These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: February

Generally, February is one of my most hated months of the year.  There.  I admitted it.  However, this year I am determined to change my own attitude and find all the beauty in this month of love and kindness!  Who is with me?

February starts out with the beauty of Epiphany , the fun of Carnival, the love of Valentine’s Day and then we go into the Lenten season of quiet and silence.  This should make for a beautiful month!

Here are some of my favorite things this month for our family:

  • The festivals!

Candlemas  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2016/01/31/beautiful-meditative-candlemas/

Chinese New Year:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/09/chinese-new-year-in-the-waldorf-home/

Valentine’s Day

Lent:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/18/lent-in-the-waldorf-home/

  • Fostering Community.  We stayed at home more throughout the fall, but recently added in some Waldorf based classes two days a week for our smallest child.  I am looking forward to seeing beautiful people who love Waldorf homeschooling several times a week now!  We also joined a homeschool field trip group and we have not many field trips planned, but a few.  For us, this is a small miracle because I am not a very field trip oriented person as much  as I would like to be.  We have already been on several field trips this school year and have a few more planned.  Hopefully, the love of community will keep February looking bright!
  • Fostering health -keeping all of us moving and outside should help keep all of us happy.  We are having a little activity challenge to make movement one of the first things in our day after breakfast and chores.  We hope to instill a habit in our children to take care of themselves daily with movement that will stick as they grow older.
  • Kindness – in this month of love, I want to really emphasize kindness and manners. Manners are just a way we show kindness to one another.  In small children, this is done through modeling.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers  can receive more direct instruction.

Here are a few of my favorite things for small children:

  • Rest and sleep.  I think February is the perfect month to focus on rest and sleep and solitude.
  • Working with beeswax.  It is sweet to set up a little scene with natural objects, make a little something out of beeswax and add it to the scene, and then let your little one try!
  • Changing the nature table.  We changed ours this week to coincide with Candlemas and we have on it a picture of St. Offerus.
  • We also have a little bare tree, but with a few bees, to remind us of the gifts of the bees in our beeswax candles of Candlemas, a little wooden groundhog, a wooden angel to remind us of Lent, and some small winter animals.  During Lent, we most likely will add a bowl of mixed soil and ash that will remain empty until we plant some seed for an Easter garden, and a little vase of bare branches or pussy willows.
  • Focusing on ME modeling good manners and kindness, and clear thought by my clear speech.

Here are a few of my favorite things for older children:

  • Celebrating Lent by creating a mood of silence and quiet each day.  This can be getting up early to see the sunrise, it can be taking a few minutes before bed with a lit candle, it can be understanding more deeply what goes on in church during the Lenten services.  It can be learning new prayers or about a new Holy Man or Holy Woman.
  • Learning to cook simple meals that are in the spirit of Lent – more plant-based foods, less sweets, more simplicity.
  • Focusing on ME modeling really good manners and kindness, and clear thought by the way I structure my clear speech.
  • Vigorous exercise.  The children I have noticed lately ages 10 and up are fairly bouncing off the walls.  This is the age to have opportunities for the children to move!

Here are a few of my favorite things for teens: 

  • To talk directly about sacrifice during Lent.  An idea of perhaps not just “giving up” in the traditional sense (“I am going to give up candy”) but this idea of what we really want to cultivate that is hard sometimes.  Cultivating kindess and inclusion, even when we don’t want to.  Cultivating perseverance.  Cultivating a good attitude when we just want to be snappish.
  • Vigorous exercise!
  • Creating things of beauty for the home during this time. I especially like rose windows and transparencies.  Teens are really able to do these well!

Here are a few of my favorite things for my own health:

  • Adaptogenic herbs.  I am not a herbalist, but I have been reading Susun Weed’s books and putting together some teas for my own usage.
  • Follow up from any doctor’s appointments from last month where the results need follow up.
  • Simple, clean meals for Lent.
  • Vigorous exercise!

Here are a few of my favorite things for homeschooling:

  • Double check materials if you didn’t order last month and get re-stocked.
  • If you don’t have your start and end dates, vacation dates, blocks and length of blocks planned – get moving!  Make a goal to plan at least two or three blocks this month, so order the resources you need to be able to do this.

Please share what is inspiring you this month!

Blessings,
Carrie

Block Layout Plan for Sixth Grade Waldorf Homeschooling

This fall will be my second time through sixth grade.  I have a plan made of our block layout and thought I would share for anyone else getting ready to start planning sixth grade.  This is only one way of many ways to do this, of course, but perhaps it will stimulate some of your own ideas as well.

This is what I am planning on doing:

Physics – 4 weeks

Geometry – 3 weeks

Business Math – 3 weeks

Roman History – 6 weeks

Christmas Break

Medieval History – 4 weeks

Astronomy – 3 weeks

Medieval Africa and Japan – 3 weeks ( an out of the box block!)

Mineralogy – 4 weeks

European Geography – 3 weeks

 

How is your planning coming along for fall?  If you get your start dates, end dates and vacation dates planned, you can start planning out your blocks and how long you think they may last.  Then you can start getting resources and digging in to the flow of a block!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Depletion and Hibernation

Today is Candlemas, also known to some as Groundhog Day.   I often think of that little groundhog this time of year, venturing out to see if winter will continue for another six weeks.  It made me think of the periods of winter in my life and how sometimes I felt ready to venture out of the hibernation hole to test the waters, and how sometimes I decided I needed longer in my hibernation hole or, conversely,  that yes indeed, now was the time to seize the day!

Have you ever gone through periods where you just felt so….shy? inward? … depleted?  like you needed a break from other mothers in real life or beautiful blog pictures that make you feel unworthy as a mother?  Periods where you needed a break even from extended family?  So much judging goes around mothering in our culture.  We are all like little isolated islands without much in the way of support so what should be a cooperative endeavor ends up as a competitive event! Sometimes we just need a break from anything outside of our families and our homes because we are plain burned out.  Have you ever been pulled that way and honored it for a season?

A little hibernation and shutting out of the outside world can be a way to lie fallow for awhile.  Pulling in allows a little of the pressure to slide off, a little pace of slowing down, and a release of not having to put oneself “out there” for anything but the most supportive listening of the closest and most intimate of family members or friends.

We are coming up to Lent soon.  Perhaps during this Lenten season, you will take the time to pull in and hibernate, but not due to any outside pressure or insecurity.  Perhaps this time you will pull in and take this time to restore yourself.

Restore your confidence.

Restore your feelings that you worthy of love.

Restore your feelings that you matter.

Restore your feelings that you are just right the way you are.  If you want to improve or change something do it  because you feel illuminated and led to, not from any feelings of unworthiness or shame or guilt.

Restore your physical health.  Sleeping enough, exercising, eating healthy food, taking care of yourself are all things to be done so you can be a light for your family.  And your children notice.  You are modeling for them how to slow down, how to get enough rest and how to be healthy.  It is worthy.

Restore your positive attitude.  Life should be joyful; there should be joy in ordinary moments.

Restore your sense of fun!

Restore your faith in something much, much bigger, wider and deeper than yourself.  Where do you find light?  Seek out your light.

Restore your sense of love, compassion, empathy.

Restore your sense of the big picture.

Restore your vision, mission and priorities.

Don’t be afraid to hibernate, but do it to restore, renew, refresh yourself.  I will be hibernating with you, and refreshing myself and my deepest intentions and priorities.  Please share your hibernation journey with me.  What has helped you restore the most in your moments of hibernation? What helped you come out of your shell again?   What did you learn in the fallow periods?

Love,

Carrie

 

Beautiful, Meditative Candlemas

Candle candle burning bright

Winter’s halfway done tonight

With a-glowing we are knowing

Spring will come again

-Candlemas Verse, Unknown Author

Have you ever been just so weary?  So exhausted?  If you have tiny children you see those sweet little bodies to fill with warming foods and coaxing into rest and sleep; if you have elementary-aged children  you are helping to balance burgeoning minds with wonder and bodies with rest and exercise; if you have teenagers maybe you are dealing with restless energy heading toward an uncertain future…and in between all of this you are cooking, cleaning, nourishing a spouse or partner perhaps, and maybe trying to take care of your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs so you can be on your game to do it all again tomorrow.

I feel your weariness.  I feel your exhaustion .  I feel you trying to hold on in order to nourish everything and everyone in your life.

I think Candlemas (February 2nd) feels this too.  Candlemas is this beautiful, quiet, still pause to remind us of hope.  Spring will come again.  Light will come to the world.  Newness can grow out of old.  Growth can come out of weary.

Candlemas can be the most lovely day to start with a beautiful breakfast of sunny yellow pancakes or crepes.  Candle dipping is such a meditative activity for the day; a gesture of bringing light into the winter of the world and the winter of our souls.   Other ways to work with candles include making earth candles, floating candles, or rolling beeswax candles.  We can offer stories of our friends the bees who give us fragrant, smooth beeswax as their offering.  We can offer this as a time of the half-way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.  If you could have a bonfire, that could be a beautiful way to end the day.

If you are looking for some more ideas regarding this festival, here are a few back posts regarding the Feast of St. Brigid, Candlemas and Groundhog Day.

I have a few other suggestions for this day.  Perhaps this would be a beautiful half-way point to survey yourself.  What is your self-care?  Where are things between you and your spouse or partner?  How much sleep and exercise are you eating?  What can  you do to nourish yourself on this special day of light and love so you can shine light on and love your little corner of the world?

Love to you on Candlemas,

Carrie

 

 

 

Four Steps Toward Parenting Together

I have heard it said that parenting involves not just thinking alike, but thinking together.  Parenting in a relationship means that the needs and thoughts of both parties have to be considered and communicated and compromised upon.  It is hard work, but I encourage you to do the work.  If I have parents reading this who are in their 20s and early 30s, I really want to encourage you to do this work now.   I am in my 40s, and unfortunately there are many divorces going on amongst beautiful couples that we know – but most of the divorces had roots from when these couples were in their late twenties or early thirties.  So, I would like to share five tips for those working toward parenting (and unifying other aspects of their life as well!) together.

  1.  Parenting is just one aspect of how a couple communicates, respects and appreciates each other. I think “parenting” comes up as this hot button – whether it is breastfeeding, c0-sleeping, educational choices, discipline – but it really is a facet of: how do we communicate as a couple; does my spouse or partner respect me by listening to me and respecting my ideas and opinions as well; do we appreciate what each one of us brings to the table in this process?  What do we both really value most for our family life?
  2. If communication skills and compromise are difficult and you both feel as if you are just going over the same thing in a circular fashion with no compromise or resolution, get help from a third party (earlier rather than later!).  Many counselors work on a sliding scale, and many places of religious worship offer counseling as well. This chapter (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2012/08/26/overcome-gridlock-the-seven-principles-for-making-marriage-work/)  in Dr. Gottman’s book about overcoming gridlock could also be helpful to you as a process at home.
  3. Have a set time to address challenges that are coming up in family life.  When is actually a good time to talk through things that are important, where you can focus together without being interrupted?
  4. Cultivate some patience.  Not every issue in attempting to co-parent or be unified always works out in compromise; sometimes the differences are still there but they are livable differences.  Sometimes opinions change as one partner models things and shares with the other partner.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Stop. Yelling. Forever.

Kindness begins in our homes and in our own hearts.  Yelling sometimes happens, but yet there is nearly always another way to handle situations rather than yelling at our children.  Yelling often reflects our own inability to control our own frustration, or fears, or the helplessness and frustration we can feel if the child is repeating the same behaviors over and over despite every boundary.

This is the time of year when there are many “stop yelling” challenges or promises of so-many-days-to-stop-yelling.  I guess there can be merit in kick -starting something and bringing it to the forefront, but just like “diets” and “working out”, one has to choose to make this a lifestyle, a consistent habit, a way to approach things for all time, not just for a designated period.  This is because how we respond to our children matters. It really does.  We will not be perfect, but we can make not yelling the absolute standard we are trying for, and replace that with connection to our children.

To stop yelling, there has to be a commitment that yelling is  just NOT the way to handle things.  There typically is not much productive communication with yelling.  Usually that is just the end stage when everything has “gone beyond” where the parent wanted it to be.  It is the last resort, the last car of the train.    The other piece needed in this quest is the forgiveness of oneself and the grace to keep to that ideal when things don’t go as we want and we make a mistake.  Parenting involves grace.  And trying again.  And trying harder.

With small children ages 9 and under, you can replace yelling with these things:

Rhythm.  There are so many back posts on rhythm on this blog.  Rhythm is discipline. Rhythm helps you set boundaries, make decisions, lets children know what is to come so they can relax and be secure in that.  Rhythm is your friend, yet few parents in this day and age seem to view it that way.  I promise that rhythm will help you feel more relaxed and confident in your parenting.  It will help you not yell out of frustration or feeling overwhelmed!

Talk in pictures to your child, and use physical movement with your pictures and rhymes embedded in your rhythm of the day.

Inner work for yourself.  Getting up before the others in your house, or catching quiet time after lunch, so you can recharge mentally and emotionally is really important.  Having small children can be a great time for hands-on growing in patience.

Commitment to your own health (and not perfection in outside things). I find many times mothers are yelling, because quite honestly, they are not getting any help from their spouse or partner.  They are not sleeping enough, they are trying to do way too much with tiny children about.  This is not a race, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In the world of Waldorf, there are jokes about how everything has to be organically grown and processed by hand and all this.  Yes, in a classroom, with a team, with beautiful things that have been made over a span of twenty years, this is possible.  It may not be possible at home with four tiny children under the age of six.  Be easy with yourself.   Listen to your own voice.  What is most important for you?  What is MOST important for your child?  You are not a bad mother!

Calm.  Can you keep things calm, especially for the 7-9 year old?  They don’t need a million classes or  a million places to be.  That is just stressful for everyone!  They need time in nature, time to freely and deeply play, and time to just be.  Can you give them that?

Have a plan for the bad moments.  When everyone is yelling and screaming, what is your plan?  When you are trying to get dinner on the table, what is your plan?  What triggers you the most and what can your response be instead of yelling?

If you cannot find a compassionate response to your child, what does it take for you to get to that compassionate response?  Can you delay talking about things?  A boundary can be the most compassionate thing that needs to happen, but can you be calm in setting the boundary?   That is the key.

For children ages 9 to teens:

Space.  Children this age can still be on top of  you and chattering.  Sometimes we just need space. A walk.  A bath alone.  Ask for help.  Ask for space.  Check your own health.  I still find many mothers with children of this age (who may also have little ones still) can be very  depleted  health-wise, which impacts how they feel toward chattering and mess and everything else!  What are your thyroid and hormone levels? Your Vitamin D levels? Are you sleeping?  What are doing for yourself?  It becomes vitally important to re-discover pieces of yourself if you lost this along the way with younger children.

A rhythm of how to do things, including cleaning up.  Yes, it  takes work to get to that point, but I find one reason mothers of children this age yell is that the children create a trail of mess from building forts or legos or skateboard ramps …and leave a trail of half finished projects every which way that somehow ends up the sole responsibility of the mother to clean up .  Everyone can clean up, everyone can pitch in, and  it is okay to set boundaries on where mess will take place.  In the family, we all work together.

Opening the outside world.  Some yelling for parents for this age group seems to happen in regards to pushing boundaries about the “outside world” over and over and over…especially for those ages ten to twelve (and I think girls more than boys? Boy moms, please comment!).  Decide ahead of time — Yes or no?  Decide how important it is for  you to keep things low-key in this  age -range, and why and how you will do that.  What are the boundaries? What is the balance between child activities and family activities or adult-alone activities?  If you open things more widely  now, what will the “openings” be in the teen years?  Decide things now.  Older children of 11-12 and through the teenaged years may not feel like they fit in anywhere, and it is your job to hold steady.

Inner work for you.  What are the values of your family?  What does your child really need at this age?  What is most essential?  How are you walking the walk for what you most want to see in your children?  Rhythm is an essential key to reflecting what is most important in your family – if it is important, but no time goes to it in the rhythm of the day or week, then it is a great sign for re-alignment.

Younger Teens (ages 13-15):

Communication in conflict. The number one reason parents write to me about yelling at their children in this age range is how teens immaturely try to communicate when they are in conflict (ie, talking back, trying to use “logic” but they don’t really have stellar logic yet, etc).  Teens need help knowing how to resolve conflict, how to apologize – the parts of an apology, how to be an effective communicator.  It takes time to develop these skills, and the neurobiology of the brain needs to catch up.

Anger.  Teens often get angry with their parents and feel misunderstood.  How will you handle the anger of your teen?  Does this call forth triggers for you that cause you to yell?   How can you turn anger  on both the sides of you and your child into communication?

Responsibility and Accountability.  Teen are often headed into a phase where things “count”.  Grades may count for college, projects count towards grades, etc.  Time management skills are still being learned, and parents often are yelling when everything is down to the wire for projects or things.  Pressure can make everyone feel snappy. How can you diffuse this?

Rhythm and physical movement are still really important for the teenaged years.  This can really decrease stress, decrease anger on all sides, and lead to reduced frustration.

I would love to hear your best tips for not yelling.   Please share and help all the other mothers out there.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

Weeks Seventeen and Eighteen of Homeschooling Eighth Grade, Fifth Grade and Kindy

We are still here in January, awaiting snow or ice or some combination.  For the Deep South, even a tiny amount of precipitation shuts things down ( mainly due to ice), so it will be interesting to see what happens.  This weekend I planned to gather with some fellow homeschoolers to talk about our experiences in  homeschooling grades 5-9, so I hope that still can happen!

We have been busy the past few weeks – hiking a lot, horses, and two new choir ribbons earned!  Very exciting indeed.  We have been reading a lot, and drawing and building by the fire and just enjoying this month.

Kindergarten – So the past two weeks have really seen us trying to step up “work of the day”.  Lisa’s e-courses are always great at getting me back on track when I feel things are sliding a bit  and I am so appreciative.  This month is on play (plus rhythm as always) and it has been very in-depth and enjoyable learning.  We have been vacuuming, baking bread, dusting, cleaning windows, filling birdfeeders, painting, modeling, finger knitting (and yes, our kindergartener really wants to knit on needles like his big sisters), and making winter crafts like little suncatchers to freeze overnight and then hang up in our (sadly, one and only) tree.  We have been hiking a lot as well.  Our circle is still a Winter circle, and our story has been “Shingebiss”, which is one of my absolute favorites.

Fifth Grade – Ancient Egypt has been great fun.  We ended up with a wet on wet painting of the Land of Egypt and a summary, a painting of a Pharaoh, a drawing of a pyramid, a beautiful drawing of a man gathering papyrus and we have modeled pyramids .  We have listened to  all the tales of Isis, Osiris, Horus and Set; read the book “Pyramid”; played with hieroglyphics and the Rosetta Stone,  and we are now finishing up “The Golden Goblet”.  This week we moved into Ancient Africa, mainly the land of Nubia and also the Mbuti and the San.  Next year we will pick up with Hatshepsut, Aksum, Great Zimbabwe and more.  Right now my main goal was to point out that Africa was the cradle of civilization.  and  that there were many things happening on the African continent.  I just love Africa and look forward to covering more and more in these grades 5-8.

Lastly, we started at the very end of this week to cover just a bit about the Phoenicians.  Sixth Grade Rome makes more sense if you have just a tiny bit of background about the Phoenicians, I think.    Next week we will start a little math block involving the Ancient Americas and chocolate that I wanted to do in fall and it just didn’t happen.  So,  looking forward to that.

We have been working hard on spelling and math, and drawing and painting.  I hope during our math block we will do some more writing about the Ancient Americas as well.    We are also doing some handwork and reading aloud as a family.    That is nice for winter!

Eighth Grade – We are wrapping up physics. We did many experiments regarding the nature of air, the use of a clinometer, and made many flying objects and experimented with those.    We looked at the biographies of our children’s great-grandfather, who was a test pilot; Amelia Earhart; Ruth Elder; Bessie Coleman and the Tuskegee Airmen.  We got many books out of the library and have been having fun discussing everything from parachutes to hang gliders to jet planes.  We have learned the aviator alphabet and worked on portrait drawing as well in this block.

In World Geography, we are wrapping up Latin America.  We reviewed all the political and geographic features of Latin America,  a little about NAFTA, and our eighth grader chose a country to make a travel brochure.  We also are reading about the Panama Canal and a summary on that will go in our Main Lesson book.

Our next block is actually Geography of Asia, so that will count toward World Geography credit hours for high school credit.  We are relieved to have a little reprieve of doing geography on top of a Main Lesson!

We are still working on math daily and on Spanish I for our outside teacher.  4-H is starting to get busy again, but we are unfortunately going to miss poultry judging this year due to a time conflict, but there are plenty of things to work on.

I would love to hear what you are up to!

Blessings and love,
Carrie