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

This is a fantastic book by Dr. Louise Hart with lots of solid advice for creating a peaceful and productive family life.  You can see back posts regarding Chapters 1-10; today we are looking at Chapter 11, which is entitled, “Parenting Leadership Styles.” One of the very first blog posts I wrote in 2008 back when I started writing was about gentle discipline as authentic leadership, so I was excited to delve into this chapter.

The chapter begins with asking the basic question:

  • Were you raised by tyrants?
  • Were you raised by not being raised?
  • Were you raised by leaders who balanced their powers with freedom and caring?

In an autocratic (tyrannical) parenting style, children often want to be told what to do because they are trying to avoid punishment and they want to please their parents. Children raised in this style often lack a sense of personal responsibility and distrust their own feelings.  They may be compliant or they may become rebellious and defiant over time.

In a permissive parenting style, parents give up any power at all and may be checked out due to substance abuse problems, their own baggage and woundedness, illness, or disinterest. In these families, because there are no rules, children don’t learn any boundaries at all, have trouble with limits, feel they have the right to do whatever it is that they wish, or may take on a role reversal with the parents.  They may eventually become violent toward their parents or seek out highly structured groups as an adult.

In a democractic leadership style, everyone’s needs in the family are considered important. Parents offer choices and treat their children as capable beings who can make decisions. They teach children how to take responsibility.  They provide structure.  Children learn to respect rules and become responsible, and how to become capable.

Some families have a mix of styles between parents – one may be very permissive and the other very autocratic and rigid.  This happens frequently, but by realizing this and talking about this, even by employing family meetings, different choices can be made.

When children are small, we have to assume control and provide boundaries and as children grow, we can provide a framework for freedom with responsibiity and good choices at the forefront.  We provide a sense of teamwork and empowerment. In Appendix C of this book there is a helpful table summarizing the information in this chapter.

More to come!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Identifying Dyslexia For Homeschooling Parents

Many of us who homeschool have students who have challenges with learning in some form.  In Waldorf homeschooling (or even in a Waldorf School setting), because formal academics begin in first grade, there is an interesting thought that learning disabilities will be caught later, and therefore attempts at remediation will begin later.

I don’t think this has to be the case. If you, as a homeschooling parent or as a teacher in a school setting are working with children on preliteracy and literacy skills, then identifying possible signs of dyslexia should be not just something nice that maybe one knows or doesn’t know, but it should be an absolute requirement.

One of the latest books out regarding Waldorf Education and literacy, and in my opinion the best book  is “The Roadmap To Literacy:  A Guide to Teaching Language Arts in Waldorf Schools Grades 1 through 3” by Janet Langley and Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl.  One of the points in this book is that up to 40% of students will discover that letters represent sounds that make up words easily; 30-40% will need extra practice to move forward; 20-30% will absolutely need intensive direct teaching in a very detailed and sequential way. In a school setting, this last sub-set of students might be working with a reading specialist and in a home setting, they will need extra hours with us directly teaching in a clear manner. So not every difficulty in learning to read, but every situation requires careful thought.

In the homeschool setting, particularly with Waldorf methodology, there can be a lot made of later reading that is normal, the student is dreamy, just give them more time and the student will catch up. This absolutely does happen and I do not want to discount it.  However, as the mother of a child who is dyslexic, I do wish more parents would confirm that there is no underlying signs of dyslexia, visual, or auditory processing programs before just deciding it will come.  I also wish more Waldorf teachers, mentors, and curriculum providers would point out the possible signs of underlying problems that are larger than just needing more time.

Visual and auditory processing problems can be c0-morbid with dyslexia, but visual therapy will not fix true dyslexia – it will fix the problems with tracking or convergence that contribute to learning challenges, but the dyslexic brain is neurobiological in origin.  

So, there are consistent signs that parents should be aware of that could indicate dyslexia.  I highly recommend looking at the International Dyslexia Association website for more information.  You might consider delving deeper if your student (source Schenck School public presentation, 2018; International Dyslexia Association):

  • Does not rhyme words well (this is huge; most four year olds and kindergarteners catch on to rhyming quickly!  This is absolutely an early sign of trouble if it does not improve with practice)
  • Does not divide words into syllables well
  • Divide sentences into words well
  • Does not discriminate words in phonemic sounds
  • Cannot delete roots or syllables or phonemes to make new words or substitute a phoneme in a word (ie, if you have the word lighthouse, and you ask the student to say the word again but don’t say “light”, they cannot do it or they cannot take the word bog, change the o to an a and make the word bag)
  • Cannot identify whether a specific phonemic sound is at the beginning, middle, or end of a word.

Once the student has gotten into bigger steps in trying to read or write, if your student:

  • Cannot write words or sentences
  • Cannot blend sounds together
  • Cannot decode nonsense words (think of Dr. Suess kind of words)
  • Cannot segment words into syllables or identify sounds and letters
  • Cannot decode consonant-vowel-Consanant words, or letters with simple blends after practice

Usually somewhere between grades 2-5, students are spelling well, have handwriting that is decent, can read and spell, can recall words, and yes, most fifth graders, even late bloomers, can read.  There is also a self-assessment at the International Dyslexia website here and also a good handout here that points out that 74 % of the readers struggling in third grade end up struggling in ninth grade (again, due to true developmental dyslexia, not just being a late bloomer), but that is is never too late, not even for adults, to improve through a structured literacy program.  Remediation may take 2-3 years or longer.

If you have checked a lot of the above indicators for your student, I suggest testing.  In the United States, this can be hard for parents as private testing through a neuropsychologist for a full battery of tests often costs thousands of dollars.  However, what testing gives you is a clear diagnosis, clear accomodations (especially important for those in high school for testing and those wanting to go to college), and it gives ideas for remediation.  It is also important because student with dyslexia have marked difference in reading, writing, spelling, speaking, and math due to neurobiologic expression, teaching methodology used and more.

In between testing and waiting, some things can help. If you are Waldorf homeschooling family, you may be familiar with the book “Take Time”, or “Bal A Vix X”.  You might be famliar with the idea of extra lessons or curative eurythmy.  Most programs recommended for literacy are those that employ Orton-Gillingham techniques.  One other approach is Lindawood/Bell, especially for those students without the ability to handle CVC words.

The other thing to think about is looking at the other pieces we often see  associated with dyslexia, whether that is difficulties with executive functioning tasks, speech challenges, dyscalculia, anxiety, sensory processing pieces, ADD/ADHD, social-emotional difficulties, dysgraphia, can also be part of what needs to be addressed.  It is a complex range, and many parents worry about their children.  Every single student with dyslexia is an individual and each student has their own strengths to build upon.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

5 truths about the development of babies

I think if new parents haven’t been around a lot of babies, they can be fairly shocked when they have a little one of their own!

I was one of those parents. I had worked in a neonatal intensive care unit for my job, and the babies were exhausted after feeding.  So they ate, and then they slept right through until the next feeding time.  Full-term babies were fussier, but usually close to being discharged, and hey, there was an entire staff to entertain them and carry them around or play with them!

I thought I would be doing things in between nursing my baby, like cleaning the house and exercising, and that there would be a lot of  baby sleeping.

Nope! Surprise!

But it was wonderful all the same.  However, I would love to share five truths with you about babies from my experience as a long-time breastfeeding counselor, lactation consultant, pediatric and neonatal physical therapist, and mom of three…..

  1.  It takes time for babies to develop a rhythm to sleeping and waking patterns.  Some babies can be good sleepers, but it actually is neuroprotective for babies to not sleep too deeply due to risk of SIDS (highest at ages 2-5 months), and their sleep cycles are different than adult sleep cycles.  This is a great article about infant sleep from Dr. Sears that I think every new parent should read.  Bottle feeding parents are sometimes recommended by other parent to put rice cereal in a bottle to help babies sleep longer but this is is a myth; there are studies back to 1989 showing this makes no difference and in fact can be HARMFUL – here are recent studies from 2015 cited in an easy to read article from Kelly Mom.
  2. Babies need a  lot of physical touch.  It changes DNA for the better, as found in this recent study from 2017!  You can also use a babywearing to help you.  There are many on the market, including meshy slings you can use in the shower if you don’t have a helper to leave your baby outside the shower door.  Babywearing International has closed as an organization, but they still have many good article up on their site about choosing a baby carrier.  Here is a rare picture on this blog of our third child wrapped up in a sling several weeks after his  birth.
  3. Babies also need time to be free on the floor, both on their back and on their stomach.  They need time to look at black, white, and red objects; they need time to have one arm exposed out of swaddling to move, opportunities to  extend and stretch and to move their head and limbs.  This develops the muscles needed for sitting, crawling, and standing.
  4. Babies experience times of symmetry and asymmetry, but overall should be moving all limbs equally and shouldn’t have a preference to  looking or moving to only  one side.  There are some months, like two months of age, that are considered a stronger time of asymmetry developmentally due to such reflexes such as an Asymetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) and four months is typically a very symmetric time. Constant asymmetric movement patterns can be caused  by challenges with development.   Keep in touch with your baby’s health care team about your baby’s physical development. Here is a gross motor checklist from the Aussie Childcare Network
  5. Babies experience stress too!  There are stress signs that are a call to be held and soothed.  Babies do not self-soothe. They do not have a sense of self.  They have a sense of smell, they have a sense of taste and touch, they don’t see very well except breast/chest level to a parent’s face, and they need help in self-regulation. Breastfeeding meets these biological goals.  However, no baby should be left to just “cry it out.” Here is an editorial with medical references that talk about letting your baby cry.  The reality is that your baby may cry even if you are holding them, especially in cases of babies with reflux and other things going on, but don’t leave them to cry alone.  Get help so YOU feel supported as a parent, and then you can support your baby. A parent and a baby together are a team.  

There are many back posts about babies  on this blog – here are a few of my favorites:

40 Days After Birth and Beyond

Transforming Post-Partum Stress Into Joy

Postpartum Depression

When Babies Cry and What We Can All Learn from the High-Needs Baby

Discipline for 0-1 year old babies (hint: it involves being connected and attached to your infant!)  The main rule of guiding children, that starts at birth, is being responsive!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

7 ways of doing self-care +parenting

Maybe parents from previous generations wouldn’t understand this fuss about self-care.  I think generally people got married and had children earlier than parents are doing now. Maybe there was more support in juggling the home and the kids through extended family, which many of us don’t have these days.  I know when I was younger, I certainly didn’t really understand the fuss about self-care as well as I do now, and when I started parenting over seventeen years ago, it wasn’t even really a thing to talk about self-care.

Cue now.  Cue the late 40s.

Years of parenting and homeschooling still await.

Things are shifting.

Self-care is needed.

Now self-care seems absolutely vital to me; absolutely necessary; absolutely important. It is something important for me that benefits the whole family, despite whatever limitations may be in the way.

Maybe you are feeling this as well.  I think younger parents are much more in tune with this than we are.  However, at any stage, it can be easy to neglect in the shuffle and business of life, especially for homeschooling parents whose children and teens are with the family many (all) hours a day.  So, i put together 7 ways for doing self-care that might resonate with you or give you ideas for your own practice.

  1.  Find your attitude about self-care, and your find your discipline to follow through.  First you have to believe that self-care is necessary, and then you have to find a way to follow through on doing self-care no matter what personal obstacles are in your situation.  Maybe your significant other travles nonstop, and you homeschool three tiny children that you can’t just leave to run out and do appointments or even go for a heart-pounding run that doesn’t involve stopping to look every ten feet at some critter on the ground.  Instead of feeling defeated, how will you make this work?  Brainstorm ideas, and believe AND do.
  2. Keep the big health guidelines in mind.  One hundred fifty minutes of moderate areobic exercise  a week and  twice a week strength training is recommended for adults in the United States, there are recommendations for how often to see your doctor and dentist, there are even recommendations for number of hours you should sleep a night, and how many hours a day you should be on a screen.  That might be the bare minimum place you start.
  3. Rest and play.  Rest and play for adults may be one of the most overlooked areas of health. This one can be done with your children, with your significant other, with your friends or by yourself?  How do you rest and play? What does that look like for you?
  4.  Time in nature.  This is extremely important for decreasing stress, for setting healthy patterns in sleep, and for a myriad of health benefits, even down to the cellular level.  There is true research on this, and since many people spend a lot of time indoors, it may be worth it to schedule yourself some forest bathing time or time to be outside.
  5. Time in community.  Community is very important. It is something new mothers or new fathers  naturally often seek in the form of playgroups…and then as the children grow, as teens have more interests and they no longer want to get together with the same chidren they have been since playgroup days due to lack of common interests…it can become more difficult to see other adults that you are really and truly close to.  My recommendation is to go out to dinner or tea or meet at a park – just the adults.  When your children are teenagers, you can leave them and do this!  If you think you don’t need this, I would say you should try.  It reduces anxiety, having community has many health benefits,  it makes you feel connected, and when your children are off living their own lives, you are going to want some friends!
  6. Time alone.  It is important to have some time each day, each week, each month to just be alone without the children.  Many parents get so lost in their children and all the hustle and bustle that they often lose who they were.  Parenting will change you! You will be a different person than you were.  That is normal.  But losing complete connection with yourself, your goals,  your dreams, your functioning as a separate human being outside of being a parent is difficult.  It can take time to get those things back, and time alone to think or think and journal can be invaluable.
  7. Healthy food.  Healthy food, and not using food as a form of stress control or self-medication is really important. Parenting can start a whole cycle of eating while standing up, eating as quickly as possible,  not having time to cook.  Batch cooking healthy things for the week can be a really big help, as can gadgets such as a crock-pot or Instapot.  Finding healthy recipes and making them, not keeping junk  food in the house that really isn’t made up of food but instead chemicals and additives ( I call it “food-like” substances) in the house, is really important self-care, and it sets a great tone for the future generation living in your household.  I was at a continuing education course where the home health physical therapists were estimating over half of the patients they were seeing were obese, and had Type 2 diabetes, and didn’t hardly move during the day.  This isn’t where we want ourselves or the next generation to end up!

Share with me your favorite ways to self-care!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

The Top Way To Be A Great Parent

One of my very favorite sayings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is this one:

All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.

In my book, the top way to be a great parent is to model, show, tell, put our children in circumstances where they learn that we all affect each other and the planet.  We all need to rise up together, and to understand that some in the world are coming from very different cultural and life experiences that our own.  In this way, we raise human beings who are ready to love and serve each other and the world becomes more beautiful.  There will always be evil, there is no doubt.  There will always be selfishness and greed.  But the way we move forward is we train this next generation in love, in kindness, in generosity, in empathy, in humility.  The greatest education is not one of books and learning, although I probably love books and learning more than the average person, but one of character.

You might think, well, that sounds terrific, but how do I do that?  You might consider starting with yourself and the other adults in your home.  What are your wounded areas?  Do you see the world in this way; that we all affect each other?  Do you see the need to raise others up and to serve others?  What is your inner work surrounding these attitudes and these ideals – religious, spiritual, at home, outside the home- what is your practice?

How do you work as a team at home?  This is the first thing that children learn in the home- how to be loved and how to love, how to help, how to be respectful through good manners, how to live with others.  It is  about them learning how to be in the family and to be more than just themselves but instead part of a greater unit.  I have held great conversations around this theme over the years with attachment parents, and you can read some of my thoughts on past blog posts- how we can all be connected and meet the needs of our smallest children and yet also communicating that we as the people in the household all help, all serve, all work together, all have needs.

How do you help your child move into the community and society at large around them in a loving and kind way?  How do you expand that into the areas of your community and society that are underserved in the teen years and how do you also teach the beautiful boundaries of self-replenishment, self-love in order to make helping a sustainable practice for years to come?

Just a few thoughts on this day, 2019.  May we all live and love large and keep moving forward.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Skills for High School (and life!)

We have one teen getting ready to go look at colleges and apply in the fall, and one child who will be entering high school in the fall.  These are such  interesting and often challenging ages to parent. I don’t think I ever doubted my homeschooling skills as much as I did when my oldest was in eighth and ninth grade.  I think this is because we as parents can see what skills will be needed for success in  the upper grades of high school and what will be needed in college, and we wonder what we will do if things don’t come together  (or as homeschooling parents we wonder if we are doing enough).

This leads me to a question:  what do you think eighth and ninth graders really need to be able to do in order to navigate high school (and life) successfully? I woud love to hear your thoughts!  Here are a few of my ideas for the important skills teens need for high school and beyond:

Communication Skills – this includes written communication, public speaking,  recognizing nonverbal cues in other people, presentation skills, and being able to collaborate on a team.  I think this is where things such as vocabulary and fluency in writing and speaking  counts, and so do things such as knowing how to introduce oneself and others.

**Ways to develop this:  4H and Toastmasters, work and volunteer experience, being on a team in any area- sports or otherwise, communicating effectively at home and pointing out cues and emotions,  increasing vocabulary in the later middle school years.  If you are the homeschooling teacher – assigning papers, research papers, and oral presentations.

Organizational Skills – this includes physical space planning (ie, the teen can find what they are looking for), mental organization, planning and scheduling, time management, prioritizing

**Ways to develop this – using a calendar or planner, using checklists, working with deadlines  for your homeschool, developing accountability outside the home to mentors, other teachers, volunteer work or a part-time job

Leadership and Teamwork – this, to me, involves initiative, making decisions, contributing, responsibility, respect of others and listening to others, humility, problem solving

**Ways to develop this – volunteer and work opportunities, allow decision making for teens and don’t bail them out of the consequences, let your teen figure out the possibilities – don’t do it all for them

Work Ethic -this includes dependability, determination, accountability, professionalism

**Ways to Develop This – assignments with deadlines in homeschooling, don’t skip the hard or boring all the time, work and volunteer experiences, the development of healthy habits at home which requires a regularity in doing things

Emotional Intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills

**Ways to Develop This- talking to teens about their feelings and helping them use “I” statements and how to be active listeners, basic anger management and conflict management skills,mindfulness techniques,  nurture motivation when your teen is interested in a subject or has a passion and teach them  how to set goals around their passions, provide and model optimism and encouragement

I would love to hear your ideas!  What do you think is important?

Blessings,

Carrie

PS. If you are looking for more on this subject, you might enjoy this back post on Life Skills for Seventh and Eighth Graders and some of the resources I recommend!

Top 7 Ways to Fearlessly Waldorf Homeschool

I wrote a post about “fearless Waldorf homeschooling” in which I talked about how despite our fears regarding homeschooling, we are enough.  We really are.  Every family has its own unique circumstances, family culture, family dynamics, strengths that interplay with the Waldorf curriculum at home to make it unique and able to meet the child in front of us so wonderfully.  Homeschooling is full of possibilities, but it has to be sustainable for us as teachers and parents.  And for that reason, our homeschool adventures will never look like, and should never look  like a Waldorf School.

Here are ways I think we can fearlessly Waldorf homeschool, and leave our worries and doubts about this sometimes intense way of homeschooling behind!

Decide your priorities for homeschooling based on  the amount of energy you have.  Everyone has a certain amount of energy, and we all have a fixed number of hours in the day.  Are you a low, medium, or high energy person?  What does an ideal homeschooling day look like for you?  Remember my mantra  – the Waldorf homeschool will not, and should never look like a Waldorf School program!  So what are the top priorities from looking at all the things that Waldorf homeschooling can bring that your children, and you, really really need?  Resign yourself that you must likely won’t do all the things, and that is perfectly okay.

Design your priorities for Waldorf homeschooling around your strengths, and decide if the things you are weakest at is something that you actually want to learn and grow better at doing  OR if this is something that you can outsource!  For example, say knitting is hard for you.  Do you want to spend your energy learning how to knit and then teach your child, do you want to learn together with your child, or do you want to send your child somewhere to learn how to knit in your community?

Build your homeschooling around rhythm, but remember to include self-care in  your rhythm.  I don’t know what that would like like for you, but I think for many of us, sustainable homeschooling involves being more than just the person teaching or keeping up everything around the house.  It involves being a whole human being, and for many of us, we need some time either alone, with our spouse without children, or with our own friends in order to recharge.  It might involve when  you exercise, or when you sleep in or take a nap or meet a friend for tea.  Whatever it is, plan out your self-care for the week on Sundays.   Mark it in, arrange where your children will be, but do it.  Generally, homeschooling is not sustainable into the middle grades without this piece.  Burnout is real, and many people who start homeschooling and throw themselves into it with gusto either have to reinvent how they homeschool in the middle school grades or they put their children in school.  

We must always teach to the child in front of us.  What parts of these traditional blocks are of most interest to our child?  What things do we need to include in the grades that are developementally appropriate , meet our family culture, meet the time and place in which we live that are different than the Waldorf Schools?  

How do we deliver these lessons?   Waldorf homeschooling is about more than creating main lesson books!   There will always be children who hate to draw orwho hate creating main lesson books, and we must do more than just decide an education based in the arts, based around health and using sleep as an aid to memory,  is not for them.  In the home environment, we have so many creative options.

What is our end academic goal? I think far too many parents enter blocks without thinking about what they are trying to accomplish skill-wise – so think about this in your planning.  This keeps you confident and courageous!  What academic, social, emotional, physical and artistic skills is this material a springboard for?  What’s the end point? 

When in doubt, what will foster connection and responsbility in your child? Both of these are important, as the ultimate goal of Waldorf Education is that  human beings once again learn how to live with each other, that we can connect with the “other”, that we see how things are interrelated, that we can serve humanity with love.  It helps to begin with the end in mind. 

Blessings and love,
Carrie