Fourth Grade Grammar

The best way to learn grammer is to hear proper grammar being spoken, to write (and revise and write again) nwith good grammar, and to read good works of literature. If you have a reluctant writer, I  think you can let the study of grammar ride for a little bit in the homeschooling environment and just perhaps try to write without pressure.  However, for some children, the study of grammar can be helpful in reaching new heights in writing. For other children, many  write well without much in the way of formal grammar.  We do, however, want  enthusiasm for writing for the future because there is quite a bit of it in middle school and certainly high school.

This is my third time through fourth grade, and this particular student has been a very reluctant writer, so this block is a good exposure towards writing more and the mechanics of writing.  My tack in this block was to do a preassessment – Dorothy Harrer has a little list of third grade free writing assignments in her  little book An English Manual for the Elementary School available for free at Online Waldorf Library. In this way, I could look at his overall writing – his flow of thoughts, how he writes, the quality of the sentence structure, capitalization, spelling, grammar – just within free writing.

We went through the second and third grade lessons from the above book rather quickly, focusing on the different parts of speech first with different colors in sentences on the board, and naming them BOTH with the “little person” version (naming words) and the “bigger people version” (nouns).  I pulled poems out of  books by Caribbean poets and reinforced with examples from those poems.  Then we moved into the fourth grade lessons and are moving through types of sentences, parts of speech, adverbs, prepostions, tenses, adjectives, linking and helping verbs.  For some children, understanding grammar helps them understand how to write.  Our fourth grader is very much like that.

I anticipate this block to take about six weeks or so.  For the first three weeks, I will take things relatively slow and have free writing, correcting writing I put on the board, looking for parts of speech in poems and such plus some of the specific things I listed above and free write something once or twice a week.  For the last three weeks, we will delve into writing three smaller pieces a week, using our work to tie stories, paintings, and writings with the stories from the book , Myths of the Sacred Tree, which I think is a wonderful bridge between fourth and fifth grade.  Excited as we head towards fifth grade!

Would love to hear what you are up to!

Blessings,
Carrie

Word of the Year

I so hope you are enjoying your holiday season.  I posted a Christmas message on FB and IG, so you can check for a beautiful prayer from A Black Rock Prayer Book. I love these Holy Nights of Christmastide and delving deep into inner work each day.

One thing I think about is taking stock of the past year and looking ahead to the New Year.  Like most people, I am not very good at keeping resolutions.  So I normally choose a word of the year to help keep me focused and centered on my priority. I first heard of this practice from Sheila over at Sure As The World, which is an incredible blog to read and follow. So many treasures over there!

This year, my word is RADIANT.  Each year I have done artistic representations of my word with sort of corresponding focus areas represented. One year I did concentric circles with the word of the year in the middle.  I have done trees with the word as the root and some of the focal areas as branches and I have done vision boards. This year, I am not sure what my artistic rendering will be, but I know my focal areas will be around:

Radiant Work

Radiant Family Life and Homeschooling

Radiant Health

Radiant Kids

I will be dreaming and drawing and painting throughout Christmastide to see what comes to me in these areas for 2020.  I would love to hear your word of the year if that is your practice!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Waldorf Homeschooling: Early Foundations and Raising Functional Adults

We definitely don’t want or need to run our homeschooling experiences like a brick and mortar school, and if we are Waldorf homeschoolers we cannot recreate a Waldorf School experience that takes a main lesson teacher and a host of speciality teachers in our home.  Nor should we!

However,  I think good habits does lay a good foundation for the future in homeschooling.  In Waldorf homeschooling, I see a lot of people give up around the third grade year as they get frustrated with the curriculum content, and then again at the middle school mark as the amount of teacher preparation really goes up and there are more outside activities.

One of the main unspoken things about this time period of third grade and up, though, can be this notion of “my child won’t do anything that I ask.” (So, therefore, we need to change the curriculum)

There are certainly ways to get around that – what parts of this subject ARE interesting to your child? Are they getting enough movement and sleep?  Are they on a screen all the time?  Nothing excitement-wise seems to compare to screen adventures.

And, is it really the curriculum or is it a responsibility/good habit kind of issue?

It can be that we didn’t really lay down good habits in the early grades to prepare for what’s coming, and we failed to keep any enthusiasm for learning our child had.  I have three children with different personalities – one loved school, one hated it, and one tolerates it.  I totally understand different personalities.  But, if we are being honest and taking 100 percent responsibility for what happens in our homeschooling, then we need to go back and look at our part in things.  One quote has really resonated with me over the years:

In first seven-year period child develops through imitation: in second through authority; in third through individual judgment – Study of Man, Rudolf Steiner

So, in those early years are we setting up good habits? What are we showing our children?  Are we always on our screens , do we hold a rhythm, how much actual work are we doing around the house?  This rhythm and work sets the foundation for what happens in the years 7-21.

In the years of 7-14, are we setting the tone for a loving authority?  There are some things that just have to be done.  If the child is complaining, do we just back off and say never mind…. which teaches nothing…. or do we follow through that I am asking you to do this, we will do this, I can help you and will be here for you?  This is an important step!  To think ahead, and really mean what we are asking the child to do in school (not busy work) and to follow through even if they are complaining.

And lastly, in the period of 14-21, are we giving opportunity for individual judgment?  Sometimes, yes, for learning, I find this easier for an outside teacher in whatever form that takes – and it may be in sports or outside activities, not in homeschooling, but I think teens really need that experience of making something count.  This can be a part time schedule of classes in your public school system if your state allows that, an online class, a tutor, a hybrid school if your state has that, etc.  but I think it is important that the teen get a taste of accountability and failure and success in the world in something that matters.  This is also why I think teenagers holding jobs  and being involved with something that is “team” (sports, marching band, theater, a team) are really important.  Individual judgment needs to be exercised within a realm of accountability.   This is how individual judgment and being a functional young adult occurs.  But it all begins with those early year and early grades foundation!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

Manbabies

Manbabies are the subject of sarcastic definitions and memes on the Internet….here is an example from Urban Dictionary:

Manbabies:

A man who acts like a baby. If he doesn’t get his way, he becomes crabby and unable to work with. thinks he’s always right. Can be angered and upset by anything.

Must proceed with caution!

If you come into contact with a Manbaby, back away quickly and run like hell.

Manbaby’s are good at concealing themselves amongst society. They seem normal at first but throw fits not long after dating them. Be wary.

-From Urban Dictionary

I am so fortunate because TERRIFIC and WONDERFUL partners and dads write me every single day!  I am so grateful for them!  I am married to someone who is the complete opposite of a manbaby and I am grateful for that, every day of our 27 years of marriage.  However, I have to say being 49 years old can be a bit disheartening because I see a lot of women in their mid to late 40’s and early 50’s dealing with divorce.  

Some of it is infidelity and growing apart…but a large reason is women who have killed themselves for years doing EVERYTHING and her spouse or partner essentially  wanted to do nothing at all, sometimes not even wanting to work, and who certainly didn’t act like they wanted a close emotional relationship with their family – partner or children.  They wanted to do what they wanted to do, and it didn’t really involve the family.

Selfishness in romantic relationships has always existed. In this sense, the idea I think people are trying to convey with “manbaby” is maybe just a new term for something that has been around for ages.  So, my definition of a manbaby  might be a little bit different then the Urban Dictionary one. My indicators, not all inclusive but a few brief points  in the context of family life goes something like this:

  • Does your partner want to at least equally contribute to the finances of your relationship? Does your partner hold tight finances over your head but buys whatever he wants? Can you even talk about finances?  That’s partnership level stuff in a relationship.
  • Does your partner support and nourish and protect you? That’s the friendship/lover side of a relationship.
  • Do you find equity in household chores and caretaking?  Inside and outside, lawns and garbage and car care and cooking?  Or are you doing EVERY single thing every week, including working outside the home, taking care of children, and everything thing else?
  • Does your partner do anything with the children – does he change diapers, feed them, help set boundaries, do bedtime, help with homework, help arrange so you are not always on and that you can have time by yourself? Or is every single thing an unwanted chore and source of complaint?
  • Is your partner verbally and emotionally supportive?
  • Does your partner want to be home or are they always gone out with friends or zoned out in front of a screen?

I know relationships can be more complicated than the famous Ann Landers question, “Are you better off with or without him?” – especially when it involves children and marriage. It’s complicated!!    And sometimes there are extenuating circumstances such as addiction, mental illness and more.  Sometimes I do wonder though if the whole phenomenon/idea of manbabies is sort of a cover way of saying “narcissist” – you can always look up narcissist and find a therapist specializing in how to deal as the partner of a  narcissist if you think that is what you are dealing with.

However, not withstanding all that, maybe a better question is this:

Can this relationship become legendary? Can we be an amazing, communicative, connected TEAM that drives the family?

 How can we move towards this?

What would that look like?

Is my partner or spouse open to that?

Perhaps the second better question than a casual meme or definition found in Urban Dictionary is:  Can relationship dynamics change?

I guess I am always hopeful that relationships can get better, that we can get better.  Maybe you are saying  right now, hey, my partner and I are ready!  We have talked about it and we are ready to change our lives and level up!  I love this, I have seen it happen, I think it is possible if both parties are open and narcissism is not involved.

But How?

  • Clear and open communication
  • Visionary goals set together!
  • Counseling
  • Time and attention on your actual relationship, not just the children. You are a team, you are the beginning of the family as a unit and after your children are grown up and living their own lives, you will be together again without them living with you.
  • Respect and appreciation for each other and each other’s strengths

A few recommended readings:

Feel free to DM me admin@theparentingpassageway.com and share your thoughts or comment here.

Blessings,
Carrie

Supporting Young Adults Past High School Graduation

This is such a hot topic amongst my friends right now since many of us have young adults in the age range of 18-20.  We have debated responsibiity and freedom, future plans and goals or lack thereof, and how we help our young adults transition into being healthy, happy, independent adults.

We all kind of know the options – four year college, two year college, vocational or trade school, military, gap year, or full time employment.  The teenaged brain isn’t a mature one, and many teens have developmental needs that impact the timeline of further independence as well.  There really aren’t easy answers, and every young adult is different in what they need in terms of support.  It can get a little crazy at this age and almost becomes a pressurized comparision time just like it did way back in the  baby and toddler years of who is sleeping through the night first, who is walking first – only now it is who knows what they might like to do for a career, are they going to college, if they aren’t going to college what does that transition to independent living look like?

Things are different now than when we started out.  Financial constraints are real.  A full time job that pays federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would require a 94 hour work week in order to afford a one bedroom apartment (typically).  You can see a breakdown of this by state here.  Also keep in mind employees that are tipped could make more or less than the minimum wage.  I also find many young adults who are used to a certain standard of living from their family (my area is a suburb that definitely has a mix of poverty and wealthy), are reluctant to try to branch out on their own  because they essentially want and expect what their parents have and probably built up over many years.

Student debt is real.  The student debt figures from 2017 stood at $1.4 trillion overall, with the average student loan debt in 2017 being $34,000.  Some students, depending on their major, have reported being underemployed or with difficulty entering the job market.

So, perhaps for some of these reasons, for  the first time in 130 years, according to the Pew Research Center, those 18-34 are more likely to be living with parents than married or living with a partner (see article here).  There was also a  super interesting article here at The Washington Post that pointed out another potential cause.  It suggested that there are many young able bodied men without college degrees that are happy being underemployed or unemployed, living with their parents and playing video games.   In part, this article said, ” The paper attributes one-third to one-fifth of the decline in work hours by less-educated young men to the rising use of technology for entertainment — mainly video games. The new study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and the researchers say they are continuing to refine the precise figures. But other prominent economists who reviewed it for this story said it raises important questions about why so many young men have abandoned the workforce….[ He added], “They find evidence that a portion … of the decrease in work time of less-educated young men can be a result of the appeal of video games.”

So, if you are supporting your 18-19 year olds, or you are coming up to that age in a few years, what are some things you could be thinking about for this transitional period?

1 – Actually making it a transition.  Can they pay you rent if they are living with you?  How will you handle that?  What about responsibilities around the house?  Do they hold a job?  Why or why not?  Are they playing video games in place of employment?

2 – How can you help them with further training for employment?  What do they need to go to trade school or a two or four year college? Or will they work a job and get on the job training?  Is the cost of training/education realistic debt-wise in comparison to a salary that can be made?

3-What are their relationships like?  How can they tap into community? Is there something beyond screens that is healthy and satisfying?

4- Are you rescuing them?  The best way to prepare for life isn’t just a high school diploma or a GED, but  to learn is from mistakes and natural consequences.

5 – Do you trust your young adults to create their own lives, even if it looks different from what you envisioned?  

6- Do you know your own boundaries? What works for you and your family in relation to your young adult.  What are your expectations, your attitude, your ideas?  It’s easier to think about this before the situation comes up and you are in the middle of it.

Everyone has different stories and experiences.  Leave me a note in the comments and tell me what worked or didn’t work!  Would love to hear your tips and ideas!

Blessings,

Carrie

Book Study: “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”

(We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!)

Chapter Three is “Bringing Down the Intensity: You’re The Role Model.”  The author jumps right in by saying, “Learning to express strong emotions, like anger and frustration, respectfully and selectively is learned behavior.  You don’t have to be a victim of your emotions.  You can choose your response.  You don’t have to react.”

This is so often easier said then done!  The connection between threatening or frustrating situations and stress hormones is clear.  Our strong emotions can lead to pretty instinctual responses, such as striking back physically or screaming or yelling, giving in completely, shutting down, or emotionally distancing yourself from your child and just breaking off the relationship.

The problem is, none of these things really solve the problem.  They don’t teach our children a new way to react, and they tear apart relationships.  

Instead:

  1. Change the frame.  Our children are not out to get us, to make our lives miserable, they don’t have character flaws that are going to end them up with a wasted life.  See their behavior for what it is.  With older children you can ask them about the why’s.  Give your child the benefit of the doubt and listen.
  2. Set standards….for yourself.  What ways did your family express anger or frustration that you don’t want to repeat?  What do some people around you do to express anger that you don’t want to do?  Is it shaming, yelling, threatening (hopefully not hitting), swearing?  What is your standard and how will you uphold it?  Fear and intimidation may stop a behavior momentarily, or the whole thing may escalate – and does fear and intimidation teach your child how to deal with frustrating emotions or help your relationship with that child?  The author suggests we fill in this sentence:  “The next time I am angry, I promise myself that I will NOT……..” Fill in the blank that works for you.
  3. Monitor your feelings.  Standards are goals, but emotions can really derail our best intentions.  We need to learn how to identify early how to recognize what emotion WE are feeling, and diffuse it.  If we don’t, then we are over the edge and go into the behavior we don’t want at all.  Anger is usually a second emotion – we went past frustration, disappointment, fear, sadness and just went right into anger to cover that up.  The way to start to learn to identify emotions early is to pause for fifteen second throughout the day and just note your feelings.    Look for the big ones- hungry, tired, happy, irritated – and then for the more subtle emotions.  If you find your emotion, you can choose a better response.

Part of this is knowing  your stress cues.  When you are stressed, what do you do?  The author gives examples such as slamming doors, being impatients, screaming at the kids, not smiling, rushing, gritting or grinding our teeth.    We can take the time to diffuse before we walk in the door  or start bedtime routines.  Recognize what the most vulnerable parts of the day really are for you.   Many of us have control of how to tackle those daily or weekly spots, if we just recognize where those spots are!

4.  Learn effective strategies.  PAUSE is the biggest one.  Take a break and come back (walking is a great break).  If your child follows you and clings to your leg and won’t let you take a break away, you can have a time -in place where you can all sit together.  There is a very moving story about this on pages 50-51 if you get a chance to read it.  Some children who have had significant losses or separations, find a parent leaving to gather themselves traumatizing.  Be sure to explain you are not abandoning them, you will come back.  You can use a calming couch or chair (the time in all together method) or find great support for your child, like a neighbor or friend who can come over, and help you.  I urge you to have a few friends or family members you can call when you desperately need a break and who will come no questions asked (and no judgement!).  

Now is the time to make your plan and how you will handle things.  This would also be a great topic to talk to your partner or other adults in the house about.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Embracing Authentic Children

It has been said that childhood is a series of letting go.  We should be able to trust in the process and see most young people  really becoming able to care for themselves, their surroundings, articulate their goals and launch themselves into that celebration of independence and authenticity to themselves around the end of  the high school years if not before. However, in order for that to actually happen, we need to impart our knowledge and wisdom to our children, embrace them for who they are and what path they are on (freedom of authenticity), let them make mistakes, be there to support and guide – but also get out of their way.  You have lived your life.  Now let them live theirs.

This may seem such a strange notion.  After all, no one loves the idea of personal responsibility and independence than North Americans.  We have built an entire culture around this idea of independence, and often I feel in our society push tiny children to become independent in hopes of reaching this functional adulthood sometime in the high school or  college -aged years.  Why would we need thoughts on letting our children make their own mistakes and handling that?   Why wouldn’t everyone want their children to be their authentic selves and respect this in their child?

This seems so common sense, and yet, I see more and more parents having trouble letting go.  They are tracking their children all over their college campuses with apps.  They are stepping in and helping their child clean up mistakes that are no way the parent’s to hold.  They say they respect their authentic child’s dreams, the different from them individuality of their child – except when it doesn’t coincide with the dreams they held for their child.

I think we often forget several things along the way:

Our life and our ideas of what constitutes a satisfactory life are not their life and ideas.

Sometimes in order to find ourselves, we had to leave our family for a little bit.  Again, maybe this a completely Western idea, but I often think of myself. I would have been a totally different person if I hadn’t left my home state and had the life experiences I have had. For some people, maybe it’s about not pursuing the family business or marrying who our family thought we should marry or whatever the situation is.  Often it takes a little time being away from the family in order to find oneself as an individual without the family impression of who we are being our only self-picture.

And we often forget sort of the opposite thing in a rush to actualize the real and authentic self as a young person:  that we need others and that what we do has a ripple effect through us, our family and friends, our community.  We are all connected, and family is often (not always) a connection.

I think part of learning how to do this begins right in education and in parenting – showing our children over and over how important the details are but how we also need to be able to see the big picture and the connections that span across people, communities, fields of study.  In the end, we need to impart wisdom, let go, let our children find their very authentic selves, and feel safe in their identity.

Children, teens, and young adults need acceptance and  a safe harbor to paddle back to.  But the reality is, if we are paving a gentle path for them, if we are not letting them go, if we persist in putting them in the same category they were when they were 12 and now they are 24, we are doing them a disservice.  Embrace the beauty of your authentic, growing, changing, beautiful child growing up and living their own functional life.  It’s their turn.

Blessings and love,
carrie