Glowing February

February can be a hard month for many people living in cold and dark climates and where it seems as if winter is dragging on forever.  I like to think of February as a month of illumination and light, which helps me counteract the darkness and think of February as a month of celebrating all kinds of love and light in the world.

This month we are celebrating:

Black History Month – Of course Black History IS World history and American history and should be in every subject we teach every month, but it’s also wonderful to take a renewed look at wonderful books and biographies this month.  Watch @theparentingpassageway IG and The Parenting Passageway Facebook page for our library hauls this month

February – Mardi Gras! (until Lent, of course)

February 2 – Candlemas

February 14 – St. Valentine’s Day (you can see this post about Celebrating Valentine’s Day in the Waldorf Home

February 17- Presidents Day

February 26- Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent  (try this post about Lent from last year with lots of links and ideas:  Lent – Pilgrimage of the Soul )  (and I am very excited to read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2020 Lenten book selection)

Lovely things to do with children this month:

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, grow sprouts in the kitchen or a little microgarden.

Thoughts about Homeschooling:

This is the month I find myself thinking about plans for the fall.  I think I often get a little bored and restless this time of the year – maybe you do too!  This could be a great month for skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, surfing if you live somewhere you can do that or swimming – in other words, break the rhythm up with physical activity outside.  It can be really helpful!

Waldorf homeschooling is intensive and difficult at times. It requires a lot of planning and a lot of ourselves as teachers, so I think we should be easy with ourselves, especially in February and especially when we have all very young children close in age or large spans of ages, it can be a complete struggle to meet everyone’s needs.  I understand why people drift away from Waldorf homeschooling to unschooling, or to field trip/road trip schooling or something where you can combine more as opposed to Waldorf.  I have zero judgement about that.  I also understand why those who love Waldorf Education sometimes move to an area where they have a Waldorf school available. I think we need to be easy on ourselves and find what rejuvenates us, and to be honest and real when teenagers are older and the homeschool season is just changing.  For some families it doesn’t change, and that is great, but for many families there can be a lot of guilt and angst about switching either homeschooling methods or educational choices in middle and high school. It’s okay that things don’t stay the same if that is what the child or family needs.  Our job is to prepare our children for the future in the right time and in the right manner for that child.  They need to be functional adults!

My own little homeschooling corner of the world:

Our fourth grader finished a block on Norse Myths and now we are into a block I designed on Birds of Prey since that is a main interest.  Our high school freshmen is  still at a hybrid school, and our high school senior is finishing up the year with acceptances at all the universities applied to with scholarship money – so now we just have decisions to make about the best place to attend, which is a lovely place to be.

I would love to hear from you about your plans for February!

Blessings,

Carrie

Winter Solstice and The Fourth Week of Advent

The Winter Solstice descends us into darkness and asks us to rise again, to find what gives us light, and to find what light we can give into the world.  Many of us are looking at Christmastide with renewed anticipation of generosity, light, kindness, love, compassion and bringing this into the world, beginning with ourselves and our own families.

What brings you light?  

How can you give light (compassion, kindness, love, generosity) to yourself?

How can you give light (compassion, kindness, love, generosity) to your family and others?

This is the fourth week of Advent – Christmastide begins soon.  This is the week that focuses on the light of mankind.  This could include creating/placing people on the Nativity Scene (some place the shepherds out this week if St. Mary and St. Joseph are already out); baking gingerbread people,  doing beautiful acts of kindness for those who need it most, thanking the workers of your community – postal people, fire people, police, garbage collectors, teachers, mentors, instructors, and honoring the people who are bringing light to the world and striving for all of humanity.

Christmastide is  a wonderful season that begins on Christmas Day and continues until the eve of Epiphany.  Freya Jaffke, in her wonderful book, “Celebrating the Festivals With Children”, writes:

“During the twelve or thirteen Holy Nights that follow Christmas, the events of Christmas continue to resonate; and it is a lovely custom for children if candles are lit each day, with singing, music making and perhaps a reading.  This period is set apart from the rest of the year, and can be a time when we gather our strength for the year ahead.  Nothing urgent needs to be done, and we can really take time for things.  Children are deeply satisfied if mother or father sits down beside them with some craftwork, or perhaps join in a game now and then.  In contrast to the summer when we like going outdoors, we feel very comfortable at home in the warmth – apart from winter walks and the fun of snow when it comes.”

We can celebrate the twelve days of Christmastide with children by using candles or a ring with twelve hearts or a simple Advent type calendar adapted to the twelve days of Christmas.  This becomes a nice way to bring children down gently from Christmas and to continue the joy and wonder society too often associates with just a single day.  Instructions to make a Christmas ring can be found in both “All Year Round” and “Celebrating Irish Festivals”.    There are instructions to make a “postcard” calendar for the twelve days of Christmastide, each window representing a month of the year, ie, the first card would represent January and be opened on the first day of Christmastide, the second card would represent February and be opened on the second day of Christmas.

Many blessings to you,

Carrie

The Wonder of Nature: Advent Week 2

Beginning on Sunday, we are heading into the second week of Advent.  Advent is just long enough for us to prepare for Christmas and establish some new spiritual rhythms.  The first week of Advent can often sneak up on us right after Thanksgiving, but the second week feels like this momentary pause where we can make things really matter.

One thing I am very committed to this week is getting out in nature every day. The second week of Advent is typically associated with the plant kingdom in the tradition of the Waldorf School, so getting outside and noticing the bare tree limbs and the evergreens seems to fit into that so well.   It also seems fitting to wonder at the beauty of nature this week as we come up to Santa Lucia Day on Friday the 13th, as this day used to be the Winter Solstice under the old Gregorian calendar.    The day typically did start before dawn with the oldest girl in the family rising and preparing buns for the family.  The bun recipe we used for years is in this post, along with a link to the traditional Santa Lucia song.   If you are looking for a story to share with your children, look no further than this wonderful guest post: A Gentle Santa Lucia Story.  There is also a story by Waldorf teacher Christine Natale about Saint Lucy and Saint Stephen in Sweden here  that I have used over the years.

Depending upon where you live, this could be a wonderful week to make ice lanterns or lanterns in general for winter walks when the sun is setting early and that beautiful winter sky is up and ready.  We have plans to get a Christmas tree and make garland from oranges and popcorn for the tree and some orange pomanders, which smell so good!

My spiritual practice this week, outside of lighting our Advent Wreath daily and saying the prayers and readings of our religion, is to think about letting go.  What can I let go?  How can I simplify?  What needs to be cut out of my life so new growth can occur?  I am thinking and contemplating right now, so I can come up to Christmastide with some new intentions in mind.

Looking forward to week two of Advent!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

A Few Simple Steps For A Beautiful St. Nicholas Day

Some families in the United States are celebrating St. Nicholas today, some will be celebrating tomorrow.    This is a fun holiday and really shows kindness, good deeds, generosity and good humor if a little poem/riddle is left amongst the gifts!

If you would like to celebrate tomorrow, your children can leave out a boot (a wooden shoe is traditional, but a boot will do!) and a cookie for St. Nicholas and some carrots for his horse. When your children wake up in the morning, they can find their boot filled with little gifts.  Some sources say the traditional gifts are often considered either the apple (knowledge), nut (strength), and gingerbread (warmth), but can also include citrus (oranges is the fruit I hear most about, not apples), chocolate coins, gifts, little riddles, or even notes of all the kind and generous things the child did this year since St. Nicholas’ last visit!

Some of our favorite activities for past years have included making gingerbread houses and decorating them together, making gingerbread loaves or cookies,  making St. Nicholas baskets and leave them on neighbor’s doorsteps with goodies and the legend of St. Nicholas inside, and making little bishop hats to wear or in an ornament style for a holiday tree.

This post is from 2012, but has some of our favorite stories about St. Nicholas and ideas for celebrating.  And don’t forget this wonderful post about  how to play St. Nicholas and start new traditions in your family! (thank you, Christine Natale, for the guest post that I have treasured for years!).

I am off to get things ready for our boots, and to think about how we will decorate gingerbread houses tomorrow!

Lots of love to you all!

Blessings,
Carrie

Celebrating The First Week of Advent

I love the season of Advent; it is a calling for preparation and anticipation; it is a coming to terms with the past; it is an exploration of the mystery of life; it is a calling to chart a new course for the future; it is a time when Nature is drawn into the Earth.

Roger Druitt writes in his book, “Festivals of the Year:  A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festival Cycle”:

“We can say that in summer, when everything is at its fullest extent of growth and splendour, the Earth is asleep- its soul is outside and its consciousness is in the periphery.  It is ‘unfolded.”  In winter, however, the landscapes, light and the starry sky exhibit a distinct clarity, a wakefulness.  In the Northern Hemisphere, then, during winter, nature is drawn into Earth, is infolded, is awake.”

I love this imagery of turning inward and being awake, seeing the lights above us in the stars and beautiful colors of the winter sunrise and sunset, and seeking a little bit of light for our homes and for ourselves to bring to our family, friends, and community.

Advent in the Waldorf Home is something that is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year.  The first week of Advent at Waldorf Schools is marked by a reverance for the mineral kingdom.  This quote is attributed to Rudolf Steiner, although I don’t think anyone has been able to show exactly where Steiner said this:

The first light of Advent is the light of stone–.
Light that lives in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.”

I have many suggestions for celebrating this week on an outward level for children in the home in back posts – just search “first week of Advent” in the search box and many will come up with suggestions for activities, songs, verses.

However, as my children age, I am very interested in not only these hands- on activites that set the mood of Advent, but the real inner work and inner light of this season and this idea of the cosmic wondering. How do we create wonder,  warmth,  and light within ourselves to bring in an outward form during Christmastide (the 12 Days of Christmas) and beyond?

There are several things that help center me during this season that can be riddled and frenzied by commercialism and materialism:

1 – try to get any shopping done by the end of the first week of Advent so we can focus on crafting and making things for our home and for gifts with love for those we care about. Focus on the giving for others and marginalized groups, which we do in several different ways for the homeless children and women in our area and for the children who live in economically disadvantaged areas.  This giving and work around this is an important part of our preparation for Christmas.

2- get out in nature daily so we can notice the small still changes that often accompany this season, even in the Deep South of the United States where the seasons don’t often change as dramatically as other parts of the country.

3 – establish a rhythm that is more focused on the inner parts of Advent, whether that is using a devotional booklet to help us bring focus to lighting our Advent Wreath, or using an Advent Planner such as this one from Wildflowers and Marbles geared to Roman Catholic families or Little Acorn’s Advent and Saint Nicholas Festival book.  Specific to my own Episcopalian tradition, The Very Best Day: The Way of Love For Children (ages 3-10) and The Way of Love Advent Curriculum and Calendar.

Our specific plans:

Sunday –  (Worship on The Way of Love Calendar) The First Sunday of Advent; Make Advent Wreath,  set out Advent Reading Basket, out in nature – all through first week clean and declutter house

Monday -(Go on The Way of Love Calendar); make stuffed stars for Christmas tree, shop for gifts for the teens we adopted through our church, out in nature,

Tuesday-(Learn on The Way of Love Calendar)- reading sacred texts; add minerals and gems to our Advent Wreath;  out in nature

Wednesday (Pray on The Way of Love Calendar) – silent meditation, out in nature, decorate house, bring in branches to force into bloom or plant bulbs to bloom such as paperwhites in honor of St. Barbara

Thursday (Bless on The Way of Love Calendar) – give presence, out in nature, prepare for St. Nicholas Day

Friday – (Turn on The Way of Love Calendar, St. Nicholas Day)  celebrate St. Nicholas Day, acts of kindness anonymously, out in nature

Saturday (Rest on The Way of Love Calendar); Volunteer in morning, rest

I would love to hear how you are preparing for the first week of Advent!  Let’s share ideas to make it wonderful.

Blessings,

Carrie

Thanksgiving Every Day

One of the more interesting books about festivals from a Waldorf perspective is, “Festivals of the Year:  A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festive Cycle,” by Roger Druitt and published by Sophia Books.  In it, the author posits that the cycle of the year in festival form is something that all of us, no matter what our religious or spiritual beliefs, can benefit from.  The traditional seasonal festivals that mark fertility, fruitfulness and harvest and death can be traced through the life of Jesus Christ and also through the idea that the cycle of the year produces a renewal in nourishing the Earth and “rebuilding the house on Earth” as talked about in this book.

Thanksgiving as a holiday, on a very inner level is a gratitude for the fruitfulness of life; gratitude for our families and blessings.  It is of course up to us to have gratitude every day and to choose thankfulness and optimism as we look at the events of our lives. I think it also implores us to live in this moment that is between now and the future; the good deeds and gratitude we hold now help make the world a better place for the future.  Thanksgiving is a daily act and occurrence.

I wrote a post in 2015 with these words about the act of Thanksgiving:

In a world that often seems shattered, broken, and perhaps beyond repair….

Let us give thanks in our hearts for the light we and others can bring to the world.

Let us give thanks for our best attempts to be kind, compassionate and caring to ourselves, our children and the world.

Let us give thanks for all the good things we model for our children.

Let us give thanks for all the helpers in the world.  There are many.

Let us give thanks for all that we have, and all the ways in which we can help others.

Let us give thanks for the beauty of the earth and skies and seas.

Let us give thanks for the animals and plants and the diversity of all human beings and cultures around the world.

Let us give thanks for peace and show the world love.

Here is a list of words for us to use and model for our beautiful children, this next generation compiled by Master Waldorf Teacher Marsha Johnson in this post.

We also remember the First Peoples of this day and do not celebrate Thanksgiving as the expansion of colonialism and genocide.  I have published several links to resources regarding this on the Parenting Passageway Facebook page, and look for a few more on Thanksgiving.  I will try to come back and list them here on Thanksgiving in an edited version of this post as I realize not every reader is on Facebook. One of the main links to be aware of is https://native-land.ca/?fbclid=IwAR2fcSt4JmrQ2GGWqOi58oLMjNotEgi79egFp8yOrYKkEVrH1fTDJg9g2xQ , which will tell you what First Peoples were living in your area so you can acknowledge them in your Thanksgiving Remembrances.

Thanksgiving  Day this year is also right before the beginning of Advent on December 1, and I am contemplating the richness that Advent brings to our inner lives.  Over the course of ten years of this blog, I have written many posts on Advent and all aspects of the holiday season.  For those who are celebrating, St. Nicholas Day is next week on the 6th!

If you are looking for some inspiration, try these back posts:

Christine Natale’s Musings on Saint Nicholas Day and Starting New Holiday Traditions

Favorite Stories for Saint Nicholas Day

Ideas for the First Week of Advent in the Waldorf Home

Blessings on your season of bringing lightness to the world,

Carrie

Happy Martinmas!

I have been posting some links for lantern making and Martinmas songs on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, and the big day is today!  Happy Veteran’s Day to my U.S. readers and Happy Martinmas to everyone! We will be doing our Lantern Walk in a few weeks, so today we can celebrate at home. Every festival celebration at home has, to me, a few components:

  • Handwork for the festival – in this case, beautiful lanterns and there are so many ways to make them!
  • Music – all those wonderful Martinmas songs
  • Story – you can tell the simple story of Martin, or there is a book on Amazon, which I am excited to check out because it seems like this is one festival where there is a lack of books.  No affiliation, but here is the link:  Snow on Martinmas
  • Food – for Martinmas, I like to keep it simple with a warming soup and warmed apple cider, and warm homemade pretzels are lovely for a group of lantern walkers
  • Any special elements – in this case, the Lantern Walk is special to this holiday, but so are things such as warm coat drives.

How to Have  A Lantern Walk In Four Super Easy Steps

If you have time to plan ahead, have participants learn the Lantern Walk songs!  This is the biggest trouble most people have at Lantern Walks  – if there isn’t a core group that knows the songs, it all kind of falls apart.

If people don’t have lanterns, you could always have a lantern-making session before your walk!

Light lanterns, sing and walk in the darkness.  It’s beautiful! Make sure the walk itself is long enough.  If you have tiny children, short may be fine, but older children appreciate a little longer. If you have a big community and some trails in the woods, it can be fun to have the adults come together before and set beautiful lanterns hanging from the trees as well (usually glass!)

Have some warm soup, cider, pretzels or gingerbread and celebrate together!

It’s such a beautiful festival!

Many blessings,

Carrie

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