Motherhood and Michaelmas Bravery

Brave and true will I be.

Each good deed sets me free.

Each kind word makes me strong.

I will fight for the right.

I will conquer the wrong.

Today is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels in the Western Church; more commonly referred to as Michaelmas.  I love this day because not only does it shine like a beacon for me to look ahead to the coming months of winter and how I can fortify myself for this seasonal change, it powerfully reminds me of the choices I have to be brave and good.

Motherhood in and of itself is often an act of bravery.  The responsibility of having a beautiful newborn and introducing them to a beautiful world is an act of bravery, and especially if we don’t feel the world is beautiful.  When we, as adults, can see it marred by racism, oppression, injustice, it can be an extreme act to show our children through the only eyes they know that the world can be a good and beautiful world and there are good and beautiful people.

Motherhood can be physical acts of bravery.  From sleep deprivation to dealing with bodies that feel different after giving birth or having multiple children, it can take courage, bravery and persistence to nudge ourselves back to health and not give up.  Fight to treat yourselves right by taking care of yourselves!  Be brave, mothers!

Motherhood  can be brave when we choose to forge ahead on paths that are different than the norm, knowing that this path is right for our children and our family.  It is courageous to make rhythms to our world in a time and place where chaotic busyness is the treasured theme of the media and everyone.  “How are you?”  “I am just SO BUSY!” says nearly everyone you meet.  Why?  Why is this treasured like a badge of honor?  I think the real badge of courage is to stay home more, relax and laugh more, teach our children that they don’t need pages of acheivements in order to be human.  Instead, teach them about forming relationships.  Teach them about how people treat each other.  Treat them to be upstanding human beings who do the right thing.  Teach them to do the things that matter, and that our energy is finite.  There are only so many things we can juggle at one time and be sane and healthy.  That is bravery.

Motherhood can be brave when we are raising teenagers on the verge of driving, preparing for college, preparing for their own intimate relationships. We can be brave and true and wise in helping to guide our teenagers whilst also preparing them to make choices that nourish themselves and also set the tone for a different world. Help our teenager to change the world by being different, by being brave and true – by being beautiful.

Motherhood can be brave when all the children are gone and the house is empty.  That transition of being older and all that experience of being brave brings something to the world!

Happy Michaelmas!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Parenting From A Place Of Calm

Being calm and modeling that for our children will do more for them than any class at school or any extra-curricular activity.  Being calm shows children and teens a way to approach problems, a way to carry an inner confidence and the strength that we need to get through life. What a wonderful start to give children and teenagers!

Many parents ask me how can I parent from a place of calm?  And I ask them, what prevents you from doing that?  Sometimes the answer is MY CHILDREN! LOL. With that in mind, I would like to share with you some of the ways I help myself come from a calmer place.

  • Understand developmental stages – This might be the number one thing to help you realize that “this is a stage, this too shall pass” and “I can help guide, but it will most likely work out!”  Understanding developmental stages makes you feel less stressed, and more connected to your child.  It is much easier to connect and have empathy if you know this is a normal developmental stage.
  • Let logical consequences prevail.   I see too many parents bailing their children out of small things that really their older children need to fail and learn from that failure.  One prime example is homework and projects, where the child procrastinates and waits until the night before it is due and then is screaming for help to get it done.  Failure, and the ability to know that one can come back from failure and know one can triumph is a far bigger lesson than whatever the project was.  Let them fail!  Making restitution is an important part of logical consequences, no matter what the age of the child.
  • Get the energy out.  Many parents say their children prevent them from being calm and my guess is most of the time the children just have too much energy. Get the energy out!  Be active with them, and most of all, get rid of the screens.  The screens do nothing to get energy out and to help everyone be calm.  Which leads to…
  • Be outside. Most things are calmer outside.  Especially if you have children under the age of 14, you should be outside every afternoon in some form of unstructured play.    Teens need this too, but the reality is many teens do have commitments at that point and cannot be outside every afternoon like that.  However, do make it a priority for those under 14.  You will never, ever get those under 14 years back.
  • Limit activities outside the home and plan for rest and downtime. Do not go out every day, even if it is fun things!  Be home!  A child and teen needs to know that the home is more than a launching pad to get to a class or activity, and that being home can be fulfilling too.
  • Understand that energetic and calm are not contradictory.  You can have and be both.  This was important for me personally to understand when I looked at all those soft-spoken, quiet Waldorf teachers.  I am energetic and dynamic.  I like to work and play hard, and it was super important for me to understand being energetic wasn’t a minus and calm is carried in your heart.  Being a calm parent could mean you are quiet and soft-spoken but it could also mean you are energetic and fun.
  • Have a plan for inner growth and development.   This is another complete game-changer.  If you profess to follow a religious or spiritual path, and yet invest no time in that at all each day, then you aren’t growing toward compassion, calmness, and all the things you profess to be important.   The inner path sets the inner stage for calmness. It can take as little as ten minutes a day, but DO SOMETHING.
  • Have something outside of your children as they get older.  As children grow, you do hit a point where you have time for some of your own interests or pursuits or to have a date night out or whatever it is that it time without your children.  However, the caveat is that no matter how many children you have, they will fill your 100 percent UNLESS you really put the effort into saying, no, this is my time.  I find this is especially important to do this with the early teen group who want to be driven a lot of places.  I am here for more than just driving and sitting and waiting.  Please show your children there is more to the world than just them.  
  • Know your limits and what you need for self-care! This is the most important one. If you are absolutely empty, then you cannot fulfill being calm.  Self-care means different things to different people, so figure out what makes things nurturing for you.

How do you come from a place of calm?

Blessings,
Carrie

A Month of Michaelmas

A beautiful month of Michaelmas is upon us!  Don’t you love the call of the spiritual path that this time of year brings forth?  Let us engage in this longing and searching for the good to triumph over evil, for our inner light to shine over our baser passions, for our love for the world to expand in our deeds and responsibility toward all of humanity?

Here are some ways to prepare. If you have older children and ESPECIALLY teenagers, they should be part of preparing these things for younger children and I have included some suggestions for older children and teens directly.

1-   Make a little dragon for your nature table or place to display in the house.  My favorite little dragon pattern/kit is here at Mama Jude’s Etsy shop.  It is called Little Dragon Friend.

2 – Create shooting stars for Michaelmas.  Rhythmic Silence blog has suggestions as to how to dye and wet felt some beautiful balls for this (and add a tail!).  Perhaps you could make them and then hand them out on the day of the special festival celebration.

3 – Learn Michaelmas verses.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Michael the Victorious

Thou Michael the Victorious,

I make my circuit under thy shield

Thou Michael of the white steed

And of the bright, brillant blade!

Conqueror of the dragon,

Be thou at my back.

Thou ranger of the heavens!

Thou warrior of the King of all!

Thou Michael the victorious

My pride and my guide!

Thou Michael the victorious

The glory of mine eye.

And:

I rise through the strength of Mi-cha-el

Light of Sun

Radiance of Moon

Splendor of Fire

Swiftness of Wind

Depth of Sea

Stability of Earth

Firmness of Rock.

Mi-cha-el!

4- Find depictions of St. Michael the Archangel in art to display.  Some show St. Michael as a dragon-fighter or holding a  balance scale.  Different works of art show different aspects of St. Michael.

5- Stress doing good for others during this four-week period.  In the book, “Festivals With Children,” Brigitte Barz talks about bringing a balancing scale into the children’s space with dark stones on one side and helping the child choose a task each day to  help the archangel.  In this way, different stones can be added to the other side of the balance and hopefully by Michaelmas, the scale will be in complete balance.

7 – Make kites to fly.  This has been associated with Michaelmas for some time.

8 –  Make a dragon out of clay or modeling beeswax

9 – Decorate a candle with a Michaelmas theme with the thin modeling candle wax.

10- Tell fairy tales to the grades-aged children that fit into Michaelmas:  The Devil With The Three Golden Hairs, The Drummer, The Crystal Ball, The Two Brothers, Sleeping Beauty are all suggested.

11 – For children ages 9 and up, find Christine Natale’s story “The Golden Soldier”.  You can find Christine’s work here.

12 – For even older children, Parsifal is read in eleventh grade, so those 16 or so may enjoy this tale.

13 – Tell stories about St. George, a brave knight, who is a human symbol of this conflict of slaying and taming dragons; the personification of carrying inner light at a time when the outward light is diminishing

14 – For tiny children, try Suzanne Down’s story “The Brave Little Knight” or  the story “The Far Country” in the back of the book “All Year Round” for those five and up.

15 – Make plans to make “dragon bread” or a Michaelmas Harvest Loaf.  There is a story to go with this in the book “All Year Long”

16 – Learn Michaelmas songs.    There are some good ones in the Wynstones Autumn Book and yes, also on You Tube!

17 – Gather Michaelmas daisies.

18- Build an obstacle course that requires courage and bravery.

19 – Make a Calendula Courage Salve.

20 – Gather flowers to dye silk capes yellow for the big day.

21 – Make wooden shields or swords; have a knighting ceremony.

22 – Create a community gathering.

23 – Meditate on how we bring imagination, creativity, and fearlessness to the colder months ahead.  How do we overcome anxiety or fear? How do we bring more love into the world and how do we help others?

24 – Angels can be a lovely theme for this month.  I like the Paraclete Treasury of Angel Stories for reading aloud.

25 –  Make a Michaelmas drawing for your chalkboard

26- Learn a Michaelmas fingerplay for the littles.  See this post over at Little Acorn Learning

27  – Make a window transparency.  You can see an example on my Michaelmas Pinterest board.

28 – Make shadow puppets of St. George or the archangel and the dragon.

29  Michaelmas Day – shape your celebration in the way that feels most fitting to you and your family or community.  Over the years we have done simple soup and bread sharing; puppet shows; obstacle courses that involve courage, bonfires and singing.  I think it just depends who you have with you and what wonderful gifts you can share with each other.

Many blessings on this time.

Carrie

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: September

September, I love you so!  Cooler weather, harvest, leaves turning colors, long walks and bike rides, apples and pumpkins, acorns, getting the house organized for fall, searching for things to make for the holidays, fall decorating!  So many wonderful things to love about September!

September often seems to be about new beginnings.  Here in the South, the school children have been back to school about a month, so perhaps it is not “new”, but  it still has that feel to me and my Northern upbringing (where we always started school the day after Labor Day) , that it is a time of possibility and change.  Things are full of fun and new life over in our house as well.  We  recently got a brand new cute little rescue puppy, and she has energy and fun in her, but is also pretty calm.

We are three weeks into school, and finishing up our first blocks of first and sixth grade, with our first block of ninth grade planned to take about six weeks.  We have been going on a few field trips, (and I hope to talk in another post about field trips!)

This month we are celebrating:

September 5 – Labor Day – I have written before about trying to find a Labor Day parade or going to take your small children where something spectacular was built and finding out the history of how it was created and built.

September 8- The Nativity of St.Mary, the Theotokos

September 21 – The Feast of  St. Matthew

September 29 – Michaelmas

There are a host  of wonderful Celtic Saints to celebrate this month in Anglican tradition as well – really to many to choose from. St. Cyprian, St. Hildegard, and St. Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury.  I hope to at least read about some of these Saints to our children.

Some of our Field Trips this month may include:

  • Apple Picking

Ideas for Celebrating this Month with Littles:

Ideas for Celebrating this Month With Older Children:

Ideas for Celebrating this Month With Teens:

  • Find great theater, museum, and festival events to attend
  • Longer hiking, camping, and backpacking trips
  • Bake and cook fall dishes
  • Work on fall organizing and cleaning
  • Stargazing
  • Find new activities outside the home that your teen will adore
  • Find  new knitting, crocheting, sewing, woodworking and woodcarving ideas to try

Homemaking:

  • Getting our rhythm down. I often have to make changes and tweak things a few weeks into school.  This year has been busy with some outside things ( judging events in 4-H, taking care of a puppy down the street, etc) so once some of those things  have ended, I think it will be simpler.  You all know how it goes – hard to garner a fanstastic rhythm if the time is just being broken up.
  • I have plans to really go through the children’s toys.  Some things need to be refreshed and moved around for our soon to be seven year old, and some things just need to be weeded out.  The Konmari In The Waldorf Home group on Facebook has been very inspiring to me.
  • Planning landscaping.  This house had the bushes planted during construction and we would like to do something more and get back into having a fall garden.  Not a lot of this has happened since we moved into this house.

Homeschooling:

  • I am feeling pretty settled into what we are doing, other than my children in general move rather slowly when it comes to the “doing” part of putting anything in our Main Lesson Books (but that isn’t new).  It can be a real juggle to teach three children, and I find I am often teaching fairly non-stop between 8:30 and 2:30 or so.
  • One thing I have been contemplating so much is the loss of people homeschooling in general as children grow older; the loss of older children in Waldorf homeschooling in particular and the development of academic skills within the Waldorf curriculum that children around the fifth grade and up mark really and truly need to be successful at the high school level.  I just don’t think there is enough emphasis regarding the HOW to develop skills in the upper Waldorf curriculum and Waldorf high school  – whether that is increasing artistic skills or academic skills – for homeschooling parents to really sink their teeth into.  More on that at some point in the future!

Self-Care:

  • School starting has really thrown off my self-care routines, but I feel it coming back to the surface after several weeks of putting myself on the back burner.
  • Spiritual studies are taking on a new life for me.  I took part in a really wonderful prayer event for homeschooling, and am  looking forward to adult Sunday School beginning at church next week.  I have been rather inward focused this summer, and feel a new period of growth coming on.  There is also a study I am taking part in through our local Waldorf School, and another one on-line.   I like to feel my knowledge of Waldorf Education expanding.  Even things as small as picking out new verses for the children’s grade to open the day and picking out verses for me to focus myself for this school year has seemed significant.

I would love to hear what you are up to  this September!

Blessings,
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

Regulation of Emotions In Children – Part Two

Back in the fall of 2015, I  went to a course for my physical therapy licensure renewal  that focused on the regulation of emotions in children who have anxiety, anger challenges, ADD/ADHD, or who are on the autism spectrum.  It was geared toward teachers, therapy providers, and principals in the school setting.  One thing that was emphasized over and over is that a calm child who is not feeling stressed by the environment can learn better than a child who is stressed. Part of education is to understand ourselves as teachers and therapists (why do we do what we do in the classroom or with the children we are with?), to empower children to understand who they are and why they do what they do,  and to help children develop emotional regulation.

I talked about the first part of this course in this  back post about the things some schools in the United States are doing to try to keep things calm for their students, including:

  • Understanding the brain
  • Ryhthm, including the use of photo books to show the child doing each daily activity and using accommodations to make certain children do not get over-stimulated
  • Using connection and love to calm the child
  • Use of movement, art, hydration, music, art, time in nature to all help increase learning and memory and keep children as even-keeled as possible.

The question I posed at the end of Part One of this post (linked above)  was what are the schools doing in the moment, when things are going really badly?  Children with these kinds of challenges can throw desks, they can really fall apart, and it can be difficult for not only the student, but the teacher and the other students in the class when all of this is happening.

The approach in some schools and as modeled in this course I attended is a three step process involving  to  take notice, to intervene, and to plan ahead.   I don’t know if this would appeal to parents in the home environment or not, but I place it here as food for thought and for you to decide how it fits into your philosophy of education and development.  This course was absolutely NOT geared toward Waldorf Schools, and again, I place it here for thought.

Notice – in this course, this meant to empower children to understand emotional states and triggers.  For small children under the age of  9  I am a fan of using stories, music, little circle time activities, modeling, sharing good things in circle time, etc.  I think this can be empowering in the feeling life for the purpose of “noticing”.    For older children, discussion as they need to start to learn to function in the real world may be necessary.  Children with challenges may need very well to start these “noticing” strategies before the nine year change in development, and I think what this entails  is really  up to the family and the health care/educational team.   Remember this course was geared toward those working with children who had challenges with anxiety and anger, which is different.  Some children especially  need real help in  noticing other people’s behaviors, body language, tone of voice, etc.  and again, I think we have to look at the child in front of us whilst keeping in mind development.

Intervention:  This may include  a proactive phase. For example,  what are the child’s triggers?  What is the environment doing (or not doing) for the child?  How do we prepare the child? For example, some children need serious help with groups. Some need serious help with transitions.  How do we anticipate the problems that might come up? In a school setting, this might require a team conference involving almost all staff present.

The early intervention phase might include redirection, and moving into proximity to the child to help, and to use calming strategies.  If a child is past early intevention and is melting down, then steps might include removing the child to a safe environment, not engaging in a power struggle, distracting, offering a safe activity, allowing time to calm down, and then addressing the situation but more in an informational gathering way, not in a way that immediately goes into the negative behavior of the child for that setting.

Note to families reading:   Remember, these are grades aged children. From a Waldorf persepctive for tiny children under the age of 7, I wrote a post about time in for tinies that might give you some ideas about how to create a “meltdown plan” for your littles.

Plan:  The plan part of this is to know that this behavior is cyclical (most likely).  Most likely it WILL happen again.   A plan is helping to empower the child (and I have to say I think this is much more appropriate for older children than younger from a Waldorf perspective) and using a classroom behavior plan.  Role-playing, drawing the scenario and how it would be a happier ending for all parties can sometimes help, and for older children, journaling can be helpful.

Practice: There are many other very cognitive-based approaches that were mentioned that I think could be useful for middle school and up for the normal course of health class or whatnot ( to me personally.  I am sure in some school settings these techniques are being used with much younger children and especially for those who desperately need these tools to try to self-regulate).  These include things such as introducing the parts of the brain and functionality (which in one sense I am for in that children should learn correct parts of their body just like other bodily names but this is applying the names and functionality in a pretty cognitive way that might be better for interested middle schoolers); introducing a “circle of control” (ie, what is in the child’s control and what is not in the child’s control), scales of emotional intensity, scales of importance of events and comparing to the emotional scales.  Other things mentioned were breathing techniques, (which could be used younger than middle school ages obviously )   and using post-incident interviewing techniques.

Here are some ideas for searching techniques that could be helpful for your child (I am not endorsing any of these per se except ones we have used personally); these are just repeatedly mentioned in courses I have taken:

  • Brain Gym (which we do use, I have taken a course in it, and I would endorse)
  • Heart Math
  • Ready Bodies, Learning Minds
  • Play Attention (this might be computer based, I am not sure?  Has anyone out there used it?).
  • Under the Thinking Cap, which is the company of the person who presented this course
  • MindUP Curriculum (has three levels – grades K-2; grades 3-5 and grades 6-8) (I am currently looking at the level for grades 6-8 and hope to have something to review about it soon!)

Are there any products, programs, or techniques you have found for emotional regulation that you have loved?  Have you found a better age to introduce some of these things than other ages?  What did you find worked best for your child?  What about those of you with children who do struggle with anger, anxiety, or other challenges?  Did starting earlier help?

I would love to hear from you.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Milestone Every Child Needs to Reach

II really loved this article entitled, “The Milestones That Matter Most”.  One of the things this article brought up was the cultural biases we have that play into our parenting.  I have long been fascinated with this subject; when my older children were tiny I read and re-read Meredith Small’s “Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent”.

What is interesting to me is that, of course, different things are valued in different cultures.  Our one milestone that we might feel every child needs to reach may not be the same in another culture.  One of the ways we may combat bias in parenting is to consciously examine our own biases in regard to development and culture.  Do we, for example, assume that babies have to sleep through the night by themselves?  Do we assume that babies should be able to “self-soothe”?  Do we assume that toddlers will have a “terrible two’s” period?  Do we think children have to go to school to be “educated”?  Do we assume that children  will be “defiant”?  Do we think that children should have a lot of responsibility for themselves or no responsibility?  Do we assume that children should be able to self-regulate by a certain age?  Do we assume teenagers will battle against their parents and be rebellious?

Some of these questions have an inferred bias that we must examine consciously and continually as we go through our own life changes.  Some of the biases we enter into in parenting may change over time as we are in the ttrenches of dealing with our own children and watching other parents.   Human development, growth , and change is never done for the parent or the child.  It is part of being human, especially if we are trying to live in a conscious manner and we take responsibility  for our own throughts and actions.

IOne thing that can really assist us as parents is to have a family mission statement.  In our family, we have had  the same family mission statement – KIPPA  (Kindness, Integrity, Patience, Positive Attitude, Adventure) – for several years now.  Acronyms can make things easier to remember.  The process of creating a family mission statement can help us see where our biases are, what our values are, and what we think will be a course that will sustain us through parenthood and our children into a connected, happy adulthood. Have a personal mission statement in connection with your parenting and what you want to model in life is also a great conscious step.

Things I find that can carry  through many years of parenting includes connection, rresolving conflict,  setting boundaries in a healthful way , and  taking responsibility for one’s actions.  Kindness is always a modeled value.  So perhaps the milestone your child most needs to reach isn’t learning to read, or learning any other academic skill, but instead the milestones of being able to offer and accept love from other human beings, being able to assimilate into a humanity and offer goodness and kindness.  Perhaps those are the best milestones a human being can reach.

Please share with me your family mission statement, or the values you have found that have carried you through many years of parenting that you try to model for your own children.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

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