dropping.  I was drawing tonight and thinking about how our children blossom outside…

 

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Please give your children the gift of being outside – crossing streams on logs, hiking up hills and mountains, over rock and gravel, rolling down grassy hillsides and sitting in meadows and mud.  It is so important.

 

Have a blessed week,

Carrie

Let’s Talk About Raising Boys

 

Okay, so here it is:  there are many, many wonderful fathers out there.  I am married to a man who is a wonderful father.  I see many other wonderful fathers, and I am always so glad and so pleased to see them in action.

 

But I also see many men who do not lead their families in the financial or spiritual sense, who are not involved fathers, and those who, in all honesty, seem to contribute very little to the life of their families.  They also seem to be poor boundary setters for their children, and don’t seem to back their spouse up or talk to their children about having respect for their mother.

 

I am sorry, it sounds so harsh and judgmental laid out in black and white like that.

 

But my thought is this: how are we raising our boys to become men?  How are we helping them to gain responsibility, to learn how to be men?  Will they grow up and be able to provide for a family if they decide to have a one-income family due to choices when they have children?  Will they respect their wives and back their wives up and help their children treat their mothers like the precious women that they are?  Will they be able to lead their families? Will they help lead in their place of worship?  Will they help lead society?

 

I think beyond the individual family, we are facing a real crisis on a societal level.  It has almost gotten to the point where having sons seems to be viewed as some sort of strange and odd liability.  “Oh boys….all that boy energy.”  “Oh, boys, you know, they are so behind developmentally.”  “Oh, boys, you know, they can’t sit still.”  (And yes!  Not all boys are like the picture people seem to paint, although there can be true physiologic differences between the way boys and girls and men and women are wired).

 

But just let me put this out there in terms of parenting: if you expect nothing out of your boys and don’t  ever expect them to rise up and be boys of valor…well, then that could possibly be the kind of man he ends up being.

 

I think the fastest way to help boys in our society is to have them spend time with good role models (whether that is within their own family or outside of their family), and  to teach them responsibility starting from an early age. Capitalize on the industriousness of your son through work for the family. What a wonderful thing, to be able to contribute to the welfare of the family through cooking, fixing things and building things. Have your son learn these very practical skills and see the family as a place to learn to be part of a team.

 

Let’s teach our boys the manners they will need when they will become men.  Let’s set boundaries on their behavior in kind ways that do not take the consequences of one’s actions away. Let’s listen to our boys, but let’s also be crystal clear that our boys know what is right and what is absolutely wrong. 

 

Finally, let’s help our sons obtain a vision for how a man should function in our society and within the family.  That vision may be different for each family to a certain extent, but I would hope that vision would include treating his family with respect, helping to lead the family, helping to provide for his family and being loyal to his wife and his family.  Some of these qualities women don’t seem to have from their own husbands or their own fathers, but we can still hold these up for our sons and change the next generation…  Yes, the old-fashioned stuff.

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Gathering Grace

In the midst of planning, many mothers can caught up with looking at every program out there, and then extend into looking at  almost every homeschool philosophy out there. Have you ever felt like that?

It can be the same way with parenting:  such division and derision: the “mommy wars”, the strife over feeding methods, discipline methods, so many  decisions to make, so many times of wondering.  “Am I doing the right thing?  Am I going down the right path?”

Being a mother, being a parent, can be so hard.

There is a lot of talk in homeschooling circles about the formative years of birth through seven being about training the will or creating good habits.  Yet, this passage speaks of the balance to me:

In the spiritual education of children, our first concern is not to train their wills, but to attract grace – by our life and prayer – to their environment, and to let each child’s heart become attached to grace. Theological discussion with children is a very small proportion of Christian education. Prayer that God will touch them with grace is a permanent dimension of all our dealings with children, even when they are not with us.

Protopresbyter George Metallinos, recalling the holy Elder Porphyrios: ‘He told me that I must deal with one of my children by praying a lot more. He specifically said to me about that child, “Whatever you would say to that child […], say it to God. Kneel before God and through the grace of God, your words will be conveyed to your child.” About my other child, he said to me: “[…] He listens, but he easily forgets. Therefore, again you will kneel and you will ask for God’s grace, so that your fatherly words will fall upon good soil and will be able to bear fruit.”**

*Fr. Theokletos Dionysiatis, “Between Heaven and Earth [in Greek], (Athens, 1955), p. 130.

 

So, if the Early Years has another dimension outside of training wills, forming habits for the body and within the home, I believe it resides in gathering grace for our children.

We can do this through having a strong prayer life.  There are so many things where we will not know we are “doing the right thing” until our child is an adult.  Prayer is a lifeline.

We can get lost amidst the myriad of decisions, and  we can pray that we do not lose sight of the big picture of things we want to impart to our children before they are out on their own.  We can pray for that, and we can pray to have grace when we and our children make mistakes.

The base of all of this is to have peace in our hearts, and to show this to our children in an outward way that they can see through our actions. May they see us praying, reading and studying the Bible, participating in the life of the Church Year.

May we also gather grace by having meekness and quietness in how we speak to others; we must show them love and kindness.  This is the outward manifestation of peace in our hearts.

May we gather grace by living joyfully  in simplicity and in a strong rhythm.

Let us never forget that humility, meekness, serving others, joy and peacefulness are what lies underneath all the parenting and homeschooling decisions.

Many blessings as you decide things today,

Carrie

Day Eight: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

With the publication of such important works as “Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv, hopefully parents everywhere are considering the importance of  nature, being in nature, and the foundational learning that occurs from spending time in nature.

I have mentioned many times that I bank on a extraordinary amount of outside time for small children under the age of seven – three to four hours a day  is not too much, and some children may need many more hours.   Young children need the sensory experiences of being in their bodies:   pushing, pulling, tugging, lugging, digging, moving, rolling in order to establish the fundamental bodily senses as a  proper foundation for later academic experiences.

If being outside is new to you or you need some ideas about what to do outside, here is a very, very popular post regarding connecting your child to nature: Continue reading

The Follow-Up To Day Seven Of Twenty More Days Toward More Mindful Mothering

The question of the week is:   “How many activities is right for the older ( aged 9 and up) child?”

That is a hard one, isn’t it?  I bet if you asked 100  homeschooling families, you might get close to 100 different answers!  I think different families, even families who love homeschooling in a similar way,  still have different values and different ways of approaching things.

Many homeschooling families seem to be reluctant to do activities for their child over the age of nine because of the impact this has on the younger children in the family – the driving, the time involved, the financial end of things.  I do understand.  That is a consideration.

However, looking at a nine or ten year old developmentally, it is not that the family is less important to a 9 year old, but most 9 and 10 year olds are appreciative of some space and time to be with their peers, to be separate from their younger siblings, and happy to try out something new with a trusted adult outside of the family. The world is opening up, and these older children need opportunities to be a part of it in a protected and healthy way.   Other trusted adults can be an important and welcome part of a nine and ten year old’s life.

If you are planning to homeschool high school, there may another angle to think about activities from as well. Continue reading

Day Seven, Part Two: Twenty Days Toward Becoming A More Mindful Mother

 

I wanted to have a picture of this beautiful rhythm written out on a gorgeous wet on wet watercolor painting to share with you today.

 

Hmm.  Well, that didn’t happen (at least not yet).    Let me share with you my secret: I have planned, written, scratched out and re-planned my own rhythm for fall schooling at least six times now.   It didn’t seem as if it had enough time and space in it, and I felt it was so difficult to attain a balance the main lesson needs (and extra lessons! Extra lessons? ) that my grades children need along with the outside time I think they need, along with the needs of a toddler. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

 

One of my other challenges for my fun-loving and active children is that we will be moving to a new house in the fall that sits on a greenway – one of those paved paths that goes on for miles through nature preserve. Our subdivision, in fact, will be over fifty percent green space and have another nature preserve right in it. This is so exciting and wonderful but leads again to that question of balance:  how do we balance the joy of being outside, taking in nature, and movement along with that idea of “getting something done?”

 

It can feel frustrating to try to craft a rhythm to encompass all of these things.  Every family has constraints and priorities and you absolutely cannot do it all.  You have to pick and choose!   Yet, despite all the challenges,  I feel so fortunate that I can take the lead in this.  I can really take the time to make something that is not perfect but is serviceable, and something that will help us enjoy our time together (which a rhythm really affords you as a family!)

 

Space and time are the great concepts in making a rhythm that works for your family.  The smaller your children are, the more space and time there should be. 

 

So, let’s get out a piece of paper and let’s start planning:

  • Are  you up before your children?  If you can’t be up before your children because you co-sleep, what is the earliest time you could have everyone up and be sane?
  • What can you do for yourself in the morning before the day gets going?  Pray?  Read the Bible or text from your religion?  Do yoga or stretch? 
  • What do you do now?  Breakfast?  Who helps?  Who cleans up?
  • What now?  Do you make beds, and get dressed?  Do you get everyone to the bathroom and get them dressed?  Remember, the smaller the children, the more time this takes.  Time and space.
  • When everyone is dressed, what happens now?  Do you go outside every day? Or do you start some kind of work in your home that the children can help you with?

 

I think you get the idea….start small, go through your day, through your “ideal” day and plan plenty of time and space into it…If you have small children, your day will be diapering and the potty, preparing food, cleaning up, outside time in nature…these things are the fabric of daily life, of the sacred ordinary.  Why try to short change or rush through this?

 

And practice your rhythm for at least 40 days.  When you get ready, write your rhythm on a beautiful piece of watercolor paper and hang it up (now there is a good use for those old paintings!).    If you get off track during the day, look at your piece of paper and jump back in.   Don’t get discouraged.   If you have a whole day off, jump in again the next day.  If you get off for a whole week, jump back in the next week.  Just do it, and keep moving! 

 

So, I will just end this post by sharing my “rhythm in progress” with you all for a fifth grader, second grader and two and a half year old for Mondays through Thursdays, with Friday being a co-op and errand day. 

 

8:15 – Outside play/walk greenway, especially for the DOG.  LOL

9:00 or so  “All”  -Opening verse,  prayer, seasonal songs and singing, circle for toddler with older children helping, poetry recitation, mental math (have snack tray out)

9:30   Main Lesson Fifth Grader (Second grader has things to do, like help to get snack ready and help with her brother or she can sit at the table)

10: 40  Saints and Tea -  Biography of a Saint or Missionary or Read Aloud

11:00 Main Lesson Second Grader (oldest child has things to do, like help get lunch ready!)

12:00  Finish preparing lunch,  eat lunch and clean up 

12:30  Nap/Quiet Time

1:30– 2:00  – Extra Lesson – will vary depending upon block.  Envision my fifth grader having some extra lesson time M, T, W and my second grader having an extra lesson period on Thursdays

2:00-2:45   Mondays – Handwork, Tuesdays – Handwork or Crafts/Festival preparation, Wednesdays and Thursdays – Religion   — 2:45 – Ending Verse, End of School

 

I urge you to get out some paper and play with the idea of what your day would look like. 

 

Many blessings,  happy planning

Carrie

Day Seven, Part One: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

We have talked a lot about rhythm in the past; if you put “rhythm” into the search engine on this blog many posts will come up!

Again, I feel the easiest place to start a consistent rhythm to the day is to begin with bedtimes and meal times. After these things are down and consistent, then work towards regular times to be outside daily and what practical work one does on what day of the week. Then one can work toward festival preparation for whatever festivals speak to you and your family.

A rhythm is not a scheduled noose around your neck but rather an idea of what occurs when and a way to keep a balance in your day of in-breath and out-breath.

Many wee people under the age of 7, because they are or should be living in their bodies, do not get nearly enough outside time. I would say four hours a day is not in the least too much for the under 7 child! This time is out-breath, but there should also be time to have quiet time, listen to a story or other in-breath activities within the day. There needs to be a balance for the small child who often is prone to excess in either wanting all out-breath or all in-breath activities. You may need to look at yourself and see what you tend to model as well! Do you display a good balance of in- and out -breath?

There are two other issues that frequently come up with the subject of rhythm. One is that the mothers themselves who have irregular rhythms and perhaps have childhoods that were devoid of rhythms have difficulty with the whole concept. They truly feel it is like the noose around their neck! Remember, a rhythm is not a schedule with times – it is a flow of the day, of the week and of the month.

So, I would say to those mothers is that a rhythm is adjustable, but also a great opportunity to work on YOURSELF. Can you get to bed at the same time every night? Try it for ten days and work on your own self-discipline! Then work on your morning routine, your meal times and the whole notion of quiet time. Baby steps!

The second issue that comes up is “How Do I Fit Everything In?” Well, here is the rub. You cannot do it all! I still find mothers of children under the age of 7 are planning too many things within their homeschool, and also too many outside activities.  Plan enough time and space in your day.  If you have three or four children under the age of five, your day will literally be meals, diapering/potty training/self care in the bathroom, preparing food and eating, outside time, sleep and rest.  The other things can wait.

Here are some brief notes about  running around outside the home, and things that take time, in no particular order:

  • How can you simplify things?  Who can help you?  Can you run your errands for groceries once a week either on a weekend when your husband can keep the children? Or could you go at night after the children are asleep? Or could your husband do the grocery shopping? Can you have dry goods delivered to your door? Would a friend be willing to do part of your list at one store if you do part of their list at a different store if you feel you must go to two stores?
  • What about health-related errands? Many folks have chiropractic or homeopathic appointments or allergy shots or something that has to occur weekly. How will you fit those in?  On this note, I have had several friends go through really discouraging health care crises this year without a  lot of support from their immediate family.  If you are in this position, who can you ask for help? How many hours a day does it honestly take to take care of yourself and where do the children fit into that?  It will change the rhythm of the day immeasurably.
  • For those of you who are never home:  how many things are you personally involved in? And how many things are your children involved in? Because let’s face it, whatever your children are involved in are also your activities (on top of the activities you feel are really your own!)
  • Do you have anything for yourself at all? I think this is important as well; something to call your own!
  • What age do your children get to start activities in your family? Many mothers seem to sign their smaller children up for something because the older children are doing something. This is not a good reason to sign a four-year-old up for something! It may be better to say, “Yes Jimmy, and you will do something like that too when you are seven like your big brother!”  I have also written on this blog before about how a four-year-old, a five-year-old, etc can be very content with simple things as opposed to lots of outside “field trips”. They will get so much more out of excursions to places when they are over 7. When they are four, a whale shark at the aquarium may hold their interest for a few minutes and then the child down the aisle who has a piece of gum, the woman’s red sweater and the whale shark all register about the same on the Awe Scale. Think about it carefully and watch and observe your child.
  • The caveat to all this is that children who are 7 and 8 years of age and older, while still needing protection from fatigue, DO need to start getting out and seeing some things. Every family will handle this need differently as they balance the needs of the younger children to be home, but it is worth thinking about too.  I see some homeschooling families where the older children are not involved in anything at all, whether this is due to finances or family preferences.  Our nine and ten year olds are interested in friends and activities.
  • Where is the space for physical activity for the older children? Older children, especially those nine and up NEED to get their energy out.  If your children are having a hard time controlling their tongues, (!!), which I hear a  lot of complaining about from the parents of those children in the nine year change and beyond,  it may be an issue not just of needing real work and responsibility, but also needing to MOVE their bodies. They still need a lot of time outside, and whilst I know many homeschooling families shun sports, I have personally found it helpful for my ten and a half year old.  I think this depends upon the child, the coach/the sport – choose carefully, but do know that children tend to get more sedentary around the age of nine and ten (many of them want to sit and read, or draw, or sit some more)  and I feel sports with other children along with lots of playtime with other children is a perfect way to combat this.  That is just my opinion, and you may feel completely differently!

Again, there are many, many posts on this blog about rhythm and creating rhythm. Have a look under the rhythm tag in the tags box.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Day Six, Part Two: Twenty Days Toward Being A More Mindful Mother

Part of the routine of sleep and rest could include a wonderful warm bath.  I would like to talk today about creating essential oil baths, which are mentioned in both “Awakening Beauty:  The Hauschka Way” and in the book “You’re Not The Boss of Me!  Understanding The Six/Seven Year Transformation”.

These are not oil dispersion baths, which are typically prescribed by doctors trained in athroposophic medicine and used to overcome illness.  In the book, “You’re Not The Boss of Me!” there are several descriptions of the use of essential oil baths by a class teacher for children who were needed protection (ie, the bath as a balm to a very rushed and stressful family life), those needing softening (those children who are so logical who have really little inkling of childhood in them), and those needing protection because they are so very sensitive.  Essential oil baths promote the sense of warmth, and engage the physical body in warming.

Even though this is an article about mindful mothering, I am going to veer into preparing baths for children for a moment because I am certain there is interest in that here. Louise deForest writes in an article regarding children and essential oil baths in the book, “You’re Not The Boss Of Me!  Understanding the Six/Seven Transformation” on page 71:  Continue reading

Day Six, Part One: Twenty Days Towards More Mindful Mothering

Sleep and rest are extremely important cornerstones of Waldorf parenting and education, Today we are looking at the areas of sleep and rest.  Waldorf Education is the only educational method I know that takes that old adage, “Sleep on it, “  and moves it into the realm of learning as a true aid and help.  But outside of its educational value, sleep and rest seems to be one area that many parents seem to struggle with, especially attachment parents.  If one goes to any of the attachment parenting groups and forums on the web, inevitably sleep disturbances come up as topics.  I do think that parents who have young children, especially those children under the age of six, are often just tired no matter what way they parent!  So, let’s take a closer look at sleep today and see if we can improve things for all members of the household!

 

First of all, what a very Waldorf perspective gives us (and I think reading biological studies of sleep in infants, children and those in primitive societies back this up as well!) is that a small child may be born without much rhythm to their sleep and wake cycles. Continue reading