The Milestone Every Child Needs to Reach

II really loved this article entitled, “The Milestones That Matter Most”.  One of the things this article brought up was the cultural biases we have that play into our parenting.  I have long been fascinated with this subject; when my older children were tiny I read and re-read Meredith Small’s “Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent”.

What is interesting to me is that, of course, different things are valued in different cultures.  Our one milestone that we might feel every child needs to reach may not be the same in another culture.  One of the ways we may combat bias in parenting is to consciously examine our own biases in regard to development and culture.  Do we, for example, assume that babies have to sleep through the night by themselves?  Do we assume that babies should be able to “self-soothe”?  Do we assume that toddlers will have a “terrible two’s” period?  Do we think children have to go to school to be “educated”?  Do we assume that children  will be “defiant”?  Do we think that children should have a lot of responsibility for themselves or no responsibility?  Do we assume that children should be able to self-regulate by a certain age?  Do we assume teenagers will battle against their parents and be rebellious?

Some of these questions have an inferred bias that we must examine consciously and continually as we go through our own life changes.  Some of the biases we enter into in parenting may change over time as we are in the ttrenches of dealing with our own children and watching other parents.   Human development, growth , and change is never done for the parent or the child.  It is part of being human, especially if we are trying to live in a conscious manner and we take responsibility  for our own throughts and actions.

IOne thing that can really assist us as parents is to have a family mission statement.  In our family, we have had  the same family mission statement – KIPPA  (Kindness, Integrity, Patience, Positive Attitude, Adventure) – for several years now.  Acronyms can make things easier to remember.  The process of creating a family mission statement can help us see where our biases are, what our values are, and what we think will be a course that will sustain us through parenthood and our children into a connected, happy adulthood. Have a personal mission statement in connection with your parenting and what you want to model in life is also a great conscious step.

Things I find that can carry  through many years of parenting includes connection, rresolving conflict,  setting boundaries in a healthful way , and  taking responsibility for one’s actions.  Kindness is always a modeled value.  So perhaps the milestone your child most needs to reach isn’t learning to read, or learning any other academic skill, but instead the milestones of being able to offer and accept love from other human beings, being able to assimilate into a humanity and offer goodness and kindness.  Perhaps those are the best milestones a human being can reach.

Please share with me your family mission statement, or the values you have found that have carried you through many years of parenting that you try to model for your own children.











The First Week of First Grade

Our little first grader came dressed for  the first day of first grade as a gnome, complete with hat, beard and pointy shoe covers and announced that I would be teaching “Pebbles the Gnome” every day this year. Those of you that have read “A Donsy of Gnomes” probably can understand this little gnome character! (Pebbles is his favorite!)   At any rate, we had a fun first week of school.

We always start with movement, so our first day was jumping rope and other movement from Brain Gym and Extra Lesson work, our first grade verses,  our seasonal circle, our  math games (oh yes!  I start right away!),  and then a few words about school in general.  So,  in addition to the “normal” things that I think are often ingrained in us from Steiner’s lectures to do on the first day of school  (talking about what we do with our hands, painting with blue and yellow and yellow and green – see Steiner’s lecture four  in “Practical Advice to Teachers” if you are looking for more information), I also made several other points to suit the dynamics of our family.  This included a good, new look around the school room in which our little guy has hung out since he was born – what is on the Nature Table?  Where are all the supplies kept?  Where is the rhythm of the day?  How do we know if it is a Feast or Fast Day?   Let’s look at this space  with new eyes since now you are in first grade!

We also talked quite a bit about coming to school and how school is for those eager to learn, and how we learn how to do things that make us like our mommies and daddies and our older siblings and how eventually we can use those things to help other people.  Even at this early age, our first grader completely understands that his father’s work is to help other people and the work outside the home and inside the home  was to help other people.  So that made sense to him.

We talked about the rules of our school time.  Normally I wouldn’t be so direct with a first grader, because perhaps we think of first grade in the home being modeled and held by rhythm and a presence of loving  authority, but I decided with much older siblings in the mix (middle school and high school), our first grader has a different perspective and really wanted and needed to hear the expectations of school in direct but kind and firm words.

After that, we went into the great secret that all inventors, artists, scientists know – that everything in the world is made of the line and the curve.  We had a delightful Irish tale about Lusmore of Knockgrafton on the first day and then the next few days we worked with a story I created that held archetypal images with more lines and curves in various configurations.  We did an intense amount of movement and math in rhythmic verses, counting, and games along with three beautiful paintings and  keeping up with the rhythm of our home in cooking, cleaning, baking, and handwork.  Next week will include more modeling and painting and form drawing.

Overall, it was a very fun week for both of us that I know he carried inside of him.  One night as he was falling asleep, he said to me, “You know, roads are  straight lines and cul-de-sacs are curves. Some roads are curvy too.”  A fitting image to drift off to sleep, wondering about all the beautiful secrets in the world outside his door.



Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood Chapter Three

We are working our way through Martin Large’s “Set Free Childhood”, published by Hawthorn Press.  We are in Chapter 3, “The Secrets of Childhood Development.”

The author writes, “Parents can benefit from access to practical knowledge about what helps healthy child growth and development, so as both to back up their own good sense, and also to cope with the relentlessly increasing pressures in modern culture.  Such pressures include the withering-away of the extended family – with relatives and grandparents typically no longer living nearby. Gone, then, are our traditional support networks; and a smaller family means that you no longer learn childcare at your parents’ or neighbours’ knees.” (page 34)

Support is so important in raising small children; and so is slowing down. One of the main tenets of this chapter is that children are suffering from stress because they are being hurried, rushed and feel overwhelmed and busy.  The work of psychologist David Elkind noticed this tendency of hurried children and has written extensively about this; where children are forced to take on adult schedules and treated as miniature adults.  In order to combat this, the author takes us on a tour of healthy child development by age.

Children need time and space to grow.  Childhood goes through phases.  The baby is noted to be completely open to noise, bright lights, rough movement, rough handling.  The baby is a giant sense organ and totally dependent upon the care of the parents and the home environment provided.  As time goes on, an infant learns to filter sensory impressions, progresses from horizontal movement to vertical movement.  Infants do not need television or screens to develop.  What they need is to move, to be held and cuddled, and to have a parent who delights in them and plays with them.

A toddler learns through incredible powers of imitation.  They are intrepid explorers experiencing the world through all of their senses. The first three years of life sees a child learning to walk, to speak, and to think.  Language emerges through contact with real speaking human beings – not those in a screen.

There is some great information about up through age 11 or so, and then a little section about screens and the temperaments.  I think the temperament section I will save for the next post in this series.


Development of the Tenth Grader

Today is a quick sneak peek at the development of students in tenth grade. In Waldorf Education, this corresponds to an age close to sixteen.  If you are searching for ninth grade, close to age fifteen, try this back post.. If you are searching for age fourteen, which is typically closer to grade eight in Waldorf Education, try here..

Tenth Grade (closer to age 16):

  • Usually there is  reduction in mood swings, irritability, greater ability to manage anger.
  • Can be the year of the “Sophomore Slump” – many students feel “graduated” from childhood and are weighed down by the beginnings of adulthood but many sixteen year olds can’t look much further than today.  They are much more interested in the here and now than the future.  This year can also be a cocky year for many students where they become overconfident in their abilities.
  • A teenager of this age is often asking  “how”?  How do I bridge between myself and the world?  The process interests them.  How did the world come into being? How is “X” true?  How does this work?
  • There is a growing independence, especially often with branching out into driving a car or holding a part-time or seasonal job.
  • Teenagers  are more conscious of their clothing, their gestures, their behavior.
  • They no longer feel connected to their classmates, their teachers, their parents and feel vulnerable, lonely, not sure how to stand on their own. This is typically a hard year at school. They may completely change sets of friends as they struggle to find out who they are and may separate from their usual peer group.  For some students, this leaves them vulnerable to peer pressure and the behavior of the teenager can be very different this year than in previous years. This can be an age of super strong attachment to friends, especially different friends than in the past,  or to a love relationship. It can be an age of intense peer pressure and manipulation and of heartache in relationships.
  • They may completely change extracurricular activities
  • For those of you who follow Waldorf Education, there is a correlation between the nine-year change and this sixteen-year change. If you think back to how your child handled the nine year change, there may be a correlation as to how they handle this period in their life.
  • The maturation of the physical body has often slowed down by this point, the emotional chaos has also slowed down, but the teenager comes face to face with the idea of mortality. They may discover they have physical limits as far as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, being a perfectionist, carrying too many activities. Sometimes teenagers end up sick during this period because they are doing way too much, and being sick actually affords them time to step back and come up with priorities and choices that reflect these priorities.
  • There may be spiritual questions, philosophical questions but other teens may be more into having a thrilling physical life. Sometimes this can lead to poor choices and dangerous situations, including use of alcohol and drugs, teen pregnancy and other situations.  If they can experience their own mortality, their own spiritual separation and resolve it in a healthy way, they can participate in the world and find the answers to their spiritual questions in ways that are satisfying.
  • Around 16, the brain is usually fully capable of thinking in abstractions, in generalizations and can compare, contrast, analyze and synthesize information. They may still want to debate on things before they have all the material digested, and often come off as arrogant to adults.  They love finding flaws in adult reasoning, but at the same time, adults are blamed less and less and instead it becomes more important to  the adolescent how he or she takes responsibility for things.
  • The challenge to find a new way of relating to life during this time period can lead to crisis in many arenas – eating disorders, sexual relationships, alcohol, drugs and tobacco, etc but most important is that the child knows they will never, ever be abandoned, and that with freedom comes responsibility.  House rules and boundaries are still important – school and work are integral parts of life.
  • After this phase, one sees a time of distinct ACTION. The action can come from what was gained and learned in the earlier years, and the years of 17 or so to 21 can be most fruitful.
  • This is a great article from the Wall Street Journal that talks about supporting development from ages 13/14 through age 17.





Finding Rhythm With Grades-Aged Children

I think rhythm with grades-aged children (which I consider children in grades 1-8, so ages seven to thirteen or fourteen) can become trickier.  As children grow, chances are that you are not only juggling one grades-aged child but perhaps children that are older (teenagers) or younger (the littles, as I affectionately call them) with children that are in these grades.  There can also be an increased pressure to sign up for activities or increased pressure at school  as a child advances toward high school.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 1-3:

  • Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!  I wrote a post about choosing time outside the home wisely in which I detail how many activities I really think a child in public or private school, versus homeschooling children need.   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!
  •  Being outside in nature in an unstructured way is so very important, along with limiting media.  I suggest no media for these ages.  There are many other healthier ways for children to be spending their time that promote great physiological and psychological health rather than being a passive recipient. First through third graders need an inordinate amount of time to be outside, to swim and play in the woods or sand, to ride bikes, to climb trees, and just be in nature.
  • For those of you who want to homeschool through many grades, I do suggest getting involved in a homeschooling group or finding a group of homeschool friends for your child.  This usually becomes a much larger issue around the latter part of  age 10, post nine-year change for many children (especially melancholic children and typically girls over boys around the fifth grade year) and for those who are more extroverted.  However, one activity is plenty for third graders in anticipation of this “coming change” as a ten year old. 
  • 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.
  • In short, I do not think the rhythm established in the Early Years should be changing too much in this time period.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 4 and 5:

  • Rhythm begins in the home.  What are you doing in the home? I find sometimes fourth and fifth graders are anxious to go, go, go because there is not much happening in the home.  No rhythm is being held, preparing for the festivals has fallen by the wayside, and they now see being involved in things such as preparing meals and such as work instead of just part of a rhythm of breathing in and out.  This takes time to develop again by being home. Be home!
  • All the things in the first through third grade section above applies. Rest is still very important and fourth and fifth graders may need help in this area – both in resting and in having a reasonable bedtime.  Children this age should be getting 10-11 hours of sleep a night, plus time to rest! Most children this age are still going to bed around 8 or 8:30.
  • I do not believe fourth and fifth graders really need structured outside the home activities, especially for children attending public or private school. I have seen some fifth graders who really relished one special activity.   Many homeschoolers will find their fifth graders really wanting a homeschool community and friends at this point, so I think that might need to be honored.
  • Media!  I have written many posts about media.  Fourth and fifth graders do not need media or their own phones or their own tablets.  Think carefully about this.  There are other ways they should be spending their time that are much more important to development.  The reason media is important in the context of rhythm is that it generally is used as a time-filler – so if the pull to media is strong, that typically means the rhythm is not strong or that the child needs help in finding something to do – handwork, woodworking, and other activities can help that need to create and do.
  • Being outside in nature and developing the physical  body is still of utmost importance. Setting up good habits for physical activity is important in this stage because most children feel very heavy and clumsy when they are in the sixth grade and changing around age twelve.  Having great habits in this period of grades four and five can really  help with that.  
  • This is a great age for games in the neighborhood – kickball, foursquare, etc. – and general physical activity of running, biking, swimming.  Free play is probably one of the most important things fourth and fifth graders can do!
  • Keep your yearly rhythms strong.  This may be easier with younger children in the household, but never lose sight of the fact that a fourth or fifth grader is in the heart of childhood themselves and therefore should certainly not be treated like a middle schooler.  This time is very short, and needs to be treated as the golden period that it truly is!  Keeping the festivals, the times of berry picking and apple picking and such, is the thing that children will remember when they are grown up.  If everything is just a blur of practices and lessons and structure, there is no space and time to make those kinds of family or community memories.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • 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.
  • This is a prime time to nurture life skills and responsibility around the home. If you are running everywhere, this time of learning, which is really the most important thing when children grow up and have to live on their own, cannot happen.   Life skills and home responsibility deserves a place in daily and weekly rhythm.
  • 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..
  • This is a great age to pick up sports if that hasn’t already happened, although many children will say they feel they should have started much earlier. Again, this is such a symptom of our times that everything earlier is better, which I often find is not actually the case.  There is a big discussion right now about sports burn-out for middle schoolers who have started in elementary school.    If you want to see more of my thoughts about sports, take a look at this post that details the last pediatric sports medicine conference I attended.
  • I find the artistic component often needs to be increased in these years to really counteract some of the headiness of school subjects and media exposure.  It is a healing balm for middle schoolers, even if they complain they are not good at drawing or painting or such.  Keep trying, and do it with them or as a family.  Keep art and woodworking activities out, provide craft ideas and help them harness some of that creative power!  That can be a part of the weekly rhythm for your middle schooler.
  • 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.

Last tips for rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • Where is the family fun?  You should be having tremendous family fun together.  Family is where it is at!  Family is more important than peers – you can look back to the book, “Hold On To Your Kids” by Neufeld and Mate if you need further confirmation.  Family fun can be part of all levels of rhythm – daily, weekly, and yearly! It is an attitude and an action!
  • Where is your rest, and your inner spiritual work?  I think you need this, especially as you enter the middle school years. Children can have a lot of emotion during this time period, and you have to be the steady rock.  If you need a reminder about boundaries and parenting, try this back post.
  • How is your home coming along?  By now, with children in these upper grades, there should be pretty steady rhythms and routines regarding the home and the work that it takes to maintain a home.
  • How is your relationship with your partner or spouse?  This is the time to really start thinking about date nights if your relationship thrives and deepens on that.


These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: August

August is here! For some parts of the United States, August is like the deep, long, and slow Sunday of the summer.  For some parts, like the Southeastern United States, public schools are already in session and summer is sort of over (although we still have hot, sweltering weekend days to celebrate!).

August is one of my favorite months.  It makes me think of shooting stars, starry nights and campfires, lake days, sunflowers, lavender, and bees and honey.  We have an abundance of dragonflies right now and all kinds of wildlife – especially the baby deer are out.

This month we are celebrating:

  • August 6th – The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Grow Christians has a blog post about this Feast; this Episcopalian blog is one I follow daily and I find it has many good posts about tackling the Five Marks of Mission of the Episcopalian Church within the home and celebrating Feast Days)
  • August 9th- The Feast Day of St. Herman of Alaska (this is one of my son’s favorite saints) (we love this book about St. Herman)
  • August 15th – The Dormition of St. Mary the Virgin
  • August 31st – The Feast Day of St. Aidan – you could tell the story of St. Aidan and his horse

Fun for the whole family:

  • If school hasn’t started, the last of beach holidays!
  • Physical fun – taking walks and hikes together; sometimes August is a great month for waterfall hikes
  • Watching the meteor shows peaking on August 11 in the lower 48 states
  • Sunflower crafts
  • Making lavender crafts and this has many craft links for lavender if you scroll down


I just came back last night from giving the first “Parenting Passageway” workshop ever…so I am contemplating more workshops, topics, and what that would look like.  Thank you to my first group of participants yesterday in North Carolina!

Please share with me your August plans!




Finding Rhythm With Littles

I think this is the time of year where many mothers of tiny children are re-thinking rhythm.  Rhythm is that elusive thing, that when done in a healthful way, feels nourishing and peaceful and helpful.  It should never feel like a tight noose around your neck that you cannot live up to nor get free of.  But sometimes, finding rhythm, especially with littles, is so challenging.

So, for those of you with small children out there (and by small I essentially mean the Early Years of up to age 7, with points for consideration for those ages 7-12)….

  • It is a great day if all the children have been fed, been diapered or gone to the bathroom and dealth with basic hygiene, played outside, rested or napped, and were loved with kind words, kind hands and a kind heart through the fatigue and exhaustion that often accompanies mothers dealing with small children 24/7.  All the rest, I really believe, is icing on the cake!
  • I always ask mothers who are baffled by the concept of rhythm and who are certain they don’t have any in their home to start with keeping a log of two to four days of what they are doing during each day. Usually a pattern begins to emerge around sleep and eating.  That is a great basic place to build upon!
  • There is no perfection.  I find mothers who want everything to be perfect often drive themselves to complete burn-out.  Please don’t!  People before things, as always.  With small children afoot, you may  not get a lot done, and that is okay.
  • Find your order.   The best thing to show children outside of laughter and having fun and playing is that work can be fun!  This means thinking about what piece of the things you do can be done by hand instead of by pushing a button, and then to think which of those “hand pieces” could little hands do?  That is part of rhythm, and part of purpose.  Littles weave in and out, littles make a mess behind you or in another place you are not – that is part of it.  However, there are parts they can assist with and become proficient as well.  Even toddlers!
  • Where is your rest?  I find mothers of littles are typically so exhausted.  Physical rest before other things.
  •   I think at this stage of life, your spiritual work is in your hands.  Make the work of your hands your prayer; say a prayer that instead of perfection  you are showing love and kindness.
  • Set up help and support.  Every mother needs help and support – from her spouse, from her extended family, from her friends.  Plan B, C, D, and E are really important since Plan A rarely works out in parenting!
  • Less is more. In my area, suburbs of a major metropolitan area, the amount of outside activities many 3-7 year olds are engaged in absolutely stymies me!  Three to seven year old are always far better served being at home and with small things – walks in the neighborhood, feeding the birds, care of the home and the family pet. It doesn’t need to be much more!
  • What makes you smile  and laugh?  Find that and do more of that!

Lots of love in the striving,