Let’s Read: Simplicity Parenting


RHYTHM.  Does that word strike fear or guilt into your heart when you hear it?  Rhythm should be something that is inherent to your particular family, and it should be a source of freedom, not any negative emotions.  Kim John Payne opens this chapter by noting:

“Life today for most families is characterized more by randomness and improvisation than rhythm.  Tuesday wash day?  Cookies and milk after school?  Sunday roast beef dinner?  With both parents working outside the home, these kinds of weekly markers may sound more quaint than realistic.  Family life today often consists of whatever is left over, in terms of our time and energy, when the “work” of the day is done.  When I ask a mother or father to describe for me a “typical day” in their home, nine times out of ten they begin by saying there is no “typical”.

Just as there are inherent rhythms in the rising and setting of the sun each day and the change of seasons, there are rhythms inherent in us and our own bodies.   Our families often too, hold their own inherent rhythms. Our children, in this often hectic world where children are pushed to be miniature adults, NEED rhythm more than ever. It is a source of dependability, a source of reliability and promotes the child’s feeling that the world, their world,  is a safe and secure place!   This is the essence of believing the world is a good place!  This is also the first stirrings of boundaries and of family identity. Rhythm is what you do in your family. 

Too often today children are the center of the family, a sun in which the parents orbit around the children’s desires (which is totally different from the what –I-want IS actually what-I –need in the years of being an infant!).  Instead, family life, should be that needs of the whole family are set forth as a beautiful trajectory, yes, like the arc of the sun rising and setting in the sun, and the children find their places on the trajectory.  This helps children find their own place in the family and the world.  The children are part of something bigger than themselves. Rhythm is the thing that can most help with this arc.

This is also important from the viewpoint of simplification.  Rhythm does not assume that one parent stays home to “make” the rhythm or that every little piece has to be under your family’s control.  It does presume, however, that you have thought through the best ways to make life secure for your child, the best ways to bring in moments of predictable connection each day.  Repetition gives meaning to a child’s life. I love how Kim John Payne says this on page 98:

Meaning hides in repetition.  We do this every day or every week because it matters.  We are connected by this thing we do together.  We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat:  the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes.    A rhythmic home life has a pattern and a flow.  It cadences are recognizable, and knowable, even to the youngest members of the family.

How would your child describe the rhythm of your family?  Kim John Payne gives examples at the bottom of page 98.  If your family is super busy and super stressed, you need rhythm more than most families do.  Kim John Payne gives an example of a family life this on page 99 and talks about providing visual and  pictorial markers for young children who are separated from their families during the day due to work and school.  He also gives the helpful story of a single mom using a indoor sandbox with a little car, and building representative of school or the store so her child knew what to expect the next day.

Do you love this chapter?  What are you gleaming from it?



Monthly Anchor Points: August


Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not yet ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

I wrote about my homeschool planning method of marking seasonal and liturgical ideas down for each month in past posts, which has led to the creation of this series.  Now we are extending our mood of celebration into August!  I wrote about  August last year  as well. It is interesting to see how the same month can feel the same in so many ways, and yet so different.

This is the month that I associate with heat, rain showers, lakes, blackberries, anticipation, and the quality of  humility.  It is a month where fall peaks around the corner in some ways and we know school and more regular rhythm is indeed on its way!

As far as our religious monthly anchor points, this is, indeed, the month of the Theotokos.  The Dormition of St. Mary, or Marymas in the Anglican tradition, will be upon us on August 15th.  This is the major feast and anchor point for us this month.  For those of you who like  By Dawn and Candlelight , here is a post from 2006 regarding what they did for this feast!  There are several other religious feast days for us this month, and  also several birthdays in our family, which is very exciting as well.

The other major anchor point may be more familiar to many of you:  back to school!  Here in the Deep South, the summer heat begins in May with school getting out.  It is still hot in August, but there is something in the air.  The children seem to be ready to get back to more rhythm.  The anticipation of school hangs in the air.  I have our planning done, but now am in the midst of more “doing”:   making up menus, making props for stories for some of my children, and just getting things ready in general.  I am contemplating what the first day of school will look like, and what our activities outside the home might be (no, I still don’t have that figured out, even at this later date!)

Please tell me what you are up to in this month of August!

Many blessings and love,


Gentle Discipline By Age–Part Three


Gentle discipline is the mainstay of parenting life, because it encompasses guiding and validating the authentic spiritual being that is every human being and child.  It is a mindset to live by and parent by, and if you can master some of these techniques, you will find yourself even having more positive communication and conflict resolution with other adults.

I have wanted to do a round-up of techniques by age, and here it finally is beginning.  I hope it will be helpful to you, and do please feel free to add your own thoughts or experiences to this list.

In Part Two,  we focused on birth through age 4.  Today we are going to look at ages five and six.    The mainstay of gentle discipline for these years begins with our own inner work and development, as discussed in Part One of this series.

Birth through age  four encompasses a time of protection, physical movement, warmth and trust and love in a caregiver and in a good world.  The ending of this stage sees the use of the words “I” and “no” not as an act of defiance or disobedience, but as growth into individuality.  Ages five and six also sees the same  importance of protection, physical movement, warmth, and love and trust in a caregiver continue.  However, play and social experiences now expands during these years, (although some children will not blossom into truly enjoying other children until the six/seven year transformation).  Play is the main theme for these years, and also a  look at the willing gesture involved in roles, power, and control.

Many five and six year olds are trying to figure out roles within their world.  This is the time of play with roles and in being archetypal characters.   There is  often is a fluidity in these roles in play, and the play can also can have a bit of an authority/submissive quality to it – you be the dog and I will be the owner, you be the child and I will be the daddy, etc.  It can also, in the realm of guiding within the home or classroom, be a time of pushing against the typical rhythm and boundaries.   You can see more about  five year old development at “The Fabulous Five Year Old” and the six year old here at “The Snazzy Six Year Old.”

Get your ho-hum on.  From the height of sex play at age six to late potty training to picky eating to a children testing boundaries verbally, there always seems like there is something to either worry about or get upset about.  Get your ho-hum on.  This too shall pass.

Rhythm and outside play are at a high importance.  Rhythm also includes the “preparation” and  “picking up” part of  daily life or inside play.  This is very important to not skip, and to set time aside to do it together with you modeling the way.  Get organized so things have a place!

Connect and look for the positive.  Look for the good qualities that make up the message of your life and notice when your children are taking part in the message, the values of your family.  Give a smile or a pat.  Five and six year olds still need to be tucked in at night, hugged and held and enjoyed.   Tell them you love them and that they are wonderful!  Because they are!

Watch your language.   Keep your words calm and short.  One or two sentences are enough.  If you get to the point where you want to rant, call a friend and rant to him or her instead.  Take a break and go outside or go lay down and come back.  If you want to make announcements and threats, go in your room and make them to the mirror.  Make sure your language reflects your love.

Know your boundaries and developmentally appropriate expectations.  Be ready with restitution and follow through.  Know that helping a five and six year with boundaries takes time and consistency.   Make sure you are not expecting twelve or thirteen year old things out of a tiny five or six year old.

Slow down.   Five and six year olds are still little, and home should be more than just a “home base” to check in upon here and there.   Activities outside the home are not truly necessary for five and six year olds.   Home really still really needs to be the focus of the day, week and year.  Nature is still a powerful, soothing force for five and six year olds and for parents, too, so see what you can nurture around your own home – even if it is just a potted herb garden on the patio and a birdfeeder. 

Give time to yourself, so you can be at the top of your game.

‘What are your best tips for guiding five and six year olds?


July: Time to Plan


Here in the Deep South, many homeschoolers will be starting school again in a few weeks.  I love this time of anticipation of fall, and am looking forward to heading back into some more rhythm.  The children seem ready as well, so we will continue to enjoy nature and all her summertime glory (and fall glory too, with camping and trips to the beach in the fall), but I am feeling more ready to get going!


I wanted to share with you some of my favorite resources for planning:

Here is the Math By Hand blog  – Marin’s blog series goes through first and second grade at this point pretty day by day.  Lots of wonderful ideas for hands-on math and she also finds really wonderful links!


Chalkboard drawing:  This link takes you to seventh grade, but use the menu to find the essence of each grade and see drawings:    My favorite chalk (and it does say it is not chalkboard chalk, but I have used it for years that way without problems) is  here /


This blog has Grade 1-7 and it is fun to look at  for inspiration.  I also like Sheila’s blog  and Rachel’s blog   and the  blog  by Rick Tan and his family over at Syrendell.   There are also a couple of general homeschooling blogs I like to check on.


My “on paper” plans are fairly well done – but now we move into the “doing”.  I am making props and backgrounds for stories for kindergarten; checking on supplies for seventh grade physics and geometry; working on active games for fourth grade math. 


Most places in the United States and around the world start school at a different time than August, so many of you are probably still planning.  I hope it is going well for you!  I would love to hear about where you are.



Tea and Conversation With Our Daughter–Part Two


I wrote the very first part of this post quite some time ago here.  Back then, I had a small idea about topics where I thought I might like to speak into our daughter’s life over time, just layering in things here and there.  When I wrote that post, our oldest daughter was ten and a half.  Now she is turning thirteen in a few weeks, and I can see she is  really within that wonderful beginning of the  realm of thinking;  a time of the  beginnings of  cause and effect in a thoughtful, mindful way; a time of  moving from feelings into “what-choices-do-I-make-off-of-these-feelings”; a time of snippets of moving from love into duty, with glimpses of ideals and values that I suspect will blossom so much more in the later teenaged years.

When my daughter was younger, it was all about modeling, and also the doing work of the household and garden.  Now that she is older, it is still about  all of those things, but we can start to have some thoughtful  discussions and reading.  This was the little list I started out with in that old post, and I wanted to share with you all some of the resources I have found to address these topics.  (Some of these are Christian, because I am Christian, but many of them are also easily adaptable to many belief systems).


  • The Proverbs 31 Woman – a model for us as women.  What Resources I Have Found:  the Christian company/blog “Doorposts” just did a thirty-day study on this with suggestions for children.
  • The Foundation of Christian Life –   What Resources I Have Found:  well, much of this is in the doing and being involved in parish life, but I have also  pulled selected articles from Orthodox and Anglican websites.   One thing that I am sure to address this year (seventh grade) in more words is the journey of the Christian life and what this entails.
  • Marriage and  Children –What Resources I Have Found:  the Antiochian Orthodox Church has a booklet on “Purity, Virginity, and Chastity” (which might not be what some are looking for),  but what I admire is that it starts with the idea of friendship, the different layers of friendship and how a spouse becomes our most intimate friend.  So, this year we are delving into friendship – what makes a wonderful friend and how to be a friend.  The theme of the Vacation Bible School in our parish was from Psalm 139:   that we are wonderfully and marvelously made, and how this applies to all people.  So, this idea of being in the image of God, reaching out and making and being a friend, kindness and the levels of friendship are going to  really inform much of our discussion this year. 
  • Serving Others, (and also boundaries in serving others)  – my seventh grader was old enough to serve as a helper during Vacation Bible School.  However, we also spend a lot of time serving within our family.  How do we serve our elders, how do we serve our brothers and sisters?  So, this one is more in the doing than in discussion.  I am starting to delve into some childhood development resources with my teen regarding the ages one through five since that is a group she assists with.  One small booklet that can be helpful and not too taxing to read is Elizabeth Crary’s booklet entitled “Parenting Tips & Tools:  Understanding Young Children” here.
  • Respecting yourself and others  – I think the basis of this is found in what I mentioned above regarding marriage and children. 
  • How to Communicate/Conflict Resolution –   “Sacred Listening” is one tool I am looking at and seeing if that would be feasible for a teen.  This is a lot of modeling.  Am I being a good listener? You can see more about the top ten ways to be a powerful listener at the Listening Center.
  • Health – whole foods and how to prepare, drug use and abuse, homeopathy and chiropractic, exercise, the role of sleep, care before, during and after the menstrual cycle, the importance of rhythm for health, fertility.  Resources I Have Found:  the Weston A.Price Foundation has many articles; also the “doing” of making bone broths, working with herbs, using homeopathy and chiropractic care.   
  • Money – budgeting, how to handle money .  This comes with opportunity to handle money as well, so this is a doing activity.  My daughter liked “The Christian Girls’ Guide to Money” by Rebecca Totilo.
  • Modesty in dress; the Christian idea of beauty, the difference between inward and outward beauty
  • Designing a wardrobe, natural skin care and body care.   I like “Awakening Beauty the Dr. Hauschka Way” as a resource for rhythm for beauty that encompasses the mind, body and spirit and as a resource for many wonderful homemade skin care products.


I wrote back in 2010:  “You might wonder how to put together a list like this that reflects your family’s values.  I stated with the catechism of our faith, my own beliefs as influenced by La Leche League and attachment parenting and childhood development, the resource “Polished Cornerstones”, a Christian publication for mothers and daughters available through Doorposts, and the book “5 Conversation You Must Have With Your Daughter” by Vicki Courtney.  This list is not complete nor reflective of everything we think, but it is a good place to start.  Perhaps you can design your own thoughts for what wisdom you would like to impart to your older children.”


I still hope that for you all.  Such a wonderful and lovely thing to ponder about how we intentionally approach our older children…..

Blessings and love,

The Rant: Kind Children For Life


(I would like to thank my friend Molly for brainstorming with me for this post!)

Earlier this week, I was at the pool  with some beautiful mother friends, and one of them mentioned a recent article in the Washington Post about raising kind children.  You can read  this article , and I highly suggest you do.   I have read it over.  And over. And over.


What is most stunning to me about this article is this particular statement: 

About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”


Don’t get me wrong; like most parents I would like my children to be happy and to have a happy life doing what they love.  But, to have this at the expense of or exclusion of caring about others is totally disagreeable to me.  Kindness and love really and truly is the pinnacle of the human being.   It is to be found within ourselves, and how we hear and interact with the other. 


How or why would this be happening?  Eighty percent is an incredibly high number!  I was pondering this, and this quote from the sweet little book “Wonderful Ways to Love a Teen….even when it seems impossible” by Judy Ford, M.S.W. popped into my head:


Some parents tell me that weeks go by without their saying anything more than hello and good-bye to their teenagers, not because they haven’t wanted to be with one another, but because their lives are loaded with demands and obligations.  The years from junior high to high school can be one big blur.  Soon the kids are graduating, and you barely remember what happened.


Children need to have kindness modeled for them everyday in their interactions; they need to be connected enough to their parents that their parents will help guide them in the tougher places and situations that often come up especially for middle schoolers and high schoolers; they need to have balance and time to breathe – not a schedule so packed in with rigorous academics and extracurricular activities that the home just becomes a “home base” on the way off to somewhere else.   If we can slow down and connect, then we can work on kindness.  But that requires time to talk, listen, exchange ideas.


I have been writing about kindness for a long time; you can see this 2009 post.   The Washington Post article had some good points to make; another resource I would like to point out is Zoe Weil’s 2003 book, “Above All, Be Kind.”  Weil’s book is focused upon humane education and educated decisions regarding consumerism.  Her book is divided into sections by age, including birth through age 6, the years of 7-12 and the teenaged years.  A constant focus on respect, reverence, responsibility, (as often mentioned in Waldorf Education and also a focus  in Weil’s book), is a promising way to lay a foundation for kindness, no matter what the age of your child.  Author Weil uses reverence as a focus in the early years, respect as a focus in the middle years, and responsibility as a focus for the teenaged years.


Above all, we must embody what we want our children to see.  We must slow down life enough that the pressure of outside activities and achievements does not become more important than showing love and kindness to others.  All the achievement in the world cannot really buy happiness, yet kindness often has a magic of its very own.


In this age where we are bombarded with information about parenting, discipline, how to navigate school, sports and friends, we can lose sight of  the the most important lesson of all in relating to each other: kindness. 



Multicultural Reading Lists



These are a few of the reading lists I have for multicultural children’s literature for the English speaking reader:


Children’s literature by Native American authors – from preschool through high school/adult reading: http://www.slj.com/2013/11/collection-development/focus-on-collection-development/resources-and-kid-lit-about-american-indians-focus-on/#_


One of the best sites I have found for African American children’s literature:  http://www.best-childrens-books.com/african-american-childrens-books.html (by grade and also award winners by year).


For Asian/Pacific Rim children’s  literature:  http://childrensbooks.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=childrensbooks&cdn=parenting&tm=103&f=20&su=p284.13.342.ip_&tt=3&bt=5&bts=75&zu=http%3A//www.nea.org/grants/29506.htm  and here:  http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/lit_resources/diversity/asian_am/asian_am.html (if you look on the sidebar there are links to books of Chinese heritage, Japanese heritage and Korean heritage).  There are also literature  awards focused on Asia/Pacific Rim Children’s Literature.  The award winners for 2013 are here:  http://www.apalaweb.org/2013-asianpacific-american-award-for-literature-winners/


For children’s literature by Latino authors, by grade level:  http://ccb.lis.illinois.edu/Projects/Additions%20on%209-20-07/CCB/CCB/mhommel2/Booklists.htm


For children’s literature regarding the Middle East:  http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2011/08/top-10-arabic-american-childrens-books/  and an extensive list here:  http://bernadettesimpson.com/Childrens-YA-Books-MiddleEast.pdf


If you have a list on your blog of your favorite children’s literature as related to your religion or your cultural heritage, please leave a link in the comment box so my readers can find it!

Thank you,