The Top Way To Be A Great Parent

One of my very favorite sayings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is this one:

All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.

In my book, the top way to be a great parent is to model, show, tell, put our children in circumstances where they learn that we all affect each other and the planet.  We all need to rise up together, and to understand that some in the world are coming from very different cultural and life experiences that our own.  In this way, we raise human beings who are ready to love and serve each other and the world becomes more beautiful.  There will always be evil, there is no doubt.  There will always be selfishness and greed.  But the way we move forward is we train this next generation in love, in kindness, in generosity, in empathy, in humility.  The greatest education is not one of books and learning, although I probably love books and learning more than the average person, but one of character.

You might think, well, that sounds terrific, but how do I do that?  You might consider starting with yourself and the other adults in your home.  What are your wounded areas?  Do you see the world in this way, that we all affect each other?  Do you see the need to raise others up and to serve others?  What is your inner work surrounding these attitudes and these ideals – religious, spiritual, at home, outside the home- what is your practice?

How do you work as a team at home?  This is the first thing that children learn in the home- how to help, how to be respectful through good manners, how to live with others.  It is  about them learning how to be in the family.  I have held great conversations around this theme over the years with attachment parents, and you can read some of my thoughts on past blog posts- how we can all be connected and meet the needs of our smallest children and yet also communicating that we as the people in the household all help, all serve, all work together, all have needs.

How do you help your child move into the community and society at large around them in a loving and kind way?  How do you expand that into the areas of your community and society that are underserved in the teen years and how do you also teach the beautiful boundaries of self-replenishment, self-love in order to make helping a sustainable practice for years to come?

Just a few thoughts on this day, 2019.  May we all live and love large and keep moving forward.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Skills for High School (and life!)

We have one teen getting ready to go look at colleges and apply in the fall, and one child who will be entering high school in the fall.  These are such  interesting and often challenging ages to parent. I don’t think I ever doubted my homeschooling skills as much as I did when my oldest was in eighth and ninth grade.  I think this is because we as parents can see what skills will be needed for success in  the upper grades of high school and what will be needed in college, and we wonder what we will do if things don’t come together  (or as homeschooling parents we wonder if we are doing enough).

This leads me to a question:  what do you think eighth and ninth graders really need to be able to do in order to navigate high school (and life) successfully? I woud love to hear your thoughts!  Here are a few of my ideas for the important skills teens need for high school and beyond:

Communication Skills – this includes written communication, public speaking,  recognizing nonverbal cues in other people, presentation skills, and being able to collaborate on a team.  I think this is where things such as vocabulary and fluency in writing and speaking  counts, and so do things such as knowing how to introduce oneself and others.

**Ways to develop this:  4H and Toastmasters, work and volunteer experience, being on a team in any area- sports or otherwise, communicating effectively at home and pointing out cues and emotions,  increasing vocabulary in the later middle school years.  If you are the homeschooling teacher – assigning papers, research papers, and oral presentations.

Organizational Skills – this includes physical space planning (ie, the teen can find what they are looking for), mental organization, planning and scheduling, time management, prioritizing

**Ways to develop this – using a calendar or planner, using checklists, working with deadlines  for your homeschool, developing accountability outside the home to mentors, other teachers, volunteer work or a part-time job

Leadership and Teamwork – this, to me, involves initiative, making decisions, contributing, responsibility, respect of others and listening to others, humility, problem solving

**Ways to develop this – volunteer and work opportunities, allow decision making for teens and don’t bail them out of the consequences, let your teen figure out the possibilities – don’t do it all for them

Work Ethic -this includes dependability, determination, accountability, professionalism

**Ways to Develop This – assignments with deadlines in homeschooling, don’t skip the hard or boring all the time, work and volunteer experiences, the development of healthy habits at home which requires a regularity in doing things

Emotional Intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills

**Ways to Develop This- talking to teens about their feelings and helping them use “I” statements and how to be active listeners, basic anger management and conflict management skills,mindfulness techniques,  nurture motivation when your teen is interested in a subject or has a passion and teach them  how to set goals around their passions, provide and model optimism and encouragement

I would love to hear your ideas!  What do you think is important?

Blessings,

Carrie

PS. If you are looking for more on this subject, you might enjoy this back post on Life Skills for Seventh and Eighth Graders and some of the resources I recommend!

Top 7 Ways to Fearlessly Waldorf Homeschool

I wrote a post about “fearless Waldorf homeschooling” in which I talked about how despite our fears regarding homeschooling, we are enough.  We really are.  Every family has its own unique circumstances, family culture, family dynamics, strengths that interplay with the Waldorf curriculum at home to make it unique and able to meet the child in front of us so wonderfully.  Homeschooling is full of possibilities, but it has to be sustainable for us as teachers and parents.  And for that reason, our homeschool adventures will never look like, and should never look  like a Waldorf School.

Here are ways I think we can fearlessly Waldorf homeschool, and leave our worries and doubts about this sometimes intense way of homeschooling behind!

Decide your priorities for homeschooling based on  the amount of energy you have.  Everyone has a certain amount of energy, and we all have a fixed number of hours in the day.  Are you a low, medium, or high energy person?  What does an ideal homeschooling day look like for you?  Remember my mantra  – the Waldorf homeschool will not, and should never look like a Waldorf School program!  So what are the top priorities from looking at all the things that Waldorf homeschooling can bring that your children, and you, really really need?  Resign yourself that you must likely won’t do all the things, and that is perfectly okay.

Design your priorities for Waldorf homeschooling around your strengths, and decide if the things you are weakest at is something that you actually want to learn and grow better at doing  OR if this is something that you can outsource!  For example, say knitting is hard for you.  Do you want to spend your energy learning how to knit and then teach your child, do you want to learn together with your child, or do you want to send your child somewhere to learn how to knit in your community?

Build your homeschooling around rhythm, but remember to include self-care in  your rhythm.  I don’t know what that would like like for you, but I think for many of us, sustainable homeschooling involves being more than just the person teaching or keeping up everything around the house.  It involves being a whole human being, and for many of us, we need some time either alone, with our spouse without children, or with our own friends in order to recharge.  It might involve when  you exercise, or when you sleep in or take a nap or meet a friend for tea.  Whatever it is, plan out your self-care for the week on Sundays.   Mark it in, arrange where your children will be, but do it.  Generally, homeschooling is not sustainable into the middle grades without this piece.  Burnout is real, and many people who start homeschooling and throw themselves into it with gusto either have to reinvent how they homeschool in the middle school grades or they put their children in school.  

We must always teach to the child in front of us.  What parts of these traditional blocks are of most interest to our child?  What things do we need to include in the grades that are developementally appropriate , meet our family culture, meet the time and place in which we live that are different than the Waldorf Schools?  

How do we deliver these lessons?   Waldorf homeschooling is about more than creating main lesson books!   There will always be children who hate to draw orwho hate creating main lesson books, and we must do more than just decide an education based in the arts, based around health and using sleep as an aid to memory,  is not for them.  In the home environment, we have so many creative options.

What is our end academic goal? I think far too many parents enter blocks without thinking about what they are trying to accomplish skill-wise – so think about this in your planning.  This keeps you confident and courageous!  What academic, social, emotional, physical and artistic skills is this material a springboard for?  What’s the end point? 

When in doubt, what will foster connection and responsbility in your child? Both of these are important, as the ultimate goal of Waldorf Education is that  human beings once again learn how to live with each other, that we can connect with the “other”, that we see how things are interrelated, that we can serve humanity with love.  It helps to begin with the end in mind. 

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

fearless waldorf homeschooling

Fear is at the root of so much of the marketing gimmicks in Western culture. Are you scared, nervous, anxious, afraid?  There is a product for that!  If only you compare yourself enough and discover that you are “deficient” in some way, and then buy enough products to get up to par, then you will feel better!

In the homeschooling world, I feel like it is even worse because some of the curriculums prey on our worst fears –

We aren’t enough to teach our children.

We can’t give our children enough opportunities.

Our children won’t learn enough.

Our children won’t be prepared for the future.

Our children won’t be “socialized” enough.

There won’t be enough time in the day to give our children what they need.

Sigh.

And quite frankly, Waldorf homeschooling and sometimes curriculum can be right there as well.  Entering this world can be one of anxiousness and doubt.  Are you nervous about chalkboard drawing, playing a breathing instrument and stringed instrument and singing, drawing, painting, modeling, putting on plays, knitting and doing other forms of handwork, making sure you present things in a “Waldorf Way” and oh yes, getting academics in there?   Plus, Waldorf homeschooling has the added  bonus of a low to no media lifestyle that family and friends might disagree with, the penchant to make things  (everything!) by hand, we protect the senses, we delay team sports and competition until sixth grade, we wait for academics until first grade – all of which may be totally new to you and totally different than how you were raised!

It’s a lot and it can feel intimidating and overwhelming for many homeschooling families, which is sad, because Waldorf homeschooling fits children’s health and  educational needs in an amazing developmental way.

Well, I am here to tell you:

You are enough to teach your children.  You have already been teaching them since day one!

You will give your children just the right opportunities that are available in your community.

Your children will learn plenty and be ahead.

Your children will be prepared for the future.

Your children will go on to have successful relationships.

You know your children the absolute best and better than any other expert.  Not that we can’t use the help of experts or a village, because sometimes it takes a village,  but that you know your beautiful children so well and this leads to success.

The Waldorf homeschool will never, and never should, look like a Waldorf School.  You cannot be Main Lesson teacher, flute teacher, games teacher, string teacher, foreign language teacher, extra lessons teacher all rolled into one.  But YOU are ENOUGH.

“How” we do this will look different for every family. Every family has its own unique circumstances, family culture, family dynamics, strengths that interplay with the Waldorf curriculum at home to make it unique and able to meet the child in front of us so wonderfully.  More about the “how” to come in the next post!  In the meantime, know that you are enough, it will all work out okay, and these children will be some of the most successful of their generation with some of the biggest problem-solving capabilities and provide compassionate leadership and kindness for the years ahead.

Blessings and love,

Carrie 

beautiful january

I love January – the possibility of cold and snow, the bright days perfect for walks, the many possibilities of decluttering the physical environment and the body and the soul in January!  It’s going to be a terrific month!

celebrating:  

Here are some of the days we will be celebrating in January:

January 1 – New Year’s Day

January 6– The Feast of Epiphany and Epiphanytide that stretches until Lent begins on March 6th this year.

January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr Day – also celebrated January 15 and April 4 in The Episcopal Church

Janaury 18– The Feast Day of St. Peter

January 25 – The Feast Day of St. Paul

homeschooling:

third grade – we are continuing to work hard on reading and are starting off our semester with a block of Hebrew Stories/Old Testament tales as traditional in the Waldorf curriculum in this grade.  We are using All About Reading for practice as well since reading has been a struggle and will continue daily work in math.  Please follow me on Instagram @theparentingpassageway as that is where I will be posting third grade work this month.

eighth grade – we are continuing with our year round course of pre-algebra, and starting our semester with a block on Revolutions that will include the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, The French Revolution, Simon Bolivar, and the Mexican Revolution.

eleventh grade – we are continuing with our year-long courses in Chemistry and in American Government/Social Justice.  Our eleventh grader also has AP Psychology, Pre-Calculus,and  AP Language outside of the home

sustainability –

I am a generous giver. I have decent boundaries, but can get really wrapped up in other people’s challenges and other people’s energy and take it all on as my own if I am not careful.  I have improved immensely in this area in the last 2 years, and am proud of my progress.  So, for even more sustainability and in the spirit of knowing that my needs are to be equally valued, this New Year I am prioritizing self-care in the form of exercise outside the home as I find it hard to exercise in my house, health appointments (which for me, since I had a health crisis last year, means still going to  doctor appointments), healthy eating, having super fun with my spouse and our friends, and using a protocol  created by acupuncturist Desiree Mangandog called “I Am Worthy”

I sit down and plan my self-care that has to be outside of the home for the week on Sundays.  Simple things I do at home that don’t require as much planning included journaling, meditating, tapping, use of The Book of Common Prayer daily, and epsom salt baths.

parenting-

third grader – there aren’t really any children that come outside to play with in our neighborhood and since his sisters are middle to older teens, movement (which I have to spearhead) is a priority above and beyond school.  His social needs are also a priority because he is very extroverted.

eighth grader – we are getting plans in place for homeschooling high school (all subjects will be homeschooled, none will be outside the home at this point). She is a great help in the house, and my parenting work with her are the typical goals in order to be successful in high school, and to continue to develop  connection to the family and  compassionate character.

eleventh grader – we are working on college visits, and getting through the junior year of standardized testing, and connection.  I think this is an important time to connect as a family and as a mother-daughter team.  We have an idea to take a little trip for just the two of us, so I think that will work out and be an amazing way to connect.

home life-

I am sticking with very simple cleaning and decluttering routines and asking for help. I cannot homeschool and do everything we do outside the home and do continue taking care of the house as if it is my ful-time job. However,  I also cannot stand a messy or dirty house as I am a very visual person, and we really don’t have the money for an outside cleaning person.  So, that leaves simplicity and asking for help as our family is a team!

Crafting – I love the little crafts I associate with January, including window stars, rose windows, snowflakes, candlemaking.  I hope to post pictures of some of our processes on Instagram @theparentingpassageway and on The Parenting Passageway’s Facebook page.

 

I can’t wait to hear what you are up to this beautiful January!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Celebrating Epiphany

Today is the very last day of Christmastide, Twelfth Night,  and tomorrow begins the season of Epiphany.  This is also one of my favorite seasons of the year!  Many families make a cake for Twelfth Night, with a bean or pea tucked inside it for a little Queen or King to find! In England, Twelfth Night is a festive time for merriment and good cheer! (Wassail is a beverage associated with this night as well). In Germany, children dress up as the Three Kings and go from house to house to collect money for a charity (and usually get a sweet or two for themselves and their fine singing!)  In Scandinavian countries, there may be a procession of singers led by “Star Singers” that move from house to house.  Russian children wait for Mama Babouschka to fill their shoes with gifts, as children in Spain wait for gifts from the Three Magi.  Italian children wait for Old Befana to bring gifts as well.  French families typically share a Kings’ Cake.

The day after Twelfth Night is Epiphany.  Epiphany is actually one of the very oldest Christian festivals. If you are wondering what Epiphany/Three Kings Day/Theophany is all about, Christians in the Western Church  celebrate that the 12th night after the birth of Jesus that the Three Kings/Three Wise Men were led by a star to find Him in Bethlehem.  They brought gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.  It is traditionally the time to take down the Christmas tree and all decorations (although some traditions do leave the Christmas greenery up until Candlemas on February second). If you have had the Three Kings traveling around your room to reach the now upright Jesus and St. Mary, that scene can also stay up until Candlemas (February 2).

If you are wondering about the Three Kings, the authors of “All Year Round” write, “In the Gospel story we hear about Wise Men guided by a star; they are never referred to as kings, nor is it said that there are three of them.  An unknown but powerful tradition has transformed these sages (the “Magoi” were Persian priests of the Zarathustrian religion) into three kings, representing them as young, middle-aged and old, and sometimes of three different races:  the African, the Caucasian, and the Asiatic.  They have also been given names:  Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.”

Besides the Three Kings, also celebrated is  the Baptism of  Jesus and The  Divine Manifestation of the Holy Trinity and the Revelation of Jesus to Man.  There were some great pictures of people celebrating The Feast of Theophany (as the Orthodox church calls it), where waters are blessed and some people around the world plunge into cold waters in remembrance of this special day.  See here for the pictures for this special blessing of the waters:    http://sttheophanacademy.blogspot.com/2010/01/theophany.html

In some parts of Europe, it is customary to incense your house and cleanse it for this time.  One then writes above the front door in chalk C+M+B flanked by the year (so for this year it would look like this:  20+C+M+B+19).  The C,M,B may stand for the Three Kings themselves:   Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, although many of German friends say the C,M,B stands for “Christ Bless This Home” or a variant of that.

Some other fun ways to celebrate Twelfth Night and Epiphany tomorrow: Continue reading

Compassionate Parenting For Toddlers

Is your adorable toddler exploring and getting into everything? Toddlerhood can be one of the most fun (and exhausting times) to parent, dependent upon the personality of your toddler!  Some toddlers need to be saved from death every hour, and some are content to be near you and involved in what you are doing.  In any case, having a few compassionate and fun responses to typical toddler situations up your sleeve can be really helpful!

One foundation to keep in mind for all toddler situations is that toddlers do well with a rhythm to their day (try this back post on Finding Rhythm With Littles, and meaningful work  (the post I linked here is probably one of THE top guest posts on The Parenting Passageway for ten years! Go check it out!)

The toddler stage does not involve reasoning.  There is no reasoning yet.  Toddlers are just realizing they can’t always get what they want, and this leads to temper tantrums.  Your toddler is “doing” and the best you can do as a parent is to childproof, supervise, redirect, distract, provide substitutions, pick up your toddler and move them around with your GENTLE  hands away from danger or situations that they shouldn’t be into.  You cannot parent a toddler from the couch so get up and correct things gently the first time with your loving presence and ability to distract them.

A toddler is going to express negativity. “ No”  has power, “no”  has meaning.  Toddlers often use their body to express their negativity – hitting, biting, pushing – because their words are not totally there yet.  Even the ones that are “verbally” advanced lose their words when they become upset!  They want to be independent (the “me do it” stage), but still need help.  They don’t play with other children yet, they have fears of things such as thunder or animals or vacuum cleaners.  Their thinking really is “this is here, this is now” without much  memory involved.  They do, however,  IMITATE what YOU do!

Saying no frequently is not helpful in guiding your child – tell them what you would like to see, and better yet, SHOW THEM.   Childproof your environment so you don’t have to say NO fifty times a day.

These are the top common situations with toddlers and some simple solutions:

“Into Everything”:

Options:

  • Child-proof, child-proof
  • Model how to explore fragile things with your help and put away
  • Keep less things out, access to art supplies, toys, etc should truly be limited

Your Ideas:

Picky Eating:

Options:

  • Rule out a physical cause; check food allergies and sensitivities
  • Limit high-fat and high-sugar choices, have many healthy choices
  • Look at your child’s food intake over a week, not just one day
  • Have a schedule/rhythm for mealtime and snack time  and sit down with your child to eat in an unhurried manner
  • Serve smaller portions – your child’s stomach is the size of their fist
  • Serve your child’s favorite foods as a side dish to a main meal
  • Do not feel ambivalent about your child’s ability to eat what you serve
  • Allow an option to have toast or cereal for one night a week
  • Try frozen vegetables, such as peas and corn right from the bag or raw veggies with dip if your child is old enough and this is not a choking hazzard
  • Let the kids have a vegetable garden – children often will eat what they have grown
  • Start calling green veggies “brain food”
  • Sneak veggies and fruits into smoothies, or finely grate or chop and mix into foods the child likes
  • Fill a muffin tray or ice cube tray with different healthy kinds of snackable foods that the child can pick from
  • Model good eating yourself – eat a wide variety of foods!

Your Own Ideas:

Poor Sleeper:

  • Rule out physical problems  – many children had reflux when they were younger and are off of medications by the time they are a year or so, do make sure reflux has not reared its head again.  Also be aware of a condition called Eosinophilic Esophagitis – see the comment in the comment thread below.
  • Educate yourself regarding normal sleep behavior – segmented sleep throughout the night was the norm until the Industrial Revolution
  • Expect disruptions in sleep around change, stresses, developmental milestones
  • Try a more consistent routine during the day calming and soothing techniques for naptime and bedtime
  • Try lots of daytime sunlight and dim the lights after sundown; put your house to sleep after dinner
  • Limit afternoon over-stimulation, be home and have a consistent routine where things are structured around getting ready toward sleep
  • Look at the foods your child eats
  • Hug, sleep, hold your child – parent them to sleep
  • Co-sleep
  • Remember that many toddlers and preschoolers are poised for an early nap and an early (6:30 to 7:30 PM) bedtime – sometimes we just miss the window!
  • Watch out for TV and other media exposure
  • Many normal, health co-sleeping children do not sleep a 7 to 9 hour stretch until they are 3 or 4 years old.

Refuses bath:

Options:

  • Use bubble bath, toys
  • If she fears soap in her eyes, use swimming goggles or sun visor
  • Try bath in the morning instead of at night
  • Try a shower
  • Get in tub with child
  • If child fearful of drain, can drain tub after child out of tub or after child  leaves room

Bites adult:

Options:

  • Do not take it personally, do not over-react
  • Most common between 18 months and 2 and a half years
  • Re-direct behavior
  • It is not okay for your child to hurt you!
  • Do not bite for biting!

Your Own Ideas:

Bites other child:

Options:

  • Watch child closely during playtime but realize children of this age do not need many playdates if any at all – limit the exposure and situations you are putting your child in!
  • Give attention to the victim
  • Usually biting stops by age 4

Your Own Ideas:

Slaps faces:

Options:

  • Re-direct behavior
  • Do not hit for hitting
  • Model non-aggression

Your Own Ideas:

“Demanding, exacting, easily frustrated”

Options:

  • Review normal developmental milestones and behavior
  • Check how many choices you are giving and how many words you are using and use LESS
  • Try to get in a lot of outside time
  • Go back to the basics of rhythm, sleep, warm foods, nourishing simple stories and singing

Will not get dressed or put on shoes:

Options:

  • Plan ahead and use easy to put on clothing, check for tags, seams
  • Sing a song, look for body parts, dress by a window
  • Dress together
  • Put clothes on when you arrive at destination

Your Own Ideas:

Running Away in Public Places :

Options:

  • Limit the number of public places you take child
  • Bring along a second adult to help if possible

Your Own Ideas:

Temper Tantrums:

  • It is OK to feel angry or frustrated; accept the feeling – All feelings are okay; all actions are not.
  • Look for the triggers – hungry, tired, thirsty, hot/cold, over-stimulated
  • Try to avoid situations that set your child up to fail
  • Give YOURSELF a moment to get centered and calm
  • Remove yourself and child from scene if possible (if in  a public place)
  • Can get down with child and rub back or head if child will allow,  can just be there
  • Once child has calmed down, can nurse, give him a hug, get a snack or drink
  • If child is mainly upset and gets wants you near but you cannot touch child, consider doing something with your hands to keep that peaceful, centered energy in the room!  Hold the space for your child!
  • Do NOT talk – for most children this just escalates things!
  • If child is okay with being picked up, can go outside for a distraction
  • Try back post More About Time-In For Tinies

Your Own Ideas:

Refuses Car Seat

Options:

  • Let child have a bag of “car toys” that can be played with as soon as seat belt is buckled
  • Have a contest who can get in the fastest
  • Be a policman, fireman, truck driver

Your Own Ideas:

There are many back posts on this blog about toddler development and behavior.  I can’t wait to hear from you and your experiences with your toddler!

Blessings and love,

Carrie