Glowing February

February can be a hard month for many people living in cold and dark climates and where it seems as if winter is dragging on forever.  I like to think of February as a month of illumination and light, which helps me counteract the darkness and think of February as a month of celebrating all kinds of love and light in the world.

This month we are celebrating:

Black History Month – Of course Black History IS World history and American history and should be in every subject we teach every month, but it’s also wonderful to take a renewed look at wonderful books and biographies this month.  Watch @theparentingpassageway IG and The Parenting Passageway Facebook page for our library hauls this month

February – Mardi Gras! (until Lent, of course)

February 2 – Candlemas

February 14 – St. Valentine’s Day (you can see this post about Celebrating Valentine’s Day in the Waldorf Home

February 17- Presidents Day

February 26- Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent  (try this post about Lent from last year with lots of links and ideas:  Lent – Pilgrimage of the Soul )  (and I am very excited to read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2020 Lenten book selection)

Lovely things to do with children this month:

Make Valentine’s Day cards; plan little treats and crafts for Valentine’s Day; make window transparencies; dip candles; roll candles; play board games or card games with your children;  draw, paint, model; whittle wood; make popcorn together; bake together; play in the snow – build snow forts; have snowball fights; snowshoe; downhill or cross country ski;  ice skate on a pond; read and tell stories; build forts inside; take a walk outside in the cold – look for animal tracks or berries or birds or all of the above; knit, crochet, cross stitch, finger knit, spin, sew; sing and make music together – learn some new songs; clean, scrub, dust, work around the house – rearrange furniture; go bowling or find an indoor swimming pool to swim in; write letters to family and friends; write stories together; snuggle on the coach with hot chocolate and marshmellows; cook for a neighbor; find a place of worship to attend and get involved; throw a party; clicker train your dog, cat, or other animal; take care of plants; start seeds indoors when it it is time, grow sprouts in the kitchen or a little microgarden.

Thoughts about Homeschooling:

This is the month I find myself thinking about plans for the fall.  I think I often get a little bored and restless this time of the year – maybe you do too!  This could be a great month for skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, surfing if you live somewhere you can do that or swimming – in other words, break the rhythm up with physical activity outside.  It can be really helpful!

Waldorf homeschooling is intensive and difficult at times. It requires a lot of planning and a lot of ourselves as teachers, so I think we should be easy with ourselves, especially in February and especially when we have all very young children close in age or large spans of ages, it can be a complete struggle to meet everyone’s needs.  I understand why people drift away from Waldorf homeschooling to unschooling, or to field trip/road trip schooling or something where you can combine more as opposed to Waldorf.  I have zero judgement about that.  I also understand why those who love Waldorf Education sometimes move to an area where they have a Waldorf school available. I think we need to be easy on ourselves and find what rejuvenates us, and to be honest and real when teenagers are older and the homeschool season is just changing.  For some families it doesn’t change, and that is great, but for many families there can be a lot of guilt and angst about switching either homeschooling methods or educational choices in middle and high school. It’s okay that things don’t stay the same if that is what the child or family needs.  Our job is to prepare our children for the future in the right time and in the right manner for that child.  They need to be functional adults!

My own little homeschooling corner of the world:

Our fourth grader finished a block on Norse Myths and now we are into a block I designed on Birds of Prey since that is a main interest.  Our high school freshmen is  still at a hybrid school, and our high school senior is finishing up the year with acceptances at all the universities applied to with scholarship money – so now we just have decisions to make about the best place to attend, which is a lovely place to be.

I would love to hear from you about your plans for February!

Blessings,

Carrie

January Love

Outside of the current situation of grey and rainy weather with flooding, I love January.  First of all, the bright and shiny New Year beckons to me with goals, lists, my word of the year (#radiant) and dreaming fun.  Second of all, I love the more introverted vibe of this season – nesting with blankets and hot drinks and inside fun, but still being able to go outside for a walk in the rain or bright sunshine with colder temperatures!    I am always delighted with the possibility and prospect of snow as well.

These are a few of the things we are enjoying this month:

  • Daily walks rain or shine
  • Puzzles and board games
  • Green smoothies
  • Exercising a lot
  • Going out as a couple – hope to get away for a few overnights alone this year ❤ and getting ready to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary in May
  • Opting outside daily
  • Playing with our horses and dreaming of the show season to start again
  • Baking
  • Indoor microgardening!  So fun – and having bulbs blooming in the house

Decluttering the entire house – we have done closets and drawers and the garage.  It’s so freeing to let things go!

These are the things we are celebrating:

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • January 6– The Feast of Epiphany and Epiphanytide that stretches until Lent begins on February 26 this year.
  • January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr Day –Martin Luther King is also celebrated January 15 and April 4 in The Episcopal Church
  • Janaury 18– The Feast Day of St. Peter
  • Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
  • January 25 – The Feast Day of St. Paul

Some fast ideas for fun things to do with children:  Cut out paper snowflakes, including really cool 3-D snowflakes; dip candles; roll candles; play board games or card games with your children;  draw, paint, model; whittle wood; make popcorn together; bake together; play in the snow – build snow forts; have snowball fights; snowshoe; downhill or cross country ski;  ice skate on a pond; read and tell stories; build forts inside; take a walk outside in the cold – look for animal tracks or berries or birds or all of the above; knit, crochet, cross stitch, finger knit, spin, sew; sing and make music together – learn some new songs; clean, scrub, dust, work around the house – rearrange furniture; go bowling or find an indoor swimming pool to swim in; write letters to family and friends; write stories together; snuggle on the coach with hot chocolate and marshmellows; cook for a neighbor; find a place of worship to attend and get involved; throw a party; clicker train your dog, cat, or other animal; take care of plants; start seeds indoors when it it is time

On the homeschooling front, I ordered a cap and gown for our senior this weekend.  She is graduating on May 16.  We are super proud of her and are excited about what the future holds for her at college (we don’t have a decision yet as some college don’t send out acceptances until February, but she has gotten back all acceptances so far from the ones that send out earlier).  Our high school freshman is still at her hybrid school (four days a week) and is re-enrolling for her sophomore year.  And our little fourth grader is still at home homeschooling – we have Norse Myths coming up in January, Birds of Prey in February, Math in March, Earth, Air, Wind, and Fire in April (soul food tales from The Golden Stag by I. Wyatt) and finishing with African Tales (tales from the San, tales from the Bantu people, Yoruba myths) in May.  So excited about planning fifth grade! I already have a skeleton framework in my head and will be doing it differently than I have ever done it before.  🙂

I am starting up my business in January as well – home health pelvic floor physical therapy and lactation!  So that is new and exciting, and of course I still have the rest of my clinical doctorate to finish by December 2020.

Most of all, I am excited to have fun – 2019 was busy and fun with many new wonderful friends, and I am hopeful 2020 will be more of that! We started a #gratitudejar where we put a little note in for anything that brings you joy or feeling thankful and we already have so many things to be grateful for.

I would love to hear your January plans!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Bright and Shiny New Year

I love the prospect of a New Year, of new beginnings and bright shiny pages in my planner, the feeling of being able to begin again, fresh and new.  I hope this New Year feels like a welcome new beginning to you and your family.

This is the beautiful blessing I often share on the New Year:

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours.

-From an Old Irish Blessing, author unknown

May this year be the one in which you are ENOUGH just the way you are.

May this year be the one in which you are content.

May this year be the one where you are loved as richly as you deserve.

May this year be one of bountiful and deep friendships, beautiful family memories, and love.

May this year be the year that you help someone else, the year of your generous spirit blossoming.

May this year be the one that is perfect for you and where you are in life and may you enjoy it abundantly.

Many blessings for a peaceful New Year with new beginnings of nourishment and love.

With love to all, thank you for over ten years of marvelous readership and I hope to have much to offer you in 2020.

Carrie

Word of the Year

I so hope you are enjoying your holiday season.  I posted a Christmas message on FB and IG, so you can check for a beautiful prayer from A Black Rock Prayer Book. I love these Holy Nights of Christmastide and delving deep into inner work each day.

One thing I think about is taking stock of the past year and looking ahead to the New Year.  Like most people, I am not very good at keeping resolutions.  So I normally choose a word of the year to help keep me focused and centered on my priority. I first heard of this practice from Sheila over at Sure As The World, which is an incredible blog to read and follow. So many treasures over there!

This year, my word is RADIANT.  Each year I have done artistic representations of my word with sort of corresponding focus areas represented. One year I did concentric circles with the word of the year in the middle.  I have done trees with the word as the root and some of the focal areas as branches and I have done vision boards. This year, I am not sure what my artistic rendering will be, but I know my focal areas will be around:

Radiant Work

Radiant Family Life and Homeschooling

Radiant Health

Radiant Kids

I will be dreaming and drawing and painting throughout Christmastide to see what comes to me in these areas for 2020.  I would love to hear your word of the year if that is your practice!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Winter Solstice and The Fourth Week of Advent

The Winter Solstice descends us into darkness and asks us to rise again, to find what gives us light, and to find what light we can give into the world.  Many of us are looking at Christmastide with renewed anticipation of generosity, light, kindness, love, compassion and bringing this into the world, beginning with ourselves and our own families.

What brings you light?  

How can you give light (compassion, kindness, love, generosity) to yourself?

How can you give light (compassion, kindness, love, generosity) to your family and others?

This is the fourth week of Advent – Christmastide begins soon.  This is the week that focuses on the light of mankind.  This could include creating/placing people on the Nativity Scene (some place the shepherds out this week if St. Mary and St. Joseph are already out); baking gingerbread people,  doing beautiful acts of kindness for those who need it most, thanking the workers of your community – postal people, fire people, police, garbage collectors, teachers, mentors, instructors, and honoring the people who are bringing light to the world and striving for all of humanity.

Christmastide is  a wonderful season that begins on Christmas Day and continues until the eve of Epiphany.  Freya Jaffke, in her wonderful book, “Celebrating the Festivals With Children”, writes:

“During the twelve or thirteen Holy Nights that follow Christmas, the events of Christmas continue to resonate; and it is a lovely custom for children if candles are lit each day, with singing, music making and perhaps a reading.  This period is set apart from the rest of the year, and can be a time when we gather our strength for the year ahead.  Nothing urgent needs to be done, and we can really take time for things.  Children are deeply satisfied if mother or father sits down beside them with some craftwork, or perhaps join in a game now and then.  In contrast to the summer when we like going outdoors, we feel very comfortable at home in the warmth – apart from winter walks and the fun of snow when it comes.”

We can celebrate the twelve days of Christmastide with children by using candles or a ring with twelve hearts or a simple Advent type calendar adapted to the twelve days of Christmas.  This becomes a nice way to bring children down gently from Christmas and to continue the joy and wonder society too often associates with just a single day.  Instructions to make a Christmas ring can be found in both “All Year Round” and “Celebrating Irish Festivals”.    There are instructions to make a “postcard” calendar for the twelve days of Christmastide, each window representing a month of the year, ie, the first card would represent January and be opened on the first day of Christmastide, the second card would represent February and be opened on the second day of Christmas.

Many blessings to you,

Carrie

The Third Week of Advent

A verse for this week:

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts-

All Await the Birth, from greatest to the least

OR

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts,

The light of hope we see in the greatest and the least

I hope you are all enjoying this third week of Advent.  This is the week I find if I am  not careful, all the busy creeps up and makes the holiday season less enjoyable,  so I like to try to be as conscious as I can about that.

This week I am celebrating “Ember Days” on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  This is traditional, the Farmer’s Almanac mentions it as days to give thanks for the olive crop.  In the Episcopal Tradition, this is often a time of thanks for those in ministry, being ordained into ministry, and all Christian vocations.  These are traditional days of fasting and abstinence, and sometimes just what I need to pull myself back into the quiet and centered place that Advent calls us to be.

This is the week that the third candle in the Advent Wreath is lit and it usually is a pink candle, seen as a symbolism of joy and hope.  What I love about this week is that to me it strikes at the heart of simplicity and minimalism.  We don’t need a lot to be happy.  This is the week to hike, play board games, light candles for dinner and be grateful and full of love for all that we have in each other, not in the material things.  This can be a great week for adults to evaluate if the materialism of the season has gotten out of control.  If it has, my solution would be to tuck away some of the gifts for the time of Christmastide (you can get gifts throughout Christmastide! 12 days!), tuck some away for a future birthday or holiday, and to replace some of those material gifts with coupons for the gifts of time or service.

Many of us also celebrate this wonderful week with a focus on the animal kingdom and leading up to the beauty of the Winter Solstice.  This can be a beautiful day with ideas of light – lanterns, winter spirals, make winter suncatchers, dip candles and make candles- all would be lovely!  You can get up early and watch the sunrise, but many families I know celebrate the eve of the Winter Solstice.  This can be a day to bake sun bread (see the children’s book by the same title), to have tea, to make gingerbread houses!  So many wonderful ideas, and I would love to hear what you are doing.

In the back of my mind, I know the fourth week of Advent will be a little short, so I am getting some ideas ready for our celebration (you can see some ideas here), and then we will jump right into Christmastide…I love to pick a centering “word of the year” every year and have already chosen my 2020 word:  RADIANT. More about that later!

Many blessings,
Carrie

The Wonder of Nature: Advent Week 2

Beginning on Sunday, we are heading into the second week of Advent.  Advent is just long enough for us to prepare for Christmas and establish some new spiritual rhythms.  The first week of Advent can often sneak up on us right after Thanksgiving, but the second week feels like this momentary pause where we can make things really matter.

One thing I am very committed to this week is getting out in nature every day. The second week of Advent is typically associated with the plant kingdom in the tradition of the Waldorf School, so getting outside and noticing the bare tree limbs and the evergreens seems to fit into that so well.   It also seems fitting to wonder at the beauty of nature this week as we come up to Santa Lucia Day on Friday the 13th, as this day used to be the Winter Solstice under the old Gregorian calendar.    The day typically did start before dawn with the oldest girl in the family rising and preparing buns for the family.  The bun recipe we used for years is in this post, along with a link to the traditional Santa Lucia song.   If you are looking for a story to share with your children, look no further than this wonderful guest post: A Gentle Santa Lucia Story.  There is also a story by Waldorf teacher Christine Natale about Saint Lucy and Saint Stephen in Sweden here  that I have used over the years.

Depending upon where you live, this could be a wonderful week to make ice lanterns or lanterns in general for winter walks when the sun is setting early and that beautiful winter sky is up and ready.  We have plans to get a Christmas tree and make garland from oranges and popcorn for the tree and some orange pomanders, which smell so good!

My spiritual practice this week, outside of lighting our Advent Wreath daily and saying the prayers and readings of our religion, is to think about letting go.  What can I let go?  How can I simplify?  What needs to be cut out of my life so new growth can occur?  I am thinking and contemplating right now, so I can come up to Christmastide with some new intentions in mind.

Looking forward to week two of Advent!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

A Few Simple Steps For A Beautiful St. Nicholas Day

Some families in the United States are celebrating St. Nicholas today, some will be celebrating tomorrow.    This is a fun holiday and really shows kindness, good deeds, generosity and good humor if a little poem/riddle is left amongst the gifts!

If you would like to celebrate tomorrow, your children can leave out a boot (a wooden shoe is traditional, but a boot will do!) and a cookie for St. Nicholas and some carrots for his horse. When your children wake up in the morning, they can find their boot filled with little gifts.  Some sources say the traditional gifts are often considered either the apple (knowledge), nut (strength), and gingerbread (warmth), but can also include citrus (oranges is the fruit I hear most about, not apples), chocolate coins, gifts, little riddles, or even notes of all the kind and generous things the child did this year since St. Nicholas’ last visit!

Some of our favorite activities for past years have included making gingerbread houses and decorating them together, making gingerbread loaves or cookies,  making St. Nicholas baskets and leave them on neighbor’s doorsteps with goodies and the legend of St. Nicholas inside, and making little bishop hats to wear or in an ornament style for a holiday tree.

This post is from 2012, but has some of our favorite stories about St. Nicholas and ideas for celebrating.  And don’t forget this wonderful post about  how to play St. Nicholas and start new traditions in your family! (thank you, Christine Natale, for the guest post that I have treasured for years!).

I am off to get things ready for our boots, and to think about how we will decorate gingerbread houses tomorrow!

Lots of love to you all!

Blessings,
Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling: Early Foundations and Raising Functional Adults

We definitely don’t want or need to run our homeschooling experiences like a brick and mortar school, and if we are Waldorf homeschoolers we cannot recreate a Waldorf School experience that takes a main lesson teacher and a host of speciality teachers in our home.  Nor should we!

However,  I think good habits does lay a good foundation for the future in homeschooling.  In Waldorf homeschooling, I see a lot of people give up around the third grade year as they get frustrated with the curriculum content, and then again at the middle school mark as the amount of teacher preparation really goes up and there are more outside activities.

One of the main unspoken things about this time period of third grade and up, though, can be this notion of “my child won’t do anything that I ask.” (So, therefore, we need to change the curriculum)

There are certainly ways to get around that – what parts of this subject ARE interesting to your child? Are they getting enough movement and sleep?  Are they on a screen all the time?  Nothing excitement-wise seems to compare to screen adventures.

And, is it really the curriculum or is it a responsibility/good habit kind of issue?

It can be that we didn’t really lay down good habits in the early grades to prepare for what’s coming, and we failed to keep any enthusiasm for learning our child had.  I have three children with different personalities – one loved school, one hated it, and one tolerates it.  I totally understand different personalities.  But, if we are being honest and taking 100 percent responsibility for what happens in our homeschooling, then we need to go back and look at our part in things.  One quote has really resonated with me over the years:

In first seven-year period child develops through imitation: in second through authority; in third through individual judgment – Study of Man, Rudolf Steiner

So, in those early years are we setting up good habits? What are we showing our children?  Are we always on our screens , do we hold a rhythm, how much actual work are we doing around the house?  This rhythm and work sets the foundation for what happens in the years 7-21.

In the years of 7-14, are we setting the tone for a loving authority?  There are some things that just have to be done.  If the child is complaining, do we just back off and say never mind…. which teaches nothing…. or do we follow through that I am asking you to do this, we will do this, I can help you and will be here for you?  This is an important step!  To think ahead, and really mean what we are asking the child to do in school (not busy work) and to follow through even if they are complaining.

And lastly, in the period of 14-21, are we giving opportunity for individual judgment?  Sometimes, yes, for learning, I find this easier for an outside teacher in whatever form that takes – and it may be in sports or outside activities, not in homeschooling, but I think teens really need that experience of making something count.  This can be a part time schedule of classes in your public school system if your state allows that, an online class, a tutor, a hybrid school if your state has that, etc.  but I think it is important that the teen get a taste of accountability and failure and success in the world in something that matters.  This is also why I think teenagers holding jobs  and being involved with something that is “team” (sports, marching band, theater, a team) are really important.  Individual judgment needs to be exercised within a realm of accountability.   This is how individual judgment and being a functional young adult occurs.  But it all begins with those early year and early grades foundation!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

Celebrating The First Week of Advent

I love the season of Advent; it is a calling for preparation and anticipation; it is a coming to terms with the past; it is an exploration of the mystery of life; it is a calling to chart a new course for the future; it is a time when Nature is drawn into the Earth.

Roger Druitt writes in his book, “Festivals of the Year:  A Workbook for Re-enlivening the Christian Festival Cycle”:

“We can say that in summer, when everything is at its fullest extent of growth and splendour, the Earth is asleep- its soul is outside and its consciousness is in the periphery.  It is ‘unfolded.”  In winter, however, the landscapes, light and the starry sky exhibit a distinct clarity, a wakefulness.  In the Northern Hemisphere, then, during winter, nature is drawn into Earth, is infolded, is awake.”

I love this imagery of turning inward and being awake, seeing the lights above us in the stars and beautiful colors of the winter sunrise and sunset, and seeking a little bit of light for our homes and for ourselves to bring to our family, friends, and community.

Advent in the Waldorf Home is something that is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year.  The first week of Advent at Waldorf Schools is marked by a reverance for the mineral kingdom.  This quote is attributed to Rudolf Steiner, although I don’t think anyone has been able to show exactly where Steiner said this:

The first light of Advent is the light of stone–.
Light that lives in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.”

I have many suggestions for celebrating this week on an outward level for children in the home in back posts – just search “first week of Advent” in the search box and many will come up with suggestions for activities, songs, verses.

However, as my children age, I am very interested in not only these hands- on activites that set the mood of Advent, but the real inner work and inner light of this season and this idea of the cosmic wondering. How do we create wonder,  warmth,  and light within ourselves to bring in an outward form during Christmastide (the 12 Days of Christmas) and beyond?

There are several things that help center me during this season that can be riddled and frenzied by commercialism and materialism:

1 – try to get any shopping done by the end of the first week of Advent so we can focus on crafting and making things for our home and for gifts with love for those we care about. Focus on the giving for others and marginalized groups, which we do in several different ways for the homeless children and women in our area and for the children who live in economically disadvantaged areas.  This giving and work around this is an important part of our preparation for Christmas.

2- get out in nature daily so we can notice the small still changes that often accompany this season, even in the Deep South of the United States where the seasons don’t often change as dramatically as other parts of the country.

3 – establish a rhythm that is more focused on the inner parts of Advent, whether that is using a devotional booklet to help us bring focus to lighting our Advent Wreath, or using an Advent Planner such as this one from Wildflowers and Marbles geared to Roman Catholic families or Little Acorn’s Advent and Saint Nicholas Festival book.  Specific to my own Episcopalian tradition, The Very Best Day: The Way of Love For Children (ages 3-10) and The Way of Love Advent Curriculum and Calendar.

Our specific plans:

Sunday –  (Worship on The Way of Love Calendar) The First Sunday of Advent; Make Advent Wreath,  set out Advent Reading Basket, out in nature – all through first week clean and declutter house

Monday -(Go on The Way of Love Calendar); make stuffed stars for Christmas tree, shop for gifts for the teens we adopted through our church, out in nature,

Tuesday-(Learn on The Way of Love Calendar)- reading sacred texts; add minerals and gems to our Advent Wreath;  out in nature

Wednesday (Pray on The Way of Love Calendar) – silent meditation, out in nature, decorate house, bring in branches to force into bloom or plant bulbs to bloom such as paperwhites in honor of St. Barbara

Thursday (Bless on The Way of Love Calendar) – give presence, out in nature, prepare for St. Nicholas Day

Friday – (Turn on The Way of Love Calendar, St. Nicholas Day)  celebrate St. Nicholas Day, acts of kindness anonymously, out in nature

Saturday (Rest on The Way of Love Calendar); Volunteer in morning, rest

I would love to hear how you are preparing for the first week of Advent!  Let’s share ideas to make it wonderful.

Blessings,

Carrie