Some Favorite Holiday Gifts!

Today, our focus is on the act of giving gifts for our family members, although I want to say right away  that my favorite gift  is a gift that “gives” to our children but the physical results may go to someone else. Please consider volunteering, buying  gifts for, or helping in any way someone or an organization who needs help around the holidays.  This might be the most important part of the holidays, and I think is vital for teenagers who should be moving into a stage of love for all of humanity and a sense of responsibility to help others.  Many teenagers I know have their basic needs met and some of their “wants” too, (and don’t really need more “stuff”) but instead need to start to penetrate the meaning of generosity, giving, and love for humanity.

That said, we are talking about gift-giving today, and I would love to hear everyone’s favorite holidays gifts for different ages, and also to hear what YOU want for a holiday gift.  There can be many traditions around gift-giving depending upon religious and cultural backgrounds.  I have readers from all over the world and it is always fun to hear about gift-giving traditions in different countries!   Many of the  households here in the States involved in Waldorf Education exchange simple gifts, some spread gifts out throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, some spread out gifts all the way from St. Nicholas Day to Candlemas!

Here is a run-down on just a few of my favorite gifts:

For Dads and  Moms:  coupons for massages,  folks who knit might like special yarn or plant-dyed felt or yarn bowls, woodworking supplies, art supplies, gardening supplies, books on any special topic of interest, equipment for exercising/hiking/skiing/kayaking, an overnight getaway with spouse/friends if the children are old enough! Please chime in with some fantastic ideas for fathers especially!

For Waldorf Homeschooling Parents especially:  Any of the wonderful Waldorf homeschooling books that are difficult to afford during the school year, art supplies.  Gift certificates for “time to plan” LOL

For tiny children under the age of 7:  open-ended toys, play silks, clips, a special doll, outdoor toys for older children in this age range such as a balance bike or a rocker.  For more suggestions further broken down by age,  see this post on holiday gifts for children and keeping things reasonable! or the popular post  Toys, Toys, Toys where things are really broken down by age for this Early Years group.

For children ages 7-10:  I love games.  My new favorites are Ocean Labyrinth and Shadows in the Forest.  Other ideas include craft kits, knitting supplies, crocheting supplies, embroidery, good art supplies, beeswax, candle making and decorating kits, toys for outside play – slack lines, bikes, a trampoline (!!).  Dollhouses, castles, little wooden figures.

For children ages 10-14:  Games, books, art supplies as mentioned for ages 7-10, outside play toys such as stilts or a unicycle or more advanced bike, musical instruments, experiences outside the home with memberships to places of interest, coupons for dates out with a parent alone.   Many children in this age bracket also are in the height of Lego play so whilst that is plastic, I think it is realistic that many children would like that!

For children ages 14 and up:  I still like games, books, and art supplies; tickets to concerts or the opera or ballet; coupons for dates with a parent alone; experiences or memberships to local museums, nature centers or other places of interest; some teens are interested in more musical instruments; puzzles;  gift certificates for a class they want to take or for supplies to support their favorite hobbies.

Can’t wait to hear all of your ideas!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Magic of the Feast of St. Nicholas

In the book, “Gazing Into The Eyes of the Future :  The Enactment of Saint Nicholas In The Waldorf School,” by David Tresemer,  it is written: “Augustine, another saint, said, “Our whole business in this life to restore the health of the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.”  The St. Nicholas that visits the classrooms in a Waldorf School is searching and seeking soul to soul with the child in front of them in an intimacy of the heart, and in a  special moment to communicate to the child a thank you for being here in this time and space and for being part of the healing of a broken world in the future. What gifts, talents, and dreams do these children bring?  We have gratitude for this with the children in front of us.

As we lay out the traditional gifts of St. Nicholas (citrus, dates and golden walnuts are mentioned particularly for the older children and high schoolers), let us ponder the beautiful continuinty of the seasons through many , many years of doing this for our children.  May the light embodied in this festival shine into our children and for their place in the world.

Younger students, those under fifth grade, can hear stories of St. Nicholas’ great courage and generosity.  Older students, oddly enough, in a Waldorf School, may hear something about Rupert. Rupert is seen in Waldorf Schools as have fallen mightly and yet can still be touched and transformed by the light of St. Nicholas.  He may be mischevious when he visits the schools, but St. Nicholas often says, “He is trying to be good.”  Together, St. Nicholas and Rupert reflect the duality of the human being in so many ways, and the compassion we must show one another in the struggle.  What a valuable lesson for all older children, especially those in high school. This is often an aspect  I find often not considered by homeschooling families.  There is a story about Nicholas and Rupert in the back of book mentioned above that could be shared with older children.

Other wonderful traditions for this day could include dipping candles, creating a gingerbread house, or making gingerbread.  Crafting rosettes, frost paintings, or even paper snowflakes could be fun activities for the day as well.  I always remember the line in the book, “All Year Round, ” that states that adults often experience struggle or depression during Advent. How much more edifying and nourishing it is to keep these traditions of joy year after year!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

The Second Week of Advent: Constancy

The Second Week of Advent Verse from the  London Steiner School:<!– [if lt IE 8]> http://ie7-js.googlecode.com/svn/version/2.1(beta4)/IE8.js <![endif]–>

The second Light of Advent It is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun And in the breezes dance.

In this beautiful second week of Advent, the kingdom of plants, along with the minerals of the Earth, are preparing for the event that becomes the turning point in humanity; a turning point of love.

I was thinking of the giant redwoods and sequoias, who have remained steadfast in the growth and light of the sun and the seasons.  Some of these ancient trees were alive at the time of Christ’s coming to Earth.  Perhaps one of the spiritual qualities within this second week is enduring constancy, and how we show this to our families.  Are we  steadfast and constant in our love and joy toward our families?  Toward all of humanity? That has become my meditation this week.  Constancy in love toward all.  The action I find I most often need to take to do this is to not react strongly to something at first; but to let things sit and filter through my mind and then react later; to hold my thoughts to not try to “fix” anything but to be present and attentive as a support; to hold hope.

This is a lovely week to make simple little crafts for the home and for gift-giving that involve plants.  Things we have planned include making pomanders ( I like this blog post on Simple Bites),  creating moss gardens in a tub of water and floating little half walnut shell beeswax-filled boats (see the book “Earthways” for more), slicing and dehydrating lemon, orange , and apple slices for your Christmas tree, a garland, or an outside tree for the birds.  This week might also be a wonderful time to make some herbal gifts.

I also thought of donating to an organization that plants trees in varying places – you could do this for a local organization or one that plants trees internationally.

Here are some back posts about the second week of Advent:

2015  (book suggestions)

2012

2010

This is also the week of The Feast of St. Nicholas!  There are some wonderful stories in this post; here is a back post about this special day.  There is also a post about some more traditions for this day here from 2009.

Many blessings to you this week in this week of constant love,

Carrie

 

Celebrating Eight Years Of The Parenting Passageway!

It is hard to believe that The Parenting Passageway has been around for over eight years now!  Our “official” start up date was October 2, 2008 but my first “real post” was this one on challenging developmental stages.  The next post was about fostering creative play,  and The Parenting Passageway bloomed from there.  Over the years, I think I have written about most situations parents find themselves in, and tried to combine the two things I love most:   childhood development and Waldorf parenting/education.  I have also revealed layers of my own journey and my own life philosophy for you all as time has progressed.

I thank you all for being here with me and reading along. I have a wide cross-section of readers – some homeschooling, some not, some involved in Waldorf Education, many not.  Many come here just to think about family life and gentle discipline.  I appreciate each and every one of you, and am always thrilled to receive your emails and tweets. Over the years I have even received donations made in my honor and little packages of Waldorf handmade goods, which is an incredible feeling!   I am always especially shocked to find readers all over the globe! That always amazes me and is a new joy every time!

I truly hope these next eight years will be as good as the first.  We are working on some new things over here; including a new logo and website design that hopefully will be unveiled sometime in 2017.  I keep threatening to write ebooks and never seem to have the time as I am busy taking care of my own family and being active in my own community, but I do so hope to do some writings on parenting, development, gentle discipline, festivals and Waldorf homeschooling at some point!

I got to go to North Carolina this year to speak with some fantastic homeschooling mothers.  I always learn so much from others, and enjoyed being with the homeschool community there. If anyone is interested in having me come and speak in 2017, please do contact me at admin@theparentingpassageway. I would love to talk to you about what you are looking for!

Most of all, I hope to keep connecting with my readers in this space and encouraging you all in parenting (and for those of you homeschooling, in homeschooling).  Having a family is a blessing, and having all of you makes me feel like I have a large family out  in the world spreading light and love in your own communities.  Thank you all so much for being here.

Much love and many blessings,
Carrie

Not So Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood

I actually thought of just ditching the last part of this book and moving into something else.  We started looking at this book over the summer and there wasn’t really a lot of feedback about it, and now we are long PAST summer up here in the Northern Hemisphere!  However, I got thinking about holidays. And in that season, sometimes rhythm and normal habits go out the window.  Sometimes more media comes in as parents try to buy some time to wrap gifts without their children or do other things.  So, I thought, maybe it will still be good to finish this up and we can all remind ourselves why no media for littles and media lite for olders is preferred!

We are on Chapter 4 of “Set Free Childhood” by Martin Large, which is a great book for information in moving your family toward a media lite or media free lifestyle. This chapter talks about the actual physical hazards of screens – mainly the effects on the brain and the senses.  The chapter opens with the question, “Parents often ask, “What is the right age for my child to start watching TV or using a computer?”  This is a key question; and it is important that each and every family take the responsibility to make up its own mind, calculating their own overall “balance sheet” of the advantages and the hazards of the electronic media for their children – an assessment which reading this book will help families to reach.”

The first box of information on the next page points out the warning from the British government that mobile phone users under the age of 16 should be limiting calls for essential purposes  due to mobile phone radiation.  This was based on a study out of the University of Utah in 2001.  I looked to see if I could find any up to date information on this subject; I found a  2014 link on WebMD talking about how children and fetuses are in danger of greater health risks from wireless devices in general because the brain tissue is more absorbent, the skulls are thinner.  Other countries have passed laws or are issuing warnings about children’s use of wireless devices, including phones.

The box on the following page lists all the effects of too much exposure (although “too much exposure” is not quantified) including physical effects, social and emotional effects,  cognitive effects, and moral effects.  It was all too much to list here, but be assured the list is quite long and includes obesity, social isolation and withdrawal, less creativity and imagination, attention deficit and the inability to concentrate.

There are two main reasons that children have difficulty switching off the screens – one has to do with the way the actual image is generated on a screen, and the other has to do with what the author terms radiant repetitive light souce .  The idea that the TV is a door into the home and the brain, even if the TV is on and being watched intermittenly, is explored in this chapter as well.  The role TV plays in inducing alpha brainwaves is explored, along with the possibility that TV shuts down the left brain, leaving the right hemisphere of the brain open to incoming images.  Screens also affect the development of the eye. The sense of attention and hearing can also be dulled.  Research in Manchester, England showed a doubled incidence of listening and attention problems in children over the span of six year (1984 to 1990).  I wonder what this is like now that we are heavily into a digital age for youngsters.

Chapter 5 talks more about the physical hazards of screens and includes light research.  There are many interesting facts  in the beginning of this chapter, including studies on beans exposed to television radiation and rates of growth (the exposed beans grew into excessively tall vines with leaves two and a half to three times the size of the outdoor plants or the plants shielded from the television radiation).  Studies were also done with cancer-sensitive mice, looking at the connection between artificial light and rickets.

The rest of this chapter looks at brain integration and how that is affected by screens, childhood obesity and lack of exercise and movement disorders.  Children at the time of this book publishing (2003) were engaged in 75 percent less physical activity than they did in 1900.  This is not a surprise, and this article regarding obesity prevention  from Harvard points out that children need at least an hour a day of vigorous exercise.  As a pediatric physical therapist, I would like to see children get even more than an hour, but at least an hour is a starting point!  Remember, movement is an activator of intellectual growth!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

 

Advent for All Ages

Every year, we celebrate a number of feasts along the way to Christmastide, including the Feast of St. Nicholas, Santa Lucia Day, and then through Christmastide itself ending in Epiphany.

For those of you with tiny children, you may be establishing your holiday traditions and how you want to celebrate Advent.  For those of you with older children and teens, you may be re-evaluating what works and doesn’t work.  And, those of you with upper grades children (middle school aged, ages 12-14), may be feeling pulled in the middle that the traditions of the early years and early grades no longer hold as much magic, but you are reluctant to let go of traditions or forge something new.

For those of you establishing traditions, my advice is to take it slow and add a little bit each year.  If your children are so, so small (ie, under seven), they may not even remember things from each year and by the time they are nine or ten and you have traditions in place, they will just consider that “this is how we have always done it.”

I would also encourage you to go simple and set a model of much hand-making of gifts and cooking and baking and helping others.  Some families have Kindness Calendars for Advent.  Some have traditions of things such as baking little loaves of bread and leaving them on neighbor’s doorsteps for the Feast of St. Nicholas.  At any rate, keeping things simple, including the number of gifts a child receives, is really important.   Children do not need to plow through a roomful of gifts in order to have a meaningful holiday and in fact, once the adrenaline high of ripping paper off of packages is done, they are typically disappointed and sad (and the younger ones burst into tears).  So, think carefully about how you would like to handle gifts (and when- throughout the season, throughout Christmastide, solely on Christmas?).  If you would like some more suggestions about gifts, please see this Holiday Gifts for Children and Holiday Gifts For Children: How Much Is Too Much?  Here is a list of gifts up to the age of thirteen.   Lastly, I always found this back post by Christine Natale, with her musings on Saint Nicholas Day and starting new traditions , to be quite reassuring.

Santa Claus is another area that needs thoughtful consideration.  Different families deal with “Santa Claus” in different ways.  Some feel he is an American helper to St. Nicholas;  some feel he has no place in this season of hope and light and is purely a commercial figure, some include Santa and his reindeer as a part of Christmastide.  At any rate, if you do have Santa Claus as part of your family traditions, I am going make a plea that Santa does not give the best or biggest gift.  This is just a personal opinion – that I feel the most special gifts should come from the family – and you may feel differently.  Or some families give gifts throughout Christmastide anonymously to each other.

If you have children in the upper grades (again, around the twelve year change to add fourteen or so), I would be very careful NOT to discard traditions you think might be too “babyish” for your now older child.  Crafting, baking, and slowing down is something that is important for this age.  This may be  easier to do if you actually have younger siblings or cousins about, but sometimes even holding that magic  for a small neighborhhood child can be helpful.    I find some children around the age of 10 or so realize the “truth” about Santa Claus, but I also find that is most cases the child really doesn’t want the magic to end and may even feel sad about this.

I think the other thing to consider even more movement away from consumerism and  toward acts of kindness, toward any sort of volunteering in a community setting if that is available.  The holidays should be about fostering light throughout the world.  I find some children of this age have a tendency toward wishing for a lot of fancy, expensive, technological gifts for themselves.  Some families have no trouble with this; some families coming from a Waldorf setting look to the curriculum and see when these subjects are introduced in a Waldorf School.   In this latter  instance, not only moving toward helping others but providing appropriate boundaries consistent with your family’s values (and budget) without feeling guilty  is of import.  If you would like to think more on this subject, there are a few posts on here about gaming, about introducting computers in general, and about Pondering Portals ( a series of four posts).

Teenagers can be happy with simple things if you have built up your traditions by this time to include slowing down, enjoying the time as a family and in helping others, and limiting a huge number of commercial gifts.  Teens who have developed interests can be easy to create or buy gifts for, and the love of the wonder of nature never goes away.  Christmastide: Forest, Farm, Field, and Stream  and its follow up post  may be of interest to you in this regard.  Planning outside time for hiking, skiing, cross country skiing, (or surfing and swimming depending upon where in the world you live!) can be utterly satisfying for teens – especially if it includes a little bit of the element of something new they have not tried before!

Lastly, for all ages, limiting the calendar to the most meaningful things for your family is important.  There will be more parties, get togethers, and things to do than you can possibly attend.  Limit your calendar to the most important things that reflect your values. It is an important model to show children the truly most important things about the holiday season – being together, sharing your value or religious-based traditions, and enjoying this special time of year in helping others.

Much love to you all,
Carrie

 

The Light of the First Week of Advent

I am hoping to make this first Sunday in Advent and the first week of Advent a most special one.  As many of you know, our children range from age 15 down to age 7, and I find it almost even more important to hold the space with older children in the home around our holidays and traditions and to do my own inner work. I am finding it particularly important this year.

One of our most important traditions begins with the little verse for Advent found in most Waldorf Schools.  I really like this lovely little Advent verse.  This verse, on the London Steiner School website, was written/added to by Michelle Rumney and I will be using it as a meditation during the four weeks of Advent.

The first part of the verse begins:

The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones:

The Light that shines in seashells In crystals and our bones.

I am thinking about the light that these “solid” things -stones, seashells, crystals, bones- provide. How is that possible to be solid and light at the same time?  How is that ancient wisdom carried in something like a seashell to be a light from the ages?

The other part of my Advent inner  work is this prayer, which came from my father-in-law who is a priest of many years.  He was working with this beautiful early Irish confession and grace.  It may resonate with those of you who are fasting in Advent:

 Jesus, forgive my sins.

Forgive the sins that I can remember and the sins I have forgotten.

Forgive the wrong actions I have committed, and the right actions I have omitted.

Forgive the times I have been weak in the face of temptation, and those when I have been stubborn in the face of correction.

Forgive the times I have been proud of my own achievements, and those when I failed to boast of your works.

Forgive the harsh judgments I have made of others, and the leniency I have shown to myself.

Forgive the lies I have told to others, and the truths I have avoided.

Forgive the pain I have caused others, and the indulgence I have shown to myself.

Jesus have pity on me, and make me whole.  Amen.

(This, is, of course, the confession before the Peace in a Divine Liturgy, and before the Eucharist that brings “heaven intertwined with earth” where we take the Divine Life inside ourselves…I just want to point out the beautiful circle of joy that is within the church and Advent, lest this confession sound without hope by itself.  Advent, is after all, joy and hope and abiding.  All of these things!)

May we be wakeful at sunrise to begin a new day for you,

Cheerful at sunset for having done our work for you,

Thankful at moonrise and under starshine for the beauty of your universe;

And may we add what little may be in us to add to your great world.  — The Abbot of Grace

 

This Sunday, we will be making an Advent wreath.  (So, yes, I am locating candles now!).  We will be putting up some Christmas decorations, little by little, through Advent, so as to build up our decorations in time for Christmastide.  We usually set up our nativity scenes first and add figures to it as the weeks progress.    We typically get our tree in the second week of Advent in order to coincide with the second stanza in our Steiner verse.

This is a wonderful week to start making presents. I don’t make anything too complicated, but I do have a Pinterest board of holiday gifts to make, and will choose from those ideas. I also typically make food to share.  I try to have most of my commercial shopping done before Advent begins so I can focus on making things, but I certainly will have it wrapped up this first week!

I have some years’ worth of back posts on the first week of Advent, if you are searching for more ideas.

2008

2009

2010  (which has some suggestions for stories if you are searching for Advent stories)  and more 2010 (which has song and craft suggestions)

2011

2012

2013

2015

Many blessings and light this Advent,
Carrie