It’s Not Them, It’s You

Children are amazing and incredible and often teach us things that we didn’t even know that we needed to learn. Nearly every time when I have gone through a “rough patch” in my parenting when a child was in a tough developmental stage, I have realized every. single. time. that

It’s not them. It’s me.

If they are making me feel crazy, then I need to work harder.  Their “stuff” is not my “stuff”  and I need to work harder to separate myself from my feelings about it all.   I find if I am holding on to something my children are doing it is because I am approaching something from a place of fear, or a place of being overwhelmed myself in ways that  often have nothing to do with them, or a place of lack of self-care.  Sometimes there is no opportunity to really rectify the lack of self-care or the overwhelm from outside circumstances.

So then I have to hold on to my inner work.  And I have done that more successfully at some times than others, because I am only human.

I get mad. Or tired. Or worried.  That’s life.  But what matters most is what I do with it and how we come out of the valleys.

If you can use the lows to fuel your own self-care, your own growth in patience andin  biting your tongue,  in learning new gentle parenting techniques, in dealing with your own baggage, in improving your own intellectual approach to try to help guide things, then it becomes a positive experience.

Because it’s not about them, it’s about where you are and then how you use that to love and guide a child.

I often find the best way through the parenting patch of weeds or even simply having to watch your child go through a really hard time is up being outside, up being in nature, up using whatever spiritual tools you use, confide in a close friend,  and just love your child.  Connect with them in a one on one way.  Connect with your partner for support if you have that available.

Small phases are small phases, and younger children are not going to grow up and be who they are in these phases that are so  trying to parents. This is something that parents can recognize with more and more experience.  When your first child is six or seven or eight, every single thing they do seems worthy of examination and scrutiny.  Please know that for most circumstances it is all going to work out- for both your child and you!

For older children and teens, sometimes what is going on is more than a phase or a part of the child’s character that needs to be guided. It can be more serious than that.    If it is indeed more serious problems that children and teens are dealing with – addiction, mental health episodes, being a danger to themselves or to others, dealing with dating abuse, abusive friendships – then these deserve a bigger response than just denial that it will all work out in the wash.  Instead, what these older children and teens deserve is  real  and professional help in a timely manner.  Know the resources in your community, and don’t be afraid to name what is going on and seek help.

There will be valleys in parenting, and there will be incredible moments.  There will be holding on and letting go.  The trick is to not lose yourself throughout this process, and to recognize the power of the individual journey.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

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6 Ways to Shake Up Your Homeschool – In A Good Way!

Whilst many homeschoolers thrive upon routine, schedules, rhythm, or assignment sheets (or none of these things at all!), burnout when homeschooling for many years on end can be fatiguing at the best and ending of the homeschool journey at the worst.

Sometimes what we need a big shakeup, but in a good way!  I have 6 ways I like to shake things up in my homeschooling when burnout threatens.

  1. Plan for and allow for margins.  So, in planning one could consider careful planning of number of weeks of school a year, number of days of school in a week, and vacation planning!  Plan less weeks, less days, and less material per week than you might think!  Many homeschoolers are far too ambitious as to what they think they will accomplish in a school year or even in a particular day.  You can’t do ALL the things.  If your child blows through all projects and drawings, you  can also plan a swing day each week that involves an independently focused area – practical arts, geography fun, cooking, gardening, handwork, arts projects or field trip days.
  2. As your children get older and responsibilities and outside of the home activities grow, consider planning the first of the month as a mental health day off and the last day of the month as a picnic/hiking/nature exploration day.  It is a great reminder as to what is important!
  3. Delegate and let go.  I personally love having a clean and picked up house.  It’s my jam. I won’t sacrifice sleep to do it, but I do work in small chunks every day to make sure things are happening. If this isn’t you, let it go!  Delegate chores, pick up the meal and bring it in if you cannot spend the time preparing everything from scratch anymore, get help.  Let it go.  Homeschooling IS a full time job. Sith multiple children it is beyond a full time job, and it serves no one to have you be a cranky and worried mess all day long because you are trying to do all the things!
  4. Put the big focus on the big things and put it first in the day. If your big passion in homeschooling is for family connection, then spend longer all together at the beginning of the day.  If your big passion is everyone being healthy, spend time at the beginning of the day with healthy cooking or coping strategies. If your big passion is your small farm, use your time there.  Then fill in either the  weakest (ie, the child who hates math, that’s next!) or the next  biggest parts of school, and understand there are only a certain number of hours in the day.
  5. Cultivate a community for yourself. Homeschooling older children that are 5th grade above can be especially lonely or isolating. It gets even lonelier at the high school level!  Plan a coffee date out once a week or walk with a friend.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or long to be enjoyable and rejuvenating.
  6. Self-care first. You cannot take care of a whole family plus animals (did I mention we just got a new puppy?  Pictures are over @theparentingpassageway on IG if you want to see!)  Exercise, quiet time for all WITHOUT screens is so helpful in re-setting and getting back on track.

Lots of love y’all!

Carrie

The Homeschooling Parent: Getting Ready for Junior Year for the College-Bound

The junior year of high school in the American school systen is often said to be THE busiest year for families on all levels.  There are a lot of things that go on during the junior year  for teens getting ready for college, and this can often be compounded for the homeschooling parent who must play teacher, parent, and guidance counselor during the junior year of high school.  Having a good plan in mind is an essential part of preparing for homeschooling high school in the junior year if you have a child who is college-bound.  Things to consider include creation of transcripts (hopefully you have been doing this since freshman year!), testing, choosing a college and scholarship money.

For the creation of transcipts, my favorite resource is “Setting the Records Straight: How to Craft Homeschool Transcripts and Course Descriptions for College Admissions and Scholarships.”  I have read a lot of the work of Lee Binz, author of this book, and I find her straight-forward approach to high school refreshing and honest.  In our family, we have already decided to create transcripts based upon subject, not by year, since this approach aligns better with the Waldorf approach of block teaching and teen-led interests.  For example, our oldest has accummulated quite a few credits in music at this point, based upon hours of work, so we needed a transcript type that will highlight that kind of dedication.

In order to create the rest of a homeschooling portfolio, you need to keep track of hours (120-180 hours equals one credit; usually the lab sciences are what gives one those upper hours of 180 and English courses and such usually clock in at 120 hours); projects and reading lists; completion of a textbook if using a textbook or outline for a particular subject, and a system for grading.  Course descriptions, extra-curricular activities, leadership activites and awards, and reading lists of books outside of assigned school books round out the porfolio.

Testing is another big consideration.  The public schools around me have teens start taking the PSAT and SAT very early and take it many times.  The only PSAT score that counts for the National Merit Scholarship is the one taken in October of junior year so that is something to consider.  The SAT can be taken many times, but I feel if one makes study preparation and quick essay writing a part of homeschooling in the sophomore and junior years, then you shouldn’t have to take it more than twice.  It could be taken in spring of junior year and later towards the end of that school year if it needs to be done twice.  Some students do better on the ACT, and some colleges require one or the other, so it is good to know what the colleges your student is interested in requires.  If your student doesn’t know where they will apply, like mine, then you can take both just to have it done.

Lastly, hunting for colleges can be difficult. Many students these days are visiting and applying to 12 colleges or more and dividing this into “reach”, “fit”, and “safety” schools.  I feel strongly that because applying to colleges cost money and time, it is better to visit more schools and tease out any possible scholarship money in order to pare down the list and not apply to more than 4 colleges. My husband and I were talking about how back in the 80s when we graduated, students generally applied to only two to four schools.  It has changed since then, but I still feel doing the legwork first rather than after applying makes the most sense in terms of time and money.

Scholarships are harder to determine at times.  Many are financially-based; some are not.  There are apps available to help you find out what scholarship money might be available to your student based upon their interests, specific questions regarding background of the student and the family, or more.  I have heard of some students getting scholarships due to athletics or music, but these seem to be far less prevalent than most parents believe are out there.

I would love to hear your experiences and stories about going through the college application process while homeschooling!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

3 Things In Considering Waldorf Homeschooling

The question that comes up a  lot this time of year is, “Waldorf homeschooling looks interesting…What do I do to start?  What curriculum do I use?”

Before you jump into curriculum, here are three things I think you should look at first:

Understand what Waldorf homeschooling is and isn’t.

  • It is developmental, and it is about the child in front of you, but it is parent led.  It requires a parent to teach and yes, a parent to lead, after careful meditation and inner work regarding the child in front of them.
  • It does involve what some people see as “holding off” on things until the appropriate time/age, which goes back to the developmental foundation of Waldorf homeschooling.  Can you believe in this developmental piece or not? If not, just move on without worry or guilt.  Find what works for your family!
  • It involves the arts – drawing, painting, modeling, vocal and instrumental music, drama, speech, movement, handwork.  It involves practical work inside and outside the home – gardening, baking, cooking as well.
  • It is not secular, but it is not religious.  It is a spiritual curriculum that involves taking in a totality of a human being – head, heart, hands. Understand that Waldorf Education is based in Rudolf Steiner’s knowledge and insight into the developmental human being. That one really hangs a lot of people up.  Look ahead and see how you would adapt the curriculum for your family if the story content of the grades bothers you and what you will do.  Every major civilization and world religion is covered. Will this bother you? Will the timing bother you?  Find out ahead of time.  If you look up some websites for the Waldorf Schools, you can see what blocks are taught in what grade.  Look all the way through high school and then decide.
  • Understand that Waldorf homeschooling and Waldorf Schools are perhaps a bit like cousins or similar fruits of a same family – grapefruit and lemons.  Waldorf homeschooling can and has to be different in important ways sometimes to make things work at home and for any given family’s situation.  For example, Steiner’s original indications in many lectures were geared toward age ranges, which is more the case at home than specific grades like at a school.
  • It involves your own input into any curriculum – it is about where you live geographically, and your cultural and spiritual background because those things can be worked into the stories of the grades.
  • It involves an element of rhythm to the day, week, month, and year which involves festivals important to your family and your own cultural and spiritual celebrations.
  • Yes, it encourages a slow and simple lifestyle, being home, rest and outdoor play, open ended toys and yes reduced to minimal media usage.  But the hallmark of Waldorf is honestly the development of the child and supporting the unfolding of healthy development.
  • It is about goodness, beauty, truth, responsibility, and love for humanity.  Some parents find this part really hard to bring, especially in  the beginning grades. They worry the injustices of the world are not being taught right off the bat.   And  then some parents find the later grades really hard, when the children’s subjects are no longer just about sunshine and pink bubbles as well.  Look ahead and see if it resonates.
  • Find out the differences between Waldorf and Montessori, Waldorf and curriculums like Oak Meadow, Waldorf and Enki.  They are not the same thing.

Read some of Rudolf Steiner’s works and see if any of it resonates.  You can listen to it on Rudolf Steiner Audio, find it on Rudolf Steiner archives and more.  Many will suggest “Kingdom of Childhood” and “A Child’s Changing Consciousness” for the kindergarten level and things like “Soul Economy,” “Discussions with Teachers,” “Practical Advice to Teachers” to start.  If this seems daunting, I am going to suggest two very different short lectures and you can try just getting the feel of how Rudolf Steiner approaches things. One is “On the Nature of Butterflies”  and “Overcoming Nervousness”

Understand that Waldorf homeschooling takes time. Just like the lifestyle piece of Waldorf in the home involves slowing down, it also involves having time to do school.  It takes time to create main lesson books.   In the upper grades, it is not uncommon to have a drawing take several hours.  It is not uncommon to have to practice and re-do things to get it right, whether that is in handwork or in practicing a piece of music or math.  It is also not uncommon to have to plan rather than have an “open and go” curriculum, particularly in the upper grades.   So it takes time on both the part of the student and the teacher.  This is often a true drawback for working or otherwise really busy homeschooling parents and families, but can also often be a call to slow down and simplify for better health and family life.

Then,after all that, if you are still interested in persuing the idea of Waldorf homeschooling, I actually recommend you start with a consultation with a consultant first before you spend a lot of money on different curricula that you may or may not end up needing.  Melisa Nielsen, Jean Miller, Christopherus, and Live Ed all offer consulting pieces.  Perhaps start there.

If Waldorf Education or homeschooling isn’t for you, that is of course okay!  Elements of Waldorf lifestyle and education can still help lead to great health gains for the child in this fast-paced and anxious world no matter how much or how little of Waldorf education and principles you choose to include for your family’s journey.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

From Circle Time To Morning Time All Together

Circle time is something that is fairly well discussed in Waldorf resources; circle time is indeed viewed as the main focal point of the Early Years.  It is a way to help form the fabric of the social cohesiveness of the classroom, mark the seasonal changes and festivals, work together, and develop all twelve senses.  Even in the early grades, the circle time works on the very foundation of learning and is a way to wake up the body, the voice, and the fingers for a day of developing capacities in learning.  Over the years, circle time often morphs into a physical warm-up time for the upper grades, even in the classroom setting.  Many times this includes going for a walk or physical games for these middle school grades.

In the homeschooling realm,  I have often thought about circle time.  Does it always work with just one parent, one child, and the family dog?  Does it work with children who have large age gaps in the family?  What is the purpose and goal of the circle and how can we meet those goals best in the home environment, which is a different thing than developing a social organism of a classroom.

For the early years, I have maintained for years the importance of circle time I think due to the foundational senses developed in movement and word during this time, but that the heart of the home Waldorf kindergarten may actually be practical work.  There are quite a few back posts on this subject.  I have created my own circles for years for the Early Years and early grades and feel circle time can often work for all children under the age of ten.

Lately, though, I have been pondering something else. If circle time is about developing a social cohesiveness, what are we doing to develop the social cohesiveness of the FAMILY.  We are homeschooling and it is still tempting to not combine children in main lesson work as most of the resources on the market, even homeschooling resources, are developed by individual grade (not as combined grades or ages, perhaps with the exception of the work of Master Waldorf Teacher Marsha Johnson).  Also, what happens when circle time or a gathering time morphs into something else as the children grow up. It is easy to start throwing the morning walk out the window because we have more academic work that needs to get done with more children.

In mainstream homeschooling, there is often an idea of a “Morning Basket” or “Morning Time” in which all family members gather for any of the following: family announcements, spiritual direction, read alouds, poetry, art or music history with composers, etc.  It serves as a market to begin the day, and a time in which the smallest to oldest can participate.

So how would this look in a Waldorf Environment?

This past fall, I tried something new. I wasn’t quite a Morning Time altogether in a sense because I did Circle Time separate for our second grader. We did have some verses to do together, but the main thing I did was pick an area in geography (Africa) and we all worked together, ages 8 to adult, on   all kinds of  fun things together, including music and singing, poetry recitation, making maps, reading aloud, drawing, and painting.  It was fun, and I think it could be a great way to work in some blocks that are either harder to work into the year or the areas where you want information to be constantly reviewed and refreshed, and a way to tie everyone together instead of sending the notion that learning is only for separate times and we are all on such different levels we can’t possibly all learn together.

So, some ideas for transitioning from a traditional Waldorf circle time to a wonderful family gathering time could include prayers from your spiritual tradition, family singing and accompanying instruments, poetry recitation,  read alouds, geography, math fun, and more.

I encourage you to think about how a wonderful gathering time, which could include a combination of circle time for younger and older children and a gathering time for older children with little ones participating as able.

I would love to hear what you do in your family!

Blessings,
Carrie

Four Things To Do In The Year of Crazy

This year, as many of you know, has been a super tough year on my family.  We began homeschooling for the simple reason of wanting our children to have health in all its forms, and to choose a developmental educational method.  This year, health hit us all in the face over and over as one thing after another happened that involved a sick horse, sick extended family members, and accidents that required lots of follow-up appointments.  I gained a completely newfound  and amplified respect for mothers who homeschool through chronic illness of themselves or their children. The lack of rhythmicy was okay for a few months but honestly drove me (and my children) insane after the first few months.

I think if you homeschool long enough (my oldest at this writing is 16 and a half), at some point you may just hit a year like what we had.  Maybe it is illness or divorce or death or just one thing after another where the hits just keep coming.   In the midst of a year like that, what do you do?

Let Go.  I think the biggest thing I learned this year is to let go.  I thought I was letting go since my some of the children are older, but what I learned is that just by being physically here there is a lot I normally do and don’t think about it.  When I physically wasn’t present due to having to be in hospitals or meeting health care team members, they really had to step up. I always thought they were fairly independent and good at taking charge of household things, but I learned that they could pull it out without any supervision when they needed to. I also learned that I am still doing an awful lot that I probably need to just let go even when things are calmer.

I let go of things that normally  would bother me or seem like a big deal, extending down to end of year activities at this moment that in the past would seem stressful. I simply haven’t even been physically at home sometimes when my kids were.  I was out of state or out of town dealing with medical emergencies.  This year,  things such as end of year things that would normally be a bigger deal to get everything right and ready  are really no big deal  in the scheme of things.  To the things that normally would bother me in the scheme of dealing with teenagers, I asked myself, is it fatal?  Is it so unhealthful that I can’t stand it or is it something we will survive?  Can it be there with limits?  Let it go. Inner work is perhaps the biggest help here.  Pause and listen.

Find rhythm where you can.  In the beginning of some of these things, there was no rhythm.  We were needed  or I was needed at places daily in the middle of the day or the morning.  It didn’t feel like  much was happening as far as the academic end of school unless my students could do it on their own.  I set very small goals for schooling, and just felt that any little step was a step forward in our original plans.  It also helped that in general I plan less weeks and less days because I know life happens and I otherwise am too ambitious in what we should be covering.

What was comforting to me came from our unschooling friends.  I got remeinded that there is a lot to be learned in life in general and unschoolers go on to college or whatever their life plans are as well! I also took a very long-term view that everything we wanted to do, or at least most of it, would be covered by high school graduation!  As things would calm down, some rhythm would emerge.  Maybe it wasn’t a normal rhythm, but a rhythm nontheless.  Let go, and grab onto what you can regarding rhythm.  Listen when everyone is tired and says they cannot do one more appointment.  Find the spots of rest.  Don’t push through.

Do what you can.  We did get through blocks this year and math practice and reading practice for our little student and more.  We didn’t take field trips really, but things happened – just at a slower pace.  Waldorf homeschooling doesn’t mean covering 9 blocks a year.  It means sinkly deeply into what you are doing; that less is more; and that skills are being supported and emerging.  It also means total overall health.  All you can do is what you can do!

When it is all over, take time to rebuild.  We are looking forward to a summer of rejuvenation and a new year in the fall.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

A Month of Joy: April

Looking forward to spring in the Northern Hemisphere? So am I!  It seems to be very slowly moving into the Deep South – we had very low temperatures last week which is unusual,(although today it is supposed to be summer temperatures for some odd reason). We went on holiday to Florida a few weeks ago  to catch some sun and came back to cold.  We used to live in Florida, and I said I would never move back there, but now that I am older and hating the cold even more I am reconsidering! LOL.

This is normally a month of great beauty and joy – the springtime of creation.  The plants and flowers are bursting anew; the sun is out more often and the temperatures are (hopefully) rising.  The world seems fresh and full of possibilities.  In this sense, I too am excited to begin anew.

We will be celebrating:

April 4- Martin Luther King Jr’s Feast Day in the Episcopal Church

April 25- The Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist

and getting ready for Ascension Day, which is May 10th and the Rogation Days of the Episcopal Church, which are the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that precede Ascension.  If you are planning ahead as well, try this back post on Rogation Days and this back post on Ascension Day

What I thinking about in the home:

Spring Cleaning and Deep Cleaning.  I hurt my ankle/foot on holiday and have been hobbling about, but I still love to think of spring cleaning and have plans for deep decluttering and deep cleaning once I am able!  Here is a post on Housecleaning and Homeschooling and a favorite on  An Ordered Outer World for a Peaceful Family

Spring Crafting – I am looking forward to receiving our box from Happy Hedghog Post and also looking forward to some beautiful spring crafts.  I have some great projects on Spring Pinterest Board

Spring Self-care – We are still dealing with a lot of doctor’s appointments for our little guy who fell and hurt his teeth.  I fell on our vacation and had a doctor’s appointment for a very sprained ankle.  But beyond that, I have been in a little phase of establishing new morning, afternoon, and evening self-care routines.  I will be utilizing some of my favorite health care people to build a health care team to help me stabilize some of the health challenges I have faced this school year.  Yay for me winning!  We might also be doing a little moving challenge around our house for the big kids.

Spring Friend Care – I read the other day that the five people we spend the most time with clearly influence us.  I was thinking about the people I spend time with the most outside of my husband and family, and really want to focus on making spring and summer with those beautiful friends as lovely as possible.  In order to have friendships, which are so important, we have to put effort into them!

Spring attitude – Time for a fresh start in the expansiveness of spring!

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

Blessings,
carrie