The Parenting Passageway First Grade Workshop

The Parenting Passageway will be in Decatur, Georgia on February 18th for an entire day devoted to first grade homeschooling with indications from Rudolf Steiner and from the traditions of the Waldorf Schools.  Our topics will include:

  • The Five Pointed Star of Planning First Grade -including notes on observation, temperment, wamth and love, inner work and more
  • The goals and progression of capabilities to meet those goals for blocks including Form Drawing, Math, and Language Arts
  • Practice in drawing with block and stick crayons
  • Numerous ideas for movement and the development of the 12 Senses
  • Planning the Seasonal Year, including verses,  festivals, seasonal crafts and nature crafts,  wet on wet watercolor painting
  • Modeling sequences for first grade
  • How to Balance the Week and multiple children
  • Work and Play for Daily Rhythm with multiple children

I would love to see YOU there.  Please contact jkernstine1@gmail.com in order to attend!

Many blessings and looking forward to this workshop!

Love,

Carrie

The Light In The Middle of the Homeschooling Year

Sometimes I am searching for  the light in the middle of the homeschool year. Did you ever feel that way?  There is a saying that every homeschooling family is ready to quit in February, so maybe this feeling that homeschooling is a hard juggle is just starting early. What usually  happens is that  by the end of the year I will be saying, “Oh well, it wasn’t really SO bad!”.  I told a friend that other day that maybe homeschooling is a little like childbirth, and we forget the painful parts, which is why we come back for the next year! Hahahaha!

So, at this time of year, at least for me, we just have to  press on.  I have to keep myself going because the end of the year is not that far away, and I realize particularly for our high schooler, we may have to extend a little past the date where we normally end even with pressing on.

So,  in order to conquer the midyear feels, I have been busy bringing in light into our homeschool in various forms.  I have done this with physical forms of  light in our home – candles and salt lamps; through crafts that make our space feel cheery.  I have done this with emotional things that give us light.  For example, this month we have focused on courtesy and kind speech and loyalty through a variety of stories and biographies and our Christian faith.  That feels nice. We try to get out to walk everyday for a very physical dose of light as well.   We have been at the horse farm and the children have been playing outside with our puppy.  I have streamlined errands as much as possible and made rest, exercise, rhythm, and cleanliness a priority.

For those of you Waldorf  homeschooling and wondering where we are these days, our first grader is on his second math block of the year. He is going over all four math processes, and starting to work on math facts involving the numbers 1-20, the multiplication tables, patterns and estimating and more.  Math is easy for him.  He is also working on all his letter sounds (for those of you not Waldorf homeschooling, we introduce academics in first grade, not kindergarten, for a variety of reasons), short vowels and consonant-vowel-consonant words and we are doing a lot of modeling in this block.

Our sixth grader has completed Astronomy, Mineralogy, European Geography, and we are finishing up Rome this week and moving into a math block next week.  She has daily practice in math, grammar, spelling, and is working on Latin a few times a week.  She is working a lot on black and white drawing also during this block.

Our oldest child is a ninth grader.  Biology is the one subject that has been consistently hard for her, and we switched tactics partway through the first semester so we are still catching up.  She has recently been studying and writing about, “The House of the Scorpion, ” and the poetry of Mary Oliver ( from Oak Meadow’s freshman year literature and composition suggestions), along with Biology, Spanish II, and Algebra I.  She has been creating her own business making horse-related products to sell.

So, it isn’t perfect, but it is moving!  Throw some of your light over here and tell me how your homeschooling is going!

Love,
Carrie

 

Vitality 3: Slow Sunday

Since my word of the year is “vitality,” every Sunday I hope to share something with you all that makes me feel vital, sparkly, happy, and alive from different aspects of my life.  It isn’t about having a perfect life. It is about growing in wholeness and authenticity and living in joy, no matter what crosses our paths.

My little seven year old woke up one Saturday with an urge to start seeds in a paper egg carton.  Still in his pajamas, I helped him plant cosmos, evening primrose, several kinds of four o-clock’s and evening stock.  He said he was happy to see things grow because he loves nature so much. When his seeds started sprouting, he declared that his new little plants were cute.  What is better than seeing new life sprout and grow?

I thought about how that is so much like how we are as human beings.  We can only be who we are:  imperfect.  We make mistakes and can only move forward.  We can do the best we can with the knowledge and experiences we have at this moment, and we may change our minds later with different knowledge and more experience.  We cannot please everyone, and nor should we.  I will never feel exactly the same way on every issue, every facet of parenting and every facet of  life that someone else will.  This is what makes us unique and our perspective valuable and is yet so often treated as an unfortunate or misguided thing.  And instead of seeing this as the possibility for growth, it becomes an area of polarization.

We live in a society that is becoming increasingly prone to difficulties in finding any common ground.  We live in a society where on Facebook or other social media we can pick apart any opinion,  event,  or happening and pare it down to the worst part about it, whether this worst part was true or imagined.  We live in a society where it is increasingly becoming safe to only be with others who think, parent, or live as we do.

Yet, studies show diversity makes us smarter.  This week, I hope to plants seeds of kindness and love by listening to others who are different than I am; people who have had different experiences and who hold different knowledge. I hope to get to know someone whom I don’t know very well, or to further learn about something I don’t know about.

May this week bring you seeds of love and kindness and may you plant some of your own.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The January Rhythm Round-Up

 

Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next with enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchhill

 

Some families get really upset when talking about rhythm or trying to make a rhythm for their family.  It is okay to start and tweak and start, and most families experiences successes and failures!   Rhythm can be a beautiful tool to use to obtain a harmonious and peaceful family.  Having all family members home does not have to be complete chaos, and life doesn’t need to feel so hurried and harried.  With rhythm, you can tame your household care, the nourishment of your family through warming meals, help gently guide your children, establish security and stability for all family members, and have enough time for sleep, rest, play, alone time, family time, and time outside the home.

Everyone’s rhythm will look a little bit different, but the main shared feature is that rhythm is just that – a rhythm where things flow and balance and not a tight schedule that is a noose around one’s neck where one always feels behind!

For those of you needing help to get started, try the back post Rhythm for the Irregular and the tips in this post!

Here are  just a few suggestions by area/age:

Taking care of the household:

For a rhythm with household chores, begin with the immediate.  Do the emergency clean up, and then find a system that works for you to systematically go through your rooms and de-clutter.  It is hard to clean when there is clutter everywhere!  Some people swear by FlyLady, some use Konmari.  Finding the system that works for you can really help!

Tackle daily tasks household tasks daily – sorting through junk mail and throwing it out; the daily toy pick up before lunch and dinner or before bedtime; the wiping down of counters – for every house it may look different dependent upon your tolerance, but figure out your daily tasks and do them.  I have found FLYLADY to be helpful with this over the years because it involves a short amount of time.

Involve your children.  Even toddlers can do meaningful work.

Don’t let your older children off the hook- if they want to go and do things, the house needs to be taken care of first.  We are training adults who will go off and have a house and perhaps a family of their own.  What habits do we want them to have in terms of household care? Here is an interesting article from NPR on how habits form and how to break bad habits.

For a rhythm with meals:

Try to focus on the fact that it isn’t just food you are serving.  I love this quote from Kim John Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting”:  “The family dinner is more than a meal.  Coming together, committing to a shared time and experience, exchanging conversation, food and attention…all of these add up to more than full bellies.  The nourishment is exponential.  Family stories, cultural markers, and information about how we live are passed around with the peas.  The process is more than the meal:  It is what comes before and after.  It is the reverence paid.  The process is also more important than the particulars.  Not only is it more forgiving, but also, like any rhythm, it gets better with practice.”

That being said, for the physical act of meals, try weekly menu planning and shopping.

Look for recipes for the crock pot or Insta Pot for busy days.

Let your older children cook dinner one night a week.

Rhythm with Little Ones, Under Age 9:

Rhythm begins in the home. In this day and age of so many structured classes for little people, be aware of who the outside the home activity is really for!  Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!     Remember, it is almost impossible to have a healthy rhythm if you and your children are gone all the time scurrying from one activity to another.  Children under age 9 deserve a slow childhood with time to dream and just be (without screens) and I would vote for no outside structured activities for these tiny ages.  Mark off days to be solely home with no running around!

Rest is still the mainstay of the rhythm – a first grader may be going to bed around seven, a second grader by seven thirty or so, and a third grader by seven forty-five.  This may sound very early for your family, but I would love for you to give it a try. If you need ideas about this, I recommend this book.

Here is a back post about garnering rhythm with littles

If you are searching for examples, here is one for children under the age of 7 over at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life from 2012.

Remember, though, I don’t think a rhythm is about throwing out who you are, who your family is,  what your family culture is in order to replace it with something that someone else does. Rather, rhythm with little people should build upon the successes in your own home.  Every family does something really well, so what is your thing that you do really well that you could build upon?

Rhythm with Ages 10-14: 

Rest!  Rest and sleep are very important components of rhythm.  Sixth graders who are twelve are generally sluggish, and teenagers have rhythms regarding sleep that begin to change.  This article from the New York Times details many of the changes for teenagers (seventh and eighth grade).  In order for these children to get enough sleep, and since the starting time of public school middle school may be later (but probably not late enough!), I highly suggest limiting late night activities.  Again, choose your activities outside the home carefully and with much thought.

Media is harder to keep at bay for most families.  Remember, media impacts rhythm and vice versa.  It is often a time filler, and can prevent middle schoolers from solving their own problems of what to do when they are “bored” (or just being bored; there is value in boredom as well!)  and tapping into their own creativity.  It can derail any kind of “doing” rhythm.  Hold strong standards about media!  Some ideas:  use a Circle to manage time and content across devices ;  strongly limit apps (because every app you add generally leads to more time on the device) and do not allow social media.  We introduced the  computer in eighth grade (which I know is not always feasible for public or private school students who are using technology as part of school from an early age)  as a tool for school work more than a plaything, and I think that attitude also made a large difference.  If you allow movies/TV shows, I recommend using Common Sense Media , but I also feel this needs to be strongly limited (and I would vote toward not at all or extremely limited for the sixth grader/twelve year old) since these middle school years are  ages where children feel heavy, awkward, clumsy, and don’t particularly want to move.  So, more than anything else, I think watch what you are modeling — are YOU moving and outside or are you sitting all day on a screen?  Modeling still is important!   If they are sitting all day at school and with homework, it is important that they move vigorously when they are home from school and on the weekends!  With both things that unstructured in nature and as far as structured movement.

Remember that your middle schooler is not a high schooler. The middle schooler does not think, move, or act like a high schooler. Please don’t force high school schedules onto your middle schooler.  There should be a difference between the middle schooler and high schooler.

Rhythm for Ages 14 and Up:

I still believe the more natural point of separation for teens is around age 16.  So to those of you with fourteen year olds and early fifteen year olds, please hold steady in rhythm, in holding family fun, in holding your yearly holidays, and in mealtimes.  These are really important to young teens, even if they don’t act like it!

For those of you with older teens, 16 and up, ( which I don’t have yet but have many friends who do) : honor this time.  Most teens this age are spreading their wings with activities, driving, jobs, relationships, getting ready for life past high school. Don’t rush it, but allow space and time.  Just like walking, they will be ready for things when they are ready.

Bedtimes is controversial topic for older teens on many high school homeschooling boards.  Only you can decide what is right for your family.  If you have younger children in the house, your teen just may never get to sleep super late.

Media is another topic of controversy that, as mentioned above, can really impact rhythm, and for the homeschooling family, how schoolwork gets done (or not). Some teens handle media really well, some need super strong limits.  There is no one way families handle media for their teens, even in Waldorf families.

Do make family dates, family nights, family vacations, and so forth.  The family still trumps whatever friends are about.

Consider the impact of outside activities upon a teen’s stress levels.  Choose wisely and carefully.  We can’t do it all, and neither can a teen.

Rhythm For Spread- Out Ages:

Some parents who have large families make the centerpiece of their rhythm the home,  and then  for an outside activity choose one activity the entire family can participate in at different levels, such as 4H or a scouting organization that is co-ed. Some choose one activity for boys and one for girls.

Parts of the rhythm can and should  be carried by older children and teens for the littles.

Lastly, I did a 7 part series on rhythm in  2012, so perhaps these back posts will be helpful:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Celebrating The Light Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Use me, God.  Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I love this little prayer.  We are currently using it as a breakfast blessing, and will continue to use it until Lent.  Before we began saying this prayer, my little seven year old saw a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and commented that Dr. King “worked for all of America,” which I thought was an astute comment. May we all work for our own families, for each other and to build our nations in love and in generosity.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day  is an important day in the cycle of American festivals.  There are only three American federal holidays named after specific people:  George Washington’s birthday, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It is a day to celebrate the light and legacy of Dr. King:  his powerful oration, his ability to galvanize a nation toward equality in love, the youngest Noble Peace Prize winner at the time.

Our family is extremely lucky to live within driving distance of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and can visit and walk the areas that were most impactful in Dr. King’s life.  For those of you in many different parts of the country and world, perhaps you will be volunteering today to further light in the world.  Perhaps you will be supporting organizations that champion equality today; in the South we have the Southern Poverty Law Center which does work in civil rights and public interest legislation.

Perhaps for small children you would like to listen to the Sparkle Stories in honor of the legacy of Dr. King.

There are also many wonderful books to read:

I Have A Dream Book and CD

The Cart That Carried Martin (regarding the funeral of Dr. King)

There are many sort of “mid level” biographies to enjoy

“March” – the graphic novel trilogy by John Lewis (preread) (for tweens, teens, adults)

Adults may enjoy the March Trilogy and also this book, “A Gift of Love: Sermons From Strength to Love And Other Preachings” by Dr. King

 

Great inspiration for teenagers for artwork for the day could include the artwork of Derek Russell, which was shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center,  and I have been looking at this morning for my own inspiration.

Volunteering as a family is  a way that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is often celebrated.  Volunteering is another wonderful way to spend time together, build family bonds, and help others.  Sometimes families have a hard time finding volunteer opportunities that will take children under the age of 16, but I encourage you to check with different places in your area.  You may be surprised!

However, we must never forget that volunteerism also begins at home.  We help each other when we are stressed, tired, or upset.   We work together as a family team.   If we live in a neighborhood or subdivision, we help our neighbors in need, whether that is a hot meal or a listening ear.

May the selfless spirit of this day infuse every day for you and your family,

Carrie

 

Is Parenting The Eleven to Twelve Year Old Stressful?

There was an article in July that I wrote about in the post “Blossoming” .  The article basically stated that mothers were actually MOST depressed during the “tween” years when children were ages 11-12. I summarized the article in part, saying:

“… mothers of tweens (ages 11-12)  are the most depressed group of parents as their children go through physical and emotional changes, trying to separate by pushing boundaries, and how marital satisfaction is at its lowest for women (and how often these changes for children come in the midst of when we are changing the most in adult development as  well).  The linked article also mentions the exhaustion from driving and the children’s activities. “

There was another article recently going around Facebook on this topic, which brought it up again for me,  but I can’t find the link to the article anymore.  At any rate, it made me think about this topic again as I have both a 15 year old and a 12 year old, and it is easier to see the differences in these ages when you have both in your home!

I think this stage can be beautiful, although many mothers have written to me and spoken with me and have found that having a child ages 11-12 or so is very difficult. They find themselves with a child who is constantly pushing boundaries, who is distant, who wants to be with friends, who rolls their eyes at “baby-ish” things, who doesn’t seem respectful.  In my experience, most of the mothers who are having a hard time are having it with girls.  I rarely hear from mothers of boys of this age with these kinds of challenges ( but I hear from them when their boys are 13-14 years old!)

My thoughts are to consider that an 11-12 year old, whilst most certainly changing, is not at all the same developmentally as a teenager who is 15 or 16 or older. Every child develops at a different rate, but it seems to me that most developmental changes accelerates around the 15 and a half/16 year change onward, and there are baby steps at 12 and 14 in this developmental process.  This is written about rather extensively in the literature of Waldorf Education.

So, if this is the case, it may be that whilst the body is changing rapidly, the neurobiology of the brain is not changing that rapidly yet. Soley based in neuroscience, the brain changes the most between the ages of 13 and 17.  Neuronal sprouting and pruning of neurons does begin around age 11 in girls and age 12 in boys, but the majority of changes are still ahead.  The second to last paragraph in this interview even talks about the differences between 13 and 15 year old brains, and there is a dramatic difference.

So I feel some of the difficulties do not lie in biology, but in culture, and in how we often treat “tweens” like teens and how some tweens want to do things that used to be associated with the teenaged years.   Everything is more accelerated.  So, eleven to twelve year old girls now are often thinking about peers, boyfriends, makeup, navigating schedules of study and extra activities that would often put an adult to shame, and either  are fighting against boundaries or the opposite – living in a household where there are very few boundaries at all. (FYI, teachers write to complain to me more about the latter). This is at a time when I feel personally, that children should still be in the height of playing outside, riding bikes, being immersed in the life of the family.

Of course every child is different.  Sometimes what often happens here besides the acceleration of culture,  is how  the individual personality and interests of the child  meshes with the culture of the family.  Some children are just more intense than others or react to different stages of development different than other children.  It happens, and it is okay.  Honoring our children is important!

When I am struggling with one of my own children in this age range,  I ask myself these questions, and  I often ask these questions of parents who email me or call me as well:

  • What is your rhythm?  Children this age still need a strong  rhythm with rest and sleep and downtime.  Sleep is critical to the brain and development.
  • Does the child  have a schedule that is overloaded outside of the home? If things are not going well within the family, they may actually need more time within the family rather than less.
  • What are your boundaries?  Are they consistent? Listening is super important, as is guiding, but boundaries are also important,  especially around the issues of peers and media. Children of this age really do need to know the rules of the family, and this helps guide them.  Some children need help not accelerating into more teenaged type things, because they really don’t have the maturity to handle it at only 11 or 12 years old. Sometimes on this topic,  I ask myself, “What does my child need to hear from me?”  (and sometimes what they need to hear is different than what I really want to say! LOL)
  • The age of eleven to twelve should still be the heart of play, even though it is not appearing popular that 11 and 12 years should still  be playing with dolls or wooden figures or whatever. I would encourage parents to keep toys accessible if a child of this age says to “get rid” of whatever toys have been their favorite but are now considered somewhat “babyish”.  They may want these toys at a later date, so keeping them up but still reachable can help.  Encourage time to just be.
  • Physical activity is extremely important.  Park dates, kayaking dates, hiking dates, climbing dates, chances for skiing and skating and more are so important. Some 11 to 12 year olds really need a push.
  • What responsibility does your 11-12 year old have in the home?  This needs to be a priority.  The home priorities need to be fulfilled before the outside the home priorities.
  • What is going on with media?  I feel many 11-12 year olds have WAY too much technology access with too little boundaries.  Technology does affect the brain, and it can be addictive.  Some children seem more prone to this than others.  Why approach this with no boundaries?   I still personally feel 14 is a better age to introduce technology, and to introduce it within the context of work for classes rather than a diversion to play on.
  • Encourage and open areas of interest within maturity level and interest.  Many 11 to 12 year olds seem to be interested in things outside their home; although some are not.  If there is interest in multiple things as some children have, you may have to limit activities in order to not overschedule.  It is okay to have only one activity a semester, especially for a child this age.  They are not in high school yet!
  • Encourage time with the family.  Peer time can and should be limited for this age.  Children of this age may want to be with their peers a lot, but the true concern for friends outside of the family and some separation from the family is more appropriate around the ages of 16-18, which is a natural progression toward impending adulthood. An 11 or 12 year old is not yet 16, nor are they 18.  I think this is an area where boundaries, again, are appropriate.  Also, if your child is using technology to contact friends that may also need to be monitored carefully.
  • This is really important:  what do you do outside of your children?  Where is your community and support?  How many things do you do without your children, if this is important to you?  As your children get older,  it is important to develop interests and friends independent of your child.   This is imperative for many mothers in order to stave off depression.
  • I always ask myself, is this really about me?  Part of this encourages me to see things more neutrally, as in not everything a child does is  specifically or personally  against me, but encourages me to look and see – is it our personalities clashing over an issue?  Is it really just me ?  What can mitigate this conflict?
  • What can I do to increase that connectedness between us?  It may be they need one on one time with me, they may need me to put my foot down on a boundary and be secretely relieved when I do, they may need space to just be.  Every child and family is different!
  • Lastly, if you are married, work on your marriage.  Have a date night. Enjoy each other and re-discover why you were attracted to your spouse in the beginning.   No home is perfect, no marriage is perfect, but working on a relationship with your significant other if you have one, brings stability to a child going through changes who needs you to hold the line for a few more years until separation and a true adolescence begins.

Keeping  in mind that your 11 and 12 year old are actually more little than big can be a help in relieving parental stress during these years, with the knowing expectation that changes are coming at the 16 year old change.

I would love to hear your experiences.   Please comment below, and also feel free to email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Not So Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood

The wonderful book, “Set Free Childhood” by Martin Large, focuses on the questions and controversies of media and childhood. Our last post, from Chapters 4 and 5, focused on the actual physical hazards of screens – mainly the effects on the brain and the senses.  Chapter 6 focuses on the social hazards of screens, including addiction, children’s play, advertising, anti-social behavior, cognitive and learning impacts.

The first thing this chapter points out is that time with screens means less time engaging with parents and less real conversation. Screens can lead to isolation within the family under the same roof, because everyone is in a different place on a different device.  It can also have an impact upon cognitive and learning because it impedes sleep.  An article from the Daily Telegraph from 2002 points out that “spending just five hours in front of a computer can hugely increase the risk of depression and insomnia.”  There is a fairly recent study from 2015 that details for adults, excessive computer usage during leisure hours leads to sleeping difficulties (but did not find a connection between using a computer for work and sleep challenges). Another 2015 study with 9,846 participants focused on adolescents in three age cohorts from the ages 16-19 .  The findings were similar in that increased screen usage was related to sleep difficulties.  This chapter mentions that after TV is viewed, viewers found it harder to concentrate after viewing, and their moods were the same or worse then before the TV watching took place.  The effects of video games are mentioned in a separate box on page 100.

The main issue with screens from a social standpoint is that play is being underminded and children are actually play-deprived.  Teachers have found “heavy viewers to be less imaginative and less dramatic in their play, show less initiative, are more likely to expect to be entertained, can pay less attention to stories, sometimes lack coordination, and do not play so constructively as light or non-viewing children.” (page 102).   The rest of this chapter reviews turning children into consumers, and anti-social behavior.

Chapter 7 looks at how screens affect language and literacy. Children can suffer delayed language due to lack of speaking with parents.  This chapter talks about how children learn to speak through imitation, listening and conversing with real people and about the consequences of choosing screens over regularly reading time.

Blessings,
Carrie