Rhythm Renewal!

I am very excited that this may be the week that some things straighten out and we will have less emergency driving for medical issues amongst our family members. Being closer to home is ALWAYS helpful in re-establishing rhythm.  I have heard from many of you that this autumn has been difficult for varying reasons, and that we all need a rhythm reboot!

The benefits of rhythm are so astounding in forming a peaceful family life.  Having a clear flow to the day ( a flow, not a rigid minute-by-minute schedule) helps everyone approach the day with understanding and cooperation.  The only person who can determine the rhythm that is right for your family is YOU and your family members.  No two families are alike, and no two families have the same daily and weekly rhythm.

I can’t totally guess what our rhythm will look like once we have our four-legged family member home and the amount of care that will entail, but I do know basically for now our rhythm looks somewhat like this:

Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays:

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High School Main Lesson
  • Second Grade Main Lesson (includes physical activity outside)
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • Lunch and Rest
  • Writing or Health
  • All together projects
  • Barn Life for the older two children on Tuesday, possibly other days as needed. Fridays I usually stay home and clean and get ready for a peaceful weekend.

And on Wednesdays it looks like

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High School Main Lesson
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • High Schooler Outside Class/ Lunch
  • Barn Life

And on Thursdays, our crazy day

  • Morning Rhythms
  • High Schooler at outside class
  • Second Grade Main Lesson
  • Seventh Grade Main Lesson
  • Lunch
  • Music classes/Music Lessons

I wrote a seven-part series about rhythm in 2012 that might be of help to you if you are trying a rhythm reboot!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

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Homeschooling From Rest: The Rhythm of Health

One of the major reasons we began homeschooling, and  subsequently were drawn to Waldorf Education, was actually about health.  The healing that can come from Waldorf Education is tremendous.  The health of the future adult when you parent and educate children in this developmental appropriate way makes a difference in a chaotic world that is largely hostile toward the protection and gradual unfolding of children.

We wanted time and space for rest and so our children got enough sleep, enough time outside, warming meals at home, and the ability to progress education in a way that we saw as developmentally appropriate moving from the physical body and work of the will to the work of the head; a well-rounded education inclusive of all of the arts.

In order to show that our genuine and authentic reasons for homeschooling are true then, is to devise a rhythm around health.  This may look different in every family, and I think is easier to do if your children are younger or if your children are perhaps more homebodies.  Being home and taking care of health is much easier than taking care of health whilst on the go every second.

Some suggestions for devising a homeschooling rhythm from rest and health might include any of the following:

  • Earlier bedtimes
  • Rest and nap times
  • Limited outside the home activities
  • Planning a rhythm that alternates between out-breath and in-breath activities
  • Planning your day around you, the homeschooling parent’s, need for physical movement and the children’s need for movement.
  • Meal planning and the shopping of healthy, whole foods from local suppliers
  • Planning homeschooling days of the week with an eye to a day for health, whether this means to you a day outside hiking or being out in nature or a day to run to a member of your health care team for you or your children
  • Healing touch – this is easy to work in during the homeschool environment.  Hand and foot massages, back rubs, and hugs are great places to start.
  • Daily spiritual practices
  • Planning quiet times throughout the day
  • Schooling outside as much as possible
  • Spending time with pets during school
  • Aromatherapy

I would love to hear your suggestions!  How do you plan your homeschooling rhythm from rest and focus on health?

Blessings,
Carrie

Overflowing

What a fall, y’all.  😦  I have gone through periods in our 10 years of homeschooling (2007, six year old kindergarten year to tenth grade this year),  where life has been overflowing (more on that term below!). This particular autumn, which has brought serious terminal illness and  illness with long-term recovery  to  family members and emergency surgery for our daugher’s horse with a super long recovery period to come, has landed our family back into the overflowing zone.  It has been an emotionally and physically taxing time of emergency drives, plane flights, and hospital visits.   It is really difficult to homeschool upper grades and high school on top of everything else. There hasn’t been much of a rhythm this month as I wait and see what each day brings.  There is no pity in this at this point; it is just life and it is just part of homeschooling long enough.

I truly believe that if  you homeschool for a long enough period of time, you  just are going to face times when life is overwhelming.  I like to re-frame this thought as “overflowing.”  For some reason that just sounds more positive!  Overflow is just the reality. If you haven’t ever hit that due to pregnancy, birth, illness, the overwhelming needs of one child compared to the others, family illness, terminal illness, finanical troubles, divorce or more, that is so wonderful and amazing!  But I think many homeschooling mothers do go through this at one point or another. Some of us have more bad years in a row than others.   But, the great thing about going through struggles many times is that you know that you will make it out onto the other side of it. You know there isn’t much to hold you down because you have simply been there, done that, and not only survived, but flourished.

There aren’t any easy answers as the situations are all so individualized.  I think the main way I get through, honestly, is to be honest. My husband is in tune with me, even if he doesn’t handle the stress the same way.  I will tell people outright I am having a hard time. I will lean on my friends to hear me and just let me vent.  I will ask for help and take that meal.  I am absolutely much better about it now, in my late 40s, than I was in my 20s and 30s.  I absolutely know my limitations now and when I am hitting the wall and am so grateful for community.

Sometimes there really isn’t copious time for self-care during these crisis spots  but even snatching a few minutes to sit down and relax, take a bath, etc can really be helpful. I am lining up a some self-care things  for when I see the light at the end of the tunnel and am not spending hours in a car dealing with emergencies. The other thing I have noticed for myself is that there are certain times of the day I feel more discouraged or overwhelmed, and to try to build in some self-care things around those times.  For some people, this might be at night.  For me, it seems to be in the morning after waking up and thinking about the day that lies ahead.

So, in honor of this dubious season of seasoning, I have rounded up a few back posts about dealing with life that might resonate with where you are now.

Chronic anger and overwhelm with children under the age of 9

Surviving Bedrest and Being Homebound With Medically Fragile Children

Postpartum Depression

Struggling

Social Isolation for the Stay-At-Home Mother

I HATE The Mother That I Am

The Overwhelming Year  and The Antidote To The Overwhelming Year

Homeschooling Burnout

The sun is shining and it is a glorious day! May we all shine bright in the darkness.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Let Me Tell You Your Mission (In Case You Forgot)

One thing a friend of mine and I were talking about recently is that there is room in the adult world for all kinds of people with all their various quirks and personalities and temperaments.  The diversity of people is such a beautiful thing, and I know I am so grateful that different people want to do different jobs than I would want to do; that different people have different strengths and abilities; that different people even look different and live differently because I find so much beauty in all the varying cultures and faces of the world.  I love it!

So why do people act as if our sole parenting mission, and yes, especially in the middle and upper classes, is for our children to get into a good college and be on a college track?  I am not saying that education is not important.  It is important, but how can we balance this in a healthy way?

Having our teens stress themselves out to the point of having psychosomatic illnesses and fearing for the future and not wanting to grow up because being a teen is already stressful enough (so how stressful must adulthood be?) is not helping this generation.  ANXIETY has now taken over depression as something teenagers are dealing with.  According to this article in the NY Times, 62 percent of undergrads are reporting “overwhelming anxiety.”  There has been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers.  

So, exactly what happens when the push, push for the “good college” is acheived?  What happens in real life outside of this?  My point is that people (and teenagers) are made of more than just their academic portfolio.  There is space in the adult world for many people with their many likes and dislikes and interests and passions. In fact, the adult world probably needs you especially, teenager who is different.

So, parents,  let me tell you your mission in case you have forgotten.  You are here to support your teen and to help guide them.  If you see them putting such pressure on themselves to perform, how can you step in and help them? What will they really need in the adult world to meet their definition of success?  Is their definition of success even healthy? One of the many points in the NY Times article above is that parents are not always driving the anxiety of these teenagers anymore by pushing them, but that instead the teens are internalizing the anxiety themselves and pushing themselves relentlessly.  Health and social relationships are, to me, more important and deserve even more time than academic work.  

You cannot live their life for them.  You are here to help your teen unfold and be who they are going to be.

Life is messy.  Being a teen is messy .  Be supportive and be kind, because you may not know much of what your teen is dealing with at all.

When people ask me about my parenting and goals for my children, I essentially say I want them to be healthy and helpful human beings.  Human beings who are good and loyal friends and family members who will help others.  Human beings who are ethical and who do not divide their public and private lives.  Human beings who can relax and have fun, and yes, make a contribution to something greater than themselves and support themselves.  That is an exciting parenting mission.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Homeschooling From Rest: The Sunday Prep

I have written a few other posts in this series about homeschooling from rest, including the morning routine and building your homeschooling around rest.  Today, we are going to address the importance of the weekend prep.

I call this a Sunday prep, but if you are busy on Sundays like my family is, it absolutely could be a Saturday prep as well.  In my head, I divide this into things a family could do to prep for the week, and things a Waldorf homeschooling family really needs to do.

The Family Prep:

Physical Level:  

  • Clean the house, even if it is the just the quick clean for surfaces, the kitchen counters, and the bathrooms. Quick clean is better than no clean.  Pick things up.
  • Have the laundry done, clean, and folded and put away.  Do you need to lay out clothes for your children?
  • Prep FOOD.  This is the most important part, I believe to getting the week off to a good start!  In today’s world  many parents are so busy and are getting home very late wtih no time to cook.  At the last continuing education course I attended two weeks ago, the  current percentage of overweight Americans (I believe these statistics were adults only) was at EIGHTY-FIVE percent.  We are overweight as a society, I believe due to confounding factors including stress, lack of true hydration, convenient processed foods that are easy to grab but not healthy, lack of time to cook, and a sedentary lifestyle.  As the saying goes, we cannot outrun a bad diet.  If we want to start turning the health of our children, this upcoming generation,  around and send them into adulthood with good patterns, we must start cooking healthy food and eating meals together.  Prep whatever you can and plan your meals.  Have your ingredients.   If your child is in school, do you need to make lunches?
  • What will you need for tomorrow?  Get it out and ready now.
  • Look at the calendar.

Emotional Prep:

  • What are your stress reduction strategies for the week?  You have some great choices in deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, biofeedback, massage therapy, aromatherapy, yoga.
  • Unplug.
  • Go out in nature with your family.
  • If you have a significant other, check in with that person.  How are the adults of the house feeling?  Where is the time for the adults in the week?  Adult connection is important. Children are wonderful, and parents give their all for their children, but life is not just about children.
  • Are you feeling positive?  Check in with yourself.  Some folks love to journal morning pages or set up a little board and watercolor paint each morning or sketch.  All artistic activity is connected to the emotional and spiritual life.

Spiritual Prep:

  • Everyone is going to have their own path here, but connecting to what you believe is a higher source in whatever way is meaningful for you is important in beginning the week.
  • I find visualization for the week to be important. What does the week look like in my head?  How will each day flow?  I also like to do this at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day, I like to review the day backwards.
  • Do some reading on your spiritual path at some point this weekend and each day during the week.  As many of you know, I am Episcopalian, which is part of Anglican Communion world-wide.  The book on my list to start reading this list is this one by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

 

Waldorf Homeschooling Prep:

  • Rhythm of the Week tools – If you are going to have a bread-making day, soup -making day, a way for your child to help you with your work of the day then you need the ingredients and tools!  Make sure you have the things you need on hand before you start the week!
  • Review your circle time, stories, and music.  I was always sleep-deprived and generally have the worst memory ever, so memorizing things was never great for me, but if I reviewed things nights in a row, I certainly could remember a lot and feel good about that!
  • Review your review!  By that I mean, review is usually the first thing up for grades-students after warming up and it gets the absolute least attention from most homeschoolers.  How will you review?  What do you need to make this happen in terms of supplies?
  • Look at your lesson plans for the week.  Be sure to include any festivals!
  • Chalkboard drawings.  Nothing says a brand new week, month, or block  like a new drawing!

I would love to hear your #Sundayprep!  On The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, folks are sharing their pictures of their Sunday prep.  Come on over and join us and get some great ideas from fellow Parenting Passageway fans!

Blessings on today,

Carrie

Standing Tall

In a world of beautiful Facebook and Instagram posts, it is not always easy to admit when we struggle with our children.  Actually, it is fairly easy to admit about struggling with a little person and their inability to nap, or late potty training, or  high energy.  I find we can even talk and laugh about the 8-14 year old set; the talking back and sassiness; the energy and then the dip in energy.  However, it is not always as easy to talk about the mid- to- late teenaged years and all the things the teenagers are dealing with.  Stress.  Depression. Suicide attempts.  Alcohol and drug addiction.   Overdosing.  Eating disorders.  Other mental health disorders.  Rage.  Date rape.  Violence from a dating partner.  Still dealing with the aftermath of parental divorce.   There are so many challenges to face, and parents are facing them with their children in love.

Several weeks ago,in a town not too far from us, there was a beautiful young lady who committed suicide.  I don’t know the story behind it, but I feel so deeply for not only her, but for her parents in this horrific tragedy.    I cannot imagine what they are going through; perhaps it is such a  lonely time being in the aftermath, but perhaps also there was loneliness in parenting leading up to this event. I can imagine that and think about that.   The things that go on in the mid to late teenaged years, (unlike potty training mishaps or picky eating or even tweenish talking back and asking for advice on all kinds of  parent forums), seems private and underground.  This is partly out of respect for the beautiful and sometimes oh so fragile human being blossoming before parents’ eyes, but also partly because it is an era of happy social media selfies where major issues don’t have much of a place.

Even if a family is not dealing with catastrophic issues, there can be a sort of  low-lying pressure surrounding  these years...a competitive game of sorts.  At least among the middle to upper class families that I observe, even in the homeschooling community,  I think it can be a race in a stream–of-consciousness way, like a James Joyce novel:  how many sports and how good are you and will you play in college and get a scholarship in college and how many AP Courses and Honors courses are you taking and where will you go to college and what will you do and how late can you stay up doing homework because I have to stay up until 2 to get everything done and how many places do you volunteer because you know that will look good on a college application and what do you mean you haven’t visited 12 or 14 colleges yet I mean you are a junior now and are you dual enrolling and why not and how about finishing college before you are 18 and what sort of career will you have and are you sure you can get work in that field…..

My hope for bringing this up is actually  not to be depressing, but instead to be hopeful. There can be a lot of funny and beautiful moments in the mid to late teenaged years.  There can be so many opportunities for connection, so long as you don’t let them  constantly bury themselves in a video game or on a phone. Insist they come to the lake with you or go out with the family for a walk or spend time with their siblings.  Help them get involved with things that matter to them and yes, I think there is truth in keeping them somewhat busy if they have that temperament and personality ( or letting them be if they don’t have that personality!)  Help balance them, know when to push and when to let go, but most of all, just love them.  The mid to late teenaged years are a hard time. Love will see them through.

Most of all, and this perhaps sounds a bit odd to those not in this stage of life yet with children, but this time is for you.  Find your beautiful tribe of mother friends who will support you and love you and take you to tea and dinner so you can talk and be together.  At this point, it really doesn’t matter anymore if your children and the children of your mother friends get along.  You are so far past play dates.  These relationships and this love is for you!

If you have a spouse or partner, lean into that person.  Love that person.  Be together, and be the wall and rock that the storm of teenage can bounce off of. Stand tall and stand proud. Find yourself again, because your teenagers need to see you as a person and see what you stand for.  Be that for them in the midst of the low and high pressure points of these years. 

And most of all, don’t be afraid to get help and to ask for professional support.  In so many of these cases, I have friends who said getting help was wonderful.  They wished they hadn’t waited until things snowballed further along.  Get help and get it now.  Involve the whole family and see what beauty and strength and courage can come out of these  harder situations.

To all of you standing tall with the struggles of your mid to late teens, I see you.  I am so glad today’s generation of teenagers has parents just like you.  Stand tall and fly high for these young people.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Waldorf + Minimalist

There are so many Facebook groups right now for Minimalist Homeschooling, and minimalist living in general. Living in a tiny home or having minimal material possessions  in my mind is separate from running an actual minimal homeschool.  And, in the case of Waldorf homeschooling, which involves art supplies, musical instruments, and juggling main lessons plus other lessons, how can we even do minimalism in Waldorf homeschooling? Is it even possible?

I think it is possible, because in my mind Rudolf Steiner was talking about minimalism with the founding of the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany in September 1919.  He talked about matching the curriculum to soul development, child development and he talked about teaching in a pattern of teaching the same subject daily for a block of time. He called this the soul economy of teaching.  He talked about teaching the child not only out of this archtypal child development and human journey, but in looking at the child in front of us and teaching from what we are as human beings.

It sounds simple when one lays it out like that, yet so complicated in practice with multiple children of multiple ages, block lessons plans but also math practice, music practice, games and circle games, practical arts, and more (let alone the high school age!) To me, the Internet is the worst for this!  Let’s show how every single thing is so incredibly beautiful and not messy at all and then in real life when it is messy and not as gorgeous,  you have one depressed and overwhelmed mother!

But, I think we can simplify all these moving parts and pieces that often overwhelm us in Waldorf homeschooling.   I divide this in my mind into three sections:  Inner Work, Rhythm;  Resources;  Inner Work.

INNER WORK:

Read or listen to what Steiner actually said in his educational lectures. It may help you decide what is really important and what Steiner really talked about.  We love the traditions of the Waldorf Schools, and they give us great clues to build upon, but homeschooling is not and cannot be running a Waldorf School.  We are ONE person, often with multiple children and multiple responsibilities.

Make peace with the fact that you are being called to homeschool, for whatever reason. Some come to Waldorf homeschooling from a place where they can’t afford a Waldorf School, so come to it looking for a holistic way of homeschooling. If you are homeschooling, then you must do the inner work to embrace the positives of homeschooling instead of seeing homeschooling as a negative.

More important than the education you are providing is to remember your family culture and where you live is providing an education in and of itself in this time and place. Work on that piece as the foundation. If you are grumpy and overwhelmed, then that is overshadowing whatever kind of educational experience you are trying to bring.  And I say that lovingly, as I have been there over the course of my 11 years of homeschooling. Use what is around you, that is free, to create your own environment. I tailor our homeschool deeply to our place living in the Deep South of the United States, and as an Episcopalian family.

Boundaries in the Big Picture. You need them in homeschooling and in life.  What is it about Waldorf that works, how can you keep things developmentally appropriate within the big picture (0-7 pictorial speech, movement; 7-14 feeling life; 14-21 thinking life).

Take care of yourself. I know it seems as if there is no time for you on top of everything else, but there must be.  You are still a developing human being yourself with needs for nourishment and care.  To deny that is the ultimate killer of homeschooling simplicity. Steiner talked explicitly about dietary indications to help children learn, which we now take for granted.  Your time is not wasted preparing healthy food and working in your home.

Putting spiritual work is minimalist at heart, because it constitutes the largest part of your teaching.  Find your spiritual path and way and exercise that like a muscle each and every day before school and at the end of the day.

RHYTHM:

Planning for a shorter school year (32-34 weeks) can be helpful.

Planning a four day a week rhythm.  If a child is 7th grade and up, I feel they can work on something independently on the fifth day if you choose that as a family.  Some may have children that can work independently earlier than 7th grade and really do a great job without you standing over them or having to re-do everything, but I find getting through the twelve year change is often helpful.

Keeping a weekly rhythm that is similar through all the early years and grades with everyone involved in practical work. I don’t really consider it chores at all, but an important part of homeschooling is learning how to nourish ourselves and the other people in our family.  We try to model that and live it!

Keeping  school each day to a reasonable amount of time.

Connecting to nature – this is especially important not just for younger children, but those past the twelve-year change.

Combine grades as much as possible if you have children in the same seven year cycle. If you know what capacities you are trying to elicit, and you know what speaks to that age (broadly, not as narrow as in a Waldorf School where things are divided by age into separate grades), then you can combine.

For most homeschooling families, there are not separate lessons for everything.  Most of us are wiped out after teaching even 2-3 Main Lessons and cannot do all the specialty lessons a Waldorf School would do.  That is homeschooling, and it is okay.  We are not a Waldorf School.  Gardening, music, cooking, etc may be incorporated as much as possible into the main lesson period.  Or the main lesson periods may be separated out for children of the same seven year cycle, and then the practical arts are done together in a separate period.

RESOURCES:

Here is where the rubber meets the road. Most of the resources on the market are not geared toward combining lessons for all children of the same seven year cycle.  Some of the resources on the market, to me, do not do a great job leading one toward the particulars of academic progression with very specific indications.  So I guess what I am saying is that Waldorf Education is an art; resources help but ultimately it is the inspiration of what the teachers comes up with in looking at the child in front of him or her.   If you are minimalist, you will find a way to combine using  the resources that are available and not go overboard in investing in a number of things you won’t use.

Your best resources are FREE – no clutter!  Library books and Rudolf Steiner Archives, plus the free Waldorf Library On-Line.

So, to me, a more useful approach than curriculum might be:  What is going on developmentally with my child right now and going into this school year?  What is going on temperament wise?  What is going on with the family?  How are we all feeling energetically and how much do I have to give this year?  

Then, when looking at specific blocks, ask the questions that will make it minimal and focused – what is the point of this block?  Why is it here?  Does it speak to me?   How can I bring it alive and what artistic and academic things do I hope to accomplish with this?  How will this bring us closer together?

If you use your time to work on both the artistic end of the curriculum, it is part of the inner work for you, and part of the curriculum. That is immensely minimalist!

In the end, Waldorf homeschooling is about educating human beings to know themselves in order to  live in freedom, where freedom means helping humanity in love.  If we keep pointing back to that, we have entered a minimalist way of teaching and being.

Much love,

Carrie