Michaelmas Celebration For All Ages

Michaelmas is such a wonderful festival!  The inner strength and courage that Michaelmas represents is so fortifying as we look ahead to the winter months.  My family celebrates The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels in church; and we also celebrate this event at home.

I think one of the interesting things in the home environment is that if you have both teens in the family and small children, you may have been coming up with Michaelmas celebrations for fifteen or more years, and you may be  trying to find ways to appeal to both teens and tiny children.  This requires strength and constancy in festival making!

We have done all sort of things over years past:

  • Made felted shooting star balls
  • Made dragon bread
  • Dyed capes and sashes either golden yellow with natural dyes or red
  • Had obstacle courses
  • Hunted for “dragon tears”
  • Made dragons out of felt
  • Made dragons out of thin modeling material and put it on candles
  • Made blackberry crisp
  • Had puppet shows with older children presenting for younger children
  • Had music and verses specific to Michaelmas
  • We have made Calendula Courage Salve.
  • In accordance with our religious tradition, we have shared stories of angels and verses and prayers about angels from The Bible and other sources of tradition within our church.
  • We have told many stories of St. Michael and the Star Children, Little Boy Knight, St. George and the Dragon.  There are so many wonderful stories and legends!

It takes time to try things and build up traditions.  You can certainly build up slowly over the years, and also build up a community with which to celebrate.  This year, I missed getting together with folks on this special day – celebrating in community is so wonderful!  I asked my teen earlier in the month what she would find interesting for a  Michaelmas celebration and she mentioned putting on a well-crafted puppet show for younger children; an obstacle course (“the harder the better” she said!) and, of course, food.   I find something like a bonfire with food and other activities works well for teens.   If you have teens, what sorts of things are you doing for Michaelmas?  Please share in the comment box below.

Here are some links to some of our more treasured ideas  in this back post.

Here is a link to my Michaelmas Pinterest board with links for verses, songs, food, crafts, and ideas.

I hope you have a wonderful Michaelmas – may your courage be strong, your words so true and your deeds so brave!

Blessings,

Carrie

Monthly Anchor Points: September

 

Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not yet ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

Welcome, September! One of my favorite months because it is a month of new beginnings, which I love.   I wrote a  post regarding September and some of the wonderful things in this month here

Here are the things that we are celebrating this month:

  • September 1 – Labor Day
  • September 8 – The Nativity of St. Mary, the Theotokos
  • September 14 – Holy Cross Day
  • September 29 – The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Ideas for Celebration:

For Labor Day, we enjoyed a camping weekend this year that was a lot of fun.  Last year it was boating on the lake.  I would especially love to find a parade, but these seem to be most common in the northeastern part of the United States and not particularly where I live.  If you look at last year’s post I linked to above, I talked about finding things that were built in your community and sharing that with your children for Labor Day.

The Nativity of St. Mary and for Holy Cross Day, for us, are days primarily for celebrating in church and through prayer and  literature.  There are some lovely books about St. Mary and St. Helena for Holy Cross Day as well. 

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels is of course a big feast day in the church and also in Michaelmas in Waldorf Education.  You can see my Michaelmas Pinterest board for some ideas I collected.

The Domestic Life:

September is the month in which I like to de-clutter and make room for fall things.  It can also be the time of fall garden clean-up and time to make lists of needed winter clothing.

Homeschooling:

Kindergarten:  We are mainly going through our six year old kindergarten year working through the feast days.  Last month we focused on St. Herman of Alaska, The Dormition of St. Mary, and St. Aidan, along with the life of monks.  This month, we are focused on stories of St. Michael, stories of angels and St. Helena.  It is so rewarding to see the excitement on my little one’s face about the liturgical year!

In our circle we are focused on songs and verses regarding Michaelmas, and our fall friends the apple tree and the squirrel.  Our circle is lovely with rich Michaelmas and Autumn songs.  Our stories this month were Suzanne Down’s “There is a Bear in Our Plum Tree!” (I hope that is the actual title!) and “The Princess In The Flaming Castle”, which can be found in the back of the red book, “Let Us Form A Ring”.   We have been baking cookies and baked apples, drawing apple trees and telling stories and songs about the star inside the apple and the five little rooms inside the apple, playing with modeling materials and watercolor painting, and planning a field trip to go apple picking!

Fifth Grade: We are still working with math concepts, spelling and handwriting.  Our Botany block is coming along– we have mainly covered roots, stems and leaves; fungi, algae and lichens, mosses and ferns with hopes to finish up with conifers, trees and flowering plants.  I have had some particular epiphanies about ways to approach this block and hope to share that at some point.  Our reading has been focused on the work of Holling C. Holling (two books), “Girls Who Looked Under Rocks” as an independent reader, and “A Day in the Alpine Tundra”, “A Day in the Woods” by Jean Craighead George.

Other than that, life has been busy with choir, horses and swimming for our fifth grader.

Eighth Grade:  We finished our math block focusing on stereometry and loci and have moved into an American history block.  We are reviewing a lot of math and working out some formulas for area and volume, which we also did last year but this year is more in depth and practice. We also are doing some separate work putting together a main lesson book on World Geography.   Our eighth grader is busy with a typing program on-line and is submitting work to an Oak Meadow teacher for high school Spanish I.    Other than that, much fun and busy life times with 4-H, horses, choir.

In the meantime, I have started naming and writing a description of our high school for future high school transcripts.  I think we have decided what to tackle in ninth grade and how “grading” for those courses will occur, since that is something that some colleges want spelled out on paper when looking at a homeschooler’s admission paperwork.  Much more to think about there!

Self-Care:  I wish I had more to say about this, but it is still a struggle.  I find time for myself early in the morning or late at night and have had very little success in doing anything during the day or later afternoon or early evening hours just for me.  I don’t see that changing in the forseeable future!

Please share your successes, ideas and plans for September!  I would love to hear from you!

Blessings,
Carrie

Triumphant Families

I was reading an article  today about how some children recover from autism.  The article detailed the struggle in the journeys that the families go through in order to try to help their children reach their full capacities.  On the surface, it seems as if some families are “successful” because autism in their child is cured, and other families are not successful because their child’s autism persists (and the article also gives the standpoint that some autism advocates do not consider autism a condition needing to be cured – read the article and see what you think), even though often the same exact therapies were used.  Why do the therapies seem to work for some children but not the other children? That is a major question experts are asking. 

But what brought a tear to my eye in this article was reading these stories and thinking oh, these triumphant families!   These families who worked so hard on this journey of parenting their children with differing abilities,  and who were doing everything they could possible to help their child develop functional capacities.

And I thought about all the parents who struggle every day – whether it is with a sick child or a child with a chronic condition and how they balance all of that with all of that other family  members need; parents who are ill or who have a disability themselves and still give parenting everything they have; parents who might be struggling with normal developmental milestones; parents who are struggling with educational choices and options – the list goes on.

And what I see are beautiful parents who triumph in life and in parenting.  Life will always throw curve balls.  Life has things no one imagined in store for them when they started out in a relationship, in marriage or in parenting.  Yet, we learn to love ourselves, lean on others, and make it through.  I call that triumph.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the start of school or close to the start of school for many of us.  Here is wishing all families a beautiful year of goodness, beauty and truth.  Here is to having a triumphant year!

Many blessings,
Carrie

A Rogation Heart

I have been thinking a lot about “Rogation Days” lately.   Rogation Days in the Anglican Communion is celebrated on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before The Feast of Ascension and then the Sixth Sunday in Eastertide is Rogation Sunday.   These are the days in the Anglican Communion in which we pray for the blessing of  bountiful harvests of those who work with the land, for the earth and the seas and for our place as good stewards.  There are prayers offered for seeds, for animals, for tools, for water and for rain. As time has gone on, I think perhaps the strict agricultural blessing has widened in some areas and even includes an idea of praying and being grateful for all the fruits of labor within humanity.

This custom began in about the fifth century England (most sources put this tradition coming from France originally).  From my understanding, this often involved “beating the bounds”:   walking the boundary of parish lands.  This procession often included figures of Pontius Pilate in the form of a dragon, Christ in the form of a lion, and varying  images of Saints.

Some in the Episcopal Church have pointed out that “beating the bounds” points to boundaries in general for life, even in our modern times….I have pondered this.  Does having a rogation heart mean I am to ask myself if I am using boundaries in order to have a healthy life?  Am I using boundaries in order to expend my energy on what is closest to my heart in caring for my family and neighbors?  Am I being called to reconciliation as part of setting boundaries? 

Another source I read about Rogation Days pointed out that there is something in Rogation Days that reminds us of the Creator and that even Job needed reminding of who created the Cosmos when God finally spoke to Job out of the whirlwind (Interesting commentary on this particular passage here).  So, I find myself praying for humility; for the ability to never lose a sense of wonder and awe regarding this wonderful planet and yes, its people too.  To have a heart of gratitude.   Sometimes we all need reminding of that.

And for some reason, the image that pops into my head when thinking of a rogation heart is that of the sunflower.  My favorite flower for summer is the beautiful sunflower.  There is nothing like standing in fields of sunflowers in the Deep South of the summer, the sun and humidity beating down on your back with yellow smiling faces as far as the eye can see.  Smiling in the sun and the rain and happy to be part of Creation and to be loved by the humans in the fields.    May we all have grateful hearts of wonder and find the sunshine in each other.

Blessings,
Carrie

5 Ways To Have A Calm Family Life

I hear about harried  families almost every day – those who are completely overscheduled due to running children everywhere, those who have to “car school” because they are on the road running children everywhere, those you are searching high and low for the “simple” life promised in magazines and books….and wondering if such a thing really exists!

I think a calm family life can exist, but you do have to create it.  Here are the top five ways I feel you can have a calm family life:

1.  Take charge of your family’s schedule.  In the United States, it seems that children’s activities are often “driving the boat” of family life.  Is it more important that your children be a part of every activity known to man or is it more important that you enjoy the years you have with your children in an unhurried manner?  Sometimes we can answer what our activities and priorities should be by creating or looking back at our Family Mission Statement.

Our own personal Family Mission Statement at this time is KIPPA: kindness, integrity, positive attitude, patience and adventure.  Something short and sweet that everyone can say and begin to model works well. We haven’t updated ours in awhile, so that is on the list to do this summer to think about.   I would love to hear about your Family Mission Statement if you have one!

2. Let things go.  You can say no!    Make sure you are not keeping yourself so busy so that you don’t have to look too deeply at yourself, your family life, or other areas in life that really need your attention.

Letting go can also include the physical – like the physical clutter of the home, or as FlyLady says, the “body clutter”.  It can also include relationships or communities that are no longer nourishing you.  It is okay that things change over time!  Life is a series of changes –  big and small.

3. Build in time and space around activities.  If you are out one day, be home for two days around that out day.  This can especially work well for younger children.    Take time and space for yourself.  Where is your rest time, your down time, your vacation time?  Can you teach your children to be comfortable with space and time and not “busy going” all the time?  What a wonderful gift you will be giving them to teach them that through your modeling!

4.  Devote time to yourself.  I see so many mothers who are spending all of their time at their children’s activities, and fail to put a priority on their own eating, sleeping and exercise.  Your physical health is really, really important.  Why not make this summer the summer of your  health?   Put in the time it takes to make healthy and from -scratch meals; to daily exercise (yes, I said daily!),  to sleep and rest and for your inner work in whatever capacity this means to you.    I would love to hear your success stories!

5. Positivity.  Being a positive mother, partner and friend can reverberate throughout all the communities and relationships of your life.  Surround yourself with positivity, think positive, be generous with your encouraging words and watch the calmness come into your family!

Many blessings and love,
Carrie

The Cost of Overscheduling Your Children

There was a very good post  recently over at “Becoming Minimalist” entitled “How To Slow Down Your Family’s Schedule” which did a great job in pointing out some of the problems with over-scheduling children in our world. I wrote a post some time ago about choosing time outside the home wisely.  In that article I mentioned several points, specifically in reference to the homeschooling community, where because children are not out at school all day, parents often feel the need to get their children out after homeschooling is done.  Here are a few of the discussion points:

  • I don’t think children under 12 need anything, although many parents of 11-12 year old girls have told me they felt their girls “needed something to do” whereas boys seemed to not care until age 14 or so.
  • Teens ages 13-15, somewhere in that time frame, really do seem to need something.  If you haven’t overloaded them with activities up until this point, then adding one or two activities may seem like enough to them.
  • Families with one child seem to vary on how they approach things – read the comments from the previous blog post.
  • Families with four or more children seem to pick activities where all children can participate at once, whereas families with one to three children seem to run around a lot more with the children all doing separate activities!
  • The DRIVER (parent) is often the one who is tired out!
  • Many parents noted they would love to stay home and have informal play with other children, but no children  are at  home in their neighborhood or they may live far out in the country and there are no children.  Children are interacting in structured activities these days, not in playing street games, tag and riding bikes like thirty years or so ago.

I think it could possibly take a full-on public health campaign in the United States to really change the perception of parents that there is value in UNSTRUCTURED play and to not sign their children up for every activity.  I am so glad to know so many of you are trendsetters and are pointing the way toward family being home!

If you want to pare down your schedule, here is a list of suggestions that other parents have told me works:

Discount activities that meet over the dinner hour.  Don’t be so willing to trade a structured, led by an adult outside your home for the benefits of the family dinner hour.  (and there are many benefits; there have been studies).

Let each child pick ONE thing per semester.  Many things now, at least in the United States, seem to run all year round, but see what you can find.

Delay the starting ages for doing activities outside the home.  “In our family, you get to pick an activity to do outside the home when you are “X” years old.”

Figure out when is YOUR day with your children if you are really busy with activities.  How many days do YOU need to be home to feel happy, to have the house the way you want it, etc.

You can try my method:  I put a big X over certain days of the week and do not allow myself to schedule anything on those days.  I have talked about this is in back posts.

Can you let go of guilt?  Every article, including the “Becoming Minimalist” post above, mentions how wonderful free, unstructured play with other children is, yet most parents say there are no children to play with!  Can you feel okay with your child playing by themselves or with their siblings for many days of the week?

The reality is that most homeschooling parents, at least most Waldorf or holistic homeschooling parents, do not want to be out every day and see the value in being home.  They see the value in space and time for development.

I think part of the problem is that most parents are working, and therefore no one is home and the child has to be somewhere.  Also, the ending time of school can vary and take away the down time of the afternoon.  For example, the middle school (grades 6-8) in my area get home around 5 PM, at which time they must eat and do homework.  So, part of this question I think becomes what do we do until economics – attitudes- amount of homework changes? A  tall social order!

Love to hear your thoughts and your thoughts on the “Becoming Minimalist” blog post.

Blessings,
Carrie

Monthly Anchor Points: June

Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not yet ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

June is the month with the longest amount of daylight hours for the Northern Hemisphere (and the shortest days for the Southern Hemisphere – how are all my Down Under readers faring?)

These are the festivals that will anchor my month:

21 – Father’s Day

24 – The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

29-  The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul

Famous Saints I will be taking to my inner work this month –

9- St. Columba

10- St. Ephrem of Syria (lots of great reading to do here)

14 – St. Basil the Great

22 – St. Alban of Britian

Aside Note – I have had a few folks ask me about the Calendar of Saints in the Episcopal Church…The Episcopal Church USA is part of the Anglican Communion, which is an international association of churches composed of the Church of England and national (such as Canada, Japan, Uganda, for example) and regional (collections of nations) Anglican churches.  Each province, as it is called, is autonomous and independent with its own primate and governing structure.  So, different feast calendars within the Anglican Communion share the Feast Days and Fast Days listed in the Book of Common Prayer, but there may be “lesser feasts and fasts” as well.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is our “primus inter parus” (first among equals) but holds no direct authority outside of the England, but is instead a force of unity, vision, persuasion,  for the entire Communion.  We don’t really govern off of creeds, for example such as the Westminster Catechism in Presbyterianism, but find “the law of praying is the law of believing and therefore The Book of Common Prayer is our way.  The Anglican Communion has in it elements of the Reformation and Anglo-Catholicism, depending upon the individual parish, but it is not “Catholic Lite”.  We pray for the unity of the Church (the whole of Christendom) and therefore “Anglicans have preferred to look for guidance to the undivided church, the church before it was divided by the Reformation and especially to the first centuries of the church’s life….to “tradition”, the worship, teaching and life of the church in its early days.” (page 65, Welcome to the Episcopal Church by Christopher Webber))

Ideas for Celebrating June:

  • Here we are tubing down rivers, camping, going to water and splash parks
  • Blueberry Picking – Strawberries are about done, but blueberries are coming soon
  • Try out different popsicle and cold drink recipes
  • Gardening – especially with an eye to our friend the bee
  • Hunt fireflies at night
  • Stay up and gaze at the stars
  • Have bonfires and camp fires and make s’mores
  • Summer theater outside!

The Domestic Life:  I love June for going through and re-organizing the school room, throwing out papers that have accumulated, going through closets and drawers, re-vamping meal plans with cooling foods in mind.

Homeschooling:  We ended this week, (week thirty-five), as everyone’s concentration was down (rightfully so for our geographic region and climate).  The children are outgrowing clothing at a rapid pace, and I could tell their forces needed to be directed to growth and rest.  I will be writing a post soon detailing a binder I put together for seventh grade to wrap up the year from a teacher  perspective, and what I am doing differently in planning fifth and eighth grades than I have in previous years.

I would love to hear what you are up to this ending of May and looking ahead to June!

Blessings,

Carrie