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

 

Three Reasons I Need Rhythm…

I find many of us are still trying to get our rhythm back at this time of year.  I know I am!  Actually, in my world of the Anglican Communion, we are still in the season of Epiphany and now coming up to Lent, so there is this sense of still being in the middle of things in a way….and many of us find our children grow and change over the holidays, so whilst the work of the day may remain, perhaps meal times or outside times or bedtimes needs to shift around.  Never be afraid to make a rhythm that works for you!  I always start by looking at what pattern we are in, and then seeing if it needs to change…or maybe it is a real pattern that remains..

Rhythm is this idea of a flow to the day; it is not a schedule because it is  flow -oriented and not as time-oriented perhaps as a schedule (although there may be times assigned to meals and bedtime).  It provides an order to the day and a sense of strength for the parent because it takes away some of the thinking involved with every single decision we have to make in a day.  If you know your errand day is on Friday, then you don’t need to go out on Tuesday, for example.  If you know you always put your boots after your walk in one spot as part of cleaning up from your nature walk each day, then you don’t have to round up boots that land in various places.  Rhythm just IS, like the tide coming in and going out or sun coming up and setting.

The three reasons I  particularly need rhythm are:

To continually remind me of the importance of the home. In a society that often does not seem to value being home except for short pit stops between activities (even for small children), rhythm in my home reminds me of the time and care it takes to create a nourishing environment and that there is value in that for the health of all of us in the family.  Ideally, in a home full of rhythm, a small child would be able to tell what day of the week it is by the meaningful work being done in the home on those days.  For example,  perhaps Tuesdays are always ironing days or Thursdays are always bread making days or Mondays are always the cleaning of the home from the weekend.  Traditionally, Waldorf Education has assigned different work to different days based upon more planetary influences (does that sound esoteric enough?!), so there are suggestions from Waldorf kindergartens for different activities for different days of the week.

It reminds me of the importance of what I call “soul hygiene” – that there should be a time and place in the day for inner work, for physical activity outside, for sleep and rest.  This helps remind me to pace myself and to honor these activities.  This helps me remember my main goal of parenting is to help my children be healthy adults – healthy physically, emotionally, in how they see light in others and how they communicate with others, spiritually.

We set up the environment with care, which teaches me attentiveness to activities and models this for my children.  We might have a song or verses to go with the activity.  We put things away  and clean up with care.  Again, it forces me to slow down and see the value of the activities we are doing for the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.

Lastly, (yes, I couldn’t resist sneaking in reason number four!) is that rhythm is your aid to discipline.  When we know when things will happen and how it will happen, it cuts down arguing.  This time of year, that can be valuable.  It is even valuable for teenagers and older children.

How is your rhythm valuable to you?

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Meal Planning for January

I love these cold January days.  We have been hiking numerous days in a row, the sun shining through the bare trees, the hawks flying around us, the rivers running fast and high.

We have also been home, basking in candlelight, salt lamps, cozy woolen warmth and fires.  Books and board games and creating things.  It makes my heart so happy.  We have had places to get to, but not so much that one feels rushed or overwhelmed.  I love this time of year.  One thing I deeply enjoy this time of year is the warmth and love of the kitchen. I have a pot of bone broth going right now.  I love to cook and I cook frequently.  Warming foods seems so important.  I am no cooking expert at all, but I would love for my readers to  share some ideas for your favorite foods for this month and ideas for meal planning, and I will share a few of mine.

For warming drinks for little people, I like warm apple cider and raspberry tea.  For older children, I like hot chocolate.  Bone broths can also be a satisfying hot drink.

Smoothies feel a little out of place to me in January when it is cold, but I have to admit that sometimes a smoothie is my breakfast or lunch when everyone else wants something that is higher in carbohydrates that I don’t feel like eating.  I like ice with water, chocolate protein powder, a banana, and a little bit of chocolate coconut almond butter.  You could also add greens to it, and whatever powdered adaptogenic herbs you like.

For breakfasts, we have been having spinach scrambled eggs in tortillas with salsa, waffles on special festival days, buttermilk pancakes, and oatmeal done in a rice cooker with cinnamon and chopped apple.  Also, we have been juicing.  For my husband especially I have been making a combination of beet, apple, pear, carrot and lemon.  It is yummy, and our six year old really likes it too!

Lunch has always been the hardest meal for me to figure out.  I recently took Beauty That Moves Freezer Cooking Class.  I love Heather’s recipes, and I have been trying out many of her recipes from this class for lunch.  So, right now on our rotation we have some legume dishes, soups, and rice bakes and I usually cook fish for one lunch a week.

For dinner, we usually do some sort of crockpot meal.  This can include pastured chicken or pork from our local farmer or some sort of bison, along with some vegetarian meals.  I am not huge on wheat, but we do like barley or millet mixed with lentils or split peas or roasted potatoes and lots of vegetables.

I have been trying to cut desserts down after the holidays, which is hard with the sweet tooth of all the children, so if we have to have something baked apples are so warm and lovely.

I would love to hear what you have been cooking!

Blessings,
Carrie

The January Book Box

These are the books we are diving into this month.  I hope to hear what you are reading to your children, too!

(For those of you home educating with Waldorf Education, please do remember that small winter verses are sufficient up to four years of age or longer and then simple little told stories.  You can look up back posts to see the progression of verses and nursery rhymes to repetitive stories to longer stories to eventually longer stories, simple books and chapter books.  There is a progression, so know this list is intended for those searching, but not necessarily for all of these to be read at one time to a child  no matter what age! You are the expert on your family!)

Seasonal Festivals/ Spiritual:

  • The Christmas Story Book, published by Floris Books – stories up to Epiphany divided by age.
  • St. Seraphim’s Beatitudes:  Blessings for Our Path to Heaven by Priest Daniel Marshall
  • The Theophany of Our Lord by Sister Elayne
  • In our house, the Anglican Communion has many wonderful Saints to recognize this month, so I keep many books on hand about these Holy Men and Women.
  • For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I like “The Cart that Carried Martin” (look at the Amazon review and leave out the inaccurate line); “Love Will See You Through” (I would put it for older children myself than the reviews indicate); and many more wonderful books.  Go to your local library and browse and see what resonates with you and your family.

Seasonal/Winter:

  • Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Snow by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman
  • The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler
  • Winter by Gerda Muller
  • Snow by Uri Shulevitz
  • Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Snow Princess by Susan Paradis
  • Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven (and bake some bread!)
  • The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Offers
  • Red Sled by Patricia Thomas
  • Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer (I really like this book).
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • The Hat by Jan Brett
  • Winter Eyes: Poems and Paintings by Florian

Seasonal/Nature:

  • Winter on the Farm (My First Little House Books)
  • The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • Cub’s Big World by Sarah Thompson

Winter Tales, for older children:

  • The Polar Bear Son:  An Inuit Tale by Lydia Dabcovitch
  • A Promise Is A Promise by Robert Munsch and Michael Kusugak
  • The Eskimo Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
  • A Day On Skates by Hilda van Stockum

I would love to hear what you are reading!

Blessings,
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

 

 

 

The Cost of Overscheduling Your Children

There was a very good post  recently over at “Becoming Minimalist” entitled “How To Slow Down Your Family’s Schedule” which did a great job in pointing out some of the problems with over-scheduling children in our world. I wrote a post some time ago about choosing time outside the home wisely.  In that article I mentioned several points, specifically in reference to the homeschooling community, where because children are not out at school all day, parents often feel the need to get their children out after homeschooling is done.  Here are a few of the discussion points:

  • I don’t think children under 12 need anything, although many parents of 11-12 year old girls have told me they felt their girls “needed something to do” whereas boys seemed to not care until age 14 or so.
  • Teens ages 13-15, somewhere in that time frame, really do seem to need something.  If you haven’t overloaded them with activities up until this point, then adding one or two activities may seem like enough to them.
  • Families with one child seem to vary on how they approach things – read the comments from the previous blog post.
  • Families with four or more children seem to pick activities where all children can participate at once, whereas families with one to three children seem to run around a lot more with the children all doing separate activities!
  • The DRIVER (parent) is often the one who is tired out!
  • Many parents noted they would love to stay home and have informal play with other children, but no children  are at  home in their neighborhood or they may live far out in the country and there are no children.  Children are interacting in structured activities these days, not in playing street games, tag and riding bikes like thirty years or so ago.

I think it could possibly take a full-on public health campaign in the United States to really change the perception of parents that there is value in UNSTRUCTURED play and to not sign their children up for every activity.  I am so glad to know so many of you are trendsetters and are pointing the way toward family being home!

If you want to pare down your schedule, here is a list of suggestions that other parents have told me works:

Discount activities that meet over the dinner hour.  Don’t be so willing to trade a structured, led by an adult outside your home for the benefits of the family dinner hour.  (and there are many benefits; there have been studies).

Let each child pick ONE thing per semester.  Many things now, at least in the United States, seem to run all year round, but see what you can find.

Delay the starting ages for doing activities outside the home.  “In our family, you get to pick an activity to do outside the home when you are “X” years old.”

Figure out when is YOUR day with your children if you are really busy with activities.  How many days do YOU need to be home to feel happy, to have the house the way you want it, etc.

You can try my method:  I put a big X over certain days of the week and do not allow myself to schedule anything on those days.  I have talked about this is in back posts.

Can you let go of guilt?  Every article, including the “Becoming Minimalist” post above, mentions how wonderful free, unstructured play with other children is, yet most parents say there are no children to play with!  Can you feel okay with your child playing by themselves or with their siblings for many days of the week?

The reality is that most homeschooling parents, at least most Waldorf or holistic homeschooling parents, do not want to be out every day and see the value in being home.  They see the value in space and time for development.

I think part of the problem is that most parents are working, and therefore no one is home and the child has to be somewhere.  Also, the ending time of school can vary and take away the down time of the afternoon.  For example, the middle school (grades 6-8) in my area get home around 5 PM, at which time they must eat and do homework.  So, part of this question I think becomes what do we do until economics – attitudes- amount of homework changes? A  tall social order!

Love to hear your thoughts and your thoughts on the “Becoming Minimalist” blog post.

Blessings,
Carrie