Preparing for Advent 2017

Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting in the Christian tradition.  In the tradition of the Waldorf schools, however, Advent is accessible to all faiths as a season of hope and waiting; a season of lightness in the dark.

One thing I love to do around Thanksgiving is to start to gather greens that we will use to build an Advent wreath. Many families find an Advent wreath with a verse to be a comforting daily or weekly ritual.  The verse that many Waldorf families use with their Advent wreath is this one:

The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones:
The Light that shines in seashells In crystals and our bones.

The second Light of Advent It is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun And in the breezes dance.

The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.

Each week, one can choose to add the things mentioned in the verse – seashells and crystals; plants; wooden animals or other representations of the animal kingdom and then lastly representations of the human realm.

There are so many wonderful Advent ideas and books out there.  Some of the favorites I have had from over the years include the ebooks from Little Acorn Learning and from Annette over at Seasons of Joy.  You can also see my Nativity Fast/Advent Pinterest board and my General Advent board.

Here are some back posts about Advent, Winter Celebrations, and the first week of Advent:

Advent For All Ages

The Mystery of Advent

The Inner Work of Advent

Advent and Winter Celebrations

The First Week of Advent 2009

The First Week of Advent 2010

The First Week of Advent 2011

The First Week of Advent 2012

The First Week of Advent 2015

The First Week of Advent 2016

 

Please share your Advent traditions!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

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Thanksgiving Fun

I have to be totally honest. Thanksgiving is not really one of my favorite holidays.  I mean, I enjoy the attitude of gratitude, but I really don’t enjoy the whole sit around and eat. First of all, I don’t love sitting that much.  And I don’t enjoy that Thanksgiving in the United States has become really no more than a prelude to the crazy commercial holiday season of December, and that makes me sad.

So, this year, I would love to see people making Thanksgiving about connections and gratitude (not just food). I would love to see more people boycott Black Friday in favor of getting outside with their family.  I would love to see some meaningful traditions that involve more than copious amounts of food.

How about any of the following:

  • Volunteer to help others.  
  • Invite someone who would otherwise be alone to be a part of your Thanksgiving feast.
  • Pick out a charity to support until next Thanksgiving.  Share your favorites in the comment box!
  • Go to your place of worship
  • Make a gratitude jar, or have a gratitude tree where things one is grateful for are written down and read at dinner
  • Take a walk and get outside.  My ultimate dream is actually to camp on Thanksgiving.  Maybe one year!

If you have small children, really do think ahead. Sometimes Thanksgiving can feel rather “adult” with the adults just sitting around and talking.  Not much fun for children!  Bring crafts for the children to do, get a copy of the book “Cranberry Thanksgiving” and make cranberry bread (you can see the recipe here), help the children be involved in cooking and setting the table, learn some Thanksgiving music (you can see suggestions in this back post, “A Waldorf View of Thanksgiving.”) that you all can sing and play after dinner.

Please share with me your favorite family traditions!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

November Beauty

I shall not sing a May song.

A May song should be gay.

I’ll wait until November

And sing a song of gray.

I’ll wait until November

That is the time for me.

I’ll go out in the frosty dark

And sing most terribly.
And all the little people

Will stare at me and say, “That is the Crazy Woman Who would not sing in May.”
-“The Crazy Woman” by Gwendolyn Brooks

 

I know for some people the days in November get too dark and too gray, but  I always try to remember that November is a lovely month in so many ways.  It is a month full of gratitude for the season and it has that snuggly,cozy feeling as the days become longer and darker.

This month we are celebrating:

  • November 1 All Saints Day
  • November 2 All Souls Day
  • November 10/11  Martinmas and Veterans Day (technically both on the 11th but our town had a community celebration for Veterans Day on the 10th)
  • November 19 St. Elizabeth
  • November 23 Thanksgiving
  • November 27  I have it in my calendar to make Advent Wreaths in preparation for the first Sunday in Advent, December 3rd.  (Hard to believe Advent is almost upon us!  If you want a little peek ahead, try my Advent Pinterest Board)

Learning and celebrating:

  • Learn songs for a Martinmas Lantern Walk
  • 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.
  • 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.

Other Ideas for this month:

  • Get a small jump on gifts for the holidays. Here is my Pinterest Board of holiday gifts to make
  • Make sure you are still getting your Vitamin N and get out in nature!
  • Dream a little about the next school year in homeschooling ❤

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Nurturing Parenting: The 12-14 Year Old

One interesting thing that Waldorf Schools typically do in sixth grade (at least in the United States) is to have the students make dolls.  These are  not put together the way a professional dollmaker would put a doll together,  but more from an organic process that almost follows the development of the embryo itself and forshadows the physical development of the human being as it comes to life.  From loving nothingness to a small tightly wrapped ball (the head), expanding into the universe as a defined trunk  then with limbs taking shape (arms with a thumb and legs with feet)  and finally  a little being with twinkling eyes,  beautiful hair and clothes.

This fulllness of the human being is then echoed in seventh grade physiology, in eighth grade studies of reproduction, and in tenth grade in the studies of embryology.  This beautiful expanse of the human being is coming at a time of intense fragility of the 12-14 year old.

It is easy to think that once one is through the nine/ten-year-change, that the floodgates open wide. I have discussed some of these issues before in a series on portals.  And yet, there is still a twelve-year-old change to follow, and a fifteen/sixteen year change, which to me may be the most dramatic of them all.

Much like the toddler stage of life, young people of this age need protection at this time.  This is the time of the middle school grades in the United States, and often noted to be a very difficult time due to differences in physiological development, peer cliques, and I believe that the use of social media has compounded these issues. Being rather stuck between wanting to be more adult-like but also have the freedoms of childhood is difficult for the child, but also for the parent!

There is a certain fragility and uncertainty in these years that are like no other. Balancing the freedoms often provided to these group and the structure is a navigational process. I believe this age group needs protection from their limitless energy and wanting to do too much.  The limits of this age group in doing activities has essentially been eliminated. In the past, one might start playing sports in middle school (and you didn’t get much play until 8th grade) or doing more than one activity in high school. Now children in middle school have been playing sports for years and doing many activities.  They need help setting guidelines for sleeping, healthy eating, and more, and helping in meeting those guidelines even when they would rather stay up extraordinarily late or eat only sugary snack food.

So, in parenting this age group, please consider limits.  Children of 12-14 should not be treated like an older teenager with all the fun and none of the responsibilities.  While there is a campaign to“Wait Until 8th” for a smartphone , many twelve to fourteen year olds are navigating social media sites and media usage.  Media should not be limit-free for this age group!  Sending nude pictures, sexting, and using social media and texts in order to bully  a peer is sadly not uncommon in this age group because again, many of the children this age have no limits in terms of hours on their devices, and parents are not checking phones and computers.  One way to think about setting limits on media is to use a device like a Disney Circle; you can see a review from 2015 here; I believe now certain sites can be more easily blocked than what this review has stated.  Some parents have no idea what their child is doing on line or that they have multiple used profiles on Instagram or are on Snapchat or other sites. Devices such as these can trail usage across multiple devices.

Children of this age may need help being active in a free and easy way.  Many children this age like to “hang out” but the days of 12  and 13 year olds zooming bikes around a neighborhood or playing pick up games may not happen as much in the past.  How can this child be active without or in addition to an organized sport?  This typically requires free time that has no agenda. Having time to just be protects children and gives them space in this fragile state where they are emerging and trying to hear their own voice and may even give them time to connect with you, the parent.  You are still more important than peers at this age. In fact, I think the ages leading up to the fifteen/sixteen year changes may be one of the times you have the greatest influence.  So don’t give up! 

Lastly, help your child not to be a terrible human being with peers.  No, we can’t police everything, and yes, perhaps we were not policed in our peer relationships at this age in the past, and yes, friendships come and go in the middle school years as middle schoolers try to find their own voice and where they belong.  However, I think because so much of the free group play of the early years and early grades has been lost and replaced by adult-led, structured activities, children this age are coming into the more socially difficult middle school years with even less social abilities than in previous generations.  Help your child to learn what a loyal friendship looks like; is that friend really a friend or not; what bullying and toxic behavior looks like, talk to them about peer pressure in the areas of drugs and alcohol and sexuality.

Provide areas where children MUST show responsbility, whether that is nurturing the home, helping to care for a younger sibling, help with elders in the family, run a tiny business from the home.  Too many of the children this age have many toys and a run of what they want to do with no limits, but yet have no responsibility outside of themselves in terms of contributing to the family.

Most of all, just love them.  These years bring many changes in development in all areas being human.  Remember that this age is not 17 or 18 though, and as opposed to guiding an older teenagers with check-ins, they may need more parenting and limits than an older age group.  Being involved in this fragile, almost back to toddlerhood stage of needing protection is how it should be. It is a fine line between hovering and meddlesome and being helpful; boundaries are key to navigating this.  If you need help, I highly suggest you make friends with parents who have older children that you admire.  It can be helpful to hear what worked really well at this age, especially in those older teenagers that might have a similar personality to your younger child.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

Rhythm Renewal!

I am very excited that this may be the week that some things straighten out and we will have less emergency driving for medical issues amongst our family members. Being closer to home is ALWAYS helpful in re-establishing rhythm.  I have heard from many of you that this autumn has been difficult for varying reasons, and that we all need a rhythm reboot!

The benefits of rhythm are so astounding in forming a peaceful family life.  Having a clear flow to the day ( a flow, not a rigid minute-by-minute schedule) helps everyone approach the day with understanding and cooperation.  The only person who can determine the rhythm that is right for your family is YOU and your family members.  No two families are alike, and no two families have the same daily and weekly rhythm.

I can’t totally guess what our rhythm will look like once we have our four-legged family member home and the amount of care that will entail, but I do know basically for now our rhythm looks somewhat like this:

Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays:

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High School Main Lesson
  • Second Grade Main Lesson (includes physical activity outside)
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • Lunch and Rest
  • Writing or Health
  • All together projects
  • Barn Life for the older two children on Tuesday, possibly other days as needed. Fridays I usually stay home and clean and get ready for a peaceful weekend.

And on Wednesdays it looks like

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High School Main Lesson
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • High Schooler Outside Class/ Lunch
  • Barn Life

And on Thursdays, our crazy day

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High Schooler at outside class
  • Second Grade Main Lesson
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • Lunch
  • Music classes/Music Lessons

I wrote a seven-part series about rhythm in 2012 that might be of help to you if you are trying a rhythm reboot!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Homeschooling From Rest: The Rhythm of Health

One of the major reasons we began homeschooling, and  subsequently were drawn to Waldorf Education, was actually about health.  The healing that can come from Waldorf Education is tremendous.  The health of the future adult when you parent and educate children in this developmental appropriate way makes a difference in a chaotic world that is largely hostile toward the protection and gradual unfolding of children.

We wanted time and space for rest and so our children got enough sleep, enough time outside, warming meals at home, and the ability to progress education in a way that we saw as developmentally appropriate moving from the physical body and work of the will to the work of the head; a well-rounded education inclusive of all of the arts.

In order to show that our genuine and authentic reasons for homeschooling are true then, is to devise a rhythm around health.  This may look different in every family, and I think is easier to do if your children are younger or if your children are perhaps more homebodies.  Being home and taking care of health is much easier than taking care of health whilst on the go every second.

Some suggestions for devising a homeschooling rhythm from rest and health might include any of the following:

  • Earlier bedtimes
  • Rest and nap times
  • Limited outside the home activities
  • Planning a rhythm that alternates between out-breath and in-breath activities
  • Planning your day around you, the homeschooling parent’s, need for physical movement and the children’s need for movement.
  • Meal planning and the shopping of healthy, whole foods from local suppliers
  • Planning homeschooling days of the week with an eye to a day for health, whether this means to you a day outside hiking or being out in nature or a day to run to a member of your health care team for you or your children
  • Healing touch – this is easy to work in during the homeschool environment.  Hand and foot massages, back rubs, and hugs are great places to start.
  • Daily spiritual practices
  • Planning quiet times throughout the day
  • Schooling outside as much as possible
  • Spending time with pets during school
  • Aromatherapy

I would love to hear your suggestions!  How do you plan your homeschooling rhythm from rest and focus on health?

Blessings,
Carrie

Overflowing

What a fall, y’all.  😦  I have gone through periods in our 10 years of homeschooling (2007, six year old kindergarten year to tenth grade this year),  where life has been overflowing (more on that term below!). This particular autumn, which has brought serious terminal illness and  illness with long-term recovery  to  family members and emergency surgery for our daugher’s horse with a super long recovery period to come, has landed our family back into the overflowing zone.  It has been an emotionally and physically taxing time of emergency drives, plane flights, and hospital visits.   It is really difficult to homeschool upper grades and high school on top of everything else. There hasn’t been much of a rhythm this month as I wait and see what each day brings.  There is no pity in this at this point; it is just life and it is just part of homeschooling long enough.

I truly believe that if  you homeschool for a long enough period of time, you  just are going to face times when life is overwhelming.  I like to re-frame this thought as “overflowing.”  For some reason that just sounds more positive!  Overflow is just the reality. If you haven’t ever hit that due to pregnancy, birth, illness, the overwhelming needs of one child compared to the others, family illness, terminal illness, finanical troubles, divorce or more, that is so wonderful and amazing!  But I think many homeschooling mothers do go through this at one point or another. Some of us have more bad years in a row than others.   But, the great thing about going through struggles many times is that you know that you will make it out onto the other side of it. You know there isn’t much to hold you down because you have simply been there, done that, and not only survived, but flourished.

There aren’t any easy answers as the situations are all so individualized.  I think the main way I get through, honestly, is to be honest. My husband is in tune with me, even if he doesn’t handle the stress the same way.  I will tell people outright I am having a hard time. I will lean on my friends to hear me and just let me vent.  I will ask for help and take that meal.  I am absolutely much better about it now, in my late 40s, than I was in my 20s and 30s.  I absolutely know my limitations now and when I am hitting the wall and am so grateful for community.

Sometimes there really isn’t copious time for self-care during these crisis spots  but even snatching a few minutes to sit down and relax, take a bath, etc can really be helpful. I am lining up a some self-care things  for when I see the light at the end of the tunnel and am not spending hours in a car dealing with emergencies. The other thing I have noticed for myself is that there are certain times of the day I feel more discouraged or overwhelmed, and to try to build in some self-care things around those times.  For some people, this might be at night.  For me, it seems to be in the morning after waking up and thinking about the day that lies ahead.

So, in honor of this dubious season of seasoning, I have rounded up a few back posts about dealing with life that might resonate with where you are now.

Chronic anger and overwhelm with children under the age of 9

Surviving Bedrest and Being Homebound With Medically Fragile Children

Postpartum Depression

Struggling

Social Isolation for the Stay-At-Home Mother

I HATE The Mother That I Am

The Overwhelming Year  and The Antidote To The Overwhelming Year

Homeschooling Burnout

The sun is shining and it is a glorious day! May we all shine bright in the darkness.

Blessings,
Carrie