Vitality 4: Slow Sunday

Since my word of the year is “vitality,” every Sunday I hope to share something with you all that makes me feel vital, sparkly, happy, and alive from different aspects of my life.  It isn’t about having a perfect life. It is about growing in wholeness and authenticity and living in joy, no matter what crosses our paths.

During these tumultuous political times, I have felt lately that my energy is dissipating in directions far and wide from my home and my family.   In order to balance this,  I have needed a serious dose of self-care.

I think everyone’s self-care list may look a little different since different things nurture different people.  However, I made myself a list and am happy to share it with you in hope that you will create your own list of things that are nurturing to you!

My weekly list includes:

  • Exercise (which is a daily task, but I strive toward a weekly goal)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Walking/Hiking
  • Going out for tea with friends without children
  • Spending time with my husband alone
  • Doing things I enjoy including drawing and painting, looking at art

My daily lists include:

  • Sitting with a good cup of tea
  • Writing
  • Praying, reading Scripture
  • Being in nature
  • Spending fun time with my family members – playing games, reading together, laughing
  • Reading  fiction (not just things around development or Waldorf Education!)
  • Getting support when I need it from my spouse and from friends
  • If I have screen time for myself – to watch things that are funny and light-hearted
  • Getting enough sleep and rest

The other things that  I have done that have helped enormously is to pare down my personal Facebook page to limit political conversations; to pick the three things that I feel are most urgently politically for our family’s values and focus on those issues, and to limit computer time in general.

It is hard to be a sensitive person in these times, and self-care makes all the difference in the world.  I would love to hear what your favorite self-care tricks are.

Blessings and love, and may you have a wonderful week ahead,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

Calm Candlemas

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright

Winter will take another flight.

If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain,

Winter is gone and will not come again.”

-Traditional Verse

Candlemas takes its name from the blessing of candles that will be used throughout the  year.  It is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ to Anna and Simeon, where Christ is seen as the Light.  The light of spring with its new dawning is awakening, and the new meets the old on both physical and spiritual planes.  This is a calming reassurance of the continuity of life and of the potential we have to be a light ourselves.

This day is also marked in the United States as “Groundhog Day.”  The  old belief was that all the hibernating animals would wake up on this day and come out to see if it was still winter or not.  Interestingly, if it is cloudy and the groundhog sees no shadow, there will be an early spring.  However, sunny weather causes a shadow, and the groundhog will predict 40 more days of winter.

The way to mark this day, is to of course, eat the traditional foods of Candlemas, which usually include crepes and pancakes. It is a day for agricultural sowing of the fields, or at least making a furrow, and it could be a day for spring cleaning and beginning new projects.  What new things have you wanted to do and need courage to begin?

And, this is of course a day of candle making. Old candles can be melted down into new dipped or walnut shell candle boats.  Other types of floating candles can be made from  wax poured into little cookie cutters that have been oiled and allowed to set with a wick.  Candles for tiny hands can be rolled; and candles can be dipped.  I keep separate pots for candle making endeavors on a shelf in my laundry room.  There are instructions for “sand candles” in the book “All Year Round”; you will need  a tennis ball to press into the sand and then to poke three holes into this shape so the finished candle will have three legs upon which to stand.  Earth candles are also lovely and can be dug into the yard to welcome all the little flowering bulbs just beginning to make an appearance.

Inside, a traditional nature table for this time of year may include little spring flowers from bulbs, and a pale green cloth.

I hope you found a calming, bright peace on this Candlemas Day.  May our inner light glow out into the world to shine for all to see.

Many blessings,

Carrie

A Special Day: The Feast of St. Brigid

 

A hiatus at this time can throw me back on myself – to ask “Where is my new growth?”  On the other hand, I may be overwhelmed by a sudden hustle of seasonal development and wonder “Am I ready for this?”  I realise I am no longer carried by Nature as I was when a child; I have to find my own way back to life.  For the adult, transitions can be lonely times, and to find our way from the dead of winter to new life in the year ahead we may need to tap much deeper sources of hope and inner confidence.  In this, the sequence of the Festivals can be a support.” – page 26, “All Year Round” by Druitt, Fynes-Clinton, Rowling

Today kicks off two days of festival wonder!  Today is the Feast of St. Brigid, and tomorrow is Candlemas, one of my favorite holidays.  Today, February 1st, is seen as the first day of spring.  I know this seems very odd indeed when in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere people are dealing with ice and cold, but within the agricultural realm, this day  marks the days becoming a bit longer.  This is a traditional time to prepare for lambing, and usually spring sowing begins.

St. Brigid became revered as a Saint within the advent of Christianity in Ireland.  There are stories about Brigid as the daughter of  the innkeeper that gave the holy family shelter in the stable, that she helped Mary escape with an infant Jesus by distracting guards who searched on King Herod’s orders.  She is also associated with having a cloak of miracles.  In some stories, Brigid requested to have land given to her by the King of Leinster, and when the King said she could have whatever her cloak covered, she laid it down and the cloak covered a large parcel of land!

Here are some ways to celebrate:

  • Make St. Brigid Crosses as protection from evil, fire,  lightening, disease.  There are many instructions for this one the web. Here is what they look like if you are not familiar:  http://janegmeyer.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/fifth-century-weaving-a-saint-brigids-cross/
  • Leave out a cloak for St. Brigid to bless as she comes by that will give the wearer protection.
  • Leave out a bowl of milk, butter,  and salt, for Brigid to bless as she comes by.  Leave out a bowl of oats or blessed food.  If you leave out seeds, these will be blessed for Spring Sowing.
  • Food may include freshly churned butter and braided bread. (St. Brigid was known as a cowherd and also a beekeeper).  Making some sort of bread with honey may also be appropriate.  I love the idea of making a cultured butter and Irish Soda Bread today!
  • Snowdrops and dandelions, white and yellow, might be festive for your table with white or green candles and your St.  Brigid’s crosses.
  • There is a lovely prayer for this day:

    Saint Brigid Hearth Keeper Prayer
    Courtesy of SaintBrigids.org

    Brigid of the Mantle, encompass us,
    Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
    Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
    Beneath your mantle, gather us,
    And restore us to memory.
    Mothers of our mother, Foremothers strong.
    Guide our hands in yours,
    Remind us how to kindle the hearth.
    To keep it bright, to preserve the flame.
    Your hands upon ours, Our hands within yours,
    To kindle the light, Both day and night.
    The Mantle of Brigid about us,
    The Memory of Brigid within us,
    The Protection of Brigid keeping us
    From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.
    This day and night,
    From dawn till dark, From dark till dawn.

    Spring comes fast in the south where I live; I am feeling in the mood to change our nature table to some of the very simplest spring treasures of pussy willows, or budding branches.  This will turn into a simple Lenten table soon enough.

    Many blessings in your celebrations this week,

    Carrie

The Parenting Passageway First Grade Workshop

The Parenting Passageway will be in Decatur, Georgia on February 18th for an entire day devoted to first grade homeschooling with indications from Rudolf Steiner and from the traditions of the Waldorf Schools.  Our topics will include:

  • The Five Pointed Star of Planning First Grade -including notes on observation, temperment, wamth and love, inner work and more
  • The goals and progression of capabilities to meet those goals for blocks including Form Drawing, Math, and Language Arts
  • Practice in drawing with block and stick crayons
  • Numerous ideas for movement and the development of the 12 Senses
  • Planning the Seasonal Year, including verses,  festivals, seasonal crafts and nature crafts,  wet on wet watercolor painting
  • Modeling sequences for first grade
  • How to Balance the Week and multiple children
  • Work and Play for Daily Rhythm with multiple children

I would love to see YOU there.  Please contact jkernstine1@gmail.com in order to attend!

Many blessings and looking forward to this workshop!

Love,

Carrie

The Light In The Middle of the Homeschooling Year

Sometimes I am searching for  the light in the middle of the homeschool year. Did you ever feel that way?  There is a saying that every homeschooling family is ready to quit in February, so maybe this feeling that homeschooling is a hard juggle is just starting early. What usually  happens is that  by the end of the year I will be saying, “Oh well, it wasn’t really SO bad!”.  I told a friend that other day that maybe homeschooling is a little like childbirth, and we forget the painful parts, which is why we come back for the next year! Hahahaha!

So, at this time of year, at least for me, we just have to  press on.  I have to keep myself going because the end of the year is not that far away, and I realize particularly for our high schooler, we may have to extend a little past the date where we normally end even with pressing on.

So,  in order to conquer the midyear feels, I have been busy bringing in light into our homeschool in various forms.  I have done this with physical forms of  light in our home – candles and salt lamps; through crafts that make our space feel cheery.  I have done this with emotional things that give us light.  For example, this month we have focused on courtesy and kind speech and loyalty through a variety of stories and biographies and our Christian faith.  That feels nice. We try to get out to walk everyday for a very physical dose of light as well.   We have been at the horse farm and the children have been playing outside with our puppy.  I have streamlined errands as much as possible and made rest, exercise, rhythm, and cleanliness a priority.

For those of you Waldorf  homeschooling and wondering where we are these days, our first grader is on his second math block of the year. He is going over all four math processes, and starting to work on math facts involving the numbers 1-20, the multiplication tables, patterns and estimating and more.  Math is easy for him.  He is also working on all his letter sounds (for those of you not Waldorf homeschooling, we introduce academics in first grade, not kindergarten, for a variety of reasons), short vowels and consonant-vowel-consonant words and we are doing a lot of modeling in this block.

Our sixth grader has completed Astronomy, Mineralogy, European Geography, and we are finishing up Rome this week and moving into a math block next week.  She has daily practice in math, grammar, spelling, and is working on Latin a few times a week.  She is working a lot on black and white drawing also during this block.

Our oldest child is a ninth grader.  Biology is the one subject that has been consistently hard for her, and we switched tactics partway through the first semester so we are still catching up.  She has recently been studying and writing about, “The House of the Scorpion, ” and the poetry of Mary Oliver ( from Oak Meadow’s freshman year literature and composition suggestions), along with Biology, Spanish II, and Algebra I.  She has been creating her own business making horse-related products to sell.

So, it isn’t perfect, but it is moving!  Throw some of your light over here and tell me how your homeschooling is going!

Love,
Carrie

 

Vitality 3: Slow Sunday

Since my word of the year is “vitality,” every Sunday I hope to share something with you all that makes me feel vital, sparkly, happy, and alive from different aspects of my life.  It isn’t about having a perfect life. It is about growing in wholeness and authenticity and living in joy, no matter what crosses our paths.

My little seven year old woke up one Saturday with an urge to start seeds in a paper egg carton.  Still in his pajamas, I helped him plant cosmos, evening primrose, several kinds of four o-clock’s and evening stock.  He said he was happy to see things grow because he loves nature so much. When his seeds started sprouting, he declared that his new little plants were cute.  What is better than seeing new life sprout and grow?

I thought about how that is so much like how we are as human beings.  We can only be who we are:  imperfect.  We make mistakes and can only move forward.  We can do the best we can with the knowledge and experiences we have at this moment, and we may change our minds later with different knowledge and more experience.  We cannot please everyone, and nor should we.  I will never feel exactly the same way on every issue, every facet of parenting and every facet of  life that someone else will.  This is what makes us unique and our perspective valuable and is yet so often treated as an unfortunate or misguided thing.  And instead of seeing this as the possibility for growth, it becomes an area of polarization.

We live in a society that is becoming increasingly prone to difficulties in finding any common ground.  We live in a society where on Facebook or other social media we can pick apart any opinion,  event,  or happening and pare it down to the worst part about it, whether this worst part was true or imagined.  We live in a society where it is increasingly becoming safe to only be with others who think, parent, or live as we do.

Yet, studies show diversity makes us smarter.  This week, I hope to plants seeds of kindness and love by listening to others who are different than I am; people who have had different experiences and who hold different knowledge. I hope to get to know someone whom I don’t know very well, or to further learn about something I don’t know about.

May this week bring you seeds of love and kindness and may you plant some of your own.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The January Rhythm Round-Up

 

Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next with enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchhill

 

Some families get really upset when talking about rhythm or trying to make a rhythm for their family.  It is okay to start and tweak and start, and most families experiences successes and failures!   Rhythm can be a beautiful tool to use to obtain a harmonious and peaceful family.  Having all family members home does not have to be complete chaos, and life doesn’t need to feel so hurried and harried.  With rhythm, you can tame your household care, the nourishment of your family through warming meals, help gently guide your children, establish security and stability for all family members, and have enough time for sleep, rest, play, alone time, family time, and time outside the home.

Everyone’s rhythm will look a little bit different, but the main shared feature is that rhythm is just that – a rhythm where things flow and balance and not a tight schedule that is a noose around one’s neck where one always feels behind!

For those of you needing help to get started, try the back post Rhythm for the Irregular and the tips in this post!

Here are  just a few suggestions by area/age:

Taking care of the household:

For a rhythm with household chores, begin with the immediate.  Do the emergency clean up, and then find a system that works for you to systematically go through your rooms and de-clutter.  It is hard to clean when there is clutter everywhere!  Some people swear by FlyLady, some use Konmari.  Finding the system that works for you can really help!

Tackle daily tasks household tasks daily – sorting through junk mail and throwing it out; the daily toy pick up before lunch and dinner or before bedtime; the wiping down of counters – for every house it may look different dependent upon your tolerance, but figure out your daily tasks and do them.  I have found FLYLADY to be helpful with this over the years because it involves a short amount of time.

Involve your children.  Even toddlers can do meaningful work.

Don’t let your older children off the hook- if they want to go and do things, the house needs to be taken care of first.  We are training adults who will go off and have a house and perhaps a family of their own.  What habits do we want them to have in terms of household care? Here is an interesting article from NPR on how habits form and how to break bad habits.

For a rhythm with meals:

Try to focus on the fact that it isn’t just food you are serving.  I love this quote from Kim John Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting”:  “The family dinner is more than a meal.  Coming together, committing to a shared time and experience, exchanging conversation, food and attention…all of these add up to more than full bellies.  The nourishment is exponential.  Family stories, cultural markers, and information about how we live are passed around with the peas.  The process is more than the meal:  It is what comes before and after.  It is the reverence paid.  The process is also more important than the particulars.  Not only is it more forgiving, but also, like any rhythm, it gets better with practice.”

That being said, for the physical act of meals, try weekly menu planning and shopping.

Look for recipes for the crock pot or Insta Pot for busy days.

Let your older children cook dinner one night a week.

Rhythm with Little Ones, Under Age 9:

Rhythm begins in the home. In this day and age of so many structured classes for little people, be aware of who the outside the home activity is really for!  Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!     Remember, it is almost impossible to have a healthy rhythm if you and your children are gone all the time scurrying from one activity to another.  Children under age 9 deserve a slow childhood with time to dream and just be (without screens) and I would vote for no outside structured activities for these tiny ages.  Mark off days to be solely home with no running around!

Rest is still the mainstay of the rhythm – a first grader may be going to bed around seven, a second grader by seven thirty or so, and a third grader by seven forty-five.  This may sound very early for your family, but I would love for you to give it a try. If you need ideas about this, I recommend this book.

Here is a back post about garnering rhythm with littles

If you are searching for examples, here is one for children under the age of 7 over at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life from 2012.

Remember, though, I don’t think a rhythm is about throwing out who you are, who your family is,  what your family culture is in order to replace it with something that someone else does. Rather, rhythm with little people should build upon the successes in your own home.  Every family does something really well, so what is your thing that you do really well that you could build upon?

Rhythm with Ages 10-14: 

Rest!  Rest and sleep are very important components of rhythm.  Sixth graders who are twelve are generally sluggish, and teenagers have rhythms regarding sleep that begin to change.  This article from the New York Times details many of the changes for teenagers (seventh and eighth grade).  In order for these children to get enough sleep, and since the starting time of public school middle school may be later (but probably not late enough!), I highly suggest limiting late night activities.  Again, choose your activities outside the home carefully and with much thought.

Media is harder to keep at bay for most families.  Remember, media impacts rhythm and vice versa.  It is often a time filler, and can prevent middle schoolers from solving their own problems of what to do when they are “bored” (or just being bored; there is value in boredom as well!)  and tapping into their own creativity.  It can derail any kind of “doing” rhythm.  Hold strong standards about media!  Some ideas:  use a Circle to manage time and content across devices ;  strongly limit apps (because every app you add generally leads to more time on the device) and do not allow social media.  We introduced the  computer in eighth grade (which I know is not always feasible for public or private school students who are using technology as part of school from an early age)  as a tool for school work more than a plaything, and I think that attitude also made a large difference.  If you allow movies/TV shows, I recommend using Common Sense Media , but I also feel this needs to be strongly limited (and I would vote toward not at all or extremely limited for the sixth grader/twelve year old) since these middle school years are  ages where children feel heavy, awkward, clumsy, and don’t particularly want to move.  So, more than anything else, I think watch what you are modeling — are YOU moving and outside or are you sitting all day on a screen?  Modeling still is important!   If they are sitting all day at school and with homework, it is important that they move vigorously when they are home from school and on the weekends!  With both things that unstructured in nature and as far as structured movement.

Remember that your middle schooler is not a high schooler. The middle schooler does not think, move, or act like a high schooler. Please don’t force high school schedules onto your middle schooler.  There should be a difference between the middle schooler and high schooler.

Rhythm for Ages 14 and Up:

I still believe the more natural point of separation for teens is around age 16.  So to those of you with fourteen year olds and early fifteen year olds, please hold steady in rhythm, in holding family fun, in holding your yearly holidays, and in mealtimes.  These are really important to young teens, even if they don’t act like it!

For those of you with older teens, 16 and up, ( which I don’t have yet but have many friends who do) : honor this time.  Most teens this age are spreading their wings with activities, driving, jobs, relationships, getting ready for life past high school. Don’t rush it, but allow space and time.  Just like walking, they will be ready for things when they are ready.

Bedtimes is controversial topic for older teens on many high school homeschooling boards.  Only you can decide what is right for your family.  If you have younger children in the house, your teen just may never get to sleep super late.

Media is another topic of controversy that, as mentioned above, can really impact rhythm, and for the homeschooling family, how schoolwork gets done (or not). Some teens handle media really well, some need super strong limits.  There is no one way families handle media for their teens, even in Waldorf families.

Do make family dates, family nights, family vacations, and so forth.  The family still trumps whatever friends are about.

Consider the impact of outside activities upon a teen’s stress levels.  Choose wisely and carefully.  We can’t do it all, and neither can a teen.

Rhythm For Spread- Out Ages:

Some parents who have large families make the centerpiece of their rhythm the home,  and then  for an outside activity choose one activity the entire family can participate in at different levels, such as 4H or a scouting organization that is co-ed. Some choose one activity for boys and one for girls.

Parts of the rhythm can and should  be carried by older children and teens for the littles.

Lastly, I did a 7 part series on rhythm in  2012, so perhaps these back posts will be helpful:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Blessings,
Carrie