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

 

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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

 

 

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: August

August is here! For some parts of the United States, August is like the deep, long, and slow Sunday of the summer.  For some parts, like the Southeastern United States, public schools are already in session and summer is sort of over (although we still have hot, sweltering weekend days to celebrate!).

August is one of my favorite months.  It makes me think of shooting stars, starry nights and campfires, lake days, sunflowers, lavender, and bees and honey.  We have an abundance of dragonflies right now and all kinds of wildlife – especially the baby deer are out.

This month we are celebrating:

  • August 6th – The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Grow Christians has a blog post about this Feast; this Episcopalian blog is one I follow daily and I find it has many good posts about tackling the Five Marks of Mission of the Episcopalian Church within the home and celebrating Feast Days)
  • August 9th- The Feast Day of St. Herman of Alaska (this is one of my son’s favorite saints) (we love this book about St. Herman)
  • August 15th – The Dormition of St. Mary the Virgin
  • August 31st – The Feast Day of St. Aidan – you could tell the story of St. Aidan and his horse

Fun for the whole family:

  • If school hasn’t started, the last of beach holidays!
  • Physical fun – taking walks and hikes together; sometimes August is a great month for waterfall hikes
  • Watching the meteor shows peaking on August 11 in the lower 48 states
  • Sunflower crafts
  • Making lavender crafts and this has many craft links for lavender if you scroll down

Contemplating:

I just came back last night from giving the first “Parenting Passageway” workshop ever…so I am contemplating more workshops, topics, and what that would look like.  Thank you to my first group of participants yesterday in North Carolina!

Please share with me your August plans!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

Playing For The Same Team

I grew up in a sports-loving family (even though I was not a great athlete myself!).  Despite my immersion in the world of sports and “sports lingo”, it took me quite awhile to see how to see how building a family does have similarities to building a team.  Sometimes in a family, especially with juggling careers, financial concerns, everything being new and each phase of childhood development being new and different with no road map, it could just seem like putting out one fire after another or just reacting to one thing after another rather than having the skill to really build a vision, build a family, build a peaceable team.

We often hear a lot about being a mindful parent or being a “conscious” parent.  To me that means attempting to be proactive, not reactive.  However, I think there is more to family life than that.  Family life is about relationships.  It is about building something more wonderful than you could have on your own.  And yes, in a way, it is about succession of the team as your children grow up and go out into the world and make choices completely independently.

Shared values lead to two things:  a shared vision and also boundaries that support your values.  What does a “X” family member embrace?  What are the values of the family?   For example, if the value is to stay home and be home more as a family, then the boundary might be a child can play one season of sports per school year (ie, just fall sports; not fall, winter, and spring!) Or that might mean summers are slow, and not full of camps because you value being a family together.  I have written before about the power of a family mission statement.  I urge you, and all the adults in your house (especially if that includes extended generations) to talk about what that means.  What are the values and the vision?  Some families are lucky enough to really have a clear sense of this without a lot of discernment or fuss, but other families  are starting at ground zero and really have to work at it as a process.  The process is so valuable!

We all protect each other.  We calm each other with love, we encourage each other, we play for the same team so it is never parent against child or child pitting parent against parent.  We are kind, we protect each other in that our home is a haven, we use kind and gentle words and most of all, when mistakes happen, we forgive each other AND we make restitution.  We are all learning and not one of us is perfect.

We trust each other.  In small children, this idea of trust begins with the fundamentals of attachment – emotional attachment, physical attachment.   You can see organizations such as La Leche League League or Attachment Parenting  International for more information about how to do this with infants and beyond.  Boundaries, limits with love,  are also a form of attachment because they provide respect for a child’s developmental age and they give security and confidence to a child.  People often wonder about attachment in teenagers.  For teenagers, attachment means being available and present, and trusting and knowing when to push and not push, and how to embrace differences in a livable way .  It also means still setting appropriate boundaries and making sure you know the differences between why a 14 year old is different than a 17 year old. It also means letting older children and teens make mistakes and not rescuing, not hovering.

Finally, embracing our differences as people makes a family successful. In my family, there are introverts and extroverts. There are huge age differences as well.  There are common points we all share, and sometimes there are viewpoints we don’t share.  Family meetings can be a great place to bring some of that out.

Share with me how you build your family as a team.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Weeks 31-33 Waldorf Homeschooling

Some weeks have gone by since last posting in this series.  It has been a busy time of year with our children’s dear grandfather celebrating his 80th birthday, our middle child fracturing her arm, and end of the year performances and banquets. In the midst we have celebrated the Feast of Ascension, Ascensiontide, May Day, Mother’s Day,  and today is Whitsun, the Feast of Pentecost.

Kindergarten:  During these past weeks, we have been living life together making bone broth, baking, walking and hiking, wet on wet painting, modeling,  and preparing little things for the festivals.  Our circle time included an adventure circle modeled after Peter Rabbit’s garden adventures, finger plays about birds and bunnies,  and this week included songs and finger plays about doves for Whitsun.  We were immersed in the story of “Forgetful Sammy” from the book “All Year Round” but we have now moved into a story from the Summer Wynstones book simply titled, “Whitsun Story”.  Our major project this week was a garland of doves made from watercolor paper and singing!    I also made a tiny jar of woolen white birds on little sticks to decorate our nature table.

Fifth Grade:  We finished our Canada/Metric System block and moved into the totality of North American geography.  Before this, our read alouds involved  books about Canada and also Hawaii, but now we are moving into a different part of North American geography with a little book called, “Salsa Stories”.  I began this block with an expansive look at North America and the  United States, all the major mountain ranges, rivers, deserts, and lakes.  Then we went to Alaska, and from there we jumped across the continent to the Northeastern United States and spent time there on the land, on logging and whaling and the Erie Canal.  So, we have done mainly singing, painting,  and drawing this time around. I had plans for modeling but that is difficult with one arm casted, so I am saving those ideas for now.  We have discussed the District of Columbia, and Washington DC, which we have visited, talked about George Washington and Mount Vernon and tied the flora of the region in the early days of Colonial America to the early Presidents and their role in a primarily agrarian country that was different than England.  We looked briefly at the Appalachian Mountains through literature and now are looking at life in a southern plantation, the life of Sequoyah, and then into the Mississippi River and the wonderful Western United States.

Every day we are reviewing provinces, capitols, and geographic features from our Canada block, reviewing the states and capitols, the mountain ranges and deserts, etc, locating things on a map and making all of this as physically active as possible.  We have been using extra books for reading aloud and also the “Stories Where We Live” series.  For skill development, we are working on a state report, which I modified from A Waldorf Journey’s ebook about this block, which was my biggest inspiration for this block.  Author  Meredith is a wonderful,  actively teaching Waldorf teacher, and I love all her little guides.  I also garnered inspiration from a book of poetry called, “My America:  A Poetry Atlas of the United States.”

We are also continuing to work on math and spelling daily.

Eighth Grade: We finished up our American History block, including the War on Terror, the Age of Digitality, and the challenges we face ahead as one humanity.  Our daughter drew a very gorgeous title page and everything is done! Yay!

For Oceanography and Meteorology, we moved from the very first marine scientists, who were explorers.  We looked at the explorers of Easter Island,  and the development of civilization on that island and then the life of Captain James Cook.  From there, we moved into the science of the oceans – what is an ocean?  what is oceanography?  how do our oceans change?  We looked at the biographies of Alfred Wegener and Hess, and the Theory of Plate Tectonics and the layers of the Earth.    We went through all the landforms of the ocean floor and what ocean life is like in different zones of the ocean and around different landforms.  We also looked at the biography of oceanography Sylvia Earle and looked closely at the Marine Sanctuary off the coast of our state – Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. From the hydrosphere,  we moved into the Atmosphere.  We discovered the layers of the atmosphere and their characteristics, what clouds are, the types of clouds, winds and then we moved into extreme weather – thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.  We spent one whole morning drawing clouds with pastels and our eighth grader created a very beautiful main lesson book for this block.

This week we have moved into our “Peacemakers Block”.  My main inspiration for this can be found over at Waldorf Inspirations’ website.  We have so far looked back at Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth (and their meeting!), the women’s suffrage movement in the United States and around the world, and Gandhi.  This week we will be moving into more in-depth about the Civil Rights Movement, which we have studied quite a bit both in our American History block and also just in our local field trips as we live near Atlanta.  I would like to compare Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X (I read his book this past summer!) and look at our local leaders – John Lewis and Andrew Jackson Young.

We have also been working on math almost daily, brushing up on geometry, algebra basics, and some business math.  Next year we will be tackling Algebra I, so it is coming together!  In World Geography, we will be taking the next three weeks or so to finish up Europe and then that is done as well.  Yay!

Our eighth grader is working on finishing a Waldorf doll she is making, and our fifth grader will be working on finishing her set of fingerless gloves she is knitting in the round once her cast comes off.  Our little guy is not in first grade but he tries to knit and has been working on what he calls a scarf, but what i think we will try to encourage to be a block we can turn into a pouch or little animal over the summer and the first part of first grade in the fall.

Homeschool Planning:  I am ready to start again.  I have most of sixth grade planned, but with some (many? LOL) presentations to write and also quite a bit about skill development to consider since our soon to be sixth grader needs quite a bit of  repetition to remember foundational things.  I have planned out a lot of high school biology and have really mixed in a good deal of Goethean science to it, so I am quite happy with how that is shaping up.  I have a few blocks of ninth grade planned, and then I have the rest of ninth and first to plan.

One of my considerations is time for planning.  As my children have gotten older, they are ready to go and do more and are not as content to just be home running around in the sprinklers or something while I plan.  Nor is my husband content to lose me every night to planning after they go to bed.  I think my solution is going to be to plan every morning for an hour and  a half as part of our rhythm to summer (early), to plan at night when my husband is traveling, and then to plan several “Saturdays at the library” where I just go and leave the house and plan .  That is harder because it is hard to drag stuff for three grades for planning, but I think so long as it is all on the schedule for the summer, it will happen.

Self-care:  I have been working out most days.  I get up at 5:40 and go to the gym or use workout videos.  I also have been walking at night if my husband is home and not traveling.  This has been wonderful for me.  I also have joined the “KonMari in the Waldorf Home” Facebook group and have going through the house.  This is something I do every summer to get us ready for the new school year, but this year I have gotten a  jump on it and even started the school room switch of books by grade.

I would absolutely love to hear what you are finishing up, what grades you are preparing for next school year, and what you are working on in your home.  Please share!

Lots of sunshine love,

Carrie