Advent: Little Lent

It’s been a whirlwind year, friends. Between COVID, working, finishing a bunch of continuing education courses and finishing a doctorate and specialty degree the year before, and moving to a farm that needed every single thing renovated and re-done…I was done and feeling exhausted. I took a few weekends recently and just rested a lot and prepared myself inwardly. It turned out to be the beginning of my own lesser Lent.

As part of the Episcopal church, which is part of the Anglican tradition, we draw from both Eastern and Western traditions of the church and from the Celtic Saints. Our Western church will begin Advent on the fourth Sunday before Christmas as is customary, but I have felt called this year to start the fortieth day before Christmas (this includes Sundays, unlike the Great Lent before Easter). S, I began lesser Lent with resting and the ideas of fasting and the coming of Christmas in my head. I have been using this little book: https://www.amazon.com/Celtic-Advent-days-devotions-Christmas/dp/0857467441/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=celtic+advent&qid=1637195336&sr=8-3 to help pull things together, and I have been planning for Advent this week.

Some of the preparation is the external trappings. I am thinking about cleaning, about getting a Christmas tree which we usually do the second week of December or later but probably will do earlier this year, and about holiday shopping (of which I am probably at least 60-70 percent done). I am also thinking about food and Christmas Eve (thinking specifically about Danish and Polish food), and my word of the year.

But the internal part is about striving to be better as a human being. Forgiving people and praying for those I don’t feel like forgiving and praying for. For trying to find the light of Christ for others even when I am tired. To help walk with those in pain or distress. To understand the point of view of others. To find my prayer life again. To find times of fasting.

So, this week I sat and focused on the coming of Christmas. Not just the hustle and bustle part, but the quiet part of spirituality, of the beauty of the farm, of our lives, of the gratitude I hold for our family and very close friends who are like family. Of all the change we have been through this year, and all the changes to come. I could sit and dwell for a moment with the changing leaves, the dropping night temperatures, the little creatures scampering around the farm, the squishy horse faces that are hopefully moving in next week, the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, This work felt just as important and wonderful as the physical preparation for Advent. What a wonderful thing to have forty days!

If you are thinking about Advent beginning the Sunday after Thanksgiving next week, here is a back post that you might like: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/07/advent-and-other-winter-celebrations-within-the-waldorf-home/ and I have Advent posts every year so over 10 years’ worth of Advent posts! You can use the search engine to pull up all the previous years.

What things are you planning for Advent? Do you have any resources to share? Please leave me a comment in the comment box – I would love to hear!

Blessings and peace,

Carrie

Homeschooling Plans for November

This year has been an interesting balance of sixth grade with outside classes in math and science and an outdoor program and sixth grade inside the home. On one hand, it’s amazing to have opportunities in our area – so grateful! And on the other hand, it is hard to really get things done as we have no consecutive school days. I work outside the home on the days our sixth grader is in class, so it is what it is and I decided to find a way to make it work by limiting the amount of material we are covering at home and making it manageable. Deeper depth is always going to be better than a mile wide and an inch deep!

So, for November, this is where we are with outside classes:

  1. Outside math is working through Saxon Math 7/6 with a teacher who is a retired engineer. I don’t mind the daily practice that comes with this class. At home we are also working our way through geometric constructions that I have done with our other children when they were in sixth grade.
  2. Outside science has done some middle school chemistry and they are beginning physics with an emphasis on mechanics. At home, we have done Earth Science using Christopherus Earth Science and some other resources. I have a few more plans for the year in science (see below), but I am not wedded to doing all of it. Energizing, not depleting is the goal for this year.
  3. The Outdoor program is covering all kinds of building, engineering ,and survival skills, and also working their way through Ancient History, which we did last year in fifth grade. That’s fine by me!

Plans for this month at home:

We began Greek History with a look through Live Education’s booklet, which has been fun, and doing the geometry mentioned above. We will be moving into the History of Rome, one of my favorite blocks, before Thanksgiving.

Math practice – I do pull out a combination of workbooks and such to practice concepts and keep reviewing for practice as we do have standardized testing at the end of this school year.

Handwriting – we are working on cursive.

Language Arts – we write in all subjects and as we do our main lesson books, but we are doing separate work in spelling with All About Spelling.

Our Episcopalian Corner – I have been using some of the free lesson plans here: https://vts.edu/lifelong-learning/younger-youth

Our loose plans for the rest of the year at home includes:

Roman History and then Christmas break

January – Medieval History and more Geometry

February – Business Math

March and April – Medieval Africa and African Heroes, African Geography

May – Zoology or Botany

Other possibilities include music lessons since our youth choir isn’t singing right now at church due to Covid, and to keep pushing physical movement (which is also done at the outdoor program). We have 4H, church youth group, and horseback riding which is plenty to do on top of farm life. ❤

Where are you in your homeschooling year?
Blessings,
Carrie

Ho Hum Parenting

What is ho hum parenting and could it help my family life? This is a question I get asked frequently by younger mothers.

Ho Hum could imply a detached way of parenting or being almost non-responsive, so I want to first and foremost say that we need to be responsive to our children as this is the basis of all attachment. This is especially true for babies – a babies’ wants and needs are the same.

Yet, as our children grow we need to give them time and space to figure things out on their own – that is what makes children grow up to be resilient. If we keep responding to our children the way and how quickly we would respond to a baby or even a toddler, it creates a sense of urgency and less ownership for the child themselves. Children are smart and capable – if they have good models and good guidance, you can give them a little time and space to fix their own problems. This then carries into the middle school and adult years. Children learn to separate over time, and this is necessary in a sense to learn how to function as part of the family and the world (and not the complete center of it with expectations that everything will be done and revolve around them as the center).

One way to approach this is to think about a “ho hum” approach. Some of the ways we tend to respond to children, especially children who are more highly sensitive, is to match that urgency. I think what we want is for our children to feel heard, to feel like their needs are met , but also to value them as themselves with their own intellect and gifts. Therefore, if we can respond in a calm and less urgent manner, a manner in which we actively listen to our children and reflect back to them what they said, they can often solve their own problems. This, to me, is the point of parenting: teaching our children with good models and problem-solving how the child can be the author of their own life. This is the valuable basis of a relationship that lasts into adulthood. I believe and have seen that if you do this, your adult children will still want to come to to you with the big things for guidance, but overall, they have it handled.

Ho hum, then, means listening and reflecting. It means being calm and matching urgency to the BIG problems in life, but not to every little problem. If you have a highly sensitive child that is stressed a lot with small things, I think this is an even more important role to be able to help them see how to self-regulate. In order to do this, you need to be able to separate yourself from your child’s path. Your path is intertwined with your child, but your child has their own path. Sometimes with older children, you can hear parents bemoan, “I already did seventh grade math” or something to that effect – and this is true for many areas in life. You already were 10 or 14 or 20. You had that age. You cannot microscopically manage these ages for your children. Our children are their own people and if we can stay out of that way in a gentle, ho hum manner of availability, we can be a part of their developmental unfolding whilst not doing it for them.

Part of ho -hum parenting is having a rhythm. This keeps us from taking on too much, which makes the entire family stressed out, including the children. It also keeps us accessible and available. This is an important part of ho hum parenting – to be there. It also sets boundaries around a day in which children may have a million requests about “what are we doing today?” “can I do___?” This helps us fill in those blanks for the child, and gives the older child agency as they should be able to identify the rhythm on their own or with the use of a visual aid. Every household’s rhythm will look different and it should fit your own family

Part of ho-hum parenting is including the basis of health. No one in the family can feel well if we are not home to make healthy food, if we don’t have time to be out in nature. A child that often feels as if everything is urgent and is “wired”, often needs less in their schedule, not more.

And the last part of ho-hum parenting is figuring out how to communicate and perhaps in very different ways than we were taught or that was modeled for us. It is being sensitive enough to see what is going on underneath for a child who is more reserved, and it’s being able to help week out the important thing for a child who is super sensitive and overreacts. It’s understanding developmental stages and how this fits in with personality, and using your calm words and presence to help. There are many back posts about communication on this blog. I personally had to re-learn how to communicate. I took classes in nonviolent communication and read a lot, which was helpful. If I can do it, you can do it too!

I would love to hear about your parenting journey.

Many blessings and peace,

Carrie

Candlelit November

My son told me yesterday that our farm looked like honey. When I looked at him he said that the trees were golden and the sun was setting which made a golden glow over that. It was, indeed, like a honey-kissed landscape for us to rejoice in.

I love the calmness and coziness of November. Even here in the Deep South, the temperatures have actually been cold at night for us, and firelight and candlelight sound like such a good thing to go with warming drinks and foods and the cold crunch of leaves outside. This month, instead of being a frenzy leading up to the holidays, can be a beautiful slow-paced autumnal march towards winter.

I love November in all its crisp -leaved, golden sunset, chill temperatures perfection.  The leaves are FINALLY turning here where I live, and it feels like the beauty and coziness of fall is upon us at last.

This is a wonderful month of celebrations for our family (yes, even now that our children are 20, almost 17, and 12!)

  • November 1 and 2 – All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day
  • November 2 – Election Day
  • November 11 – Martinmas (and there are many other posts about Martinmas if you use the search engine box!) It’s also Veteran’s Day, which we celebrate every day with my husband and father in law who are veterans.
  • November 20- My handsome husband’s birthday!
  • November 22- Thanksgiving
  • November 28- First Sunday in Advent
  • November 30- The Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle

Learning and celebrating:

  • Learn songs for a Martinmas Lantern Walk – you don’t need a lot of people to do a Lantern Walk. You an also check your local churches – if you live in an area with a German population, there may be a church holding a celebration of this day.
  • Use transparency paper to make window silhouettes and transparency cut-outs and lanterns.
  • Bake bread on the cold days
  • Look for bird’s  nests as the trees lose their leaves; make feeders start to be filled all the time, make treats for the birds
  • Dip leaves in glycerin or beeswax and preserve them
  • Cook things with cranberries, corn, and pumpkin.
  • Try the book Cranberry Thanksgiving and make cranberry bread!
  • Learn some Thanksgiving songs and practice so you can play them after Thanksgiving Dinner!
  • Find a place to volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner
  • Make Thanksgiving Baskets and leaving them on your neighbor’s doorstep!
  • Gather greens and natural items to use for an Advent Wreath.  We do this at church from the areas surrounding the church and it is quite lovely!
  • Find books, cozy blankets and pillows, and mark off half days for just reading and lounging around. Pull out candles, homemade Martinmas lanterns, salt lamps  and scatter them around.  Cuddle up and read with some fabulous tea or hot chocolate.
  • Find handwork projects that you will love and get started.
  • Order some woolens for your family members; my favorite place to get them is Green Mountain Organics
  • You probably already have found your hats, mittens and gloves and coats, but we are a little slower down here with cold temperatures coming later so I just did that this week!

For littles especially:

For the older children:

  • Get them involved in your autumn traditions – baking, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the birds outside, hiking, star watching, volunteering.
  • Think of traditions of gratitude and light.  Some teens may no longer love a lantern walk (although I still love it and I am an adult), but some teens might go for a big bonfire with friends on Martinmas.
  • Some thoughts:  Cultivating Gratitude in Children
  • How do we help older children internalize the spirit of helping the most needy, the most destitute, the most poor? That is the work for this age.

Inner Work:

Farm Life right now is slowing down for our bees. They were very sweet and sort of passive bees, and I think with that personality came the fact that they were not aggressive gatherers. In fact, they have already eaten through all their honey, so I worry a bit about their survival this winter but we do live in a milder climate so hopefully they will make it through! The horses will be here in 1-2 weeks so we are busy ordering hay and shavings and getting stalls ready, making sure we have blankets for everyone as through the winter is still show season and many show horses are clipped and need some protection from the cold! People ask if we will get other animals, and we may get a few chickens, but honestly having horses here and boarder horses to take care of is enough work!

In school life, we are excited to have our oldest child home from college for breaks around the holidays and are making some plans to celebrate at home. Our middle child is a junior and doing well at her four day a week high school, which is still considered homeschooling due to shorter hours, but it doesn’t involve a lot of work on my end which still feels odd! Our twelve year old is still homeschooling with an outside program when I work, and we are slower going through our lessons, but he is putting forth good effort and I have seen a lot of academic growth this year.

I would love to know what you are up to this wonderful November!

Blessings,

Carrie