How to Talk To Your Teen About Teen Mental Health and Suicide

This past weekend, I was at the Secular Eclectic Academic Homeschool Conference.  One of the most important sessions I attended was about teens and mental health, and I wanted to pass along some of the wonderful work the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is doing for teen mental health and suicide prevention.

One of the big take-aways from this session is that we should be having layered conversations not only about mental health with our children and teens, especially by age 13 and onward, but also specifically we should be talking about suicide.  The suicide rate for American teens (2016 statistics) was 6,159 reported deaths by suicide for youth ages 10-24.

It is the SECOND leading cause of death for teens!

If the second leading cause of death was due to lack of seat belt use or eating tomatoes or whatever, we would be talking about it.

But because it is suicide, we don’t talk about it.

There is a very steep incline in terms of suicide death between the ages of 10 to ages 14-16 (meaning it is very rare to have a death from suicide at age 10, but then the curve of number of deaths by suicide by age goes up very sharply).  Suicide cuts across all ethnic groups.  No one is immune.  Every person in my session had been touched by suicide in some way.

Girls attempt suicide more than boys, but boys are more successful in succeeding and killing themselves, and for every death by suicide 100-200 teens make an attempt.  Up to 17 percent of teens have reported attempting suicide in the last year and 8.6 percent attempted suicide more than once.  It is not “attention seeking,” as some onlookers ask – it is often a feeling of wanting to disappear and not be a burden.  It is complete hopelessness.

Risk factors include:

  • Health factors:  undiagnosed or underdiagnosed mental health disease
  • Pyschological risk factor such as perfectionism/very black and white thinking (which is normal but should move past black and white thinking in upper adolescence)/perfectionism
  • Past history of abuse/brain injury/Suicide in family.
  •  Life events can be a trigger but not the only thing.

Warning signs include changes in behavior for your teen, withdrawing, isolating, agitation or being easily angered, increased anxiety, changes in sleep or appetite, expression of suicidal thoughts, giving possessions away. Usually the person feels hopeless with no reason to live, feels as if they are a burden to others, feels trapped and in unbearable pain.  Hopelessness is a major feature.  Humiliation can be another risk factor/warning sign for suicide in teens, when teens often feel as if everything they do is in a fishbowl of everyone looking at them.

Protective factors against death by suicide include feeling connected, regular health care and mental health care, learning and using coping strategies, and being willing to seek help.

You can acknowledge your teen’s changed behavior, and you can say you have noticed that they seem to be dealing with a lot and that sometimes people who are dealing with a lot may think about killing themselves.  It does NOT increase suicide if you talk about it, or directly ask about it. It may provide some relief to the teenager, and you can also then know the teen’s ideas or possible intentions and reassure them that they are not alone and that help is available and GET THEM  HELP.

At this point, not only is immediate mental health contact needed along with the immediate reduction of what is stressing the teen, but also TAKE the step to secure any item that could be used lethally – unload and dissassemble firearms that might be in the home and LOCK them away, take any old prescription medicine hanging around and get rid of it, etc.  You can call 1-800-273-TALK or text TALK to 741-741  in the United States for help.  Do NOT leave your child alone!

Here are some of the free resources mentioned in this session so  you can keep having these conversations  with your teens.  There is an Ad Council campaign and series of You Tube videos called #seizetheawkward.  It was done by a number of actors/You Tube stars and while the  ad campaign may seem edgy to you,  in group testing these were the only ads that got the teens’ attention to watch.  It is aimed for 16-24 year olds.  Here is one of the Ad Council videos to get you started, but there are number of them you can watch with your teens and get those conversations rolling. #seizetheawkward


1-800-273-TALK or text TALK to 741 741

The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention  (there are chapters in all 50 states in the United States)

More Than Sad is the program developed by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Just like talking about healthy relationships, about sex, about drugs and drinking, let’s keep talking to our teens about mental health, suicide risk, and coping strategies.








How To Stop Planning All Summer and Enjoy Your Children!

Waldorf homeschooling can seem like such a hard thing to penetrate!  It has a lot of moving parts so to speak – blocks, practice lessons, plus all the wonderful arts of drawing, painting, handwork, modeling, drama/speech, movement, choral music, instrumental music – it can just plain seem overwhelming!

Most Waldorf homeschooling mothers are some of the hardest-working homeschooling mothers I know.  They are devoting HOURS to planning multiple, which is something Waldorf classroom teachers may not totally understand.  I encourage everyone  to NOT do more than three main lessons a day.  Many mothers will combine multiple children into one of the those “three main lesson” slots in order to condense things down to three main lesson slots.

I am in the midst of reading “Roadmap to Literacy” (review to come, but it is 600 pages and it seems I am reading it rather slowly!) and one mention in there is about Waldorf Schools devoting nine main lesson blocks and nine practice blocks of academic skills a year to each grade.  I found this interesting, because whilst I believe in practice, I find most homeschooling mothers are really doing well if we can get through two to three main lessons a day plus run our homes, take our children where they need to be, and do some of those other arts that are harder to fit into a main lesson – music lessons for older children come to mind, and social opportunities since we are at home!  I have been encouraging mothers to do less main lesson blocks a year for this reason – breathing room!

But the truth is that even with cutting back, many  of us are spending a lot of hours planning.  And these are hours that many mothers feel like they are missing and not being present for their children.  What to do?

Here are a few thoughts:

Homeschooling is a job, and therefore takes time.  However, you have flexibility with your time.  It can take discipline to start planning earlier in the year so you can plan only an hour or so a day, but it could be worth it for you and your family.  Or it might be worth it if your children are older to take a mini retreat – two nights away and get organized and feel super efficient!  I think looking at homeschooling supplies around April and ordering, and then planning June – July daily during a downtime for your family   (morning if no one are early birds, afternoon nap time, or evening after children go to bed) can be helpful.

In order to be efficient, you have to have resources.  There are a few resources for free out now, such as Waldorf Teacher Resources and Waldorf Inspirations, and the wonderful blocks from Marsha Johnson held in her free files over at  Pick one or two and then just go with it.  You don’t need every resource on the market to create a magical year!

I still am sticking by less overall blocks per year, (go check out my block rotation plans for third and eighth grade on IG @theparentingpassageway and less weeks of school per year. If you plan 32 weeks, I can almost guarantee it will stretch into 36 weeks for most families unless you have a really motivated child that is completing projects and main lesson pages on their own time.

In order to become proficient with skills, you might need to practice yourself.  You can do this in as little as ten minutes a day.  I used to do form drawing for ten minutes a day; I have set up an ironing board with paints and paper in my bedroom and bounced out of bed and painted for ten minutes a day. Instead of thinking you need hours a day to plan or practice, consider the value of the small chunk of time.

Spend time in nature every day with your children.  You will feel like you are holding the space well, and nature bathing is so helpful for everyone!

Plan some weeks to NOT plan.  Whether you travel or staycation, we all deserve a break!

Lastly, take care of yourself.  If you feel drained, exhausted, scattered and your health is terrible because you aren’t taking care of yourself, it will be hard to plan.  It may be you don’t plan or you decide to plan on Sunday nights for the week ahead and only plan one week at a time.  If you homeschool long enough, you will have an off year.  Sometimes that just happens!  The best thing is to take care of yourself – exercise, cook healthy meals, pray and meditate, laugh, plan a night out with your spouse or with friends.  These things are important and cannot stop with homeschooling!

Would love to hear your suggestions!



A Plea For Summer Neighborhood Play

It can be a lonely summer for children in neighborhoods these days.

In our neighborhood, I see children at the pool but usually after 3 or 4.  Some parents are working all summer, and I totally understand.  But even with the parents who are not working, the children are often in summer camps that cost hundreds of dollars, probably a thousand dollars,  by the end of the summer.

It is sort of a vicious cycle.  Children who are staying home in the summer have no friends to play with; no one is outside; no one is at a neighborhood pool until later and then the parents probably feel as if they must put their child in something so the children will have something to do. And the cycle keeps going round and round.

Summer has somehow become this merry-go-round of more and trying to fit in more before school starts again.  If we, as parents,  don’t start reclaiming some of the slowness of our children’s childhoods,  I think upcoming generations will have an even faster and more hurried life.

What strikes me most is the loss of neighborhood play in mixed-age groups( without parents hovering).  In a neighborhood group, or even in groups of kids on the farm, children figure out the play, the rules, and how one wins.  One stomps off and gets mad and comes back – learning emotional regulation.  One is totally irritated with a commanding older child in the group, but there is a group to buffer this, and children learn how to get along with those who are different than themselves – without an adult telling them how to do it.

The children playing in the neighborhood get to develop decision-making skills. They get to develop their bodies as they bike all over, swim all day, and generally avoid going inside.  They get off of any screens and they get off their bottoms.

So, this summer, even if camps are on your list for your children, I am begging you to consider getting the children in your neighborhood outside.  If it takes a parent to get the ball rolling at this point because it seems kind of foreign, then so be it.  Invite everyone to bring a bike, a scooter, a water gun – and then back off.  Let the children play.  Maybe something wonderful will happen.



A Belated Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Belated American Fourth of July to you, my dear readers. We just came back in from out of the country, so my posts are running a bit behind.  I hope you are still in a celebetory mood!

The Fourth of July has been noted as a day of celebration since the  adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in 1776.  It became a federal holiday only in 1870 but has always been associated with parades, festivities, speeches,  bonfires, and more. It is a chance every year to celebrate what is right in our country, and yes, what needs attention.  This is extremely important especially in times of crisis and difficulty and division.

I was thinking about this in light of my morning routines recently.  After going through a rather tumultuous school year where every day was just sort of survival mode and get-through-the-day mode and take -care- of -whatever -crisis was brewing that day, things finally seem to be better.  I have a lot more energy. I am exercising again.  And, I am conscious about getting the day off to a great start and starting each day anew and afresh in order to be the best for my family and whomever my Creator places in my path that day.

We can do this in our homes as well.  One of the things I have enjoyed doing is using the techniques from Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.  I combine this routine with my religious leanings.  You may enjoy doing this with your family and a modified version with your children. The main thought of this book is that a morning ritual of  self-investment is a way to elevate the entire consciousness of humanity.  Imagine if the whole of the United States, and the whole of the world would be full of love for each other and would be able to extend kindness and generosity all over the world.

Let us use the Fourth of July as a time for new beginnings for all of us at all levels- individual, family, community, nation, and world. Moving forward toward the highest ideals that we hold and value.

Blessings and love,

Multicultural Literature Suggestions for Waldorf Ninth and Tenth Grade

This list is not all of the literature we read in ninth and tenth grade, but it is the literature we did that focused on treatment of minorities or women or were by minority or women authors.

9th Grade

In eighth and  ninth grade, our history covered mainly Southeastern Native American History/Native American history and American history (so keep in mind this book list was spread over two years for history if it seems like a lot to you!)


  • Langston Hughes
  • Phillis Wheatley  (as part of American History)
  • “A Brave and Startling Truth” by Maya Angelou

Drama as part of our Comedy and Tragedy block as suggested by Christopherus Homeschool Resources, Inc in their former main lesson unit book “Comedy And Tragedy” which I don’t think is available anymore.

  • The Damask Drum – Japanese Noh Drama
  • A Raisin in the Sun – Lorraine Hansberry

Novels for American History:   

  • Sing Down the Moon – Scott O’Dell (8th)
  • Sacajawea – Bruchac  (8th)
  • Freedom Train -Sterling;  (8th)
  • (The Last of the Mohicans was another big read for this block;  it does deal a lot with Cooper’s ideas about Native Americans and the French and Indian War in the Northeastern United States)
  • Black Like Me – Liddell-Benge

Nonfiction for American History

  • Let It Shine:  Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters –  Andrea Davis Pinkney (8th)
  • Indian Chiefs -Russell Freedman
  • Malcolm X – Linde (picture book; I used it for my own presentation about Malcolm X)
  • (general books about Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis)


  • Rain Is Not My Indian Name –  Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God – Hurston
  • The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian -Alexie Sherman
  • The Good Earth = Buck
  • Red Scarf Girl – Jiang
  • (interestingly, we also did two science fiction selections as well!)

10th Grade:

A block of Ancient Epics  is traditional in Waldorf Schools and developmentally tied to this grade, but we also did  a block of post-Harlem Renaissance African-American literature tracing vernacular  tradition in music traditions to poetry to a variety of written literature.


  • “Fundamentalism” – Naomi Shihab Nye
  • “Still I Rise” -Maya Angelou
  • “We Real Cool” – Gwendolyn Brooks
  • “Eventide” – Gwendolyn Brooks
  • “Georgia Dusk” – Jean Toomer
  • “Dream Deferred” -Langston Hughes
  • “Haiku” – Sonia Sanchez
  • Music Lyrics as Poetry: “Get It Together” by India Arie and “The Evil That Men Do” by Queen Latifah; “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” by Tupac Shakur
  • “Ego Tripping” -Nikki Giovanni
  • “American Hero” – Essex Hemphill
  • “To Some Supposed Brothers” -Essex Hemphill


  • “Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation” – Toni Morrison (essay)
  • “The Sky Is Grey” -Ernest Gaines (short story)
  • “The Burden of Race” – Arthur Ashe (nonfiction excerpt)
  • “The Bean Trees” – Kingsolver
  • “The Joy Luck Club”  –  Amy Tan

Nonfiction, tied into American Government

  • “Just Mercy” – Bryan Stephenson

Assigned Reading between 10th and 11th Grades:

  • “Beloved” – Toni Morrison
  • “Invisible Man”  –  Ralph Ellison (probably will end up doing together as first book in fall)
  • “Dear Martin” – Nic Stone
  • “All American Boys” – Jason Reynolds
  • “Piecing Me Together” – Watson

Would love to hear some of your early high school multicultural selections!



Jubuliant July!

Are you all excited that July is almost here?  We are having an amazing summer, although I do have a secret fear that July is just going to fly by and then it will be August (and in the Deep South, August = school beginning again!)

What are you doing to celebrate summer in the Northern Hemisphere?  How are my Down Under family doing?  Love seeing everyone’s celebrations on Instagram – don’t forget that The Parenting Passageway is over there now!  Come find me!

So, this July, here are the things we are celebrating:

4- Independence Day

22- Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene

25- Feast Day of St. James the Apostle

26- Feast Day of St. Anne and St. Joachim, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Are you thinking about summer menu planning?  I have a back post on July Menu Planning to grab!

I am looking forward to sunflower festivals, catching fireflies, being in the pool and lake and at the beach.

Things to Do With Children:

  • Fourth of July decorating; patriotic crafts
  • Find traditional patriotic American music to listen to!
  • Go to Independence Day parades!
  • Sunflower crafts
  • Drying herbs and making things from herbs
  • Picking produce; canning and preserving
  • Earth looms and weaving could be lovely; see my summer Pinterest board for even more craft ideas

Things for the Home:

  • Going through the school room or school area and cleaning out
  • Ordering art supplies and new resources for the next school year
  • Making new seasonal things for the home
  • Changing out toys if you are on a toy rotation for smaller children

Homeschooling Fun!:

First of all, a HUGE thank you to all the readers I had consultations with this June!  It was incredible to talk to people from all over North America!  I love you all and it was my pleasure to talk to everyone!  I hope everyone is pulling together their planning!  If you still would like some help, I will be over at Wonder of Childhood and Get Organized: Sketch It Out! e-course with Lisa Boisvert McKenzie!  Also offering consultation slots for those participants!  This will be fun and exciting!  If you want a consultation, I can fit a few more into July so email me at and let me know your needs!

So, as for my own planning…..My personal goal always  includes having 75 percent of my planning done by the end of July.   I am about 60 percent done planning third grade.  I have two of our high schooler’s courses in the planning works (11th grade, and these two courses are essentially things we are adding on to Oak Meadow’s World History and Chemistry courses), and I haven’t really started on 8th grade yet but it’s all in my head!  So, by the end of July, hopefully the vast majority will be done!  I can only plan an hour or so a day, usually first thing in the morning, so I have to be happy with what I get. ❤

We are taking several trips in July, and I am starting to see a few pediatric physical therapy patients again after a break from formal patient work for quite some time.  It is going to be a busy and full school year to come, but I am planning on jumping on it like riding a bull this year!  Hang on and finish! LOL.

Would love to hear how you are doing!

Blessings and love,

Screen Free Summer Activities

I have noticed that summers are different for kids than they used to be.  Younger kids have their days filled up with camps and other strucutured activities whilst their parents are working, so there aren’t a lot of kids at the pool or  out in the neighborhood during the day.  Many younger teens are not outside either, and many older teens are not getting jobs, so I am wondering what children and teens are doing all day in their homes.  I thought maybe parents would like a list of some activities to do to help their children through the summer!

  • Chores and work- Summer can be a great time to clean things out, donate things, deep clean, paint a teen’s bedroom and change the decor
  • Thrift store shopping – can be fun with changing decor or finding motors and small appliances to take apart
  • Pool, lake, beach swimming (some teens may go through a phase where they don’t want to go to the pool or lake because it’s “boring”; some teens go through a phase where don’t want to be in a bathing suit)
  • Sewing, knitting, and other projects – keep a stash of yarn, fabric remnants, buttons, and more around
  • Painting, drawing, modeling
  • Encourage your children to write and put on a play
  • Backyard water fun – sprinklers, basins of water, the hose
  • Baking
  • Building projects – could be large scale outside building or Lego’s or building blocks or boxes!
  • Making tents from old blankets/sheets/blankets indoors or outside
  • Backyward camping
  • Create music together; sing together
  • Gardening
  • Create collages or other multi-media art together
  • Board games and puzzles
  • Stacks of books from the library
  • Model airplanes, model building
  • Older teens can work for money – babysitting, pet sitting
  • Volunteer work
  • Observing nature; nature journaling; catching and releasing frogs, toads, salamanders, lizards, insects
  • Train your dog, your horse, your hamster, your chicken!

For smaller children:

  • Chalk
  • Jump rope, hopscotch, bubbles, sandbox, swing
  • Tea parties
  • Doll play
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Use something like a sit n’ spin or a mini trampoline
  • Play kitchen – you can create one
  • Play dough
  • Face painting
  • Balloon play – volleyball or baseball with balloons
  • Cover a table with a blanket – instant fort
  • Lacing and beading

Field Trips for the Family:

  • Hiking
  • Trip to beach or lake or river
  • Theaters
  • Puppet shows
  • Fire stations and police stations
  • Zoos or aquariums or animal rehabilitation centers
  • Historical Sites
  • Mini-golf
  • Bakery trip
  • State and National Parks
  • Horseback Riding on trails
  • Berry Picking