Word of the Year

I so hope you are enjoying your holiday season.  I posted a Christmas message on FB and IG, so you can check for a beautiful prayer from A Black Rock Prayer Book. I love these Holy Nights of Christmastide and delving deep into inner work each day.

One thing I think about is taking stock of the past year and looking ahead to the New Year.  Like most people, I am not very good at keeping resolutions.  So I normally choose a word of the year to help keep me focused and centered on my priority. I first heard of this practice from Sheila over at Sure As The World, which is an incredible blog to read and follow. So many treasures over there!

This year, my word is RADIANT.  Each year I have done artistic representations of my word with sort of corresponding focus areas represented. One year I did concentric circles with the word of the year in the middle.  I have done trees with the word as the root and some of the focal areas as branches and I have done vision boards. This year, I am not sure what my artistic rendering will be, but I know my focal areas will be around:

Radiant Work

Radiant Family Life and Homeschooling

Radiant Health

Radiant Kids

I will be dreaming and drawing and painting throughout Christmastide to see what comes to me in these areas for 2020.  I would love to hear your word of the year if that is your practice!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Winter Solstice and The Fourth Week of Advent

The Winter Solstice descends us into darkness and asks us to rise again, to find what gives us light, and to find what light we can give into the world.  Many of us are looking at Christmastide with renewed anticipation of generosity, light, kindness, love, compassion and bringing this into the world, beginning with ourselves and our own families.

What brings you light?  

How can you give light (compassion, kindness, love, generosity) to yourself?

How can you give light (compassion, kindness, love, generosity) to your family and others?

This is the fourth week of Advent – Christmastide begins soon.  This is the week that focuses on the light of mankind.  This could include creating/placing people on the Nativity Scene (some place the shepherds out this week if St. Mary and St. Joseph are already out); baking gingerbread people,  doing beautiful acts of kindness for those who need it most, thanking the workers of your community – postal people, fire people, police, garbage collectors, teachers, mentors, instructors, and honoring the people who are bringing light to the world and striving for all of humanity.

Christmastide is  a wonderful season that begins on Christmas Day and continues until the eve of Epiphany.  Freya Jaffke, in her wonderful book, “Celebrating the Festivals With Children”, writes:

“During the twelve or thirteen Holy Nights that follow Christmas, the events of Christmas continue to resonate; and it is a lovely custom for children if candles are lit each day, with singing, music making and perhaps a reading.  This period is set apart from the rest of the year, and can be a time when we gather our strength for the year ahead.  Nothing urgent needs to be done, and we can really take time for things.  Children are deeply satisfied if mother or father sits down beside them with some craftwork, or perhaps join in a game now and then.  In contrast to the summer when we like going outdoors, we feel very comfortable at home in the warmth – apart from winter walks and the fun of snow when it comes.”

We can celebrate the twelve days of Christmastide with children by using candles or a ring with twelve hearts or a simple Advent type calendar adapted to the twelve days of Christmas.  This becomes a nice way to bring children down gently from Christmas and to continue the joy and wonder society too often associates with just a single day.  Instructions to make a Christmas ring can be found in both “All Year Round” and “Celebrating Irish Festivals”.    There are instructions to make a “postcard” calendar for the twelve days of Christmastide, each window representing a month of the year, ie, the first card would represent January and be opened on the first day of Christmastide, the second card would represent February and be opened on the second day of Christmas.

Many blessings to you,

Carrie

The Third Week of Advent

A verse for this week:

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts-

All Await the Birth, from greatest to the least

OR

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts,

The light of hope we see in the greatest and the least

I hope you are all enjoying this third week of Advent.  This is the week I find if I am  not careful, all the busy creeps up and makes the holiday season less enjoyable,  so I like to try to be as conscious as I can about that.

This week I am celebrating “Ember Days” on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  This is traditional, the Farmer’s Almanac mentions it as days to give thanks for the olive crop.  In the Episcopal Tradition, this is often a time of thanks for those in ministry, being ordained into ministry, and all Christian vocations.  These are traditional days of fasting and abstinence, and sometimes just what I need to pull myself back into the quiet and centered place that Advent calls us to be.

This is the week that the third candle in the Advent Wreath is lit and it usually is a pink candle, seen as a symbolism of joy and hope.  What I love about this week is that to me it strikes at the heart of simplicity and minimalism.  We don’t need a lot to be happy.  This is the week to hike, play board games, light candles for dinner and be grateful and full of love for all that we have in each other, not in the material things.  This can be a great week for adults to evaluate if the materialism of the season has gotten out of control.  If it has, my solution would be to tuck away some of the gifts for the time of Christmastide (you can get gifts throughout Christmastide! 12 days!), tuck some away for a future birthday or holiday, and to replace some of those material gifts with coupons for the gifts of time or service.

Many of us also celebrate this wonderful week with a focus on the animal kingdom and leading up to the beauty of the Winter Solstice.  This can be a beautiful day with ideas of light – lanterns, winter spirals, make winter suncatchers, dip candles and make candles- all would be lovely!  You can get up early and watch the sunrise, but many families I know celebrate the eve of the Winter Solstice.  This can be a day to bake sun bread (see the children’s book by the same title), to have tea, to make gingerbread houses!  So many wonderful ideas, and I would love to hear what you are doing.

In the back of my mind, I know the fourth week of Advent will be a little short, so I am getting some ideas ready for our celebration (you can see some ideas here), and then we will jump right into Christmastide…I love to pick a centering “word of the year” every year and have already chosen my 2020 word:  RADIANT. More about that later!

Many blessings,
Carrie

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”: Too Sensitive or Too Analytical?

Chapter 11 of the wonderful book, “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning For A Lifetime” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is about how we make decisions. Sometimes we can trigger the other people in our household without even meaning to simply because some of us have a response to things that is feeling, and some of us have a response to things that are analytical.

Thinking means we are guided by facts, information received, and respond to that.  Feeling means we often make decision guided by “what feels right.”  This doesn’t mean that those guided by thinking are insensitive or unfeeling, or that those guided by feelings are too sensitive.  There is a great checklist on page 179 regarding “if your child is a thinker”, and includes such things as does logic guide your child’s decisions, they need to know “why” things are done and loves a good debate, values justice and fairness, doesn’t enjoy talking about their feelings, and much more.  Page 180 hold the checklist for children who are feelers and includes such things as needing to work through emotions before being ready to problem solve, highly valuing harmony and avoiding conflict, being deeply concerned with how decisions affect others.  It is very illuminating!

So, if your child is a thinker, you need to deal with facts first and deal with emotion coaching later!  This child may need help to understand other people’s point of view.  Another suggestion by the author is to let these children feel competent  because they highly value acheivement and are often their own toughest critic.  You can help them set goals that include dealing with outcomes and how those outcomes affect others.   You may have to teach them to be tactful and how being tactful is different than lying.  Validating their competence is also really important.  It is also important that if this child has siblings, the rules are fairly applied.   You may also need to explain “why”‘s more frequently, but it is important NOT to get pulled into intellectual traps.

The feeling child needs their feelings validated, and they need solutions that “feel right” for all the parties involved.    They may need reassurance that they are liked – so for these children, it is really important you have a relationship with this child so you can work cooperatively.  Yelling and criticizing doesn’t work work with any child, but a feeling child needs that cooperative feeling in order to focus and do what needs to happen.  They may also need to learn how to be assertive and how they don’t have to and can’t please everyone, and they need to learn how to consider both feelings and facts.

The last few pages are broken down into categories for us as parents – are we extroverted feeling parents?  Extroverted factual parents?  Introverted feeling parents?  Introverted factual parents?

This is a great chapter for all of us who want to bring balance to our children, and give them tools that will help them so much in the future!

I would love to hear what you thought about this chapter!

Blessings,

Carrie

The Wonder of Nature: Advent Week 2

Beginning on Sunday, we are heading into the second week of Advent.  Advent is just long enough for us to prepare for Christmas and establish some new spiritual rhythms.  The first week of Advent can often sneak up on us right after Thanksgiving, but the second week feels like this momentary pause where we can make things really matter.

One thing I am very committed to this week is getting out in nature every day. The second week of Advent is typically associated with the plant kingdom in the tradition of the Waldorf School, so getting outside and noticing the bare tree limbs and the evergreens seems to fit into that so well.   It also seems fitting to wonder at the beauty of nature this week as we come up to Santa Lucia Day on Friday the 13th, as this day used to be the Winter Solstice under the old Gregorian calendar.    The day typically did start before dawn with the oldest girl in the family rising and preparing buns for the family.  The bun recipe we used for years is in this post, along with a link to the traditional Santa Lucia song.   If you are looking for a story to share with your children, look no further than this wonderful guest post: A Gentle Santa Lucia Story.  There is also a story by Waldorf teacher Christine Natale about Saint Lucy and Saint Stephen in Sweden here  that I have used over the years.

Depending upon where you live, this could be a wonderful week to make ice lanterns or lanterns in general for winter walks when the sun is setting early and that beautiful winter sky is up and ready.  We have plans to get a Christmas tree and make garland from oranges and popcorn for the tree and some orange pomanders, which smell so good!

My spiritual practice this week, outside of lighting our Advent Wreath daily and saying the prayers and readings of our religion, is to think about letting go.  What can I let go?  How can I simplify?  What needs to be cut out of my life so new growth can occur?  I am thinking and contemplating right now, so I can come up to Christmastide with some new intentions in mind.

Looking forward to week two of Advent!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

A Few Simple Steps For A Beautiful St. Nicholas Day

Some families in the United States are celebrating St. Nicholas today, some will be celebrating tomorrow.    This is a fun holiday and really shows kindness, good deeds, generosity and good humor if a little poem/riddle is left amongst the gifts!

If you would like to celebrate tomorrow, your children can leave out a boot (a wooden shoe is traditional, but a boot will do!) and a cookie for St. Nicholas and some carrots for his horse. When your children wake up in the morning, they can find their boot filled with little gifts.  Some sources say the traditional gifts are often considered either the apple (knowledge), nut (strength), and gingerbread (warmth), but can also include citrus (oranges is the fruit I hear most about, not apples), chocolate coins, gifts, little riddles, or even notes of all the kind and generous things the child did this year since St. Nicholas’ last visit!

Some of our favorite activities for past years have included making gingerbread houses and decorating them together, making gingerbread loaves or cookies,  making St. Nicholas baskets and leave them on neighbor’s doorsteps with goodies and the legend of St. Nicholas inside, and making little bishop hats to wear or in an ornament style for a holiday tree.

This post is from 2012, but has some of our favorite stories about St. Nicholas and ideas for celebrating.  And don’t forget this wonderful post about  how to play St. Nicholas and start new traditions in your family! (thank you, Christine Natale, for the guest post that I have treasured for years!).

I am off to get things ready for our boots, and to think about how we will decorate gingerbread houses tomorrow!

Lots of love to you all!

Blessings,
Carrie

Waldorf Homeschooling: Early Foundations and Raising Functional Adults

We definitely don’t want or need to run our homeschooling experiences like a brick and mortar school, and if we are Waldorf homeschoolers we cannot recreate a Waldorf School experience that takes a main lesson teacher and a host of speciality teachers in our home.  Nor should we!

However,  I think good habits does lay a good foundation for the future in homeschooling.  In Waldorf homeschooling, I see a lot of people give up around the third grade year as they get frustrated with the curriculum content, and then again at the middle school mark as the amount of teacher preparation really goes up and there are more outside activities.

One of the main unspoken things about this time period of third grade and up, though, can be this notion of “my child won’t do anything that I ask.” (So, therefore, we need to change the curriculum)

There are certainly ways to get around that – what parts of this subject ARE interesting to your child? Are they getting enough movement and sleep?  Are they on a screen all the time?  Nothing excitement-wise seems to compare to screen adventures.

And, is it really the curriculum or is it a responsibility/good habit kind of issue?

It can be that we didn’t really lay down good habits in the early grades to prepare for what’s coming, and we failed to keep any enthusiasm for learning our child had.  I have three children with different personalities – one loved school, one hated it, and one tolerates it.  I totally understand different personalities.  But, if we are being honest and taking 100 percent responsibility for what happens in our homeschooling, then we need to go back and look at our part in things.  One quote has really resonated with me over the years:

In first seven-year period child develops through imitation: in second through authority; in third through individual judgment – Study of Man, Rudolf Steiner

So, in those early years are we setting up good habits? What are we showing our children?  Are we always on our screens , do we hold a rhythm, how much actual work are we doing around the house?  This rhythm and work sets the foundation for what happens in the years 7-21.

In the years of 7-14, are we setting the tone for a loving authority?  There are some things that just have to be done.  If the child is complaining, do we just back off and say never mind…. which teaches nothing…. or do we follow through that I am asking you to do this, we will do this, I can help you and will be here for you?  This is an important step!  To think ahead, and really mean what we are asking the child to do in school (not busy work) and to follow through even if they are complaining.

And lastly, in the period of 14-21, are we giving opportunity for individual judgment?  Sometimes, yes, for learning, I find this easier for an outside teacher in whatever form that takes – and it may be in sports or outside activities, not in homeschooling, but I think teens really need that experience of making something count.  This can be a part time schedule of classes in your public school system if your state allows that, an online class, a tutor, a hybrid school if your state has that, etc.  but I think it is important that the teen get a taste of accountability and failure and success in the world in something that matters.  This is also why I think teenagers holding jobs  and being involved with something that is “team” (sports, marching band, theater, a team) are really important.  Individual judgment needs to be exercised within a realm of accountability.   This is how individual judgment and being a functional young adult occurs.  But it all begins with those early year and early grades foundation!

Many blessings,

Carrie