Vibrant Life! (Or, Get Out Of Your Own Way!)

I have been talking to so many people lately who are experiencing tremendous growth.  They are building businesses, creating new loving relationships, experiencing an increased level of intimacy with their partners and children and more!  It is very exciting, and so inspiring!

Yet, there is a certain group of people I hear from.  For lack of a better word, they are stuck.  I understand stuck; I had a fairly fallow period last year where I felt stuck for awhile.  However, sometimes stuck can mean  years  in something that is like a never-ending cycle that the person  can’t  seem get out of.  Of course, bad things can always, always happen to good people!  However, we always have a chance for growth in how we respond, and by being open we are to change and growth.  And I have found in talking with mothers and spouses and young adults, that this cycle often has identifiable patterns, if only one could see them.

We can always ask ourselves, “What area of my life am I “stuck” in right now?”  We can look for substantial patterns by reviewing our own biography – where were our major life events, and when?  Were the big things external or internal?  Was I  a mover and a shaker or did things just happen passively to me?    What were my reactions to things?  My reaction to stressful things?

Identifying that we are stuck, (and I think most of us have been there at one point or another, again,  I know I have!)  is only part of the battle.  The other part of it is DOING something about it. And this is where I find most people have trouble.  Because whether or not they want to admit it, there is some kind of pay-off to being stuck in the same patterns and cycles over and over.  Maybe it is easier to withdraw rather than stand up.  Maybe it is easier to not choose intimacy and vulnerability.  Sometimes just being comfortable and not having to risk anything is enough of a pay-off.  Sometimes being rigid is protective.  I don’t know what the pay-off is for any particular reason; that is something that they must discover within themselves.

If we can identify patterns in our life, where we are stuck, and what our pay-off is, I think then we have a chance at changing.  And in order to change, we have to be more open and more flexible than ever before.  Some people are just not flexible or ready for growth. This step can take time. Sometimes this step can take the help of a really good counselor or other mental health care professional.  Because if we are willing to grow, then we can think in the possibilities and in the positive mindset of growth.  The most amazing things can and do happen!

Once we are open and ready for change, we can set goals, and then break those goals down.  We may  have to think in the smallest of steps.  For example, what one step could I take today toward this goal that is now broken down into smaller steps?  What are the few things I can do each day to make that one step happen?    Realistically, what do I need to make the smallest of steps happen? Do I need support from a friend? Therapy?  More money coming in?  To free up time?  To change my priorities?  To put myself out into the world in a vulnerable position and accept that?

Don’t be stuck; get out of your own way and make your beautiful life happen.  You have it in you!  The possibilities are before you. ❤

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Special thanks to my good friends S. and N. for many discussions on this topic!!

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Pedagogical Stories: Second Grade

In the Waldorf curriculum, art is the vehicle for so many things – artistic skills, academic skills, soul development, the development of the feeling life.  And I find it can often carry a pedagogical story better than straight storytelling in the home environment.  Not much is often said about this, so I wanted to share an experience I had with you.

Many have commented that pedagogical stories don’t work exceedingly well in the home environment.  This makes perfect sense!  When a child hears a story about a situation in a classroom of thirty children, it has a much different effect than one child at home thinking, “That is me!” and feeling….irritated or pointed out.  It is anything but a sideways approach that is so valued for helping those under 9 in the Waldorf curriculum.  If you would like to learn a little more about pedagogical stories and their place in the curriculum, there is a lovely post about the use of fairy tales from Bright Water Waldorf School.  There is also a lovely book by Susan Perrow called, “Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior.”

However, I think stories in artistic form, such as in  painting and  other areas, are often a wonderful way to provide these sorts of experiences.  I often plan an artistic experience such as painting as a foray into the feeling world, and what better a bridge to the heart than these arts?

We have been working with a story this week about “The Parrot and The Fig Tree” this week. It is a sweet Jataka tale about the steadfastness of a beautiful parrot not leaving his friend the fig tree when times become troubled, and what rejoicing when things are all wonderful again!  The refrain in the story is, “My tree, I’ll not leave you.”  We have used this story for form drawing and for writing the refrain, in reviewing letters and in reading what we wrote.

I took a cue from this story for our painting time and made up an on the sport story to go with our painting that  really was a pedagogical tale about constant chattering.  Knowing the qualities of the beautiful and luminous colors of paints is helpful, but I find the qualities most often portrayed can be adjusted…For example, red is often portrayed as  roaring and racing color that is bouncing around. However, I  potrayed red as a solid color, sitting up in a tree listening to the forest (much like the choleric needs to listen to those around him in order to be a good leader, which is the pedagogical part of this story for my little second grader), just like the red parrot sat in the fig tree in our story. At this point we painted a red ball in the middle of the page.

Red was hearing the trouble the trees were having in not getting hardly any sun.  The forest was so dense; the trees were concerned the sunlight couldn’t reach them.  Red was hearing the trouble the trees were having in not getting hardly any sun but he had to sit so very still  in order to hear all of this from the trees.  We painted blue around the red ball, but not touching red.

The trees around him were a quiet blue and talked so softly, so red had to listen so very hard.  After he heard, red thought about a way to solve the problem the trees were having…if only he were still and thought about the golden sun coming down on the top of the trees, and the sun reaching and expanding  in his own heart, the trees would have sunlight (painting yellow over the blue to make green) and the trees would have lush, green leaves.  The implication, but not said, is that this all happened because red listened so mightily both to those around him and their needs and to what was inside himself.  It is a strong thing to listen.

So, sometimes we come in with an idea that in our lesson planning book – to paint.  We may even have something living in us at the moment (the parrot and the fig tree) that we can riff off of like a jazz band player taking off for a solor.  But then  we must look at the child in front of us, and use these things in a pedagogical way for the health of our children.    This is the art of education.

Happy school days,

Carrie

The Parenting Passageway: In Photos

I have always resisted putting photographs on this page because so many mothers look at these beautiful photos of a (single moment) snapshot of someone’s beautiful world and then immediately put themselves down.  In that exact moment, the developmental and holistic parenting and education offered by this blog would cease to be able to be created in the home by one family for their children.  Therefore, I have always resisted it.

However, times have changed.  Many people do not even read blogs anymore.  Most on-line discussion  has switched to Facebook.  The highly visual Instagram and Pinterest are more popular than ever.  More and more people are contacting me and telling me that whilst they actually do like having no photographs in this space, they wish they could see pictures of chalkboard drawings or Waldorf Education in practice or visual snippets about parenting and homeschooling from this page somewhere.  It is a visual generation!

So, I have started to post more pictures and quick snapshots of our days on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page.  In the days between blog posts, you will find a wide variety of artistic offerings, discussion starters, and more.   So, please come on over if you enjoy Facebook and/or visual images.  I would love to see you here and on the Facebook page.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Combat Your Emotions: Sustainable Parenting

Perhaps one of the most incredible lessons we come up against as parents are the emotions that parenting withdraws from US.  Fear, anger, worry, jealousy – all of these emotions are real and we must deal with them in order to be the best parent we can.  Different stages of child development, different stages of adult development, and where we are in this process of dealing with our own internal emotions all mix together, and if we do it right, we become a parent who has  a sustainable parenting style.

While I actually don’t consider emotions such as fear or anger negative, the older I become, the more it hits me over and over that having these emotions and attaching to these emotions is just not sustainable in parenting.  For me, being able to acknowledge the emotion or feeling and then being able to let it go without feeling the need to act upon it has been freeing.  It is okay to feel sad, angry, upset, fearful in parenting.  We all go through it.  However, instead of falling into these emotions (and falling apart) and burning up our physical and energetic levels, we must instead use clarity of thinking as a great balancer.

Children do things that are annoying.  That is just a fact.  Children do things, that through no fault of their own, trigger our own emotional baggage.  Thinking things through instead of just reacting become a lifeline that we can hang on to!  Some of my favorite ways to combat my own emotions and calm down include taking everyone outside; going for a walk myself; making sure I have eaten something and have been sleeping (and getting help if I have not); breathing in the moment and knowing I can come back to something that is not a life or death situation; letting go of my emotions and try to remember what developmental level my child is in and where I am.

What things help you be a sustainable parent?

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it isn’t even sustainable for an evening. I don’t like conflict; I get a stomachache and I don’t feel well.  The whole house is unhappy.  What works better for me is to figure out long-term boundaries; to be able to think in the moment the best way to handle a tired and screaming child or a snarky teenager that doesn’t involve anger.  Because the minute I allow anger into that scenario, nothing goes well.  Anger, if we let it, can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia And Waldorf Homeschooling

There are often posts about children who have dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia on the Waldorf homeschooling facebook groups.  One of our children was diagnosed with all three of these some years ago,  so I have some experience with dealing with this in combination with Waldorf homeschooling. I say “some experience” simply because one child does not a generalization make!  In speaking with other parents whose children also have dyslexia, I find the symptoms of dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia play out very differently from child to child, so one must be super careful.  What works for one child with dyslexia may or may not work for another child.

However, I would like to share some general tips from my experience:

  1. Consider testing.  It typically is not the be all and end all in terms of being a shocker as to what it going on, but if your  older child does need accommodation for testing or wants to transfer into a school setting for middle or high school, testing is really important.  Testing usually also leads to suggestions for therapy or concentrations for remedial work/tutoring to focus on, which actually can be helpful. It can also help pinpoint things such as is working memory deficits or slow processing part of the picture, which can be helpful to know in teaching.
  2. Waldorf Education, with its experiential foundation, movement focus, and whole language development is great for all children, including those with dyslexia.  However, as children get older, don’t be afraid to incorporate products geared toward children with dyslexia.  We started with  “All About Spelling,” which seems to work well for some dyslexic children in fifth grade after a year of visual therapy  that took up part of third and fourth grade, but in looking back, I think we should have used some of these things earlier than we did. Our family was mainly searching for math and spelling help, since reading and comprehension were strengths,  but  some children really need an Orton-Gillingham based product such as “All About Reading” or  “Logic of English” for reading.  For dyscalculia, I recommend Ronit Bird’s work, which is based in games and  number flexibility and fits into Waldorf metholodolgy nicely.  She has a lovely You Tube Channel, where you can see some of the games in action.  For working specifically on how to write in the upper grades, I have had recommendations for “Writing Skills” by Diana Hanbury King.  I think there is supposed to be three books, but I can only find one book published so far, and although Book One says grade 4 or something like that, I wouldn’t be worried about working through it with a middle schooler. Hopefully the other books will come out!
  3. Don’t be afraid to adjust the response required from the new content, especially as the amount of content increases in grades five and up.  For example, children with dysgraphia will generally also have trouble with drawing pictures or other artistic responses such as modeling or painting, they may have difficulty free hand maps which is typically part of the middle school curriculum,  and obviously the physical act of writing summaries.  The physical difficulties in writing also impedes the flow of writing,  which can be fixed with the use of technology for typing, but some dyslexic students have  a really hard time with ordering and developing ideas and need a lot of work there.   For the upper grades, I typically require less written work than I did for my student without dyslexia.  Sometimes I modify things completely to eliminate much of the writing or drawing for some blocks.   For example, for some of the mineralogy work in sixth grade, we did more of a cut and paste approach to make a lapbook as a response or instead of making freehand maps that were detailed, we worked together to be able to draw the map or we skipped map making. I find it important to alternate work like this with blocks that require writing or artistic work. Because normally writing and artistic work takes these children a much longer time, these strategies are important in Waldorf homeschooling.
  4. However, in the same token, don’t neglect a path of improvement of academic  and artistic capacities in terms of writing summaries and artistic work in Waldorf Education. Don’t completely give up!  In general,  from my own experience and in speaking with other Waldorf homeschooling parents of children with dyslexia, you can expect the path of improvement to be very slow to nearly nonexistant in grades 1-3 . Some children in grades 1-3 have incredible behavioral issues associated with school, and it can be really discouraging as a homeschooling parent.  Our first three years in the grades was really rough, but if you stick with it,  you will get through it!  There usually is  some upswing at the end of third grade or over the summer between third and fourth grade and then heading into grades 4-6  even more progress (some parents report incredible changes, but other parents say it is still slow going).  In fifth through seventh grade I think there can be a sense of whilst things are much better from the starting point, “there is no catching up”  because in these grades one often sees the gap widen even further from what public school children and children without dyslexia are doing.  It can be difficult not to compare or wonder how the high school years will go. The balance of pushing, accomodations, and letting things blossom is a delicate combination and often a difficult juggle for the homeschooling parent handling this for the first time.
  5. Know when to start accommodations.  We started typing for our child in the spring semester of sixth grade (typically in a Waldorf School setting typing might be in eighth or ninth grade);  some families may start earlier.  The plan typically is the typing or technology as a response for main lesson material the following year or next semester, much the way one starts out teaching cursive and expects to see it in a main lesson book later.   Many parents of middle school students also end up investigating voice to text programs and how to record lectures in place of note-taking and so forth.  This will be very important for high school work.
  6. Consistently consider movement, vision, and therapeutic support.  We only have one eurythmist in our entire state, so curative eurythmy is not an option for us, but this might be for many of you.  The Waldorf Education books “Extra Lesson” and “Take Time” have many wonderful ideas and support.  Visual therapy can be helpful for some children if that is available, and I think movement and crossing midline in general is important.  Some children with dyslexia seem to resist movement and midline crossing, even in the middle school grades, so I think it is an important part of their education to consider what movement options are available.
  7. Get support for yourself.  There are days when I truly worry about what my child will do in a world where writing is required for nearly everything, and just need to talk to another parent who understands.  I know some parents who accept their child having dyslexia really in stride, especially if it is mild and easy to make accommodations, but some homeschooling parents really struggle as parents and teachers, especially in the early grades when one is just figuring out what is going on.   It can also be hard to be surrounded by a sea of homeschoolers on- line and in real life who are gifted and multiple grades ahead and doing college work at age 12 – you know the drill!  There is a huge push in the homeschooling world for dual enrollment, CLEP test, etc so for the older students with dyslexia it can be a bit daunting.   It is wonderful when other parents see and acknowledge the important gifts that your child brings, and of course, dyslexia and the like doesn’t define a person, but it does make us worried as parents – will they be able to do their own personal finances? What will they do for a job?  These are things that are hard for parents of children without dyslexia  to  really understand.  So find a like-minded soul or two that you can talk to on the really bad days.  There are also Facebook groups for homeschooling children with dyslexia as well.

I don’t think Waldorf Education in general does a good  job in discussing how to develop academic skills for  children with differing abilities in the upper grades.   This is also an issue not highly discussed in the Waldorf homeschooling community; all those beautiful pictures and blogs and Pinterest photos in the Waldorf world don’t tend to show the achingly hard work that goes into teaching children who learn differently.  Yet, Waldorf Education calls us to look at the child in front of us and respond to that child.  That is the very heart of Waldorf Education.  So be brave and full of courage!  You are doing the right things for your child!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

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

 

Celebrating August

I love August; not only is it my birthday month, but it is a month of beautiful shooting stars (and this year a solar eclipse!).  It is a time of blue skies,  pebbly beaches, starry nights and campfires, lake days, sunflower, lavender, and bees and honey.  I can sit outside and watch the hummingbirds and dragonflies and enjoy the loud sounds of many frogs and toads, and find grasshoppers and giant praying mantises.  Summer is at its peak around here! Continue reading