Celebrating The Feast of Ascension With Children

The Feast of Ascension is such a beautiful festival.  In the Western calendar, Ascension Day is coming on Thursday, May 8. This used to be a day of sabbatical in many places in Europe, where processions through a town or village went forth with a banner depicting a lion trampling the devil was at the head of this procession, and the procession stopped throughout the village to view little medieval pageants. It also used to be a day for Divine Liturgy, where the Paschal Candle was extinguished, perhaps a statue or picture of Christ was raised (sometimes elaborately through a hole in the ceiling with ropes!) and the mass of parishioners were showered with rose petals and flowers, which symbolized the gifts which the ascended Christ bestowed upon the Church.

Much of this no longer takes place.  Many Anglican Communion churches now celebrate Divine Liturgy for the Feast of Ascension on the Sunday after the feast, and the Paschal Candle is extinguished on The Feast of Pentecost.

 

For the day of the Feast, those who are religious can attend Divine Liturgy and read the Gospel story about the Ascension of Jesus.   We can ponder the mystical nature of the whole of the Church.   This can still be a beautiful sabbatical day of hiking to a hill or mountaintop and looking for clouds in the shape of lambs, which is traditional.

Clouds are a theme in Ascension, and the clouds, according to the authors of “All Year Round”, can link us to the “stream of blessings which united heaven and earth”.  The section on Ascension also talks about “between the common ground of our daily life and the vaulted heights of our ideals, the longings of our heart swell like summer clouds.”  These are lovely thoughts to ponder as we re-fresh and re-new our souls on this special day, and the nine days following The Feast of Ascension in order to prepare for Whitsun (Pentecost) – the renewal found in this festival makes room and space in us to receive the gifts our Creator has bestowed upon us, and to ponder how we can use these gifts in truth to serve all of humanity.

Many Blessings,

Carrie

 

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: April

April can be such a lovely month in the Deep South.  We have tulips blooming, everything is turning green, and the weather, whilst at times unpredictable, is generally heading toward warm.  It is also a lovely time to explore the mountains and the seaside and to revel in all of nature awakening.

This month, we are celebrating Eastertide in its fullest glory.  The calendar of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church include an amazing array of Saints this month; so many wonderful people.   Our main festival dates in our family this month include:

23- St. George

25- St. Mark

29- St. Catherine of Siena

and I am looking ahead to Ascension Day (Thursday, May 5th) and the Rogation Days that precede Ascension Day ( the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday prior to Ascension Day).  There is also a Novena of 9 days that begins on Ascension Day and ends on the Eve of Pentecost.  So I am really thinking about how to mark that.

These are a few of my favorite things this month for my family:

  • Since we are still in Eastertide here,  dyeing of eggs,  thinking of the Paschal candle and light in our home, indoor dish Easter gardens, Easter carols (yes, they are real!) and attending church are in my heart
  • Gardens outside as well – especially leading up to Rogation Days which is a wonderful time to have seeds, gardening tools and homesteads blessed.
  • Spring cleaning, decluttering, and moving ahead with some simple decorating I have wanted to do in our home.

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

  • Ramping up all kinds of physical activity since the weather is generally nice…hiking, kayaking, roller blading, walking, playing in the yard never disappeared these past months, but I feel so drawn to these activities now.
  • Incorporating more and more loose parts play and re-arranging indoor and outdoor play areas.

P.S. — For those of you who are using any form of screens with your small children, how about looking at rhythm, play and outside time in preparation for Screen Free Week?  Screen Free Week 2016 is coming May 2-8! You can see http://www.screenfree.org for more details. 🙂

These are a few of my favorite things for grades-age children:

  • Spring handwork – wet felting, making beautiful spring crafts
  • Movement outside and exploring nature
  • Adjusting our rhythm to the seasons, but sticking to strong awake, rest and bedtimes, along with regular nourishing whole foods mealtimes.

These are a few of my favorite things for teens:

  • Exploring local history through geological and nature study, and also through local historical events of significance.  There are so many National Park sites and museums to explore!
  • Letting teens sleep.  Spring is a time when a lot of physical growth occurs, and teens need their sleep!

These are a few of my favorite things for my own inner work:

  • I am in the midst of creating a Sacred Hour – half to be spent in personal study, and half to be spent with our children in sharing the Saints, the Bible and Anglican traditions.  I am feeling very happy about this.
  •  I have been looking closely at boundaries on my own time and what truly makes me feel comfortable and happy in the way I use time

These are a few of my favorite things for my own self-care and health:

  • Continuing to get up and work out before my day starts with the family.
  • Drinking water.

These are a few of my favorite things for homeschooling:

  • Well, I had started planning and got most of sixth grade planned and two blocks of ninth grade (first year of high school), and then stopped..so I need to get back to planning again.

Please share with me what is inspiring you this month!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Beautiful, Meditative Candlemas

Candle candle burning bright

Winter’s halfway done tonight

With a-glowing we are knowing

Spring will come again

-Candlemas Verse, Unknown Author

Have you ever been just so weary?  So exhausted?  If you have tiny children you see those sweet little bodies to fill with warming foods and coaxing into rest and sleep; if you have elementary-aged children  you are helping to balance burgeoning minds with wonder and bodies with rest and exercise; if you have teenagers maybe you are dealing with restless energy heading toward an uncertain future…and in between all of this you are cooking, cleaning, nourishing a spouse or partner perhaps, and maybe trying to take care of your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs so you can be on your game to do it all again tomorrow.

I feel your weariness.  I feel your exhaustion .  I feel you trying to hold on in order to nourish everything and everyone in your life.

I think Candlemas (February 2nd) feels this too.  Candlemas is this beautiful, quiet, still pause to remind us of hope.  Spring will come again.  Light will come to the world.  Newness can grow out of old.  Growth can come out of weary.

Candlemas can be the most lovely day to start with a beautiful breakfast of sunny yellow pancakes or crepes.  Candle dipping is such a meditative activity for the day; a gesture of bringing light into the winter of the world and the winter of our souls.   Other ways to work with candles include making earth candles, floating candles, or rolling beeswax candles.  We can offer stories of our friends the bees who give us fragrant, smooth beeswax as their offering.  We can offer this as a time of the half-way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.  If you could have a bonfire, that could be a beautiful way to end the day.

If you are looking for some more ideas regarding this festival, here are a few back posts regarding the Feast of St. Brigid, Candlemas and Groundhog Day.

I have a few other suggestions for this day.  Perhaps this would be a beautiful half-way point to survey yourself.  What is your self-care?  Where are things between you and your spouse or partner?  How much sleep and exercise are you eating?  What can  you do to nourish yourself on this special day of light and love so you can shine light on and love your little corner of the world?

Love to you on Candlemas,

Carrie

 

 

 

The Impulse of Martin Luther King Jr.

Only three  American federal holidays are named after specific people:  George Washington’s birthday, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The impulse of Dr. King has been on my mind as of late, in this month of celebration of his life and legacy.  I have long written about bringing the American impulse into Waldorf homeschooling  and American festivals into the cycle of the year, and this is the first chance we have to do this in a formal way in 2016.

We are lucky to live in the Deep South and within driving distance of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site.  It was a beautiful day as we explored the site, which included  the Ebenezer Baptist Church Heritage Sanctuary, The King Center (which includes biographical exhibits on Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, and Mahatma Gandhi), Historic Fire Station No. 6,  the King Birth Home, the Historic Residential Area and the National Park Visitor Center.  Dr. King is widely celebrated for his oratory prowess, his work in the American Civil Rights Movement as a strategist and his tireless purpose of peace.  He was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the time.

The federal holiday of Dr. King has turned most frequently into a day of service, so I encourage you to use this day as a day of community service and giving  with your family.

If you are searching for resources for songs and stories for the day, I recommend the following:

For stories, try the story “Impressions” over at  Sparkle Stories.  This story should be up on Monday.  I believe telling stories from your own heart are the best and in keeping with Dr. King’s amazing oration, but there are amazing  picture books regarding Dr. King.   For picture books, I like the book “The Cart That Carried Martin” (pre-read, it is about his funeral) and  the book “I Have A Dream”.  I also have been looking at the book, “Love Will See You Through” (for older children).

For music, I love the spirituals:  Yonder Come Day; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Go Down Moses; Hold On; Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.

If you are searching for more regarding the impulse of Martin Luther King Jr in light of Waldorf Education and the work of Rudolf Steiner, I recommend AnthroMama’s  post from 2009.

I would love to hear your family’s traditions for this holiday.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: January

I love January with its beautiful and cozy inner light.  The lights of Christmas, the candles and outside lights are still up and we begin this month still within the Twelve Days of Christmas and the Holy Nights.  We find ourselves following the golden star to Epiphany and beyond in a cozy, quiet, stillness where dark skies, snowflakes (I am hoping!  It has been unseasonably warm here in the Deep South), tea by the fire predominates.  We can curl up with meal planning and garden planning and enjoy this time of rejuvenation under the mantle of peaceful family times.

Here are some of my favorite things for this month for the family:

  • Beautiful festival celebrations. I have several back posts about celebrating Christmastide, three or four about Three Kings Day/Epiphany, and several about the Holy Nights.
  • Creating music together, reading together wonderful read-alouds with popcorn, creating window stars and rose windows.
  • Taking long walks outside or hiking and looking at the lovely bare branches of the trees.
  • Taking the time to look at meal planning, organizing the home, along with a hard look at rhythm.  What is working, what is not working, what needs to be tweaked or changed?

Here are some of my favorite things for small children:

  • Fostering creative play.    I have detailed this in back posts, but suffice it to say that I think the   major components include paring down toys (not increasing the clutter as it might be tempting to do!  Keep throwing toys at them until one sticks is not a way to foster deep creative play, even though it is completely tempting in our desperate moments! :)), creating an inviting play environment, and having a steady rhythm of work in the home that the child can see, weave in and out of and imitate.
  • Warming rituals and warmth in clothing; in toys of natural materials; in an emotional warmth toward the small child; warming foods with bone broths and teas, hot water bottles.

Here are some of my favorite things for older children:

  • Vigorous outdoor exercise if at all possible.
  • Quiet moments of reverence before meals, before bed.  Finding ways that the older child can start to penetrate into the festivals of the month, whether this is in religious or spiritual ways or both.
  • Finding ways the older child can be helpful in the life of the family and in the community.
  • Warming rituals and foods.

Here are some of my favorite things for teens: 

  • Finding time to spend with your teen one on one so that child can talk about whatever is on their mind.  Combine that with something to do  physically,  or a special date out, and you have  intimate moments that are anything but ordinary.
  • Creating more complex crafts – straw stars, rose windows, more complex window stars, knitting and sewing, woodworking.  Basketry can feel meditative as well.
  • Fun and intriguing board games. There are so many wonderful ones out there right now to play!

Here are a few of my favorite things for my own health:

  • Making the time for health care appointments.  Get all those annual appointments out of the way and set up any appointments you need weekly or bi-monthly.
  • Creating a small desk space or crafting work space or updating the one you have!  Adding small quotes and things you find inspiring!
  • Making time to exercise in whatever capacity this means to you  – whether this is a vigorous hike, time at the gym, a yoga video.  Make time every day. Mark the time on the calendar because it IS an appointment worthy of your attention.  It has to be a priority in order for you to take care of everyone else and have balance.  Some of us are lucky enough to live on farms or other places where we have a good amount of physical exercise in everyday life, but most of us do not move nearly enough.
  • Menu planning and preparing freezer or crock pot meals.  Saturdays or Sundays could be a lovely time to do this, or pick your own afternoon during the week.
  • Inner work.  Now is a great time to renew your focus on sacred and holy reading, prayer and meditation, or just keeping silence.

Here are a few of my favorite things for homeschooling:

  • Check and see what supplies you have run out of mid-year and re-order.
  • See what you have really gotten through this fall, and adjust your schedule for the year accordingly.  Full confession – we are going to have to lengthen our school year by two weeks and probably knock out or condense down a block.  It happens, so don’t beat yourself up!  Life is still lovely.
  • Start planning for the upcoming school year.  So far I  have my start and end dates laid out,  block plans for what blocks I am doing when laid out for three grades, I have an idea for my high schooler’s year long courses what the flow will be, I have started digging into a few blocks that I have  the resources for,   and made a list of new resources I need to order or get through the library.  With three grades to put together from scratch, I am trying to be diligent so I don’t have to spend my entire summer planning!
  • For those of you who Waldorf homeschool, you might consider reading some of Steiner’s lectures.  Many of them are free on-line.

Please share with me your a few of your favorite things for January.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

More Christmastide: Field, Farm, Forest, and Stream

These twelve days of Christmas are such a beautiful and reverent time of year.  I hope you all are enjoying being outside and experiencing all that Nature has to offer through all your senses.  This is so important for children.  In our culture, screens and technology have taken over so much of the childhood of our children.  If you need more research-based data regarding this, please Common Sense Media’s report about Children’s Media Use in America. (latest statistics I see on this site are 2013).  Here is a report about brain changes with screen time from Psychology Today.   This abstract  is a review of the negative effects of screen time for children under the age of 3 and is a quick review.  This article on Facing the Screen Dilemma is one of my favorites.  This abstract details the association between greater than 2 hours of screen time a day with severe school absenteeism.   Here is an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics that discusses the positive and negative of social media for children and teens, including the hazards of “Facebook depression”, sexting and cyberbulling, and why the minimum age for participating with sites such as Facebook is age 13.  Interesting reading….

Which brings me back to field, farm, forest and stream.  There are so many positives to getting our families outside.  Here are just a few from my perspective as a pediatric physical therapist and from other resources from the forest kindergarten movement:

  • Family teamwork can be developed, along with family identity
  • Development of physical capabilities  in the realms of  gross motor, fine motor, and sensory system capacities.  This is especially important in this day and age in which the number of children with sensory system regulation challenges is increased, and in a place and time where the gross motor skills of many kindergarten-aged children are underdeveloped.
  • Development of core body strength, which is necessary for later academic success.
  • Development of language skills
  • Development of depth perception
  • Improves mental health (also very important for children of today); decreases stress
  • Promotes stronger executive functioning skill development
  • Helps develop self-esteem and self-reliance, self-confidence
  • Develops abilities to assess risk
  • Improves concentration and attention
  • Contributes to respect for and understanding of nature
  • “Timeless” moments:  extended unstructured time in nature and with animals

If you are looking for more information about the benefits of “farmschooling”, which has received  relatively less press than the forest kindergarten movement, I suggest these two resources.  This one is about the benefits of farm for teenagers from a Montessori perspective:   http://liveandlearnfarm.com/farmschooling-montessori-middle-school-part-2/  and here is an entire website for Farm-Based Educators Inspired by Anthroposophy  https://biodynamics.com/fbeiba.  There are also many websites that lay out the mental and physical benefits of gardening, which could be applied to farming as well.

Please continue to post your comments or pictures of your excursions into forest, farm, field and stream here or on Twitter @ParentingHearth

Many blessings,
Carrie

Christmastide: Forest, Farm, Field and Stream

 

The wonder of the days of Christmastide are upon us!  Parents are often amazed that small children who are loud, noisy, and yes, even destructive in the house can be focused, quiet and attentive in an outdoor space.  Cultivating stillness, quiet and peacefulness is so important to the foundation of childhood.  These are qualities all of us need as human beings!  Perhaps we ever crave it and even as adults are in pursuit of it as we create beautiful works of art and music, grand architecture, and invent new things.  But the roots of these grand excursions perhaps lie in the smallest and most ordinary of moments in the outdoor world from when we were young.  If we close our eyes, perhaps we can remember snippets from our own childhood, being outside in all kinds of weather.  How does the wind before a storm feel in your hair or on your skin?  What is the sight of the clouds before it snows?  What are the sounds of a meadow on a hot, hazy day?  These are sensations for the soul.

So, during these twelve joyous and beautiful days of Christmastide, I invite you to come with me, where we shall spend our days connecting with nature in the forest, farm, field or stream!

In order to do this, you will need to identify your favorite local places of nature and make plans.  This can be as simple as walking out your door and finding the tree you love most on your city block, or making plans to visit a State or National Park to which you have never been!  Twelve joyous days of being with nature.

The second piece of this is that in many areas of the world right now, the weather can either be very hot or very cold, so thinking ahead to proper attire for the whole family will make things enjoyable for everyone.  For those of you interested in forest, farm, field and stream attire for colder/wetter zones, the book “Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way” by Erin K Kenny, recommends the following specific brands for young children:

  • Bogs Boots
  • Jackets:  Columbia Omnitech or Bugaboo
  • Silk or Wool Long Underwear (I like to get mine at Green Mountain Organics)
  • Rain Pants:  Oakiwear, Lands End or REI rain pants
  • Mittens:  Gordoni or Outdoor Research brands

I would love to hear about any of your excursions into forest, field, farm or stream or your local city block.  What did you see? What senses were enlivened in you and your children?  Please post your thoughts or even a picture here in the comments, or on Twitter @ParentingHearth.

More tomorrow as we continue our harmonious Christmastide with the glorious Creation!  Let Heaven and Nature Sing!

In Joy,
Carrie