5 Steps For Raising Children To Have An In-Depth Life

In this day and age, it seems as if sometimes the most intimate and horrific things can be reduced to an emoticon.  There are not enough emoticons in the world for tragedy, outrage, and horror. And, in cases of serious challenges with rights and wrongs on both sides, there is no clear button to push on social media to express the grey.  So, instead of raising our children in an environment that expects easy and shallow answers to life’s grey questions, let’s raise them to become deep and intimate beings with capacities for willing, feeling, and thinking.

Keep your children close.  Not to micromanage, not to hover, but to be present and attentive to what the true deep needs of children are.  All children have little wants that they think are needs, but it is our job as parents to figure out what is it that this child truly and deeply needs. And we can only do that if we are paying attention over a long course of many years.    We learn to read this child through all their changes, just as when we live in one place we learn to read the signs of each season in the sky and land.  Attention leads to depth in relationships and the first ability of the child to empathize with another human being.

Keep your children outside.   Connection with nature is the foundation of emotional and mental stability, the foundation of academic greatness in many subjects due to developing keen observation skills for minute changes, but it also becomes a time when a child can learn to be with themselves. Only when we can rest peacefully in ourselves (and perhaps in  the things that are bigger than us)  can we truly have deep intimacy with others and the challenges confronting humanity.

Keep your children off of social media as long as possible.  Social media devalues things to a click, an emoticon, a passing by glance.  As much as I enjoy social media for myself, I also didn’t grow up with it and become a rich thinker through debates on all kinds of issues right at our dinner table.   Encourage reading, dinner time discussion every night, and meaningful conversations with real people.

Keep your children with great role models.  Of course, be the best role model that you can be, but I think it does take a village to help raise children,  especially as a child grows.  We never know what other teacher, what neighbor, what other adult at a place of worship or in an activity that a child loves that might spark a light in our child’s soul. Sometimes it is something that seems so small to us that makes such a big impression on them.  Build up great relationships between your children and the mentors, neighbors, or extended family they love.  I know in this day and age, where coaches are not trustworthy, neighbors are not what they seem,  etc. that this can seem scary.  However, I think it is worth the effort to find the adults you love and that your children really can be guided by.  Different seasons may need different role models outside of the family, but it is worth persuing.

Keep your children even in their relationships.  As children age into the middle grades, and early high school years, it is easy for friendships and crushes to come and go. Help your child sort out their  capabilities for emotional intelligence, how they treat people fairly, how sometimes old friends are actually the best friends, what to do when friends hurt them, how to react to conflict, how to be assertive and set boundaries and more.  This is another thing that seems simple, but if you do not have time due to outside pressures of your own, you will not be present to help your child navigate this piece of life that is becoming more and more important in today’s world.

Slow down, and embrace being unbusy.  Children are in your home for 18 years usually. It is a long time, but also short.  If you don’t slow down, you might just miss it.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

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What I Want My Children To Learn During Lent

For whatever reason, I just love church during Lent. I love the tolling bells, the Decalogue (the repeating of the Ten Commandments), the Confession and Absolution, and the Trisagion.  And that is just at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy!   Lent, to me, is the time where I wander with my Lord in the desert. It is the time when I remember that my Lord was sent here to die for all of humanity and in order to truly be successful in life one must die to self and reach out into humanity in an intimate way.  For some reason, this comforts me in the midst of my wanderings and temptations and frailities of being human.

This really is so abstract for children, and since part of healthy parenting and Waldorf homeschooling really is in the way we help children unfold the deep truths  of life over time,  I am always considering in Lent what I want my children  of varying ages to absorb.

For those under  age 9, I like to go over our Baptism Vows and talk about baptism and belonging.  Part of the Baptism Liturgy for us as Episcopalians includes such beautiful language as “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?” and the prayer to give those baptized “an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works” .  When we are baptized, we belong. Belonging and goodness is a wonderful part of baptism and how we concretely go out into the world to witness to love.  This is so easy and wonderful to do with small children!  Bake for neighbors, help others, help small creatures, wonder together!    We also take a good  look at what things are different in church – there are no flowers, for example, only branches.  There is less and less music and singing.    These very physical things in the Liturgy signify this is a different season.

For those  ages 9-14, I like to talk about how Lent corresponds to the forty days Jesus was in the desert being tempted by Satan.  God didn’t make Jesus do anything, but Jesus chose the hard things anyway.  We can choose good choices, even when the good choices are hard.  We talk about what we gain when we let things go, and how the spirit of Lent can open us to doing something positive – and then we take those concrete steps to do something positive for those around us and for ourselves.  So many wonderful conversations around this!

For older teens ages  15 and up, I still like to talk about Lent and choices, but also about the choices we have inside of us and our attitudes, our attitude toward people and the least among us.  We talk about how often the devil is not only in the world, but inside us in that we all have the ability choose good or evil, how we react to things, how we rise up.  We have a choice to be selfish and think only of ourselves or do something more.   The world is can be grey,  the choices are not always easy or pat or rote, and older teenagers totally know  and get this.  However, just as the  good choices of Jesus were for us, for humanity, we  as human beings can also make choices that help others for the greater good of humanity. Love can become the meaning in the world if we choose that and let that flow.  Rudolf Steiner wrote in his lecture “Love and Its Meaning In The World”:  “We have to leave our acts of love behind in the world, but they are then a spiritual factor in the flow of the world events…..Love is the creative force in the world.”  So, how do we bring love to the world?  That is the question for the older teenager to find in themselves and in the gifts that they have to share with the world.

May we all send out love,

Carrie

Insecure

I was talking to an equine nutritionist the other day (yes, that is a real occupation!) and I was telling her how hard this certain horse is – recovering from major colic surgery, history of ulcers, etc, etc – and said something to the effect that having a horse can be such a crapshoot in terms of health and what happens!  You do all you can do, and there still comes a point where it is all out of your hands.  And she said, oh yes, but we love them anyway, and if experienced horse people tell you about the reality of that  probably no one new would even want to be around horses. LOL.

Well, isn’t it kind of the same with  parenting and children?

I see some many mothers who feel so insecure.  Maybe I am parenting wrong.  Maybe I am homeschooling wrong.  So much is riding on this.  Suppose I screw my children up in some way?  My friends and family are telling me their concerns with my parenting and homeschooling are x, y, and z.  This parenting thing is so hard!  How can I figure it out?  I am positive Susie down the street is doing it better!  No one’s children are having as many problems as my children!  I can’t do this!

Mostly, I  hear this insecurity a lot from moms who have children under the age of 9 and/or who are new to homeschooling, and then things stabilize a bit in the years of 9-14 and then the insecurity comes back in the later teen years.  In a way, parental insecurity in during the teen years also gets worse because parents feel isolated.  We cannot often talk about what is going on with our teens without violating their trust and the  unfolding of this other person, this other person’s story is no longer ours to tell.

The reality is that we all feel insecure at different times in our parenting (but hopefully not all the time!).  We all want to do what is right by our children and teens.  We all want our children to be as healthy as possible and  happy and to be successful on whatever terms that means success to our children.  We all want to avoid the large and devastating issues that can affect children.

Some children have a super hard beginning in life.  Some have such a hard 9 year change.  Some are at their lowest at 14/15.  Some have a really hard 16/17.  Some have a really hard time getting through the beginning stages of adulting 18-25 and need a lot of direction.

And all we can do is find our own way, form a village , do the best you can do, and LET IT GO.  Y ou cannot live the life of the child in front of you and control everything.  In the younger years, you have a chance to shape things and you have precious time, even if it is the ordinary time of dirty diapers, naps, and baths. However, as your child grows, your lives as intertwined but no longer on the same exact growing path.  The teen branches out into the world with roots at home.  They will make mistakes, sometimes large ones, and it becomes more and more of their journey and less of yours.  And so it goes.

Insecure feelings in parenting  is real and raw and true.  Find your spiritual work, find your tribe, re-find your partner or spouse if you have one,  set your boundaries, do what you can do without losing your mind, and laugh together.  Parenting is over many years, and the cycles of joy and triumph and despair are just that – cycles.  Riding the wave is sometimes the best and only thing to do . Insecurity eventually can be replaced by the reality of it being only one small part of the tapestry of parenting and generations.

Peace,

Carrie

 

Celebrating Valentine’s Day In The Waldorf Home

February is consistently labeled as the month where all homeschoolers want to quit.  The dreary weather often makes those of us in the Northern Hemisphere want to head for warmer locations and sunshine, and get rid of school altogether!

But really, Valentine’s Day can be our little spot of sunshine!  There are all kinds of things to make and do, and it can be a lovely pink and red time of showing love for one another.  I love Lisa’s Valentine’s Day post over at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life and would like to add some resources so you can have an amazing  handmade Valentine’s Day celebration!

Verses –

Good morrow to you, Valentine.
Curl your locks as I do mine,

Two before and three behind,

Good morrow to you, Valentine

-From “Festivals, Family, and Food: Guide to Seasonal Celebration” by Diana Carey and Judy Large, page 9

Games:  The book mentioned above has a suggestion for a Valentine Ring Game ( so you would need a group large enough to form a ring).  It is sort of a version of “Duck Duck Goose” involving a handkerchief and song.

Stories: The book “Tell Me A Story” from WECAN  has the story “A Million Valentines” by Suzanne Down; Suzanne Down’s Juniper Tree Puppetry website also has an entire book of Valentine Day stories here.

Activities:  Making Valentines out of red, white, and pink paper, lacey doileys or leftover lace is a fun activity.  Also,  making little felt hearts with a string, sort of like a pendant necklace is fun, or to sew two little felt hearts into a brooch.  One year we found heart shaped buttons and made little bracelets with buttons.

You could also consider the Swedish-type hearts made out of paper that sometimes one sees around Christmastime.  They are really sweet and may appeal to older children.

“All Year Round” has a suggestion of making bird biscuits and hanging them from a branch.  You can try my Pinterest Board for more suggestions, including biscuits to feed the birds, felt heart garlands, little lanterns, and more.

One thing we like to do is to have a pretty breakfast table with flowers and fun decorations.  Little garlands of red felt hearts are easy to make last minute and are very sweet hanging up.  Many of the crafts on my Pinterest board would make a pretty table.

When we think of activities, we also include acts of service.  If there is anyone in your neighborhood that is alone, elderly to visit, or a food bank that needs donation, those are all great ways to spread Valentine’s Day love and cheer.

Food:  Having a tea party seems to fit in well with this day.  On The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, I posted a picture of the flowering tea we had at Candlemas.  These would be fun at Valentine’s Day too, and everyone enjoys watching the flower unfurl in the hot water of a clear tea pot.

If you have wonderful pictures of your Valentine’s Day fun, please do post it over on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page or share a link below.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Blooming

Throughout the ages, spring has been a time of renewal and coming alive after a fallow and inward winter.   The significance of “forty” for the forty days of Lent coincide to this awakening and renewal and is not to be underestimated.  Forty days are in many scenes from Biblical History.  One only has to think of Noah and the Ark, Moses and the forty days after he killed the Egyptian, Moses in the desert, Joshua and his forty days to the Promised Land, Elijah walking for forty days and forty nights, and the time of Jesus Christ and His temptation in the desert.

And, after each of these fallow, anguishing, waiting periods, renewal occurs afterwards.  So I have been asking myself:  “What is my forty?  What regrowth, renewal, or positive change is going to come out of this time?”  Just like the way disequilibrium gives way to equilibrium in development, the way the rain turns into the sun shining,  fallow periods or even times of hardship often lead to  amazing new beginnings; a  blooming and blossoming, just like the branches of the flowering trees here in the south.

 

 

Sometimes we get stuck and can’t see our way out of the fallowness. If you live long enough, then you will have plenty of fallow periods or periods where things just aren’t going well.   How we get unstuck depends upon us.  Some of us need to start in the physical plane, with exericse or changing our nutrition or seeing a healthcare professional. Some of us need to start in the emotional plane with counseling, checking our values, putting in boundaries. Some of us need to start on the spiritual plane and as our spirituality and connection to everything around us deepens, we feel a new burst of energy and direction.

Even if you don’t celebrate Lent for religious reasons, I invite you to take some time during Lent for renewal and spiritual deepening.  I would love to hear your plans!

Blessings,
Carrie

Dynamic Development

Childhood development is never static and is ever unfolding. Sometimes the big joke in parenting is sort of, “Wow!  I just figured out this stage and now my child is on to something new!”

In my approach to development, I combine my ideas from when I worked as a pediatric physical therapist,  studies from The Gesell Institute, and Waldorf education’s view of the child.  Periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium routinely occur throughout development, typically with disquilibrium around the half-year marks, and pronounced differences  in development typically most dramatically noted around 3 – 3 1/2, 6/7, 9 (talked about an awful lot in Waldorf literature) ,  12 (although I don’t hear much about this one in parenting circles), and 15/16.  I think 15/16 is by far the most difficult transtition.

Parents often ask what they need to be successful throughout all these changes as their child unfolds.  In my personal opinion of working with families over the years, I  think there are four things, mainly, that help this process of helping a child grow:  having your own “stuff”  under control (ever tried living with an alcoholic parent, narcissitic parent, etc?    And not all of us have these things, but most all of us have wounds from living; just some of us own those wounds and try to make this woundedness better for ourselves and the people who love us); affectionate  love and connection to our children (and to your partner if you have one); loving boundaries;   rhythm (which is a defining hallmark of whatever your own family culture is!).  I don’t think it is is about perfection; I don’t think it is about doing everything just right.    A child growing up is also a family growing up and adults developing and changing too.

It is never too late to do these four  things.  All of us can become more self-aware and work on what our wounds and triggers are; nearly all of us can work to become more peaceful and compassionate.  It is never too late to  connect to and love your children.  Children have love languages just like adults do, but most children I know certainly perceive love in time and attention.  I read a few psychology sources that state even just 15-20 mintues of concentrated time a day is important; other sources like this Washington Post article from 2015 talk about how quality is more important than quantity, how family practices like dinners together do matter, and how teens need to spend time with their parents.   We can learn how to hold boundaries; I think I started seriously writing about boundaries back in 2008 and have written many posts on boundaries since then.  This one and  this big list of boundaries are among my favorites.   Finally, it is never too late to discover your  values as a family and prioritize those with your time (this is the beginnings of rhythm and habit!).

In this month often associated with love due to St. Valentine’s Day, let us love our children enough to help them grow in the healthiest ways possible!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Candlemas

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright

Winter will take another flight.

If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain

Winter is gone and will not come again.”

The February second coming of Candlemas, in an agricultural sense, was often viewed as the first day of Spring.  How fitting to have a beautiful idea of light come into the world on this day, and to celebrate by eating sunny foods and making candles.   Many Christians bring their candles to their parish to be blessed as well.  This day in Christianity is known as the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord,  and commemorates the Christ as the Light of the world.

We plan to have a brunch with friends on Candlemas, full of sunny foods,  and to roll and dip beeswax candles.   Earth candles are also lovely and fun to make!  One of the things I love about this particular festival is that it isn’t really complicated and can be quite simple.  There have been many years where we dipped candles just around our kitchen counter!

This is also the day I love to put some first sign of spring on the Nature Table.  If you live in an area where you might see a hint of budding on the trees or the first pussywillows of the season, you might enjoy doing this as well.

Here are a few back posts for inspiration:

The Magic of Candlemas

The Quiet Beauty of Candlemas (with instructions for dipping candles)

Candlemas is Coming!

You can also see some beautiful projects on my Candlemas Pinterest Board as well.

Blessings,

Carrie