The January Rhythm Round-Up

 

Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next with enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchhill

 

Some families get really upset when talking about rhythm or trying to make a rhythm for their family.  It is okay to start and tweak and start, and most families experiences successes and failures!   Rhythm can be a beautiful tool to use to obtain a harmonious and peaceful family.  Having all family members home does not have to be complete chaos, and life doesn’t need to feel so hurried and harried.  With rhythm, you can tame your household care, the nourishment of your family through warming meals, help gently guide your children, establish security and stability for all family members, and have enough time for sleep, rest, play, alone time, family time, and time outside the home.

Everyone’s rhythm will look a little bit different, but the main shared feature is that rhythm is just that – a rhythm where things flow and balance and not a tight schedule that is a noose around one’s neck where one always feels behind!

For those of you needing help to get started, try the back post Rhythm for the Irregular and the tips in this post!

Here are  just a few suggestions by area/age:

Taking care of the household:

For a rhythm with household chores, begin with the immediate.  Do the emergency clean up, and then find a system that works for you to systematically go through your rooms and de-clutter.  It is hard to clean when there is clutter everywhere!  Some people swear by FlyLady, some use Konmari.  Finding the system that works for you can really help!

Tackle daily tasks household tasks daily – sorting through junk mail and throwing it out; the daily toy pick up before lunch and dinner or before bedtime; the wiping down of counters – for every house it may look different dependent upon your tolerance, but figure out your daily tasks and do them.  I have found FLYLADY to be helpful with this over the years because it involves a short amount of time.

Involve your children.  Even toddlers can do meaningful work.

Don’t let your older children off the hook- if they want to go and do things, the house needs to be taken care of first.  We are training adults who will go off and have a house and perhaps a family of their own.  What habits do we want them to have in terms of household care? Here is an interesting article from NPR on how habits form and how to break bad habits.

For a rhythm with meals:

Try to focus on the fact that it isn’t just food you are serving.  I love this quote from Kim John Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting”:  “The family dinner is more than a meal.  Coming together, committing to a shared time and experience, exchanging conversation, food and attention…all of these add up to more than full bellies.  The nourishment is exponential.  Family stories, cultural markers, and information about how we live are passed around with the peas.  The process is more than the meal:  It is what comes before and after.  It is the reverence paid.  The process is also more important than the particulars.  Not only is it more forgiving, but also, like any rhythm, it gets better with practice.”

That being said, for the physical act of meals, try weekly menu planning and shopping.

Look for recipes for the crock pot or Insta Pot for busy days.

Let your older children cook dinner one night a week.

Rhythm with Little Ones, Under Age 9:

Rhythm begins in the home. In this day and age of so many structured classes for little people, be aware of who the outside the home activity is really for!  Seriously think about how many structured activities you need outside the home!     Remember, it is almost impossible to have a healthy rhythm if you and your children are gone all the time scurrying from one activity to another.  Children under age 9 deserve a slow childhood with time to dream and just be (without screens) and I would vote for no outside structured activities for these tiny ages.  Mark off days to be solely home with no running around!

Rest is still the mainstay of the rhythm – a first grader may be going to bed around seven, a second grader by seven thirty or so, and a third grader by seven forty-five.  This may sound very early for your family, but I would love for you to give it a try. If you need ideas about this, I recommend this book.

Here is a back post about garnering rhythm with littles

If you are searching for examples, here is one for children under the age of 7 over at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life from 2012.

Remember, though, I don’t think a rhythm is about throwing out who you are, who your family is,  what your family culture is in order to replace it with something that someone else does. Rather, rhythm with little people should build upon the successes in your own home.  Every family does something really well, so what is your thing that you do really well that you could build upon?

Rhythm with Ages 10-14: 

Rest!  Rest and sleep are very important components of rhythm.  Sixth graders who are twelve are generally sluggish, and teenagers have rhythms regarding sleep that begin to change.  This article from the New York Times details many of the changes for teenagers (seventh and eighth grade).  In order for these children to get enough sleep, and since the starting time of public school middle school may be later (but probably not late enough!), I highly suggest limiting late night activities.  Again, choose your activities outside the home carefully and with much thought.

Media is harder to keep at bay for most families.  Remember, media impacts rhythm and vice versa.  It is often a time filler, and can prevent middle schoolers from solving their own problems of what to do when they are “bored” (or just being bored; there is value in boredom as well!)  and tapping into their own creativity.  It can derail any kind of “doing” rhythm.  Hold strong standards about media!  Some ideas:  use a Circle to manage time and content across devices ;  strongly limit apps (because every app you add generally leads to more time on the device) and do not allow social media.  We introduced the  computer in eighth grade (which I know is not always feasible for public or private school students who are using technology as part of school from an early age)  as a tool for school work more than a plaything, and I think that attitude also made a large difference.  If you allow movies/TV shows, I recommend using Common Sense Media , but I also feel this needs to be strongly limited (and I would vote toward not at all or extremely limited for the sixth grader/twelve year old) since these middle school years are  ages where children feel heavy, awkward, clumsy, and don’t particularly want to move.  So, more than anything else, I think watch what you are modeling — are YOU moving and outside or are you sitting all day on a screen?  Modeling still is important!   If they are sitting all day at school and with homework, it is important that they move vigorously when they are home from school and on the weekends!  With both things that unstructured in nature and as far as structured movement.

Remember that your middle schooler is not a high schooler. The middle schooler does not think, move, or act like a high schooler. Please don’t force high school schedules onto your middle schooler.  There should be a difference between the middle schooler and high schooler.

Rhythm for Ages 14 and Up:

I still believe the more natural point of separation for teens is around age 16.  So to those of you with fourteen year olds and early fifteen year olds, please hold steady in rhythm, in holding family fun, in holding your yearly holidays, and in mealtimes.  These are really important to young teens, even if they don’t act like it!

For those of you with older teens, 16 and up, ( which I don’t have yet but have many friends who do) : honor this time.  Most teens this age are spreading their wings with activities, driving, jobs, relationships, getting ready for life past high school. Don’t rush it, but allow space and time.  Just like walking, they will be ready for things when they are ready.

Bedtimes is controversial topic for older teens on many high school homeschooling boards.  Only you can decide what is right for your family.  If you have younger children in the house, your teen just may never get to sleep super late.

Media is another topic of controversy that, as mentioned above, can really impact rhythm, and for the homeschooling family, how schoolwork gets done (or not). Some teens handle media really well, some need super strong limits.  There is no one way families handle media for their teens, even in Waldorf families.

Do make family dates, family nights, family vacations, and so forth.  The family still trumps whatever friends are about.

Consider the impact of outside activities upon a teen’s stress levels.  Choose wisely and carefully.  We can’t do it all, and neither can a teen.

Rhythm For Spread- Out Ages:

Some parents who have large families make the centerpiece of their rhythm the home,  and then  for an outside activity choose one activity the entire family can participate in at different levels, such as 4H or a scouting organization that is co-ed. Some choose one activity for boys and one for girls.

Parts of the rhythm can and should  be carried by older children and teens for the littles.

Lastly, I did a 7 part series on rhythm in  2012, so perhaps these back posts will be helpful:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Celebrating The Light Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Use me, God.  Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I love this little prayer.  We are currently using it as a breakfast blessing, and will continue to use it until Lent.  Before we began saying this prayer, my little seven year old saw a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and commented that Dr. King “worked for all of America,” which I thought was an astute comment. May we all work for our own families, for each other and to build our nations in love and in generosity.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day  is an important day in the cycle of American festivals.  There are only three American federal holidays named after specific people:  George Washington’s birthday, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It is a day to celebrate the light and legacy of Dr. King:  his powerful oration, his ability to galvanize a nation toward equality in love, the youngest Noble Peace Prize winner at the time.

Our family is extremely lucky to live within driving distance of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and can visit and walk the areas that were most impactful in Dr. King’s life.  For those of you in many different parts of the country and world, perhaps you will be volunteering today to further light in the world.  Perhaps you will be supporting organizations that champion equality today; in the South we have the Southern Poverty Law Center which does work in civil rights and public interest legislation.

Perhaps for small children you would like to listen to the Sparkle Stories in honor of the legacy of Dr. King.

There are also many wonderful books to read:

I Have A Dream Book and CD

The Cart That Carried Martin (regarding the funeral of Dr. King)

There are many sort of “mid level” biographies to enjoy

“March” – the graphic novel trilogy by John Lewis (preread) (for tweens, teens, adults)

Adults may enjoy the March Trilogy and also this book, “A Gift of Love: Sermons From Strength to Love And Other Preachings” by Dr. King

 

Great inspiration for teenagers for artwork for the day could include the artwork of Derek Russell, which was shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center,  and I have been looking at this morning for my own inspiration.

Volunteering as a family is  a way that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is often celebrated.  Volunteering is another wonderful way to spend time together, build family bonds, and help others.  Sometimes families have a hard time finding volunteer opportunities that will take children under the age of 16, but I encourage you to check with different places in your area.  You may be surprised!

However, we must never forget that volunteerism also begins at home.  We help each other when we are stressed, tired, or upset.   We work together as a family team.   If we live in a neighborhood or subdivision, we help our neighbors in need, whether that is a hot meal or a listening ear.

May the selfless spirit of this day infuse every day for you and your family,

Carrie

 

The Light of the First Week of Advent

I am hoping to make this first Sunday in Advent and the first week of Advent a most special one.  As many of you know, our children range from age 15 down to age 7, and I find it almost even more important to hold the space with older children in the home around our holidays and traditions and to do my own inner work. I am finding it particularly important this year.

One of our most important traditions begins with the little verse for Advent found in most Waldorf Schools.  I really like this lovely little Advent verse.  This verse, on the London Steiner School website, was written/added to by Michelle Rumney and I will be using it as a meditation during the four weeks of Advent.

The first part of the verse begins:

The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones:

The Light that shines in seashells In crystals and our bones.

I am thinking about the light that these “solid” things -stones, seashells, crystals, bones- provide. How is that possible to be solid and light at the same time?  How is that ancient wisdom carried in something like a seashell to be a light from the ages?

The other part of my Advent inner  work is this prayer, which came from my father-in-law who is a priest of many years.  He was working with this beautiful early Irish confession and grace.  It may resonate with those of you who are fasting in Advent:

 Jesus, forgive my sins.

Forgive the sins that I can remember and the sins I have forgotten.

Forgive the wrong actions I have committed, and the right actions I have omitted.

Forgive the times I have been weak in the face of temptation, and those when I have been stubborn in the face of correction.

Forgive the times I have been proud of my own achievements, and those when I failed to boast of your works.

Forgive the harsh judgments I have made of others, and the leniency I have shown to myself.

Forgive the lies I have told to others, and the truths I have avoided.

Forgive the pain I have caused others, and the indulgence I have shown to myself.

Jesus have pity on me, and make me whole.  Amen.

(This, is, of course, the confession before the Peace in a Divine Liturgy, and before the Eucharist that brings “heaven intertwined with earth” where we take the Divine Life inside ourselves…I just want to point out the beautiful circle of joy that is within the church and Advent, lest this confession sound without hope by itself.  Advent, is after all, joy and hope and abiding.  All of these things!)

May we be wakeful at sunrise to begin a new day for you,

Cheerful at sunset for having done our work for you,

Thankful at moonrise and under starshine for the beauty of your universe;

And may we add what little may be in us to add to your great world.  — The Abbot of Grace

 

This Sunday, we will be making an Advent wreath.  (So, yes, I am locating candles now!).  We will be putting up some Christmas decorations, little by little, through Advent, so as to build up our decorations in time for Christmastide.  We usually set up our nativity scenes first and add figures to it as the weeks progress.    We typically get our tree in the second week of Advent in order to coincide with the second stanza in our Steiner verse.

This is a wonderful week to start making presents. I don’t make anything too complicated, but I do have a Pinterest board of holiday gifts to make, and will choose from those ideas. I also typically make food to share.  I try to have most of my commercial shopping done before Advent begins so I can focus on making things, but I certainly will have it wrapped up this first week!

I have some years’ worth of back posts on the first week of Advent, if you are searching for more ideas.

2008

2009

2010  (which has some suggestions for stories if you are searching for Advent stories)  and more 2010 (which has song and craft suggestions)

2011

2012

2013

2015

Many blessings and light this Advent,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

Martinmas Warmth

Warmth is one of my favorite topics of this time of year, and I think it is so exemplified in the story of Martinmas.  The beggar was cold and shivering, and St. Martin cut his cloak in two and gave half of it to the freezing man.  This generous act of providing physical warmth led directly to the experience of faith for St. Martin.  It reminds us that warmth comes on many levels.

Providing physical warmth for our children via layers of clothing and hats is so important, especially for young children whose physical body doesn’t work like an adult. Children have a metabolic rate that runs faster than an adult’s.  Therefore, under the age of nine especially, they are unlikely to know whether they are truly cold or not.  I am sure we have all experienced the child that is swimming in cold water and is literally blue, but doesn’t realize they are cold.  This is common amongst children who really cannot tell their own temperature very well.

As parents, I think it is important for us to keep our children warm.  We see this in many cultures all around the world – dressing babies warmly, even in subtropical and tropical climates.  When our children are warm enough, then energy will not be diverted from the growth and maturity of the nervous system just in order to keep warm.  Warmth allows our children to settle in, to not be restless, to rest and sleep and grow better, and to reach their fullest potential as human beings.

As a rule,  we recommend three layers on the top with one layer tucked in, and two layers on the bottom.  Here in Georgia I like two layers on the top and two layers on the bottom, just depending upon how cold and windy it is.  Contrary to popular belief, the Deep South does see snow and we do get freezing temperatures, although this year we are still running remarkably warm for mid to late November.   I like  the Ruskovilla wool/silk blend woolens from Green Mountain Organics, and owner Michelle Morton is lovely to work with!

However, perhaps the most important part of warmth is the one that can be so difficult – providing warmth emotionally and in generosity to others.  This doesn’t seem as if it would be difficult at all – we all love our children.  However, sometimes the day to day routine of taking care of toddlers, preschoolers, and multiple ages is exhausting.  Some mothers tell me it can be enough to keep everyone safe and cleaned and fed and to the bathroom and back, let alone to think about games, or playing, or entertaining, or having fun!

In parenting, we have to search for the joy.  The outward manifestation of this warmth IS the nourishing care we provide, but the emotional component of warmth and joy is much more elusive.  Do we delight in our children?  Some children, particularly melancholic children, are much more sensitive to this barmeter than others.  Small children NEED to sit on your lap and be close to you.  I always say this about the age of four years old. Four is a great age for sitting on laps – but all ages love to be close.  Teenagers will drape themselves over you. Emotional warmth and connection!

Playing, reading together,  laughing, taking time together is this emotional warmth.  For teenagers where nothing seems to be quite right, sometimes time alone with you as the parent and working shoulder to shoulder (not too much pressure to talk but being together), or taking a small outing, even just a walk without younger siblings, can be such warmth and wonder.  I think being outside in nature also provides this essential warmth – the warmth of connectedness and interconnectedness of the world.

Lastly, generous acts for those less fortunate than ourselves is at the heart of the warmth of Martinmas.  Consider collecting, volunteering, helping.  This could be local  friends in a tough spot this year or strangers in your community or the world. Enjoy this light, warmth, and protection of Martinmas by sharing it.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Martinmas Light

This whole week we will be celebrating Martinmas in our family.  With it brings the ideals of warmth, light, and protection to bring to ourselves, our families, and our communities.

There are many wonderful songs to bring to our children that exemplify carrying light in the darkness. There are four wonderful songs on pages 28-30 in the Autumn Wynstones book – “We Carry Our Light In the Darkening Light,”  “My Lantern, My Lantern,” “The Sunlight Fast Is Dwindling,” and “Glimmer, Lantern, Glimmer.”

The other fun thing to do is to play with light itself through the beautiful making of lanterns.  Those of us who have been homeschooling for a long time usually have a collection of lanterns made over the years – how fun to take them all out and put them about in our homes and homeschooling spaces and see how long we can use them and not turn electric lights on in the morning or in the evening.  There is also something very comforting to very small children in lighting the lanterns and having tea around the time it gets dark each afternoon.

Now is also a good time to replenish the candles on the table and even freshen our verses for thanksgiving and gratitude before we eat.  Small gestures have such large meaning for our children.  Candle dipping or candle rolling is always lovely this time of year.

Lastly, now is a fun time to play with window tranparencies. I love little scenes for autumn and winter. I enjoy saving window stars for Advent and Christmastide, and Rose Windows for around Candlemas, but little window transparencies are so enjoyable.  Just yesterday I picked up this book, entitled, “Transparent Window Scenes Through The Year.”  I cannot wait to delve in and make a few window scenes to enjoy.

I have some more thoughts about bringing light in on a spiritual level, so perhaps our next post…

Blessings and love,
Carrie

November Love and Gratitude

I was thinking about gratitude the other day in this month of thankgiving…and I was thinking how often, we think in our head that we KNOW we should be grateful, that we should be full of gratitude…but in our hearts we still feel this discontent; that things could be different; things could be better; things could be more perfect.  Have you ever felt that way?  And Steiner talks about gratitude, love, and duty.  I thought this blog post did a wonderful job talking about this topic.  It has been on my mind a lot.

Gratitude is a way to look at the world. How do we nurture this in ourselves and in our children?  I think in order to model this for our children,  we need two things.  The first thing is to find our own contentment and the second thing is to find our sense of wonder.

I find if I can say, “This will somehow all work out for good,” or “I am exactly where I need to be,” or  “I am thankful even though this didn’t work out the way I wanted it to,” the more my contentment grows and the more thankful I feel. The less I complain and find joy in the ordinary moments, in telling the people around me how much I love them and how I appreciate them, the more my gratitude grows. Especially for  small children, this modeling is what they see and need.

The second thing we need is our sense of wonder.  We often talk about this for tiny children, but I think our older children and teens also desperately need this.  However, in order to have a sense of wonder, we must not be rushed.  We need unhurried time and space in order  to mark the sunset, the appearance of the stars, the whiskers of our furry friends, to see the strange bud of the sunflower blooming right now, in November, in my yard.   Gratitude occurs in these ordinary moments and cannot be scripted.

I think with older children, we can speak more directly about the pitfalls of never being content because contendness goes with gratitude.  To say that we are thankful “but” is not being thankful with our whole hearts.  We can look at books that have gratitude as a theme.  We can say what we are grateful for that happened during the day whether at night before bed or around the dinner table.   We can talk about how we can dial back our “wants” for material goods and instead foster volunteerism.  We can still model. We can do with love for each other in our own families because that generosity toward others begins right at home.   And we can be persistent. Volunteer, wonder, and have gratitude together.

I would love to hear about your traditions for fostering gratitude and love in this month of November.

Blessings,

Carrie

The Outdoor Learning Symposium

I am a member of the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia  and recently went to a day of workshops during The Outdoor Learning Symposium.  The workshops I attended were very interesting.

I went to one session that was held by a geologist and a biogeologist and talked about how we can use plants to identify the rocks beneath our feet.  Our state is very wooded and covered in plants.  Our capital city has the highest density of tree canopy coverage in the nation, so plants are an important intersection with Earth Science teaching in our state.  We essentially looked at the most common types of rocks found in our state by geographic region (which is taught in our state in the third grade, in Waldorf Schools we tend to teach this in fourth grade) and  then  what plants grew there due to the soil conditions.  We went through the prehistoric epochs to see WHY we have the types of rocks here that can be found, why our state is low in fossil finds, how Africa merged with North America and essentially took the part of the state that is now Atlanta, which was off the coast of Cape Hatteras and shoved it into where it was today.  Some of the rocks we went through included quartz and the plants associated with quartz, granite, amphibilate,  and limestone (and why our state only has marble in a certain place).   The best resources for this type of work include using indicator plants, using geologic maps, the web soil survey of the USDA. I bought a great geologic game for children. I already had the roadside geology guide for my state, and many other states are available.  This is the site for the Georgia book and geologic game that I use.  Earth Science Literacy standards were also addressed.  We received free pamphletswith the “Big Ideas” of Earth Science literacy.  For more information on this, you can see Earth Science Literacy.

I also went to sessions about Project WET and Project Learning Tree.  Project WET focuses on action-oriented education that helps children understand the value of water in the world. In that session, we played a variety of games, even including magic tricks, that focused on water.  They have a great curriculum that can be obtained by  taking a certification course that runs about 10 hours, but there are also a variety of free resources available as well.  There are other “sister” organizations in my state that work together, including Project WILD (wildlife focus) and Project Learning Tree (forestry).  All of these have separate certifications to be able to use their curriculum, but from what I saw it would be easy to incorporate many of these ideas and concepts into Waldorf Education.

The last session I attended was a Project Learning Tree session where we discussed forestry,  the role of trees in our state, and made paper.  It was a fun session.  For those of you looking for ideas regarding paper making, this book was there and it was fun to look through:  300 Ideas for Papermaking.  We had a great time making paper with all kinds of add-ins.

Lots of fun, and looking forward to the Annual Southeastern Environmental Education Conference and Research Symposium  next year!

Blessings,

Carrie