What Are We Modeling?

I watched a little girl yesterday at the pool.  She was about four years old, and ran around the pool in hot pursuit of her older brother and his friends.  When he jumped in the pool, she jumped in the pool.  When he ran to the other side of the pool, she ran to the other side of the pool.  A mom sitting near me remarked, “Isn’t that cute?  She has to do everything he does.”

Yes, indeed, my friends.  This is the power of imitation for small children, and that is a foundational hallmark for young children in Waldorf Education in the early years.  I find though, that imitation extends far beyond the early years.

Children not only imitate what they see, what they hear.  They  also absorb our energy, our attitudes, our  ways of dealing with things right down into their soul. This is all the more reason to work on “our stuff” – whatever that spiritual stuff may be.  All the more reason to deal with our trauma – our own the trauma carried by how our past generations suffered.  Have you all ever read this article about how how trauma is carried through generations ?

There was an article about the ten habits of chronically unhappy people.  It was very interesting, and pointed once again to the fact that as parents and as homeschooling families, we have to be very on top of our own attitudes, views, and what we are modeling.

Every day we can get up and begin with a spiritual practice.  Many like to do this in the morning before their children awake.  I understand this with very tiny children.  However, do make sure you are modeling something of your spiritual practice when your children are awake!  Otherwise, they never see you doing anything.  This could be reading from sacred texts, meditating or praying, saying outloud positive things in response to  a situation.

Every day, I ask myself how can I model:

Gratitude for this present moment.  Accepting and finding pleasure with where things are in this moment.

Connection to others in community.  The biggest place of connection is within our homes and with our own family members living in our homes, and our extended families.  However, this can also happen in places outside the home and family.  It may happen for you through your neighborhood, through your friends, through a place of worship, through a group to which you belong.  Connecting and serving is so powerful.

Optimism

Accountability and responsibility for my own actions.  Where was I wrong? I am wrong a lot; mistakes are okay. A mistake is just moving forward with more experience.

Perspective.

What we are being called to is so much more important than what curriculum we pick, what activities our children do.  What we are doing is literally being called to stop generations of trauma, pessimism, and fear.  What we are being called to do is to help our children learn how to cope with the world.  It is not going to be perfect.  Life is messy, but let’s show them how it is done.

Blessings,
Carrie

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

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

 

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

 

Depletion and Hibernation

Today is Candlemas, also known to some as Groundhog Day.   I often think of that little groundhog this time of year, venturing out to see if winter will continue for another six weeks.  It made me think of the periods of winter in my life and how sometimes I felt ready to venture out of the hibernation hole to test the waters, and how sometimes I decided I needed longer in my hibernation hole or, conversely,  that yes indeed, now was the time to seize the day!

Have you ever gone through periods where you just felt so….shy? inward? … depleted?  like you needed a break from other mothers in real life or beautiful blog pictures that make you feel unworthy as a mother?  Periods where you needed a break even from extended family?  So much judging goes around mothering in our culture.  We are all like little isolated islands without much in the way of support so what should be a cooperative endeavor ends up as a competitive event! Sometimes we just need a break from anything outside of our families and our homes because we are plain burned out.  Have you ever been pulled that way and honored it for a season?

A little hibernation and shutting out of the outside world can be a way to lie fallow for awhile.  Pulling in allows a little of the pressure to slide off, a little pace of slowing down, and a release of not having to put oneself “out there” for anything but the most supportive listening of the closest and most intimate of family members or friends.

We are coming up to Lent soon.  Perhaps during this Lenten season, you will take the time to pull in and hibernate, but not due to any outside pressure or insecurity.  Perhaps this time you will pull in and take this time to restore yourself.

Restore your confidence.

Restore your feelings that you worthy of love.

Restore your feelings that you matter.

Restore your feelings that you are just right the way you are.  If you want to improve or change something do it  because you feel illuminated and led to, not from any feelings of unworthiness or shame or guilt.

Restore your physical health.  Sleeping enough, exercising, eating healthy food, taking care of yourself are all things to be done so you can be a light for your family.  And your children notice.  You are modeling for them how to slow down, how to get enough rest and how to be healthy.  It is worthy.

Restore your positive attitude.  Life should be joyful; there should be joy in ordinary moments.

Restore your sense of fun!

Restore your faith in something much, much bigger, wider and deeper than yourself.  Where do you find light?  Seek out your light.

Restore your sense of love, compassion, empathy.

Restore your sense of the big picture.

Restore your vision, mission and priorities.

Don’t be afraid to hibernate, but do it to restore, renew, refresh yourself.  I will be hibernating with you, and refreshing myself and my deepest intentions and priorities.  Please share your hibernation journey with me.  What has helped you restore the most in your moments of hibernation? What helped you come out of your shell again?   What did you learn in the fallow periods?

Love,

Carrie

 

Extreme Self-Care for the Homeschooling Mom: Join Me!

Have you ever felt resentful that you are always at the bottom of the list, trying to figure out when to exercise or go buy a bra or squeeze in a dentist appointment?   Me too!   Homeschooling is HARD work at times.  Especially as children get older and you are trying to meet academic needs that are more demanding, more social needs and extra activities.  You may end up feeling pulled from early in the morning until later in the evening after you get home from whatever activity was going on.  This happens, even in Waldorf families, especially when we are homeschooling teenagers.

I recently got to spend some days alone.   Our dog just came out of the ICU.  She was too sick to travel and needed rest and quiet at home to recover,  but we also had our once a year vacation plans that were paid for and we couldn’t get a refund.  So, my husband and I decided that he would take the children for the vacation and I stayed home with our sweet dog.  The wonderful thing was that she wasn’t so sick that I couldn’t run out for an hour or so and come back. (And thank goodness,  because there was nothing worse than seeing her so sick! So grateful she is feeling better even if she has a road ahead!)  So I went to the gym AND also walked on the SAME day!  I cleaned out closets and the pantry and the garage.  I did much of the paperwork kind of stuff that I almost never have time to call about and follow up on (or I have to miss time homeschooling in order to do that!)  I also went through things for homeschooling, including looking at things for high school next year,  that I probably would never had  time to do if I wasn’t alone!  I did all kinds of things that were so much easier in solitude.

And here is what I thought about this week:  we, as homeschooling mothers, often do put ourselves last. We really do very often.  We may go straight from one child to the next with homeschooling to meal preparation to activities for children to housework with no break at all until in the night after the children go to sleep.  And then we are tired! Teaching all day is tiring!  Many times this pace is a necessity in homeschooling. IAs people say, it really is just a season, but it can be a long season when you are in it.   So short of giving up homeschooling,which most of us are  not going to give up for varying reasons, what can we do for self care in the meantime?

Here is my list; maybe it will inspire you to make  your own list and share it here! Here is mine:

  • Make sure you have scheduled time every day to exercise.  Yes, that might be at 6:30 in the morning or 8 at night, but if that is what it is , then so be it!  I will be thinking of you at 6:30 AM.   It is NOT selfish to take care of your health and according to nearly every research study out there, exercise is a major key to good health!  Take charge of your health and exercise.  It is really important!
  • Make and keep your doctor and dentist appointments; make and keep appointments for things that nourish you and make you feel fabulous – whether that is finally getting some new clothes (even if they are thrift store clothes, they are still new to you!) or having a date with a friend..whatever that nourishing thing is outside your family, put it on your calendar, arrange someone to watch your children and go do that!
  • Be the meal prepper – but not just for the family, but for your too.  If you Meal Prep Monday, you can have meals for the whole week for you.  This is especially important if you need a diet that is different in some ways from your family’s diet.  I like Amanda’s  Instagram account   to follow for healthy meal prepping,  and I like divided containers or mason jars to put healthy food in when I prep food.  Planning out things like breakfast and lunch for the whole family has also helped me immensely. I generally always have a plan for dinner, but everyone was getting tired of the standard fare for breakfast and lunch, including me.  Take your time and think ahead for meals; can you cook in bulk or use a crockpot? 
  • Don’t let your passions die.  You are more than a mother and  a partner or spouse. You are the unique and wonderful you!  Is there any time, once a week, where the children could all GO and you could be alone?  This isn’t always possible with traveling partners and family far away or partners who work long hours, but then could you cultivate a mother’s helper, a babysitter,  a friend to trade with?  You are so worth this!  If your children are very small, under the age of seven, again,  this may be very difficult, so don’t  torture yourself over it, but do start making strides when children are five and six toward having some time to yourself for doing your passion – whether that is painting or hiking or reading or music.  I think it is important to make that effort.
  • Get organized – yes, use your calendar,  and set boundaries on your time.  You cannot do it all, and the more you run from morning until night, the more it will eventually lead to burn-out.   Steady pace counts for a lot in life.
  • Get your house in order.  Things are naturally going to be more chaotic with more people in the house and things will have to be “over-hauled” perhaps more often than you think..for example, I cleaned out all the dressers, drawers, storage areas over the summer and it needed to be done again.  Things pile up and especially with the change in seasons,  they need to be gone through again.  Or maybe you could use Flylady where you really clean out clutter each week!  Getting rid of the clutter makes it much simpler to clean!
  • If you feel nourished, calm, healthy …well, then you feel great!  You feel sexy! And that is such a great boost to those of us with partners or spouses in the house. Smile  

I guess most of all, what I have been thinking is to set your priorities and boundaries! We all only have 24 hours in a day, but if nearly all of those hours are devoted to our children’s schooling and activities and we can’t even get a twice a year dentist appointment in, for example, something is wrong.  We want to invest our time in our children and families, but we also really need to invest in our own health and well-being. This is about being a great model for our children when it comes to health and sanity.  Also, when we feel physically good and emotionally nurtured, everyone in the family benefits!

Please share your best ideas for self-care in the comment box.

Blessings,
Carrie

Silence

For many meditating during these nights, silence is a theme for yesterday.  I am meditating on silence today as I think of the polarity between myself and St. John the Evangelist, whose feast day is today.  How do I bring silence and stillness into my life so I can have a more fruitful inner life?  I find it hard to deepen that if there is nothing but noise or clutter or chaos swirling around me.  So, having time to be home, to not rush, to have space and time is so important.  How can I construct the rhythms of my family and of my heart in order to have this space this coming year?

And when do I boldly proclaim the truth in words, the way St. John proclaims the Logos?  Do I speak truth when it is needed?  Do I do that boldly, tactfully or timidly?

While so many people say they want to quit homeschooling in November and February, I find that a bit ironic for me personally since I perceive those months to be ones of silence and stillness and I love that aspect.  Solitude is so different than taking a knowing break to replenish the soul.

How does silence manifest itself in your life?  Do you welcome it?  How does silence work with courage?

Blessings,
Carrie