The One Thing You Need In Order To Homeschool This New School Year

The beginning of the school year is coming.  Yes, I know for some of you it seems so far away, but some schools down here in the deep South have already started back this week.  However, most of the schools in my state start during the first two weeks of August.  We will be starting a bit later than that, but I know it is coming up fast and will be here before I know it.

One thing that I do to get ready for teaching a new schoolyear is to steel up my own spiritual work;  both the work focused on me and the spiritual work focused on my children for the school year.  When I am quiet and still I can observe- what is it that I really need?  What is it that the children really need and how can I help them?  How do I balance the needs of everyone in the family, including my own self-care? And most of all, with three children spanning grade 1-high school, how can I teach from a place of rest and a feeling of peace?

For me, the answer to this lies within my own spiritual work.  For years, I have seen families come and go from Waldorf homeschooling (and any other type of homeschooling methodology) – always searching for the answer in pedagogy and methodology, always searching for the next latest and greatest thing.  And,  (ironically), often grasping on to any and all posts containing the words “simple” or “minimalist” as they make their lives as complicated as possible searching the Internet and bouncing around from one thing to another.

The answer is NOT THERE.  The answer is within you.  And most of all, what is often crying out is a need for a connection to something larger than oneself, and a place of spiritual peace and rest that can only come from that connection.  This cannot be found in any book, curriculum, blog or Facebook group or by following someone else’s methods.  It can only be found by connecting to the Divine in whatever capacity that means for you.   This is something that sustains through all periods of life.  Life is often messy, especially if you have multiple children. My life will probably never be simple  with three children spanning large age gaps, but it can be restful and peaceful.

In past summers, I have begged parents to make it a summer parenting project to look carefully at their own spirituality so that beauty, wonder,  peace  and stability can be passed on to our children.  We cannot model what we ourselves are not actively doing.

So, to that end, my own spiritual preparation for the new school year begins with being immersed in God’s creation -sometimes in an active way that makes me feel alive and sometimes in a quiet way that makes me feel reflective.  It begins with reading the sacred texts of my traditions  daily and gathering with others in  a place where I feel connected to my Beloved Creator and  to others who are on this path.   We grow within a spiritual community.   It continues throughout the day in prayer and meditation and as I strive to be still, be watchful, and to align my thoughts with something higher than my own base reaction.   Rhythm is my ally in this endeavor, and keeping our homeschooling plans as uncomplicated as possible so we have “time affluence” – that time to just be in nature and space is the goal.  This is where the work begins.  And when I get lost during the school year and in the pulls of three very different children who have extremely different needs,  as I inevitably will, that is the work to which I will return.  May we all have a guiding compass to help us on our journey.  This is my wish for you this school year.

Blessings, love, and joy,
Carrie

Blossoming

Blossoming — and some thoughts for parents of middle schoolers at the end….

To watch a teenager blossom is truly a remarkable thing.  As we look forward to homeschooling high school this fall, one thing that is most lovely is to see who this beautiful person before me is becoming.  Many of you have younger children, and you think you are seeing this unfolding of individuality.  In a way you are, of course, because life is always a process of becoming, and those of you have even older teenagers on the cusp of the twenties will know and will have seen more than I have…but there is something special, more intense and more beautiful in this right- now  -cusp-of-15 than there ever has been before.  I am enjoying this age.   Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart!  However, overall it is more fascinating, intimate and loving than I ever remember my own teen years being.

Teens this age can have a beautiful  balance of  being in nature and increased physical activities along with more responsibility in school, at home,  and yes, in technology.  (And yes, I am so glad we waited until this year to open up some of the avenues of technology and how it was done in the context of school and using technology as a WORK tool, not entertainment!  That has been a huge help, along with strong limits!)   The world is opening up, but wanting to be emotionally held by us and talking with us and being with us has not diminished, which is nice to see and I hope continues.  I think the greater separation will happen at the 16 year change, which to me is where I think it would more naturally come  if we just left development alone without a lot of outside influences.  We have had  amazing discussions, and the general common sense that I see makes me feel hopeful that whatever storms or mistakes come along, (even big mistakes and big storms), will be handled with grace by our child and hopefully by us.

It is often said that teenagers feel invincible and that is where they get into trouble.  I think that is true,  because I  often look at today’s teens and see such vitality, such hope, such intelligence. I know a crop of really wonderful teenagers. This group of teens has me hopeful for the future of our country and the world.

There was an article about how mothers of tweens (ages 11-12)  are the most depressed group of parents as their children go through physical and emotional changes, trying to separate by pushing boundaries, and how marital satisfaction is at its lowest for women (and how often these changes for children come in the midst of when we are changing the most in adult development as  well).  The linked article also mentions the exhaustion from driving and the children’s activities.

So, for mothers of children these ages, coming from my experience of having a younger teen….Keep talking to your children and keep them close by keeping them with the family unit.  A few close  friends for your child whose parents you really respect and can be super helpful.    If you open things slowly and naturally as your individual child (within developmental reason) shows the maturity and responsibility to handle things, it goes easier – but the older the age the  better.  Fourteen is a good age for many things to unfold.  Hold steady in the current…

Many things I see middle schoolers doing in terms of having this incredible outside the home schedule, and millions of hours with friends,  and almost unlimited technology – well, these things to me need boundaries and with boundaries they could be appropriate for high schoolers!    If your child is only 11 or 12, try to find some parents with 14-17 year olds.  It really helps put things into perspective to see how little an 11 or 12 year old actually is.

The teen years are fun.  They can have harrowing moments, but what a beautiful unfolding.

Blessings,

Carrie

4 Things Your Early Teen Needs

Early teens, which is what I like to call teens that are ages 13-15, are going through such a variety of developmental changes that parents can really help, guide, and encourage.  Here are four incredible ways you can help your early teen:

Tell biographies and keep offering up great adult role models.   In the past, the years of 13 o 15 was not such a fragile time because the child was so deeply embedded in the family and community with markers of passage into being a young adult.  We have now lost many of the markers of passage into the teenaged years and we have at the same time lost so much of the close-knit community and extended generations we used to have so a child knew how to integrate into being a young adult.  So, how we meet the child’s need for integration now can come in the form of biography.  Young teens will identify with hearing that they are not the only ones who are struggling; they will carry pictures of others  who struggled mightily and were brave and who succeeded and offered something to the world.

Help them LET GO.  Thirteen to fifteen year olds often rely on half-facts, undigested information and knee-jerk reactions.  They often have strong opinions for or against something but even if their idea or opinion is obviously faulty, they cannot seem to let go of it!  Help them know it is okay to let go their judgment or opinion and make space for a new idea or opinion.

Help them harmonize.  There are a lot of things that feel “off” to early teens in their physical bodies and emotional states in these years.  The task is to harmonize things, and the “self” that should help a child control his or her will, such as being able not to eat too much or  not play video games compulsively is just not able to do so yet.  Offer up healthy boundaries and new challenges that lead the child into being part of the world, not being alienated and separate.

 

 

Offer an expanded world. Sometimes early teens get very narrow views of what they will or won’t do, what they do or don’t like, how they want to spend their time.  It is up to us, the parents, to stimulate a broader and bigger picture than what the teen is seeing sometimes. We should help our teen take an interest in the world.  For those of you that are into Waldorf Education, Steiner spoke quite a bit about this.

How do you help in balance with your early teen?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Finding Your Mothering Voice

In a sea of information overload, how do we find our own voices as mothers and human beings?  I was contemplating this article by Stephen Covey and the creation of voice.  He speaks about what “voice” is, and what this could mean in an organizational context. However, I was pondering this question  more in relation to parenting and mothering.

First of all,  there has to be a period of listening intuitively to oneself without a lot of input. In general, this seems to be non- existent for many people simply because it is so easy to just fire off a question in a chatroom or on Facebook and get quick and easy input from many people.  However, I think it is so important to be able to find one’s own center.   How do I *really* feel about this decision that has to be made, how this situation unfolded, about my reaction to this situation?   When we apply this over years of parenting, we often need periods of silence and “away” when our children are leaping through large developmental changes and we feel as if the sand is shifting under out feet.  Then we learn over time what our voice really has to say.  We learn to know ourselves.

The events leading up to single decisions often take at least a few nights to settle, to hear what one’s gut really says, and then perhaps to get input from your trusted partner or a trusted friend.   Time also applies over years though – it can take years of experiences to really form your  general mothering style and voice and priorities.  It takes time, error, sometimes mistakes and unpleasant experiences and is constantly being refined.  That is parenting in the real world.

It is so easy in the beginning of mothering or every time your child changes developmentally to want to do what everyone else is doing.  I mean,  after all, in the superficial world, it often looks as if it is working out grandly due to XYZ choice(s).  Look at all those beautiful blogs of beautiful lives and perfect children.  However, people only put what they want people to see on the Internet.  Remember that everyone has triumphs and struggles and some people are more private than others.  Only you know your partner, your child, your family dynamics.  Don’t be afraid to be different!

Make sure  your decisions are aligned with your values.  If you have a mission statement of any kind, that can be a great place to check out your decision against your values.

Finally, take the action with decisions that clearly align your life with your values. This is what shows your voice more clearly than any words ever could.  It shows what you believe.

Please share with me about finding your parenting voice.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

Transforming Post-Partum Stress Into Joy

I wrote a post  a long time ago based upon my experience as a physical therapist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that consistently is one of the top posts ever on this blog.  It really was meant for those parents with premature infants or infants who were neurologically immature to be able to look for stress signs and help their infant with soothing and calming techniques.  However, that post ended up turning into something more than that….and I think this there is a reason.

What I have noticed in leading breastfeeding support meetings over the last 11 and a half years is that mothers today are almost like these infants –  they are not only new,  but super vulnerable, and feeling so stressed about trying to mother.  They are so afraid of making a mistake, and seem almost paralyzed by normal infant behaviors.

Mothers, have confidence in yourself.  YOU are the expert on your baby. Yes, it is probably harder than you thought it was going to be.  It might now be as intuitive as we thought, because many of us use more analysis and fact.   I think there are several reasons for this stressful, anxious ridden beginning that many parents today seem to be experiencing –

  1.  Many times we are afraid to ask for help, so we don’t and just try to tough it out.  If we do decide to ask for help, we turn to the Internet.  We don’t necessarily want to do things the way our parents or grandparents did so we don’t ask them, but when we turn to the Internet, we often get  100 different answers/choices/experiences on any given topic, which is confusing.
  2. This leads to decision-making fatigue.  How do we know which one of the answers/choices/experiences is the RIGHT answer?  We might be messing these poor babies up FOREVER.
  3. The stakes seem to be too high to make a mistake.
  4. We are exhausted.  No one told us it would be like this.  We don’t have a lot of support,  we have too many decisions to make,  and we can’t decide what the answers to these topics or infant behaviors are, and it seems too mystical.

It is so hard.  Parenting is often about trying things and learning to let go, making the wrong choice and having to make it right, or discovering that the things that worry us so were just not that big an issue after all.  And I fear sometimes that as a society we are wearing ourselves out on these small things, and we therefore have less energy for the really big things that  matter and happen as children grow and go through developmental stages.

I think finding people in real-life who can help you – whether that person is the grandma down the street in your neighborhood, a caring health care professional, a support group,  or friends you really trust – can  be helpful.  Staying off the Internet can also be helpful – it will give you a lot less decision fatigue.  See if you can figure out what is going on, what YOU think,  before you turn to the Internet and look it up.  Find some trusted resources.  I think when we had our first child, we wore the pages of Dr. Sears’ “The Baby Book” right out.  It was my reassurance because even though I worked with a lot of infants and very sick infants, this baby who was not on a monitor and did full-term baby things was challenging!  And that brings me to my last point: before you have children, it would great to spend some actual time with babies and toddlers.  If you didn’t grow up in a large family or babysitting frequently, you may not really know the normal things that babies and toddlers do.  Pregnant mothers are welcome at many support meetings and that can be a good place to start!

Let’s stop the epidemic of anxious stress that pervades our parenting beginnings.  Let’s take it back down to enjoying the beginning of the newest life in the family.

Much love,
Carrie

Keeping The Slow Summer for Younger Teens

There seems to be a persistent epidemic of bored teen this summer where I live. Our county is half suburban/half rural and the bored teens seem to be mainly girls who are aged 13 – 15.  I guess part of this is that most of them don’t have summer jobs yet, they cannot drive in an area that requires driving to get around, and most of them complain that their friends don’t necessarily live near them.  Not everyone has money for summer camps all summer and many families view summer camps as the antithesis to having a slow summer.

My husband and I had this conversation this morning about what we did over the summer when we were 13 or 14 years old.  Here is how it went:

My Husband:  We were bored too.  Don’t you remember that?

Me: Yes, we were bored and super hot and got eaten alive by giant mosquitos.  We all sat on the curb in a group because none of the mothers would let us back in the house.  They said we could drink from the hose.

My husband:  Yah, I have no idea what my parents did all day.  We would take our bikes, go to the pool, ride around and fish. No one knew exactly where we were.

Me: Yup.  I think I biked probably 10 miles a day around this huge lake that was far away.  No one knew exactly where we were, just that we were out in the neighborhood somewhere.  But here is the difference..there was a group of us… friends…these kids have no friends to be with… .

So, when there are no friends in your neighborhood , no pool with a lifeguard that you can just bike to and hang out at without your parents, things do get a little  complicated.  And what often happens then with nothing to do and lots of heat…screen time slips in for the 13 to 15 year old.  The modern solution to being bored.

So, here are a few things I have been pondering:

  • Give up the notion of “creating bigger and better magic” for your teens.  Pool, lake, maybe some camping…it doesn’t have to be this incredibly elaborate thing that you have to try to top every year!  Go for simple, slow, together.   Slow and simple can be magical, and I think we often have this mixed up and feel “bigger and better” equates to “more magic”.
  • Children under 13, especially those 10-13:  Care a lot less that they are “bored”.  They will find something to do.  I had two children under the age of 13  take naps yesterday.  I didn’t know if they were coming down with something, growing, daydreaming, completely bored and didn’t know what else to do…and I didn’t really care beyond the “might be getting sick” part.  They will find something to do, so long as you don’t give into screens and media.  If you do that, then they will NEVER find anything to do and they will follow you around asking for screens and media because they are “so bored”.
  • Make sure you have a small semblance of a rhythm. When our children are young, it is easy to continue circle time and a working rhythm right through the summer months.  With older children, this can get trickier I think.  The teens want/ think that they are on “vacation” and they would like something a little different than the usual school year rhythm. This may come up especially with homeschooling and wanting to differentiate seasons.  So, a small movement that includes daily tasks, a walk, maybe some handwork and reading aloud or discussing things together, the lake or pool – this small skeleton of a structure is all still really important!  Some parents of teens I know tell their teens they HAVE to be up at 9 or 9:30 (if their teen is the type to want to sleep until noon) because otherwise it gets really difficult with going to bed at midnight and getting up at 11 or noon, and the whole day is gone.  Some parents are fine with that, other parents become frustrated.  Figure out where you lie within those parameters.  Our teen still gets up early and goes to bed fairly early, but our whole family is like that, so maybe that is why.
  • If there really are no children around you, of course you can set up a rhythm of when to get together with friends.  I don’t think that should be the focus though, although it is important for teens and developmentally normal for teens to enjoy some close friends. However, I think the focus should be FAMILY.  What are activities you can do as a family?  What can siblings do together without your presence?  What if you have an only teen child – what is the balance there of being home and being out or having friends over all the time?
  • Could you have fun family nights (or whole days?) There are so many ideas on Pinterest for this!  Another idea that I like, which I think works great for teen girls with not a lot of interests is to go to the library and learn about a new topic. Say something about it at dinner.  Investigate!
  • Nature Time – this is, of course, the easiest way to satisfy everyone of varying ages and give mama some time to breathe with older children.  Swimming at the pool or lake, camping at a lake or other body of water. National Park programs.  Things to explore and do.  Delicious!
  • Sometimes mama has to get some work done too, though and can’t “go” all the time. I find it ironic that I have the most work to do homeschool planning these upper grades and high school (more time, more intensity, no resources that are laid out in any way!) but the older children and teens aren’t always content…So empower teens to make their own fun!  A teen can still enjoy a slip and slide, craft kits, handwork, science kits for teens, etc….and yes, work around this house too.  Yes, this may be something you will need to put in a yearly budget – buying some new things for summer for inquiry and investigation.  For work, cleaning out a garage or pantry, deep cleaning, organizing are all things a teen can do.  Cooking is another great skill to practice in summer and teens often don’t need much help other than the recipe or the encouragement to create their own recipe if they are adept in the kitchen.
  • See what jobs might be available for your teen that they could walk to or bike to   – being a mother’s helper, babysitting, pet sitting, mowing lawns, washing cars.  Any of those can be helpful to your neighbors and your teen!
  • Keep your STRONG limits on media, screens, texting.  Most teens are communicating by text, usually group text, in order to arrange getting together.  (Which can also be a little funny to me since these younger teens can’t drive so still it boils down to the parent!)  However, the phone can be docked in a public place most of the time.  The access to the phone can be limited with parental controls. Same thing with a computer.
  • Your self-care time is important!   Just because it is summer doesn’t mean your self-care should stop!  If you look at your week and all it is is driving your children places and arranging activities, balance is always good.  You and your partner count!

Keep your summer slow and family-oriented!

Tell me how you juggle things for your teens!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

Calm You With My Love

I always thought that was one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language.  It takes so much practice to do this in the moment when emotions are running high or the situation is upsetting.  But it is so worthy of practice.

Raging toddler, I will calm you with my love.

Melty preschooler, I will calm you with my love.

Upset  school aged child, I will calm you with my love.

Anxious and sad teenager, I will calm you with my love.

Part of our practice as parents can be to step back, to step outside of ourselves,  and to think how do we calm with our love.

What words would that be?

What gestures would we use to show this?

Who calms us with their love so we can carry on?

Blessings and love,
Carrie