The Lenten Promise: Re-Committing To Our Children

During this Lenten Season, let’s remember and re-commit to doing well by our children. Depending upon the age of our children and the season of life we are in, it can be easy to grow weary. This particular time of year is a call to renewal and regrowth, and may this be the season to pull things in once again and move forward.

If we acknowledge the individual differences our children hold in the view that all children have gifts and marvels to share with the world, this journey becomes easier. Sometimes it can be hard to hold on to that when a child is struggling socially or through medical or learning challenges or just through a tough patch in development, but the gifts are there are surely as the sun shines. Look for those gifts, and repeat those gifts to yourself.

Let us step back a bit. Our children are capable and trustworthy. We need to trust that our children will makes mistakes, and hopefully the mistakes will be fixable and not catastrophic. However, let us also  not become complacent and uncaring. Studies have shown that children who have uninvolved parents have the worst outcomes of any parenting style.  Let us also acknowledge that whilst every child is different, there are developmental milestones that all human beings go through in aging.  If we can understand childhood development in a broader sense, it helps us hang on and see that many things are shared in the childhood journey.

Let’s re-commit to  kindness in our homes.  This back post from 2009 outlines several steps for kindness in the home, beginning with ourselves.  We cannot nurture our families if we are at rock bottom.  Most of us do not have extended family to lean on with our children, and we need to learn how to craft routines that include our own self-care and nurturing.  I can honestly say I am only starting to get this now, fifteen and a half years into parenting, but this is a crucial strategy for nurturing the family!

And finally, let’s re-commit to love being the ultimate goal and method of our homeschooling.  It can be difficult to feel loving in the midst of trying to help a child write a paper, tackle a hard subject, deal with a child who is not working up to his or her full potential or to not get lost in trying to rush through homeschooling in order to deal with all the things life is throwing our way.  Love brings with it an enveloping quiet and warmth, and a soothing quality that can help even the most frazzled of homeschooling situations if only we slow down to remember.  Love causes our words to become as pearls.

Here is to a season of growth, renewal, and love.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Celebrating March

The Robin Is The One Poem by Emily Dickinson
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The Robin is the One
That interrupt the Morn
With hurried—few—express Reports
When March is scarcely on—

The Robin is the One
That overflow the Noon
With her cherubic quantity—
An April but begun—

The Robin is the One
That speechless from her Nest
Submit that Home—and Certainty
And Sanctity, are best

March is here in all its renewing glory!  I am caught up with blustery winds, and days that are warmer and nights that can be cold; pussy willows and violets; daffodils and tulips.  Things are beginning to come alive again!

This month we are celebrating:

Lent  (and ideas here for Lent in the Waldorf Home )

March 1 – Ash Wednesday and also The Feast of St. David  (here is an idea for an early grades wet on wet painting to celebrate this day )

March 17 – The Feast Day of St. Patrick (try this post regarding Celebrations of spring in the Waldorf Home for more information)

March 19- The Feast of St. Joseph

March 25 – The Annunciation

March 30- St. Innocent of Alaska

Things To Do As A Family:

Strengthen both my physical work (physical exercise and cleaning and gardening in my home) AND my inner work.

Establish Lenten moods for our family – a rather plain nature table; unlit candles on the table, listening to the sounds of nature in silence each day; attending Mass

Use ideas from the Lent post linked above and also the Green Anglican Carbon Fast for Lent calendar

Hiking and being in nature

Being unhurried and unrushed

Making toys that flutter in the wind; flying kites

Re-vamping our play areas, board games, and switching out books for our Lenten book basket

Making herbal tonics and salves

Planning Ahead:

I am gathering ideas for Easter baskets

And yes, I am homeschooling planning for tenth grade, seventh grade, and second grade to start in the fall!  I have plans that I am getting excited to share with you all!  If you are looking for ideas on what to possibly do regarding planning for fall homeschooling now, have a peek at this back post.

What are you up to this month of March?

In Joy,

Carrie

 

 

Preparing Our Hearts for Lent

Are you starting to think about Lent?  Lent begins for the Western Church on Wednesday, March 1 and ends on Saturday, April 15.  I am starting to get some ideas in place for Lent for both myself and the children, and wanted to share in case any of my ideas would be helpful in your own family.

One of the major things we do in Lent is house cleaning and home making.  In fact, I have an entire series of posts regarding this under the Family Life header.

I have divided the list in my head into Prayer/Reflection, Gratitude and Kindness, Charity, and Nature.  Then I started breaking down activities and books into these areas, with the idea and hope that we will have a peaceful Lent.  We are Episcopalian, which is part of the Anglican Communion, so many of our family’s Lenten traditions and expectations reflect this spiritual path.

Prayer/Reflection:

For myself: The 5 Marks of Love by The Society of St. John the Evanagelist; there are also children’s guides for parishes on this material.  I also plan to look and investigate  the  Devotional Societies of the Anglican Communion.

For the children:

Books for Children About Prayer and Self-Reflection:

Actions:

  • Pray Morning and Evening Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer
  • Pray the Great Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim
  • Learn about the Saints who have Feast Days during Lent
  • Memorize the Beatitudes
  • Memorize the 5 Marks of Mission  of the Episcopal Church
  • Attend Mass
  • Confess to our priest

 

Gratitude and Kindness:

For myself:  I love the gratitude journaling prompts over at Orthodox Mom

Love people – spend time with those we love

For our family:

  • Ideas from our our positive family attitude Pinterest Board
  • Plan a special siblings’ day – gratitude for each other
  • No complaining
  • We will be looking for ways to spread the mission of The Episcopal Church in kindness: to commit to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to love our neighbor as ourselves; and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

Charity:

For our entire family:

Nature for the entire family:

For myself:  Maintain an advocacy role in the arenas of climate change, clean water and clean air, and renewable energy sources

  • Hike several times a week.
  • Rest and observe quiet several times a day outside

My plan is to put together a Lenten book basket, to use a morning time to meet and tackle some of the things from the prayer/reflection section, to go over the Feast Days of different Saints during Lent and add icons or pictures of these Saints to an ever expanding list that we hang in our school room, and to put a chart up reminding ourselves ways we can celebrate Lent.

I would love to hear your plans for this Lent.

Blessings,
Carrie

Celebrating February

February brings to my mind hearts, flowers, reds and pinks, love and the respect that goes with loving someone or something fully, the beginnings and musings of spring coming.  It can also be a hard month. February is the month in which nearly every family I know wants to quit homeschooling, and it often is the month where I feel like we must just keep going.

Having festivals to celebrate and be positive about can often be a lovely break to the somewhat dreary weather. I often find the rhythms of the day and the week to be grounding, but the calendar of festivals throughout the year is what brings diversity and love.

So, this month, in our family,  we are celebrating:

Candlemas – February 2

Valentine’s Day – February 14

And really not much else.  I always feel a little depleted this time of year, so I have decided to focus on self-care this month and not so many outside things to prepare for!

In school and circle time with our littlest guy, we are looking at candles and light and love, gnomes,  and snowdrops (the flowers).

 

Things to love this month:

Hospitality

Love For Your Partner

 

Fun things to do with children:

Make Valentine’s Day cards; plan little treats and crafts for Valentine’s Day; make window transparencies; dip candles; roll candles; play board games or card games with your children;  draw, paint, model; whittle wood; make popcorn together; bake together; play in the snow – build snow forts; have snowball fights; snowshoe; downhill or cross country ski;  ice skate on a pond; read and tell stories; build forts inside; take a walk outside in the cold – look for animal tracks or berries or birds or all of the above; knit, crochet, cross stitch, finger knit, spin, sew; sing and make music together – learn some new songs; clean, scrub, dust, work around the house – rearrange furniture; go bowling or find an indoor swimming pool to swim in; write letters to family and friends; write stories together; snuggle on the coach with hot chocolate and marshmellows; cook for a neighbor; find a place of worship to attend and get involved; throw a party; clicker train your dog, cat, or other animal; take care of plants; start seeds indoors when it it is time

Get Your Homeschooling Together:

The February Homeschool Rhythm Re-Check

Find out information about Waldorf homeschooling

After I  present at a first grade workshop on the 18th, I will be full of homeschool planning for my own children.  Hard to believe they will be in 10th, 7th, and 2nd next year!

Get Your Self-Care Together:

My self-care this past month included spending time with friends whom I love (and tea; tea is lovely).  This month will include some couple dates out with my husband and friends, more friend dates, bubble baths, exercising, saying no to things that are draining my thoughts or energy, and clean eating.  And probably more tea.

I hope you are having a cozy February full of love and possibilities,

Carrie

Calm Candlemas

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright

Winter will take another flight.

If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain,

Winter is gone and will not come again.”

-Traditional Verse

Candlemas takes its name from the blessing of candles that will be used throughout the  year.  It is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ to Anna and Simeon, where Christ is seen as the Light.  The light of spring with its new dawning is awakening, and the new meets the old on both physical and spiritual planes.  This is a calming reassurance of the continuity of life and of the potential we have to be a light ourselves.

This day is also marked in the United States as “Groundhog Day.”  The  old belief was that all the hibernating animals would wake up on this day and come out to see if it was still winter or not.  Interestingly, if it is cloudy and the groundhog sees no shadow, there will be an early spring.  However, sunny weather causes a shadow, and the groundhog will predict 40 more days of winter.

The way to mark this day, is to of course, eat the traditional foods of Candlemas, which usually include crepes and pancakes. It is a day for agricultural sowing of the fields, or at least making a furrow, and it could be a day for spring cleaning and beginning new projects.  What new things have you wanted to do and need courage to begin?

And, this is of course a day of candle making. Old candles can be melted down into new dipped or walnut shell candle boats.  Other types of floating candles can be made from  wax poured into little cookie cutters that have been oiled and allowed to set with a wick.  Candles for tiny hands can be rolled; and candles can be dipped.  I keep separate pots for candle making endeavors on a shelf in my laundry room.  There are instructions for “sand candles” in the book “All Year Round”; you will need  a tennis ball to press into the sand and then to poke three holes into this shape so the finished candle will have three legs upon which to stand.  Earth candles are also lovely and can be dug into the yard to welcome all the little flowering bulbs just beginning to make an appearance.

Inside, a traditional nature table for this time of year may include little spring flowers from bulbs, and a pale green cloth.

I hope you found a calming, bright peace on this Candlemas Day.  May our inner light glow out into the world to shine for all to see.

Many blessings,

Carrie

A Special Day: The Feast of St. Brigid

 

A hiatus at this time can throw me back on myself – to ask “Where is my new growth?”  On the other hand, I may be overwhelmed by a sudden hustle of seasonal development and wonder “Am I ready for this?”  I realise I am no longer carried by Nature as I was when a child; I have to find my own way back to life.  For the adult, transitions can be lonely times, and to find our way from the dead of winter to new life in the year ahead we may need to tap much deeper sources of hope and inner confidence.  In this, the sequence of the Festivals can be a support.” – page 26, “All Year Round” by Druitt, Fynes-Clinton, Rowling

Today kicks off two days of festival wonder!  Today is the Feast of St. Brigid, and tomorrow is Candlemas, one of my favorite holidays.  Today, February 1st, is seen as the first day of spring.  I know this seems very odd indeed when in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere people are dealing with ice and cold, but within the agricultural realm, this day  marks the days becoming a bit longer.  This is a traditional time to prepare for lambing, and usually spring sowing begins.

St. Brigid became revered as a Saint within the advent of Christianity in Ireland.  There are stories about Brigid as the daughter of  the innkeeper that gave the holy family shelter in the stable, that she helped Mary escape with an infant Jesus by distracting guards who searched on King Herod’s orders.  She is also associated with having a cloak of miracles.  In some stories, Brigid requested to have land given to her by the King of Leinster, and when the King said she could have whatever her cloak covered, she laid it down and the cloak covered a large parcel of land!

Here are some ways to celebrate:

  • Make St. Brigid Crosses as protection from evil, fire,  lightening, disease.  There are many instructions for this one the web. Here is what they look like if you are not familiar:  http://janegmeyer.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/fifth-century-weaving-a-saint-brigids-cross/
  • Leave out a cloak for St. Brigid to bless as she comes by that will give the wearer protection.
  • Leave out a bowl of milk, butter,  and salt, for Brigid to bless as she comes by.  Leave out a bowl of oats or blessed food.  If you leave out seeds, these will be blessed for Spring Sowing.
  • Food may include freshly churned butter and braided bread. (St. Brigid was known as a cowherd and also a beekeeper).  Making some sort of bread with honey may also be appropriate.  I love the idea of making a cultured butter and Irish Soda Bread today!
  • Snowdrops and dandelions, white and yellow, might be festive for your table with white or green candles and your St.  Brigid’s crosses.
  • There is a lovely prayer for this day:

    Saint Brigid Hearth Keeper Prayer
    Courtesy of SaintBrigids.org

    Brigid of the Mantle, encompass us,
    Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
    Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
    Beneath your mantle, gather us,
    And restore us to memory.
    Mothers of our mother, Foremothers strong.
    Guide our hands in yours,
    Remind us how to kindle the hearth.
    To keep it bright, to preserve the flame.
    Your hands upon ours, Our hands within yours,
    To kindle the light, Both day and night.
    The Mantle of Brigid about us,
    The Memory of Brigid within us,
    The Protection of Brigid keeping us
    From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.
    This day and night,
    From dawn till dark, From dark till dawn.

    Spring comes fast in the south where I live; I am feeling in the mood to change our nature table to some of the very simplest spring treasures of pussy willows, or budding branches.  This will turn into a simple Lenten table soon enough.

    Many blessings in your celebrations this week,

    Carrie

The January Rhythm Round-Up

 

Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next with enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchhill

 

Some families get really upset when talking about rhythm or trying to make a rhythm for their family.  It is okay to start and tweak and start, and most families experiences successes and failures!   Rhythm can be a beautiful tool to use to obtain a harmonious and peaceful family.  Having all family members home does not have to be complete chaos, and life doesn’t need to feel so hurried and harried.  With rhythm, you can tame your household care, the nourishment of your family through warming meals, help gently guide your children, establish security and stability for all family members, and have enough time for sleep, rest, play, alone time, family time, and time outside the home.

Everyone’s rhythm will look a little bit different, but the main shared feature is that rhythm is just that – a rhythm where things flow and balance and not a tight schedule that is a noose around one’s neck where one always feels behind!

For those of you needing help to get started, try the back post Rhythm for the Irregular and the tips in this post!

Here are  just a few suggestions by area/age:

Taking care of the household:

For a rhythm with household chores, begin with the immediate.  Do the emergency clean up, and then find a system that works for you to systematically go through your rooms and de-clutter.  It is hard to clean when there is clutter everywhere!  Some people swear by FlyLady, some use Konmari.  Finding the system that works for you can really help!

Tackle daily tasks household tasks daily – sorting through junk mail and throwing it out; the daily toy pick up before lunch and dinner or before bedtime; the wiping down of counters – for every house it may look different dependent upon your tolerance, but figure out your daily tasks and do them.  I have found FLYLADY to be helpful with this over the years because it involves a short amount of time.

Involve your children.  Even toddlers can do meaningful work.

Don’t let your older children off the hook- if they want to go and do things, the house needs to be taken care of first.  We are training adults who will go off and have a house and perhaps a family of their own.  What habits do we want them to have in terms of household care? Here is an interesting article from NPR on how habits form and how to break bad habits.

For a rhythm with meals:

Try to focus on the fact that it isn’t just food you are serving.  I love this quote from Kim John Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting”:  “The family dinner is more than a meal.  Coming together, committing to a shared time and experience, exchanging conversation, food and attention…all of these add up to more than full bellies.  The nourishment is exponential.  Family stories, cultural markers, and information about how we live are passed around with the peas.  The process is more than the meal:  It is what comes before and after.  It is the reverence paid.  The process is also more important than the particulars.  Not only is it more forgiving, but also, like any rhythm, it gets better with practice.”

That being said, for the physical act of meals, try weekly menu planning and shopping.

Look for recipes for the crock pot or Insta Pot for busy days.

Let your older children cook dinner one night a week.

Rhythm with Little Ones, Under Age 9:

Rhythm begins in the home. In this day and age of so many structured classes for little people, be aware of who the outside the home activity is really for!  Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!     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!

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.

Here is a back post about garnering rhythm with littles

If you are searching for examples, here is one for children under the age of 7 over at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life from 2012.

Remember, though, I don’t think a rhythm is about throwing out who you are, who your family is,  what your family culture is in order to replace it with something that someone else does. Rather, rhythm with little people should build upon the successes in your own home.  Every family does something really well, so what is your thing that you do really well that you could build upon?

Rhythm with Ages 10-14: 

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.

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.

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.

Rhythm for Ages 14 and Up:

I still believe the more natural point of separation for teens is around age 16.  So to those of you with fourteen year olds and early fifteen year olds, please hold steady in rhythm, in holding family fun, in holding your yearly holidays, and in mealtimes.  These are really important to young teens, even if they don’t act like it!

For those of you with older teens, 16 and up, ( which I don’t have yet but have many friends who do) : honor this time.  Most teens this age are spreading their wings with activities, driving, jobs, relationships, getting ready for life past high school. Don’t rush it, but allow space and time.  Just like walking, they will be ready for things when they are ready.

Bedtimes is controversial topic for older teens on many high school homeschooling boards.  Only you can decide what is right for your family.  If you have younger children in the house, your teen just may never get to sleep super late.

Media is another topic of controversy that, as mentioned above, can really impact rhythm, and for the homeschooling family, how schoolwork gets done (or not). Some teens handle media really well, some need super strong limits.  There is no one way families handle media for their teens, even in Waldorf families.

Do make family dates, family nights, family vacations, and so forth.  The family still trumps whatever friends are about.

Consider the impact of outside activities upon a teen’s stress levels.  Choose wisely and carefully.  We can’t do it all, and neither can a teen.

Rhythm For Spread- Out Ages:

Some parents who have large families make the centerpiece of their rhythm the home,  and then  for an outside activity choose one activity the entire family can participate in at different levels, such as 4H or a scouting organization that is co-ed. Some choose one activity for boys and one for girls.

Parts of the rhythm can and should  be carried by older children and teens for the littles.

Lastly, I did a 7 part series on rhythm in  2012, so perhaps these back posts will be helpful:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Blessings,
Carrie