The January Book Box

These are the books we are diving into this month.  I hope to hear what you are reading to your children, too!

(For those of you home educating with Waldorf Education, please do remember that small winter verses are sufficient up to four years of age or longer and then simple little told stories.  You can look up back posts to see the progression of verses and nursery rhymes to repetitive stories to longer stories to eventually longer stories, simple books and chapter books.  There is a progression, so know this list is intended for those searching, but not necessarily for all of these to be read at one time to a child  no matter what age! You are the expert on your family!)

Seasonal Festivals/ Spiritual:

  • The Christmas Story Book, published by Floris Books – stories up to Epiphany divided by age.
  • St. Seraphim’s Beatitudes:  Blessings for Our Path to Heaven by Priest Daniel Marshall
  • The Theophany of Our Lord by Sister Elayne
  • In our house, the Anglican Communion has many wonderful Saints to recognize this month, so I keep many books on hand about these Holy Men and Women.
  • For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I like “The Cart that Carried Martin” (look at the Amazon review and leave out the inaccurate line); “Love Will See You Through” (I would put it for older children myself than the reviews indicate); and many more wonderful books.  Go to your local library and browse and see what resonates with you and your family.

Seasonal/Winter:

  • Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Snow by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman
  • The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler
  • Winter by Gerda Muller
  • Snow by Uri Shulevitz
  • Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Snow Princess by Susan Paradis
  • Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven (and bake some bread!)
  • The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Offers
  • Red Sled by Patricia Thomas
  • Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer (I really like this book).
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • The Hat by Jan Brett
  • Winter Eyes: Poems and Paintings by Florian

Seasonal/Nature:

  • Winter on the Farm (My First Little House Books)
  • The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • Cub’s Big World by Sarah Thompson

Winter Tales, for older children:

  • The Polar Bear Son:  An Inuit Tale by Lydia Dabcovitch
  • A Promise Is A Promise by Robert Munsch and Michael Kusugak
  • The Eskimo Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
  • A Day On Skates by Hilda van Stockum

I would love to hear what you are reading!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

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

 

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