2016

The most beautiful day is today, and the most beautiful moment is now.  What I love most about New Year’s Day is this promise, this idea, that every ordinary moment is special and worthy of appreciation and gratitude as we revel in the beginnings, the newness, the now.  Whether you are where you want to be or not, whether there is chaos in your life now or not, or if you feel you are on the verge of some new endeavor or change, I want you to know I am extending my thoughts of contentment and thankfulness for right where you are and the journey you are on.

We were out hiking this afternoon, but this morning I spent a little time drawing  three concentric circles on a small piece of paper and just thinking.  The first circle I drew was small and had words in it that represented the values and things that really inspire my deepest self, such as my husband and my children, and my “word of the year”.   The next circle that I drew around this inner circle had all the aspects of self-care that I really want to focus on in order to stay connected with this truth for myself.

The third circle outside of this second circle had all the communities that I am involved in, all the things that I care so deeply about, and reminds me  that I can take better care of  things when I remember and connect with my own values and inspiration and when I take care of myself.  And lastly, outside all three circles, were the “big” things that I hope to impact across the whole country and world – bringing development into parenting, bringing development into education through Waldorf methodology and current neuroscience.

Who will you impact this year?  How will you shine in your corner of the world?  I can’t wait to hear!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: January

I love January with its beautiful and cozy inner light.  The lights of Christmas, the candles and outside lights are still up and we begin this month still within the Twelve Days of Christmas and the Holy Nights.  We find ourselves following the golden star to Epiphany and beyond in a cozy, quiet, stillness where dark skies, snowflakes (I am hoping!  It has been unseasonably warm here in the Deep South), tea by the fire predominates.  We can curl up with meal planning and garden planning and enjoy this time of rejuvenation under the mantle of peaceful family times.

Here are some of my favorite things for this month for the family:

  • Beautiful festival celebrations. I have several back posts about celebrating Christmastide, three or four about Three Kings Day/Epiphany, and several about the Holy Nights.
  • Creating music together, reading together wonderful read-alouds with popcorn, creating window stars and rose windows.
  • Taking long walks outside or hiking and looking at the lovely bare branches of the trees.
  • Taking the time to look at meal planning, organizing the home, along with a hard look at rhythm.  What is working, what is not working, what needs to be tweaked or changed?

Here are some of my favorite things for small children:

  • Fostering creative play.    I have detailed this in back posts, but suffice it to say that I think the   major components include paring down toys (not increasing the clutter as it might be tempting to do!  Keep throwing toys at them until one sticks is not a way to foster deep creative play, even though it is completely tempting in our desperate moments! :)), creating an inviting play environment, and having a steady rhythm of work in the home that the child can see, weave in and out of and imitate.
  • Warming rituals and warmth in clothing; in toys of natural materials; in an emotional warmth toward the small child; warming foods with bone broths and teas, hot water bottles.

Here are some of my favorite things for older children:

  • Vigorous outdoor exercise if at all possible.
  • Quiet moments of reverence before meals, before bed.  Finding ways that the older child can start to penetrate into the festivals of the month, whether this is in religious or spiritual ways or both.
  • Finding ways the older child can be helpful in the life of the family and in the community.
  • Warming rituals and foods.

Here are some of my favorite things for teens: 

  • Finding time to spend with your teen one on one so that child can talk about whatever is on their mind.  Combine that with something to do  physically,  or a special date out, and you have  intimate moments that are anything but ordinary.
  • Creating more complex crafts – straw stars, rose windows, more complex window stars, knitting and sewing, woodworking.  Basketry can feel meditative as well.
  • Fun and intriguing board games. There are so many wonderful ones out there right now to play!

Here are a few of my favorite things for my own health:

  • Making the time for health care appointments.  Get all those annual appointments out of the way and set up any appointments you need weekly or bi-monthly.
  • Creating a small desk space or crafting work space or updating the one you have!  Adding small quotes and things you find inspiring!
  • Making time to exercise in whatever capacity this means to you  – whether this is a vigorous hike, time at the gym, a yoga video.  Make time every day. Mark the time on the calendar because it IS an appointment worthy of your attention.  It has to be a priority in order for you to take care of everyone else and have balance.  Some of us are lucky enough to live on farms or other places where we have a good amount of physical exercise in everyday life, but most of us do not move nearly enough.
  • Menu planning and preparing freezer or crock pot meals.  Saturdays or Sundays could be a lovely time to do this, or pick your own afternoon during the week.
  • Inner work.  Now is a great time to renew your focus on sacred and holy reading, prayer and meditation, or just keeping silence.

Here are a few of my favorite things for homeschooling:

  • Check and see what supplies you have run out of mid-year and re-order.
  • See what you have really gotten through this fall, and adjust your schedule for the year accordingly.  Full confession – we are going to have to lengthen our school year by two weeks and probably knock out or condense down a block.  It happens, so don’t beat yourself up!  Life is still lovely.
  • Start planning for the upcoming school year.  So far I  have my start and end dates laid out,  block plans for what blocks I am doing when laid out for three grades, I have an idea for my high schooler’s year long courses what the flow will be, I have started digging into a few blocks that I have  the resources for,   and made a list of new resources I need to order or get through the library.  With three grades to put together from scratch, I am trying to be diligent so I don’t have to spend my entire summer planning!
  • For those of you who Waldorf homeschool, you might consider reading some of Steiner’s lectures.  Many of them are free on-line.

Please share with me your a few of your favorite things for January.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

More Christmastide: Field, Farm, Forest, and Stream

These twelve days of Christmas are such a beautiful and reverent time of year.  I hope you all are enjoying being outside and experiencing all that Nature has to offer through all your senses.  This is so important for children.  In our culture, screens and technology have taken over so much of the childhood of our children.  If you need more research-based data regarding this, please Common Sense Media’s report about Children’s Media Use in America. (latest statistics I see on this site are 2013).  Here is a report about brain changes with screen time from Psychology Today.   This abstract  is a review of the negative effects of screen time for children under the age of 3 and is a quick review.  This article on Facing the Screen Dilemma is one of my favorites.  This abstract details the association between greater than 2 hours of screen time a day with severe school absenteeism.   Here is an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics that discusses the positive and negative of social media for children and teens, including the hazards of “Facebook depression”, sexting and cyberbulling, and why the minimum age for participating with sites such as Facebook is age 13.  Interesting reading….

Which brings me back to field, farm, forest and stream.  There are so many positives to getting our families outside.  Here are just a few from my perspective as a pediatric physical therapist and from other resources from the forest kindergarten movement:

  • Family teamwork can be developed, along with family identity
  • Development of physical capabilities  in the realms of  gross motor, fine motor, and sensory system capacities.  This is especially important in this day and age in which the number of children with sensory system regulation challenges is increased, and in a place and time where the gross motor skills of many kindergarten-aged children are underdeveloped.
  • Development of core body strength, which is necessary for later academic success.
  • Development of language skills
  • Development of depth perception
  • Improves mental health (also very important for children of today); decreases stress
  • Promotes stronger executive functioning skill development
  • Helps develop self-esteem and self-reliance, self-confidence
  • Develops abilities to assess risk
  • Improves concentration and attention
  • Contributes to respect for and understanding of nature
  • “Timeless” moments:  extended unstructured time in nature and with animals

If you are looking for more information about the benefits of “farmschooling”, which has received  relatively less press than the forest kindergarten movement, I suggest these two resources.  This one is about the benefits of farm for teenagers from a Montessori perspective:   http://liveandlearnfarm.com/farmschooling-montessori-middle-school-part-2/  and here is an entire website for Farm-Based Educators Inspired by Anthroposophy  https://biodynamics.com/fbeiba.  There are also many websites that lay out the mental and physical benefits of gardening, which could be applied to farming as well.

Please continue to post your comments or pictures of your excursions into forest, farm, field and stream here or on Twitter @ParentingHearth

Many blessings,
Carrie

Christmastide: Forest, Farm, Field and Stream

 

The wonder of the days of Christmastide are upon us!  Parents are often amazed that small children who are loud, noisy, and yes, even destructive in the house can be focused, quiet and attentive in an outdoor space.  Cultivating stillness, quiet and peacefulness is so important to the foundation of childhood.  These are qualities all of us need as human beings!  Perhaps we ever crave it and even as adults are in pursuit of it as we create beautiful works of art and music, grand architecture, and invent new things.  But the roots of these grand excursions perhaps lie in the smallest and most ordinary of moments in the outdoor world from when we were young.  If we close our eyes, perhaps we can remember snippets from our own childhood, being outside in all kinds of weather.  How does the wind before a storm feel in your hair or on your skin?  What is the sight of the clouds before it snows?  What are the sounds of a meadow on a hot, hazy day?  These are sensations for the soul.

So, during these twelve joyous and beautiful days of Christmastide, I invite you to come with me, where we shall spend our days connecting with nature in the forest, farm, field or stream!

In order to do this, you will need to identify your favorite local places of nature and make plans.  This can be as simple as walking out your door and finding the tree you love most on your city block, or making plans to visit a State or National Park to which you have never been!  Twelve joyous days of being with nature.

The second piece of this is that in many areas of the world right now, the weather can either be very hot or very cold, so thinking ahead to proper attire for the whole family will make things enjoyable for everyone.  For those of you interested in forest, farm, field and stream attire for colder/wetter zones, the book “Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way” by Erin K Kenny, recommends the following specific brands for young children:

  • Bogs Boots
  • Jackets:  Columbia Omnitech or Bugaboo
  • Silk or Wool Long Underwear (I like to get mine at Green Mountain Organics)
  • Rain Pants:  Oakiwear, Lands End or REI rain pants
  • Mittens:  Gordoni or Outdoor Research brands

I would love to hear about any of your excursions into forest, field, farm or stream or your local city block.  What did you see? What senses were enlivened in you and your children?  Please post your thoughts or even a picture here in the comments, or on Twitter @ParentingHearth.

More tomorrow as we continue our harmonious Christmastide with the glorious Creation!  Let Heaven and Nature Sing!

In Joy,
Carrie

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: Advent Week Four

The week is upon us!  Christmastide is almost here!  For those of you counting up to Winter Solstice, that day is coming as well.  A week of love and rejoicing! 

This week, we are also celebrating the crowing kingdom to rejoice in Christ’s coming: mankind.  In following this week’s theme of man, I have chosen the following books (the older children and I are also reading “The Return of Light

20- The Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett.  I love these, because they talk about finding rest and joy in friends and in community and belonging.  I know the gingerbread baby and his friends are not people, but the qualities they convey are certainly very human-like!

21-  Getting ready for the Winter Solstice!  The older children and I are reading “The Return of Light:  A Christmas Tale” by Dia Calhoun; the youngest and I read “The Sun Bread” by Kleven.

23– Little Golden Books – “The Christmas Story”; also Reg Down’s “The Cricket and the Shepherd Boy”

24 – The Night Before Christmas – any of the many illustrated editions will do and “Christmas in Noisy Village” by Astrid Lindgren

There are also many wonderful stories for this week in “The Light In The Lantern” and “The Christmas Story Book” by Floris Books.

Some activities for the week:

  • Random acts of kindness for other people.  The possibilities here are endless for paying it forward.
  • Assisting in any way possible to help others who need it – we have participated in gift and food drives for the poor, wrapping gifts for homeless children…this week we will be keeping our eye out for anyone else who needs our help.  
  • Look for the people you know that are lonely and sad with the holidays.  Maybe they are dealing with divorce, the loss of someone they loved through death, poverty.  Take your time and spend it with them.
  • Honoring the wonderful people who impact us  personally every week.  I am thinking especially of our children’s teachers, such as our choir director at church and our horseback riding instructor, our county’s 4H staff.
  • Honoring our town and county’s police and fire personnel.  We are so lucky to live in a county with a wonderful police, fire, ambulance response team.
  • Make gingerbread men cookies!
  • Celebrate the First Day of Winter.
  • Prepare  for the flow of Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day.  These can be quiet days, or in some families it can be days of family coming in, lots of cooking and craziness and small children can have a tough time without their regular rhythm. 
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas, or Christmastide, begins on Christmas Day.  These twelve days can be a time of inner work, inner preparation for the New Year.  This is about the The Twelve Days of Christmas  and  Celebrating Christmastide
  • Here is a message for Christmas Day about wonder 

Blessings,

Carrie

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

“At the midwinter solstice comes the shortest day.  This is the darkest time of year in the northern hemisphere.  We experience this in our lives as hardship – it’s cold and dark, we can feel alone and bereft.  At this time of outer darkness, we can feel challenged within ourselves to find light.” – From “Celebrating Irish Festivals:  Calendar of Seasonal Celebrations” by Ruth Marshall, Hawthorne Press

Many Waldorf resources actually do not mention celebrating the Solstice at all.  However, mention can be found in the book, “Celebrating Irish Festivals:  Calendar of Seasonal Celebrations” by Ruth Marshall as noted above.   This is tied to the Irish mounds of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.  Newgrange in particular is noted as being older than the Egyptian pyramids. The entrance of Newgrange is aligned with the position of the sunrise on the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice.  The interior carvings of the innermost chamber are illuminated by light on this very special day! 

This book suggests rising early to greet the dawn and to watch the sunrise together.  However, I know many families who celebrate either the Eve of the Solstice (as Heather over at Beauty That Moves details beautifully in this recent post. ) or the night of Solstice itself. Some families will have a party complete with yellow foods, live fun music and dancing!  I also know families who celebrate with tea outside.    I ran through the different Winter festivals, including a mention of Solstice in this  back post.

Some families will dip candles on this special day, or make lanterns or hold a big bonfire!  Sun catchers could be lovely as well if the temperatures are enough to freeze things in your area!  This could also be a wonderful day to hold a Winter/Advent Spiral, which I detail in several back posts.

This year, we plan to celebrate the shortest day of the year by being outside, and also by baking a beautiful yellow bread.  The book “The Sun Bread” by Kleven promises to be a favorite.  I also want to sing!  Jodie Mesler  has a new “Make Way For King Winter” songbook out with several songs that could be used for the Winter Solstice.   You can see  her website  for more details.  Jodie is a great encouragement for families looking to bring season music into their family life.   The other thing I would like to do is make some simple treats for the birds, and pomanders for inside our home (pomanders remind me of the book, “The Sun Egg” by Elsa Beskow!)

I would love to hear your wonderful plans.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

The Quiet of Advent: Reflection

Advent should be the time to slow down and reflect; a time to be able  to think of others.  Yet, many of us find ourselves halfway through Advent with a very busy “to-do” list and many events to attend and with very little time to do the things we really consider the most important.

The first step to having a quiet Advent is to really whittle down outside things such as gift lists and party invitations.  You may not be able to attend every single thing you are invited to, and that is okay.  Having a day at home is as valid  a reason as  RSVPing “no”  to something as having another outside function to attend. Many of you who have read my blog for years know of my “X” the calendar method.  I just “X” out whole days to be home.  Being home is a commitment, just like being out is.

In the time and space of your own home, you can encourage a strong and cozy rhythm of play for little ones, daydreaming and pursuits of interests for older children, and time for yourself to just think.  You can think about what commitments really fuel you, and what things you are really passionate about and how your family members can each help one another and those outside your home.  What would that like look like for you and your family?

You might chuckle a little about how your family can help each other, but I often find families do have trouble with this.  If you are so insanely busy that life is rushing yourself and children to places, eating take out every night, falling into bed and doing it all over again, then something has to change and give.  There is no time for little ones to learn to do things for their parents, and no time for parents to deeply give of themselves.  Many of the families who read this blog follow a simpler lifestyle as  found in Waldorf parenting and education, but I also have many families from many different walks of life who read this blog.  It is important to honor where people are, and also to help and encourage families to simplify if they are not in a place that is sustainable.  A wonderful read for this process is Kim John Payne’s “Simplicity Parenting.”  I hope to go through this book chapter by chapter on the blog in 2016.

There are often opportunities to volunteer as a family if you search.  Many volunteer opportunities are for those over 16, yet if you look (and your state homeschooling Facebook pages can often be a good place to start!) you can find opportunities that can involve the entire family.  Your place of worship may also have these opportunities.

Start small, and start at home with your own family and children…and once that is feeling smooth to you, you can look to shine light in your little corner of the world with something that you feel deeply about.

Many blessings,
Carrie