Updated Fourth Grade Planning

I have posted a few updates on Facebook at The Parenting Passageway page and on Instagram @theparentingpassageway, but here is an official updated planning post for fourth grade and where I am now…

  • I have laid out our school year and matched each week of our school year to a main lesson block topic
  • I looked at our “big picture rhythm” and thought ahead about festivals and birthdays
  • I have laid out a general rhythm for the school week – Mondays are journal writing and movement (and on selected Mondays, writing a rough draft of a letter in place of a journal entry); Tuesdays are yoga and journal writing; Wednesdays are  movement and the day for our fourth grader to cook dinner; Thursdays are mindfulness games, cleaning day, painting day, and instead of main lesson we will have nature studies or STEM kinds of activities or both.  Fridays we take off.
  • I made a quick list of each block by week on a legal pad and jotted down some brainstorming notes for practice ideas and projects.
  • This week I gathered many of my resources and grouped them into piles  by block or topic.

In my last post here, I detailed the order of my blocks.  So I started here:

  • August-  Man and Animal 1 which will flow into….
  • September/October – Local Geography and Man and Animal 2 – we will be looking at the regions of our state through habitats and our local animals/camping
  • November – Math/Introduce fractions
  • December- Geometry/ Form Drawing – most likely will draw from Viking Hero Tales by Isabel Wyatt
  • January – Norse Mythology
  • February – Birds of Prey (special interest of my student)- each morning I am going to try to work in fraction problems related to birds!  That should be interesting!
  • March – Weland the Smith – rather dark tale, but I think our son will love it.
  • April – African Tales/African Hero Tales/camping trips
  • May – Math in the Garden (leading into Botany for Fifth Grade)/ camping trips

And this is where I currently am from that:

  • August – Math Review of Measurement/Fractions (will introduce fractions over the summer) – I think with birds
  • September – Cherokee and African-American tales leading into local geography
  • September – Man and Animal 1 (2 weeks)
  • October – Man and Animal 2  (tied into animals of our state, keystone species of our state, review of geography)
  • November – Math – Geometry, review of fraction skills – adding and subtracting fractions (soul food American folk tales)
  • December – Thorkill of Iceland or Viking Tales, undecided, knots and forms
  • January – Math, Fractions – Norse Myths as “soul food” and we may draw or paint off of those
  • February –  Birds of Prey, report writing
  • March – Dream of King Alfdan or Weland the Smith (undecided and at the moment I can’t seem to locate either book in my house since I am in the midst of cleaning out our school room.  End of year woes).
  • April – Earth, Air, Wind, and Fire (soul food tales from The Golden Stag by I. Wyatt); Camping
  • May – African Tales

Right now I am essentially grouping books and resources into piles by block, and throwing possible read-alouds near there.  As I put blocks together more fully, I will post pics on IG/Facebook and update here.

Many blessings,

Carrie

going off the rails

I talk to many parents whose teenagers have developed serious problems with drugs, alcohol, addiction to media, toxic relationships and more.  Mostly this began in the middle school years, and just like a train coming down the track, the parents could see it wasn’t going anywhere wonderful.  Sometimes the situation was ignored, thinking it would go away, and sometimes the parents jumped in with both feet to try to derail what was coming.

Sometimes the situation could be handled and the teen overcame their challenges to envision a healthier future . Sometimes the child went right on to have increased difficulties with these same issues, now with difficulty having a functional young adult life.

I wish I could say I knew what helped one teen and why another teen .  Obviously, individual teens respond in different ways to intervention and we don’t always know what will help a particular teen.  I am not a mental health professional, and do not offer the suggestions below as such, but know these were some of the commonalities I have heard in talking to parents whose teens were successful in getting their lives together.

Open communication and respect for what the child or teenager was going through, even if the parent didn’t understand it all.

Unconditional love, BUT especially for older teens the understanding that you cannot control their choices and  you cannot enable them and protect them through their choices.

Understanding that you, as parents, and the other members of the family, have the complete right to be safe.

Investigation into psychological help, counseling, or residential programs early on instead of waiting.  Yes, you cannot run away from your problems but for some teens a change of scenery with qualified help really is wonderful and a game-changer.  And the earlier this happens, sometimes it can really make a difference.

Sometimes more structure.  This may include things such as changing school settings to a smaller, more structured program.

Increased physical exercise as possible.  Sometimes if a teen is suffering from anxiety or depression, this seems nearly impossible, but it does seem to help if the teen is open to it.

Increased time in nature with family.  Some parents have reported great success with camping, long-term hiking, or other excursions into nature.  Again, the earlier, the better.

The biggest piece of advice I have heard is that if things are going off the rails at ages 12-14 get help right then and there.  Do not wait! Investigate options thoroughly, and see how your child responds.

I would love to hear what you all think.  Let’s all help each other.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

Guest Post Book Review: “A Gift of Wonder”

My wonderful friend Amanda Evans recently read the book “A Gift of Wonder:  A True Story Showing School as it Ought To Be,” written by teacher Kim Allsup, and kindly offered to share her impressions and thoughts here.  Thank you, Amanda!
A Gift of Wonder Review
Home education is such an interesting journey. The reasons that lead us to embark upon it, and the reasons that cause us to stay, are unique. There are, however, a few major themes that seem to beckon most of us to undertake the journey, and I believe one of those is to cultivate a wonder-filled childhood for our children.
Kim Allsup’s new teaching memoir, A Gift of Wonder: A True Story Showing School as it Ought to Be”, invites us to consider the points where childhood wonder and education intersect. While the book reflects Ms. Allsup’s journey as a Waldorf classroom teacher, I found it spoke to me as both a home educator and a parent, and I feel that her story is worth pondering for anyone involved in education. Certainly those committed to the Waldorf method will find it pedagogic. I feel it will join Torin Finser’s “School as a Journey” and Marjorie Spock’s “Teaching as a Lively Art” as a “must-read” Waldorf teaching memoir.
Each chapter of the book cradles a pedagogical lesson within the comfortable embrace of a well-told story – quite perfect for a Waldorf teaching memoir. Even adults learn better from a story. This made the book a breeze to read – a boon for any busy homeschooling parent, to be sure!
What I found particularly remarkable is how the lessons shared throughout truly transcend the vehicle of learning, whether that be through a traditional classroom setting, or a homeschool. I found myself nodding along in understanding as she shared about learning the dance between keeping order and being spontaneous, and realizing that we are, in fact, students of the student in this endeavor. I felt excitement with her when she experienced afresh that the key to effective teaching *truly is* meeting the child at their developmental stage – something that is foundational to the Waldorf approach, but never ceases to be incredible when we see it in action, right in front of us.
As I read the introduction, it dawned on me that what I was reading is, in fact, at the core of why many parents choose to homeschool. “It is impossible to underestimate the value of wonder in childhood. It is the mother’s milk of the soul, the human foundation for a lifelong worldview that affirms our joyful existence in the web of life. When we experience the condition of awe called wonder, we are lured outside ourselves and the soul is stretched and is irresistibly drawn to become one with a piece of the universe previously outside of our awareness.” (Intro, xv)
While I agree with the premise of the title, that school should be a habitat for developing wonder in its students, in practice, many of the available educational options fall short of that purpose. And often, those institutions that embrace such values are beyond the reach of families due to finances or extensive travel commitments (or a plethora of other reasons). So, when the school system cannot offer a space for our children to inhabit wonder as described, many of us elect to come home.
I took heart later in the introduction at a beautiful description of the role we play as adults, which I feel is the essence of a living education at home. “If the offerings of parents and teachers and their own encounters in the natural world are beautiful or significant to the child, his or her experience of an ever-evolving symphony of wonder can be almost continuous.” As we feed our own wonder, we can walk together with our children as they also feast on the wonder around us, and we spiral in and out as the glorious world around us unfolds. And in doing so, we’ve given both ourselves and our children a remarkable gift. Coincidentally, Ms. Allsup chose one of my favorite quotes to open her first chapter, which illustrates this quite beautifully: “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live
in.” (Rachel Carson)
As someone who loves Waldorf education, the book provided a wonderful window into how a Waldorf teacher connects with her students, and how she considers their needs on a daily basis. The mixed-grade progression of her class from first grade to fifth grade (when Ms. Allsup had to step away due to family illness) gave me much food for thought. When she wrestled with the content of certain blocks meeting the children, and for some, needing to patiently wait for them to engage with the material, I felt encouraged because I, too, have had to wrestle and wait for a child of mine to be ready for material. When she had to ditch the “plan” in order to provide a hands-on experience the students needed to understand a certain concept, I felt a sense of solidarity, for when you’re a homeschooling parent, making adjustments to the “plan” often seems to be your main job description!
“The world will never starve for want of wonders,” said G.K. Chesterton, “but only for want of wonder.” Here in America, we celebrated “Screen-Free Week” a few weeks ago. At this point in humanity’s journey, we have the greatest access to information there’s ever been. We can walk outside, find a plant, google what it looks like, and discover every detail and facet about it. Yet, information is not an education. While the world is at our fingertips, perhaps we are losing something more valuable in the process. Reading “A Gift of Wonder”  left me more committed than ever to the pursuit of education in the context of the child – whatever educational approach we take, and whatever choices we make at home to support that, the child’s capacity for wonder is paramount.
Thank you so much, Amanda!  I am really looking forward to reading this book, available at Amazon.
Many blessings,
Carrie

the winning family book study: guidance in the age of TV

Every culture has teachings that are transmitted from parent to child.  American parents don’t usually have to teach their kids how to deal with rhinos, but they do need to guide them in many other ways.  Parents need to forewarn their children and protect from the numerous hazards that prevail in urban, suburban, and rural environments.  There are poisons under the kitchen sink and in the medicine cabinet, pollutants seeping into the water, and escaping into the air.  There are toxic waste dumps that should be avoided.  Likewise, there are mental poisons parents must be alert to, many of them running loose on the TV set.” – page 131-132, “The Winning Family” by Dr. Louise Hart

Of course, today’s parents have much more to deal with then just television.  However, screens are still a prevelant force in our society.  Many households have computers and televisions sets on all day.  The author asks the reader in Chapter 14 to think what role TV (and i would substitute screens) play in your household?  It is a family activity or passivity? Is it a companion, lifeline, babysitter? Staring at a screen is different than real-life activities, and it may generally discourage interaction or communication with others.  TV generally doesn’t intent  to teach values or skills, but children often assume what they see on a screen is what real-life is about, or are they are influenced by commercials designed to sell products. 

The author contends that the child should be looking to the parents first in order to learn values, behavior appropriate for the culture, skills.    One can ask oneself what the computer or television shows are teaching – much of revolves around consumerism and violence.

So, what can a parent do? (and I use the term “older children” a lot here, because I feel no media for little ones is best, but of course, the portal to screens opens slowly over time)

  • Monitor your children’s media and screen intake.  What are they watching?  What is the message?
  • Limit viewing time.
  • Use what you do watch together with older children as a springboard for discussion.
  • Keep guiding them in all the moral, ethical, emotional situations that your older children find themselves in.

Chapter 15 is called, “Problem Solving,” and this chapter talks about teaching our children to solve their own problems.  Problems and conflicts are natural in life, and what many of us learned when we were growing up was to either placate people in a pleasing way or to blow up in order to get what we wanted.  We need to teach our children strategies that bring about connection and resolution of conflict.  

Asking ourselves “whose problem is this?” can be very helpful; especially with those 10 and up.  Is the problem this child is having yours to carry and solve? Or can you empower your child to start to solve their own problems?  Children need to learn to deal with disappointment, conflict, problems, loss, pain – and overcome these things and be resilient. Children who have been overprotected will not function well in life. 

Let’s encourage and support our children through their struggles, but not solve the problems for them. Children need to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  We can share how we handle disappointment or failures in life.   When all we teach our children is to run away from a problem, throw money at a problem, threaten our way out of a problem – we are not teaching skills.  We are teaching dysfunction.

The author lists all the barriers to problem solving:  denial, drugs, distraction, storing up pain and anger and stuffing it down and then letting it explode, blaming, rejecting people and cutting them out of our lives, fighting or withdrawing, attacking someone personally, rationalizing the situation, or just feeling defeated.

So how do we solve problems?

  • We believe the problem is solvable.
  • We figure out who owns what piece of the problem.  We can dissect the problem.
  • We don’t blame because we are in it together.  No judging. It doesn’t help.
  • Is the problem certain important to you or not?
  • Use phrases like “I want” “I feel”
  • Listen to the other people in the situation
  • Express our own values and truths.
  • Read between the lines a bit – what is the other person not saying
  • And many more techniques are mentioned in this chapter!

The problem-solving steps:

  • Identify the problem
  • Brainstorm for solutions
  • Evaluate all the solutions
  • Work together and choose the best solution
  • Implement the solution and follow-up with an assessment of why the solution worked or didn’t work.

All of this sounds so simple, and we probably all know these steps, but it is so easy to lose sight of this process when emotions are running high!

What did you all think of this chapter?

Blessings,
carrie

the steady year: may

One thing that the changing of the months and years brings us is this steadiness.  In an ever changing life and an ever changing world, the months, seasons, and festivals will always be turning round and round.  It can bring us and our families peace and stability if we choose to embrace it.

What we are celebrating this month:

May Day – May 1

50 Days of Eastertide

Mother’s Day – May 12

Rogation Days  – May 27-29

Memorial Day – May 28 ( a great time to look at summer plans)

Ascension Day – May 30

 

The main thing I am doing this month is taking my own advice about minimalism in my life, where I don’t have the opportunity super downsize and roadschool.  We live a pretty typically American suburban life in many ways!  You can read the advice I am going to take to heart here.  Sometimes we really are our wiser selves and then lose track of that!

homeschooling/education:

Our older two children (freshman and senior in high school) will both be attending hybrid high school programs in the fall.  Our senior will have classes two days a week, and our freshman four days a week – both with modified shorter days.  So whilst we technically will still be homeschooling, I will not be doing the teaching.  I feel okay with this, as things are shifting for  myself as I near age 49 and things are shifting for our family.  As many of you know, I am going back to school myself beginning in July with a pelvic floor health certification and clinical doctorate in physical therapy and eventually hope to open a mother-sized practice for women’s health.

We will still be totally homeschooling our youngest child, who will be in fourth grade.  He won’t have the opportunity to be in the one day a week program we were doing last year due to the long drive and my need to be on this side of town for teens.  Instead, he will be banking on our local cub scout troup to get some time with friends and projects.

This will be the third time I have been through fourth grade, but first time with a ten year old boy, so I have many fun ideas and some things a little outside the box.  If you want to follow along, try following @theparentingpassageway on Instagram.  I will try to post homeschool plans both on there and on the Facebook page, but Instagram is the safest place to be to not miss anything!

where is the blog these days?

Well, unfortunately no one really reads blogs anymore.  Compared to its heyday, readership here and in blogs in general,  is super low.  I write mainly for myself at this point, I think, and still hope to compile all these posts into ebooks at some point in the future.

For the most part, you can find me on IG (I am on Facebook as well, but I don’t always like the negativity and divisiveness of FB and therefore think about getting off Facebook daily, so IG may be your best bet to follow me).  I will continue to write here as well, but I do wonder if it will drop off to be just IG in the next few years.

The other place you can find me is on the  wonderful forum that The Child Is The Curriculum.  It is an amazing place, and has all your curriculum shopping needs, discussion groups, book studies, and everything all in one place!  I love it, and hope you do as well.

Lastly, you can always email me admin@theparentingpassageway.com to set up a consult by phone – I have half hour and full hour paid slots. 

Can’t wait to hear what you are up to in May!

Blessings,

Carrie

ideas for screen-free week

This week is Screen-Free Week!  This is your chance, from April 29 to May 5, to take a break from screens, re-connect with your children, and maybe even start some new rhythms for your family life that involve increased connection and fun!

I think one of the best ways to do this is to think a little ahead.  What is the rhythm to your family life?  When do you use screens the most and for what purpose?  Do you want to be screen-free or screen-lite and why is this important?  What does this mean to you, and for your children’s development?

Once you have your goals in mind, going back to the basics of rhythm is definitely the first step in improving any aspect of life.  If you have tinies, I suggest this post, Finding Rhythm With Littles, and for families with older children, I suggest this post:  Finding Rhythm With Grades-Aged Children

The next step is to bring your children into the work of your home!  This is a fantastic article from “Wonder of Childhood” about how to bring children into the work of your home.  This step includes making ourselves become agents of doing.  This is what a small child relates to, and what grades-aged children and teens are craving.  When we don’t show our children any meaningful work within a meaningful consistent rhythm, they are rightfully confused.

Learn how to play again as a family.  Families these days are often good at rushing around, but often not as good at playing all together.  This can include things such as board games and card games, but also playing outside together, and excursions.

Come join me on Instagram this week @theparentingpassageway as I post some ideas for different ages during Screen-Free Week!

Blessings,
carrie

the winning family book study: discipline without damage

This book, by author Dr. Louise Hart, was first published in 1987, but has had a profound effect on my parenting, and I am so grateful I get to share it with you!  If you want to catch up, we have been slowly going through the chapters this school year – the last post, about chapter 12 (“Parenting and Empowerment” is here)- but we will be moving through the remaining portions of the book a little more quickly so this summer we can tackle another one of my favorite parenting books.  Our new book will be “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and it comes in audiobook and Kindle editions, along with the traditional paperback and hardcover versions, so grab a copy to be ready for summer!

Today’s chapter in “The Winning Family” is so powerful!  It is called, “For Your Own Good:  Discipline Without Damage” (Chapter 13). The opening is a  look at the traditional saying, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” and how this has been entirely misconstrued.  The author adds:

Children need to be guided. If they are not guided – or are misguided – they will be “spoiled.”  If an adult overindulges a child without giving guidance, this will be detrimental to the child’s character. But children cannot be spoiled by too much love! They are spoiled by a lack of love and guidance.  

Remember, the word discipline has the same root as the word disciple, meaning pupil or learner.  Discipline is about teaching and guiding children, not punishing. We guide children until they can take it over with their own internal system of guiding themselves.  This is the tallest order in parenting and comes little by little over the years, beginning with the small things.  We protect our children from hurting themselves and others, and help them develop resilience and problem-solving skills.

When children misbehave, they are showing an expression of how they feel about themselves (or, I would add, the circumstances and how they deal with circumstances). Children need adults involved in their lives in  order to learn this through adult guidance and natural consequences.  If an action doesn’t have a natural consequence, then we use a logical consequence.  The consequence needs to be respectful, related, reasonable.   The goal is mutual respect, mutual responsibility for all parties, not just the child. 

However, in order to do this we must develop reasonable expectations. In today’s fast-paced world, we often expect far too much of tiny children.  So our expectations and our logical consequences must fit a child’s age.  We also must not rescue our children from situations that are appropriate for their age and the maturity level of the child.

There is a whole section regarding “Creative Family Management,” and I love this section as it has healthier options for working with children.  There are pages of options in this chapter!  My top three favorites in working with my own children or other people’s children are  offering alternatives, planning ahead, and choosing my battles carefully.

Tell me your favorite positive discipline guiding techniques! I would love to hear them!

Blessings,
carrie