Deep Peace and Rest

Today is the very wonderful first day of winter! Welcome to the sun, and although this is the shorest day of the year, daylight will be lengthening from here onward.  I love winter, although it has not been exceptionally cold down here in the Deep South, nor has it snowed.  But I love and enjoy the idea of a seasonal rest; the inwardness and quiet. Animals hibernate, and as I watch the natural world I always feel that we are being nudged to rest and to find deep restorative peace.

We were not made to labor and toil every minute of the day.  We were not made to become just the person who diapers children, cleans, cooks, and cleans again.  We are so much more than that.

And to discover that, we need rest.  Not only do we need rest time each day, but we need weekends of rest and we need seasons of rest.  How do we get that, you might ask?

Any number of sources can offer to you a “how to” : make a rest/nap/quiet time after lunch; add more margins into your schedule and rhythm; cut back on outside the home activities;  figure out the essential priorities and values of your family and focus on those; go to bed earlier and sleep in a little…

I hear mothers everywhere groaning in their heads….the laundry…sports practice and art class and guitar lessons…food that needs to be cooked and dishes that need to be done...And meanwhile, we do it all with a cranky, irritable attitude because we are tired and there is never any “down time” until we flop into a chair at 9 o’clock at night.  And the day is over, and begins anew the next morning like a never-ending hamster wheel.

There are usually a few hills that parents would choose to die on in their parenting.  You know, the few things that really, really matter in this huge way.  And rest is one of those hills for me.  I cannot run and run and run.  I have to be home (some).  My house has to be reasonably clean and our meals cooked (which means I have to be home because I do those things).  And if I cook and clean and do laundry and do daily parenting things, plus homeschool on top of it, then I sure do need my rest. It is a priority.  So I plan my rest with quiet times, early bedtimes, and yes, seasonally.

So, this is the beautiful season of rest and of wonder as I go outside and listen and am still.  This is the beautiful season of rest as I look at this year and what I loved and what I didn’t and think about what ways, the ways that are within my control at least, that 2017 might be nourishing.

If you are running around and irritable and cranky, yes, it is the holidays, but the chances are that YOU need your season of rest!  Cancel some things.  No one ever died from saying “no” to that volunteer commitment or to that one more day of homeschooling for this year.  Nourish yourself with what you like to do; with rest; with love…you know, the way you treat everyone else.

I would love to hear what restful things you are implementing in your life and in your home.  Let’s rest together and enjoy this winter season. Together, let’s look for the sun.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

First Semester Ninth Grade Wrap-Up

It was a steep learning curve for my teaching this semester, my friends.  I have never taught ninth grade before, and I think what I mainly remembered from high school was twelfth grade.  And i kind of forgot how I got there, if that makes sense.  So, I want to share my mistakes with you so you don’t have to re-create the wheel when you get to ninth grade homeschooling. Now of course, this is how I think I should have changed things for this particular child in our family situation, and it may work out totally differently for you and your child!  So, I guess maybe these are just points to ponder.

In no particular order:

  1. I would recommend to decide what your track and block subjects will be if you are still continuing to homeschool with Waldorf Education as your base.  We are doing Algebra I as a track class with an outside teacher; High School Spanish II as a track class through Oak Meadow (enrolled); blocks on American History to add to last year’s blocks to make a credit for social studies;  Literature and Composition throughout in a combination of blocks and weekly readings and responses; Biology as a track class;  Art History and Foundations in Design and Drawing as both a block and weekly artistic projects. Our music credit we are getting through our church’s musical theory and performance program.  What I have found   is  that it is  very hard to earn enough hours to make a high school credit if you ONLY do things in one or two blocks,  unless you add up the blocks from multiple years.  And really, I think  there is a lot of material to cover so you need both weekly and block experiences
  2. Count your  hours of experiences as well.  I have used 4H experiences, experiences at our National Parks earning badges, and field trips all as part of experiential learning in each  subject area because I consider that to be a main feature of a Waldorf Education at this level – seeking truth from experts in the field; doing things instead of just reading about them.  Plan and count your experiences! Field trips!
  3. Biology may work out well for some children this year, but I would  put it in tenth grade if I had to do it over.  If you put it in ninth grade, be prepared to have both you and your student put a lot of time into it.    I would choose a physical science or environmental science if you must have a track science class in ninth grade.
  4. Pre-read all the works of literature you plan to cover.   I am sure this is where teaching the same grade multiple years in a row yields advantages!  This semester we covered The Last of the Mohicans, and in accordance with the Christopherus Comedy and Tragedy guide, we covered Electra by Sophocles, The Damask Drum (Japanese Noh Drama), Twelfth Night, Six Characters In Search of An Author, and Raisin in the Sun.  The Last of the Mohicans fit in great with American History, but it was a really difficult go and probably would have been better in eleventh or twelfth grade.  Neither of us enjoyed Six Characters in Search of An Author, and had I pre-read it I probably would have picked a different work to showcase an example of modern theater.  Some books have themes that your child may or may not be ready for in these works, so that is another reason to  pre-read.  Next semester we are using some works  from Oak Meadow’s Literature and Composition I course along with The  Old Man and the Sea.  I will let you know how it goes!  Literary analysis is exceedingly hard for most ninth graders, and so you must have a clear progression in your mind as the teacher as to how you are going to develop this and work toward this.
  5. Keep your rhythm and the artistic and  academic deepening work going in that same two or three day rhythm you used througout the grades. I have found that this worked really well, and kept us grounded.  I hope to share some pictures of our work at some point in the future.
  6. Don’t forget to hike, celebrate the seasons and festivals, get outside, pursue interests.  The whole point is to be well-rounded.
  7. Handwork, music, dance and movement, gardening, cooking  – don’t give up. Find spots for it, both in the main lesson and the track classes, but also separately.

Share with me your high school homeschooling experiences!  I can’t wait to learn from you!

Blessings,

Carrie

Love: The Fourth Week of Advent

It is so wonderful that we get an entire week for the fourth week of Advent this year!  There are so many wonderful traditions to do this week, including a celebration of Winter Solstice on December 21.

The Advent Verse from the London Steiner School says:

The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.

(Again, Advent Verse – London Steiner School)

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This, to me,  illuminates the true meaning of Christmastide to come.  We come to this Earth with gifts, with hopes, thoughts and the ability to do good deeds for all of humankind and for the least among us.  It is our personal responsibility to see the justice and dignity of all people. It is our gift to help and encourage mankind and to provide the goodness and beauty we wish to see in this world.  We are here to love and serve others.

So, this week is all about the light and love we can bring to the world.  If you are looking for ideas, I suggest these back posts:

2012 (story suggestions and more)

2015

Celebrating the Winter Solstice from 2015

My ideas for the week of Advent with its focus on mankind and kind deeds include

Creating/placing people on the Nativity Scene (some place the shepherds out this week if St. Mary and St. Joseph are already out)

Baking gingerbread people

Doing beautiful acts of kindness for those who need it most.

Thanking the workers of your community – postal people, fire people, police, garbage collectors, teachers, mentors, instructors, and more!

For celebrating Solstice, the first day of winter, I love winter walks, dinners by candlight, sun bread, sun tea, making little treats for the birds and decorating an outdoor tree.

How about walking a beautiful Advent Spiral?  You can see this post from 2014 as to how to prepare a beautiful Spiral for your own family or community.

Keep shining in the darkness,

Carrie

 

 

Planning Ahead: The Twelve Days of Christmas

This is one of those posts to nudge you to think ahead a bit – Christmas is coming, but that day is solely the FIRST day of twelve days of Christmas!  In my religious tradition, we actually call it “Christmastide.” The waiting of Advent is over and the celebration of food and Christmas carols is just beginning on Christmas Day!  It is a happy, festive time ending with Twelfth Night (January 5th) and Epiphany, or Three Kings Day on January 6th.

This is such a lovely time of year.  Some families  give and receive gifts and visitors throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, making it a time of warmth and connection.  Others celebrate the Feast Days of the Christian Church. Some focus on having the Three Wise Men make their way throughout the home to the Holy Family in time of the celebration of Epiphany.  Some plan on wonderful experiences as a family to create memories that last the whole day through. (And I love the idea of experiences, and will be creating some of that during this year’s Christmastide celebration!)

In the spirit of the Waldorf School, the joyous  Twelve Days of Christmas have an inner, reflective state known as the Twelve Holy Nights.  Lynn Jericho writes about the meaning of these nights on The Wonder of Childhood.  Here is another article by Fairy Dust Teaching.   I will be honest and say I do not connect with the the esoteric astrology of the Twelve Nights.  At this point, I find value in the Anglican traditions surrounding Christmastide, but the inner reflective state does deeply resonate with me.  This is one of my most favorite times of the years due to that quiet strength of connection to the spiritual world.  It is enlivening and invigorating to really sink into inner work, praying, and  planning my passions and ideas in a fresh way for a new year.

This year, I am planning on focusing on twelve different aspects of how I wish to see change in me, my family, and the world.  I don’t have all of the details ironed out yet, but am brainstorming.  In my head, I have tied each day to a quality I associate with each of the twelve months.  I believe the first day I will focus on Warmth – what the potential for connection to take place in warmth and love and openness, and how I can make my physical home and my emotional state warm to myself and others.  The second day I am considering Love – the unselfish and compassionate love of putting someone else higher than oneself – and how this fits into my family life and my work in the world.  And so forth.

I am also interested in really meditating and praying for our children, and to see what areas that we would love to help guide and develop in them so they can go out into the world and share their gifts with all of humanity in a way that is helpful, generous, and encouraging for mankind.

If you are interested in this, you may appreciate some of these back posts.

2008 (plans for the Twelve Days of Christmas)

2009

2011

More 2011 (Day by day through the Christian Feast Days of Christmastide)

2012 (a day by day list for biography work)

2013 (Celebrating Christmastide)

I hope everyone is having an Advent of wonder and anticipation.  I would love to hear what you are doing and what is wonderful.  It can be an overwhelming time of year for some, a grumpy and too fussy of a time for others, and sometimes just hearing the small positive things about this season can be a light.  Please consider sharing and uplifting other readers.

Blessings and light,
Carrie

 

 

The Third Week of Advent: Faith

This is a beautiful week in Advent, and one of my favorites.  This is the Advent Verse from the London Steiner School for this week:

The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

I have always loved this imagery.  Faith may be associated with a strong belief in God or a religious doctrine.  There is no proof; it is just the believer.  Faith is also defined as unwavering trust and confidence in something.  The Children’s Ministry Director at my parish would often use the phrase in conversation that she would “trust” that this little part of Sunday School would go well when we were planning lessons.  She would “trust” that the child would find what needed to be revealed to them in the seasons of the Church, and in all due time.  Her lessons were watching the moon in the fall, planting bulbs in the spring, noticing the beauty all around us.  Trust in the process of life, and in the people we know and love, is all around us if we can let go of the “should’s”.

Such a small word; trust.  I have started working with a Passion Planner.  Do you all know what that is?  There are several different versions out on the market.  I have been thinking ahead about Christmastide and the Twelve Holy Nights.  What I want to do is pick twelve different areas I would like to bring my thoughts, attention, connection to and then to “trust” that I can do the work in these areas and let it go and see what beautiful things happen.  2017 should be beautiful!

So, back to trust in Advent. The animals are all preparing and waiting.  What beautiful imagery to share with children!  I have some ideas in this Advent post from 2012.  Many of my ideas focus on the birds, the mice, creating treats for our pets, and getting outside in nature.  Thinking about the migration cycles of birds in your area can be another way to tie in the faith and joy of this week as our feathered friends travel thousands of miles. There are book and activity suggestions for this week in this post from 2015.

One thing that is coming up this week (on December 13th)  is the beautiful day of Santa Lucia. Here are back posts from:

2015

2013 (link to story)

2011 (a sweet and gentle story)

2010 (lots of links)

2009 (a song)

2009

2009 (handwork)

 

Lastly, I would like to make a plea. This week can become very busy, especially for those of us with older children who are involved in things. Please plan some hiking, some ice skating, (or if you are in the Southen Hemisphere, are you all swimming?)  Plan some game nights for older children and teens.  Enjoy slowing down and being together!  Our two oldest children have been very busy with music right now – it is that time of year, but the actual downtime is so important!  Please share your plans, ideas, and celebrations for this week.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Some Favorite Holiday Gifts!

Today, our focus is on the act of giving gifts for our family members, although I want to say right away  that my favorite gift  is a gift that “gives” to our children but the physical results may go to someone else. Please consider volunteering, buying  gifts for, or helping in any way someone or an organization who needs help around the holidays.  This might be the most important part of the holidays, and I think is vital for teenagers who should be moving into a stage of love for all of humanity and a sense of responsibility to help others.  Many teenagers I know have their basic needs met and some of their “wants” too, (and don’t really need more “stuff”) but instead need to start to penetrate the meaning of generosity, giving, and love for humanity.

That said, we are talking about gift-giving today, and I would love to hear everyone’s favorite holidays gifts for different ages, and also to hear what YOU want for a holiday gift.  There can be many traditions around gift-giving depending upon religious and cultural backgrounds.  I have readers from all over the world and it is always fun to hear about gift-giving traditions in different countries!   Many of the  households here in the States involved in Waldorf Education exchange simple gifts, some spread gifts out throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, some spread out gifts all the way from St. Nicholas Day to Candlemas!

Here is a run-down on just a few of my favorite gifts:

For Dads and  Moms:  coupons for massages,  folks who knit might like special yarn or plant-dyed felt or yarn bowls, woodworking supplies, art supplies, gardening supplies, books on any special topic of interest, equipment for exercising/hiking/skiing/kayaking, an overnight getaway with spouse/friends if the children are old enough! Please chime in with some fantastic ideas for fathers especially!

For Waldorf Homeschooling Parents especially:  Any of the wonderful Waldorf homeschooling books that are difficult to afford during the school year, art supplies.  Gift certificates for “time to plan” LOL

For tiny children under the age of 7:  open-ended toys, play silks, clips, a special doll, outdoor toys for older children in this age range such as a balance bike or a rocker.  For more suggestions further broken down by age,  see this post on holiday gifts for children and keeping things reasonable! or the popular post  Toys, Toys, Toys where things are really broken down by age for this Early Years group.

For children ages 7-10:  I love games.  My new favorites are Ocean Labyrinth and Shadows in the Forest.  Other ideas include craft kits, knitting supplies, crocheting supplies, embroidery, good art supplies, beeswax, candle making and decorating kits, toys for outside play – slack lines, bikes, a trampoline (!!).  Dollhouses, castles, little wooden figures.

For children ages 10-14:  Games, books, art supplies as mentioned for ages 7-10, outside play toys such as stilts or a unicycle or more advanced bike, musical instruments, experiences outside the home with memberships to places of interest, coupons for dates out with a parent alone.   Many children in this age bracket also are in the height of Lego play so whilst that is plastic, I think it is realistic that many children would like that!

For children ages 14 and up:  I still like games, books, and art supplies; tickets to concerts or the opera or ballet; coupons for dates with a parent alone; experiences or memberships to local museums, nature centers or other places of interest; some teens are interested in more musical instruments; puzzles;  gift certificates for a class they want to take or for supplies to support their favorite hobbies.

Can’t wait to hear all of your ideas!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Magic of the Feast of St. Nicholas

In the book, “Gazing Into The Eyes of the Future :  The Enactment of Saint Nicholas In The Waldorf School,” by David Tresemer,  it is written: “Augustine, another saint, said, “Our whole business in this life to restore the health of the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.”  The St. Nicholas that visits the classrooms in a Waldorf School is searching and seeking soul to soul with the child in front of them in an intimacy of the heart, and in a  special moment to communicate to the child a thank you for being here in this time and space and for being part of the healing of a broken world in the future. What gifts, talents, and dreams do these children bring?  We have gratitude for this with the children in front of us.

As we lay out the traditional gifts of St. Nicholas (citrus, dates and golden walnuts are mentioned particularly for the older children and high schoolers), let us ponder the beautiful continuinty of the seasons through many , many years of doing this for our children.  May the light embodied in this festival shine into our children and for their place in the world.

Younger students, those under fifth grade, can hear stories of St. Nicholas’ great courage and generosity.  Older students, oddly enough, in a Waldorf School, may hear something about Rupert. Rupert is seen in Waldorf Schools as have fallen mightly and yet can still be touched and transformed by the light of St. Nicholas.  He may be mischevious when he visits the schools, but St. Nicholas often says, “He is trying to be good.”  Together, St. Nicholas and Rupert reflect the duality of the human being in so many ways, and the compassion we must show one another in the struggle.  What a valuable lesson for all older children, especially those in high school. This is often an aspect  I find often not considered by homeschooling families.  There is a story about Nicholas and Rupert in the back of book mentioned above that could be shared with older children.

Other wonderful traditions for this day could include dipping candles, creating a gingerbread house, or making gingerbread.  Crafting rosettes, frost paintings, or even paper snowflakes could be fun activities for the day as well.  I always remember the line in the book, “All Year Round, ” that states that adults often experience struggle or depression during Advent. How much more edifying and nourishing it is to keep these traditions of joy year after year!

Many blessings,

Carrie