5 truths about the development of babies

I think if new parents haven’t been around a lot of babies, they can be fairly shocked when they have a little one of their own!

I was one of those parents. I had worked in a neonatal intensive care unit for my job, and the babies were exhausted after feeding.  So they ate, and then they slept right through until the next feeding time.  Full-term babies were fussier, but usually close to being discharged, and hey, there was an entire staff to entertain them and carry them around or play with them!

I thought I would be doing things in between nursing my baby, like cleaning the house and exercising, and that there would be a lot of  baby sleeping.

Nope! Surprise!

But it was wonderful all the same.  However, I would love to share five truths with you about babies from my experience as a long-time breastfeeding counselor, lactation consultant, pediatric and neonatal physical therapist, and mom of three…..

  1.  It takes time for babies to develop a rhythm to sleeping and waking patterns.  Some babies can be good sleepers, but it actually is neuroprotective for babies to not sleep too deeply due to risk of SIDS (highest at ages 2-5 months), and their sleep cycles are different than adult sleep cycles.  This is a great article about infant sleep from Dr. Sears that I think every new parent should read.  Bottle feeding parents are sometimes recommended by other parent to put rice cereal in a bottle to help babies sleep longer but this is is a myth; there are studies back to 1989 showing this makes no difference and in fact can be HARMFUL – here are recent studies from 2015 cited in an easy to read article from Kelly Mom.
  2. Babies need a  lot of physical touch.  It changes DNA for the better, as found in this recent study from 2017!  You can also use a babywearing to help you.  There are many on the market, including meshy slings you can use in the shower if you don’t have a helper to leave your baby outside the shower door.  Babywearing International has closed as an organization, but they still have many good article up on their site about choosing a baby carrier.  Here is a rare picture on this blog of our third child wrapped up in a sling several weeks after his  birth.
  3. Babies also need time to be free on the floor, both on their back and on their stomach.  They need time to look at black, white, and red objects; they need time to have one arm exposed out of swaddling to move, opportunities to  extend and stretch and to move their head and limbs.  This develops the muscles needed for sitting, crawling, and standing.
  4. Babies experience times of symmetry and asymmetry, but overall should be moving all limbs equally and shouldn’t have a preference to  looking or moving to only  one side.  There are some months, like two months of age, that are considered a stronger time of asymmetry developmentally due to such reflexes such as an Asymetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) and four months is typically a very symmetric time. Constant asymmetric movement patterns can be caused  by challenges with development.   Keep in touch with your baby’s health care team about your baby’s physical development. Here is a gross motor checklist from the Aussie Childcare Network
  5. Babies experience stress too!  There are stress signs that are a call to be held and soothed.  Babies do not self-soothe. They do not have a sense of self.  They have a sense of smell, they have a sense of taste and touch, they don’t see very well except breast/chest level to a parent’s face, and they need help in self-regulation. Breastfeeding meets these biological goals.  However, no baby should be left to just “cry it out.” Here is an editorial with medical references that talk about letting your baby cry.  The reality is that your baby may cry even if you are holding them, especially in cases of babies with reflux and other things going on, but don’t leave them to cry alone.  Get help so YOU feel supported as a parent, and then you can support your baby. A parent and a baby together are a team.  

There are many back posts about babies  on this blog – here are a few of my favorites:

40 Days After Birth and Beyond

Transforming Post-Partum Stress Into Joy

Postpartum Depression

When Babies Cry and What We Can All Learn from the High-Needs Baby

Discipline for 0-1 year old babies (hint: it involves being connected and attached to your infant!)  The main rule of guiding children, that starts at birth, is being responsive!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

7 ways of doing self-care +parenting

Maybe parents from previous generations wouldn’t understand this fuss about self-care.  I think generally people got married and had children earlier than parents are doing now. Maybe there was more support in juggling the home and the kids through extended family, which many of us don’t have these days.  I know when I was younger, I certainly didn’t really understand the fuss about self-care as well as I do now, and when I started parenting over seventeen years ago, it wasn’t even really a thing to talk about self-care.

Cue now.  Cue the late 40s.

Years of parenting and homeschooling still await.

Things are shifting.

Self-care is needed.

Now self-care seems absolutely vital to me; absolutely necessary; absolutely important. It is something important for me that benefits the whole family, despite whatever limitations may be in the way.

Maybe you are feeling this as well.  I think younger parents are much more in tune with this than we are.  However, at any stage, it can be easy to neglect in the shuffle and business of life, especially for homeschooling parents whose children and teens are with the family many (all) hours a day.  So, i put together 7 ways for doing self-care that might resonate with you or give you ideas for your own practice.

  1.  Find your attitude about self-care, and your find your discipline to follow through.  First you have to believe that self-care is necessary, and then you have to find a way to follow through on doing self-care no matter what personal obstacles are in your situation.  Maybe your significant other travles nonstop, and you homeschool three tiny children that you can’t just leave to run out and do appointments or even go for a heart-pounding run that doesn’t involve stopping to look every ten feet at some critter on the ground.  Instead of feeling defeated, how will you make this work?  Brainstorm ideas, and believe AND do.
  2. Keep the big health guidelines in mind.  One hundred fifty minutes of moderate areobic exercise  a week and  twice a week strength training is recommended for adults in the United States, there are recommendations for how often to see your doctor and dentist, there are even recommendations for number of hours you should sleep a night, and how many hours a day you should be on a screen.  That might be the bare minimum place you start.
  3. Rest and play.  Rest and play for adults may be one of the most overlooked areas of health. This one can be done with your children, with your significant other, with your friends or by yourself?  How do you rest and play? What does that look like for you?
  4.  Time in nature.  This is extremely important for decreasing stress, for setting healthy patterns in sleep, and for a myriad of health benefits, even down to the cellular level.  There is true research on this, and since many people spend a lot of time indoors, it may be worth it to schedule yourself some forest bathing time or time to be outside.
  5. Time in community.  Community is very important. It is something new mothers or new fathers  naturally often seek in the form of playgroups…and then as the children grow, as teens have more interests and they no longer want to get together with the same chidren they have been since playgroup days due to lack of common interests…it can become more difficult to see other adults that you are really and truly close to.  My recommendation is to go out to dinner or tea or meet at a park – just the adults.  When your children are teenagers, you can leave them and do this!  If you think you don’t need this, I would say you should try.  It reduces anxiety, having community has many health benefits,  it makes you feel connected, and when your children are off living their own lives, you are going to want some friends!
  6. Time alone.  It is important to have some time each day, each week, each month to just be alone without the children.  Many parents get so lost in their children and all the hustle and bustle that they often lose who they were.  Parenting will change you! You will be a different person than you were.  That is normal.  But losing complete connection with yourself, your goals,  your dreams, your functioning as a separate human being outside of being a parent is difficult.  It can take time to get those things back, and time alone to think or think and journal can be invaluable.
  7. Healthy food.  Healthy food, and not using food as a form of stress control or self-medication is really important. Parenting can start a whole cycle of eating while standing up, eating as quickly as possible,  not having time to cook.  Batch cooking healthy things for the week can be a really big help, as can gadgets such as a crock-pot or Instapot.  Finding healthy recipes and making them, not keeping junk  food in the house that really isn’t made up of food but instead chemicals and additives ( I call it “food-like” substances) in the house, is really important self-care, and it sets a great tone for the future generation living in your household.  I was at a continuing education course where the home health physical therapists were estimating over half of the patients they were seeing were obese, and had Type 2 diabetes, and didn’t hardly move during the day.  This isn’t where we want ourselves or the next generation to end up!

Share with me your favorite ways to self-care!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

The Top Way To Be A Great Parent

One of my very favorite sayings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is this one:

All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.

In my book, the top way to be a great parent is to model, show, tell, put our children in circumstances where they learn that we all affect each other and the planet.  We all need to rise up together, and to understand that some in the world are coming from very different cultural and life experiences that our own.  In this way, we raise human beings who are ready to love and serve each other and the world becomes more beautiful.  There will always be evil, there is no doubt.  There will always be selfishness and greed.  But the way we move forward is we train this next generation in love, in kindness, in generosity, in empathy, in humility.  The greatest education is not one of books and learning, although I probably love books and learning more than the average person, but one of character.

You might think, well, that sounds terrific, but how do I do that?  You might consider starting with yourself and the other adults in your home.  What are your wounded areas?  Do you see the world in this way; that we all affect each other?  Do you see the need to raise others up and to serve others?  What is your inner work surrounding these attitudes and these ideals – religious, spiritual, at home, outside the home- what is your practice?

How do you work as a team at home?  This is the first thing that children learn in the home- how to be loved and how to love, how to help, how to be respectful through good manners, how to live with others.  It is  about them learning how to be in the family and to be more than just themselves but instead part of a greater unit.  I have held great conversations around this theme over the years with attachment parents, and you can read some of my thoughts on past blog posts- how we can all be connected and meet the needs of our smallest children and yet also communicating that we as the people in the household all help, all serve, all work together, all have needs.

How do you help your child move into the community and society at large around them in a loving and kind way?  How do you expand that into the areas of your community and society that are underserved in the teen years and how do you also teach the beautiful boundaries of self-replenishment, self-love in order to make helping a sustainable practice for years to come?

Just a few thoughts on this day, 2019.  May we all live and love large and keep moving forward.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Skills for High School (and life!)

We have one teen getting ready to go look at colleges and apply in the fall, and one child who will be entering high school in the fall.  These are such  interesting and often challenging ages to parent. I don’t think I ever doubted my homeschooling skills as much as I did when my oldest was in eighth and ninth grade.  I think this is because we as parents can see what skills will be needed for success in  the upper grades of high school and what will be needed in college, and we wonder what we will do if things don’t come together  (or as homeschooling parents we wonder if we are doing enough).

This leads me to a question:  what do you think eighth and ninth graders really need to be able to do in order to navigate high school (and life) successfully? I woud love to hear your thoughts!  Here are a few of my ideas for the important skills teens need for high school and beyond:

Communication Skills – this includes written communication, public speaking,  recognizing nonverbal cues in other people, presentation skills, and being able to collaborate on a team.  I think this is where things such as vocabulary and fluency in writing and speaking  counts, and so do things such as knowing how to introduce oneself and others.

**Ways to develop this:  4H and Toastmasters, work and volunteer experience, being on a team in any area- sports or otherwise, communicating effectively at home and pointing out cues and emotions,  increasing vocabulary in the later middle school years.  If you are the homeschooling teacher – assigning papers, research papers, and oral presentations.

Organizational Skills – this includes physical space planning (ie, the teen can find what they are looking for), mental organization, planning and scheduling, time management, prioritizing

**Ways to develop this – using a calendar or planner, using checklists, working with deadlines  for your homeschool, developing accountability outside the home to mentors, other teachers, volunteer work or a part-time job

Leadership and Teamwork – this, to me, involves initiative, making decisions, contributing, responsibility, respect of others and listening to others, humility, problem solving

**Ways to develop this – volunteer and work opportunities, allow decision making for teens and don’t bail them out of the consequences, let your teen figure out the possibilities – don’t do it all for them

Work Ethic -this includes dependability, determination, accountability, professionalism

**Ways to Develop This – assignments with deadlines in homeschooling, don’t skip the hard or boring all the time, work and volunteer experiences, the development of healthy habits at home which requires a regularity in doing things

Emotional Intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills

**Ways to Develop This- talking to teens about their feelings and helping them use “I” statements and how to be active listeners, basic anger management and conflict management skills,mindfulness techniques,  nurture motivation when your teen is interested in a subject or has a passion and teach them  how to set goals around their passions, provide and model optimism and encouragement

I would love to hear your ideas!  What do you think is important?

Blessings,

Carrie

PS. If you are looking for more on this subject, you might enjoy this back post on Life Skills for Seventh and Eighth Graders and some of the resources I recommend!

Top 7 Ways to Fearlessly Waldorf Homeschool

I wrote a post about “fearless Waldorf homeschooling” in which I talked about how despite our fears regarding homeschooling, we are enough.  We really are.  Every family has its own unique circumstances, family culture, family dynamics, strengths that interplay with the Waldorf curriculum at home to make it unique and able to meet the child in front of us so wonderfully.  Homeschooling is full of possibilities, but it has to be sustainable for us as teachers and parents.  And for that reason, our homeschool adventures will never look like, and should never look  like a Waldorf School.

Here are ways I think we can fearlessly Waldorf homeschool, and leave our worries and doubts about this sometimes intense way of homeschooling behind!

Decide your priorities for homeschooling based on  the amount of energy you have.  Everyone has a certain amount of energy, and we all have a fixed number of hours in the day.  Are you a low, medium, or high energy person?  What does an ideal homeschooling day look like for you?  Remember my mantra  – the Waldorf homeschool will not, and should never look like a Waldorf School program!  So what are the top priorities from looking at all the things that Waldorf homeschooling can bring that your children, and you, really really need?  Resign yourself that you must likely won’t do all the things, and that is perfectly okay.

Design your priorities for Waldorf homeschooling around your strengths, and decide if the things you are weakest at is something that you actually want to learn and grow better at doing  OR if this is something that you can outsource!  For example, say knitting is hard for you.  Do you want to spend your energy learning how to knit and then teach your child, do you want to learn together with your child, or do you want to send your child somewhere to learn how to knit in your community?

Build your homeschooling around rhythm, but remember to include self-care in  your rhythm.  I don’t know what that would like like for you, but I think for many of us, sustainable homeschooling involves being more than just the person teaching or keeping up everything around the house.  It involves being a whole human being, and for many of us, we need some time either alone, with our spouse without children, or with our own friends in order to recharge.  It might involve when  you exercise, or when you sleep in or take a nap or meet a friend for tea.  Whatever it is, plan out your self-care for the week on Sundays.   Mark it in, arrange where your children will be, but do it.  Generally, homeschooling is not sustainable into the middle grades without this piece.  Burnout is real, and many people who start homeschooling and throw themselves into it with gusto either have to reinvent how they homeschool in the middle school grades or they put their children in school.  

We must always teach to the child in front of us.  What parts of these traditional blocks are of most interest to our child?  What things do we need to include in the grades that are developementally appropriate , meet our family culture, meet the time and place in which we live that are different than the Waldorf Schools?  

How do we deliver these lessons?   Waldorf homeschooling is about more than creating main lesson books!   There will always be children who hate to draw orwho hate creating main lesson books, and we must do more than just decide an education based in the arts, based around health and using sleep as an aid to memory,  is not for them.  In the home environment, we have so many creative options.

What is our end academic goal? I think far too many parents enter blocks without thinking about what they are trying to accomplish skill-wise – so think about this in your planning.  This keeps you confident and courageous!  What academic, social, emotional, physical and artistic skills is this material a springboard for?  What’s the end point? 

When in doubt, what will foster connection and responsbility in your child? Both of these are important, as the ultimate goal of Waldorf Education is that  human beings once again learn how to live with each other, that we can connect with the “other”, that we see how things are interrelated, that we can serve humanity with love.  It helps to begin with the end in mind. 

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

fearless waldorf homeschooling

Fear is at the root of so much of the marketing gimmicks in Western culture. Are you scared, nervous, anxious, afraid?  There is a product for that!  If only you compare yourself enough and discover that you are “deficient” in some way, and then buy enough products to get up to par, then you will feel better!

In the homeschooling world, I feel like it is even worse because some of the curriculums prey on our worst fears –

We aren’t enough to teach our children.

We can’t give our children enough opportunities.

Our children won’t learn enough.

Our children won’t be prepared for the future.

Our children won’t be “socialized” enough.

There won’t be enough time in the day to give our children what they need.

Sigh.

And quite frankly, Waldorf homeschooling and sometimes curriculum can be right there as well.  Entering this world can be one of anxiousness and doubt.  Are you nervous about chalkboard drawing, playing a breathing instrument and stringed instrument and singing, drawing, painting, modeling, putting on plays, knitting and doing other forms of handwork, making sure you present things in a “Waldorf Way” and oh yes, getting academics in there?   Plus, Waldorf homeschooling has the added  bonus of a low to no media lifestyle that family and friends might disagree with, the penchant to make things  (everything!) by hand, we protect the senses, we delay team sports and competition until sixth grade, we wait for academics until first grade – all of which may be totally new to you and totally different than how you were raised!

It’s a lot and it can feel intimidating and overwhelming for many homeschooling families, which is sad, because Waldorf homeschooling fits children’s health and  educational needs in an amazing developmental way.

Well, I am here to tell you:

You are enough to teach your children.  You have already been teaching them since day one!

You will give your children just the right opportunities that are available in your community.

Your children will learn plenty and be ahead.

Your children will be prepared for the future.

Your children will go on to have successful relationships.

You know your children the absolute best and better than any other expert.  Not that we can’t use the help of experts or a village, because sometimes it takes a village,  but that you know your beautiful children so well and this leads to success.

The Waldorf homeschool will never, and never should, look like a Waldorf School.  You cannot be Main Lesson teacher, flute teacher, games teacher, string teacher, foreign language teacher, extra lessons teacher all rolled into one.  But YOU are ENOUGH.

“How” we do this will look different for every family. Every family has its own unique circumstances, family culture, family dynamics, strengths that interplay with the Waldorf curriculum at home to make it unique and able to meet the child in front of us so wonderfully.  More about the “how” to come in the next post!  In the meantime, know that you are enough, it will all work out okay, and these children will be some of the most successful of their generation with some of the biggest problem-solving capabilities and provide compassionate leadership and kindness for the years ahead.

Blessings and love,

Carrie 

beautiful january

I love January – the possibility of cold and snow, the bright days perfect for walks, the many possibilities of decluttering the physical environment and the body and the soul in January!  It’s going to be a terrific month!

celebrating:  

Here are some of the days we will be celebrating in January:

January 1 – New Year’s Day

January 6– The Feast of Epiphany and Epiphanytide that stretches until Lent begins on March 6th this year.

January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr Day – also celebrated January 15 and April 4 in The Episcopal Church

Janaury 18– The Feast Day of St. Peter

January 25 – The Feast Day of St. Paul

homeschooling:

third grade – we are continuing to work hard on reading and are starting off our semester with a block of Hebrew Stories/Old Testament tales as traditional in the Waldorf curriculum in this grade.  We are using All About Reading for practice as well since reading has been a struggle and will continue daily work in math.  Please follow me on Instagram @theparentingpassageway as that is where I will be posting third grade work this month.

eighth grade – we are continuing with our year round course of pre-algebra, and starting our semester with a block on Revolutions that will include the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, The French Revolution, Simon Bolivar, and the Mexican Revolution.

eleventh grade – we are continuing with our year-long courses in Chemistry and in American Government/Social Justice.  Our eleventh grader also has AP Psychology, Pre-Calculus,and  AP Language outside of the home

sustainability –

I am a generous giver. I have decent boundaries, but can get really wrapped up in other people’s challenges and other people’s energy and take it all on as my own if I am not careful.  I have improved immensely in this area in the last 2 years, and am proud of my progress.  So, for even more sustainability and in the spirit of knowing that my needs are to be equally valued, this New Year I am prioritizing self-care in the form of exercise outside the home as I find it hard to exercise in my house, health appointments (which for me, since I had a health crisis last year, means still going to  doctor appointments), healthy eating, having super fun with my spouse and our friends, and using a protocol  created by acupuncturist Desiree Mangandog called “I Am Worthy”

I sit down and plan my self-care that has to be outside of the home for the week on Sundays.  Simple things I do at home that don’t require as much planning included journaling, meditating, tapping, use of The Book of Common Prayer daily, and epsom salt baths.

parenting-

third grader – there aren’t really any children that come outside to play with in our neighborhood and since his sisters are middle to older teens, movement (which I have to spearhead) is a priority above and beyond school.  His social needs are also a priority because he is very extroverted.

eighth grader – we are getting plans in place for homeschooling high school (all subjects will be homeschooled, none will be outside the home at this point). She is a great help in the house, and my parenting work with her are the typical goals in order to be successful in high school, and to continue to develop  connection to the family and  compassionate character.

eleventh grader – we are working on college visits, and getting through the junior year of standardized testing, and connection.  I think this is an important time to connect as a family and as a mother-daughter team.  We have an idea to take a little trip for just the two of us, so I think that will work out and be an amazing way to connect.

home life-

I am sticking with very simple cleaning and decluttering routines and asking for help. I cannot homeschool and do everything we do outside the home and do continue taking care of the house as if it is my ful-time job. However,  I also cannot stand a messy or dirty house as I am a very visual person, and we really don’t have the money for an outside cleaning person.  So, that leaves simplicity and asking for help as our family is a team!

Crafting – I love the little crafts I associate with January, including window stars, rose windows, snowflakes, candlemaking.  I hope to post pictures of some of our processes on Instagram @theparentingpassageway and on The Parenting Passageway’s Facebook page.

 

I can’t wait to hear what you are up to this beautiful January!

Blessings and love,
Carrie