Overflowing

What a fall, y’all. ¬†ūüė¶ ¬†I have gone through periods in our 10 years of homeschooling (2007, six year old kindergarten year to tenth grade this year), ¬†where life has been overflowing (more on that term below!). This particular autumn, which has brought serious terminal illness and ¬†illness with long-term recovery ¬†to ¬†family members and emergency surgery for our daugher’s horse with a super long recovery period to come, has landed our family back into the overflowing zone. ¬†It has been an emotionally and physically taxing time of emergency drives, plane flights, and hospital visits. ¬† It is really difficult to homeschool upper grades and high school on top of everything else. There hasn’t been much of a rhythm this month as I wait and see what each day brings. ¬†There is no pity in this at this point; it is just life and it is just part of homeschooling long enough.

I truly believe that if ¬†you homeschool for a long enough period of time, you ¬†just are going to face times when life is overwhelming. ¬†I like to re-frame this thought as “overflowing.” ¬†For some reason that just sounds more positive! ¬†Overflow is just the reality. If you haven’t ever hit that due to pregnancy, birth, illness, the overwhelming needs of one child compared to the others, family illness, terminal illness, finanical troubles, divorce or more, that is so wonderful and amazing! ¬†But I think many homeschooling mothers do go through this at one point or another. Some of us have more bad years in a row than others. ¬† But, the great thing about going through struggles many times is that you know that you will make it out onto the other side of it. You know there isn’t much to hold you down because you have simply been there, done that, and not only survived, but flourished.

There aren’t any easy answers as the situations are all so individualized. ¬†I think the main way I get through, honestly, is to be honest. My husband is in tune with me, even if he doesn’t handle the stress the same way.¬†¬†I will tell people outright I am having a hard time. I will lean on my friends to hear me and just let me vent. ¬†I will ask for help and take that meal. ¬†I am absolutely much better about it now, in my late 40s, than I was in my 20s and 30s. ¬†I absolutely know my limitations now and when I am hitting the wall and am so grateful for community.

Sometimes there really isn’t copious time for self-care during these crisis spots ¬†but even snatching a few minutes to sit down and relax, take a bath, etc can really be helpful. I am lining up a some self-care things¬† for when I see the light at the end of the tunnel and am not spending hours in a car dealing with emergencies. The other thing I have noticed for myself is that there are certain times of the day I feel more discouraged or overwhelmed, and to try to build in some self-care things around those times. ¬†For some people, this might be at night. ¬†For me, it seems to be in the morning after waking up and thinking about the day that lies ahead.

So, in honor of this dubious season of seasoning, I have rounded up a few back posts about dealing with life that might resonate with where you are now.

Chronic anger and overwhelm with children under the age of 9

Surviving Bedrest and Being Homebound With Medically Fragile Children

Postpartum Depression

Struggling

Social Isolation for the Stay-At-Home Mother

I HATE The Mother That I Am

The Overwhelming Year  and The Antidote To The Overwhelming Year

Homeschooling Burnout

The sun is shining and it is a glorious day! May we all shine bright in the darkness.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

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The Big List of Boundaries

One thing I  said  in a previous post is that some families I know have not hardly any boundaries that their child has to adhere to.  I actually am abig  believer in boundaries because I think that boundaries promote health.  This is how boundaries help a child become a functioning adult:

  1. Children need to learn to take responsibility (ownership) for things. ¬†In my family, I have talked a lot about the principle of Ultimate Responsibility, which I think came from the military realm. ¬†We have no reason to argue over fault, we just work together as a team to fix it. ¬†We take responsibility to help even if we didn’t cause the problem. ¬† Responsibility is ownership for oneself in addition to outside things. ¬† Ownership leads to a sense of freedom, because we have choices to fix things, problem solve, work with others, or walk away.
  2. Boundaries free us from people who treat us poorly or who are toxic.  We know where we begin and end, and that these other people are separate and not our responsibility to carry.
  3. Life choices have consequences, and trying to meet a boundary that is in line with a family value requires choices.  I think this is important.  Life is full of things not so good, but also  can be full of many great things, which can make it hard to choose.
  4. Boundaries help people grow and meet opportunities instead of complaining about problems.  Positivity promotes health!

So, without further ado,  here are a few steps to boundaries.

  1. ¬†Figure out your family’s VALUES. ¬†Which values do you want your children to internalize in order to be a “successful” (in whatever way that means to your family) adult? ¬†
  2. What your values are will influence some of the areas you could place boundaries, such as:

Connection Рwith family members, extended family members, friends, peers?  How important are sibling relationships over peers?  Nuclear family over extended family?  How do you show respect in your family to each other?  What do the adults feel is respectful?

Sleep/Rest РWill there be bedtimes? Rest times?  Quiet times?  Is sleeping in okay?  On what days?  If you safely co-sleep with your littles, when does that stop?  What happens at night when children are older and awake and staying up late Рare you all together, do you need to be with your teens at night, is it adult time?

Health Food/Eating – snacks allowed or not? ¬†Can you eat in the living room? ¬†What happens if a child doesn’t eat all of his or her food? ¬†Sweets allowed or not? ¬† Special diets and why? ¬†Along this line, are physical activities important or not?

Chores – does everyone have to help with the nurturing of the home? ¬†Is this only mom’s job? ¬†What is the role of the other adults in the house? What are the children’s responsibilities and at what ages?

Outside Activities Рwhose activities count? Only the adults?  Only the children?  Both?  How?  How many? Are there days you must be home?  Are there limits on activities?  Some families seem to have a hard time staying home even one day, and some families seem to have a hard time leaving their home.  What is the balance?

Spiritual Practice/ Attendance at a place of worship – Important? Not important? What if it is important to the adults but not teenagers, etc.

Sibling Relationships РImportant to spend time together or not?  Siblings before peers?  Lots of time away from home with peers or not?  At what age?

Intimate relationships -Starting with peers Рhow do we treat our friends?  How do we expect our friends to treat us?  What constitutes bullying?  Sleepovers or no sleepovers?  How many days a week with peers versus just with the family?  When children move into the teenaged years Рdating?   Not dating?  What constitutes a healthy and respectful dating relationship?  (Did you know that ten percent of high school teens are reporting physical violence in their dating relationships in the United States?)  How to handle the physical side of intimate relationships?  At what age is dating allowed?  The use of technology in communicating in an intimate relationship and respect around this Рwhat does that look like?

Technology РAllowed, not allowed, what age, what platforms?  Does the phone or computer have restrictions or rest times for devices or both? How old does a child have to be to receive the responsibility of a phone or computer?  How will they show that responsibility? Gaming or no gaming?

Holidays/Gift-giving:  How many gifts?  Extended family? What is the role of children with  extended family during get-togethers?  Included? The children weave and out?  The children go off together?

Homework/Homeschool –¬†What are the boundaries around doing homework or schoolwork?

Those are just some areas I thought of; I am sure there are many more.  I would love to hear boundaries that you think of!

3. ¬†When the boundary is met or unmet, what happens? ¬†This is usually the part that parents equate with “discipline” (ie, punishment). ¬†But is there more to it than that? I think there is because really discipline is authentic leadership and guiding your children and knowing how the boundaries you set are not arbitrary but ¬†fit into your value system. ¬†

Just food for thought on a Monday morning.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brave Parenting

The time to be courageous in your parenting is now.  Brave parenting requires a sense of values and what to be willing to confront and endure in order to have those values live within our children.

If you know your values, then you can ask yourself, “Is what is going on with this child serving those values? ¬†Will this child grow up to be an adult that embodies these values? ¬†What can I do to faciliate these boundaries so these values have a better chance of being a dynamic principle in our lives?”

Sometimes brave parenting requires making hard decisions that are not popular with our children and teenagers, and in this day and age of parents wanting to be friends with their children, this seems more difficult than ever.

When I lose the forest for the trees in parenting, the big things I look at are

  1. Perspective. Would a mom of a now grown-up child think this is a make or break situation?
  2. Boundaries. ¬†Have I been consistent, what are the boundaries? I have friends who cannot name ONE boundary their child has. This, folks, to me, doesn’t bode well for the teenage years. ¬†There are boundaries in life. ¬†They don’t have to be arbitrary or mean, but should organically grow out of your family’s values and love for your child.
  3. Strengths and weaknesses.  Many of you have smaller children, but I have a 16 year old.  So I constantly look at my older children and try to think ahead a bit.  What skills does this child with their personality and temperament really need in  order to succeed in their adult life?
  4. Will our relationship be overall preserved?  Nothing should be so big a deal that it should shatter our love, but I am okay with my children not liking me for short periods. I want to be their friend when they are all grown up, and I want to have fun together, but my job as a parent is bigger than just that.  I need to help guide them towards their own unfolding and their own discovering and yes, eventually their own life.
  5. Self-care. ¬†This is usually the one I totally lose, and this month has been a super stressful and exhausting month. ¬†Aggressive cancer in family member necessitating emergency travel, and emergency surgery for our horse who had colic. ¬†We aren’t out of the woods yet, so I hope I can look at self-care again. ¬†To me, one of the major components of self-care for homeschooling mothers might actually be just letting things go. ¬†We can always find more school days at some point during the year!

How are you brave parenting this week?

Love,
Carrie

 

Why Did We Think Parenting Would Be Easy?

Parenting is hard.  Some ages are harder than others.

It is messy.

It brings up triggers and baggage.

It brings up woundedness.

It can bring out our best side, but also our worst side.

It brings up differences with our significant other and magnifies them.

It is hard.

I think parenting is all of those things.  Why did we think parenting was going to be easy?

I think the more that we can acknowledge that things are different from when we grew up, but that development in and of itself is not different, is where we can start to heal and find the beautiful in the messy.  Finding that each child is an individual, but that development also takes a fairly predictable course can be comforting and exhilirating and helpful.  All at the same time.

I have posts about EVERY age from birth all the way through age 16 on this blog under the “Development” header. ¬†You can find a lot of support there in those back posts. While I do not write as much regarding each specific age anymore, those posts are there for you.

Hang in there, parents.

Find the beautiful in the messy.

Find the beautiful in being a human being and in raising one.

Find the common ground with your significant other.

Find the lovely in the hard and the smooth inside all of those rough edges.

It is messy. Some children and personalities are honestly harder than others.  It is okay.   It is parenting.

Blessings, and love,

Carrie

 

Getting Ready for Winter!

The temperature has finally dropped here in the Deep South. It feels much colder than it acutally is, because we have been living with temperatures above 85 degrees F for so many months.

This is a great time to take stock of what one needs for winter.  This is my checklist, and I would love to share it with you:

Do I have the supplies to make elderberry syrup?  (so, for me, that is essentially stinging nettle, yarrow, lemon balm, echinacea, elder berries and elder flowers along with spices and local honey)

Do I have the herbs to add to bone broth? (so, for me, that includes burdock and dandelion root and astragulus)

Do I need any other herbal tonics to get me through the winter? ¬†I like the Urban Moonshine blend mentioned in Aviva Romm’s article¬†here

Do I have our cabinet stocked with things for colds and flu?  Silver throat spray,  Theives Oil or a variation, other essential oils, homeopathic remedies, etc.

How (and where) is our outerwear ?  To me, this includes mittens or gloves, hats, warm socks, jacks, snow pants, and boots.  For kids, I still love LL Bean Boots, but I know everyone has their favorites.

Who needs woolens? I like to get mine from Green Mountain Organics. ¬† If you are wondering about warmth in children, I recommend this article about¬†“Warmth, Strength, and Freedom.”

Who needs long shirts or sweaters?

Do I have flannel sheets? Sleep is super important, and I think the winter months are a prime season to take advantage of sleeping longer.

Am I prepared to slow the rhythm of our week down? I think this is natural seasonal adjustment.  August, September, and October can be super busy here with marching band for our oldest and horse shows, but I find things in November and December can be calmer if we block it out that way, and then January and February tend to be fairly calm on their own.

Do I have crafting supplies and other inside fun at the ready?  One thing I ordered this week is three months of Happy Hedgehog Post. It was a gift to myself and especially our second grader to have some indoor fun.  Other ideas include having baking supplies on hand, wool, yarn, craft kits, art supplies, snuggly blankets for fort building.

Where are our beeswax candles and lanterns from past Martinmas festival celebrations?  These can make the school area especially lovely during the darker winter months.

When will I see people?  I feel tired and  am ready to withdraw after our busy three months starting school, but I would like to still see people.  I am thinking of hosting a hygge morning during January and February as mentioned in this article..

We have animals, so I also check what the animals might need. Our horses need sheets and blankets, our dog has little booties for icey conditions.  I try to make sure I have ordered enough horse feed and that we have toys on hand for our dog.

Please share with me the ways you get ready for winter!  I would love to hear all of your ideas!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Let Me Tell You Your Mission (In Case You Forgot)

One thing a friend of mine and I were talking about recently is that there is room in the adult world for all kinds of people with all their various quirks and personalities and temperaments.  The diversity of people is such a beautiful thing, and I know I am so grateful that different people want to do different jobs than I would want to do; that different people have different strengths and abilities; that different people even look different and live differently because I find so much beauty in all the varying cultures and faces of the world.  I love it!

So why do people act as if our sole parenting mission, and yes, especially in the middle and upper classes, is for our children to get into a good college and be on a college track?  I am not saying that education is not important.  It is important, but how can we balance this in a healthy way?

Having our teens stress themselves out to the point of having psychosomatic illnesses and fearing for the future and not wanting to grow up because being a teen is already stressful enough (so how stressful must adulthood be?) is not helping this generation. ¬†ANXIETY has now taken over depression as something teenagers are dealing with. ¬†According to this¬†article in the NY Times, 62 percent of undergrads are reporting “overwhelming anxiety.” ¬†There has been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers. ¬†

So, exactly what happens when the push, push for the “good college” is acheived? ¬†What happens in real life outside of this? ¬†My point is that people (and teenagers) are made of more than just their academic portfolio. ¬†There is space in the adult world for many people with their many likes and dislikes and interests and passions. In fact, the adult world probably needs you especially, teenager who is different.

So, parents,  let me tell you your mission in case you have forgotten.  You are here to support your teen and to help guide them.  If you see them putting such pressure on themselves to perform, how can you step in and help them? What will they really need in the adult world to meet their definition of success?  Is their definition of success even healthy? One of the many points in the NY Times article above is that parents are not always driving the anxiety of these teenagers anymore by pushing them, but that instead the teens are internalizing the anxiety themselves and pushing themselves relentlessly.  Health and social relationships are, to me, more important and deserve even more time than academic work.  

You cannot live their life for them.  You are here to help your teen unfold and be who they are going to be.

Life is messy.  Being a teen is messy .  Be supportive and be kind, because you may not know much of what your teen is dealing with at all.

When people ask me about my parenting and goals for my children, I essentially say I want them to be healthy and helpful human beings.  Human beings who are good and loyal friends and family members who will help others.  Human beings who are ethical and who do not divide their public and private lives.  Human beings who can relax and have fun, and yes, make a contribution to something greater than themselves and support themselves.  That is an exciting parenting mission.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Raising Children With Integrity

It seems to me there is an epidemic right now in American society of narcissitic males in my age group.  I have heard from many women dealing with this, and it is very sad how this is affecting families.  (If you are unsure what this is, try this article; it is a personality disorder that begins very early in life, cannot be diagnosed until adulthood, and is very difficult to treat).  Somehow, though, I started making the leap from narcissism to  Рwell, what makes a good human being?  How do I want my son or daughter to act in a relationship when they have their own families?   These traits, of course, are not exactly opposite narcissism another since narcissism is a psychological order and I am talking in generalities about raising children who can function in relationships.

However, I think much of this boils down to integrity. ¬†I have seen so many relationships ripped apart by not just self-centeredness (which is different from narcissism) but by a complete lack of integrity; public lives are not at all the same as what is going on in private; the partner and family are not first. ¬†I think what is most difficult about this is the model it sets for children; children generally know something is going on when things don’t match up.

So in order to teach integrity, one must live in integrity.  What does this mean?

I think it means several things:

Merging your personal and private lives. ¬†Don’t act in such a way or be into things in your private life that you would be completely embarrassed and upset if your children found out. ¬†Be consistent across the arenas and roles of your life. ¬†That is part of having a moral character. ¬†Having a conscious and understanding of what you are doing when it is vastly different from one role to another helps you correct this and stop.

Believe in people, help people, build people up. If you live in a family  with other people, it is not just about you.  Self-centeredness is not a good trait on the job or in the family.  We expect adolescents to be self-centered, not forty-year-olds.  Be equitable and fair in how you deal with people and teach your children to do the same.

Be accountable Рapologize first, admit when you are wrong, try to make amends. Love people enough to build bridges with those you can (and I am not talking about toxic relationships here.  For these people, I think it is important for our children to see us as we model boundaries).   Hold your children accountable in how they treat you, other members of the family, themselves, and in relationships outside the home.  Accountability in relationships and respect in relationships go hand in hand.

Follow through – If your word means anything, you will follow through on what you say and what you believe and your children will do the same.

Be honest and loyal, and teach your children not just how to not be a bully, but how to empathize with people and feel what they are feeling.  Part of integrity requires emotional intelligence, and again, thinking about others and being a good communicator. Relationships sometimes dissolve, not over bullying, but over one party not being able to read the other and respond to that.    Teaching children how to deal with conflict in a productive manner is so important.

Believe in the positive; look for the helpers and  any good things in the tragedies of the world.

Blessings,
Carrie