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

 

Celebrating The Light Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Use me, God.  Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I love this little prayer.  We are currently using it as a breakfast blessing, and will continue to use it until Lent.  Before we began saying this prayer, my little seven year old saw a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and commented that Dr. King “worked for all of America,” which I thought was an astute comment. May we all work for our own families, for each other and to build our nations in love and in generosity.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day  is an important day in the cycle of American festivals.  There are only three American federal holidays named after specific people:  George Washington’s birthday, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It is a day to celebrate the light and legacy of Dr. King:  his powerful oration, his ability to galvanize a nation toward equality in love, the youngest Noble Peace Prize winner at the time.

Our family is extremely lucky to live within driving distance of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and can visit and walk the areas that were most impactful in Dr. King’s life.  For those of you in many different parts of the country and world, perhaps you will be volunteering today to further light in the world.  Perhaps you will be supporting organizations that champion equality today; in the South we have the Southern Poverty Law Center which does work in civil rights and public interest legislation.

Perhaps for small children you would like to listen to the Sparkle Stories in honor of the legacy of Dr. King.

There are also many wonderful books to read:

I Have A Dream Book and CD

The Cart That Carried Martin (regarding the funeral of Dr. King)

There are many sort of “mid level” biographies to enjoy

“March” – the graphic novel trilogy by John Lewis (preread) (for tweens, teens, adults)

Adults may enjoy the March Trilogy and also this book, “A Gift of Love: Sermons From Strength to Love And Other Preachings” by Dr. King

 

Great inspiration for teenagers for artwork for the day could include the artwork of Derek Russell, which was shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center,  and I have been looking at this morning for my own inspiration.

Volunteering as a family is  a way that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is often celebrated.  Volunteering is another wonderful way to spend time together, build family bonds, and help others.  Sometimes families have a hard time finding volunteer opportunities that will take children under the age of 16, but I encourage you to check with different places in your area.  You may be surprised!

However, we must never forget that volunteerism also begins at home.  We help each other when we are stressed, tired, or upset.   We work together as a family team.   If we live in a neighborhood or subdivision, we help our neighbors in need, whether that is a hot meal or a listening ear.

May the selfless spirit of this day infuse every day for you and your family,

Carrie

 

A Sweet Epiphany Celebration

And down from all the stars

Streams blessings like wondrous rain

So that all our weary powers

Grow newly fresh again.

And out of obscure dark

The Lord comes into view

To knit torn threads together

And all of life renew

-Friedrich Hebbel, found in the book “Celebrating Festivals With Children” by Freya Jaffke

Epiphany is coming on Friday!  For those of you new to celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, which culminates in Epiphany and the end of Christmastide and the beginning of the season of Epiphany, this day can be a sweet and simple celebration of light.  There is a quote from St. Theophan the Recluse that makes me think of this day:  “All the Christian mysteries shine here with their Divine light and enlighten the minds and hearts of those who with faith celebrate this great festival.”

First of all, we can set the mood by changing our nature table to a blue backdrop to make a landscape of kings.  Perhaps a small house can be formed with rounded wood and a yellow veil, eight pointed stars and Mother Mary with her child upright on her lap. Some Waldorf Education sources recommend that Mother Mary receive a golden crown. The Kings approach a little closer each day and then slowly make their way home again after Epiphany. On Epiphany, the children may find twelve small candles burning on the morning of Epiphany.   During the last day of January, Mary and Joseph and Jesus can make their way into Egypt.

In the Western Church, Epiphanytide extends from now until Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Epiphany means “manifestation” , although I have also heard it translated as “to shine above” or “to shine over”.  The many facets of Epiphany show the ways that the Son of God is manifested to Jewish and Gentile alike.  The first part of tradition concerns the Three Kings, and the second part of tradition concerns the Baptism of Our Lord some thirty years later.  Some other explorations include the transformation of the water into wine at Cana and the Tranfiguration.

Tradition dictates that there were Three Kings, apparently derived from the three gifts they wrought:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts pointed to the mystical gifts of the Son of God.  Over time, the Three Kings acquired names:  Caspar (or Jasper or Gaspard), Melchoir, and Balthazar.  Melchoir, the king in red, offer gold as a symbol of wisdom; Bathazar, the king in blue offers frankincense as a symbol of piety, and Caspar, in green, offers myrrh as a symbol of healing forces and vitality.

The feasting often begins on Twelfth Night, the night before Epiphany, and Epiphany, like Christmas, usually includes gift-giving. In some countries, Epiphany, not Christmas, is the main gift-giving holiday.

When the Wise Men come to visit Christ, they find him not in the manger where he was born, but at his house.  So, there is often a focus on blessing the home at Epiphany.  Some will see door jams marked in chalk with 20+C+M+B+17 and sprinkled with Holy Water and blessed by a priest.

The feasting usually involves a King’s Cake with a bean placed inside. The person receiving the bean either becomes the Queen or King for a day, (or may be the person who has to host the Candlemas party!).  Here are a few recipes for this special day.  I think this year we will actually be making rice pudding with a bean in it.  Of course, in Latin America and Spain, a King’s Ring with a figurine of the infant Jesus inside is most customary.  In those countries, children write letters to the Three Kings and leave their shoes out in anticipation of a gift. In Waldorf Kindergartens, sometimes star cookies are baked.

The Baptism of our Lord leads to the blessing of the water in church.  In the Orthodox Church, bodies of water are blessed. I have some beautiful pictures of the Orthodox Theophany on my Epiphany Pinterest page.  Most of all, the inner aspect of this festival stirs me. What am I manifesting in my life?  What is still hidden inside and can be revealed?  At the Baptism, the triune nature of God is revealed, and I can wonder how I can be faithful this year.

Possible stories for this Feast include:

  • The Biblical Accounts
  • The Story of Baboushka, found in “Festivals, Family, and Food” and in many picture books
  • An Epiphany Story of the Tree, found in “Festivals, Family, and Food”

Many blessings to you on this special Feast,

Carrie

Celebrating January

I just love January.  It has such a cozy feeling of candlelight, warm sweaters, a fire going, warm foods, books and handwork and board games.  This is one of my favorite months!

This month, in our family,  we are celebrating:

The Twelve Days of Christmas, January 1- January 5

Epiphany on January 6.  Are you getting ready yet?  Here are some suggestions for fun things to do with your children.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day – January 16

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity– January 18-25

This is the month of Feast Days for many Saints and Holy People, so I am thinking we may do some read alouds around the biographies of some of the famous Saints and missionaries.

All month long we will also be celebrating King Winter, Jack Frost, and animals in winter in art, song, and nature walks.  I hope to share a bit more of that with you all this month!

Things to love this month:

The January Book Box

Warming Meals

Fun things to do with children:

Cut out paper snowflakes, including really cool 3-D snowflakes; 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 Rhythm Together:

Sometimes we just need a change of pace in January and we need a different rhythm than what we had before the holidays.  We can often start with the basics, such as rest and sleep times, meals, and times to be outside and then add in our task of the day, our household chores, our errand day, and if we are homeschooling, our homeschooling time.  Right now, my intention for January with a 9th, 6th and 1st grader is to have our  artistic rhythm look like this: Mondays baking and painting, Tuesdays coloring/drawing  in the afternoons,  Wednesdays modeling, Thursdays painting, and Fridays seasonal crafts/handwork.  All of us can work on projects with our first grader or our own projects and it feels nice and unhurried in an otherwise sea of main lessons for three children.  I have a household rhythm as well for each day of the week.  I would love to hear your rhythm for your home and family!

Get Your Homeschooling Together:

This is the month I am going to get together a few friends to read some of Steiner’s lectures on education.  If you are homeschooling a certain way, maybe you can all get together and discuss possible plans for fall homeschooling and bounce ideas off each other.  Maybe you can hold a tea and invite those interested in homeschooling to come.   Sometimes January is a good, quiet month to begin laying out the next school year as well.

Get Your Self-Care Together:

As part of my vitality practices, this year, I have pledged myself to daily prayer and gratitude and to exercise a certain number of days per month.  My husband and I are planning some date nights, and I am planning some outings with friends.  It promises to be a fun month!

I can’t wait to hear what you are up to!

Blessings,

Carrie