ideas for screen-free week

This week is Screen-Free Week!  This is your chance, from April 29 to May 5, to take a break from screens, re-connect with your children, and maybe even start some new rhythms for your family life that involve increased connection and fun!

I think one of the best ways to do this is to think a little ahead.  What is the rhythm to your family life?  When do you use screens the most and for what purpose?  Do you want to be screen-free or screen-lite and why is this important?  What does this mean to you, and for your children’s development?

Once you have your goals in mind, going back to the basics of rhythm is definitely the first step in improving any aspect of life.  If you have tinies, I suggest this post, Finding Rhythm With Littles, and for families with older children, I suggest this post:  Finding Rhythm With Grades-Aged Children

The next step is to bring your children into the work of your home!  This is a fantastic article from “Wonder of Childhood” about how to bring children into the work of your home.  This step includes making ourselves become agents of doing.  This is what a small child relates to, and what grades-aged children and teens are craving.  When we don’t show our children any meaningful work within a meaningful consistent rhythm, they are rightfully confused.

Learn how to play again as a family.  Families these days are often good at rushing around, but often not as good at playing all together.  This can include things such as board games and card games, but also playing outside together, and excursions.

Come join me on Instagram this week @theparentingpassageway as I post some ideas for different ages during Screen-Free Week!

Blessings,
carrie

ideas for the first week of eastertide

The season of Eastertide lasts from Easter Sunday until Pentecost on June 9th this year, which of course also corresponds with traditional and pre-existing Jewish feasts.  These 50 days, no matter what your spiritual or religious traditions,  seems to be a wonderful time for renewal and new beginnings.

Easter Monday is often a religious holiday in many countries, but it isn’t in the United States. (I was so tired yesterday and wishing it was a holiday!) If you have leeway or such, you might consider using a vacation day for this day and enjoy it being outside with your family.  You could even eat your meals outside after the long period of Lent.  Gather the family on this special day!

Other ideas for the first week of Eastertide:

  • Dye eggs!
  • This is a good time for egg races!  Take your dyed eggs and find a hill and see who can get to the bottom first.
  • This week is a great time to set up a little gratitude jar to keep track of all the wonderful in the ordinary for these 50 days if that is not something you ordinarily do
  • How about setting up a little Easter tree?  There are a number of ways to make egg ornaments just by searching on Pinterest.
  • Spend time outside in nature; consider getting up early for sunrises.
  • Make prayer and meditation a priority; I like religious themes but also the ideas of new beginnings.  What does the idea of new beginnings look like to you?
  • Make Easter bread – it is a perfect time, even if it is past Easter Day.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

celebrating earth day (every day)

Earth Day is tomorrow, the day after Easter Sunday.  This feels very profound to me this year as there was a large push within The Episcopal Church, my church, toward reconciliation in matters of race, social justice and the care of creation.  In fact, our entire Lenten season was dedicated to Creation Care and matters of eco-justice.   So it seems wildly wonderful to me that Earth Day falls on the day after Easter.   That is my own personal intersection with our faith and family, but obviously this work in  celebrating and conservation has been being  done by parents, Waldorf Schools, wildschoolers, and environmentally-conscious homeschoolers for a long time.  Every day is Earth Day!  If you would like to see more about that perspective from the Waldorf School movement, I suggest this brief article about this history of Earth Day in the Waldorf Schools.

I think as parents we are at the forefront of the environmental movement as we train the next generation of leaders through our example.  Here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate Earth Day every day:

  • Storytelling stories of good creation, of the wisdom of the plants and animals
  • Making useful products from herbs and plants – tinctures to natural dyes and more
  • Gardening and composting
  • Planting trees
  • Spending time in nature without agenda
  • Camping, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing
  • Conserving our own resources – reduce, recycle, reuse
  • Buying locally and sustainably
  • Handmaking things as much as possible
  • Living simply
  • Eating organically and using organic household items for laundry and hygiene
  • Looking for companies with sustainable packaging or better yet, stores and companies that are going zero waste
  • Letting children get dirty outside
  • Introducing children to naturalists, biologists, and environmental innovators through biography
  • For homeschooling parents and classroom teachers, making nature studies a vast and wide part of the educational experience

Tell me your favorite ways to celebrate Earth Day every day!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Celebrating Holy Week As A Family

For those of us who celebrate Easter, the entire Lenten season is now boiled down into this Holy Week that began with Palm Sunday and will continue this week until Easter Sunday.

There are many wonderful ways to celebrate Holy Week as a family, in addition to attending your local place of worship. Here are a few of our favorite family traditions:

  1.  Create an Easter Garden with small figurines.  Small children usually love this.
  2. Dye eggs with natural dyes, which is enjoyable for all ages.  Eggs were a symbol of creation, spring, and fertility long before Christianity. The Persians exchanged eggs at the new year; the Romans gave red painted eggs as a gift at new year.  Christianity adopted eggs as a symbol of the resurrection, and there are many wonderful stories about the resurrection and red eggs.  If you know any Orthodox Christians, ask if they have an icon of Mary Magdalene that they would be willing to show you -some icons have her depicted holding a red egg, so you can find out the story behind that!
  3. In the Anglican tradition (of which my family is a part of),  we keep vigil and pray during the time from the Last Supper to the time of the Crucifixion on Good Friday.  If you can find an Episcopalian parish in your area, prayer vigils are  often held all night there after Maundy Thursday Mass and times are rotated amongst members of the parish all night long.
  4. On Good Friday, you can bury a cross in a white shroud and uncover it on Easter. In our religious tradition, we decorate the cross on Easter with a multitude of beautiful fresh flowers.  This flowering cross on Easter Sunday is especially beautiful, and would be doable to do at home as well as in a community of worship.
  5. Spend time in nature and silence on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter.
  6. Create an Easter Candle, and bring home fire from the Paschal Candle at church to light your family Easter Candle.
  7. Bake Easter Bread to be eaten on Easter Sunday.
  8. You can make hot cross buns in order to break the fast on Good Friday (after sundown).  This tradition may have started with a 12th century monk in England who distributed buns to the needy on Good Friday, and it continues to be a tradition to this day.

I would love to hear your Holy Week traditions!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Taming Your Chaotic Household

Most children need a calm and secure home life in order to thrive.  Children who have extra challenges such as being highly sensitive, higher needs, AD/HD, etc really need this.  The main question parents ask me in relation to this idea is:

How do I get this?  I want it but I don’t seem to be able to get it!

There are easy steps you can take toward taming chaos in the family.

  1. Find the triggers for everyone in the family. Sometimes we can readily identify what our children’s triggers are, from clothes to routine changes to foods to light and sound, but we also need to think about the triggers of the adults in the house.  If we understand what all of the triggers in the family are, we can more easily all live in peace together.
  2. If the child is out of control, we don’t add fuel to the fire and ramp it up – we provide a calm response.  Be the calm.  Inner work of any form – prayer, meditation, yoga, physical exercise/walking meditation, being in nature – all helps us be the calm.
  3. We don’t blame the other adults in the house.  We enlist each other’s strengths, we give each other outs if things are getting intense, and we work as a team.  Some families need counseling to really grasp this as a technique.
  4. We provide a home environment that is calming and secure:  we take care of addictions and baggage, we provide balance, we provide a clean environment that is reasonably orderly, we provide routine and boundaries.  We provide love and connection and listening.
  5. We take care of the basic levels of calm by providing adequate hours for sleep, healthy meals, and really monitoring the effects of sleep and different kinds of foods on our children.
  6. Lastly, if our child is school-aged, we do our best to find educational settings that match what our children need.
  7. If we are drowning, we get help.  It can be a trusted family member or friend to help you organize, it can be that you ask for help with meals, it can be that you take time off of homeschooling and deal with the physical space in your home.   Ask for help and be open to receiving it.

I would love to hear how you tamed your own chaos!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

guest post: the child is the curriculum community

I am excited to share with you today a beautiful guest post today by Annie Hass, a talented artist and Waldorf homeschooling mother of 3 whom I am forunate enough to have as a friend.  She and her homeschooled son have created a beautiful endeavor that is combining so many things the homeschooling community has been wishing for – support, connection, book studies, ideas about self-care, homeschooling ideas, art tutorials, lesson plans by the block for Waldorf homeschoolers.  If you like holistic homeschooling, arts-based homeschooling or Waldorf homeschooling, I think you will love her new site!  I intend to put many homeschooling ideas over there, both for free and for sale.  Here is what Annie writes to you all:

The Child is the Curriculum:  Helping You Bravely Create Your Own Waldorf Homeschool Curriculum: A Manifesto!

Over the years online I have seen people ask so many times over “What is the best Waldorf curriculum to buy?” and a slew of varying answers would reply, all very valid and heartfelt responses. Just as often as I have seen this, I have also witnessed expressed frustration at the amount of money people have spent on various curriculum, especially when they didn’t wind up using all of it! Always in the back of my mind, I wondered why people weren’t selling curriculum by the main lesson block (the Waldorf version of a unit study). It was as if everyone was truly funneled into buying an entire year or more, or even a lifetime membership! That’s quite a commitment, especially for parents brand new to Waldorf. To many, Waldorf can seem too difficult, hard to understand, inaccessible, expensive. . . and the worst: elitist.

What makes Waldorf Education so out of reach for many? There is a multifaceted answer. The Waldorf schools themselves will cost a person $8000 – $14,000 per year. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Schools never intended it to be this way. Even with his recommendation that government should have no involvement with the Waldorf schools, he knew that the seed he planted would grow. He paralleled these recommendations with other ones for ethical banking and the economy that would make the Waldorf schools affordable for everyone called the Threefold Social Organism. Even though those recommendations were mainly ignored by society, the Waldorf schools were not. The Waldorf movement continues to grow and the demand for Waldorf inspired education grows by the hour. Even despite the cost. The cost remains high for both Waldorf Schools and curriculum, but is this necessary? Not when we remind everyone that Steiner said that Waldorf Education is a pedagogy, not a curriculum. He also said it can be applied anywhere. . . city or country, high or low income, and is not connected to circumstances. Waldorf Education at its core is a deep understanding of the human being. 

Another reason Waldorf seems out of reach for so many is the very materialism that Rudolf Steiner was trying to help us avoid. In this materialistic era, Waldorf can really seem like its all about the “stuff.” The natural toys, the supplies, and the expensive books, can be extremely tempting and make you feel like you NEED them to be truly Waldorf. You don’t. You can practice Waldorf best when you are really understanding your child. Anything else you can bring them should be there to serve this purpose! Their invisible needs should always come above and beyond the physical world. Steiner emphasized the importance of beauty and quality. . . but only it how it serves us inwardly, not for its own sake. You can give your child a sense of beauty and quality around them without giving a kidney at the same time! I will repeat the last sentence of the last paragraph: Waldorf Education at it’s core is a deep understanding of the human being.

Yet another reason Waldorf seems so out of reach is focusing on what we are doing as teachers more than who we are. We are often so consumed with bringing the “right” facts, and doing it the “right” way and feeling no confidence in ourselves to understand our children and how to bring them things. It really parallels what is going on with diet in the modern world. People long ago didn’t have to be told what to eat, they just ate. So too, have we lost our ability to spiritually understand how to educate in a meaningful way. We forget to do the inner work on ourselves. We forget that we can educate by understanding ourselves more, and seeking understanding of our children more is really what is most needed. The things that we actually do, and the specific things that we bring in a certain way only exist to serve this purpose. I will repeat the last sentence of the last two paragraphs: Waldorf Education at its core is a deep understanding of the human being.

One more reason many people just cannot fathom truly Waldorf Homeschooling, is that they think they do not have the time. When you have a peak at curriculums or a peak inside the schools and get a glimse at all that they are doing, you can get a feeling that you cannot possibly do all that it entails. It’s just too much! You may feel that you don’t have the skill, you may feel you need to overhaul your whole lifestyle, you may feel like you need to do as much in a day as a school does… complete with extra subjects!! You don’t. You can work all the necessary elements of Waldorf Education into your school year, in a way that works for your specific family. Your version of Waldorf will not look like anyone else’s, and that’s as it should be. Waldorf should mold into your life, your life shouldn’t have to mold into an outer other form of Waldorf. I will repeat the last sentence of the last three paragraphs: Waldorf Education at it’s core is a deep understanding of the human being.

I could go on, but I think I am getting the point across. So how do you create your own Waldorf curriculum? You stay at the core. Anytime you go astray from the core of what Waldorf is, you remind yourself again and again and again if you have to. If you want to truly do Waldorf at home, your time is better spent reading Steiner’s free online lectures than it is mulling over thousands of toys, hundreds of opinions, pressure to do anything that is too much, or anything that distracts you from the core. Spend time gaining a deep understanding of the human being.

One thing you will also need is some kind of support, whether it is local or online. When we speak with others on this path, it can really be reassuring and also a constant reminder to stay at the core of Waldorf! I have thought about creating a curriculum for the Waldorf Homeschool community in the past, but instead, after all I have been through, I decided to create something else instead. An extremely low cost website that helps homeschoolers create their own! A website that helps support them spiritually on their journey. The Child is the Curriculum is a Global Online Waldorf Homeschool Community and A La Carte Curriculum Source. It is just a baby now, and with lots of love and growing, members will help it blossom into a big beautiful vibrant thriving file sharing Waldorf community that supports and encourages parents of all incomes and circumstances.

Our goal for this new community is twofold. We have created a community space that is separate from social media, where homeschooling parents can come together to support one another and have a place to share their own unique gifts with the community. Also, we created a space where these resources are affordable and easily accessible. We want you to be able to both select content from other teachers/parents, and submit your own content. We want you to be able to custom curate your own curriculum while getting lots of support!

What are the benefits of a cooperative?

  • ~ Teacher Autonomy: you will no longer feel the weight of needing to do things in one specific way. Others will be sharing their unique way and it will inspire!
  • ~ Organized for Convenience: It’s organized by block and topic so you can easily find what you need as well as many who have shared their way of exploring that topic.
  • ~ Alternative to Social Media: Forums have the ability to foster lifelong friendships and make deeper connections. Social media can be a time drain, and a space for specific goals can help you stay focused and feel support.
  • ~ Book Clubs and Study Groups: Dive deeper with others by really getting at the core of Waldorf with our book club section! Let us help you study so it is more understandable.
  • ~ Book recommendations: Let us help you find books in your price range, and ones that meet what you really need so you aren’t wasting time and money.
  • ~ Downloads Feature: Upload and Download, sell or donate, your files! With a PayPal account, you can withdraw the funds you make from selling your ideas and purchase tutorials and blocks of other teachers!
  • ~ Forum Discussion and Mentorship: Receive help and discuss every grade and subject! We also have sections for caring for yourself as a parent, seasonal festivals, special needs, skill building, and so much more to help you.
  • ~ Blogging Platform: Create your own blog in our system to privately share your journey with other members. Or, link to your outer blog!
  • ~ Buy/Sell Trade: A section that allows you to swap your used Waldorf goods or buy from others
  • ~ Calendar and Events: mark seasonal festivals, plan each festival in our holiday/festival section, join us for Zoom conferences, and get updated about podcasts and webinars!
  • ~ Albums and galleries: Share your images or browse albums of others for inspiration!
  • ~ Teach a class! Use our Book Club system to teach a paying class. Charge other members a fee to come into your club and give your expertise on a subject or host one for free!
  • ~ Video tutorials: We have a video tutorial section for premium members. Share your own videos to get premium membership. Please see our website for more information!

Ultimately, this cooperative serves to remind you to stay at the core of Waldorf. The rest is there to help you feel empowered and inspired. We hope to help more homeschoolers gain the confidence they need to chart their own course! The Waldorf Homeschooling community really needs to shake things up a bit, throw off some myths and out of touch feelings, and bring everything back to being about the human being. In truth, you have already created your own curriculum. . . your very own child! 

Our community is located at www.thechildisthecurriculum.com

We hope to see you there!!!

 

Warmly,

Annie Haas

(Carrie here:  Hope to see you over there!  Many blessings and love)

 

 

 

 

 

 

the hardest part about parenting teens – and how to fix it

I talk to parents of teens all the time, from all different walks of life.  Some teens are going along with school and activities; some are struggling with self-esteem issues due to learning disabilities; some are dealing with more serious issues like alcoholism, toxic dating situations, self-harm, and more.  Parents tell me over and over that there is very little support for dealing with parenting of teens, mainly because each teen is a complete individual, and there is a need for privacy so not everything can be shared the way parents shared things their toddlers or even early elementary children were going through.

The hardest part of parenting teens is knowing what to do!  Any general instruction seems to apply less and less and what happens in conversation really can be a reaction to a situation that already has taken place, and it’s hard to know how much to hold a boundary or push for more responsibility.  Our oldest will be turning 18 this summer, and we also have a fourteen year old in the house, so I totally understand these feelings!

The number one way you can fix the hardest part of parenting teens, besides spending time WITH THE TEEN IN FRONT OF YOU, is to understand teen development.  Every teen is an individual, but there are archtypal patterns to teenaged development that can help us figure out how to parent more effectively!

Early Adolescence- ages 13 to the big watershed changes surrounding ages 15/16

  • there is often an obvious placing of space by the teen between himself or herself and the family.  This is an age when many families complain their teens are in their rooms and not coming out.  This is a safety measure for a gradually new emerging human being who feels the need to protect him or herself as they gain their own perspectives on life.
  • this is often an age of confrontation against authority and boundaries, but behind that is often a measure of uncertainty.  Using communication skills can be helpful.  If you are unsure how to react, try reading the book “How to Listen so Teens Will Talk and How To Talk So Teens Will Listen.”
  • it is often an age of emotional extremes.  Ninth graders are certainly very much more like middle schoolers than eleventh graders.
  • It is a time of measuring oneself against others, which is why social media can be so harmful for many teens.  Please use boundaries and know what your children are doing online!
  • It is a time of using safety and boundaries (self imposed or parent imposed) versus delving into a more open world.  

How do you parent this stage?

  • Respectful communication
  • Spending time with your teen; they are going to open up working side by side, in the car, or before they go to sleep. Spend time with them!
  • Play ho-hum with the emotional extremes. Be steady.
  • Don’t let the world just open up with no boundaries.  They are too young and need your support, encouragement, boundaries, safety net.
  • Let them fail and take the consequences of things.  You can only help to a certain point regarding things that have to be done. Do not do it for them!  This will impair the later stages of development unfolding.

Middle Adolescence – ages 15 or 16 to 18

  • This is a time of increased personal responsibility and realizing that not everything is someone else’s fault.
  • They are experimenting with finding emotional intimacy in friends, maybe with a significant other, but hopefully finding a way that their own personality and beliefs remains intact in the relationships.
  • They don’t want to be identified with their childhood for right now!
  • They have enthusiasm for a new challenge and want to experience that within themselves or out in nature or in academics
  • They can feel inadequate or inferior and may hide their innermost feelings
  • Sensitive teens might regress and turn to escapism

How do you parent this age?

  • Understand their vulnerability; help them deal with their innermost feelings if they are sensitive but also let them take actions and fail – do not do everything for them in an attempt to shield them
  • Artistic work,whatever that entails, is really important for this age – so theater, drawing, painting, woodworking, building things, modeling or sculpting, handwork, book binding – are all really important forms for inner self-expression
  • Help them get the wider context and the enthusiasm for a challenge in a safer way, especially for those 15-17 year olds.
  • Be there, be present.  They need you to not do things for them, but to help them, guide them, empower them!  Some older teens need more set parameters than others.  Be careful with your own boundaries as to what you will carry.

Late Adolescence – ages 18 to 21

  • They are grappling with the big questions:  Who Am I?  What Do I Want?  What Am I Capable Of?  
  • Then they have to follow up these questions with their own actions – the actions come from their own abilities, so if they have had everything done for them in early and middle adolescence, late adolescence isn’t going to look pretty.
  • They still find it hard to accept criticism.  This can still be an age of idealism.
  • They may start to explore and recognize that their personal development also intersects with a cause or community and get involved.
  • They may find their own place, their own work, a significant other or group of friends and community

How Do You Parent This Age?

  • Support them as they try out different healthy  paths.
  • Help them develop a love for responsibility – if you did the work in early and middle adolescence, this will come naturally!
  • Help them identify the abilities they carry that will help them move into action
  • Encourage them

Those of you with teens, what are the most successful and least successful things you have done in parenting or seen other parents do during these years? I would love to hear from you.

Blessings and love,
Carrie