Martinmas: Protection

Advent is only five days away, so today we finish our Martinmas posts and move into the Advent season …which also carries themes of light, warmth, and protection.

Protection is exemplified in the story of St. Martin as we see St. Martin cut the cloak to protect the beggar from the cold and the elements. How do we pull a cloak around our own children in this day and age?  Steiner said to love the times in which we lived, but we also consider the age and the developmental stage of a child and we lean toward protection.  This is why we look at no media lifestyles, holding a strong rhythm, keeping children in a land of innocence and gratitude and goodness.  It gives the child time to develop and mature and come to life on Earth in a way that in time, they too will be able to love all of humanity and stand for truth for all peoples.

In Waldorf Education, especially in the Early Years, we often use “protection stories”.  I believe this phrase may have first been coined by Suzanne Down of  Juniper Tree Puppets.  (If this is incorrect, my apologies, but it is where I first heard the actual term).  A protection story is essentially one where a shelter of some sort is presented – a shell, a mitten, a little hollow of a tree that is tiny – and usually a family or little characters come along and live in this shelter in peace and harmony.  The development of the story and the characters makes a small child feel safe and secure.  You can probably think of many of these little stories from your own childhood.  All shall be well, we all shall be well if we are together with love.

I think an extension of protection that often extends into the early grades are the idea of gnomes.  There are quite a few jokes sometimes about gnomes in Waldorf Education ( in the vein of gnomies are my homies), but those aside, consider this verse from Autumn Wynstones by Jarman on page 26, entitled “Gnome King”:

Good friends, you have more work to do,

For yonder on the earth I know

Summer is fading and the winds do blow.

Your next task is with the seeds so small,

To see them safely in this hall,

Away from Jack Frost who would do them harm.

My Queen and I await them.

I think there are solid developmental reasons in looking at the Waldorf Curriculum and matching it to development to extend protection to our children.  Remember, there is not only a developmental shift around six/seven years of age (frequently talked about), a nine year change (somewhat talked about), a twelve year change (mentioned), and a change around sixteen (hardly ever mentioned).  If you would like some guidance on this, please do look at the back posts on development (use the header bar, click where it says development and then choose from the drop-down menu by age) .  You can also see this series about “Pondering Portals”.

We also can protect ourselves as adults.  We can choose how much of the mainstream world we want in our lives, how much energy we want to exert outside of our homes, how much  energy we want to exert on family members and friends.  We can choose to rest and to laugh and to have joy.

There is a song in the Winter Wynstones about Mary weaving a garment of silver and gold threads for the Christ Child, and I often think of this care and protection that begins in Martinmas and extends all the way through Advent and Christmastide. Let us care and protect our own sparks of light and that of our children’s.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martinmas Warmth: Rhythm

Did you ever think of rhythm as a carrier of warmth for children (and adults)?  I consider holding rhythm one of most important ways of conveying warmth to my children.   Rhythm assures us that we are making time and space for the things that are most important.  This could be warming meals, it could be just time together; it could be the stability and repetition that children and teens thrive upon. Rhythm frees up the child to have energy for growth, for emotional evenness, for play, for boredom and dreaming, for doing what we love.  With this scaffolding, children don’t have to spend time wondering the order of things, or when lunch is, or what happens on Mondays.  They can live in greater freedom.

A school setting naturally helps provide some of this structure for some families.  However, in homeschooling, we have to create and hold this scaffolding and patterning of rhythm ourselves.  Some parents feel as if they are hopeless with rhythm and can never stick to anything consistent.  However, I often tell parents they most likely DO have a rhythm as to how they do things in their household, even if it is only the meals or sleep times. Even if we start with just meals and rest/sleep, we can start from a place of strength to create the other pieces of our life.  It also gives a great backbone to gentle discipline as rhythm cuts down on chaos.  For those of you with mainly tiny children under the age of 9, this is very important!

Rhythm does have occasion to change with development, season, and homeschooling as one moves up in the grades.  For example, as children grow into the teenaged years,  things change,  but perhaps surprisingly, much of the basic structure remains intact.  Meals probably stay about the same so long as you are not out every night at activities and miss family meals together.  Bedtimes may expand a bit, but I notice the patterns set as children still are extending into our older children.  None of our children sleep particularly late, and we have always had such an emphasis on sleep and earlier bedtimes that they are not ones to usually stay up super late either.  Just my experience; yours may be different!  Our priority on being in nature and outside also has remained unchanged.  We may have more to do in school than in when my oldest was only in first grade, but we still go outside, and we still have a no to low media home.  Sunday is still church day, Mondays is still horseback riding day.  These things have not changed for years.

Rhythms can also change with the seasons. Right now, we are in this beautiful season of Martinmas warmth, light, and protection.  These themes also carry into Advent, which begins one week from today.  This time of year leads me to more cleaning up, changing seasonal focus in our home, creating, cooking and baking , and crafting.  I am so happy to be home and cozy this time of year!  Spring feels much more exuberant and we just want to be outside and enjoying greenery bursting into fruition.

And lastly, the piece of rhythm that is how to get multiple children and their schooling accomplished does change as all the children grow simply because the children’s school takes longer and they have more subjects. My high schooler has much more work to do than my first grader, but it is still my job to use rhythm to provide balance.  Rhythm in this case is an aid, even if it needs frequent tweaking.  I just wrote a little watercolor paper schedule solely for our homeschooling hours and hung it up in our schoolroom.  It might change next month, but each time I do it, it reflects our priorities for that period of time.

Rhythm is warmth and love, and something special unique to each family.  Please, look at it that way and not as something to be endured.  Rhythm is an extension of love and nourishment.

Wishing you all a few more happy Martinmas days before Advent, with Martinmas protection and Advent posts to come this week!

Love and blessings,

Carrie

 

Martinmas: The Light of Compassion

This week, as we continue to celebrate Martinmas, let us show the light of Martinmas as compassion that begins in our own families.  This beautiful light that begins here can then radiate out into the world.

Compassion begins first and foremost with ourselves. I speak with mothers every day who are so hard on themselves.  They are constantly thinking, “Am I doing enough for the children?  Too much?  Do I have enough boundaries or am I spoiling them?  Am I modeling a million things correctly for them so they will grow up to be good people?”  So many things to consider, and sometimes we lose the compassion for ourselves in the process.  How can we authentically model this for our children when we cannot shower ourselves in compassion?

Compassion requires listening.  It requires being open enough to really hear not only the words, but the subtext beneath the words.  Modeling this is how small children learn. Actions are the shining path of compassion.  We work on our mistakes with restitution.    We show our forgiveness and we admit our mistakes .

Kindness in the family is the first line of compassion in our entire society.  Some further ideas include this posts that I liked about the Family Kindness Project  over at My Little Poppies.  I have written about kindness in parenting as a journey back in 2009.  All it takes is a few first steps to start, to get back on track, or to consider kindness and compassion as a top priority in your home.

Let’s all use this week in celebrating Martinmas as a way to shine our light in our families.

Many blessings to you all,

Carrie

 

 

Martinmas: Warmth, Light, and Protection

 

I love this time of year.  Martinmas is nearly upon us, and it brings an entire season of warmth, light, and protection that extends all the way through Candlemas and the very first inklings of spring.

St. Martin was (and is) an exceedingly popular Saint – the patron Saint of vine-growers, winemakers, beggars, tavern keepers. It was traditionally a time of great harvesting – the wine was ready from the summer harvest, grains and vegetables were ready to be made into porridges, the larger animals were slaughtered for winter food, and the community came together and reminded themselves what we all know: that to dwell in community and unity is protection through the long, cold, hard winter nights.  This was actually a time that perhaps we in America more associate with Thanksgiving, where the fruits of the harvest were showed off (goose was the traditional meal, and in the United States this extended to turkeys),  there were games and dances and parades.   Barns and larders were filled, and the people were thankful.

Today, we recount the story of St. Martin.   St. Martin, a Roman solider, who saw a shivering beggar outside the city gates. He cut his cloak in two and used half to cover the beggar.  Later that night, in a dream it was revealed to him that the beggar had been Christ himself.  This experience, and experience is one way that we learn about faith, became transformative and set St. Martin’s life on a course of compassion and light toward the most down trodden  and poor.   We carry lanterns in a meditative walk to remind us of the light we all possess inside. And we carry lanterns in community as we shine our collective light out into humanity.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about warmth, light, and protection as we shore ourselves not only against winter, but against division, fear, coldness and uncaring.  Instead, we will be talking about ways to nourish ourselves and our families toward warmth, unity, joy and openness, and caring.

Many blessings to you,

Carrie

 

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: November

November is one of my favorite months – the colder temperatures, the crisp air and falling leaves that crunch under my feet, the birds coming to the feeder, the wonderful hiking, bonfires and hot chocolate.  Yay for November!

This month we will be celebrating:

November 1 – The Feast of All Saints

November 2- The Feast (Commemoration) of All Souls Departed

November 8 – The Presidential General Election (We already early voted but will be watching the returns and perhaps we will even make an Election Cake!)

November 11 – Martinmas

November 24- Thanksgiving Day

November 30 – St. Andrew the Apostle

plus this month marks my husband’s birthday!

Wonderful things to do this month with the children:

  • Tell favorite Autumn stories!
  • Make Autumn crafts – dipping leaves, making beeswax candles, leaf and bark rubbings, splatter painting around leaves
  • Read the book Cranberry Thanksgiving  and make Cranberry Bread
  • Go hike and be outside
  • Rake leaves, fill bird feeders and bird baths, take care of the all the winter gardening chores
  • Start deep cleaning the house in preparation for the holidays
  • Stock up on all the woolies for warmth – If you need a re-fresher as to why warmth is important, try this back post on “Warmth, Strength, and Freedom”
  • Make lanterns for Martinmas!  Even teenagers enjoy making a new lantern.  You can even buy the biodegradable sky lanterns as a twist to the traditional Martinmas Lantern Walk for teens.  This can be wonderful for older children who have done a lantern walk for years  and years and who would like something different to mark the season.
  • Have a coat drive; collect food for your local food bank.
  • Start traditions of gratitude for the month of November . Some have a gratitude tree where the leaves become a gratitude for each day.

Homeschooling this month:

  • Our first grader is deep into drawing, painting, and modeling the alphabet.  More on that to come!
  • Our sixth grader is finishing up mineralogy and moving into European Geography and Roman Studies.  This promises to be a fun time that will carry us until Christmas.
  • Our ninth grader is studying High School Spanish II, Biology, Algebra I, and a block on Comedy and Tragedy.  We are following the Christopherus book, “Comedy and Tragedy” and just finished with Sophocles’ Electra.  This week we will be moving into Noh Theater.  I ended up switching biology textbooks and hope for going through the basic concepts of biology that we already covered in our eleven weeks of school and move into our new material soon.  I feel confident this is going to work out well for our ninth grader.

Holidays:

I am already starting to think about making gifts.  And I am thinking about a post-holiday get-away. 🙂

Inner Work/Self-Care:

  • I have been attending a series at our parish regarding dismantling racism by a reknowned professor.  It has been wonderful and also the focus of a Bible study I am persuing right now.  My head is full. 🙂
  • I am finding it difficult to get up super early to head to the gym at 5:30 , so hope to get back into the swing of things this week.
  • Feeling gratitude for all the local farm fresh food available in our area.

I would love to hear about your plans for November.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Darkness and Freedom

This time of year brings the impetus for the nourishing spiritual work that will sustain us through the darkness and cold of winter.  As the light fades away, we ask ourselves where is the light in our souls and how is this shining into humanity?  How do we not hurt others with our thoughts, words, and deeds?  How do we live with what we have done and by what we have left undone?

The only true answer to this is inner work.  Inner work requires an awakening.  It requires looking at the dark places that are inside of us. Sometimes our irritation is with those that we see outside of ourselves, and perhaps that is a good signal to look inside ourselves. Examining the darkness is what leads to freedom.  Awakening and asking the questions is the beginning.

The great Master Waldorf teacher Else Gottgens had a checklist she used at the end of each day of teaching in grades 1-8.  She would ask herself if she had given the children real and appropriate images or pictures (not  judgements); had she used the night wisely; did every child make an effort; did she translate the main lesson into movement; did she make the children laugh; did she address one or more of the temperaments; did she teach them something new? Then she would go back and make a lesson plan based upon the observations.

I think the outer observations, if we can slow down and look, are the easier parts.  I have not made a little checklist like Else Gottgens’ for my days of parenting children ages 7-15 at home, but I have some thoughts in my mind.  Things that would govern my days like:  did we laugh together; did we find moments of reverence and wonder toward God and nature; was I kind; did I succeed in guiding ideas, perceptions, or behavior with appropriate boundaries or discussion; did I put forth a love of all people in humanity today; did I put forth a love of all of Creation; did I instill an attitude of capability, accountability, and responsibility in my children?

The harder part is the inner attitude.  What did I do that was wrong or left undone?  Where was my perception completely wrong?  Where was the Divine nudging me and I ignored?  Where did I need to forgive myself or others?  Was I humble?  Was I generous?  Where are the dark places inside of me that need rooting out?   What am I modeling and is it reflective of my innermost thoughts? Is my outward time and activities reflecting what is inwardly most important to me? I find a practice of a spiritual path to help explore and face these areas in love is a necessity.

Thinking as the days grow shorter….

Blessings,

Carrie

 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: Halloween and More

People who know me well know that Halloween is actually my least favorite holiday.  I am a complete Scrooge about it all – well, at least as far as the unhealthy candy, and creepy stuff – as it  just doesn’t fill my bucket.

However, I love the FALL HARVEST aspect of Halloween and my favorite of all,  pumpkins! Who ever knew that a round orange vegetable could be so lovable?   I look forward to every October to begin doing circle times about pumpkins, games with pumpkins, songs about pumpkins and harvesting, cooking with pumpkins (and moving into cranberries in November) and using All Hallow’s Eve to prepare for the festivals I do love, which is the Feast of All Saints (All Hallows), and the Feast (Commemoration) of All Souls Departed.  These are huge feasts in my religious tradition and I love it.

I also love the bright colors, fireworks, and festive food of Diwali.  Our neighborhood has been celebrating Diwali and it has been so joyous to watch and be a part of!  So many wonderful things to love this time of year!

Here are a few of my favorite things about Halloween, The Feast of All Saints ,and the Feast of All Souls Day.  Maybe you will find a few of your favorite things on this list too!

  • Using All Hallow’s Eve as a springboard to talk to my children about our upcoming religious festivals
  • Experiencing Halloween as this beautiful transition point between Michaelmas and Martinmas.  I love what the book “Festivals With Children” by Brigitte Barz says about this:  “The candle inside the pumpkin or turnip, both fruits of the earth, is like the very last memory and afterglow of the summer sun with its ripening strength.  Then for Martinmas a candle is lit within the home-made lantern; this is the first glow of a light with a completely different nature, the first spark of inner light.”
  • Carving pumpkin lanterns; roasting pumpkin seeds; shadow puppet shows; bobbing for apples; celebrating Guy Fawkes on the fifth of November!
  • Tapping into the sacred and the significant in this time; if this is the time of blurred space and time where the sacred connection between what was and what is,  what am I doing to be a part of the solution toward connectedness and love?  Where is my spiritual food coming from that will nourish me for the winter months?
  •  There is a sweet little Halloween Circle in the book, “Dancing As We Sing” that one could really flesh out with terrific songs and fingerplays such as “Five Little Pumpkins” and more (see the book “Let’s Do Fingerplays” by Marion Grayson);  pumpkin games.
  •  Christine Natale’s story called “The Littlest Pumpkin” – great for wet on wet painting or beeswax modeling or to tell before pumpkin carving! One of my favorites!  I also like the story about the little hobgoblin.  Do you all know that story as well?  Suzanne Down also has lovely stories for the younger set.
  • These posts on Halloween,   All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day,  and thinking ahead to lanterns for Martinmas!
  • For The Feast of All Saints today, I used many of the ideas from over at Loyola Press.  For The Feast of All Souls tomorrow, we will be making soul cakes.

Please share with me your favorite things about this significant time and transitioning to Martinmas!

Many blessings,
Carrie