The Wonder of Nature: Advent Week 2

Beginning on Sunday, we are heading into the second week of Advent.  Advent is just long enough for us to prepare for Christmas and establish some new spiritual rhythms.  The first week of Advent can often sneak up on us right after Thanksgiving, but the second week feels like this momentary pause where we can make things really matter.

One thing I am very committed to this week is getting out in nature every day. The second week of Advent is typically associated with the plant kingdom in the tradition of the Waldorf School, so getting outside and noticing the bare tree limbs and the evergreens seems to fit into that so well.   It also seems fitting to wonder at the beauty of nature this week as we come up to Santa Lucia Day on Friday the 13th, as this day used to be the Winter Solstice under the old Gregorian calendar.    The day typically did start before dawn with the oldest girl in the family rising and preparing buns for the family.  The bun recipe we used for years is in this post, along with a link to the traditional Santa Lucia song.   If you are looking for a story to share with your children, look no further than this wonderful guest post: A Gentle Santa Lucia Story.  There is also a story by Waldorf teacher Christine Natale about Saint Lucy and Saint Stephen in Sweden here  that I have used over the years.

Depending upon where you live, this could be a wonderful week to make ice lanterns or lanterns in general for winter walks when the sun is setting early and that beautiful winter sky is up and ready.  We have plans to get a Christmas tree and make garland from oranges and popcorn for the tree and some orange pomanders, which smell so good!

My spiritual practice this week, outside of lighting our Advent Wreath daily and saying the prayers and readings of our religion, is to think about letting go.  What can I let go?  How can I simplify?  What needs to be cut out of my life so new growth can occur?  I am thinking and contemplating right now, so I can come up to Christmastide with some new intentions in mind.

Looking forward to week two of Advent!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

A Few Simple Steps For A Beautiful St. Nicholas Day

Some families in the United States are celebrating St. Nicholas today, some will be celebrating tomorrow.    This is a fun holiday and really shows kindness, good deeds, generosity and good humor if a little poem/riddle is left amongst the gifts!

If you would like to celebrate tomorrow, your children can leave out a boot (a wooden shoe is traditional, but a boot will do!) and a cookie for St. Nicholas and some carrots for his horse. When your children wake up in the morning, they can find their boot filled with little gifts.  Some sources say the traditional gifts are often considered either the apple (knowledge), nut (strength), and gingerbread (warmth), but can also include citrus (oranges is the fruit I hear most about, not apples), chocolate coins, gifts, little riddles, or even notes of all the kind and generous things the child did this year since St. Nicholas’ last visit!

Some of our favorite activities for past years have included making gingerbread houses and decorating them together, making gingerbread loaves or cookies,  making St. Nicholas baskets and leave them on neighbor’s doorsteps with goodies and the legend of St. Nicholas inside, and making little bishop hats to wear or in an ornament style for a holiday tree.

This post is from 2012, but has some of our favorite stories about St. Nicholas and ideas for celebrating.  And don’t forget this wonderful post about  how to play St. Nicholas and start new traditions in your family! (thank you, Christine Natale, for the guest post that I have treasured for years!).

I am off to get things ready for our boots, and to think about how we will decorate gingerbread houses tomorrow!

Lots of love to you all!

Blessings,
Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling: Early Foundations and Raising Functional Adults

We definitely don’t want or need to run our homeschooling experiences like a brick and mortar school, and if we are Waldorf homeschoolers we cannot recreate a Waldorf School experience that takes a main lesson teacher and a host of speciality teachers in our home.  Nor should we!

However,  I think good habits does lay a good foundation for the future in homeschooling.  In Waldorf homeschooling, I see a lot of people give up around the third grade year as they get frustrated with the curriculum content, and then again at the middle school mark as the amount of teacher preparation really goes up and there are more outside activities.

One of the main unspoken things about this time period of third grade and up, though, can be this notion of “my child won’t do anything that I ask.” (So, therefore, we need to change the curriculum)

There are certainly ways to get around that – what parts of this subject ARE interesting to your child? Are they getting enough movement and sleep?  Are they on a screen all the time?  Nothing excitement-wise seems to compare to screen adventures.

And, is it really the curriculum or is it a responsibility/good habit kind of issue?

It can be that we didn’t really lay down good habits in the early grades to prepare for what’s coming, and we failed to keep any enthusiasm for learning our child had.  I have three children with different personalities – one loved school, one hated it, and one tolerates it.  I totally understand different personalities.  But, if we are being honest and taking 100 percent responsibility for what happens in our homeschooling, then we need to go back and look at our part in things.  One quote has really resonated with me over the years:

In first seven-year period child develops through imitation: in second through authority; in third through individual judgment – Study of Man, Rudolf Steiner

So, in those early years are we setting up good habits? What are we showing our children?  Are we always on our screens , do we hold a rhythm, how much actual work are we doing around the house?  This rhythm and work sets the foundation for what happens in the years 7-21.

In the years of 7-14, are we setting the tone for a loving authority?  There are some things that just have to be done.  If the child is complaining, do we just back off and say never mind…. which teaches nothing…. or do we follow through that I am asking you to do this, we will do this, I can help you and will be here for you?  This is an important step!  To think ahead, and really mean what we are asking the child to do in school (not busy work) and to follow through even if they are complaining.

And lastly, in the period of 14-21, are we giving opportunity for individual judgment?  Sometimes, yes, for learning, I find this easier for an outside teacher in whatever form that takes – and it may be in sports or outside activities, not in homeschooling, but I think teens really need that experience of making something count.  This can be a part time schedule of classes in your public school system if your state allows that, an online class, a tutor, a hybrid school if your state has that, etc.  but I think it is important that the teen get a taste of accountability and failure and success in the world in something that matters.  This is also why I think teenagers holding jobs  and being involved with something that is “team” (sports, marching band, theater, a team) are really important.  Individual judgment needs to be exercised within a realm of accountability.   This is how individual judgment and being a functional young adult occurs.  But it all begins with those early year and early grades foundation!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” Understanding Introverts and Extroverts

We are up to Chapter 10 in our wonderful book, “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  I love this quote, “We don’t get to choose our children’s type, but we can help our kids understand their style and what they need, and teach them how to work with us, especially if our styles are different.”  

The authors looks at the characteristics of extroverted children (or yourself):

  • Need to go outside of themselves, talking and interacting with others and the world around them in order to figure our how they feel and to find the energy to cope.
  • They tend to share thoughts or feelings as they strike them
  • Wants feedback or affirmation – this doesn’t necessarily mean they have low self-esteem; they just process better with others and with a consensus
  • Extroversion doesn’t mean they need people all the time;  in fact they may be cautious in new situations or in meeting new people.  They like to do their thinking by talking and energized by activity and interaction.
  • Too much time alone leaves them drained and irritable.
  • When they are upset, they don’t want to be alone.
  • Not likely to give you a break without them right there!
  • Extroverted children may ask a lot of questions, talk a lot, interrupt

Characteristics of introverted children (or yourself):

  • Need to go inside of themselves in order to sort out feelings, process, recharge
  • They need space, unstructured time, and quiet
  • They can be social people and strong leaders.  Introversion and extroversion do not describe social skill sets.
  • May learn  best by watching first
  • Often talkative in the evening after having time to reflect on the day
  • May be told to “hurry up” or that they take too long with decision making.
  • Introverted children have a strong sense of personal space – they will choose who and when they will allow in their space.  This doesn’t mean they don’t like affection!
  • Noise and crowds drain them
  • Introverted children may need to come home after school and just be – playdates after school might be a disaster!

These traits are on a continuum, just like all personality traits.

So, how do we work with the extroverted child?  The author gives fantastic suggestions starting on page 165.  An extroverted child may talk about an issue over and over, and it can be exhausting for those listening.  We need to help extroverted children set limits that include respecting the other person.  The author also mentions that if the parent is an introvert and your child is an extrovert, they may need extracurricular activities and visiting friend’s homes because you may not be able to meet that child’s needs for interaction all by yourself without exhaustion! Extroverts always want your attention because they are at their best working and interacting with others.  You need to work with them – they may never want to clean their room alone not because they can’t do it, but because they don’t want to do it alone.  It isn’t that they can’t be independent, they just like others to be with them.

We can coach the introverted child in a different way.  Introverts may pull away when they need space or quiet to pull themselves together.  They aren’t shutting you out, they are recharging.  They may get into trouble by running around with other children and telling them all to be quiet, or when younger, they may even bite or hit to get others out of their space. You may have to work and do something else while the introverted child is taking their time to tell you what happened that made them upset.  They may also need time to practice something privately, like the words they would use when they are upset, before they get into that situation with someone else.  They may also need to be taught how to say hello and greet others or how to enter into a large group.  You cannot push an introverted child into a group, but you can teach them to say, “I need to watch first” or how to say, “I need space.”

This is a fantastic and practical chapter!  I hope you are enjoying it.  Our next chapter is about sensitive vs. analytical personality traits in processing.  I hope you will join me for that one!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Celebrating The First Week of Advent

I love the season of Advent; it is a calling for preparation and anticipation; it is a coming to terms with the past; it is an exploration of the mystery of life; it is a calling to chart a new course for the future; it is a time when Nature is drawn into the Earth.

Roger Druitt writes in his book, “Festivals of the Year:  A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festival Cycle”:

“We can say that in summer, when everything is at its fullest extent of growth and splendour, the Earth is asleep- its soul is outside and its consciousness is in the periphery.  It is ‘unfolded.”  In winter, however, the landscapes, light and the starry sky exhibit a distinct clarity, a wakefulness.  In the Northern Hemisphere, then, during winter, nature is drawn into Earth, is infolded, is awake.”

I love this imagery of turning inward and being awake, seeing the lights above us in the stars and beautiful colors of the winter sunrise and sunset, and seeking a little bit of light for our homes and for ourselves to bring to our family, friends, and community.

Advent in the Waldorf Home is something that is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year.  The first week of Advent at Waldorf Schools is marked by a reverance for the mineral kingdom.  This quote is attributed to Rudolf Steiner, although I don’t think anyone has been able to show exactly where Steiner said this:

The first light of Advent is the light of stone–.
Light that lives in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.”

I have many suggestions for celebrating this week on an outward level for children in the home in back posts – just search “first week of Advent” in the search box and many will come up with suggestions for activities, songs, verses.

However, as my children age, I am very interested in not only these hands- on activites that set the mood of Advent, but the real inner work and inner light of this season and this idea of the cosmic wondering. How do we create wonder,  warmth,  and light within ourselves to bring in an outward form during Christmastide (the 12 Days of Christmas) and beyond?

There are several things that help center me during this season that can be riddled and frenzied by commercialism and materialism:

1 – try to get any shopping done by the end of the first week of Advent so we can focus on crafting and making things for our home and for gifts with love for those we care about. Focus on the giving for others and marginalized groups, which we do in several different ways for the homeless children and women in our area and for the children who live in economically disadvantaged areas.  This giving and work around this is an important part of our preparation for Christmas.

2- get out in nature daily so we can notice the small still changes that often accompany this season, even in the Deep South of the United States where the seasons don’t often change as dramatically as other parts of the country.

3 – establish a rhythm that is more focused on the inner parts of Advent, whether that is using a devotional booklet to help us bring focus to lighting our Advent Wreath, or using an Advent Planner such as this one from Wildflowers and Marbles geared to Roman Catholic families or Little Acorn’s Advent and Saint Nicholas Festival book.  Specific to my own Episcopalian tradition, The Very Best Day: The Way of Love For Children (ages 3-10) and The Way of Love Advent Curriculum and Calendar.

Our specific plans:

Sunday –  (Worship on The Way of Love Calendar) The First Sunday of Advent; Make Advent Wreath,  set out Advent Reading Basket, out in nature – all through first week clean and declutter house

Monday -(Go on The Way of Love Calendar); make stuffed stars for Christmas tree, shop for gifts for the teens we adopted through our church, out in nature,

Tuesday-(Learn on The Way of Love Calendar)- reading sacred texts; add minerals and gems to our Advent Wreath;  out in nature

Wednesday (Pray on The Way of Love Calendar) – silent meditation, out in nature, decorate house, bring in branches to force into bloom or plant bulbs to bloom such as paperwhites in honor of St. Barbara

Thursday (Bless on The Way of Love Calendar) – give presence, out in nature, prepare for St. Nicholas Day

Friday – (Turn on The Way of Love Calendar, St. Nicholas Day)  celebrate St. Nicholas Day, acts of kindness anonymously, out in nature

Saturday (Rest on The Way of Love Calendar); Volunteer in morning, rest

I would love to hear how you are preparing for the first week of Advent!  Let’s share ideas to make it wonderful.

Blessings,

Carrie

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”: What Fuels Power Struggles

We are up to Chapters 7, 8 and 9  in Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning For A Lifetime.” Chapter 7 is  about identifying the real feelings and needs behind power struggles.

She identifies four major threads within power struggles, including:

  • Temperament – the natural way your child reacts to something: how persistent, easily frustrated, sensitive, active, regular, or intense they are, how they cope with transitions and new situations
  • Stress – the environmental factors in your child’s life that may be causing distress
  • Medical Factors- physiological issues that are impacting your child; for example, auditory processing challenges, AD/HD, depression, anxiety
  • Normal Development- developmental tasks that your child is working on and that can be predictable for the age if you know development (and to me also suggests, are you expecting too much or not enough?)

If you can identify the threads inside the power struggle, you will have a much better chance of coming up with a strategy that can address what is happening.

Chapter 8 is entitled, “Why You Blow:  Understanding Your Temperament.”  There is a inborn or genetric dimension to temperament, which describes how we perceive the world and our first, most natural responses to things in the world.  If we understand ourselves, we can understand our reaction to our children’s behavior better.  There is a test starting on page 119 of the book that measures traits such as persistence,sensitivity, adaptability, intensity, regularity of eating/sleeping/elimination, activity level, first reaction, and then a way to put it all together for a score of what kind of emotion coach you are for your children.  The point is to accept yourself and know yourself; honor yourself in your parenting life because it will make parenting that much easier.

Chapter 9 takes these same temperament traits and applies them to children, and gives examples of how to emotion coach for trait.  This author has written two other books about temperament and parenting and I encourage you to read them – one is “Raising Your Spirited Child” and the other one is “Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook.”  They are both fantastic and can be so helpful when you are dealing with a child whom you are trying to understand.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Thanksgiving Every Day

One of the more interesting books about festivals from a Waldorf perspective is, “Festivals of the Year:  A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festive Cycle,” by Roger Druitt and published by Sophia Books.  In it, the author posits that the cycle of the year in festival form is something that all of us, no matter what our religious or spiritual beliefs, can benefit from.  The traditional seasonal festivals that mark fertility, fruitfulness and harvest and death can be traced through the life of Jesus Christ and also through the idea that the cycle of the year produces a renewal in nourishing the Earth and “rebuilding the house on Earth” as talked about in this book.

Thanksgiving as a holiday, on a very inner level is a gratitude for the fruitfulness of life; gratitude for our families and blessings.  It is of course up to us to have gratitude every day and to choose thankfulness and optimism as we look at the events of our lives. I think it also implores us to live in this moment that is between now and the future; the good deeds and gratitude we hold now help make the world a better place for the future.  Thanksgiving is a daily act and occurrence.

I wrote a post in 2015 with these words about the act of Thanksgiving:

In a world that often seems shattered, broken, and perhaps beyond repair….

Let us give thanks in our hearts for the light we and others can bring to the world.

Let us give thanks for our best attempts to be kind, compassionate and caring to ourselves, our children and the world.

Let us give thanks for all the good things we model for our children.

Let us give thanks for all the helpers in the world.  There are many.

Let us give thanks for all that we have, and all the ways in which we can help others.

Let us give thanks for the beauty of the earth and skies and seas.

Let us give thanks for the animals and plants and the diversity of all human beings and cultures around the world.

Let us give thanks for peace and show the world love.

Here is a list of words for us to use and model for our beautiful children, this next generation compiled by Master Waldorf Teacher Marsha Johnson in this post.

We also remember the First Peoples of this day and do not celebrate Thanksgiving as the expansion of colonialism and genocide.  I have published several links to resources regarding this on the Parenting Passageway Facebook page, and look for a few more on Thanksgiving.  I will try to come back and list them here on Thanksgiving in an edited version of this post as I realize not every reader is on Facebook. One of the main links to be aware of is https://native-land.ca/?fbclid=IwAR2fcSt4JmrQ2GGWqOi58oLMjNotEgi79egFp8yOrYKkEVrH1fTDJg9g2xQ , which will tell you what First Peoples were living in your area so you can acknowledge them in your Thanksgiving Remembrances.

Thanksgiving  Day this year is also right before the beginning of Advent on December 1, and I am contemplating the richness that Advent brings to our inner lives.  Over the course of ten years of this blog, I have written many posts on Advent and all aspects of the holiday season.  For those who are celebrating, St. Nicholas Day is next week on the 6th!

If you are looking for some inspiration, try these back posts:

Christine Natale’s Musings on Saint Nicholas Day and Starting New Holiday Traditions

Favorite Stories for Saint Nicholas Day

Ideas for the First Week of Advent in the Waldorf Home

Blessings on your season of bringing lightness to the world,

Carrie