5 Steps To A Terrific Year

The goal of The Parenting Passageway is to support parents in creating vibrant and compassionate developmental parenting and educational practices.  I have spent a lot of time this winter break recently dreaming and planning some ways to get this message out in a larger and bigger way, not only through the Internet, but through public speaking and conferences, and yes, the ebooks I keep promising myself I will write!

But with the New Year upon us, I was thinking about  how we can begin with ourselves. The reason for this is simple:  if we set the tone in our family, if we are the authors of our family life, the guides for our children, then there must be a way to set a foundation of being vibrant for our children.

These are the five steps I have been dreaming of this week, and I wanted to share them with you:

  1. Forgiveness – of others and of ourselves.  I wrote about this process  in this post
  2. If you need to, do the inner work around feeling worthy and deserving of all the good things to come.  I find some  of us struggle with these areas and secretly feel we aren’t very worthy and are just happy when things go well by sheer luck. I think this is where prayer or another spiritual practice really can help.
  3. Design your year with your intentions in mind – what are your hopes, dreams, goals? Make a vision board, use a word to encompass your year, draw a picture/circle in the round to represent the months, write a mission statement.  Putting our sometimes secret hopes and wishes out there can be scary or intimidating, and yet, I think when we do, they are more likely to happen simply because we focus on them and we are more likely to consider how to make this come true.  If you schedule the time and your focus, then good things will happen.
  4. Think about the why’s and how’s behind your intentions.  How will the things you want really come to fruition?  Also, is there a bigger why behind the intentions for the year – how will it help you serve your purpose in your family and the world?  
  5. Set aside time for a self care/daily routine to focus on your intentions and create your own vibrant self-care  for your physical body every day as this is the foundation for family life and the things you want to create in your life.  I like many of the methods mentioned in this book and it is free on KindleUnlimited

It is going to be a terrific year!  I would love to hear the things you want to come true this year!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Yourself and Your Child”

How is everyone doing reading along in this fabulous book?  We are up to Chapters 9 and 10, and these are great chapters.

Chapter 9 is entitled, “Parenting Responses That Affect Self-Esteem” and it gives a number of different scenarios with responses from a nurturing parent, a structured parent, a marshmallow parent, and a criticizing parent.  I think this could be really helpful to parents new to different developmental stages.  If you are curious about the differences in these responses, I refer you to the scenarios but in a nutshell:

Nurturing Responses – based on respect, love, support, encourages self-responsibility, parents help children, children are seen as having capacity to grow and succeed, warm

Structuring Responses – also based on respect, but offer more set limits and sometimes demands a performance outcome; expects children to be capable and responsible.  This kind of response can work well WITH a nurturing response.

Marshmallow Responses – grants freedom but doesn’t make a child accountable or responsible.  It sounds supportive, but in reality views children as inadequate and incapable.  It blames others, or the situation for a problem.  Views children as fragile.

Criticizing Responses – based on disrespect, ridicule, blaming, fault finding, comparing, labeling.  Humor is often cruel, touch is not warm but instead punishing.

What style do you use the most?  The good news is that it is possible to change your response style!  You can catch your children being good, you can find the things they are doing right, you can give up blaming and fault finding.  Mistakes can be fixed, and children can learn responsibility!  

Chapter 10 is about parents being leaders.  I love this, as it was one of the first topics I ever blogged about when I started this blog 10 YEARS ago!  So, if we are going to be leaders, we need

1- Vision, direction, goals.

2- We need to communicate our vision, direction, goals.

3.  We need to keep focused

4. – We need to consider the needs of others  – we are team as a family!  This is the FIRST place that children learn teamwork.  Team sports are awesome, but the family is the first team!

5. – Support the progress – support over the obstacles.

6.- Expect success!

If you are a REACTIVE parent, you are reacting, usually with threats, force, criticism, humiliation, ridicule, punishment.  We can, instead, be proactive!  What are the biggest sticking points for the day?  How could thing flow smoother?  What is our big vision as a family and how are we communicating that?  If you want to see more, here is a post I wrote some time ago about writing a Family Mission Statement.  Pages 93-94 of this book also talk about crafting a vision of a Winning Family.

A closing thought from page 94:  “If you live your life from your highest values, you will bring peace and compassion to your family, community, and world.”

The change begins with us!  Please leave me a comment and if you have a link to your Family Mission Statement, I would love to read it!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

High Needs Homeschooling

“High needs homeschooling” is a term I use to describe any of the following situations:  homeschooling children with special needs;  homeschooling a supreme extrovert with an introverted, highly sensitive parent;  homeschooling with difficult home dynamics (whether that is medical crisis or financial crisis or something else).

I think in all of these cases, we have to think carefully about whether or not homeschooling is meeting the needs of the entirety of the family, including the parents.  Here are just a few thoughts on homeschooling in these situations:

When you are an introverted, highly sensitive mother with extroverted children:

Consider the long-term plan. Homeschooling numbers tend to dwindle going into middle school and moreso into high school. Will there be enough of a peer group to support your extroverted child? Understand that extroverts are not automatically met better in the school environment, but I do think it is something that deserves thought as an extrovert nears the high school age.   If your extroverted child wants lots to do – clubs and sports- are you willing to drive and be out of the house?  If that doesn’t nourish you, and you feel that you must do it, how will you replenish yourself?

How will you structure your day so you will feel nourished?  This could include the use of audio books instead of reading outloud every day ( yes, I know this wouldn’t happen in a Waldorf School but remember Waldorf homeschooling is not Waldorf School); it could include daily quiet time; it could include sending multiple children outside to play in a safe space without you; it could include the fun of pairing up older siblings and younger siblings for helping with school-related tasks; it could be gently transitioning older students into more independent work so long as they don’t have learning challenges that make this difficult.  Oak Meadow used to be one of the only options for this approach of writing to the student, but I am pleased to see some new products coming out from Christopherus that are geared directly to the middle school student and acknowledges the changes that can occur in the upper grades in homeschooling and the need for more independent work.

Finally, please do acknowledge that all of us need relationships, whether we are introverted or extroverted. We can plan our time with other people carefully if it drains us, but maybe we should be finding relationships for everyone in the family that aren’t draining.  Good lesson for life.  And if you really feel you don’t need one friend, one time out to be without your children during the month…well, maybe you are early in your homeschooling journey or your children are small, but I really think you will want this eventually. 🙂

Homeschooling Children with Special Needs…

This can be very draining and lonely for some parents.  It is hard to teach the same things year after year, such a large amount of repetition, and see only incremental progress.  It is hard to teach every single subject through high school when your child cannot prepare any of the work by themselves at all – so it is still all on you as the teacher, tutor, guide.  And, it is something few other homeschooling parents can really understand unless they are in it themselves.  It can be a grieving process at times, especially as children enter the teen years.   So, you need to know going into homeschooling your child with special needs is that the overall goal may be more about being steady and persistent in engaging our children to learn, and not so much about the final, perfect outcome.

Remember all the other parts of “education” – experience, the arts, social learning, emotional learning, nature studies, practical work – all of these things are so very important.  You cannot change and wish away your child’s struggles, but you can expand all the opportunities and you can celebrate all the victories!

Find your support.  This is important for every homeschooling parent, but incredibly important for parents who are teaching children with special needs.  Also, find support for your children – this might be therapy, or getting neuropsychological testing, or finding other children who accept your child, or the support of a wonderful community.  Every situation looks different, but support is crucial.

There are studies that show homeschoolers with special needs are more engaged with their academic work than students in traditional school settings.  Please don’t undervalue your hard work!  You are making a difference, even if it seems small to you right now.

Homeschooling with extenuating circumstances :

The homeschool community often seems hit hard with bad luck and misfortune.  I think we all know families (or we have been that family!)  that have been hit with one thing right after another, from loss of employment, low funds, house fires, accidents that caused medical bills, chronic disease, and more.  Sometimes a family is really forced to give up homeschooling for traditional school and parental employment, but I have seen other families really hang on through the worst of times.  In these circumstances, which are so individual, it is hard to give specific suggestions except to…

Live within your means, and work to decrease debt and increase income for the family member who is working.  I thought this article did a good job regarding thinking about homeschooling on one income.

Consider how to homeschool as inexpensively as possible.  Traditional homeschooling – ie, used textbooks or free on line sources, may be some of the cheaper ways to homeschool, but I think there are many ways one can homeschool using Waldorf methodology on a budget as well.  The library is a fantastic resource for putting blocks together.

(A side note here:  Waldorf curriculum is rather a difficult thing to afford for many families.  On one hand,  the authors deserve to be fairly compensated for their experience and work (hours and hours to create a curriculum!); I think the cost that many complain about in the Waldorf homeschooling community regarding curriculum isn’t that different a cost than many of the mainstream curriculums that are inclusive.  However many families I know still can’t really afford to buy a homeschooling curriculum.  There are more and more free resources out there for Waldorf homeschooling, especially for grades 1-3, so that can be helpful.  The upper grades can still be self- done, I have done it several times over, but it takes a lot of work and time.  Might be something to consider in planning if you are going to homeschool through middle school and high school. 

Garner support from your extended family and community.  You may need meals, help with cleaning or laundry or outside work, support, help with caring for children.  Build up your support network, and trade these things as best as you can.  Sometimes places of worship, or networks built around a love of  a particular activity can be helpful.

Here is a back post of possible interest:  Surving Bedrest and Being Homebound with Medically Fragile Children

I would love to hear how you have tackled some of these situations in your family!  Please share your experiences and help other families out.

Blessings and love on this fourth day of Christmastide!  I am posting some of my inner work from Christmastide on Facebook and Instagram, so please do follow me over there – Facebook  and @theparentingpassageway on Instagram.

Love,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

The Number One Thing You Must Do To Have A Successful Year

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen in the Christian year (tomorrow is the Feast for my Orthodox Christian readers), and I think it holds great significance for those of us looking ahead to 2019.  Even if you are not Christian, stop and hear me out for a minute.

St. Stephen was one of the first of seven deacons the original apostles ordained to take care of the poor in Jerusalem. His life was one of service to others. He was the first one to be martyred for his work, and we know his face was “like the face of an angel” as he stood before his accusers and the people.

So, you might be asking, what does this have to do with me and 2019?

Well, because the simple truth is YOU are an influencer.  This term is thrown around a lot, you see it on You Tube Videos and Instragram account descrpitions – “I am an influencer!”  And rightfully so, as  far as social media goes.  But as a human being, and especially as a parent, we are all influencers!

St. Stephen was an influencer above all as the first archdeacon to help the poor.  However, we can all be influencers.  We all can work to influence, support, nourish, and help the people we come into contact with. If we listen hard enough,  we  can discern what work we need to accomplish for the service of humanity.

I have some BIGGER dreams for this year, now that I am feeling healthier finally.  I want to influence 50,000 people in supporting vibrant, compassionate, developmental parenting and education.  I want to think about refreshing my skills in medicine and healing now that my children are 17,14,and 9, which will definitely require a lot of work on my part since I have been out of the game.  I want to be the healthiest I have ever been. We are going to have an epic year with family and friends making connections and having fun and adventures.  It is going to be a great year in parenting and homeschooling our children toward also being influencers that help others. And in order to do this all of this, one thing has to happen first.

We have to believe that we are more than our past mistakes, or the past we think was foisted upon us that was debilitating and wrong. We have to FORGIVE. Forgive ourselves, forgive our parents and whatever they did or didn’t do, forgive the people that we think wronged us, and move forward.  Forgiving doesn’t mean we condone what that person did or even what we did, but we move forward knowing that now is the time to do better, to let go of bitterness, to overcome layers of shame and anger, and to become what we are called to be and called to be doing. Time by itself doesn’t fix things; as I get older I see people holding on to things that happened in their teens and early 20s and are now in their 50s. This has to be an active process!

There is a confession we make in the Episcopal Church that makes me think of this process:

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

On this second day of Christmas, I  know I have the BEST readers ever!  I really  want to hear from you and how you forgave!   How did you free yourself from “what you have done and what you have left undone?”  Tell me how you threw off layers of despair, depression, anxiety, anger, and rage.  Tell me how you are an influencer in your family or outside your family!

This is going to be a fantastic year!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Celebrating Christmastide

Christmastide is almost upon us, and I am looking forward to the twelve days of Christmastide and the wonderful Holy Nights that are the wonderful, introspective times of peering within for moving forward. It’s a beautiful time of year!

Freya Jaffke, in her wonderful book, “Celebrating the Festivals With Children”, writes:

During the twelve or thirteen Holy Nights that follow Christmas, the events of Christmas continue to resonate; and it is a lovely custom for children if candles are lit each day, with singing, music making and perhaps a reading.  This period is set apart from the rest of the year, and can be a time when we gather our strength for the year ahead.  Nothing urgent needs to be done, and we can really take time for things.  Children are deeply satisfied if mother or father sits down beside them with some craftwork, or perhaps join in a game now and then.  In contrast to the summer when we like going outdoors, we feel very comfortable at home in the warmth – apart from winter walks and the fun of snow when it comes.

Here is a small guide toward helping families enjoy each day of Christmastide, and I do so hope you will leave your favorite traditions in the comment box as well!

Monday, December 24th – Since the Feast of the Nativity truly begins on Christmas Eve, attending liturgy is a priority for this night! In the hustle and bustle that can often accompany this day before Christmas, making time for quiet prayer is a powerful example of showing our children that God is with us should we choose to acknowledge Him, find Him, adore Him. God is with us, and with His smallest creatures. In Scandinavian countries, it is traditional to put sheaves of wheat for the birds. Children will enjoy taking time on this day to decorate an outside tree for the birds by stringing popcorn or making the traditional pine cone bird feeder of peanut butter rolled in birdseed.

 

Tuesday, December 25th– Christmas Day, the first of the twelve holy days, is a wonderful time to take an afternoon walk and see God’s creation, and also to read from The Gospel of Saint Luke. Old-fashioned board games are another suggestion for celebrating the Christmas afternoon in family togetherness. Another suggestion that some Christian families have tried with success is to spread gift-giving throughout the twelve days of Christmas so that not every gift is opened on Christmas morning.

 

Wednesday, December 26th The Feast of St. Stephen – Love is the spirit of Christmas. This day is the Feast of Saint Stephen , one of the first deacons of the Church to serve the poor. Perhaps today you and your children could bring small baked treats to your neighbors, or another act of kindness and love for those in your area. Good King Wencelas is also associated with this day; perhaps you know the famous carol about him and there is also a picture book about him called “Wencelas: The Eternal Christmas Story” by Geraldine McCraughrean that children may enjoy.  This is also marked as “Boxing Day” in the UK and other countries, and you can see a full description of that here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

 

Thursday, December 27th– The Feast of St. John –  This is sometimes associated with the blessing of wine.  You can see more about this day here:  http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmas4.html

 

Friday, December 28th– The Feast of the Holy Innocents. This is a lovely day to let your smallest child be the “King” for the day, and a wonderful day to bless your children with a special ceremony.

 

Saturday, December 29th –  is The Feast of St. Thomas Becket  in the Anglican Church and also in the Roman Catholic Church. You can see more about this feast day here:  http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmasx.html

 

Sunday, December 30this a very quiet day on the Church calendar; perhaps this is the day to write thank you’s for Christmas gifts and to take another walk or hike to look at God’s beautiful world.

 

Monday, December 31st– this is, of course, New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve actually has no relationship to Christmastide since the beginning of the New Year in the (Western) Christian calendar actually begins with the First Sunday in Advent or September 1st in the Eastern Christian calendar! However, this can be a wonderful day of receiving friends and hospitality. Perhaps you could plan a special party, playdate or tea for your children and their friends on this day!  My favorite activity is listed in the book “All Year Round”.  Those of you who have this book may remember this activity, where small walnut shell halves are filled with beeswax and floated in a tub lined with tin foil and greenery and there can be small “islands” of desires, dreams, wishes for the New Year.  Just lovely!

 

Tuesday, January 1stThe Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – according to Jewish tradition, this would be the day of the naming and circumcision of Jesus Our Lord and Savior. In English tradition, it is also a day to remember godparents. Children would often visit the home of their godparents to be blessed and receive a gift! Perhaps this is a day your children could talk to their godparents and deepen that relationship.

 

Wednesday, January 2nd – The website Full Homely Divinity, a resource for Anglican parish life, recognizes that the Feast of St. Basil is celebrated on January 1st in the Orthodox Church, so they recommend making the traditional vassilopita on this day, which traditionally has a coin baked into it for one lucky person to find and have good luck in the new year. Here is a recipe: http://www.lerios.org/recipes/vassilopita.php

 

Thursday, January 3rd– Today is a wonderful day to again gather friends and family and hike, play board games and sing Christmas carols! What carols does everyone know in your family?

 

Friday, January 4thThis is a day to read Christmas books; there are several by Tomie dePaola that are exceptionally good!

 

Saturday , January 5th– Twelfth Night, the last night of the Twelve Days of Christmas and marking the transition to the beginning of the season of Epiphany! We often recognize not only the gifts brought by the Wise Men on this day in the Western Church, but also the Baptism of Jesus and the significance of water, but also the first miracle of Jesus performed when he changed water into wine.

Bonfires of the Christmas greenery and Twelfth Night Cakes are typical on this day; perhaps this would be a good day to sing the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”!  Many times a special cake is baked; a Twelfth Night Cake!

 

Sunday, January 6th – The Feast of Epiphany –Epiphany is a festival of The Baptism of Jesus in the Orthodox Church and called Theophany; in the Western Church we often call it “Three Kings Day” and mark the Wise Men. The night before Three Kings Day is Twelfth Night, and is a time of joy and festivity marked in many different ways in different countries . In Scandinavia, “Star Singers” move from house to house, led by a large and festive star on a stick and in Russia, children are putting out shoes for Babouschka and waiting for gifts. Italian children are waiting for Old Befana and gifts as well. There are many wonderful traditions from other countries to explore; in many countries Epiphany and not Christmas is the main time of gift giving!

There is a traditional house blessing often done on this day that acknowledges the Three Kings, and the eating of a King’s Cake is traditional. You can find details about this under the Epiphany tab on the Full Homely Divinity website.  I also have past posts about Epiphany on this blog.

For those of  you interested in the idea of the Holy Nights as elucidated by Rudolf Steiner, there is much to say, and I am by far not an expert on Steiner’s indications for the Twelve Holy Nights.  I refer you to this document about the Holy Nights as a good source often shared in anthroposophic communities.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

The Fourth Week of Advent: May You Be A Shelter From The Storm

When I was very young, before my mother died, we lived in an apartment complex.  Apartment complexes in general are not always full of nature, but our apartment building backed up to a small lake.  I spent days by myself outside running around that lake.  In the winter, we ice skated on it.  And in those days, I would look up at the sky and realize that all the things I could see – the sun, the sky, the rain and clouds, the ice and snow, the trees, the water – were all breathing in and out together. It all felt connected to me.

This feeling continued as I grew up.  I became very  interested in other people’s stories; what had happened to them and how they got where they were.  I worked in a hospital in a big city and treated people from all walks of life.  We treated the incarcerated, we treated many suffering from addiction. I still felt connected to so many that I met, even if their life circumstances were very different from mine.

Now I have my own family.  All of our personalities are very different indeed.  Sometimes the hardest test of learning teamwork and respecting each other’s differences begins right at home.  We all are connected, but by more than just blood. In this day and age, when many of us have friends  whom we feel closer to  than family members, it is important to me that I stay very connected to my spouse and to our children through warmth, love, and fun.

This fourth week of Advent is about people, and the unity of people in all things in the world.  To me, this fourth week is about good stewards of creation and all that is in it, but also being good stewards for ourselves and for others and the hope that we can bring each other.  May you be a shelter in the storm for someone this holiday.  May you always remember those who are in need and if you find yourself in a position to help, just help.  There doesn’t need to be any judgement attached to it.  Just be that help and shining light for someone.

We are all connected.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Winter Solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year, and to me, one of the beginning of a season of community, storytelling and gathering, but also one of introspection and rest.

I always felt like the introspection and rest  of the entire winter season was an interesting contrast to the feasting of Christmastide (that begins on Tuesday) in the Christian calendar, but the older I become I see Christmastide as both feasting and introspection.   Solistice, to me, begins the time when I think about how I am going to spend the Twelve Days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day (this year it is on Tuesday!  Not that many days away), and ends with the feast of Epiphany/Three Kings Day.   If you are interested in planning a bit ahead for the twelve days of Christmas and some inner work, here is a back post linking some ideas.  Here is an introspective approach I took one year through biography.

For today, though,  here are a few thoughts for celebrating:

  • Watch the sunrise or the sunset
  • Have yellow, round warming foods
  • Create live music!
  • Hike, backpack, picnic
  • Use only candlelight today or have a candlelit dinner
  • Make Sun Bread (do you have the little book?  This is the link to “Sun Bread” on Amazon
  • Tell stories about the animals
  • Make yellow window stars, star lanterns, window transparencies
  • Ski or snowshoe if you live in a climate for that. All we are getting where I live is cold, gray rain.
  • Go out and see the full moon and the meteor shower.  There was a recent article about this here.
  • Try some of the ideas from the Danish concept of hygge.  I personally like the book, “Making Winter: A Hygge-inspired Guide For Surviving the Winter Months”
  • Be inspired by viewing some beautiful winter art, like Henry Farrer’s “Winter Scene In Moonlight” and others.

Hope you have a wonderful day marking this transition into winter.  I would love to hear your plans!  Comment below!

Blessings and love,

Carrie