The Milestone Every Child Needs to Reach

II really loved this article entitled, “The Milestones That Matter Most”.  One of the things this article brought up was the cultural biases we have that play into our parenting.  I have long been fascinated with this subject; when my older children were tiny I read and re-read Meredith Small’s “Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent”.

What is interesting to me is that, of course, different things are valued in different cultures.  Our one milestone that we might feel every child needs to reach may not be the same in another culture.  One of the ways we may combat bias in parenting is to consciously examine our own biases in regard to development and culture.  Do we, for example, assume that babies have to sleep through the night by themselves?  Do we assume that babies should be able to “self-soothe”?  Do we assume that toddlers will have a “terrible two’s” period?  Do we think children have to go to school to be “educated”?  Do we assume that children  will be “defiant”?  Do we think that children should have a lot of responsibility for themselves or no responsibility?  Do we assume that children should be able to self-regulate by a certain age?  Do we assume teenagers will battle against their parents and be rebellious?

Some of these questions have an inferred bias that we must examine consciously and continually as we go through our own life changes.  Some of the biases we enter into in parenting may change over time as we are in the ttrenches of dealing with our own children and watching other parents.   Human development, growth , and change is never done for the parent or the child.  It is part of being human, especially if we are trying to live in a conscious manner and we take responsibility  for our own throughts and actions.

IOne thing that can really assist us as parents is to have a family mission statement.  In our family, we have had  the same family mission statement – KIPPA  (Kindness, Integrity, Patience, Positive Attitude, Adventure) – for several years now.  Acronyms can make things easier to remember.  The process of creating a family mission statement can help us see where our biases are, what our values are, and what we think will be a course that will sustain us through parenthood and our children into a connected, happy adulthood. Have a personal mission statement in connection with your parenting and what you want to model in life is also a great conscious step.

Things I find that can carry  through many years of parenting includes connection, rresolving conflict,  setting boundaries in a healthful way , and  taking responsibility for one’s actions.  Kindness is always a modeled value.  So perhaps the milestone your child most needs to reach isn’t learning to read, or learning any other academic skill, but instead the milestones of being able to offer and accept love from other human beings, being able to assimilate into a humanity and offer goodness and kindness.  Perhaps those are the best milestones a human being can reach.

Please share with me your family mission statement, or the values you have found that have carried you through many years of parenting that you try to model for your own children.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

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Finding Rhythm With Grades-Aged Children

I think rhythm with grades-aged children (which I consider children in grades 1-8, so ages seven to thirteen or fourteen) can become trickier.  As children grow, chances are that you are not only juggling one grades-aged child but perhaps children that are older (teenagers) or younger (the littles, as I affectionately call them) with children that are in these grades.  There can also be an increased pressure to sign up for activities or increased pressure at school  as a child advances toward high school.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 1-3:

  • Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!  I wrote a post about choosing time outside the home wisely in which I detail how many activities I really think a child in public or private school, versus homeschooling children with and without children needs.   Remember, it is almost impossible to have a healthy rhythm if you and your children are gone all the time scurrying from one activity to another.  Children under age 9 deserve a slow childhood with time to dream and just be (without screens) and I would vote for no outside structured activities for these tiny ages.  Mark off days to be solely home with no running around!
  •  Being outside in nature in an unstructured way is so very important, along with limiting media.  I suggest no media for these ages.  There are many other healthier ways for children to be spending their time that promote great physiological and psychological health rather than being a passive recipient. First through third graders need an inordinate amount of time to be outside, to swim and play in the woods or sand, to ride bikes, to climb trees, and just be in nature.
  • For those of you who want to homeschool through many grades, I do suggest getting involved in a homeschooling group or finding a group of homeschool friends for your child.  This usually becomes a much larger issue around the latter part of  age 10, post nine-year change for many children (especially melancholic children and typically girls over boys around the fifth grade year) and for those who are more extroverted.  However, one activity is plenty for third graders in anticipation of this “coming change” as a ten year old. 
  • Rest is still the mainstay of the rhythm – a first grader may be going to bed around seven, a second grader by seven thirty or so, and a third grader by seven forty-five.  This may sound very early for your family, but I would love for you to give it a try. If you need ideas about this, I recommend this book.
  • In short, I do not think the rhythm established in the Early Years should be changing too much in this time period.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 4 and 5:

  • Rhythm begins in the home.  What are you doing in the home? I find sometimes fourth and fifth graders are anxious to go, go, go because there is not much happening in the home.  No rhythm is being held, preparing for the festivals has fallen by the wayside, and they now see being involved in things such as preparing meals and such as work instead of just part of a rhythm of breathing in and out.  This takes time to develop again by being home. Be home!
  • All the things in the first through third grade section above applies. Rest is still very important and fourth and fifth graders may need help in this area – both in resting and in having a reasonable bedtime.  Children this age should be getting 10-11 hours of sleep a night, plus time to rest! Most children this age are still going to bed around 8 or 8:30.
  • I do not believe fourth and fifth graders really need structured outside the home activities, especially for children attending public or private school. I have seen some fifth graders who really relished one special activity.   Many homeschoolers will find their fifth graders really wanting a homeschool community and friends at this point, so I think that might need to be honored.
  • Media!  I have written many posts about media.  Fourth and fifth graders do not need media or their own phones or their own tablets.  Think carefully about this.  There are other ways they should be spending their time that are much more important to development.  The reason media is important in the context of rhythm is that it generally is used as a time-filler – so if the pull to media is strong, that typically means the rhythm is not strong or that the child needs help in finding something to do – handwork, woodworking, and other activities can help that need to create and do.
  • Being outside in nature and developing the physical  body is still of utmost importance. Setting up good habits for physical activity is important in this stage because most children feel very heavy and clumsy when they are in the sixth grade and changing around age twelve.  Having great habits in this period of grades four and five can really  help with that.  
  • This is a great age for games in the neighborhood – kickball, foursquare, etc. – and general physical activity of running, biking, swimming.  Free play is probably one of the most important things fourth and fifth graders can do!
  • Keep your yearly rhythms strong.  This may be easier with younger children in the household, but never lose sight of the fact that a fourth or fifth grader is in the heart of childhood themselves and therefore should certainly not be treated like a middle schooler.  This time is very short, and needs to be treated as the golden period that it truly is!  Keeping the festivals, the times of berry picking and apple picking and such, is the thing that children will remember when they are grown up.  If everything is just a blur of practices and lessons and structure, there is no space and time to make those kinds of family or community memories.

Here are some ideas for finding rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • Rest!  Rest and sleep are very important components of rhythm.  Sixth graders who are twelve are generally sluggish, and teenagers have rhythms regarding sleep that begin to change.  This article from the New York Times details many of the changes for teenagers (seventh and eighth grade).  In order for these children to get enough sleep, and since the starting time of public school middle school may be later (but probably not late enough!), I highly suggest limiting late night activities.  Again, choose your activities outside the home carefully and with much thought.
  • This is a prime time to nurture life skills and responsibility around the home. If you are running everywhere, this time of learning, which is really the most important thing when children grow up and have to live on their own, cannot happen.   Life skills and home responsibility deserves a place in daily and weekly rhythm.
  • Media is harder to keep at bay for most families.  Remember, media impacts rhythm and vice versa.  It is often a time filler, and can prevent middle schoolers from solving their own problems of what to do when they are “bored” (or just being bored; there is value in boredom as well!)  and tapping into their own creativity.  It can derail any kind of “doing” rhythm.  Hold strong standards about media!  Some ideas:  use a Circle to manage time and content across devices ;  strongly limit apps (because every app you add generally leads to more time on the device) and do not allow social media.  We introduced the  computer in eighth grade (which I know is not always feasible for public or private school students who are using technology as part of school from an early age)  as a tool for school work more than a plaything, and I think that attitude also made a large difference.  If you allow movies/TV shows, I recommend using Common Sense Media , but I also feel this needs to be strongly limited (and I would vote toward not at all or extremely limited for the sixth grader/twelve year old) since these middle school years are  ages where children feel heavy, awkward, clumsy, and don’t particularly want to move.  So, more than anything else, I think watch what you are modeling — are YOU moving and outside or are you sitting all day on a screen?  Modeling still is important!   If they are sitting all day at school and with homework, it is important that they move vigorously when they are home from school and on the weekends!  With both things that unstructured in nature and as far as structured movement..
  • This is a great age to pick up sports if that hasn’t already happened, although many children will say they feel they should have started much earlier. Again, this is such a symptom of our times that everything earlier is better, which I often find is not actually the case.  There is a big discussion right now about sports burn-out for middle schoolers who have started in elementary school.    If you want to see more of my thoughts about sports, take a look at this post that details the last pediatric sports medicine conference I attended.
  • I find the artistic component often needs to be increased in these years to really counteract some of the headiness of school subjects and media exposure.  It is a healing balm for middle schoolers, even if they complain they are not good at drawing or painting or such.  Keep trying, and do it with them or as a family.  Keep art and woodworking activities out, provide craft ideas and help them harness some of that creative power!  That can be a part of the weekly rhythm for your middle schooler.
  • Remember that your middle schooler is not a high schooler. The middle schooler does not think, move, or act like a high schooler. Please don’t force high school schedules onto your middle schooler.  There should be a difference between the middle schooler and high schooler.

Last tips for rhythm with children in grades 6-8:

  • Where is the family fun?  You should be having tremendous family fun together.  Family is where it is at!  Family is more important than peers – you can look back to the book, “Hold On To Your Kids” by Neufeld and Mate if you need further confirmation.  Family fun can be part of all levels of rhythm – daily, weekly, and yearly! It is an attitude and an action!
  • Where is your rest, and your inner spiritual work?  I think you need this, especially as you enter the middle school years. Children can have a lot of emotion during this time period, and you have to be the steady rock.  If you need a reminder about boundaries and parenting, try this back post.
  • How is your home coming along?  By now, with children in these upper grades, there should be pretty steady rhythms and routines regarding the home and the work that it takes to maintain a home.
  • How is your relationship with your partner or spouse?  This is the time to really start thinking about date nights if your relationship thrives and deepens on that.

Blessings,
Carrie

Finding Rhythm With Littles

I think this is the time of year where many mothers of tiny children are re-thinking rhythm.  Rhythm is that elusive thing, that when done in a healthful way, feels nourishing and peaceful and helpful.  It should never feel like a tight noose around your neck that you cannot live up to nor get free of.  But sometimes, finding rhythm, especially with littles, is so challenging.

So, for those of you with small children out there (and by small I essentially mean the Early Years of up to age 7, with points for consideration for those ages 7-12)….

  • It is a great day if all the children have been fed, been diapered or gone to the bathroom and dealth with basic hygiene, played outside, rested or napped, and were loved with kind words, kind hands and a kind heart through the fatigue and exhaustion that often accompanies mothers dealing with small children 24/7.  All the rest, I really believe, is icing on the cake!
  • I always ask mothers who are baffled by the concept of rhythm and who are certain they don’t have any in their home to start with keeping a log of two to four days of what they are doing during each day. Usually a pattern begins to emerge around sleep and eating.  That is a great basic place to build upon!
  • There is no perfection.  I find mothers who want everything to be perfect often drive themselves to complete burn-out.  Please don’t!  People before things, as always.  With small children afoot, you may  not get a lot done, and that is okay.
  • Find your order.   The best thing to show children outside of laughter and having fun and playing is that work can be fun!  This means thinking about what piece of the things you do can be done by hand instead of by pushing a button, and then to think which of those “hand pieces” could little hands do?  That is part of rhythm, and part of purpose.  Littles weave in and out, littles make a mess behind you or in another place you are not – that is part of it.  However, there are parts they can assist with and become proficient as well.  Even toddlers!
  • Where is your rest?  I find mothers of littles are typically so exhausted.  Physical rest before other things.
  •   I think at this stage of life, your spiritual work is in your hands.  Make the work of your hands your prayer; say a prayer that instead of perfection  you are showing love and kindness.
  • Set up help and support.  Every mother needs help and support – from her spouse, from her extended family, from her friends.  Plan B, C, D, and E are really important since Plan A rarely works out in parenting!
  • Less is more. In my area, suburbs of a major metropolitan area, the amount of outside activities many 3-7 year olds are engaged in absolutely stymies me!  Three to seven year old are always far better served being at home and with small things – walks in the neighborhood, feeding the birds, care of the home and the family pet. It doesn’t need to be much more!
  • What makes you smile  and laugh?  Find that and do more of that!

Lots of love in the striving,

Carrie

 

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 Heart Behind Rhythm

 

It is indeed a grievous feature of present-day life that when man meets man there is no understanding between them.” (Rudolf Steiner, 1924, p. 91 – The Roots of Education)

As the new school year is dawning, and I am thinking about how to fit in “track classes” (ones that run all year) and  subjects taught in blocks for our ninth grader, plus two other grades, rhythm is at the forefront of my mind.  But it really isn’t an intellectual function, a head function,  to look at rhythm, is it?   It is a function of the heart and being able to breathe. The breath is something mentioned in Waldorf Education  over and over again. Our physical breath comes from movement, but perhaps it is safe to say that the breathing of our soul forces come from rhythm and the balance that rhythm brings.

It is a function of our love and our kindness toward our families to have unhurried time, unrushed time and to be able to give our children the gift of long periods of time at home in which they can sink into play and rest and dreams.  The most fundamental deep place where rhythm comes from is the cosmos inside of us, and from love and kindness.  This post from Cedar Ring Mama in 2012 has stayed with me for some time. If you haven’t read it recently, you can find it  here.

In a world where we cannot seem to connect to the understanding of each other and humanity of us all, rhythm is a good place to nourish health for our children who will be leading and hopefully changing the world for the better one day soon.  We must begin with the health of these children in mind.  We encourage the base of indepedent thinking through experience when we give time in our rhythm.  We see the humanity of all mankind inside ourselves.

So, I can tell you about how I make a little chart with the 12 months on it and ideas for festivals, or how I choose subjects for blocks and look at the development of my child and where those blocks fit.  I can talk about how to plan blocks and make individual lessons breathe.  I can even tell you how I fit all the things my children need in a school year for learning into each day.  That is important in homeschooling.  But, if I don’t think about the overall rhythm to my family and how homeschooling is a part of this bigger picture of family love and kindness and healthy development, I have not led with my heart.

Kindness and love, the things that happen in unhurried time, is what matters in parenting and in homeschooling.  May all of our values be protected in promoting and encouraging our children to just be and to take time.  May they see and find the cosmos and the unity of humanity within themselves this school year so that we may all understand each other in love.

Blessings,
Carrie

5 Ways To Make Gentle Discipline Work For Your Family

Gentle discipline is not just a toolbox of tricks; instead I like to view it as the art of connecting and loving as we resolve a conflict together.  It is about hearing the other person, yes, even if that person is a toddler or someone who is small; it is about not reacting in a defensive and emotional way; and it is about forging a path as a family together where the family agenda is the priority and all needs can be met (but perhaps not all at the same time!)

There are five ways I have found to really help families as they work through problems and conflicts together:

Commit to gentle discipline.  If you have a partner in the home, commit to it as a team and agree to back each other up.  The commitment is important.  It may not always be perfect; gentle discipline is a process.  For some families, gentle discipline comes easier than other families.  Some of us have more baggage from our own childhoods to overcome.  It may feel unnatural to try to connect to a child who is being difficult in our eyes.  We may all have different things that our children do that may really bother us.  We need to be able to step in for one another when things are flaring,  and to back each other up as loving guides for our children.  We must commit to the process of connecting during conflict every day.

Know yourself and your partner and how to nourish each other.  What really upsets you and sets you off?  Does knowing what is normal for each developmental stage of childhood help you?  I find this can often help parents feel calmer, to just know what is normal for the developmental stages.      Where is your self-care?  If you are empty, it is so much harder to respond in a connected and loving way to your child.   How do you love one another so you can respond to your children lovingly and patiently so you can guide them when they are having big feelings or big things happening?  This is so important for all stages of development, but I think especially with teenagers.

What is the family agenda?  It is  incredibly hard for a child to know what is expected and how to live with the other family members in the household if no boundaries are set.  The earliest harbinger of boundaries can be found in rhythm, and this happens when children are very small.   As children grow, they can understand the boundaries (rules)  of the family reflect values of the family.  However, in order to have that, the adults of the family must get together and talk about the values you are creating together. Values are something that teenagers can respond to and discuss with you – are your teenagers’ values the same as your family values?  Why or why not? What conflict does this create and how do you navigate this?

Recognize the patterns. Most families have recognizable patterns – this is what happens, this upsets this person, this is how this person reacts.  It is hard to change conflicts within the family if you don’t ever see the patterns or if people are not willing to try something to change the patterns, especially the adults in how they react to what children do.  Who is the calm one in conflict? Who shuts down?  Who walks away? Who gets angry?

How do you resolve conflict?  Because children are not miniature adults, they are not going to reason like adults in times of conflict (and even adults often do not do well in that!)  Small children  do not need intellectualized verbal sparring in order to resolve conflict; what they often need is distraction, rhythm, a boundary that is held lovingly without many words at all, the action of restitution.   I find children ages 9-12 often function not much above these tools.  What helps to limit conflicts in these ages is boundaries that are set up ahead of time and are known.

For teenagers , decide on how you will approach conflicts.  The steps in our family, which we just wrote down recently so everyone was on the same page  include:  taking the time to calm down, making sure the problem is really and actually a problem ( some of the more verbal family members really need to write it down so the problem can be defined and not just a whole slew of emotions with nothing definable other than feelings), meet together in order to discuss  without blaming others and  in order to take responsibility for their own part in things, to really listen and paraphrase what the other person has said and then brainstorm solutions that work for the whole family.  Lastly, we forgive, affirm, or thank the other person and make restitution.  So that is a longer process appropriate for a teen who can really do these steps.

I would love to hear what you steps you think make the difference in making your family a home of gentle discipline and problem solving.    I also have many, many back posts on this blog dealing with gentle discipline if you just search.

Many blessings,

Carrie

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: July

 

July, with its long and sultry hot days, is almost here.  I am so excited that this will be a slower-paced month than our June turned out to be and can’t wait to just be home.  July feels like that – long, sometimes bordering on dull to me, but so needed in the cycle of the year for rest and rejuvenation.   With older children, I really look to summer as a season to balance out some of the other times of the year when we are busier.

Here are the things we are celebrating this month:

July 3rd – The Feast Day of St. Thomas the Apostle

July 4th- Independence Day of the United States

July 25 – The Feast Day of St. James

Some of you may also be celebrating:

St. Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day is July  22 and The Feast Day of St. Anne and St. Joachim will be on July 26th.

Here are a few of my favorite things for small children:

Here are a few of my favorite things for older children/teens:

  • Swimming and sliding on rocks in creeks; maybe even venturing to a water park or splash pad
  • Catching fireflies
  • Gazing at stars
  • The Magic of Boredom

I am contemplating…

The peace to be found with unhurried time

The July Doldrums  and The July Doldrums again…  I think this July is going to not be a time of the doldrums, but just in case, I want to refresh myself!

Homeschooling planning..

is moving along.  I am usually much farther this time  of year, but I have accepted that slow is okay.  It will all get done, and I am feeling peaceful about it.  I have sixth grade mostly done, and I think I can plan first grade in about three weeks since I have been through it twice before.  High school biology, our year long course is planned, and I have a few blocks sketched out that just need to be finalized.  How is planning coming along for you?

Please share your favorite ways to celebrate the month of July!