The Fourth Week of Advent and a SPECIAL offer

This year, the fourth week of Advent is very short since it is also Christmas Eve Day and then we are thrust into the joy and splendor of Christmastide!  There are some wonderful activities for the fourth week of Advent, including baking gingerbread men, adding human figures to your Advent spiral.  There are wonderful stories for this week.

But most of all, this fourth week of Advent is about LOVE for humankind. Are there any single mothers who might need your help?  Maybe their children would like to go shopping and get their parent a gift.  Are there any people around you who you know are having such a tight Christmas financially that maybe a card for groceries would make a huge difference?  Is someone suffering through grief and loneliness this holiday?  Can you listen, walk with them, have them over.

This is a short week this Advent, but I really encourage you to look outside of your realm and see if you can help anyone else.  I am grateful we were in a space this year to help several families out.  It really was the best!  Let us teach our children that this is what Advent and Christmastide is all about!

I had several mothers contact me this past week about working with them to set new patterns and new intentions in their family life and homeschooling.  I don’t normally do consulting and answer a lot of email questions for free.  I have for years and years.  But this year, in a spirit of love and encouragement, I am offering half hour and full hour phone consultations through the month of January.  If you would like a phone consultation, with me please email be at admin@theparentingpassageway.com to reserve your spot.

Many blessings to you in this special week.  Looking ahead, may your 2018 be bright.

Blessings,
Carrie

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Tenth Grade Literature

In Waldorf Tenth Grade, much of the literature focus in a Waldorf School is on dramatic literature in Ancient Epic form – the Edda, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, etc.  There is usually study of epic poetry and the writing of comparisons, essays, short storys, literature analysis and perhaps a research on a pre-Christian theme.  This is what is published on the Waldorf School Curriculum:  An Overview for American Waldorf School Teachers as published by AWNSA.

I think in the home environment we have possiblities in some different ways than just this description.  I took apart our tenth grade literature year in several distinct ways:

Poetry (combined with seventh grade): “Fundamentalism” by Naomi Shihab Nye; “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou; “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks; “Eventide” by Gwendolyn Brooks; “Georgia Dusk” by Jean Toomer; “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg; “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman; “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe; “A Valentine” by Edgar Allen Poe; the riddle poems of Emily Dickinson;  “Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens. For the spring semester, I am not sure if we are going to focus more on poetry or on essay writing.

Independent Reading/Book Reports:  I am requiring six book reports this school year, most from people of color or women authors.  So far this semester our tenth grader has read “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse; ” The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver; ” Copper Sun” by Sharon Draper; and “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan.  Not sure what we will read in the spring semester yet.

Ancient Epics/Dramatic Literature Blocks:  “The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato (compared to the movie The Matrix); Gilgamesh; The Odyssey by Homer; scenes from the Ramayana; Beowulf.

Contemporary African-American Literature Block (time from of Black Arts Movement to the present):   “Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation” by Toni Morrison; “Haiku” by Sonia Sanchez; “Get It Together” by India Arie and “The Evil That Men Do” by Queen Latifah; “The Sky Is Grey” by Ernest Gaines; “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” by Tupac Shakur; “Ego Tripping” by Nikki Giovanni; “The Burden of Race” by Arthur Ashe; “American Hero” by Essex Hemphill; “To Some Supposed Brothers” by Essex Hemphill; “Women With Meaning” by Haki Madhubuti

Short Stories:  “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty; “The Necklace”; “The Open Window” by Saki.

Would love to hear what you are working on with your high schooler!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Fifth Grade: Beautiful Botany

“The plant world is the Earth’s soul world made visible, and this is why we can compare it with human beings.  But you should not merely make comparisons; you must also teach the children about the actual forms of the plants.”……”All children, who in their youth learn to know plants according to scientific principles,  should first learn about them as we have described – that is, by comparing them with soul qualities.” – Discussions With Teachers, Discussion Ten, Rudolf Steiner

I think we can get a little hung up in this block if we are not careful.  There is a balance to hold about the study of botany and the ideas that come from anthroposophy about the soul qualities of plants and awakening the feeling life and this sort of scientific botany proper.   I think we hint at the scientific, we work with observation skills needed in all sciences, and we also see the wonder, awe and reverence for the plant world. Scientific botany proper often comes in during the grades 6-8 in ecology and biome discussions, and then a whole block in grade 11.

Some people really balk at Steiner’s analogy about human development compared to plants that he outlines in “Discussions With Teachers.”.   However, one must remember that in the line of Steiner’s thinking, he is not working on the physical level (ie, that physically mushrooms have no complexity, for example)  but the spiritual level in his analogy of expressing the “pleasures of infancy” to mushrooms and fungi ( remember, this is a SOUL quality, he is NOT saying that the mushrooms and fungi are babies!), pleasures of early childhood – algae and mosses; experiences at the awakening of consciousness of self -ferns; experiences of the fifth and sixth year up to school age – gymnosperms and conifers; first school experiences, years 7-11- parallel veined plants, Monocotyledons: experiences of the eleven year old – Simple dicotyledons: and school experiences from the 12-15th year – the net veined plants, Dicotyledons; plants with green calyx and colored petals (page 144, Discussions With Teachers).   There is a lot of information for you to digest in his lectures, which I highly recommend you read before you plan fifth grade! He is also is comparing the different types of plants to the perfect plant as expressed by Goethe as well.

Yet, I personally feel remiss if I don’t mention a little bit about where plants are currently in scientific thought in this block along with some of the anthroposophic ideas about soul qualities of the human being as identified and unfolding in different plants as mentioned above. (See the comments from readers  below for more on this!) I mean, at this point, algae and lichens are not even considered part of the  plant kingdom and I  usally do mention this (I also mention that for most laypeople, however, people still think of them more as plants if we look at things from the perspective of mineral-plant-animal- people, which is why we study them in this block). I don’t think it has to be either -or, but a balance.

Outside of lots of field trips and lots of time to draw out in the field, some of the things I like to do in a general flow as below:

  • The Plant as a meeting of all four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) along with Time.  The plant as an expression of the human soul in stages of unfolding capacities.
  • How do the seasons work on the plant? (great drawings can come out of this!)
  • Roots (tap roots, fibrous roots, rhizomes, tubers), stems, buds,  leaves
  • Fungi (stem cap, gills) (dying properties) (great for modeling,  drawing with pastels)
  • Algae (great for painting and modeling)
  • Lichen ( I tied into the idea of biomes and relationships with the animals)
  • The Perfected Plant and how some plants attain part of this perfection (like a fern mainly expresses the leaf, horsetail mainly the stem)
  • Mosses (liverwort, mosses, creation of peat, uses of moss)
  • Ferns (the largest division of the plant kingdom) (also great for painting, drawing, modeling)
  • Conifers
  • Monoctylodons, bulbous flowers (see Learning About the World Through Modeling for modeling ideas)
  • Grasses
  • Simple and complex Dicotyledons
  • Trees (look in “New Eyes for Plants”); find out about your state tree if you are in the United States
  • Biomes which will extend into all of the middle school grades….

Resources:

  • Discussions With Teachers, pages 105-135
  • There are numerous suggestions for painting in the book “Painting and Drawing in the Waldorf School”
  • Drawing From The Book of Nature
  • New Eyes for Plants
  • Learning About the World Through Modeling
  • Tree in the Trail by Holling C Holling is a nice read aloud for this block
  • The Internet for legends about plants
  • Your local library

Blessings,
Carrie

Nurturing Parenting: The 12-14 Year Old

One interesting thing that Waldorf Schools typically do in sixth grade (at least in the United States) is to have the students make dolls.  These are  not put together the way a professional dollmaker would put a doll together,  but more from an organic process that almost follows the development of the embryo itself and forshadows the physical development of the human being as it comes to life.  From loving nothingness to a small tightly wrapped ball (the head), expanding into the universe as a defined trunk  then with limbs taking shape (arms with a thumb and legs with feet)  and finally  a little being with twinkling eyes,  beautiful hair and clothes.

This fulllness of the human being is then echoed in seventh grade physiology, in eighth grade studies of reproduction, and in tenth grade in the studies of embryology.  This beautiful expanse of the human being is coming at a time of intense fragility of the 12-14 year old.

It is easy to think that once one is through the nine/ten-year-change, that the floodgates open wide. I have discussed some of these issues before in a series on portals.  And yet, there is still a twelve-year-old change to follow, and a fifteen/sixteen year change, which to me may be the most dramatic of them all.

Much like the toddler stage of life, young people of this age need protection at this time.  This is the time of the middle school grades in the United States, and often noted to be a very difficult time due to differences in physiological development, peer cliques, and I believe that the use of social media has compounded these issues. Being rather stuck between wanting to be more adult-like but also have the freedoms of childhood is difficult for the child, but also for the parent!

There is a certain fragility and uncertainty in these years that are like no other. Balancing the freedoms often provided to these group and the structure is a navigational process. I believe this age group needs protection from their limitless energy and wanting to do too much.  The limits of this age group in doing activities has essentially been eliminated. In the past, one might start playing sports in middle school (and you didn’t get much play until 8th grade) or doing more than one activity in high school. Now children in middle school have been playing sports for years and doing many activities.  They need help setting guidelines for sleeping, healthy eating, and more, and helping in meeting those guidelines even when they would rather stay up extraordinarily late or eat only sugary snack food.

So, in parenting this age group, please consider limits.  Children of 12-14 should not be treated like an older teenager with all the fun and none of the responsibilities.  While there is a campaign to“Wait Until 8th” for a smartphone , many twelve to fourteen year olds are navigating social media sites and media usage.  Media should not be limit-free for this age group!  Sending nude pictures, sexting, and using social media and texts in order to bully  a peer is sadly not uncommon in this age group because again, many of the children this age have no limits in terms of hours on their devices, and parents are not checking phones and computers.  One way to think about setting limits on media is to use a device like a Disney Circle; you can see a review from 2015 here; I believe now certain sites can be more easily blocked than what this review has stated.  Some parents have no idea what their child is doing on line or that they have multiple used profiles on Instagram or are on Snapchat or other sites. Devices such as these can trail usage across multiple devices.

Children of this age may need help being active in a free and easy way.  Many children this age like to “hang out” but the days of 12  and 13 year olds zooming bikes around a neighborhood or playing pick up games may not happen as much in the past.  How can this child be active without or in addition to an organized sport?  This typically requires free time that has no agenda. Having time to just be protects children and gives them space in this fragile state where they are emerging and trying to hear their own voice and may even give them time to connect with you, the parent.  You are still more important than peers at this age. In fact, I think the ages leading up to the fifteen/sixteen year changes may be one of the times you have the greatest influence.  So don’t give up! 

Lastly, help your child not to be a terrible human being with peers.  No, we can’t police everything, and yes, perhaps we were not policed in our peer relationships at this age in the past, and yes, friendships come and go in the middle school years as middle schoolers try to find their own voice and where they belong.  However, I think because so much of the free group play of the early years and early grades has been lost and replaced by adult-led, structured activities, children this age are coming into the more socially difficult middle school years with even less social abilities than in previous generations.  Help your child to learn what a loyal friendship looks like; is that friend really a friend or not; what bullying and toxic behavior looks like, talk to them about peer pressure in the areas of drugs and alcohol and sexuality.

Provide areas where children MUST show responsbility, whether that is nurturing the home, helping to care for a younger sibling, help with elders in the family, run a tiny business from the home.  Too many of the children this age have many toys and a run of what they want to do with no limits, but yet have no responsibility outside of themselves in terms of contributing to the family.

Most of all, just love them.  These years bring many changes in development in all areas being human.  Remember that this age is not 17 or 18 though, and as opposed to guiding an older teenagers with check-ins, they may need more parenting and limits than an older age group.  Being involved in this fragile, almost back to toddlerhood stage of needing protection is how it should be. It is a fine line between hovering and meddlesome and being helpful; boundaries are key to navigating this.  If you need help, I highly suggest you make friends with parents who have older children that you admire.  It can be helpful to hear what worked really well at this age, especially in those older teenagers that might have a similar personality to your younger child.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

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

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