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

Doing Gentle Discipline….Even If You Don’t Think You Know How

I think so many of us want a better connection and closeness for our relationship with our children, and we all want our children to grow up to be happy and functional adults. Yet, sometimes I think parents think these two things are at odds with one another – like connection and the things required to be a functional adult are separate and almost at odds in a way.  Love may be this important but soft commodity and surely children need stronger discipline to make them grow into success, right?  I think that’s what people think.

Many of us grew up in punitive if not downright abusive households where we weren’t heard on any level.  Many of us know we don’t want that in our families, but then we aren’t sure what else we want and how would that work.  Is any level of confict okay?  How do we handle conflict without damaging?  In order to be a gentle parent, does that mean no boundaries whatsooever? Will I damage the connection I have with my child by setting boundaries?

Secure attachment in the years of infancy and toddlerhood of our children is extremely important and sets a foundation for the rest of a child’s life.  However, attachment and connection must change to be developmentally appropriate as a child ages, and this involves boundaries set with love and respect.  So if you are wondering how to be a better guiding force for your child and having a peaceful family, it begins with the end in mind.  What do you want your family to look like?  What do you want your relationship with your child or teen to look like?  Do you want your child to be a functional adult, and if you don’t want to work towards that in the school aged years, when will you start helping them be more independent?

Love and respect is the foundation of  all of this, but do not mistake respect for equality.  In the scheme of things, you are the adult and while the child has input at the points that they can, you have a lot of life experience to hopefully guide them through the things they can’t think through as well for themselves (and you can use your experience to help them learn these skills as developmentally appropriate through your modeling).

Attachment to your child is also not the same as doing everything for them.  Attachment is supporting and guiding, and letting them make the small mistakes or the decisions they can handle with the consequences included without you rescuing them as if they are incapable.  To do so, takes away their power as an individual. For example, you can help a teenager brainstorm ways to deal with consequences, but you cannot remove the consequence.  Otherwise,  nothing has been gained by this practice of making smaller decisions.

Gentle parenting means getting a handle on our own triggers, building community so when we are exhausted our children are not bearing the brunt of this without other adults around to help. It means taking care of ourselves, and letting our children know they are okay with trusted other people besides just us. It means not just sucking in our child’s energy and spitting it back at them.  If our children are wound tight, we might need to be loose.  If our children are angry and frustrated, we might need to be calm.  We can empathize and sympathize, but we also need to be the grounded one.

Halloween is in two days, so please share with me your favorite gentle disciple tips and tricks!

Love,
Carrie

 

Cozy Warmth for Fall

Waldorf Education puts a high priority on warmth as a quality we want to imbue into the lives of children for their health and ours. And whether or not you follow Waldorf Education, I do think there is something about fall that we all crave, even if we live in more southern climates where it doesn’t get as cold.  Even here in the Deep South, there is nothing but layers and short boots and pumpkin spice everywhere! (I am currently wearing a sweater even though it is 68 degrees Fahrenheit outside because, you know, it is October).

Warmth is about more than just physical warmth.  When a child is very little, we think about warmth in the physical sense – hats for babies, layers for littles, warming foods and warm drinks for winter. Providing physical warmth for our children via layers of clothing and hats is so important, especially for young children whose physical body doesn’t work like an adult. Children have a metabolic rate that runs faster than an adult’s.  Therefore, under the age of nine especially, they are unlikely to know whether they are truly cold or not.  I am sure we have all experienced the child that is swimming in cold water and is literally blue, but doesn’t realize they are cold.  This is common!  I love silk/wool blends for winter, and for littles we do recommend three layers on top and two layers on the bottom for cold climates.

However, I also want to point out that  warmth is about creating a sense of love, of acceptance and belonging.  I want to give you some very concrete ways to do this in your own home for this special time of year.

My first tip is to create  a rhythm that carries your family, especially for those under the age of 12 (although even teens need and crave rhythm!). The staples of rhythm, which is a loose order of the day, includes things such as wake-up times and sleeping times, but also mealtimes, and a flow of activities through the day and the week.  This provides an important sense of security for children and helps us know what is coming next without spending a lot of time re-creating the wheel every day.  Children can then use this energy for growing and playing and not use it in worrying about what comes next in their day.  Schools have a rhythm to their day, day cares have a rhythm to their day, and homes do have a rhythm even if you don’t think that you do – humans are rhythmical.

In creating the warmth of fall, we can add markes of warmth to our rhythm. Maybe breakfast is candlelight with warm porridge and warm hot chocolate or tea.  Maybe if you homeschool, you have lanterns or tea lights in your schooling space.  Maybe bedtime involves snuggly blankets, and a cup of warm milk of choice before bed.

My second tip is to incorporate your child’s love language into your day for a sense of warmth and belonging. Children need warmth not only in terms of hugs and holding, but in words of affirmation and in spending time together. We can do this easily within a space of rhythm and working together in the house or garden or with taking care of our animals.

Lastly, warmth is done well and rightly when we share with others.  If we help our children spread joy and warmth to others, whether through helping the family or helping neighborhoods or through service and volunteering opportunities, we can bring warmth to the world.

I would love to hear your favorite tips for autumn warmth.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

Partner Strong!

I think fall, with its turning inward, is an amazing time to check in on your relationship with  your significant other.  Are you feeling separate, distant, strong, powerful together?  What things are working – and not?

It’s hard to give general advice as to  how to keep any intimate relationship particularly strong as I think every couple is so unique and what works for one couple may not work for another.   But over the years, I have seen a common thread of either drifting apart or pulling together when people reach their 30’s and 40’s, so I have a few ideas to toss out……

  • How are you keeping your friendship alive?  If you don’t talk about your day, your hopes, your fears, your dreams but only talk about how to pass off children to activities or who needs to pick up something at the store, it’s easy to not feel very invested in each other personally – more like you are just managing practical stuff together like housemates.   Gottman’s work ( I covered his book “The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work” on this website chapter by chapter – you can find it under the Book Reviews header) talks about how partners make bids for each other’s attention.  Usually someone will try to get the other person’s attention, and then the partner responds (hopefully! – or not, sadly).  If you don’t respond to each other, it’s hard to be close!  You can read more about that in the summary of Chapter 5 of this book I wrote here: Chapter 5 summary
  • Some couples are really happy to do all the things as a family with their children, and I think that’s great if it works for them! However, I will say my husband and I really value any time we get to go out just us or with another couple.  We started taking overnight trips just the two of us a few years ago, and that was also really wonderful for our connection.
  • Your love language is also very important to know about yourself and your partner.  Sometimes I think we don’t feel love or our partner doesn’t feel love because we aren’t expressing it in a way that is understood.  Have you read the Five Love Languages book?
  • Physical intimacy is important – and for that I think several things need to be in place:  feeling close to each other and like you can have fun and trust one another, you both need to have decent health (if you are perpetually falling asleep on the coach at night or just so stressed out all the time it’s hard to think about being physically intimate), and you need time to unwind and relax without worry together (ie, some couples can deal with children or teens being up and awake and other couples really can’t and feel stressed about it).  I think the older we get, we do need to be on top of the health changes.  Hormonal changes for both men and women can make things different than they were in the past, and you have to be close enough to talk about it!

But lastly, I think it’s mostly about having fun! If you can have fun together and laugh through all the things life throws at us, you will enjoy each other and be closer to each other.

I would love to hear your thoughts on being partner strong!  What helps the most?

Blessings,

Carrie