Book Study: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles

We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!

I love how Mary Kurcinka writes, ” On the surface power struggles look like a tug of war.  Parents and kids pitted against one another.  Opposing forces pulling in different directions.  Two individuals at odds with each other, both determined to win!  The trouble is that if you win by simply outmuscling your child, you still feel lousy.  There’s little pleasure in victory when your child is left distressed and angry.  If you lose, it’s even worse.  When kind of a parent can’t even get a child to brush her teeth or finish her homework? Power struggles are frustrating.”

What a great summary of how things really go!  Who hasn’t feel angry or frustrated as a parent?

The reality is that a power struggle is like the tip of an iceburg.  Below the surface, every power struggle is about feelings and needs.  And feelings and needs encompass both parties involved.  Recognizing emotions and building relationships by responding to emotion is a way to deal with power struggles, because power struggles aren’t really about winning or losing.  

“Every power struggle offers you the opportunity to connect with your child or to disconnect.” (page 4)  If we can connect with our children, we can help our children and ourselves  cooperate, get along with each other – and play for the same team.  If we can become more emotionally intelligent, then our ability to manage our own intensity and our own triggers increases.

You can have a more harmonious home; emotional coaching is the key.  Seek first to understand and then be understood.

More to come on this wonderful book!

Blessings,
Carrie

Book Study: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles

We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!

The authors states in the “Greetings!” section that she saw families that were winning and gives examples of the parent who could scoop up a toddler headed for a meltdown and totally change the direction, the parents who can just raise an eyebrow and their child actually stops doing what the parent asked them not to do, parents and teenagers living together happily.  So what’s the secret for the rest of us?  Part of what she discovered, outside of love, was the idea of emotional intelligence.  There is a great sentence on page  xiv:

People who are emotionally intelligent are able to use their knowledge of emotions to nurture their most important relationships, and to build the connections that lead them to want to work together.

Read that again.  So does that mean if things are not going well, or if we have a spirited child, or a troubled teenager, that we aren’t emotionally intelligent?  Not necessarily; after all, things happen.  Life happens.  Sometimes we are just tired in the trenches.  But, it could also mean maybe we need a reminder or a tune-up to use our emotional intelligence to build a family team, to connect.  Perhaps we need a reminder to use this to help OUR CHILDREN learn to recognize their own emotions and take care of their own emotions if they are old enough – just like we teach them to take care of their physical bodies. 

But in order to do this, we have to be able to take care of our OWN strong emotions.  And I think many of us never learned how.  I think that’s why as an American society in particular, we see domestic violence/intimate partner violence, why we have an opioid epidemic, why people drink a lot after work, why people stuff their emotions down.    And part of dealing with our strong emotions involves some things many people try to avoid:

  • being vulnerable with others
  • building up a tight-knit support community (family members or not!  I think today most people say their support is NOT their extended family but chosen family)
  • learning to communicative in a way that is not passive-aggressive or full of sarcasm or put-downs, but in a way that says in a heartfelt way, this is what I need, this is what I hear you saying, can you recognize me and how can we work together
  • self-care – if we are completely exhausted, constantly on the go, never eating good food or drinking enough or exercising or taking care of our spiritual life, how can we hope to have enough to give our children or to be able to teach our children?

Just a few of my thoughts off these brief pages.  So grab your copy of the book, and look forward to diving into Chapter 1 on Monday!

Blessings,
carrie

 

 

 

If You Have A Teen, Read This!

Is your relationship with your teenager changing?

Are you grieving a little, and celebrating a little?

Is your teenager ready to leap forward?

Are you struggling to find your balance in parenting your teenager?

I hope your relationship with your teenager is changing – it should be, and this typically involves more of a need for privacy, a need for separation from you for the emerging self.  However, many parents have  a hard time navigating this emotionally and also how to deal with a teenager’s behavior.  My answer to a lot of this dilemma is expectations and boundaries.

Boundaries with teenagers actually aren’t that difficult in some ways.  Teens want increased freedoms, but with that comes increased responsibility and accountability.  Increased freedom is also based upon how well the teen has navigated increased freedom in the past.  It shouldn’t be based upon what Sally down the street does, because you as the parent are responsible for your child, not Sally, and your child may be a different maturity level than Sally.  Always, always remember the ultimate goal:  to raise a functional adult!  So, start where you are and move forward.

I think it’s important to ask yourself several questions:

1 – Did you come from a enmeshed, codependent family structure growing up OR conversely,  a family structure where you received no boundaries, no guidance, no support?  This can influence how we approach our own teenagers.  Examine yourself and how you function in relationships.

One of the solutions for this is to look and to consider not only what we want our children to be able to do by the end of THIS YEAR (not six years ahead to get ready for college; that is meaningless to early teens or even mid-teenagers!) What would help your child increase in not only FREEDOM but RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY this year?  Part of the plan of parenting teenagers is to make our teenagers functional young adults who are able to leave home and live on their own.   What boundaries would help this?  Where do they need a little nudge toward balance?  Where are they emotionally and maturity wise?  It isn’t always about the “number age” a teenager is, but what their stage of developmental is.

2.  Are you killing yourself for your teenager?  Sometimes we reinforce bad behavior.  We don’t need to be available every minute for our teenagers.  If you are being treated poorly, but yet also are running yourself ragged taking care of your teen, you may be enmeshed or you may be enabling your teenager to be self-centered and even downright narcisstic.     You can say no,  you don’t have to do something if it isn’t in your own best interest or even yes, if it is super inconvenient.  Yes, we take care of our teenagers, but a teenager’s wants are not the same thing as actual needs.

3. Boundaries come with conflict.  You can explain the “why” of the boundary – the teenager may not like it!  Conflict is fairly inevitable.  You can explain at what age you think x want/x activity is appropriate for your teenager – they may not like it!  Somehow, you have to keep your emotional response out of it.  There are no shortcuts for this; it is just having a consistent, calm response.   Freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility and accountability.  So the only thing you can do is keep building a bank of positive, loving memories to hold you over when the conflict is there and keep showing them that a good track record goes a long way toward increased freedoms.

4. Set boundaries on technology.  The number one problem I see parents having with early to mid teens (ie, 13-15 or 16) is the lack of boundaries around technology which influences the teenager not being interested in completing things that needs to happen – chores, schoolwork, etc.  and seems to encourage holing up in a room and not doing much else.  Use a Disney Circle or another device to limit things.  Set limits that involve no phones at the table to eat and no phones at night.  Don’t just accept how it is.  Approval for social media and apps and games should be coming through YOU.

5. Connect!  Turn off the technology,  and do things as a family.  Take an interest in your child’s healthy passion even if you don’t totally understand it.  Love your child and what they want to do. Do things together.  Have a special breakfast just the two of you once a week.  Take a special overnight trip together.  Keep building up the memories and love.

6.  Are you helping your teenager avoid making mistakes?  Mistakes are vital, and if we are resilient parenting, parents with a growth-mindset,  we are helping our teenagers learn how to be resilient in the face of disappointment instead of changing the path in front of the child so they don’t fail.  This is important work, and boundaries involving not bailing your teenager out are important.  The quality of a teenagers life and their life as a young adult in a healthy and supportive family,  is based on their own choices, not what we do as parents.

7.  Are you setting the expectations up front ahead of time?  I find sometimes when we are in a rough spot with our teens, we have to think clearly ahead about how to speak to one another, to lay out the expectations of what we expect and why, and to ask if the teen needs support in following things through.  We also need to be clear as to consquences. This goes back to boundaries – things don’t go on as usual when a teen isn’t holding up their end of things.

Blessings,
Carrie

Eighth Grade Meteorology

I will be the first to admit meteorology isn’t my favorite subject and I don’t think I am the best at teaching it.  I love oceanography though, and I usually place meteorology at the end of that block in eighth grade for about a week and a half.  My resources for this block usually include whatever used college meteorology textbook I have on hand, an understanding of the human being in front of me who is in eighth grade (what would be appealing?  Interersting?  Enlivening?  Meets that need for the idea of revolution or rebellion ore extremes?)  And, I think about all the past experiences we have had with weather throughout all the early grades – this is the culminating experience in a way in understanding all of that.

So I usually start with an opening on an extreme weather incident.  In the past, I have used Hurricane Katrina because it was in the Southeast where I live, and it was easy to trace the human impact of the aftermath right to our own city.   I think one of the main points to get across is that the United States has the greatest variety of weather of any country of the world.  Severe weather events such as tornadoes, flash floods, and intense thunderstorms, as well as hurricanes and blizzards, and more frequent and more damaging than in any other nation.  The weather has a strong effect on world economy as well as by influencing agriculture, energy use, water resources, transportation and industry.

Then I usually talk about  the Earth as a system, and how we can break Earth down into solid Earth, but also the water portion (hydrosphere) and the gaseous envelope we call the atmosphere. These parts are all interrelated, interacting, or interdependent parts that form a complex whole and that we, as human, influence in our actions.

Usually I spend an entire day or more on atmosphere, how it is divided into four layers  on the basis of temperature, the interplay of energy between the atmosphere and Earth.  I typically will end the day with a question:  why is the face of our planet ever changing and the lunar surface hasn’t appreciably changed in nearly 3 billion years?  (so the answer runs along the lines of….  if Earth had no atmosphere like the Moon, our planet would not only be lifeless, but many of the processes and interactions that make the surface such a dynamic place could not operate.  Without weathering and erosion we would more closely resemble the moon).

We can review the four layers of atmosphere and dive into the troposphere, the bottom layer in which we live.  This is the chief focus of meteorologists because it is in this layer that essentially all important weather phenomena occurs.  Almost all clouds and precipitation as well as our violent storms are born here.   We can talk about the different cloud formations and cloud identification.

Usually then I move into how nature doesn’t like extremes.  You might think that nature is nothing but extremes, especially extremes of weather, but in nature extremes occur as nature attempts to correct an imbalance or release stress.  The Earth/Atmosphere/Ocean System is an example of this.  the radiation from the sun warms the ground, and the atmosphere is heated from below, which results in an imbalance:  cold air, warm ground.  Stress builds as natures tries to distribute the heat, resulting in a storm.

All of that takes about a week to really delve into detail.  We usually do interesting chalk drawings of clouds, I usually do some little weather experiment demonstrations, and I usually assign a report on the human impact of Hurricane Katrina so we work on that.

The next week, I usually talk about fog, rain, snow, sleet and then move into  winds.  Why do we have wind?  Of course wind is air flowing from areas of higher pressure to lower pressure, but if the Earth did not rotate, and if there were no friction, air would flow directly from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure.  Because both factors exist, wind is controlled by combination of forces – pressure-gradient force, the Coriolis effect, friction.

 

Then we talk about more extreme weather.  Thunderstorms are associated with cumulonimbus clouds that generate heavy rainfall, thunder, lightning, and occasionally hail.  Annually, the United States experiences about 100,000 thunderstorms and millions of lightning strikes. We talk about lightening and thunder and move into superstorms and tornadoes.  Tornadoes are  violent windstorms that take the form of a rotating column of air or vortex  with maximum winds  approaching 480 kilometers per hour.   There is a tornado intensity scale, and then we usually talk about the difference between tornadoes and hurricanes and how a hurricane forms and decays.  I usually end with ideas about weather forecasting and plant the seeds for a block about renewable energy and  climate change.  For that block, I pretty much base the climate change part around the book  The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course.  It isn’t “Waldorf” but it is accurate information and digestible for middle schoolers. To me, this block isn’t usually in the typical Waldorf School eighth grade curriculum, but it is the most difficult

Cheers,

Carrie

 

 

 

Raising Functional Adults

This is the main function of parenting: to raise functional adults.  This is done through understanding stages of developmental maturity, through appropriate connection between parent and child and child and the world, and through slowly letting go toward the child becoming an adult making their own decisions but having a family to support and encourage them.

It sounds brief in that way, and requires much more thought in real life than what I just wrote in that sentence. There are situations that come up a million times a day that can help your child move toward being an empowered adult.  So how do you do it in real life?

First, know your DEVELOPMENTAL norms.  Every child eventually weans.  Every child eventually sleeps in their own bed ( usually by age 10, if not before, is when they stop cosleeping or wandering into your room in the night with a bad dream).  If you know the developmental norms, then that helps you know what is NOT normal and when you might need help.  It might also help you identify anxiety or depression and when to intervene.

Second, respect your child’s IDENTITY.  This is not only extroversion or introversion, but temperament, and likes and dislikes.  This doesn’t mean you don’t get to nudge  a little at the appropriate points toward things that would be healthy, but it means you have a fundamental knowledge of who your child is. Nudging is different than dramatic pushing. Sometimes all of us, including adults, need a nudge from those who love us in order to better ourselves.  It is okay to nudge towards health and balance and normal developmental maturity.   And we respect their changes.   Because they are children who are growing, they have every right to grow and change into something different.  Do not peg your 15 year old into a spot because they acted a certain way when they were seven years old.

Third, provide ENCOURAGEMENT and CONNECTION.  Supportive phrases include encouragement, which is different than praise. Encouragement allows room for growth and room for the child to decide when and where to be proud of him or herself.  Connect with them in their love language.

Fourth, teach your child how to be EMPOWERED.  Teach them how to listen to others, teach them how to manage their own intensity, teach them how to  problem solve, teach them how to set boundaries.  Do not rescue them from real-life consequences.  These are skills you must have YOURSELF before you can teach them!

I would love to hear some of your real life situations – let’s help each other.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Your Children and Yourself

Who’s pulling your strings?

Chapter 21 is called “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” and I love it because it points out that “growing up is the process of making the shift from an external to an internal authority, or locus of control.”  So, when children are little they look to PARENTS to be the authority because they only have an external locus of control.   Over time, as a child develops and matures, children learn how be confident and how to have responsibility for themselves, their responses, their reactions.  (You might be wondering exactly HOW to do this; this is the cruxt of understanding development and why it is so valuable in parenting!  Go to the header and click “Development” and a drop down menu by age will appear.  These posts will give you guidance as to what to expect at each age and how you can empower your children to become functional adults.  More on raising functional adults later this week).

This shift occurs, in my opinion, when we let children make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  The author writes on page 213, “Many people trust others more than they trust themselves.  They don’t know their own values, opinions, beliefs, habits or identity.  They look outside themselves for approval, for a sense of worth, for happiness.  Fully grown adults, they may still look to others to clean up after themselves or to rescue them from problems.”   The authors has an entire section on the difference between cancer patients who decide to just “die obediently right on schedule” versus patients who take control and decide their cancer is not incurable.

The author gives exercises to help develop your own sense of self on page 215, and I can’t wait to try them out! There is an entire list of great suggestions on page 216-217 of how to move your children from external locus of control to internal locus of control.  I highly suggest you look at these pages.

Chapter 22 is “Play”.  Play is a universal language.  We can meet children at their level during play.  The author talks about how children who are entertained with a “high TV diet” wait to be entertained for their play.  Children can actively entertain themselves, but screens often thwart that between humor that is mainly put-downs, violence, and commercials to encourage consumerism. Children are born with a love of work – work is play, play is work.  Parents make the distinction.  If we put back fun into our work, then our children will enjoy it as well.   Have fun, and laugh.  Laughter is the best immune booster out there!  Other great tips in this chapter.

Chapter 23 is “The Winning Environment” and I love this chapter as it talks about how children need “optimal growing conditions in order to thrive.” The author has a checklist for what a winning environment would look like on page 226. This is a short chapter, but worthy to read.  Chapter 24 is also short and called, “Extending Your Family” and talks about how important the extended family is – American families used to be multigenerational, extended families which is not always the case now.  Kids used to be able to see how grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all got along with each other and resolved conflict.  They got to see how different people handled life events. If a parent died, other family members would step in and keep the family going (this happened to me, so this wasn’t so many generations ago).  Today we have smaller households, and people and families are more isolated. Communities are often not supportive.  Neighbors don’t always pop in and out. The hard work of raising children is  lightened by sharing with others.  I believe this is the main reason mothers are exhausted today: no community!  Different families are being formed today, one extended often by friends, and I think this is so valuable.  I couldn’t raise my children without my good friends at this point!

The last two chapters of the book are about the winning family, and how this family can come in many shapes and sizes and forms.  What they share is connection, a sense of the family team, a balance of being close and separate, and the idea that we are all better together than apart (my wording). There is no perfect family, like a highlight reel on social media.  But there can be a great family that is always becoming as we help create it and rise to challenges together.   Chapter 26,  the last chapter talks about “A Winning World,” because families are where societies begin.   “Self-esteem begins in the family, but doesn’t stop there.” – page 240.

This is a terrific book, and I highly encourage you to read it this summer if you haven’t already. I also encourage you to get a copy of “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” for our next book study!

Blessings,

Carrie

Science in the Waldorf Curriculum

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about science within the Waldorf Curriculum.  You can see the post explaining the basics of the science curriculum throughout the grades, and the Goethean approach to science in the Waldorf curriculum.  Today, much like  I have laid out the scope and sequence in many areas of the curriculum, such as Africa or Latin America through the curriculum, here is an overview as I would like to see it for American Waldorf homeschoolers:

Grade One and Grade Two:  These blocks typically are about experiences in nature, naked eye observation of nature.  I would like to see blocks such as form drawing based in the ecosystem in which the student lives.  Other ways children work with nature in first and  second grade includes gardening, cooking, care of pets, outdoor play, festival celebrations, toy-making, observation of the sky  and weather with the naked eye.  First Peoples tales regarding nature phenomena are appropriate in these grades, especially second grade.  I would also like to see an emphasis on herbal gathering and  preparation of herbal products in these grades.  In second grade, I usually do a block based on seasonal changes with poetry and very simple explorations in earth, water, air, fire in second grade – and then circle back around to this in fourth grade.

Grade Three:  Based on the stories of the Hebrew People and, in the American Waldorf homeschooling experience, the First Peoples, we find knowledge and develop skills in homebuilding, gardening and farming, textiles and dyeing.  I also think there should be a large emphasis on cooking in this grade as this is the basis for chemistry in the upper grades.  Another block that could be moved forward is the idea of bringing weather phenomena into greater consciousness.  Nature stories from the First Peoples continue to be important.

Grade Four:  In this block we begin the sequence of relating man to the different parts of the natural world; in this case Man and Animal.  This is tied into careful observation making, and yes, perhaps the first real report that is written by the student.  I think this block should also include a large part about the state’s animals and habitats, which is a mixture of local geography and Man and Animal.  I also like to spend several weeks on the ocean and ocean animals, and this can also tie back into the weather done in third grade.  You can also add an extra block for special areas of interest, such as birds of prey or African animals or insects.

In this grade, I like to do  a block that echoes second grade on earth, air, wind, and fire.  This year will be using the book  “Earth, Water, Fire and Air” by Walter Kraul.  The third block I like to do, again, as an American, is to talk about Benjamin Franklin and his work as a scientist and do some of the simple observations around magnetism and electricity. This may be early compared to the traditional Waldorf curriculum, but I think it could fit well by teaching through story the discoveries of Benjamin Franklin and it introduces an American figure.. #sorrynotsorrytodeviate

Housebuilding, gardening, farming, textiles, cooking, baking,  dyeing can all contiue.  I also make the fourth day of our school experience a “nature day”.  This year we will be studying different types of birds each week.  I also like to keep telling Native American nature tales, especially about the natural formations in our state, which is a precursor to the mineralogy in sixth grade.

I also like to do a weekly health lesson in fourth grade, even though that isn’t required by my state.  Oak Meadow’s weekly health lessons for K-3 grade can be expanded upon for your fourth grader if you decide to go this route.

Grade Five:  Botany is usually the science scheduled for this year, but I think you can expand it a bit and talk about habitats and keystone species in your area and what plant habitats they depend upon.  I also like to bring in biographies of naturalists and botanists, particularly George Washington Carver and women ecologist and naturalists. Botany of course leads into herbalism and the insect world as well, so you could have a whole block that builds on what you did in first through fourth grade with herbs.

Fifth grade also is a great time for talking about general inventions across the world – the wheel, transportation and how it evolved, even printmaking since that ties into botany.  It can be short, and I think you get this piecemeal talking about different ancient civilizations and what each civilization innovated and created, but it’s nice to have it all in one place.  This could be a short two week kind of block, but it’s a nice introduction to all the historical changes the student will be seeing in grades 6-8.  I also like the idea of a tunnel and bridges block and feel could fit well into this year.

We keep on working with cooking, gardening, building, dyeing, and  for our last child I plan to continue weekly health lessons.

Grade Six:  Mineralogy,  physics, and naked eye astronomy ( I use the persepctive of Native American astronomy)  are the typical sciences studied this year, but there are a few extras I like to add on.   In mineralogy, I like to talk about dinosaurs and fossils which can be used for exposure to ideas such as evolution and the  geologic time record, and I think this time around we will be discussing climate change.  In physics and in later chemistry, I always include biographies and particularly biographies of women and people of color.

I  like to include Greek and Roman Science – usually aqueducts, tunnels, watermills.  One thing I have toyed with is doing an entire block on medicine or based on Galen and the Gateway to Medicine.  This could tie into any health studies required in your state.  I am contemplating this for the next time I teach sixth grade!

Lastly, I think there should be an ecology unit in this grade – general biomes, food webs, energy pyramids, etc.   It goes well with mineralogy and the previous studies of botany and zoology, and sets a great foundation for seventh and eighth grade studies.  You could also do a great block on insect life in this grade or go further into zoology.

In this grade, using the fourth day for nature studies can go either way. By seventh grade, I usually don’t have the time to devote a whole main lesson period to nature studies alone and still keep a four day week.  Sometimes I like the idea of working more “workshop style” for nature studies in seventh and eighth grade – ie, 2-3 days on a particular nature study topic.

Grade Seven:  This grade is jam-packed full of science, with blocks in physiology, physics (usually hydraulics or aerodynamics or both), astronomy using optics, and chemistry. You can also work a lot of science into the history blocks – for example, optics and the Islamic Golden Age.   I would like to see a zoology block added here to touch on more traditional life sciences subjects and more animals from fourth grade, and if there was time I would love to see a block about climate change in either this grade or eighth grade.

I also think it is very important to work on reading non-fiction passages about science and working to understand them well in seventh and eighth grade.  This is an important skill for research paper writing and for high school.

Grade Eight:  There is a lot of science in this grade, including more chemistry, physiology, and physics, along with meteorology (and I  include oceanography with the meteorology).  I think part of this could block could be the biography of Marie Tharp and the theory of continental drift.

I think there should be a block on climate change and  renewable energy and also a general look at water conservation (Project WET could be a good starting point).  Another possible interesting block could be one on the biographies of Charles Darwin, Robert FritzRoy and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.

This is also a good place to put a computer science kind of block in preparation for high school – understanding how to build a computer, how one works. It could be quite wonderful to build this block around Ada Lovelace.

Just a few ideas for my favorite subject!

Many blessings,
Carrie