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

 

 

 

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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

Peace In An Ordered Home

There are many sayings to the effect of you can have happy children or a clean home but not both.  I think there is some truth in that in a small way.  Right now, I have gymnastics mats that have been made into a large track circling my kitchen counter and the children run “P.E classes” all day on and off complete with laps and push ups and sit ups.  Eventually the mats will have to be cleaned up so I can mop my floor, but I can live with it for a few days.  There is a 2000 piece puzzle on my dining room table that most likely will sit there for some days.  However, the rest of the house is clean and tidy.  The laundry is done and folded and put away.  We have food in the refrigerator and I know what we are going to make for our meals.

This is for me.  An ordered home that reflects beauty and peace mirrors how I feel inside.  I am a very visual person, and therefore I find that for me, it is easier on me to keep my home clean and orderly for my own mental health.  When everything is strewn everywhere and dirty, I cannot focus on anything else.  I live here all day, and it has to reflect a certain something of myself and what we value as a family.  We value love, and one way we love and nourish each other is to have a home that is livable, where food and clean clothes and cleanliness is apparent.

There has been some studies that suggest cluttered homes actually equate with depression and that clutter in and of itself can make us feel more anxious.

I have come to the conclusion after many years of homemaking, that the foundation of parenting (and homeschooling) is homemaking.  It may be tiresome to Continue reading

Minimalism

My house is officially on the market.  It is bittersweet to me.  We have lived in this home for fourteen years, and I adore my neighbors.  I know them so very well.  I know every nook and cranny of the once farmland that is now our little subdivision:  the tadpoles in the creek by my neighbor’s house (and how she so kindly lets us tramp through her yard to get to the creek!), the long Deep South days at the pool, the way we can see the Fourth of July fireworks from the pool, the hill we can sled on in the winter in the few years we actually do receive snow.  A true sense of place, which seems to be rare in this day and age. Continue reading

Rhythm: Part Seven

 

In Part Five of this series on rhythm, we looked at the number one challenge toward establishing rhythm:  going out too much and saying “yes” to too many things outside the home.  Today, I want to tell you THE SECRET about having a successful rhythm.

 

It is getting out of your own way.

 

Release your anxiety and your fears.  Parent after parent after parent that I talk to who have homeschooled children who have graduated from homeschool say their children were well-prepared for college and for life, no matter what method the parent chose to homeschool!  Amazing and true! I see so many mothers who are worried, anxious and joyless in their parenting and homeschooling, and this is what the children see!  Don’t be wishy -washy and uncertain; fearful and scared!

 

Take the bull by the horns! Be confident!  Get your ho-hum on, and jump in where you are!  If you “fall off the routine bandwagon” jump back on where you are that moment.  It takes time to get a rhythm that works.  Commit to it as a forty day project. 

 

Your parenting may not be perfect!  Your homeschooling may not be perfect!  Mine isn’t; I make so many mistakes and things could always be done differently – but you know what?  I have an overall sense that my children are going to be JUST FINE. 

 

And in my weak moments, where I feel like something is not going to turn out well, or I start coming from a place of fear, I get down on my knees and pray.  And after I do that, I call a friend when my children are not around to overhear, and get a well –deserved pep talk.  I talk to my supportive spouse and surround myself with positive thinkers.

 

But most of all, become a positive thinker yourself.   Your children need to see that mistakes do not define who you are; they are only gateways and doorways to improvement and understanding. 

 

There are no guarantees in parenting or homeschooling; you do what you can do. Have some fun and act confident.  Make decisions, stick to them, change what is not working, quit talking so much and DO.

 

Many blessings on your journey toward rhythm as a basis of joy in your home,

Carrie

Rhythm: Part One

When I see homeschooling mothers who feel burdened, depressed, as if there is not enough time, that they are buried under their homes and chores – well, I feel terrible.  It really is a difficult thing to see, and we have all been there I think.  Interruptions to life come,  and some times homeschooling and parenting flow more efficiently and joyfully than other times.

To me, the most major piece of assisting a mother to reclaim the joy in parenting and in homeschooling, outside of prayer to determine the essential and for strength :), is a rhythm to the day.  I think mothers who manage their homes and children well feel happy and satisfied because there is less stress in knowing what will happen when.   I think also mothers who have a rhythm feel BALANCED.  There is enough time in the day for your priorities as a mother or father, and rhythm enables the life of the whole family and all of its members to be considered.

A dear friend and I were chatting this morning about this very subject.  Balance is a tricky issue, isn’t it?  It often seems that there is much being done for the family as a whole (mealtimes, bedtimes, perhaps something such as the activities at a place of worship), things that revolve around perhaps the oldest child (homeschooling, outside activities)….leaving many mothers and fathers wondering, where is the time for me? for us? for the younger children who don’t have outside activities yet? Continue reading

Mealtimes: Eight Facets Of A Healthy Family Culture

Bless, O Lord, this food to our use and us to Thy service

And make us ever mindful of Thy many blessings

Amen

(Blessing from my husband’s side of the family)

Father, we thank Thee for this food before us

Give us strength to do Thy will

Guide and protect us in Thy heavenly path

For Christ’s sake

Amen

(Blessing from my side of the family)

Mealtimes are a vital place to slow down, to bring together different traditions from your side of the family and your partner’s side of the family, to protect and nurture and linger together.

Studies show interesting connections between children’s behavior and whether or not they ate family meals.  Many studies show, for example, Continue reading