Conversations With My Daughter

A long time ago, when my oldest daughter who will be sixteen in a few weeks was around ten (!!!), I wrote a blog post about some of the things I hoped to impart to her.  In this post, I talked about how since my mother died when I was young, she never had a chance to talk to me about any of the things about navigating being a  teenager or young adult, so I felt as if this conversations were really important and how I hoped to layer in discussion over time.

Since then, my surprise is that many women whose mothers were or are alive also didn’t receive ANY direction or guidance about navigating being a young adult!  There were no discussions on how to navigate choosing a career, finances, living on one’s own, choosing a partner for life, raising children, creating a family.  It was almost as if the child or teen would pick it up by osmosis, or figure it out for him or herself.  It rather floors me!

I had a little list in the blog post I linked above, and like to think I have imparted some guidance on each of these areas at this point.  This is very personal to our family since it includes living as an Episcopalian and in accordance with our baptismal vows since this is our family’s faith and often influences our politics as well; the foundation of Christian life; talks about marriage and children; serving others; boundaries; respecting oneself; healthy communication; the facets of health including whole food nutrition, homeopathy , herbs, movement and chiropractic care and how a woman changes throughout the life span;  money and finances.  You can come up with your own list based on your own family’s values, and that is really much of the fun! What do you think is super important that your teen needs to know to thrive in our world as a young adult?

Lately, we have been focusing on finance and insurance. Personal finance can be an area that is difficult for parents to discuss with teens. Sometimes it comes up when a  teen gets a job and opens a bank account or has to save for a large purchase such as a car.  However, it is also wonderful to talk about saving and types of saving, contributing to charities, and types of insurance that one has to carry, and how finances change over the life span. One thing I have recently pointed out to my oldest is that many people my age (47) don’t have much in the way of savings for retirement because either they weren’t interested in that in their 20s and 30s or life happened and much of the savings is now gone or that they really went out and bought too large a house and too many new things when they were starting out.  Some people my age are also still saddled under large student loans from college.  So, I have stressed that is important to start saving even in your teens and throughout the 20s and 30s and ways to free up enough money to do this (one: don’t live above your means!).  One resource some homeschooling moms of teens  use to discuss finance are the free materials from  The Actuarial Foundation.   Such things as developing a budget and the use of credit (or not) can also be discussed.  Credit ratings for buying a home is another area of interest.   The other point we have been talking about includes all types of insurance.  Many parents discuss car insurance with their teen drivers, but often don’t talk about homeowners insurance, medical insurance, life insurance ( and the difference between whole and term insurance), disability insurance, and long-term care insurance.  We plan to use the personal finance things in eleventh grade, so that should be interesting.

In the last few years my teen will be home, I also want to talk more about choosing a partner in life and the course of marriage. I find this is one area in which many women say they received absolutely no guidance other than they would date and fall in love…and from there, things were rather nebulous.  What traits should one look for in a spouse?  Why do some marital relationships fail over time and why do others thrive?   What boundaries should one have in intimate relationships?  What really does  make  a marriage thrive?  How do marriages change  if you have children?  Some resources I have found include the “Boundaries” book series, (this is  Christian, and I am certain there most be secular versions of this type of material).  The Gottman Institute also has a number of good articles on their blog and in their books regarding this subject.  I also have plans to discuss some of the concepts in this article and some things about narcissism  as many women my age are telling me they are married to narissists or have identified their own fathers as one.

The other area of focus I am also thinking about recently  includes child development, developing a family culture, taking care of a home, and how to guide children by developmental stage.  This is, of course, something that has been modeled all of these years, but I think it is important to say it in words and to really talk about it.  We will be doing health this year, so  some of these facets  will be part of our health class.

I would love to hear what you are talking about to your teen lately!  If you have found any great articles or resources that would be a terrific springboard for discussion with daughters, I would love to hear about it!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

A Discipline Toolbox

The major discipline tools for all ages are

  • Empathy/Compassion
  • Correction (The Boundary)
  • Consequences and Restitution

If you have only empathy/compassion without the correction, then you have an empty discipline toolbox indeed.  All three parts are needed to have a functioning toolbox to help guide children into becoming healthy adults who can have functioning relationships, families, and jobs of their own.

Children may protest boundaries, but yet it is ours to lovingly hold boundaries until are children can internalize the boundaries and hold them for themselves.  Only providing a child with compassion or empathy, and no boundary and no consequence, will not help a child internalize that.   Many parents I work with will protest this and wonder why we need boundaries at all, but boundaries are where I end and you begin.  Boundaries are what enable healthy relationships;  they enable us to be able to take our responsibility for things in life but also to not hold things that are not ours to carry.  We can help our children attain this, using all three of these pieces.

If boundaries are difficult for you, then it  may be hard to teach it to your children and hard for you to hold boundaries. It may be that nothing short of hurting someone else deserves a boundary.  However, there are many tools children need to function in the world that involve more than just not being able to hurt someone, and boundaries are there to help develop these qualities.  We want children to know who they are, what they are responsible for, how to intiate and maintain loving relationships.  Because in the end, you are not raising this child for yourself.  You are raising this child for all of humanity, and for this child’s future family.  Sometimes, this means uncomfortable growth for both us and for the child.  And that is okay.

Always and ever growing,

Carrie

 

 

 

How To Get Your Early Planning Going!

Hello Friends!

It has been a busy time of year here with finishing school, enjoying friends and squishing in pool time.  One thing I have been serious about since I came home revitalized and encouraged from the Waldorf Homeschool Conference in Orlando, FL is to jump on planning.  There is a lot to coordinate this year.  My seasonal/festival ideas for each month are written down from over the years, and our start/end/probably vacation dates are also written out. I had an idea of possible block rotations  (subject to change), and I have recently sat down and gathered resources.  Most of them are Waldorf resources; there are some Oak Meadow resources for my tenth grader; but many resources are just library books sorted into subjects or things off of Teachers Pay Teachers for high school  to fill in my own gaps or to work with specific works of literature for high school.  Then I made a list of what needs to be planned:

  1. High School Spanish 3 – I will be facilitating this through a traditional text book and additional readings and games I found on Teachers Pay Teachers.
  2. A combination health (for our tenth grader) and seventh grade physiology (traditionally done in a block in seventh grade but I am combining with my high schooler’s health) twice a week.
  3. A twice a week writing track where I am combining my tenth and seventh graders, focused on the wish, wonder, surprise theme traditionally found in Waldorf  seventh grade where we can focus on skill progression in writing and different types of writing for our tenth grader.
  4. Second Grade Blocks and Weekly Nature Study.  This will be my third time through second grade, so I am familiar with much of the material but hope to really bring fun and new ideas to it all and make it very active for our very active little choleric guy.
  5. Seventh Grade Blocks – to include physics, Renaissance and Reformation history, Exploration, astronomy, several math blocks and hopefully a little block on Colonial America at the very end of seventh grade.  I am going to save the whole of chemistry for eighth grade.
  6.  Tenth Grade Blocks – still debating on blocks; we never got to our ninth grade Art History block as we ran out of time and we have a few topics in Biology to finish. Other than that, I am planning blocks in US Government, Embryology, Ancient Civilizations and Ancient Literature, a block of poetry, and a block of Contemporary African-American Literature, and several math blocks.
  7. Fantastic Fun – these will be hands-on things on a single topic once a week all together.   I fully expect our second grader to be in the room for many of these topics that really mesh more with seventh and tenth grade such as African geography, Latin American geography, project-based math, navigation,  and more (essentially places where I felt seventh and tenth grade overlap) so I am thinking of the best way to approach some of this. Our second grader probably will just weave in and out, and much like the way I feel about younger children hearing stories that they will encounter later, it just is what it is.  Homeschooling is first and foremost about family and I don’t wish to banish him from our activities.
  8. My other big plan is to begin this school year and have a week or week and a half of the life of Buddha and Buddhism – this ties into the Silk Road for our seventh grader, and into the Ancient World for our tenth grader and it could tie into stories for our second grader.  I envision this primarily as an artistic time, and hope to work with creating clay sculpting (tenth grader) and black and white drawing (seventh grader) and some other projects.  I also plan to read Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” to the older children and work on some projects coordinated with that.
  9. Summer Reading lists – I am having our rising tenth grader read Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Bean Trees” and the book “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. I also included a tenth grade reading list to pick several books of choice off of during the summer and school year for book reports.   I am having our rising seventh grader read, “Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World” and probably something that bridges the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

How are you coming along planning?  I wish for peaceful planning for you!

I think the best ways to get your early planning going is to see where you can combine children in blocks or topics, gather your resources, and just begin.  Where is the wonder and activity, and where is the skill progression for the upper grades? I would to hear from you how you are doing!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

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