The Authentic Heartbeat of Parenting

I was thinking this morning about running and metronomes; that rhythmic quality of running on the pavement or around the track is like a metronome set to a certain tempo; steady and going at the same pace, reassuring in its steadiness and how we can speed up or slow down to match the metronome. Unceaseless and rhythmical and the source of strength and rest.

This, to me, is so much like parenting.  We need find that authentic heartbeat, that authentic pace, and be able to hold it steady when the times of development and changing and growing in our children is not so steady.

When older children and teens are ready to spiral out of control, we are there with our authentic selves, and holding that authentic pace so if they are trying to speed so far ahead or so far behind, we can reach down and gently whisper, “Stay with me for a little while.”

When do we lose our pace?

When we become overwhelmed by our own baggage and our own triggers and our own emotions and our own lack of self-care.   I admit it has happened to me so much over the course of parenting!  I used to feel ashamed.  Why is this triggering me?  Why am I so frustrated with this particular piece?   But I don’t feel ashamed of it anymore; the longer I parent I can separate myself out of it all, the longer I just hold that it will all work out, the more I know my children have their own journey and their own work to complete that is not my work.

And then it came to me…

I am the metronome, but what am I set to?

Inner work and the work of grace.

I am married, so hopefully I am set in time with my spouse.

Can I keep the pace myself and not forge ahead with a clash of emotions?  Can I keep it less about me and more about just the gentle pace of growing up, the pace of our values as a family, and less about the tiny situation at hand?  The big picture is calling and the tiny details of today’s scrabble must not get in the way.

Parenting older children is tricky business. No one can really tell you how to do it as every family is unique and every child develops at a different time and pace, even if following along in a general way the developmental and archtypal patterns we have come to recognize that are common to children everywhere.

Development matters.  We are having an amazing discussion over on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page about parenting the 9-12 year old, and so much of it has to do with when the developmental changes (and on what scale) these changes hit.

The  reality is that all children eventually grow up, so changes will come, even if not at the standard times. And every family is different, so it may look different.  All we can do is be the steady pace, the gentle guide, the wonderful whisper of ease for those children who are finding no ease in the moment.

Stay strong,

Carrie

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Eighth Grade Oceanography

Oceanography is one of those blocks that I think makes perfect sense for eighth grade – if we are going to study meteorology in eighth grade, why not oceanography?Seeing the large picture, from the heavens to the depths of the sea is awe-inspiring for me as a teacher and for my students.    It goes well with physics, earth science, chemistry, biology, and even geography and history.  I love marine biology in particular, and live in a coastal state, so this one makes perfect sense to me!  Meteorology and oceanography usually re-appear in the Grade 10 high school curriculum of many Waldorf Schools.

The first time I went through eighth grade I did oceanography and meteorology together.  This time around I am doing physics and meteorology together and running oceanography as a separate two-week block.

The main resources I use to put together this block includes the following:

  • Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science by Garrison (used college textbook)
  • Explore The Southeast National Marine Sanctuaries with Jean-Michel Cousteau
  • Oceans for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave (I don’t really love her work but sometimes find a gem)
  • Marine Biology:  Cool Women Who Dive by Karen Bush Gibson
  • Down Down Down:  A Journey To The Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins
  • Journey Into The Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures by Rebecca Johnson
  • Stories of William Beede, Sylvia Earle, Eugenie Clark, Jacques Cousteau
  • Hydraulics and Aeromechanics by Mikko Bojarsky (Waldorf book available through Waldorf Books or Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore)

My basic outline (and we cover a lot of ground in two weeks!):

Day One:  Review the Water Cycle/What Is An Ocean?/Interesting Ocean Facts/Explorers of the Oceans (Phoenicians through James Cook) – Question to leave student with:  Why are the deepest parts of the oceans not in the centers?

Day Two:  Review/To Understand the Oceans We Have to Understand Plate Tectonics/Biography of Marie Tharp/ Question:  is the motion in the ocean caused only by ocean currents?/

Day Three:  Review/Lab on Ocean Currents and Fluid Mechanics – biography of Kakani Katija (see National Geographic)/ Edward Forbes/Ocean Zones Introduction – Question: How much of the ocean has been explored?

Day Four:  Review/ The HMS Challenger/ Barton and Beede’s Bathysphere (library books and Bojarsky’s book)/ Aqualung to SCUBA/Remotely Operated Vehicles/Different jobs in Marine Science – biography Ashanti Johnson

Week Two:

Day One and Two:  Review/ Zones in Detail -sunlit zone, twilight zone, dark zone, abyssal plain, trenches – what lives there?  chemosynthesis, cold seeps, brine pools, methane freezes, deep sea coral gardens in the dark depths, whale falls – biography Lauren Mullineaux (see Oceanus magazine)

Day Three and Four:  Review/Census of Marine Life 2000-2010 /what did we find?/Biography of Natalie Arnoldi/ Climate change and the ocean (which we will follow up in our Climate Change/Sustainability block a few months later)

I essentially go through this outline and write a presentation for each day and decide on labs.  I usually think of review and artistic activities in the weeks preceeding the block.

Oceanography is always so fun to explore and great to tie in field trips if you live near or can get to a coastal area!

Happy adventuring,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

Financial Aid For College: What You Need To Know

In many countries, going to university is free.  Not so in the United States, where there is a complex process of garnering money from different sources and essentially what is the “price” of college may not be the final price once the financial pieces are put together. There are also comparisons to be draw between the systems of community college (usually a two-year degree), a public university system (usually done by state, like Univerity of Georgia or University of New York with multiple colleges falling into this system) or private universities.  Sometimes a private school, which has large private endowments, can end up with a comparable cost to a public university.

The cost of attending college includes both direct and indirect costs.  Direct costs are paid directly to the institution and may include things like tuition, room and board (board is essentially the meal plan) (check with the college whether or not your freshman has to live on campus; some colleges require this).  Sounds confusing?  It is, but here are some tips to help de-mystify the process a bit!

This information is accurate as of July 2018, but always changing, so please do check your resources.  Here are a few points about financial aid:

  1.  You have to apply for it and it doesn’t cost anything to apply.  You must apply every year starting October 1 of your student’s senior year of high school.
  2. Financial aid can be based on skills, abilities, etc but doesn’t automatically happen – you have to apply!  The four types of financial aid are grants, scholarships, student loans, and work study.  Grants and scholarships do not have to be paid back, but student loans obviously do need to be paid back.  Work study is often based upon financial need and assigned by the university, but some colleges offer work study to all students independent of financial need.  It depends upon the college.
  3. The FEDERAL Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed October 1 of your student’s senior year in high school and you must apply every year afterward.   Some colleges may require an institutional application for financial aid and/or something called a CSS Profile (this is usually for private universities) as well. State financial aid may have a separate application and deadline, so don’t miss the deadline for the state!
  4. The FAFSA is based upon your untaxed income and does not include retirement savings.  It includes information for both biological parents and includes the “prior prior year” – the incoming freshman class of 2019 is using the 2017 tax data.
  5. Sources for financial aid could include not only the federal governement but state awards, college and university endowments, private courses, civic organizations and places of worship, and employer. Most scholarships come from the local community – employers of parents of the student, credit unions/banks that the family does business with, civic groups, organizations the family belongs to.  Most scholarships are applied to tuition, not room and board.  Homeschoolers need to search out  local scholarships because this is the sort of thing that is typically funneled to a school guidance counselor, and since homeschooling parents are acting as the guidance counselor, we need to be on the lookout!

One number that colleges and universities work with is the “Expected Family Contribution”.  This number is used for calculating need-based financial aid and is a calculated from a federal government formula. Everyone panicks when they see this number, because it generates and parent and student contribution which is always a high number that no one feels they can meet.  The financial aid awarded is supposed to equal the cost of attending the college -the expected family contribution.

The other number that is important to know is essentially the net price for each college or university. You can get this number at studentaid.gov by entering your student’s GPA/test scores/financial data, and it will help you figure out what you might be awarded.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

What To Do When Life Is A Mess

Are you in a dark place?  Divorce, death of a parent or spouse, lack of employment or other financial woes, older teens into things that are just plain challenging, something else?

Yes.  I have been there.    It can be tough.  It can be dark. It can be lonely, especially if people really haven’t been through what you are going through.

And it will be okay.  Life is beautiful and life is messy.  They just go hand in hand.

Lean into it.  Sometimes there are no quick fixes.  It just takes time.  It just takes healing.

Shelter your younger children as you see fit, but certainly teens deserve to know that life is messy, people struggle, and yes, you can come out on the other side.  This is called resilience.  Life is not the the perfect spot in the home that people post on social media.  It is more like the picture of all the dirty dishes piled in the sink that were never posted.

Lean into each other.  When darkness and depression fall, lean into family and the friends you can who are understanding and compassionate.

Take care of yourself in whatever capacity that means to you.  For some, that means drawing the wagons in and becoming insulated with just immediate family and the closest of friends.  For others, that means reaching out and getting help with the children, getting counseling, or getting a physical workup to help support the stress that they are experiencing. I don’t know what it looks like for you, but take care of yourself. If you feel like you are having thoughts of taking  your own life, or that people would be better off without you and that you are a burden, or if you just need to talk to someone about what is going on in your life, text TALK to 741741.

Keep things simple.  You may only be able to get one thing done a day.  And that’s okay.  This phase will not last forever and forever.

It will pass.  It will be better.  Sometimes life is just about hanging in and hanging on.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Top 5 Tips For When Homeschooling Is Busy

I feel sometimes feel badly  posting about my busier life when obviously the Waldorf community prizes slow and simple and being unbusy.  I prize that as well, and really enjoy being home!  But then I remember:  when my older two children were 13 and under, life wasn’t busy!  We didn’t have a lot going on.

However, now with having an almost 17 year old with outside classes, a large age gap down to our 13 and 8 year olds, and with plans to treat a few patients (I am a pediatric physical therapist) this fall, plus homeschooling, plus our time-consuming horse care/riding and music stuff….well, life is a little more juggling. It is not overwhelming, but it is busier.  And I am at peace with that.  I think that is normal for having an older teenager in the house with other children!

I certainly am not superwoman, but I do think being organized a bit helps.  When the busier seasons hit with the school year, I will be ready. Here are my top 5 tips for making things work.

  1.  Meal plan and meal prep ahead. One thing I have never let lapse is our home-cooked meals, even in our busiest times.  We don’t eat out, and everything I make is fresh and from scratch.  Meal planning and meal prepping on Sundays really helps! I just use our library to get all the keto and paleo cookbooks I want, and also search out links for my Pinterest boards.  Real Simple has some nice ideas for quick prep or prep ahead meals (here is a sample for easy breakfast recipes ).   Everyone in the house can help meal prep, cook, and clean up!
  2. Work out and have a solid rhythm of prayer, meditation, and intentions.  Energy begets energy, so it is important to me to work out in the morning so I have energy for the whole day!  Now that my youngest will be 9 in a few months, I finally feel as if I have enough energy to do this, so for those of you with younger children who are feeling exhausted and like mornings are just not a good time, hang on – it’s coming!
  3. Get enough rest. I can’t do anything if I am exhausted and barely hanging on to consciousness from lack of sleep, so I usually am ready for bed by 10 and asleep between 10 and 11 P.M.  If I am really tired, I will go to bed at 9:30.
  4. Love your home (everyone all together now) !  I can’t clean up after everyone as it is overwhelming so everyone has a part in taking care of our home!  I will share some pics on Instagram as to our morning routines and rotations, so if you follow @theparentingpassageway, you will see them!
  5. Use master lists and a calendar.  I always keep a calendar running up to six months out and a to-do list of anything and everything that needs to be done.  Some of the items are higher priority than others, so if it doesn’t happen in one week, I just transfer it to the next week!  I try to do one to two things a day off our list if I have a long list, but if I have a shorter list I might try to knock  things out in one afternoon.  It is also important to divide things such as making medical appointments, transportation to and from children’s activities or events, amongst any adults (or older teen drivers) in the family!
  6. Bonus Tip:  As far as homeschooling, I do try to plan quite a bit in the summer.  I simply don’t have time to do research for an entire block during the school year, so I try to go into the school year with at least a flow of  ideas for every block and academic skill development, if not planned down to the artistic work.  I find the artistic work easier to gather inspiration closer to the time we are doing that lesson.  This is especially important for fifth grade and up.   I also try to look ahead on Saturday or Sunday to my lesson plans for the week and gather supplies, do chalkboard drawings, and generally make sure I have things in order.
  7. Bonus Tip:  Work hard, play hard.  Time in nature, time as a family, having a day to just be together as family or go out as a couple is so important.  We use family time to really balance out the time we are doing other things and stay connected through meals and this time.  Vacations are another way we stay balanced, even if they are just stay-cations!  Having fun makes life and hard work worth it and creates happy family memories.

Please share with me your best tips for getting organized!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

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

Resources:

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.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

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 waldorfhomeeducators@yahoogroups.com.  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!

Blessings,
Carrie