Celebrating The First Week of Advent

I love the season of Advent; it is a calling for preparation and anticipation; it is a coming to terms with the past; it is an exploration of the mystery of life; it is a calling to chart a new course for the future; it is a time when Nature is drawn into the Earth.

Roger Druitt writes in his book, “Festivals of the Year:  A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festival Cycle”:

“We can say that in summer, when everything is at its fullest extent of growth and splendour, the Earth is asleep- its soul is outside and its consciousness is in the periphery.  It is ‘unfolded.”  In winter, however, the landscapes, light and the starry sky exhibit a distinct clarity, a wakefulness.  In the Northern Hemisphere, then, during winter, nature is drawn into Earth, is infolded, is awake.”

I love this imagery of turning inward and being awake, seeing the lights above us in the stars and beautiful colors of the winter sunrise and sunset, and seeking a little bit of light for our homes and for ourselves to bring to our family, friends, and community.

Advent in the Waldorf Home is something that is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year.  The first week of Advent at Waldorf Schools is marked by a reverance for the mineral kingdom.  This quote is attributed to Rudolf Steiner, although I don’t think anyone has been able to show exactly where Steiner said this:

The first light of Advent is the light of stone–.
Light that lives in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.”

I have many suggestions for celebrating this week on an outward level for children in the home in back posts – just search “first week of Advent” in the search box and many will come up with suggestions for activities, songs, verses.

However, as my children age, I am very interested in not only these hands- on activites that set the mood of Advent, but the real inner work and inner light of this season and this idea of the cosmic wondering. How do we create wonder,  warmth,  and light within ourselves to bring in an outward form during Christmastide (the 12 Days of Christmas) and beyond?

There are several things that help center me during this season that can be riddled and frenzied by commercialism and materialism:

1 – try to get any shopping done by the end of the first week of Advent so we can focus on crafting and making things for our home and for gifts with love for those we care about. Focus on the giving for others and marginalized groups, which we do in several different ways for the homeless children and women in our area and for the children who live in economically disadvantaged areas.  This giving and work around this is an important part of our preparation for Christmas.

2- get out in nature daily so we can notice the small still changes that often accompany this season, even in the Deep South of the United States where the seasons don’t often change as dramatically as other parts of the country.

3 – establish a rhythm that is more focused on the inner parts of Advent, whether that is using a devotional booklet to help us bring focus to lighting our Advent Wreath, or using an Advent Planner such as this one from Wildflowers and Marbles geared to Roman Catholic families or Little Acorn’s Advent and Saint Nicholas Festival book.  Specific to my own Episcopalian tradition, The Very Best Day: The Way of Love For Children (ages 3-10) and The Way of Love Advent Curriculum and Calendar.

Our specific plans:

Sunday –  (Worship on The Way of Love Calendar) The First Sunday of Advent; Make Advent Wreath,  set out Advent Reading Basket, out in nature – all through first week clean and declutter house

Monday -(Go on The Way of Love Calendar); make stuffed stars for Christmas tree, shop for gifts for the teens we adopted through our church, out in nature,

Tuesday-(Learn on The Way of Love Calendar)- reading sacred texts; add minerals and gems to our Advent Wreath;  out in nature

Wednesday (Pray on The Way of Love Calendar) – silent meditation, out in nature, decorate house, bring in branches to force into bloom or plant bulbs to bloom such as paperwhites in honor of St. Barbara

Thursday (Bless on The Way of Love Calendar) – give presence, out in nature, prepare for St. Nicholas Day

Friday – (Turn on The Way of Love Calendar, St. Nicholas Day)  celebrate St. Nicholas Day, acts of kindness anonymously, out in nature

Saturday (Rest on The Way of Love Calendar); Volunteer in morning, rest

I would love to hear how you are preparing for the first week of Advent!  Let’s share ideas to make it wonderful.

Blessings,

Carrie

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”: What Fuels Power Struggles

We are up to Chapters 7, 8 and 9  in Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning For A Lifetime.” Chapter 7 is  about identifying the real feelings and needs behind power struggles.

She identifies four major threads within power struggles, including:

  • Temperament – the natural way your child reacts to something: how persistent, easily frustrated, sensitive, active, regular, or intense they are, how they cope with transitions and new situations
  • Stress – the environmental factors in your child’s life that may be causing distress
  • Medical Factors- physiological issues that are impacting your child; for example, auditory processing challenges, AD/HD, depression, anxiety
  • Normal Development- developmental tasks that your child is working on and that can be predictable for the age if you know development (and to me also suggests, are you expecting too much or not enough?)

If you can identify the threads inside the power struggle, you will have a much better chance of coming up with a strategy that can address what is happening.

Chapter 8 is entitled, “Why You Blow:  Understanding Your Temperament.”  There is a inborn or genetric dimension to temperament, which describes how we perceive the world and our first, most natural responses to things in the world.  If we understand ourselves, we can understand our reaction to our children’s behavior better.  There is a test starting on page 119 of the book that measures traits such as persistence,sensitivity, adaptability, intensity, regularity of eating/sleeping/elimination, activity level, first reaction, and then a way to put it all together for a score of what kind of emotion coach you are for your children.  The point is to accept yourself and know yourself; honor yourself in your parenting life because it will make parenting that much easier.

Chapter 9 takes these same temperament traits and applies them to children, and gives examples of how to emotion coach for trait.  This author has written two other books about temperament and parenting and I encourage you to read them – one is “Raising Your Spirited Child” and the other one is “Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook.”  They are both fantastic and can be so helpful when you are dealing with a child whom you are trying to understand.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Thanksgiving Every Day

One of the more interesting books about festivals from a Waldorf perspective is, “Festivals of the Year:  A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festive Cycle,” by Roger Druitt and published by Sophia Books.  In it, the author posits that the cycle of the year in festival form is something that all of us, no matter what our religious or spiritual beliefs, can benefit from.  The traditional seasonal festivals that mark fertility, fruitfulness and harvest and death can be traced through the life of Jesus Christ and also through the idea that the cycle of the year produces a renewal in nourishing the Earth and “rebuilding the house on Earth” as talked about in this book.

Thanksgiving as a holiday, on a very inner level is a gratitude for the fruitfulness of life; gratitude for our families and blessings.  It is of course up to us to have gratitude every day and to choose thankfulness and optimism as we look at the events of our lives. I think it also implores us to live in this moment that is between now and the future; the good deeds and gratitude we hold now help make the world a better place for the future.  Thanksgiving is a daily act and occurrence.

I wrote a post in 2015 with these words about the act of Thanksgiving:

In a world that often seems shattered, broken, and perhaps beyond repair….

Let us give thanks in our hearts for the light we and others can bring to the world.

Let us give thanks for our best attempts to be kind, compassionate and caring to ourselves, our children and the world.

Let us give thanks for all the good things we model for our children.

Let us give thanks for all the helpers in the world.  There are many.

Let us give thanks for all that we have, and all the ways in which we can help others.

Let us give thanks for the beauty of the earth and skies and seas.

Let us give thanks for the animals and plants and the diversity of all human beings and cultures around the world.

Let us give thanks for peace and show the world love.

Here is a list of words for us to use and model for our beautiful children, this next generation compiled by Master Waldorf Teacher Marsha Johnson in this post.

We also remember the First Peoples of this day and do not celebrate Thanksgiving as the expansion of colonialism and genocide.  I have published several links to resources regarding this on the Parenting Passageway Facebook page, and look for a few more on Thanksgiving.  I will try to come back and list them here on Thanksgiving in an edited version of this post as I realize not every reader is on Facebook. One of the main links to be aware of is https://native-land.ca/?fbclid=IwAR2fcSt4JmrQ2GGWqOi58oLMjNotEgi79egFp8yOrYKkEVrH1fTDJg9g2xQ , which will tell you what First Peoples were living in your area so you can acknowledge them in your Thanksgiving Remembrances.

Thanksgiving  Day this year is also right before the beginning of Advent on December 1, and I am contemplating the richness that Advent brings to our inner lives.  Over the course of ten years of this blog, I have written many posts on Advent and all aspects of the holiday season.  For those who are celebrating, St. Nicholas Day is next week on the 6th!

If you are looking for some inspiration, try these back posts:

Christine Natale’s Musings on Saint Nicholas Day and Starting New Holiday Traditions

Favorite Stories for Saint Nicholas Day

Ideas for the First Week of Advent in the Waldorf Home

Blessings on your season of bringing lightness to the world,

Carrie

Finding the Balance Between Being A Parent and Being A Homeschool Teacher

What is this elusive balance of which people speak about?

We are all searching for it, like it is the holy grail (that no one can really find).

So here are the truths about balance as I see it, after many years of homeschooling and preparing to graduate our first homeschool graduate  in the spring:

There are seasons.  Some seasons of parenting are just busier than others, and some seasons of teaching are busier than others.  There were years were I went to every homeschooling conference I could find, read every homeschooling book and lecture I could find because I was hungry for it all.  With Waldorf homeschooling, I had to learn the arts-based end of things that I had never learned or refine the skills I did have.  It was a lot of work.

Some seasons are more intensive in parenting.  Our two high schoolers  really, really need me right now.  Perhaps not as much for academics –  I farmed some outside classes out for our oldest high schooler, and our middle child is technically  homeschooling but is in a hybrid school so I don’t really feel as if this is the homeschooling with all the planning and teaching I am used to! – but emotionally availability is important for our adolescents. I think as parents, we always want to be the soft space for our children to land.  So, it can be a constant check-in – do they need me more as their emotional guide right now than as their homeschool teacher?  Do I have the bandwidth to do both well right now, or do I need to focus on one area?

It’s okay to not do everything.  Outer balance for the family and yourself comes at a cost; there is a cost to wholeness.  Sometimes you have to say no to something in order to be able to go away with your spouse for a long-needed, long-neglected few nights away because you have both been just pushing and grinding out 12-14 hour days.  Sometimes you need to say no to something fun because you really need to be home and regrouup. Sometimes you need to say no to push yourself out of the house and connect with community. I think this is why there will never be a defining “this is how you do balance” because everyone needs something different for their own kind of balance on the outside.

Balance for the inner self is another kind of balance.  There is a lot of talk about self-care and also about designing a life that doesn’t feel exhausting.  Again, there are seasons in life and some seasons are just exhausting and you get through the best you can.  Balance for self can really be divided into not just caring for our physical bodies, but for our emotional and spiritual selves as well.

Investing in this for ourselves takes time, and often takes the support of our family and friends.  It is hard to invest in self-care if you can never catch a minute to yourself, especially if you have been running on empty for years.  The emotional toll of parenting and homeschooling can be high – the constant worry of am I doing enough?  Am I not doing enough?  What does the future hold?   My main suggestion in this is to look at sustainable routines and habits when your children are smaller that involve more than just you doing and directing everything – sustainability that involves others besides you sets a great habit as your children grow and their lives outside of the home become more intensive and more adults are involved. If you are a single parent, do you have friends like are like family?  Get over not wanting to ask for help!  Plan some time for just you to recoup in a rhythmic way – weekly? monthly? quarterly?    You will be a better parent and teacher for it, and the years can fly by with no time to touch base within yourself or with your partner alone if you don’t plan at all. (And if you make this your resolution for 2020, I want to hear about it and how it goes!)

Know yourself, and know your children.  That is the true key to providing balance.  Some children are self-motivated; some are not.  Some thrive on a more strict schedule; some don’t.  If you know yourself well and your children well balance is much clearer to see.

If you are a new homeschooler, my greatest piece of advice goes back to sustainable routines and rhythms for the family.  You can plan all these wonderful lessons and take all weekend, and every night before teaching to work on these plans (and you may have a very compliant child that will follow your lesson plans – many of us are not that lucky!), but do not neglect your greater role within your family and in your own humanity.  You are more than a homeschool teacher, you are a wonderful parent and human being who also deserves to have a life outside of homeschooling if you want that (some are perfectly happy solely homeschooling, and that’s awesome too! However, I think for many of us close to 50 or early 50’s, we are earning for something more outside of that. Just my experience. If you are in your 20’s to mid 40’s, this may not resonate).  For some, this outside life may be small, like seeing a friend a few times a month or it may be large, like homeschooling parents who still work or are in  school or who are very active in their communities.  Only you can decide how that balance will play out, but you have the choice in how you do it.  Don’t just keep piling more on your plate without conscious thought.  Know yourself and what really fuels you as this is your life too, not just your children’s life.

I would love to hear your ideas about balance in homeschooling and parenting.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Happy Martinmas!

I have been posting some links for lantern making and Martinmas songs on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, and the big day is today!  Happy Veteran’s Day to my U.S. readers and Happy Martinmas to everyone! We will be doing our Lantern Walk in a few weeks, so today we can celebrate at home. Every festival celebration at home has, to me, a few components:

  • Handwork for the festival – in this case, beautiful lanterns and there are so many ways to make them!
  • Music – all those wonderful Martinmas songs
  • Story – you can tell the simple story of Martin, or there is a book on Amazon, which I am excited to check out because it seems like this is one festival where there is a lack of books.  No affiliation, but here is the link:  Snow on Martinmas
  • Food – for Martinmas, I like to keep it simple with a warming soup and warmed apple cider, and warm homemade pretzels are lovely for a group of lantern walkers
  • Any special elements – in this case, the Lantern Walk is special to this holiday, but so are things such as warm coat drives.

How to Have  A Lantern Walk In Four Super Easy Steps

If you have time to plan ahead, have participants learn the Lantern Walk songs!  This is the biggest trouble most people have at Lantern Walks  – if there isn’t a core group that knows the songs, it all kind of falls apart.

If people don’t have lanterns, you could always have a lantern-making session before your walk!

Light lanterns, sing and walk in the darkness.  It’s beautiful! Make sure the walk itself is long enough.  If you have tiny children, short may be fine, but older children appreciate a little longer. If you have a big community and some trails in the woods, it can be fun to have the adults come together before and set beautiful lanterns hanging from the trees as well (usually glass!)

Have some warm soup, cider, pretzels or gingerbread and celebrate together!

It’s such a beautiful festival!

Many blessings,

Carrie

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“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” – Empathy

Today’s chapter from “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime” by author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is “Empathy.”

In order to develop a sense of trust, a child needs to know

  1.  They can count on their caregiver to respond sensitively to their needs.
  2. They are worthy of attention.

This is not just for infancy, but for all children.  Empathy is the root of being a connected parent.

When I read this, I had three immediate thoughts:

  • Some parents are extremely empathetic, but struggle with boundaries.  Responding empathetically doesn’t always mean giving the child what they want.  There is a difference between wants and needs and feelings are one piece of health within a family.
  • Some parents who are very empathetic themselves don’t have a hard time putting themselves into their child’s shoes and feeling all that emotion, but actually need to learn how to shield their own emotions a little better so they don’t feel constantly emotionally wiped out.
  • Sometimes empathy is hard, particularly if a child’s behavior is hitting, screeching, yelling, fighting, biting, slaming doors, saying “I hate you!”, teen attitude,  general opposition where you feel you have tried everything peacefully to resolve the situation.

Lucky for us, the author does talk about this.  She talks about viewing behaviors as words.  For small children, we can brainstorm what a child is feeling without them being able to verbalize well.  If we can see that our children are not out to “get us” or “be defiant” (hate that word), it is easier for us to remain calm and try to help our children.

Sometimes people give well-meaning advice that is just plain terrible.  The whole you are spoiling him, he wlll grow up to be a brat, you are the one in control….it makes us as parents feel defensive, doesn’t it? The author writes on page 98, “The reality is that our child-rearing lore is full of advice that discourages us from connecting with our kids.”

So true.  Research has shown that connected kids actually are less demanding and easier to care for.  Truth. If you have a child that is connected and you feel is demanding, it could be their personality is just higher needs in general.   You parenting that child with empathy and connection is actually helping, not harming. There are many back posts on this blog about the high needs child/spirited child if you need more encouragement.

Some of us can handle one emotion , but not the others that our child displays.  Many of us are uncomfortable with anger.  Maybe crying and being sad is okay, but we don’t know what to do with true anger, usually because our own feelings of anger were not acceptable by our own parents.  Part of our work is to look at what we were told as children about our emotions, and figure out how do we work towards something healthier.

We also need to monitor ourselves – our own resentment, exhaustion, drained feelings.  As our children grow, they recognize our feelings more and the relationship is more reciprocal. However, if everything a child needs emotionally from you seems like a demand and makes you angry, counseling is really important to unravel that and help you create healthier patterns.

Love to hear your thoughts,

Carrie

 

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day

Honoring the past.

Honoring our ancestors.

Honoring the goodness in people now departed.

In this world that often feels chaotic and crazy, holding on to the ideals of the good people who have come before us can be a small lifeline of grounding and stability.

I hear from people all the time who don’t feel as if they have this within their family lines.  Maybe their family ancestors, at least those that they know of, aren’t who they want to be or who inspires them.  That’s why I think sometimes a spiritual practice can be so helpful, and All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day can be wonderful stepstones towards thankfulness and gratitude.

On All Saints’ Day, we remember those known and unknown who were holy.   I often think of how I can align with those known and unknown saints who stood up for the the right, the visionaries, the idealists.  What is my right, my vision, my ideal?  What people showed courage over fear, bravery over cowardice, and made a difference in the world?

In the Celtic Calendar, this day was called Samhain and was the beginning of the New Year. This beginning  implies that it is a space that hangs between the Old Year and the New.  This is how we began to see the boundary between the living and the dead can be blurred as we offer our great respect to those who have come before us.  The tradition of offering “soul cakes” to the dead began  out of great respect for the dead in many countries.  I also think this ties in with the warmth of the season – how do we show respect to the life before us?  Is it food, remembering, lighting candles, offering a prayer?  Death is part of Life, and finding a relationship between those two things is often something people try to avoid.  Yet, this is something that should be propelling what we do today – how do we take care of each other and the Earth as we don’t have forever here physically.

Create a beautiful harvest, an altar of remembrance, have a harvest dinner, plant some flower bulbs for the promise of spring!  Happy All Saints’ and All Souls’ from my family to yours.

Blessings and love,
Carrie