The Amazing Birthday

Above my head the stars do shine

Each star is like a flame,

And one is mine, that o’er me shone

When to this earth I came.

Upon this Earth my step is firm,

The stones are ‘neath my feet

I see the birds and beasts and flowers,

And loving people greet.

And every year the day returns

When my star shineth bright,

And I receive within my heart

The glory of its light.

-from “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide”, page 130

Birthdays  in the Waldorf tradition for small children often involve a cape and a crown, lovely homemade cupcakes that are not too sugary, wishes from others for the development of character traits or the simple things in life, simple gifts of unusual stones, shells, flower petals.  It may involve a story of the child’s birth.  As the years go by, the cape and crown and simple gifts may recede, but the sentiments remain the same.

Today is my birthday, and I find it is an amazing day full of gratitude.  I am so grateful for all the things I learned in the last year, even the hard things!  I am grateful to be here for yet another birthday (47 today!), and grateful my husband has celebrated 29 birthdays with me.

Being in the late 40’s is empowering.  The crisis of 35-42 is gone, and I find these late 40s  on the cusp of a new cycle to be one of imagination, newness, warmth, and confidence.  I am so looking forward to this year and to 49 next year – the beginning of a new seven year cycle of 49-56 which I hope will bring more fun, more adaptability and humor.  My husband expressed to me this morning that life is a journey and how we enjoy the ride together.  This may sound like a cliche, but not at our age.  There are so many new possibilities to be open to, and the ability to grow and change together.  I have ideas just flowing into my head lately, and hope to be able to make at least a small part of them reality!

I hope when you have your birthday, you remind yourself of your own special energy, your own special thing that you bring to this short walk on earth, the wonderful gifts that you bring, and all the possibilities that life has for you.  It should be no less special to have  birthday when we are fifty  than when we are four.  Let us not forget!

Many blessings to you, my friends, and thank you for reading here.

Carrie

Rest As A Task For The Waldorf Homeschooling Parent

There is an interesting article entitled, “Sleep As A Task Of Waldorf Education,” by Peter Loebell available here. If we view sleep as an essential component not only of education, but as a way to gain inspiration and intuition from the spiritual realms, how much more vital is sleep and rest for the homeschooling parent who is not only parenting 24/7 but teaching multiple main lesson blocks to children of different ages?

The three ways this article discusses engaging children in the curriculum in order for it to carry positively applies to us as teachers as well.  The three conditions are:

  1.  Use of creative tasks that require symmetry and sense that the child, (or we), want to “finish.”  This implies, that we, as teachers, should be finding time for our own artistic pursuits – music (singing and instrumental), form drawing, drawing, painting, sculpture, movement, and having an impulse to finish things.    The article mentions: “The active urge to finish incomplete forms stimulates the body of formative energy to pulsate further during sleep. The child has, through this, the tendency to finish what was begun so that through the night a permanent ability can be attained from the practiced activity.”
  2. Engaging both the physical body and the life-forces of the body through an outer activity such as eurythmy.  We often don’t have eurythmy at home, but we do have physical activities as part of rhythm, and we do have use of the word and gesture through poetry with movement.  These things can be carried into sleep and help form the next day’s energy.
  3. Lastly, we teach ourselves when we are preparing for a lesson and we carry this into how we present things to our children. ” If we do not stimulate the children to their own physical activity during a lesson, then there is a third aspect to consider. We must stimulate the deliberate, understanding perception of the children when we teach from a phenomenological science experiment or describe a historical event in such a manner that they direct their full attention to the lesson content so that they are constantly coming to conclusions.”  This is also why we often have a day that invokes “feeling” work (artistic work in a Main Lesson) and another day for the formation of concepts, the academic work.  The work we do with our children can inherently be restful to ourselves so long as we are not rushed.  If we have many children who need main lessons, we combine as much as possible, and then we can also choose to offer  main lessons three to four days a week so we have no more than 2-3 main lessons on a day.  Many mothers say they cannot teach more than two main lessons; I personally know many mothers, including myself, who have to teach three main lessons.  It is doable, but only with rest as a priority.  I do not think teaching more than three main lessons would be doable for anyone; and many could not teach three separate lessons, so combining down to two lessons would be the best way to do this if possible. If you would like ideas about combining main lesson blocks for grades, please email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com

Joy, creativity, learning, and rest are all interwoven.  We chose to bring the artistic component into our own inner work and lives in order to become better teachers and better human beings.

Blessings,
Carrie

Building Your Homeschooling Around Rest

This topic has become so important to me  I devoted an entire Pinterest board just to rest.  And I discovered, in the process of gathering pins and thinking about rest and relaxation, the reason I couldn’t make a homeschool schedule for the year yet.  I wasn’t coming at the rhythm of the day or week from a place of REST. Instead, I was coming at it from a place of how to cram all the things three children of wildly disparate ages (ages 7-16) needed into a week or a day or a school year.  I still don’t have a rhythm for the school year yet, partially because I don’t know when some of our outside activities will be meeting, but when I do sit down to look at what we can realistically do, I know it will be from a place of  what we need in terms of rest and relaxation as the foundation for our school year.

Here are some of the things I am thinking about, and maybe some of these will resonate with you….

  1.  Rest during the day.  I see many homeschoolers blogging about  taking rest during the day, like from 2-4 in the afternoon.  This is probably possible for many of you with small children.  We always rested after lunch and still tend to have a rest period, but I am guessing in order to take an entire afternoon , people who are able to rest from 2-4 each day either are not homeschooling multiple children in grades 7 and above, or perhaps don’t have high schoolers, (or maybe they do, but perhaps their children aren’t super involved in outside activities or taking any outside classes?). So perhaps, like me, you need to think creatively  about the day and week in order to acheive rest.  For example, a four day  school week would allow for a day of rest.  Rest could be after lunch or before dinner in a daily schedule, even if it isn’t a huge span of time.
  2.  NAP.  Yup, take a half-hour nap every day.  Even this small amount of time can be beneficial!
  3. It may not work for you, but when my children were smaller, early bedtimes were really helpful.  And even now, I feel no need to entertain the children who are grades 7 and up.  I may head to bed before them, we may relax together and we usually do talk at night, but I also rest and pursue my own creative interests before bed as well, and so do they.
  4. Choose a weekend day to rest and relax without commitments to be somewhere.  We are busy on Sundays, so Saturdays are our restful day, and this school year I intend to really guard that day as much as possible.
  5. A restful morning and evening routine to begin and end the day.  I would like to write more about this in a coming post,  but in the meantime if you have a restful morning or evening routine, would you care to share it in the comment box?
  6. Leaving time and space in the margins of life.  Scheduling less days of school per week, less weeks of school per school year, and scheduling in time to do next week or next block’s lessons each week (NOT on the restful weekend day), and vacations.
  7. Work in seasons.  For our family, horseback riding doesn’t really work in seasons, so we don’t get much rest from that, but some activities do work in seasons of six to eight weeks and you don’t have to fill every six to eight week period up!  This is a great thing about an activity like 4-H.   Working in seasons also means we rest more in the summer to balance out a busier school year.  We cannot go all out, all year round.  So, choose your extracurricular activities and volunteer commitments wisely.
  8. Build your school routine around self-care; do not leave self-care to be last on the list.  Self-care are the beginning and end marks to your day.
  9. Use planning ahead of time to increase your sense of relaxation. For me, part of this is keeping my house clean and the laundry done each day (this may not be your thing).  If I do a little each day, and my children help each day, then it is relatively neat and clean.  I also like to food prep for the week on Sunday afternoons.
  10. Use tools to increase relaxation .  Things that help  me include:  healthy meal prep, exercise, yoga and stretching, relaxing music, essential oil diffusions, Epsom salt baths, creating.
  11. Create routines around mindfulness – these can be built into those morning and evening routines, and  the special routines that you develop so you can rest and relax when the moment is more stressful (emergency stress routines).
  12. Enjoy being with friends without children involved.  Sometimes, especially as children get older, having time to talk without children present is really valuable.  Socialization and play for mothers is just as important as it is for children.

I would love to hear your favorite restful strategies or comments.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Entitled Children?

Entitlement is another one of those words thrown around these days without much sense of what it really means, kind of like the words “adulting” or “toxic” (you can see my back posts on these words).

Entitlement,to me, is not only necessarily is a lack of work ethic, because that usually is what people mean when they say someone is entitled – they didn’t/don’t have to work and everything is handed to that person.  I don’t think that is the whole picture.

The definition of entitlement, at least according to Webster’s Dictionary is:   the belief that one is deserving of  or entitled to certain privileges. The world “entitle” itself is having proper grounds to seek or claim something.

To me,  entitlement often begins in childhood and  is that feeling that the world owes us because we had a terrible childhood OR we had the most special childhood ever that should continue indefinitely.  It seems to come from a place of lack of self-awareness, and often a true ignorance of how people around are affected by this attitude.  Entitlement is often a sheer ignorant selfishness that later in life goes on to destroy families and the next generation of children if the adults of the family continue to hold on to this.

One antonym of “entitlement” is actually “disqualify.”  So, if we don’t want to entitle someone, we want to disqualify him or her? I am not sure that is what we mean either.  Perhaps instead of thinking of “disqualifying”our children, we can look at other options:

Raise children who are empowered in the struggle of life, and who are not victims.  There are true and legitimate unjust social structures in this world; there are true victims in this world.  Many people I know, however,  who think they are victims  of everything and everyone in life are this way because they believe they are so special that only good things should happen to them, and that there should be no struggle.  We can choose our response and own it. As our children grow older, it is important that they experience the natural consequences of their actions.  This is much harder to watch in teens than in three year olds, but it is part of maturation and growing up.  Guiding an older teen (15/16 change and up) is much different than controlling so nothing bad happens to that teen.

Raise children who know life is up and down and that’s okay. Very few things in life are linear and without struggle and effort.   I have this little picture on my desk; I am sure many of you have seen it somewhere along the way. The top shows a bicyclist traveling a straight line to an end flag (a goal). which is our vision, and the  bottom half of the page shows reality of trying to reach a goal with  the same cyclist and the road is marked with mountains and valleys to get to the end flag.  Struggle is real and honest.

Help your children be resilient. It is okay for them to wrestle, struggle, work hard, and fail.  In fact, it is imperative.  It is important to know that sometimes we do work hard and we fail anyway.  Hard work doesn’t mean we won’t fail. So, in that note…

Teach your children failure is okay.  Teach a growth mindset where children know that failure can be one step closer to success;  a mistake can turn into a success.  Look at all the wonderful inventions that started as “mistakes.” I think starting with the twelve year change, we should be talking about growth mindset directly, we should be talking about stress management directly. I usually start in seventh grade.  If you are Waldorf homeschooling, the physiology block is a nice place to start to work some of this in and then to use growth mindset and mindfulness techniques daily as part of your warm-up for school.

Raise children who know the special of ordinary.  Movies and mass media tend to depict life as a series of highs; one event must top the next in an ever-ascending spiral.  This is not life.  Life is full of ordinary, quiet, mundane, and there is joy in that.  It is not your job to give your children sheer magic every minute of every day.  Being bored is okay too. Having regular is okay.  Finding joy in quiet is okay.

Train responsibility.  In this day and age, that can be harder than it seems.  There are very few things that “have” to be done for survival anymore  as far as chores (ie, few of us have to haul water or get food ready for winter).  Many teens in the United States are no longer even  getting summer jobs, (see back posts about this), which used to be a great place to learn responsibility outside the family.  Structure the environment so some things HAVE to be done before pleasure.  We expect small children to weave in and out of work in the Early Years, but we should expect a teenager to have much more  responsibility than a small child.

Train accountability.  Accountability is being responsible for one’s own actions.  This can be particularly important for teens and the area of social media.  Watch how your teens treat friends,  watch how your teens treat their younger siblings or those younger in general. Watch how they treat themselves.  Remember what integrity really means, and intervene as needed.  Many teens need guidance.

Volunteer together; explore together the fact that life is not equal nor fair and what this means in terms of our response to humanity.  Empathy for others and a feeling of responsibility for the least among us  may be the biggest turning point against what we term “entitlement.”   

Don’t enable or rescue.  There comes a point when kids really do have to take the boundaries and structures that have been in place and start to internalize these things and carry it as their own, and they only learn this through practice. If you child can do something, don’t do it for them.

Help them learn to deal with conflict.  Not many people love conflict, but life is not conflict-free and learning how to not only set boundaries, to  be assertive but kind, fair, able to take responsibility for one’s own actions, and to ask for and give forgiveness is part of this conflict resolution.

Do give your children love, attention, encouragement, and laughter.  That is the foundation of health, and the foundation that your grandchildren will build upon.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Boundaries and Toxic People

The other day I had a little post that talked about boundaries for older children.  A question came up regarding toxic people,  setting boundaries, and is it possible that this be done in a loving way.

Perhaps this question is a little out of my wheelhouse.  I am not a psychologist, and I am certain a psychologist would have better things to say than I on this subject.  However, because I think boundaries are such an important piece of being a healthy adult and something we should be working hard to model and guide our teenagers and children in establishing, I am willing to share my experience with this topic.  As always, if you need more help, there are many licensed psychologists and other mental health care professionals out there to help you!

One hears many definitions of “toxic people”.  Usually this alludes to behaviors or relationships caused by woundedness; usually this involves creating drama, infecting others with negativity, or being narcissitic, and using others to get their needs met.  To me, and again I am not a psychologist, my definition of a toxic person is that they cannot abide by boundaries in order to be in a healthy relationship with someone else; boundaries to me are key no matter the variety of behaviors displayed.  Therefore, because a toxic person cannot respect boundaries, by definition, there will be no truly “nice”   or “loving” way to limit the exposure of a toxic person to your family because the toxic person will have an excuse and will have a hard time respecting the boundaries that you set. So, establishing very strong boundaries or to even cutting the toxic person out of your life if you are in a situation where that is possible is often difficult, but I don’t think impossible, so long as  you don’t expect the toxic person to go along with it calmly!

From my experience, my  tried and true ways to deal with toxic people include:

Setting emotional distance.  You don’t have to answer every text, call, or email.  You can choose to only respond to facts or what needs a solution as opposed to all the barage of emotion and drama.

Not getting  into one- to -one situations with the toxic person.  There is safety in numbers.  Always have someone else with you for interactions with  truly toxic people.

Setting limits on negativity and complaining.

Setting a very close circle around me of positive people who have a firm grasp of reality and have different perspectives that help me see things clearly. 🙂

Letting go of guilt. Like many people, sometimes I want everyone to like me, and the reality is I am definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.  So letting go of that is important, and depending upon how old you are, you get more and more okay with that as you get older.  It is okay not to be liked, and especially by the toxic person, because in my experience many times a more toxic person will not like you if they cannot control you.

Not forgetting what the toxic person has done or the chaos that person caused.  Forgive the illness that consumes this person, but do not forget!   Sometimes I find toxic people seem to cycle in and out of creating emotional chaos, and it can be easy in the good moments to forget the emotional craziness the person created in the past.  I am all for growth and second chances, but in my experience, toxic people do not really change but only get better at manipulating and hiding motives with age.

Hope that not only helps answer the question, but also points out the value of boundaries in ourselves and raising our children to become healthy adults who can go on to have healthy families of their own. As always, consult your friendly local mental health care professional with your questions, as I can only share my personal experience.

Many blessings,
Carrie

The Fifteen/Sixteen Change

In the world of Waldorf homeschoolers, there is a lot of press about the developmental changes surrounding the six/seven year old, the nine year old, and sometimes a little about the twelve year old.  However, the fifteen/sixteen year change is rarely mentioned on blogs or websites.  I guess there is no one left Waldorf homeschooling by then!

I have a back post on the sixteen year change,  and other back posts on the fifteen year old, but today I really wanted to focus on that transformation.  It could truly be THE most important developmental shift to occur for a child; I think because it catapaults the child into the more adult world than ever before.  And whilst this change has hints of the nine year change, I think it has its own dynamic and importance.

Here is why:  I see a lot of adults these days that are not very good at adulting.  The fact that we even have a term called “adulting” in the United States is probably a good indication that people are struggling with it.  Oh sure, we all struggle with it at times, and I think more because many of us have lost the sense of our elders and many of our families are fragmented, so being in our 20s- up to age 50 sometimes is fraught with more difficulties than ever before as there is no one to ask about our adult challenges!

So, I think this change is super important in this day and age.  Please, please, don’t hold your child back from this change by doing so much for them and denying them the consequences of their actions.  Please, please do give your more phlegmatic children who need a little push into more independence that push that they need.  Here are some things to consider:

Help structure your home so that your teens have freedom but also RESPONSIBILITY.  I see many parents jumping into the “freedom” part – no boundaries, a lot of handing things to their children that the teenager doesn’t have to work for – but little in the way of RESPONSIBILITY.  Summer jobs are going by the wayside, according to  this article  from June 2017 in The Atlantic.  Saving up to earn a car  is no longer done a lot.  I actually don’t think it is laziness, as some in the media have purported (which is something I think every generation since The Greatest Generation has probably said about the upcoming youngsters).  Life really is different today – from most of the jobs in my area that used to be held by teen now being held by retirees to the need to excel  in so many areas early to get into a “good college” – that teens have a different set of pressures than even twenty years ago.

Help your teen navigate this stress.  Some teens were published in the UK Guardian in March 2014 about how they feel about the world and the place of teenagers in it.  This absolutely could be the most incredible generation yet, but the stresses of the world seem to weigh more heavily upon this generation, just like it does upon us, because of the immediacy of social media and media in general.  The weight of events in countries far away seems just as impressive as the ones in our backyard.  It is a lot for us to handle, and it is a lot for teens to handle.

Help your teens learn boundaries.  The only way this can happen is if YOU have boundaries, and to help your teen not only by modeling but by helping them work with self-initiation, motivation, persistence, self-regulation,  and self-control. Many parents seem to struggle with this, so let me give you a little list as to why boundaries are important.  Adults with good boundaries can do things such as:

Listen to other people and respect other people’s “no’s” and feelings

Set limits on their own behavior or any impulses that would be self-destructive

Set limits on toxic people

Accomplish goals and tasks

Acheive healthy intimacy with othersBe honest with others

Can solve conflicts in a constructive way

Hopefully these skills will lead to not only a life of satisfaction and adventure and whatever the individual wants life to be, but also an ability to form relationships, lead a family in a healthy way, provide physically for themselves and a family, be open with their own gifts in helping humanity, and to be brave and courageous in dealing with personal matters and in situations of the world and societal structures where help  is needed.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

How Temperaments Change During Adolescence

Many parents of children in Waldorf Schools and Waldorf homeschooling families are fascinated with the idea of the temperaments.  Waldorf Education routinely finds that middle place between nature (children are formed through genetics and family lines at birth) and nurture by working with individuality.  Each child has an individuality, and the temperament of a child provides us, as teachers and parents, a way to work with children.  We often talk about how not only are there temperaments in individual children – melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic, and choleric temperaments – but that different stages of life are know for having a temperament as well.  Small children are often very sanguine, for example, on top of an individual temperament.  The teenaged years are often a very choleric time.

Our job as parents and educators is to nurture positive aspects of every temperament.  Too often on blogs and in books, I hear solely of the negative aspects of a certain temperament.  The other thing that is rarely mentioned is the transformation of the child’s temperament during adolescence.  This is seen as real individuality begins to emerge during adolescence.

We can always consider the  “sub” temperaments a child has – perhaps your child is choleric but has a strong melancholic side, for example.  These “sub” temperaments often influence such things as extroversion and introversion, level of excitability, and more.

In adolescence, we may see several transformations.  These are written about quite beautifully in the esteemed Betty Staley’s book, “Between Form and Freedom:  A Practical Guide to the Teenaged Years.”  These transformations are noted as follows:

  • The melancholic child often becomes a choleric adult.  This is often seen in a melancholic’s wonderful attention to detail that becomes so helpful in leadership (many cholerics are leaders!)
  • The choleric child often becomes a sanguine adult. During adolescence, they can be swayed by emotions to the point that they are easily pulled about like a sanguine.  This temperament can also have an  especially hard as their friends come into stronger individuality during adolescence.  Some cholerics can also have a strong melancholic undertone.  These teenagers need to be surrounded by loving friends and family and ideals so they can become adults devoted to truth and duty to humanity.
  • The sanguine child often becomes a phlegmatic adult. The changes and “heaviness” that puberty brings often slows the sanguine child down and helps them become reliable adults.
  • The phlegmatic child often becomes a melancholic adult.  This is noted as one of the more complicated adolescent temperaments.  Adolescence for this teenager can be about withdrawal, dealing with heaviness,  and trying to deal with their own frustrations.

Temperament study is so interesting.  Every year as part of my homeschool planning I go back and re-read things dealing with the temperaments. If you are interested in further reading about these changes, I highly recommend Betty Staley’s book.

Blessings,
Carrie