7 ways of doing self-care +parenting

Maybe parents from previous generations wouldn’t understand this fuss about self-care.  I think generally people got married and had children earlier than parents are doing now. Maybe there was more support in juggling the home and the kids through extended family, which many of us don’t have these days.  I know when I was younger, I certainly didn’t really understand the fuss about self-care as well as I do now, and when I started parenting over seventeen years ago, it wasn’t even really a thing to talk about self-care.

Cue now.  Cue the late 40s.

Years of parenting and homeschooling still await.

Things are shifting.

Self-care is needed.

Now self-care seems absolutely vital to me; absolutely necessary; absolutely important. It is something important for me that benefits the whole family, despite whatever limitations may be in the way.

Maybe you are feeling this as well.  I think younger parents are much more in tune with this than we are.  However, at any stage, it can be easy to neglect in the shuffle and business of life, especially for homeschooling parents whose children and teens are with the family many (all) hours a day.  So, i put together 7 ways for doing self-care that might resonate with you or give you ideas for your own practice.

  1.  Find your attitude about self-care, and your find your discipline to follow through.  First you have to believe that self-care is necessary, and then you have to find a way to follow through on doing self-care no matter what personal obstacles are in your situation.  Maybe your significant other travles nonstop, and you homeschool three tiny children that you can’t just leave to run out and do appointments or even go for a heart-pounding run that doesn’t involve stopping to look every ten feet at some critter on the ground.  Instead of feeling defeated, how will you make this work?  Brainstorm ideas, and believe AND do.
  2. Keep the big health guidelines in mind.  One hundred fifty minutes of moderate areobic exercise  a week and  twice a week strength training is recommended for adults in the United States, there are recommendations for how often to see your doctor and dentist, there are even recommendations for number of hours you should sleep a night, and how many hours a day you should be on a screen.  That might be the bare minimum place you start.
  3. Rest and play.  Rest and play for adults may be one of the most overlooked areas of health. This one can be done with your children, with your significant other, with your friends or by yourself?  How do you rest and play? What does that look like for you?
  4.  Time in nature.  This is extremely important for decreasing stress, for setting healthy patterns in sleep, and for a myriad of health benefits, even down to the cellular level.  There is true research on this, and since many people spend a lot of time indoors, it may be worth it to schedule yourself some forest bathing time or time to be outside.
  5. Time in community.  Community is very important. It is something new mothers or new fathers  naturally often seek in the form of playgroups…and then as the children grow, as teens have more interests and they no longer want to get together with the same chidren they have been since playgroup days due to lack of common interests…it can become more difficult to see other adults that you are really and truly close to.  My recommendation is to go out to dinner or tea or meet at a park – just the adults.  When your children are teenagers, you can leave them and do this!  If you think you don’t need this, I would say you should try.  It reduces anxiety, having community has many health benefits,  it makes you feel connected, and when your children are off living their own lives, you are going to want some friends!
  6. Time alone.  It is important to have some time each day, each week, each month to just be alone without the children.  Many parents get so lost in their children and all the hustle and bustle that they often lose who they were.  Parenting will change you! You will be a different person than you were.  That is normal.  But losing complete connection with yourself, your goals,  your dreams, your functioning as a separate human being outside of being a parent is difficult.  It can take time to get those things back, and time alone to think or think and journal can be invaluable.
  7. Healthy food.  Healthy food, and not using food as a form of stress control or self-medication is really important. Parenting can start a whole cycle of eating while standing up, eating as quickly as possible,  not having time to cook.  Batch cooking healthy things for the week can be a really big help, as can gadgets such as a crock-pot or Instapot.  Finding healthy recipes and making them, not keeping junk  food in the house that really isn’t made up of food but instead chemicals and additives ( I call it “food-like” substances) in the house, is really important self-care, and it sets a great tone for the future generation living in your household.  I was at a continuing education course where the home health physical therapists were estimating over half of the patients they were seeing were obese, and had Type 2 diabetes, and didn’t hardly move during the day.  This isn’t where we want ourselves or the next generation to end up!

Share with me your favorite ways to self-care!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Skills for High School (and life!)

We have one teen getting ready to go look at colleges and apply in the fall, and one child who will be entering high school in the fall.  These are such  interesting and often challenging ages to parent. I don’t think I ever doubted my homeschooling skills as much as I did when my oldest was in eighth and ninth grade.  I think this is because we as parents can see what skills will be needed for success in  the upper grades of high school and what will be needed in college, and we wonder what we will do if things don’t come together  (or as homeschooling parents we wonder if we are doing enough).

This leads me to a question:  what do you think eighth and ninth graders really need to be able to do in order to navigate high school (and life) successfully? I woud love to hear your thoughts!  Here are a few of my ideas for the important skills teens need for high school and beyond:

Communication Skills – this includes written communication, public speaking,  recognizing nonverbal cues in other people, presentation skills, and being able to collaborate on a team.  I think this is where things such as vocabulary and fluency in writing and speaking  counts, and so do things such as knowing how to introduce oneself and others.

**Ways to develop this:  4H and Toastmasters, work and volunteer experience, being on a team in any area- sports or otherwise, communicating effectively at home and pointing out cues and emotions,  increasing vocabulary in the later middle school years.  If you are the homeschooling teacher – assigning papers, research papers, and oral presentations.

Organizational Skills – this includes physical space planning (ie, the teen can find what they are looking for), mental organization, planning and scheduling, time management, prioritizing

**Ways to develop this – using a calendar or planner, using checklists, working with deadlines  for your homeschool, developing accountability outside the home to mentors, other teachers, volunteer work or a part-time job

Leadership and Teamwork – this, to me, involves initiative, making decisions, contributing, responsibility, respect of others and listening to others, humility, problem solving

**Ways to develop this – volunteer and work opportunities, allow decision making for teens and don’t bail them out of the consequences, let your teen figure out the possibilities – don’t do it all for them

Work Ethic -this includes dependability, determination, accountability, professionalism

**Ways to Develop This – assignments with deadlines in homeschooling, don’t skip the hard or boring all the time, work and volunteer experiences, the development of healthy habits at home which requires a regularity in doing things

Emotional Intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills

**Ways to Develop This- talking to teens about their feelings and helping them use “I” statements and how to be active listeners, basic anger management and conflict management skills,mindfulness techniques,  nurture motivation when your teen is interested in a subject or has a passion and teach them  how to set goals around their passions, provide and model optimism and encouragement

I would love to hear your ideas!  What do you think is important?

Blessings,

Carrie

PS. If you are looking for more on this subject, you might enjoy this back post on Life Skills for Seventh and Eighth Graders and some of the resources I recommend!

Top 7 Ways to Fearlessly Waldorf Homeschool

I wrote a post about “fearless Waldorf homeschooling” in which I talked about how despite our fears regarding homeschooling, we are enough.  We really are.  Every family has its own unique circumstances, family culture, family dynamics, strengths that interplay with the Waldorf curriculum at home to make it unique and able to meet the child in front of us so wonderfully.  Homeschooling is full of possibilities, but it has to be sustainable for us as teachers and parents.  And for that reason, our homeschool adventures will never look like, and should never look  like a Waldorf School.

Here are ways I think we can fearlessly Waldorf homeschool, and leave our worries and doubts about this sometimes intense way of homeschooling behind!

Decide your priorities for homeschooling based on  the amount of energy you have.  Everyone has a certain amount of energy, and we all have a fixed number of hours in the day.  Are you a low, medium, or high energy person?  What does an ideal homeschooling day look like for you?  Remember my mantra  – the Waldorf homeschool will not, and should never look like a Waldorf School program!  So what are the top priorities from looking at all the things that Waldorf homeschooling can bring that your children, and you, really really need?  Resign yourself that you must likely won’t do all the things, and that is perfectly okay.

Design your priorities for Waldorf homeschooling around your strengths, and decide if the things you are weakest at is something that you actually want to learn and grow better at doing  OR if this is something that you can outsource!  For example, say knitting is hard for you.  Do you want to spend your energy learning how to knit and then teach your child, do you want to learn together with your child, or do you want to send your child somewhere to learn how to knit in your community?

Build your homeschooling around rhythm, but remember to include self-care in  your rhythm.  I don’t know what that would like like for you, but I think for many of us, sustainable homeschooling involves being more than just the person teaching or keeping up everything around the house.  It involves being a whole human being, and for many of us, we need some time either alone, with our spouse without children, or with our own friends in order to recharge.  It might involve when  you exercise, or when you sleep in or take a nap or meet a friend for tea.  Whatever it is, plan out your self-care for the week on Sundays.   Mark it in, arrange where your children will be, but do it.  Generally, homeschooling is not sustainable into the middle grades without this piece.  Burnout is real, and many people who start homeschooling and throw themselves into it with gusto either have to reinvent how they homeschool in the middle school grades or they put their children in school.  

We must always teach to the child in front of us.  What parts of these traditional blocks are of most interest to our child?  What things do we need to include in the grades that are developementally appropriate , meet our family culture, meet the time and place in which we live that are different than the Waldorf Schools?  

How do we deliver these lessons?   Waldorf homeschooling is about more than creating main lesson books!   There will always be children who hate to draw orwho hate creating main lesson books, and we must do more than just decide an education based in the arts, based around health and using sleep as an aid to memory,  is not for them.  In the home environment, we have so many creative options.

What is our end academic goal? I think far too many parents enter blocks without thinking about what they are trying to accomplish skill-wise – so think about this in your planning.  This keeps you confident and courageous!  What academic, social, emotional, physical and artistic skills is this material a springboard for?  What’s the end point? 

When in doubt, what will foster connection and responsbility in your child? Both of these are important, as the ultimate goal of Waldorf Education is that  human beings once again learn how to live with each other, that we can connect with the “other”, that we see how things are interrelated, that we can serve humanity with love.  It helps to begin with the end in mind. 

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

fearless waldorf homeschooling

Fear is at the root of so much of the marketing gimmicks in Western culture. Are you scared, nervous, anxious, afraid?  There is a product for that!  If only you compare yourself enough and discover that you are “deficient” in some way, and then buy enough products to get up to par, then you will feel better!

In the homeschooling world, I feel like it is even worse because some of the curriculums prey on our worst fears –

We aren’t enough to teach our children.

We can’t give our children enough opportunities.

Our children won’t learn enough.

Our children won’t be prepared for the future.

Our children won’t be “socialized” enough.

There won’t be enough time in the day to give our children what they need.

Sigh.

And quite frankly, Waldorf homeschooling and sometimes curriculum can be right there as well.  Entering this world can be one of anxiousness and doubt.  Are you nervous about chalkboard drawing, playing a breathing instrument and stringed instrument and singing, drawing, painting, modeling, putting on plays, knitting and doing other forms of handwork, making sure you present things in a “Waldorf Way” and oh yes, getting academics in there?   Plus, Waldorf homeschooling has the added  bonus of a low to no media lifestyle that family and friends might disagree with, the penchant to make things  (everything!) by hand, we protect the senses, we delay team sports and competition until sixth grade, we wait for academics until first grade – all of which may be totally new to you and totally different than how you were raised!

It’s a lot and it can feel intimidating and overwhelming for many homeschooling families, which is sad, because Waldorf homeschooling fits children’s health and  educational needs in an amazing developmental way.

Well, I am here to tell you:

You are enough to teach your children.  You have already been teaching them since day one!

You will give your children just the right opportunities that are available in your community.

Your children will learn plenty and be ahead.

Your children will be prepared for the future.

Your children will go on to have successful relationships.

You know your children the absolute best and better than any other expert.  Not that we can’t use the help of experts or a village, because sometimes it takes a village,  but that you know your beautiful children so well and this leads to success.

The Waldorf homeschool will never, and never should, look like a Waldorf School.  You cannot be Main Lesson teacher, flute teacher, games teacher, string teacher, foreign language teacher, extra lessons teacher all rolled into one.  But YOU are ENOUGH.

“How” we do this will look different for every family. Every family has its own unique circumstances, family culture, family dynamics, strengths that interplay with the Waldorf curriculum at home to make it unique and able to meet the child in front of us so wonderfully.  More about the “how” to come in the next post!  In the meantime, know that you are enough, it will all work out okay, and these children will be some of the most successful of their generation with some of the biggest problem-solving capabilities and provide compassionate leadership and kindness for the years ahead.

Blessings and love,

Carrie 

beautiful january

I love January – the possibility of cold and snow, the bright days perfect for walks, the many possibilities of decluttering the physical environment and the body and the soul in January!  It’s going to be a terrific month!

celebrating:  

Here are some of the days we will be celebrating in January:

January 1 – New Year’s Day

January 6– The Feast of Epiphany and Epiphanytide that stretches until Lent begins on March 6th this year.

January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr Day – also celebrated January 15 and April 4 in The Episcopal Church

Janaury 18– The Feast Day of St. Peter

January 25 – The Feast Day of St. Paul

homeschooling:

third grade – we are continuing to work hard on reading and are starting off our semester with a block of Hebrew Stories/Old Testament tales as traditional in the Waldorf curriculum in this grade.  We are using All About Reading for practice as well since reading has been a struggle and will continue daily work in math.  Please follow me on Instagram @theparentingpassageway as that is where I will be posting third grade work this month.

eighth grade – we are continuing with our year round course of pre-algebra, and starting our semester with a block on Revolutions that will include the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, The French Revolution, Simon Bolivar, and the Mexican Revolution.

eleventh grade – we are continuing with our year-long courses in Chemistry and in American Government/Social Justice.  Our eleventh grader also has AP Psychology, Pre-Calculus,and  AP Language outside of the home

sustainability –

I am a generous giver. I have decent boundaries, but can get really wrapped up in other people’s challenges and other people’s energy and take it all on as my own if I am not careful.  I have improved immensely in this area in the last 2 years, and am proud of my progress.  So, for even more sustainability and in the spirit of knowing that my needs are to be equally valued, this New Year I am prioritizing self-care in the form of exercise outside the home as I find it hard to exercise in my house, health appointments (which for me, since I had a health crisis last year, means still going to  doctor appointments), healthy eating, having super fun with my spouse and our friends, and using a protocol  created by acupuncturist Desiree Mangandog called “I Am Worthy”

I sit down and plan my self-care that has to be outside of the home for the week on Sundays.  Simple things I do at home that don’t require as much planning included journaling, meditating, tapping, use of The Book of Common Prayer daily, and epsom salt baths.

parenting-

third grader – there aren’t really any children that come outside to play with in our neighborhood and since his sisters are middle to older teens, movement (which I have to spearhead) is a priority above and beyond school.  His social needs are also a priority because he is very extroverted.

eighth grader – we are getting plans in place for homeschooling high school (all subjects will be homeschooled, none will be outside the home at this point). She is a great help in the house, and my parenting work with her are the typical goals in order to be successful in high school, and to continue to develop  connection to the family and  compassionate character.

eleventh grader – we are working on college visits, and getting through the junior year of standardized testing, and connection.  I think this is an important time to connect as a family and as a mother-daughter team.  We have an idea to take a little trip for just the two of us, so I think that will work out and be an amazing way to connect.

home life-

I am sticking with very simple cleaning and decluttering routines and asking for help. I cannot homeschool and do everything we do outside the home and do continue taking care of the house as if it is my ful-time job. However,  I also cannot stand a messy or dirty house as I am a very visual person, and we really don’t have the money for an outside cleaning person.  So, that leaves simplicity and asking for help as our family is a team!

Crafting – I love the little crafts I associate with January, including window stars, rose windows, snowflakes, candlemaking.  I hope to post pictures of some of our processes on Instagram @theparentingpassageway and on The Parenting Passageway’s Facebook page.

 

I can’t wait to hear what you are up to this beautiful January!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

High Needs Homeschooling

“High needs homeschooling” is a term I use to describe any of the following situations:  homeschooling children with special needs;  homeschooling a supreme extrovert with an introverted, highly sensitive parent;  homeschooling with difficult home dynamics (whether that is medical crisis or financial crisis or something else).

I think in all of these cases, we have to think carefully about whether or not homeschooling is meeting the needs of the entirety of the family, including the parents.  Here are just a few thoughts on homeschooling in these situations:

When you are an introverted, highly sensitive mother with extroverted children:

Consider the long-term plan. Homeschooling numbers tend to dwindle going into middle school and moreso into high school. Will there be enough of a peer group to support your extroverted child? Understand that extroverts are not automatically met better in the school environment, but I do think it is something that deserves thought as an extrovert nears the high school age.   If your extroverted child wants lots to do – clubs and sports- are you willing to drive and be out of the house?  If that doesn’t nourish you, and you feel that you must do it, how will you replenish yourself?

How will you structure your day so you will feel nourished?  This could include the use of audio books instead of reading outloud every day ( yes, I know this wouldn’t happen in a Waldorf School but remember Waldorf homeschooling is not Waldorf School); it could include daily quiet time; it could include sending multiple children outside to play in a safe space without you; it could include the fun of pairing up older siblings and younger siblings for helping with school-related tasks; it could be gently transitioning older students into more independent work so long as they don’t have learning challenges that make this difficult.  Oak Meadow used to be one of the only options for this approach of writing to the student, but I am pleased to see some new products coming out from Christopherus that are geared directly to the middle school student and acknowledges the changes that can occur in the upper grades in homeschooling and the need for more independent work.

Finally, please do acknowledge that all of us need relationships, whether we are introverted or extroverted. We can plan our time with other people carefully if it drains us, but maybe we should be finding relationships for everyone in the family that aren’t draining.  Good lesson for life.  And if you really feel you don’t need one friend, one time out to be without your children during the month…well, maybe you are early in your homeschooling journey or your children are small, but I really think you will want this eventually. 🙂

Homeschooling Children with Special Needs…

This can be very draining and lonely for some parents.  It is hard to teach the same things year after year, such a large amount of repetition, and see only incremental progress.  It is hard to teach every single subject through high school when your child cannot prepare any of the work by themselves at all – so it is still all on you as the teacher, tutor, guide.  And, it is something few other homeschooling parents can really understand unless they are in it themselves.  It can be a grieving process at times, especially as children enter the teen years.   So, you need to know going into homeschooling your child with special needs is that the overall goal may be more about being steady and persistent in engaging our children to learn, and not so much about the final, perfect outcome.

Remember all the other parts of “education” – experience, the arts, social learning, emotional learning, nature studies, practical work – all of these things are so very important.  You cannot change and wish away your child’s struggles, but you can expand all the opportunities and you can celebrate all the victories!

Find your support.  This is important for every homeschooling parent, but incredibly important for parents who are teaching children with special needs.  Also, find support for your children – this might be therapy, or getting neuropsychological testing, or finding other children who accept your child, or the support of a wonderful community.  Every situation looks different, but support is crucial.

There are studies that show homeschoolers with special needs are more engaged with their academic work than students in traditional school settings.  Please don’t undervalue your hard work!  You are making a difference, even if it seems small to you right now.

Homeschooling with extenuating circumstances :

The homeschool community often seems hit hard with bad luck and misfortune.  I think we all know families (or we have been that family!)  that have been hit with one thing right after another, from loss of employment, low funds, house fires, accidents that caused medical bills, chronic disease, and more.  Sometimes a family is really forced to give up homeschooling for traditional school and parental employment, but I have seen other families really hang on through the worst of times.  In these circumstances, which are so individual, it is hard to give specific suggestions except to…

Live within your means, and work to decrease debt and increase income for the family member who is working.  I thought this article did a good job regarding thinking about homeschooling on one income.

Consider how to homeschool as inexpensively as possible.  Traditional homeschooling – ie, used textbooks or free on line sources, may be some of the cheaper ways to homeschool, but I think there are many ways one can homeschool using Waldorf methodology on a budget as well.  The library is a fantastic resource for putting blocks together.

(A side note here:  Waldorf curriculum is rather a difficult thing to afford for many families.  On one hand,  the authors deserve to be fairly compensated for their experience and work (hours and hours to create a curriculum!); I think the cost that many complain about in the Waldorf homeschooling community regarding curriculum isn’t that different a cost than many of the mainstream curriculums that are inclusive.  However many families I know still can’t really afford to buy a homeschooling curriculum.  There are more and more free resources out there for Waldorf homeschooling, especially for grades 1-3, so that can be helpful.  The upper grades can still be self- done, I have done it several times over, but it takes a lot of work and time.  Might be something to consider in planning if you are going to homeschool through middle school and high school. 

Garner support from your extended family and community.  You may need meals, help with cleaning or laundry or outside work, support, help with caring for children.  Build up your support network, and trade these things as best as you can.  Sometimes places of worship, or networks built around a love of  a particular activity can be helpful.

Here is a back post of possible interest:  Surving Bedrest and Being Homebound with Medically Fragile Children

I would love to hear how you have tackled some of these situations in your family!  Please share your experiences and help other families out.

Blessings and love on this fourth day of Christmastide!  I am posting some of my inner work from Christmastide on Facebook and Instagram, so please do follow me over there – Facebook  and @theparentingpassageway on Instagram.

Love,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

Homeschooling Mama, I See You

I see you.

You, up researching different methods of homeschooling and curriculums into the wee hours of the night.

You, trying to thrive on one income and an old car with multiple children and still have money to put towards curriculum and supplies and outside activities.

You, trying to explain to your partner and extended family why homeschooling meets your children’s needs so well.

You, who hasn’t done a good job going to the doctor or dentist  for yourself in quite awhile because it means dragging four children with you whom you homeschool without much in the way of support or breaks.

You, single mom, working and still making homeschooling work.

You, who has the child with the hardest things on the inside that no one recognizes in your child.  You see the depression, the anxiety, the anger – and you keep on researching, getting help, and putting one foot in front of the other.

You, who has the child with learning disabilities that you are working so hard with one one one and wondering if it is enough or if other people will see homeschooling as the reason your child is behind instead of being possibly ahead of where he or she would be in other settings

You, who has the twice exceptional child wondering how to make the most of homeschooling for giftedness but also the most out of all therapy, rehabiliation, and doctor’s appointments.

You, who are agonizing over homeschooling high school – if it’s the best thing, the right thing, how to do it, will it screw up their lives forever?

You, trying to pick the best read-alouds and worrying how to get the best education to your children and meet all the needs.

You, trying to juggle the house, a baby, a toddler, a preschooler, and the grades.

You, trying not be tired at night after a full day of homeschooling  so you can  be awake enough to converse with your partner.

You, in the trenches.  I see you.  I see the wholeness of you and you are enough.  You are worthy, you are wonderful.

You are doing a great job.  We are all a mess and we are all beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Blessings and love,
Carrie