glorious candlemas

I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating The Feast of St. Brigid on February 1st and Candlemas/The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ/Groundhog Day yesterday on February 2nd.  This is the time of year in the Northern Hemisphere that the days are lengthening a bit.  In some countries, the first snowdrops, a beautiful little white flower, are emerging from beneath snow.

We think of the first beginnings of light, and a beautiful candle festival helps mark the occasion.  There are so many ways to make candles, including rolling beeswax sheets, dipping candles, pouring beeswax into half of a walnut shell (and you can push in a little candle in order to have little floating lights, which are always fun for children), and you can make earth candles where you pour a candle and place a wick directly into a hole into the earth.

This is a wonderful time to change over your nature table if you have one going to mark the seasons.  Flower fairies, branches in water that are budding,  a single candle, perhaps leading up to the markings of St. Valentine’s Day and then a little Lenten Garden (dish garden)  are all appropriate. All winter greenery is taken down.

In the back post The Magic of Candlemas, I have listed a number of different ways to celebrate.  I like to celebrate things for more than one day, and especially feel that those of you with small children should never feel like you missed the one day and feel pressured about that.  Remember, these days mark seasons beginning and ending, and what we carry inside ourselves around this time of year.

I love the idea of growing the light inside all of us.  I have had a very productive five weeks of inner work where many major areas of my life are now on a different track or moved forward.  It has been so satisfying, and I hope you feel the stirrings of new inner growth for yourself.  I always think of this verse this time of year (so fun for small children to be buried under silk scarves and awaken, but also reminds us that it is time for us to move forward, to embrace the new, to find our initiative and willing):

In the heart of a seed,

Buried deep so deep,

A dear little plant

Lay fast asleep.

Wake, said the sun,

And creep to the light.

Wake, said the voice

Of the raindrops bright.

The little plant heard,

And arose to see,

What the wonderful

Outside world might be.

Blessings today and always,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

beautiful january

I love January – the possibility of cold and snow, the bright days perfect for walks, the many possibilities of decluttering the physical environment and the body and the soul in January!  It’s going to be a terrific month!

celebrating:  

Here are some of the days we will be celebrating in January:

January 1 – New Year’s Day

January 6– The Feast of Epiphany and Epiphanytide that stretches until Lent begins on March 6th this year.

January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr Day – also celebrated January 15 and April 4 in The Episcopal Church

Janaury 18– The Feast Day of St. Peter

January 25 – The Feast Day of St. Paul

homeschooling:

third grade – we are continuing to work hard on reading and are starting off our semester with a block of Hebrew Stories/Old Testament tales as traditional in the Waldorf curriculum in this grade.  We are using All About Reading for practice as well since reading has been a struggle and will continue daily work in math.  Please follow me on Instagram @theparentingpassageway as that is where I will be posting third grade work this month.

eighth grade – we are continuing with our year round course of pre-algebra, and starting our semester with a block on Revolutions that will include the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, The French Revolution, Simon Bolivar, and the Mexican Revolution.

eleventh grade – we are continuing with our year-long courses in Chemistry and in American Government/Social Justice.  Our eleventh grader also has AP Psychology, Pre-Calculus,and  AP Language outside of the home

sustainability –

I am a generous giver. I have decent boundaries, but can get really wrapped up in other people’s challenges and other people’s energy and take it all on as my own if I am not careful.  I have improved immensely in this area in the last 2 years, and am proud of my progress.  So, for even more sustainability and in the spirit of knowing that my needs are to be equally valued, this New Year I am prioritizing self-care in the form of exercise outside the home as I find it hard to exercise in my house, health appointments (which for me, since I had a health crisis last year, means still going to  doctor appointments), healthy eating, having super fun with my spouse and our friends, and using a protocol  created by acupuncturist Desiree Mangandog called “I Am Worthy”

I sit down and plan my self-care that has to be outside of the home for the week on Sundays.  Simple things I do at home that don’t require as much planning included journaling, meditating, tapping, use of The Book of Common Prayer daily, and epsom salt baths.

parenting-

third grader – there aren’t really any children that come outside to play with in our neighborhood and since his sisters are middle to older teens, movement (which I have to spearhead) is a priority above and beyond school.  His social needs are also a priority because he is very extroverted.

eighth grader – we are getting plans in place for homeschooling high school (all subjects will be homeschooled, none will be outside the home at this point). She is a great help in the house, and my parenting work with her are the typical goals in order to be successful in high school, and to continue to develop  connection to the family and  compassionate character.

eleventh grader – we are working on college visits, and getting through the junior year of standardized testing, and connection.  I think this is an important time to connect as a family and as a mother-daughter team.  We have an idea to take a little trip for just the two of us, so I think that will work out and be an amazing way to connect.

home life-

I am sticking with very simple cleaning and decluttering routines and asking for help. I cannot homeschool and do everything we do outside the home and do continue taking care of the house as if it is my ful-time job. However,  I also cannot stand a messy or dirty house as I am a very visual person, and we really don’t have the money for an outside cleaning person.  So, that leaves simplicity and asking for help as our family is a team!

Crafting – I love the little crafts I associate with January, including window stars, rose windows, snowflakes, candlemaking.  I hope to post pictures of some of our processes on Instagram @theparentingpassageway and on The Parenting Passageway’s Facebook page.

 

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

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Minimalist Journey

Sometimes as mothers, we aspire to minimalism because things in our own lives seem complicated.  I recently started a thread on a  Facebook group I am on, about paring things down for the school year, especially for those of us who are are homeschooling older teens who have to be places but can’t yet drive, and for those of us who are homeschooling larger families (way larger than mine) and having the activities of the older teens impact the family all the way down to the littlest ones.

Can you really have simplicity and minimalism with homeschooling and parenting older children and teens, with multiple children of large age ranges?  Some families make a very conscious decision to roadschool or wildschool and have the work flexibility to do that, and I think many of us think that is what minimalism looks like.  However, many of us don’t have that kind of lifestyle, and I think we need to remember that minimalism can look different to each family because each family is different! 

So, as many of us are planning for the fall, I wanted to throw out some ideas I am toying with.  Last year was our absolutely most complicated year ever, largely not due to anything within our control, so those years happen, but for a “normal” year… here are some ideas!  Share yours!

  1.  What are your values and your most valued communities?  Pare things down around that.  You don’t have to do all things.  There are often all kinds of things that look great for homeschooling families or even when children attend school.  There can be pressure to keep up.  The more we rebel as this generation of parents and say that our children don’t need 20 activities during the school year to “keep up” or “get ahead” or “get into a great college” (when they are 10 years old!), the easier this will become over time.  In the meantime, be a rebel and pare down to your most valued things.  Find out what your children value!  Our girls value being home and with us, church choir and that community,  and their horses.  Our littlest guy values being home and playing!  As parents we value being outside, our community of friends, music and yes, learning!  So making priorities around those things makes sense for us.  Minimalism begins with priorities!
  2. If you live in a community where the driving factor is high, you are going to have to say no just on the basis on the drive sometimes. I went through a phase where I was done driving, and chose everything to be within a 15 to 20 minute drive (because in our area, driving forty-five minutes to an hour for something isn’t unheard of).  This year, we will be branching out a little in driving to a homeschool enrichment program  one day a week that is 40 minutes away, but this is the first time in several years we have had a drive like that.
  3. Figure out what you need – does it bother you to go out daily?  Can you homeschool in the morning and go out in the afternoon and feel fine or do you need days where you don’t leave the house?  How many days?  If this is what it is, then you have to have a schedule that reflects that you need to be home three days in a row or whatever it is that makes you feel good!  If you need to be home, cross days off on your weekly calendar so you don’t normally schedule things on those days!
  4.   Streamline your stuff.  We spend a huge amount of time in the United States managing things like a home, the stuff in a home, a car, etc.  Pare down!  Summer is a great time to do this!  You can’t organize a mountain of stuff.  Just get rid of it!
  5. Enlist help in cleaning and cooking.  Everyone in the family can help in some way!
  6. Plan margin.  Margin during the day, the week, and the year.  Plan 32-34 weeks of school knowing it will stretch out into the full number of school weeks you need.  Plan four days a week knowing that is enough.  Plan margin for the day – rest times, down times.  That is just as important as learning times.
  7. One way to get down times during the school day is to COMBINE children in lessons.  See my back post about some ideas regarding the Waldorf Curriculum.
  8. If you have appointments for health care, try to get as much done in the summer as possible. That is what most of the families  I know whose children go to public school do.  I know so many homeschoolers who feel like we should be super accommodating to appointments and things because we have potentially have that flexibility (and then we feel stressed we aren’t getting enough done!)  Use summers, breaks, one day a week once a month that is planned ahead for appointments, errands, etc as much as possible.
  9. Make the mail  your friend.  There are so many things you can order on-line. See how many groceries you can get on-line and if you can’t get the rest at your local farmer’s market.
  10. There are seasons for things.  Don’t feel badly about what you can or can’t do right now.  Parenting is a season!

Please share your favorite minimalist tips!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Getting Ready for Winter!

The temperature has finally dropped here in the Deep South. It feels much colder than it acutally is, because we have been living with temperatures above 85 degrees F for so many months.

This is a great time to take stock of what one needs for winter.  This is my checklist, and I would love to share it with you:

Do I have the supplies to make elderberry syrup?  (so, for me, that is essentially stinging nettle, yarrow, lemon balm, echinacea, elder berries and elder flowers along with spices and local honey)

Do I have the herbs to add to bone broth? (so, for me, that includes burdock and dandelion root and astragulus)

Do I need any other herbal tonics to get me through the winter?  I like the Urban Moonshine blend mentioned in Aviva Romm’s article here

Do I have our cabinet stocked with things for colds and flu?  Silver throat spray,  Theives Oil or a variation, other essential oils, homeopathic remedies, etc.

How (and where) is our outerwear ?  To me, this includes mittens or gloves, hats, warm socks, jacks, snow pants, and boots.  For kids, I still love LL Bean Boots, but I know everyone has their favorites.

Who needs woolens? I like to get mine from Green Mountain Organics.   If you are wondering about warmth in children, I recommend this article about “Warmth, Strength, and Freedom.”

Who needs long shirts or sweaters?

Do I have flannel sheets? Sleep is super important, and I think the winter months are a prime season to take advantage of sleeping longer.

Am I prepared to slow the rhythm of our week down? I think this is natural seasonal adjustment.  August, September, and October can be super busy here with marching band for our oldest and horse shows, but I find things in November and December can be calmer if we block it out that way, and then January and February tend to be fairly calm on their own.

Do I have crafting supplies and other inside fun at the ready?  One thing I ordered this week is three months of Happy Hedgehog Post. It was a gift to myself and especially our second grader to have some indoor fun.  Other ideas include having baking supplies on hand, wool, yarn, craft kits, art supplies, snuggly blankets for fort building.

Where are our beeswax candles and lanterns from past Martinmas festival celebrations?  These can make the school area especially lovely during the darker winter months.

When will I see people?  I feel tired and  am ready to withdraw after our busy three months starting school, but I would like to still see people.  I am thinking of hosting a hygge morning during January and February as mentioned in this article..

We have animals, so I also check what the animals might need. Our horses need sheets and blankets, our dog has little booties for icey conditions.  I try to make sure I have ordered enough horse feed and that we have toys on hand for our dog.

Please share with me the ways you get ready for winter!  I would love to hear all of your ideas!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

My Favorite Natural Products For Your Healthy Family

One thing that many Waldorf families have in common is a love of things that support  total health. Many families choose Waldorf Education and Waldorf homeschooling because they feel this supports the development of the whole child in an appropriate way. Many families who choose Waldorf Education are also interested in a healthy, organic lifestyle and products that support family health, self-care, cleaning, and more.

I have been buying and eating organic food for the past 25 years. In this time, I have also embraced the use of herbs and the making of herbal infusions, essential oils, alternative health care systems, organic personal care products and cleaning products and more. Many, many people are futher along on this path than I am, but today I wanted to share some of my favorite family care, personal care, and cleaning products. I know many of these kinds of products could be easily made by hand, especially things such as laundry detergent and deodorant, and sometimes I have, but I also wanted to share my favorite brands with you (no affiliation, just happy using the product) so if you are short on time or just getting started on this path, you will have some tested recommendations!  Please do feel free to add your own recommendations in the comment box, share your favorite product lines, and more.

I have asthma, and we are headed into flu/cold season here in North America as well, which is always cause for concern for my lungs.  Therefore I  use the Environmental Working Group guides for products to often help discern which products have a higher risk of respiratory effects.

Family Care

I have used both homeopathics from  Boiron and  many of the herbal tincture products from Herb Pharm for both adults and children. My favorite general things to have on hand include arnica gel, collodial silver, and oregano essential oil.  I also like to have a selection of something similar to a Thieves Oil  as we head into flu/cold season.  You can find recipes on-line as to how to make a version of Thieves Oil out of basic essential oils.

My favorite supplements and probiotics so far are from the Jarrow line.

To make herbal infusions, I typically order directly  from either  Frontier Co-op or Mountain Rose Herbs.

Water Filters – I am currently looking for both in-house filters and shower filters.   If you have a recommendation, please leave it in the comment box!

(We also use allopathic preventative medicine and chiropractic medicine for general health as well, but this post is mainly about products!)

Personal Self-Care

For deodorant,I like Purelygreat and the Bergamot and Lime Schmidt’s. I have tried Primal Pit Paste without good success due to senstitive skin, but that seems to be what most people I know use.  I have also heard good things about Piperwai deodorant from several people now. Deodorant is fairly easy to make as well.

For lotion, I tend to use just straight oils instead or a combination of oils mixed with a facial lotion or body cream.

Facial cleanser/anti-aging products.  My dermatologist remarked to me that she felt cleanser in general wasn’t as important because it is on your face such a short amount of time compared to creams, serums, eye cream, etc.  so to invest in better quality brands for those things.  Derma E has some products that are rated highly in the Environmental Working Group SkinDeep Database (and some are not).  I don’t really have any tried and true favorites in this category yet.  I keep trying new things!  Please leave me your recommendations!

For shampoo and conditioner, I have not found ANY natural shampoo that I have liked for my hair type and texture. I have on my list to try Carina Organics Shampoo and Conditioner and see if I like those.

Soaps/body wash –  I like shea butter soaps and those generally score well on the EWG database. I find olive oil based soaps drying for my skin.  This one is a little hard for me since I was raised on Dove soap, LOL.

ToothpasteDavid’s Natural Whitening Toothpaste in peppermint is supposed to be good; does anyone use it?  It is flouride-free.  For  small children, we used flouride-free toothpaste and Kiss My Face toothpaste for the older children.  Our teens now prefer a regular brand of whitening toothpaste (yup, I know).

Hand soap – I like to try to find things at Amazon’s Subscribe and Save for products such as these, but Amazon doesn’t seem to carry any of the products marked with the green gold standard or a “1” , the next level down,  in the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.  Miessence and Beautycounter both get high marks in this category; perhaps you can find a person who sells those products, or order from the ATTITUDE line directly from their  website.  ATTITUDE is one brand that seems to get consistently high marks in the EWG Database for both personal care products and cleaning products.

For sunscreen, (which I don’t wear a lot except on my face/neck and the backs of my hands due to the blocking of Vitamin D, probably much to the horror of some medical professionals),  I try to choose from the EWG Best Sunscreen list.

For all of the above items, I try to check the Environmental Working Group database several times a year since recommendations change due to manufacturer’s changes in formulation.

Cleaning Products

Laundry Detergent – is super easy to make; however, if you are in a pinch and want laundry detergent you can try BioKleen powder; Seventh Generation Free and Clear, or ATTITUDE laundry detergent.  Or, many folks use soap nuts.

All purpose cleanser is also easy to make and you can add essential oils to make everything smell lovely.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner – many natural substitutions here, but  Green Shield or Seventh Generation scores high on the EWG list for a premade one.

Dishwasher Detergent/Powder and Detergent for Hand-Washing Liquids – I like ATTITUDE for both the dishwasher and hand washing of dishes.    I have also used Seventh Generation and Ecover in the past; I think Seventh Generation scores higher in the EWG database though.

Share with me your favorite tried and true natural and organic products! I always love to hear people’s recommendations!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

 

 

My Top 5 Tips – Thriving in Homeschooling and Homemaking

We are starting our third week of homeschooling this week and I was reflecting on the fact that I have been homeschooling for ten years (I am counting my oldest child’s six year old kindergarten year forward to ninth grade this year).  I was trying to think the other day of what really helps hold everything together for me as a homeschooling mother in terms of also being a homemaker, since as homeschooling families we are moving in both overlapping circles continuously.   When children are smaller, the academic demands are less and I think easier to work into homeschooling, but as children get older these arenas become more separate in some ways.  After some thought,  I found five things that help me homeschool and make a home:

  1. Accept some mess will happen…If you look at my house on a homeschooling day, yes, it may have papers and colored pencils and clay and main lesson books and projects in both our homeschool room and in our breakfast nook. Our high schooler tends to work in the breakfast nook, and the other children tend to work in our homeschool room so that is why we have two places.  The garage, where we do a lot of movement, can also get messy.  However….
  2. Accept that mess can be cleaned up within a half hour window.  That is sort of my barometer.  Can everything be tidied up within half an hour?  If it can, then the part of me that is extremely sensitive to visual clutter rests a little easier.  Everything everywhere just doesn’t work for me.
  3. Do things as promptly as possible and have a rhythm.  For me, the prompt part means doing dishes after we eat, sweeping up when the puppy drags in mud and grass on her paws, throwing in a load of laundry every morning, etc.  Of course, having a rhythm really helps with many of these pieces. What day do we change the sheets on the bed, clean the bathrooms, dust?  At what points during the day do we tidy up and clean up?   I cannot always free up hours on end to these things consecutively, but all of  these things can get done within in the course of the week.
  4. Elicit help. All members of the family can help, and i notice the more upper level grades I am teaching and the more subjects I am teaching, I  simple need more help because I am spending more time teaching and then older children may have activities they need to be driven to after teaching is done. I need everyone to pitch in and help, and at this point, our older two students are adept and independent in many areas of housemaking.
  5. Think ahead and streamline. For me,  things such as menu planning; sitting down and figuring out doctor and dentist appointments and field trips for two to three months at a time; deep cleaning at various points in the school year actually ends up saving me time in the long run.

I would love to hear your best tips for homeschooling and homemaking together.

Blessings,
Carrie

Finding Rhythm With Littles

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

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

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

Lots of love in the striving,

Carrie