My Top 5 Tips – Thriving in Homeschooling and Homemaking

We are starting our third week of homeschooling this week and I was reflecting on the fact that I have been homeschooling for ten years (I am counting my oldest child’s six year old kindergarten year forward to ninth grade this year).  I was trying to think the other day of what really helps hold everything together for me as a homeschooling mother in terms of also being a homemaker, since as homeschooling families we are moving in both overlapping circles continuously.   When children are smaller, the academic demands are less and I think easier to work into homeschooling, but as children get older these arenas become more separate in some ways.  After some thought,  I found five things that help me homeschool and make a home:

  1. Accept some mess will happen…If you look at my house on a homeschooling day, yes, it may have papers and colored pencils and clay and main lesson books and projects in both our homeschool room and in our breakfast nook. Our high schooler tends to work in the breakfast nook, and the other children tend to work in our homeschool room so that is why we have two places.  The garage, where we do a lot of movement, can also get messy.  However….
  2. Accept that mess can be cleaned up within a half hour window.  That is sort of my barometer.  Can everything be tidied up within half an hour?  If it can, then the part of me that is extremely sensitive to visual clutter rests a little easier.  Everything everywhere just doesn’t work for me.
  3. Do things as promptly as possible and have a rhythm.  For me, the prompt part means doing dishes after we eat, sweeping up when the puppy drags in mud and grass on her paws, throwing in a load of laundry every morning, etc.  Of course, having a rhythm really helps with many of these pieces. What day do we change the sheets on the bed, clean the bathrooms, dust?  At what points during the day do we tidy up and clean up?   I cannot always free up hours on end to these things consecutively, but all of  these things can get done within in the course of the week.
  4. Elicit help. All members of the family can help, and i notice the more upper level grades I am teaching and the more subjects I am teaching, I  simple need more help because I am spending more time teaching and then older children may have activities they need to be driven to after teaching is done. I need everyone to pitch in and help, and at this point, our older two students are adept and independent in many areas of housemaking.
  5. Think ahead and streamline. For me,  things such as menu planning; sitting down and figuring out doctor and dentist appointments and field trips for two to three months at a time; deep cleaning at various points in the school year actually ends up saving me time in the long run.

I would love to hear your best tips for homeschooling and homemaking together.

Blessings,
Carrie

The First Week of Homeschooling High School

…..and what I learned…

This is the first time I ever been through homeschooling high school, and it is definitely a learning curve when you are putting together your own materials for the most part.  I talked a lot about planning this grade in this back post. , and many families have homeschooled children with strong interests that they can creatively mix into their child’s first high school year.  We are following more of a traditional Waldorf School kind of high school path modified for the home environment and what I can feasibly do.

Our first week was a mix of homework for an outside Algebra I class that is a mainstream class,  a year-long biology class that I created, and our first block of the year which is Native American and Colonial History which includes not only a main lesson book but a literature study on the book “Last of the Mohicans” (hint: the book was not as easy as I thought it would be!) (block also created by me).  These are the things I learned along the way this first week of homeschooling high school from a sheer weekly/daily structure kind of standpoint:

If your child takes an outside class, the child will have a good amount of homework to do if the class meets only once or twice a week.  We figured this going into it all, but I am so glad I put time in our rhythm every day to field homework questions.  And I am so glad I totally remember my high school algebra for whatever odd  reason!  Seriously, though, homework is an independent endeavor, but your student still needs time to ask you questions and you need to have a plan of how your child can get help if it is a subject you are not as familiar with or don’t remember well.

For year-long classes that you are creating, particularly science, do make sure your child knows how to take notes from what you are saying and from what you assign for reading for the class.  I learned I really needed to break things up more by day  and into  much  smaller chunks than what I anticipated in the original syllabus I created, and also that I needed at first to give a little guidance how to pick out the most major ideas and key phrases, etc. We had done some of this in middle school, but reading technical and scientific things can be quite different than other types of reading.

It is a delicate balance between track and block classes and the amount of work.  It is important to look at it all and really plan longer for the blocks than you might normally.

The artistic end of the high school work is so very important.  I know in the Waldorf Schools there are specialists in these areas, and I consider myself so NOT a specialist.  Of course we have been drawing, painting, and modeling just like in previous grades, but I also have been relying on some kits to help us  and am searching for some outside teachers or classes as I locate them for the artistic skills our high schooler wants to learn. For this particular history block, I tied in Native American basketry (kits), Native American beading (already knew how to do but working on more complext patterns and such) and soapstone carving (kits).  For biology, we are tying in block printmaking (experimenting on our own with the help of books from the library) and the art of gyotaku, Japanese fish printmaking (kits and experimenting on our own – the fish are plastic replicas in the kits).  Music, drama, and speech are also important.  We are fulfilling these things outside the home but also tying in music and speech in with our history block.

Nature and exercise – has to be up there on the priority list.  Ninth graders really cannot sit still well and need those healing balms of movement and nature.

For those of you going through homeschooling high school, what have you learned that would help a first time high school homeschooling mom as far as the day to day scheduling and priorities?

Many blessings,

Carrie

Regulation of Emotions In Children – Part Two

Back in the fall of 2015, I  went to a course for my physical therapy licensure renewal  that focused on the regulation of emotions in children who have anxiety, anger challenges, ADD/ADHD, or who are on the autism spectrum.  It was geared toward teachers, therapy providers, and principals in the school setting.  One thing that was emphasized over and over is that a calm child who is not feeling stressed by the environment can learn better than a child who is stressed. Part of education is to understand ourselves as teachers and therapists (why do we do what we do in the classroom or with the children we are with?), to empower children to understand who they are and why they do what they do,  and to help children develop emotional regulation.

I talked about the first part of this course in this  back post about the things some schools in the United States are doing to try to keep things calm for their students, including:

  • Understanding the brain
  • Ryhthm, including the use of photo books to show the child doing each daily activity and using accommodations to make certain children do not get over-stimulated
  • Using connection and love to calm the child
  • Use of movement, art, hydration, music, art, time in nature to all help increase learning and memory and keep children as even-keeled as possible.

The question I posed at the end of Part One of this post (linked above)  was what are the schools doing in the moment, when things are going really badly?  Children with these kinds of challenges can throw desks, they can really fall apart, and it can be difficult for not only the student, but the teacher and the other students in the class when all of this is happening.

The approach in some schools and as modeled in this course I attended is a three step process involving  to  take notice, to intervene, and to plan ahead.   I don’t know if this would appeal to parents in the home environment or not, but I place it here as food for thought and for you to decide how it fits into your philosophy of education and development.  This course was absolutely NOT geared toward Waldorf Schools, and again, I place it here for thought.

Notice – in this course, this meant to empower children to understand emotional states and triggers.  For small children under the age of  9  I am a fan of using stories, music, little circle time activities, modeling, sharing good things in circle time, etc.  I think this can be empowering in the feeling life for the purpose of “noticing”.    For older children, discussion as they need to start to learn to function in the real world may be necessary.  Children with challenges may need very well to start these “noticing” strategies before the nine year change in development, and I think what this entails  is really  up to the family and the health care/educational team.   Remember this course was geared toward those working with children who had challenges with anxiety and anger, which is different.  Some children especially  need real help in  noticing other people’s behaviors, body language, tone of voice, etc.  and again, I think we have to look at the child in front of us whilst keeping in mind development.

Intervention:  This may include  a proactive phase. For example,  what are the child’s triggers?  What is the environment doing (or not doing) for the child?  How do we prepare the child? For example, some children need serious help with groups. Some need serious help with transitions.  How do we anticipate the problems that might come up? In a school setting, this might require a team conference involving almost all staff present.

The early intervention phase might include redirection, and moving into proximity to the child to help, and to use calming strategies.  If a child is past early intevention and is melting down, then steps might include removing the child to a safe environment, not engaging in a power struggle, distracting, offering a safe activity, allowing time to calm down, and then addressing the situation but more in an informational gathering way, not in a way that immediately goes into the negative behavior of the child for that setting.

Note to families reading:   Remember, these are grades aged children. From a Waldorf persepctive for tiny children under the age of 7, I wrote a post about time in for tinies that might give you some ideas about how to create a “meltdown plan” for your littles.

Plan:  The plan part of this is to know that this behavior is cyclical (most likely).  Most likely it WILL happen again.   A plan is helping to empower the child (and I have to say I think this is much more appropriate for older children than younger from a Waldorf perspective) and using a classroom behavior plan.  Role-playing, drawing the scenario and how it would be a happier ending for all parties can sometimes help, and for older children, journaling can be helpful.

Practice: There are many other very cognitive-based approaches that were mentioned that I think could be useful for middle school and up for the normal course of health class or whatnot ( to me personally.  I am sure in some school settings these techniques are being used with much younger children and especially for those who desperately need these tools to try to self-regulate).  These include things such as introducing the parts of the brain and functionality (which in one sense I am for in that children should learn correct parts of their body just like other bodily names but this is applying the names and functionality in a pretty cognitive way that might be better for interested middle schoolers); introducing a “circle of control” (ie, what is in the child’s control and what is not in the child’s control), scales of emotional intensity, scales of importance of events and comparing to the emotional scales.  Other things mentioned were breathing techniques, (which could be used younger than middle school ages obviously )   and using post-incident interviewing techniques.

Here are some ideas for searching techniques that could be helpful for your child (I am not endorsing any of these per se except ones we have used personally); these are just repeatedly mentioned in courses I have taken:

  • Brain Gym (which we do use, I have taken a course in it, and I would endorse)
  • Heart Math
  • Ready Bodies, Learning Minds
  • Play Attention (this might be computer based, I am not sure?  Has anyone out there used it?).
  • Under the Thinking Cap, which is the company of the person who presented this course
  • MindUP Curriculum (has three levels – grades K-2; grades 3-5 and grades 6-8) (I am currently looking at the level for grades 6-8 and hope to have something to review about it soon!)

Are there any products, programs, or techniques you have found for emotional regulation that you have loved?  Have you found a better age to introduce some of these things than other ages?  What did you find worked best for your child?  What about those of you with children who do struggle with anger, anxiety, or other challenges?  Did starting earlier help?

I would love to hear from you.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Milestone Every Child Needs to Reach

II really loved this article entitled, “The Milestones That Matter Most”.  One of the things this article brought up was the cultural biases we have that play into our parenting.  I have long been fascinated with this subject; when my older children were tiny I read and re-read Meredith Small’s “Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent”.

What is interesting to me is that, of course, different things are valued in different cultures.  Our one milestone that we might feel every child needs to reach may not be the same in another culture.  One of the ways we may combat bias in parenting is to consciously examine our own biases in regard to development and culture.  Do we, for example, assume that babies have to sleep through the night by themselves?  Do we assume that babies should be able to “self-soothe”?  Do we assume that toddlers will have a “terrible two’s” period?  Do we think children have to go to school to be “educated”?  Do we assume that children  will be “defiant”?  Do we think that children should have a lot of responsibility for themselves or no responsibility?  Do we assume that children should be able to self-regulate by a certain age?  Do we assume teenagers will battle against their parents and be rebellious?

Some of these questions have an inferred bias that we must examine consciously and continually as we go through our own life changes.  Some of the biases we enter into in parenting may change over time as we are in the ttrenches of dealing with our own children and watching other parents.   Human development, growth , and change is never done for the parent or the child.  It is part of being human, especially if we are trying to live in a conscious manner and we take responsibility  for our own throughts and actions.

IOne thing that can really assist us as parents is to have a family mission statement.  In our family, we have had  the same family mission statement – KIPPA  (Kindness, Integrity, Patience, Positive Attitude, Adventure) – for several years now.  Acronyms can make things easier to remember.  The process of creating a family mission statement can help us see where our biases are, what our values are, and what we think will be a course that will sustain us through parenthood and our children into a connected, happy adulthood. Have a personal mission statement in connection with your parenting and what you want to model in life is also a great conscious step.

Things I find that can carry  through many years of parenting includes connection, rresolving conflict,  setting boundaries in a healthful way , and  taking responsibility for one’s actions.  Kindness is always a modeled value.  So perhaps the milestone your child most needs to reach isn’t learning to read, or learning any other academic skill, but instead the milestones of being able to offer and accept love from other human beings, being able to assimilate into a humanity and offer goodness and kindness.  Perhaps those are the best milestones a human being can reach.

Please share with me your family mission statement, or the values you have found that have carried you through many years of parenting that you try to model for your own children.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

 

 

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The First Week of First Grade

Our little first grader came dressed for  the first day of first grade as a gnome, complete with hat, beard and pointy shoe covers and announced that I would be teaching “Pebbles the Gnome” every day this year. Those of you that have read “A Donsy of Gnomes” probably can understand this little gnome character! (Pebbles is his favorite!)   At any rate, we had a fun first week of school.

We always start with movement, so our first day was jumping rope and other movement from Brain Gym and Extra Lesson work, our first grade verses,  our seasonal circle, our  math games (oh yes!  I start right away!),  and then a few words about school in general.  So,  in addition to the “normal” things that I think are often ingrained in us from Steiner’s lectures to do on the first day of school  (talking about what we do with our hands, painting with blue and yellow and yellow and green – see Steiner’s lecture four  in “Practical Advice to Teachers” if you are looking for more information), I also made several other points to suit the dynamics of our family.  This included a good, new look around the school room in which our little guy has hung out since he was born – what is on the Nature Table?  Where are all the supplies kept?  Where is the rhythm of the day?  How do we know if it is a Feast or Fast Day?   Let’s look at this space  with new eyes since now you are in first grade!

We also talked quite a bit about coming to school and how school is for those eager to learn, and how we learn how to do things that make us like our mommies and daddies and our older siblings and how eventually we can use those things to help other people.  Even at this early age, our first grader completely understands that his father’s work is to help other people and the work outside the home and inside the home  was to help other people.  So that made sense to him.

We talked about the rules of our school time.  Normally I wouldn’t be so direct with a first grader, because perhaps we think of first grade in the home being modeled and held by rhythm and a presence of loving  authority, but I decided with much older siblings in the mix (middle school and high school), our first grader has a different perspective and really wanted and needed to hear the expectations of school in direct but kind and firm words.

After that, we went into the great secret that all inventors, artists, scientists know – that everything in the world is made of the line and the curve.  We had a delightful Irish tale about Lusmore of Knockgrafton on the first day and then the next few days we worked with a story I created that held archetypal images with more lines and curves in various configurations.  We did an intense amount of movement and math in rhythmic verses, counting, and games along with three beautiful paintings and  keeping up with the rhythm of our home in cooking, cleaning, baking, and handwork.  Next week will include more modeling and painting and form drawing.

Overall, it was a very fun week for both of us that I know he carried inside of him.  One night as he was falling asleep, he said to me, “You know, roads are  straight lines and cul-de-sacs are curves. Some roads are curvy too.”  A fitting image to drift off to sleep, wondering about all the beautiful secrets in the world outside his door.

Blessings,

Carrie

Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood Chapter Three

We are working our way through Martin Large’s “Set Free Childhood”, published by Hawthorn Press.  We are in Chapter 3, “The Secrets of Childhood Development.”

The author writes, “Parents can benefit from access to practical knowledge about what helps healthy child growth and development, so as both to back up their own good sense, and also to cope with the relentlessly increasing pressures in modern culture.  Such pressures include the withering-away of the extended family – with relatives and grandparents typically no longer living nearby. Gone, then, are our traditional support networks; and a smaller family means that you no longer learn childcare at your parents’ or neighbours’ knees.” (page 34)

Support is so important in raising small children; and so is slowing down. One of the main tenets of this chapter is that children are suffering from stress because they are being hurried, rushed and feel overwhelmed and busy.  The work of psychologist David Elkind noticed this tendency of hurried children and has written extensively about this; where children are forced to take on adult schedules and treated as miniature adults.  In order to combat this, the author takes us on a tour of healthy child development by age.

Children need time and space to grow.  Childhood goes through phases.  The baby is noted to be completely open to noise, bright lights, rough movement, rough handling.  The baby is a giant sense organ and totally dependent upon the care of the parents and the home environment provided.  As time goes on, an infant learns to filter sensory impressions, progresses from horizontal movement to vertical movement.  Infants do not need television or screens to develop.  What they need is to move, to be held and cuddled, and to have a parent who delights in them and plays with them.

A toddler learns through incredible powers of imitation.  They are intrepid explorers experiencing the world through all of their senses. The first three years of life sees a child learning to walk, to speak, and to think.  Language emerges through contact with real speaking human beings – not those in a screen.

There is some great information about up through age 11 or so, and then a little section about screens and the temperaments.  I think the temperament section I will save for the next post in this series.

Blessings,
Carrie

Development of the Tenth Grader

Today is a quick sneak peek at the development of students in tenth grade. In Waldorf Education, this corresponds to an age close to sixteen.  If you are searching for ninth grade, close to age fifteen, try this back post.. If you are searching for age fourteen, which is typically closer to grade eight in Waldorf Education, try here..

Tenth Grade (closer to age 16):

  • Usually there is  reduction in mood swings, irritability, greater ability to manage anger.
  • Can be the year of the “Sophomore Slump” – many students feel “graduated” from childhood and are weighed down by the beginnings of adulthood but many sixteen year olds can’t look much further than today.  They are much more interested in the here and now than the future.  This year can also be a cocky year for many students where they become overconfident in their abilities.
  • A teenager of this age is often asking  “how”?  How do I bridge between myself and the world?  The process interests them.  How did the world come into being? How is “X” true?  How does this work?
  • There is a growing independence, especially often with branching out into driving a car or holding a part-time or seasonal job.
  • Teenagers  are more conscious of their clothing, their gestures, their behavior.
  • They no longer feel connected to their classmates, their teachers, their parents and feel vulnerable, lonely, not sure how to stand on their own. This is typically a hard year at school. They may completely change sets of friends as they struggle to find out who they are and may separate from their usual peer group.  For some students, this leaves them vulnerable to peer pressure and the behavior of the teenager can be very different this year than in previous years. This can be an age of super strong attachment to friends, especially different friends than in the past,  or to a love relationship. It can be an age of intense peer pressure and manipulation and of heartache in relationships.
  • They may completely change extracurricular activities
  • For those of you who follow Waldorf Education, there is a correlation between the nine-year change and this sixteen-year change. If you think back to how your child handled the nine year change, there may be a correlation as to how they handle this period in their life.
  • The maturation of the physical body has often slowed down by this point, the emotional chaos has also slowed down, but the teenager comes face to face with the idea of mortality. They may discover they have physical limits as far as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, being a perfectionist, carrying too many activities. Sometimes teenagers end up sick during this period because they are doing way too much, and being sick actually affords them time to step back and come up with priorities and choices that reflect these priorities.
  • There may be spiritual questions, philosophical questions but other teens may be more into having a thrilling physical life. Sometimes this can lead to poor choices and dangerous situations, including use of alcohol and drugs, teen pregnancy and other situations.  If they can experience their own mortality, their own spiritual separation and resolve it in a healthy way, they can participate in the world and find the answers to their spiritual questions in ways that are satisfying.
  • Around 16, the brain is usually fully capable of thinking in abstractions, in generalizations and can compare, contrast, analyze and synthesize information. They may still want to debate on things before they have all the material digested, and often come off as arrogant to adults.  They love finding flaws in adult reasoning, but at the same time, adults are blamed less and less and instead it becomes more important to  the adolescent how he or she takes responsibility for things.
  • The challenge to find a new way of relating to life during this time period can lead to crisis in many arenas – eating disorders, sexual relationships, alcohol, drugs and tobacco, etc but most important is that the child knows they will never, ever be abandoned, and that with freedom comes responsibility.  House rules and boundaries are still important – school and work are integral parts of life.
  • After this phase, one sees a time of distinct ACTION. The action can come from what was gained and learned in the earlier years, and the years of 17 or so to 21 can be most fruitful.
  • This is a great article from the Wall Street Journal that talks about supporting development from ages 13/14 through age 17.

Blessings,

Carrie