Conversations With My Daughter

A long time ago, when my oldest daughter who will be sixteen in a few weeks was around ten (!!!), I wrote a blog post about some of the things I hoped to impart to her.  In this post, I talked about how since my mother died when I was young, she never had a chance to talk to me about any of the things about navigating being a  teenager or young adult, so I felt as if this conversations were really important and how I hoped to layer in discussion over time.

Since then, my surprise is that many women whose mothers were or are alive also didn’t receive ANY direction or guidance about navigating being a young adult!  There were no discussions on how to navigate choosing a career, finances, living on one’s own, choosing a partner for life, raising children, creating a family.  It was almost as if the child or teen would pick it up by osmosis, or figure it out for him or herself.  It rather floors me!

I had a little list in the blog post I linked above, and like to think I have imparted some guidance on each of these areas at this point.  This is very personal to our family since it includes living as an Episcopalian and in accordance with our baptismal vows since this is our family’s faith and often influences our politics as well; the foundation of Christian life; talks about marriage and children; serving others; boundaries; respecting oneself; healthy communication; the facets of health including whole food nutrition, homeopathy , herbs, movement and chiropractic care and how a woman changes throughout the life span;  money and finances.  You can come up with your own list based on your own family’s values, and that is really much of the fun! What do you think is super important that your teen needs to know to thrive in our world as a young adult?

Lately, we have been focusing on finance and insurance. Personal finance can be an area that is difficult for parents to discuss with teens. Sometimes it comes up when a  teen gets a job and opens a bank account or has to save for a large purchase such as a car.  However, it is also wonderful to talk about saving and types of saving, contributing to charities, and types of insurance that one has to carry, and how finances change over the life span. One thing I have recently pointed out to my oldest is that many people my age (47) don’t have much in the way of savings for retirement because either they weren’t interested in that in their 20s and 30s or life happened and much of the savings is now gone or that they really went out and bought too large a house and too many new things when they were starting out.  Some people my age are also still saddled under large student loans from college.  So, I have stressed that is important to start saving even in your teens and throughout the 20s and 30s and ways to free up enough money to do this (one: don’t live above your means!).  One resource some homeschooling moms of teens  use to discuss finance are the free materials from  The Actuarial Foundation.   Such things as developing a budget and the use of credit (or not) can also be discussed.  Credit ratings for buying a home is another area of interest.   The other point we have been talking about includes all types of insurance.  Many parents discuss car insurance with their teen drivers, but often don’t talk about homeowners insurance, medical insurance, life insurance ( and the difference between whole and term insurance), disability insurance, and long-term care insurance.  We plan to use the personal finance things in eleventh grade, so that should be interesting.

In the last few years my teen will be home, I also want to talk more about choosing a partner in life and the course of marriage. I find this is one area in which many women say they received absolutely no guidance other than they would date and fall in love…and from there, things were rather nebulous.  What traits should one look for in a spouse?  Why do some marital relationships fail over time and why do others thrive?   What boundaries should one have in intimate relationships?  What really does  make  a marriage thrive?  How do marriages change  if you have children?  Some resources I have found include the “Boundaries” book series, (this is  Christian, and I am certain there most be secular versions of this type of material).  The Gottman Institute also has a number of good articles on their blog and in their books regarding this subject.  I also have plans to discuss some of the concepts in this article and some things about narcissism  as many women my age are telling me they are married to narissists or have identified their own fathers as one.

The other area of focus I am also thinking about recently  includes child development, developing a family culture, taking care of a home, and how to guide children by developmental stage.  This is, of course, something that has been modeled all of these years, but I think it is important to say it in words and to really talk about it.  We will be doing health this year, so  some of these facets  will be part of our health class.

I would love to hear what you are talking about to your teen lately!  If you have found any great articles or resources that would be a terrific springboard for discussion with daughters, I would love to hear about it!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Celebrating August

I love August; not only is it my birthday month, but it is a month of beautiful shooting stars (and this year a solar eclipse!).  It is a time of blue skies,  pebbly beaches, starry nights and campfires, lake days, sunflower, lavender, and bees and honey.  I can sit outside and watch the hummingbirds and dragonflies and enjoy the loud sounds of many frogs and toads, and find grasshoppers and giant praying mantises.  Summer is at its peak around here!

This month we are celebrating:

  • August 6th – The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Grow Christians has a blog post about this Feast; this Episcopalian blog is one I follow daily and I find it has many good posts about tackling the Five Marks of Mission of the Episcopalian Church within the home and celebrating Feast Days)
  • August 9th- The Feast Day of St. Herman of Alaska (this is one of my son’s favorite saints) (we love this book about St. Herman)
  • August 15th – The Dormition of St. Mary the Virgin. We will be reading this little book.
  • August 21st- the solar eclipse!  Very exciting
  • August 22 – our first day of school
  • August 31st – The Feast Day of St. Aidan – you could tell the story of St. Aidan and his horse

And, we have two family birthdays in the the month of August for extra fun!

Fun for the whole family:

  • If school hasn’t started, the last of beach holidays!
  • Physical fun – taking walks and hikes together; sometimes August is a great month for waterfall hikes
  • Sunflower crafts
  • Making lavender crafts and this has many craft links for lavender if you scroll down

What I am Contemplating:

New Habits – a beautiful rhythm of self -care and rest, culminating in a new weekly schedule for the year.    Rhythm is so important for us this month as we ease from summer into a school rhythm and back into outside activities.

Domestic Life:

Sunday afternoons are my time to prep food, and I am looking forward to this time so we can have healthy food on hand for snacks, veggies and fruit washed and cut up, and the basis of meals ready to go during the week.

Homeschooling:

We are ready to start next week. It is going to be a fairly math heavy year this year – our tenth grader is taking both geometry and Algebra II outside the home and wanted the traditional Waldorf math blocks for tenth grade as well; our seventh grader has some catch-up to do and will be working hard; and our second grader just really likes math.  We have plans for developing  math capacities through blocks and practice that is age-specific and also project-based math experiences where several children can work together.

Second, seventh, and tenth grade will be beginning with a mini-block on Jataka tales (second grade), the life of Buddha and the Silk Road (seventh grader), and the life of Buddha and the development of Buddhism for our tenth grader.  This year focuses on Ancient Civilizations  in tenth grade.  The seventh and tenth grader will be reading “Siddhartha” and we have some creative responses planned with etching, clay, and more.

I would love to hear your plans for August!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Before You Homeschool Plan….

A dear friend and I were talking about homeschool planning the other night, and I thought of a few things that veteran homeschoolers often take for granted in the ” pre-planning” stage that I wanted to share.  Here are a few things to think about before sitting down to plan:

Do you understand what the essence of each grade is about and why, and how the pieces work together? In Waldorf homeschooling, this is really important, and it is what makes this type of education healing and healthy for the child.  For example, why form drawing in this grade and what is the goal, why is math this way in this grade, why knitting what you are knitting in this grade, etc.  One way to figure this out is often to look at resources that talk about the curriculum as a whole (Waldorf Curriculum Chart, Rawson’s The Tasks and Content of the Waldorf-Steiner Curriculum, and others).  The other way to figure this out is to read what Rudolf Steiner said.  “Discussions With Teachers” and “Practical Advice to Teachers”  are often helpful to me over the summer before planning a new school year.

Do you understand what a block is and  how to make a block plan – for example,  how many blocks of math, how many blocks of stories/language arts for the year and also how to spread the new content material over a block?

Do you understand the moving parts of a main lesson and how sleep works with those parts? To me, the parts of the main lesson in the home environment (after the warm up or circle time) include initial review (the hardest part and often most overlooked part to plan), the artistic and/or skill capacity response to the material from the previous day and the new content.  The order of these things can be interchanged as you, the teacher, see fit, but these parts are generally there.  I think this is the hardest part to grasp, actually.  The review is typically glossed over in most Waldorf Curriculums as well.  The other part I think that could be better fleshed out in most curriculums is actual progression and development of academic capacities.  Take some time to really think about these parts.  What do you really want your child to accomplish?  What new content do you think is really most important and indicative in a certain block for a certain grade? You can do this!

Do you have resources?  In the lower grades, this doesn’t need to be complicated.  In fact, it is quite easy to find books of fairy tales (grade 1), folk tales/trickster tales/animal legends/saints tales (grade 2), stories of the Hebrew people (grade 3), etc at your local library.  Grades 6-8 take a longer time to piece a narrative together for history, for example, and I often need multiple books on one topic in order to flesh it out. For example,  I have a bin of books stored in my garage for each grade, but freely admit for grades 3 and 4, I have two bins and grades 6-8 have three bins of books to choose from in putting together blocks.

Once you have these things in place, then you can start with your yearly plan (what dates your school year will run to and from, vacation dates, how many days a week you will school); your weekly plan (what days will you be out of the house?  what rhythmic activity will you do on the same day each week?); and then your daily plan (how will your day be structured?)    Remember, your plans will look different from another homeschooler’s plans, because homeschooling is about your particular family.

Then you can start filling in the details – what will you do for circle time or warm up, how you fill out the content across the days of a block,  how will you review, what will the artistic or skill development response be?

I hope that helps! One day I would really love to put together a little video and show you all these steps.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Homeschooling From Rest: The Morning Routine

One of the biggest challenges in homeschooling multiple children is coming to homeschooling from a place of rest, and holding rest as a value throughout the school year.  I wrote post about this subject with some suggestions, and today I would like to focus on the morning routine and having a beautiful morning

I think if you want peace in your home, then you have to think about the morning routine.  It is hard to get up and have children or other household members bombarding you with things they need before you are barely awake and not ready to face the day!  Many homeschooling parents do not consider themselves morning people, so I think the morning routine could be even more important in these cases because it is much easier to be more of a morning person if the morning goes well.

So, the creation of a beautiful morning requires some reflection. Many of my readers co-sleep with children, so everyone is up at the same time, but if you have the luxury, it is nice to think about what time you would like to be with your children and start the day.  What would peace in the morning look like for you – does it mean you need to prepare things the night before? get up before others in your family?  start your day with exercise or meditation or prayer and then deal with people?  take a family walk first thing?  Only you, as the architect of your family, can decide these things. Every family is different,and I think it is important to explore what works for you personally.

 

Here are possibilities to consider for the morning outside of care for others:

Spiritual tasks – prayer, meditation, yoga, gratitude journaling

Physical tasks – exercise, drinking lemon water, eating a nourishing meal

Mental tasks – looking at the day ahead,  setting forth ideas and intentions about the day that is beginning, list top one to three priorities to accomplish for the day

I would love to hear about your morning wake-up times and how you structure your morning routine!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

The Amazing Birthday

Above my head the stars do shine

Each star is like a flame,

And one is mine, that o’er me shone

When to this earth I came.

Upon this Earth my step is firm,

The stones are ‘neath my feet

I see the birds and beasts and flowers,

And loving people greet.

And every year the day returns

When my star shineth bright,

And I receive within my heart

The glory of its light.

-from “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide”, page 130

Birthdays  in the Waldorf tradition for small children often involve a cape and a crown, lovely homemade cupcakes that are not too sugary, wishes from others for the development of character traits or the simple things in life, simple gifts of unusual stones, shells, flower petals.  It may involve a story of the child’s birth.  As the years go by, the cape and crown and simple gifts may recede, but the sentiments remain the same.

Today is my birthday, and I find it is an amazing day full of gratitude.  I am so grateful for all the things I learned in the last year, even the hard things!  I am grateful to be here for yet another birthday (47 today!), and grateful my husband has celebrated 29 birthdays with me.

Being in the late 40’s is empowering.  The crisis of 35-42 is gone, and I find these late 40s  on the cusp of a new cycle to be one of imagination, newness, warmth, and confidence.  I am so looking forward to this year and to 49 next year – the beginning of a new seven year cycle of 49-56 which I hope will bring more fun, more adaptability and humor.  My husband expressed to me this morning that life is a journey and how we enjoy the ride together.  This may sound like a cliche, but not at our age.  There are so many new possibilities to be open to, and the ability to grow and change together.  I have ideas just flowing into my head lately, and hope to be able to make at least a small part of them reality!

I hope when you have your birthday, you remind yourself of your own special energy, your own special thing that you bring to this short walk on earth, the wonderful gifts that you bring, and all the possibilities that life has for you.  It should be no less special to have  birthday when we are fifty  than when we are four.  Let us not forget!

Many blessings to you, my friends, and thank you for reading here.

Carrie

Discussions With Teachers: Discussion Three And Four

There are just certain written works or lectures that Waldorf teachers and Waldorf homeschooling parents re-read each summer before school starts.  For me, I usually choose between “Discussions With Teachers”, “Practical Advice to Teachers” or “Human Values in Education” (all by Rudolf Steiner). This year, I have decided to go through the lectures found in Rudolf Steiner’s “Discussion With Teachers” and to just share my notes as I go along with all of you.

So, Discussion Three  begins with questions about storytelling according to temperament. Steiner remarked, for example, that sanguines need to hear pauses in a story because their attention wander, and melancholics need emphatic details.  He then goes on to answer discussions about form drawing according to temperament; forms moving outward for the choleric, contrasting colors for the sanguine, starting from a circle and drawing inward for a phelgmatic child.    Steiner also talks about how to describe things so they are of interest to phlegmatic children, using the example of a horse, and in taking the description of the horse again,  telling it to involve the choleric children.  He also says something interesting at the end of the discussion about the importance of  developing the social will of the class, and how it is important to develop “social instincts.” Much of what is done in Waldorf classrooms is to connect the class together in a social way of community, and I often wonder what Steiner’s indications would have been for homeschooling in the day and age that we and our children are facing!

Discussion Four is primarily about math, so for those of you feeling lost in teaching math, I think this is a terrific lecture to read!  It begins with talking about introducing fractions, and moves on to whether or not a child who slouches has more difficulty understanding spatial and geometric forms, but then quickly gets into the heart of teaching the four processes according to temperament.

For example, Steiner talks about how to introduce adding.  He assumes that the children can count (so those of you with six year old kindergarteners, work on jumping rope rhymes with counting in them!) and talks about proceeding from the sum. If a child counts a number of objects, the total amount is the sum.  Then one can divide the objects into little piles, and all together those piles equal 27.  One immediately begins working with flexibility with numbers as a teacher in math.  Phlegmatics do best with this sort of working from the sum, whereas choleric children enjoy adding all the piles together to get the sum.  The melancholic children work well with subtraction, and then the sanguine can reverse this (ie, if I take 5 away from 8, I have 3 left).   He allows that the reverse temperaments should be doing the mathematical procedures in reverse.  Adding is related to the phlegmatic temperament, subtraction to the melancholic, multiplying to the sanguine, and dividing to the choleric.   He talks about going from plane geometry to solid geometry.  Form drawing with examples is further discussed, and storytelling for phlegmatic children, and how to use an element of surprise for the sanguine children.

One of the last things Steiner talks about in this discussion is the imbalances of the temperaments and how “if the melancholic temperament becomes abnormal and does not remain within the boundaries of the soul, but rather encroaches on the body, then insanity arises.”  He goes on to discuss the same with all the different temperaments, and also how to deal with exclusionary behavior, and how punishing children is never the answer.  “The aftereffect is not good,” said Steiner.

Discussion Five talks even more about the temperaments, so please come back for that discussion.  As teachers and homeschooling parents, it is so good that we re-read these lectures every year and bring them to life within us for the health of our children.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

What Are Waldorf Grades 6-8 About Anyway?

In the Waldorf School, there is often a sharp drop-off at sixth grade (the twelve year change), and then again as children enter high school in grade nine, as many parents switch to different forms of education.  This is also happens in Waldorf homeschooling. I know very few people who are Waldorf homeschooling grades 6-8 in the manner in which they homeschooled grades 1-5.  For many homeschoolers, this coincides with an uptick in outside activities of their children with just not enough time to plan or implement something lengthy, the want/need for children to do something more independently, or simply a dissatisfaction with the middle school curriculum as it is often said the true “thinking” part of Waldorf Education begins in high school.

I personally think it may be more of a daunting teaching problem rather than anything else.  I found this interesting quote regarding a more esoteric view of the human being  from  January 2002, Volume 7 #1: Did Rudolf Steiner Want a Seven-Grade Elementary School Configuration? – Waldorf Library in discussing whether or not a teacher should be with a class for all eight classes:

Waldorf education is not only about educating but about “awakening” the children. If a teacher does not possess the powers of awakening a certain age group, should one not accept that and instead work with the principle of specialization?

I think this problem of “awakening” children sometimes is daunting not only for teachers in a Waldorf School setting (who really might be better served by being with early years children) and who don’t want to awaken older children, but also for homeschool teachers as well…if we don’t awaken children by throwing facts and judgment at their heads, then how do we awaken them in the middle school grades?   How do we teach?  As the days with older children grow busier and more out of the home, these grades are not spoken about nearly enough compared to first and second grade, at least in the homeschool world. How do we get sixth through eighth graders ready for high school?  Still, though, in my observation of my own children and in looking at other children from even non-Waldorf families and what those children are ASKING to study during those years, the Waldorf curriculum meets those needs in a lovely way.

I found this interesting quote regarding a more esoteric view of the human being  from  this article:

The four upper grades deal with the same aspects of the human being in reverse order. In the fifth grade, the great individuals of Ancient History stand as a polarity to the Norse Myths, because they both deal with the human ego. The sixth grade topic of Romans, especially Roman law, is polar to the Hebrew Law because law shapes the astral. The seventh grade topic of Age of Discovery is polar to the topic of animal fables; both are connected to the life of people/ animals or to the etheric in general. The eighth grade topic of cultural history is polar to the archetypes found in Fairy tales of the first grade, because both describe the nature of human archetype thus representing the physical body level of the curriculum. A teacher who masters such interrelationships has mastered the content, form, and organic wholeness of the entire curriculum, and is thereby able to give the children the sense that all the subjects are interconnected and taught for a purpose.

Steiner did give indications of what to bring in these upper grades and it all culminates beautifully in the high school curriculum, where tenth grade is back into Ancient History, eleventh grade is back into Medieval and Renaissance topics, and twelfth grade is back into modern scenes.  A beautiful balance of the working of the will (cultural geography), working with the heart (history and literature), and working with clarity of thinking (math and sciences) permeates all grades.

I urge you to think about how the curriculum that served your children so well in the younger years serves them even better in the upper grades and high school.  I see children in the middle school years who are asking about the exact topics that the curriculum provides! It doesn’t change just because a child is past 12 or even past the 15/16 change.  The curriculum meets the child in front of you.

Many blessings,

Carrie