Boundaries and Toxic People

The other day I had a little post that talked about boundaries for older children.  A question came up regarding toxic people,  setting boundaries, and is it possible that this be done in a loving way.

Perhaps this question is a little out of my wheelhouse.  I am not a psychologist, and I am certain a psychologist would have better things to say than I on this subject.  However, because I think boundaries are such an important piece of being a healthy adult and something we should be working hard to model and guide our teenagers and children in establishing, I am willing to share my experience with this topic.  As always, if you need more help, there are many licensed psychologists and other mental health care professionals out there to help you!

One hears many definitions of “toxic people”.  Usually this alludes to behaviors or relationships caused by woundedness; usually this involves creating drama, infecting others with negativity, or being narcissitic, and using others to get their needs met.  To me, and again I am not a psychologist, my definition of a toxic person is that they cannot abide by boundaries in order to be in a healthy relationship with someone else; boundaries to me are key no matter the variety of behaviors displayed.  Therefore, because a toxic person cannot respect boundaries, by definition, there will be no truly “nice”   or “loving” way to limit the exposure of a toxic person to your family because the toxic person will have an excuse and will have a hard time respecting the boundaries that you set. So, establishing very strong boundaries or to even cutting the toxic person out of your life if you are in a situation where that is possible is often difficult, but I don’t think impossible, so long as  you don’t expect the toxic person to go along with it calmly!

From my experience, my  tried and true ways to deal with toxic people include:

Setting emotional distance.  You don’t have to answer every text, call, or email.  You can choose to only respond to facts or what needs a solution as opposed to all the barage of emotion and drama.

Not getting  into one- to -one situations with the toxic person.  There is safety in numbers.  Always have someone else with you for interactions with  truly toxic people.

Setting limits on negativity and complaining.

Setting a very close circle around me of positive people who have a firm grasp of reality and have different perspectives that help me see things clearly. 🙂

Letting go of guilt. Like many people, sometimes I want everyone to like me, and the reality is I am definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.  So letting go of that is important, and depending upon how old you are, you get more and more okay with that as you get older.  It is okay not to be liked, and especially by the toxic person, because in my experience many times a more toxic person will not like you if they cannot control you.

Not forgetting what the toxic person has done or the chaos that person caused.  Forgive the illness that consumes this person, but do not forget!   Sometimes I find toxic people seem to cycle in and out of creating emotional chaos, and it can be easy in the good moments to forget the emotional craziness the person created in the past.  I am all for growth and second chances, but in my experience, toxic people do not really change but only get better at manipulating and hiding motives with age.

Hope that not only helps answer the question, but also points out the value of boundaries in ourselves and raising our children to become healthy adults who can go on to have healthy families of their own. As always, consult your friendly local mental health care professional with your questions, as I can only share my personal experience.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Celebrating July

July is here!  Many summer it is so hot in the Deep South I feel as if we have lived in a pool since May and am tired of the wide open sun and heat, but this year has been quite rainy (after two years or so of drought!), so this year feels much less fatiguing.

July is the month of barbeques, picnics, camping, lakes and pools and river tubing.  It is a month of festive American celebrations and slowing down.  Here is what we will be celebrating this month:

July 4th – Independence Day!  The birth our nation!

July 22 – Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene

July 25 – Feast Day of St. James the Apostle

July 26 – The Feast Day of St. Anne and St. Joachim

I am looking forward to sunflower festivals, catching fireflies, being in the pool and lake and at the beach.

Things to Do With Children:

  • Fourth of July decorating; patriotic crafts
  • Find traditional patriotic American music to listen to!
  • Sunflower crafts
  • Drying herbs and making things from herbs
  • Picking produce; canning and preserving
  • Earth looms and weaving could be lovely; see my summer Pinterest board for even more craft ideas

Things for the Home:

  • Going through the school room or school area and cleaning out
  • Ordering art supplies and new resources for the next school year
  • Making new seasonal things for the home
  • Changing out toys if you are on a toy rotation for smaller children

Homeschool Planning:

I am so happy to hear about so many homeschooling mothers attending in -person conferences!  There are currently conferences by held by Live Education, Christopherus, and Waldorf Essentials in-person (plus summers at places like Sunbridge and Rudolf Steiner College)  and an on-line conference focusing on Waldorf math by Jamie York of Making Math Meaningful.

My personal goals include having 75 percent of my planning done by the end of July. I have most of second grade planned out, but there were a lot of bits and pieces – math for the year, blocks, weekly activities like painting and crafts, and daily things for our older girls to do with our second grader. I still have circle time to plan, and music.  I have about half of seventh grade planned, and only about thirty percent of tenth grade.  The things we are doing in combination, including writing, project-based math, health/physiology, a monthly themed “block” that mainly is overlap between tenth and seventh grade are also pretty well mapped out at least.  Coming back with a roar for the fall! Hope you are getting some planning done as well.

I would love to hear your summer plans and what you are up to in July!

Many blessings,
Carrie

The Fifteen/Sixteen Change

In the world of Waldorf homeschoolers, there is a lot of press about the developmental changes surrounding the six/seven year old, the nine year old, and sometimes a little about the twelve year old.  However, the fifteen/sixteen year change is rarely mentioned on blogs or websites.  I guess there is no one left Waldorf homeschooling by then!

I have a back post on the sixteen year change,  and other back posts on the fifteen year old, but today I really wanted to focus on that transformation.  It could truly be THE most important developmental shift to occur for a child; I think because it catapaults the child into the more adult world than ever before.  And whilst this change has hints of the nine year change, I think it has its own dynamic and importance.

Here is why:  I see a lot of adults these days that are not very good at adulting.  The fact that we even have a term called “adulting” in the United States is probably a good indication that people are struggling with it.  Oh sure, we all struggle with it at times, and I think more because many of us have lost the sense of our elders and many of our families are fragmented, so being in our 20s- up to age 50 sometimes is fraught with more difficulties than ever before as there is no one to ask about our adult challenges!

So, I think this change is super important in this day and age.  Please, please, don’t hold your child back from this change by doing so much for them and denying them the consequences of their actions.  Please, please do give your more phlegmatic children who need a little push into more independence that push that they need.  Here are some things to consider:

Help structure your home so that your teens have freedom but also RESPONSIBILITY.  I see many parents jumping into the “freedom” part – no boundaries, a lot of handing things to their children that the teenager doesn’t have to work for – but little in the way of RESPONSIBILITY.  Summer jobs are going by the wayside, according to  this article  from June 2017 in The Atlantic.  Saving up to earn a car  is no longer done a lot.  I actually don’t think it is laziness, as some in the media have purported (which is something I think every generation since The Greatest Generation has probably said about the upcoming youngsters).  Life really is different today – from most of the jobs in my area that used to be held by teen now being held by retirees to the need to excel  in so many areas early to get into a “good college” – that teens have a different set of pressures than even twenty years ago.

Help your teen navigate this stress.  Some teens were published in the UK Guardian in March 2014 about how they feel about the world and the place of teenagers in it.  This absolutely could be the most incredible generation yet, but the stresses of the world seem to weigh more heavily upon this generation, just like it does upon us, because of the immediacy of social media and media in general.  The weight of events in countries far away seems just as impressive as the ones in our backyard.  It is a lot for us to handle, and it is a lot for teens to handle.

Help your teens learn boundaries.  The only way this can happen is if YOU have boundaries, and to help your teen not only by modeling but by helping them work with self-initiation, motivation, persistence, self-regulation,  and self-control. Many parents seem to struggle with this, so let me give you a little list as to why boundaries are important.  Adults with good boundaries can do things such as:

Listen to other people and respect other people’s “no’s” and feelings

Set limits on their own behavior or any impulses that would be self-destructive

Set limits on toxic people

Accomplish goals and tasks

Acheive healthy intimacy with othersBe honest with others

Can solve conflicts in a constructive way

Hopefully these skills will lead to not only a life of satisfaction and adventure and whatever the individual wants life to be, but also an ability to form relationships, lead a family in a healthy way, provide physically for themselves and a family, be open with their own gifts in helping humanity, and to be brave and courageous in dealing with personal matters and in situations of the world and societal structures where help  is needed.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

“Discussions With Teachers” – Introduction

If you have never read one of Steiner’s lectures, you are in for a treat with this series of discussions for teachers.  You can find this lecture series for FREE here (audio) and for FREE here (written).

One of the things I find fascinating about Waldorf Education is that it grew out of a particular time and place and for a specific set of children – it was education for the children of the factory employees at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919.  I often wonder what kind of indications Rudolf Steiner would give for homeschoolers today, living in our place and time – would it be totally different indications?   These lectures, to me, provide a key to answering this question by providing a framework for modern education (which is why I think these indications grew from specific indications for children of factory employees in early twentieth-century Germany into a hundred-year-old world-wide educational initiative!).

The other fascinating thing is that the teachers that opened the first Waldorf school had only TWO WEEKS of training.  That should calm your nerves about hoemschooling right?  The lectures compiled in “Discussions With Teachers” were part of the first Waldorf Teacher Training.  There is a lot of talk on the Internet about being prepared for homeschooling and the pressure Waldorf homeschoolers have to not only homeschool but make it “Waldorf enough” – well, here is your training course, FREE for your use!

Despite all the dogma surrounding Waldorf Education and Waldorf  homeschooling on the Internet, Rudolf Steiner’s method was to “elicit a lesson from the teacher temselves, and only then to make his own contribution based on what was presented” (from the Introduction).  He essentially laid out four principles for teachers:

The teacher must have initiative in everything that is done

The teacher should be interested in the whole world and of all of humanity

The teacher must never make a compromise in heart or mind with what is not true.

The teacher must never grow stale or sour.

In these lectures, Steiner also provided speech exercises to improve a teacher’s effectiveness. Wouldn’t we all like to be more effective in teaching our children?  These lectures look at this in detail, along with many other practical indications for teaching. Please do follow along with me!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Simplifying Waldorf Homeschooling With Multiple Children

Yesterday, this subject of simplifying came up on a Waldorf homeschooling Facebook discussion group.  It struck a chord with me as I  have been sitting down intermittently  to make daily schedules for fall since May and I sat down to work on it again this week.   I think I have made about 20 different schedules and none of them are completely satisfying and peaceful.   None of the “rhythms” of the day have enough time and space for me… and I feel like when there is something I would love my little second grader to participate in, or just be, our high schooler has to be somewhere or needs more time for her lessons.  The reality of three main lessons, multiple high school subjects that need to be run in tracks, a little second grader, a seventh grader who needs extra lessons in math and writing, and the need for time to run subjects and activities as a family and take care of my own health can hit hard.  At this point, there just aren’t enough hours in the day!

This has been running through my mind all summer simply because our school year that just ended was a rough and challenging year.  I felt completely burned out after 10 years of teaching, and I really thought the only way to fix it might be just to put everyone in school whether they wanted to go or were able to do well or not.  Eveyone needed so much, and with the giant spread in ages in our household, what everyone needed was so different! What a recipe for exhaustion!  Seriously!

This year, I am roaring back with some different ideas.  I  shared some of my general tips for simplifying Waldorf homeschooling on that Facebook group, and I will share some of  them here plus some other ideas.  I feel fortunate I didn’t really deal with a lot of burnout and feeling weighty about school until this year.

My best tips:

Depending upon your state laws, plan a shorter year.  Plan 32- 34 weeks instead of 36 and that way if you get behind you won’t feel insane.  Also, younger grades don’t need as many weeks of school as high schoolers do!

Depending upon your state laws, plan a three to four day school week with a day to just be at home or take a field trip.  Again, younger grades don’t need a five day week.

So, overall if you have one grade and kindergarten aged children, please, please don’t overschedule and panic.

Part of simplifying is also thinking about the ESSENTIAL parts of what your children will need for the future. Part of simplifying is also thinking about the ESSENTIAL parts of what your children will need for the future.   For example, if you have children in grades 3-5, I think you SHOULD be planning extra math lessons a week if it is not a math block.  Children need not only procedural practice, but math experiences – Waldorf Education is really good at this with all the practical things we do, but I still feel as if many Waldorf homeschoolers could do a better job in math.  Math also tends to be the blocks that get knocked down in number as children move up in the grades.

Schedule everyone to be on a math block together, a language arts block together, etc , so you don’t have to switch gears so much if that kind of thing bothers you.  Could you schedule painting, modeling, seasonal crafts, etc all together?

What could you combine in blocks?  This year I am starting the year with tales from Buddhism for our second grader; and the life of Buddha which will combine my seventh and tenth grader.  Are there absolutely ANY places you can combine main lessons to save time?  This, I think, could be the NUMBER ONE reason to involve a consultant in planning your year.  A consultant who is very, very familiar with the curriculum might help you find those places.

What can you farm out?  Is there a handwork teacher?  A music teacher?  A tutor?  If there is and it is in your budget, that can be so helpful.  I am not a great knitter, and I still can’t crochet.  This is because I haven’t tried because honestly it is not a priority on top of everything else.  It is okay to know your limits, and to look for outside teachers, other homeschooling parents, and community groups to help you.   It is ideal if you can find Waldorf teachers  in your area, but if not, I feel after the nine year change children can handle more of the non-Waldorfy teachers.  Little yarn shops for knitting are probably fine for desperate parents with first and second graders.  I would rather they learn to knit despite lack of Waldorf methodology!  That is just realistic!  We have been fortunate in our area to have a trained Waldorf handwork teacher who does work with homeschoolers.  What a gift!

Foreign language – can you find a tutor?  Can you leave it until high school?   Can you  keep exposing to the culture of the target language you want and then bring in the language?Honestly, this an area where most Waldorf homeschoolers struggle, especially if they live in rural areas.  Foreign languages are so important, and in Waldorf Schools, students would be immersed in two languages, but this may or may not work at home. We used tutors and German School and everything else for years, but when it came down to it, middle school was a large gap with tutors or available language schools in our area and we are started over in  eighth grade with Spanish I (high school level).

Chores – I find as children move up in the grades, they are not doing NEARLY enough work to help keep the house going.  Homeschooling multiple children in grades 3 and up is a full-time job.  You need help!  I have a GIANT (takes up an entire door) chore chart. It is ugly and not Waldorfy looking at all.  Everyone has at LEAST three chores a day on top of their own rooms, plus extra chores to pick from for pick a chore, morning habits to try to work on, and chores I will pay for.  The harder part for middle schoolers and high schoolers, I think,  is having consequences for when the chores are NOT done.  If you are working a full time job by homeschooling multiple children all day, you need help with meals and cleaning.

Nature and play is really important to keep burnout at bay.  However, I have found as my children hit high school, it is not as simple.  Not because they still don’t enjoy getting outside and playing and hiking and all of that, but for us it is hard to get everyone together.  It is so worth it to plan it in.  I usually try to make Fridays a bigger day for outside play, but now my high schooler has some outside classes that causes a shortened day for all of us on other days and we need Fridays…it just becomes trickier.  Worthy but trickier.

INNER WORK. There is nothing more important. The more you think, “Wow.  This year is going to be so hard and so challenging and everyone has such different needs and I can’t possibly meet them all and ….”  Well, then the year will be harder and more challenging. I heard a quote the other day from a really positive athlete and he was saying how he was mentally focusing to make that run or that season the best it could be, his best yet.  I find this, for me, is an effective way to look at things.  I am looking at this year with an attitude of  how can I make this year the best for my family (in its wholeness and entirety) yet?  Everyone will get what they need in the long run. You must have this attitude, I think, especially in homeschooling high school.

Please share with me your best simplifying tricks.  We already take on so much homeschooling in this way, with Waldorf.  All homeschooling is work for the parent, but Waldorf homeschooling is a different beast than just throwing a book and workbook at a child.  I think we must learn to be easy on ourselves and set boundaries in order to have a healthy life.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

On the Eve of St. John’s Tide

“John the Baptist represents man at the center of history, devoted to what is beyond himself, to the revelation of the spirit brought by Christ.  His summons was to turn inward, to search within toward a confrontation with oneself.”

-from “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide, ” page 175

St. John’s Tide is a wonderful time to ask ourselves….

are we being helpful to humanity?  As a mother, I feel the very best place to begin with this endeavor is in our own homes and with our own children.  Don’t give in to fear and insecurity in leading and guiding your children; search for the fearlessness in the heart of your parenting.  This generation of children needs that in order to develop heart, word, and deed devoted to humanity.

are we honest?

are we peaceful?

where is our balance?

How do we work on these endeavors and more in our lives? I find inner work to be a resounding key for this because our model is more important in these times than our words.  Our model is making a way and a path for our children and what the world will need when it is this generation’s turn to be  leaders and architects of solutions to problems.

Some of my favorite ways to do inner work is very simple indeed:

Praying- I am Episcopalian, so following The Book of Common Prayer is what unites the people of the Anglican Communion; a way of prayer.  When we ask for help from the spiritual world and listen in our hearts for the answer, we find the model we need.

Attending mass and receiving the sacraments

Listening to people; listening to what is becoming in the world.  This requires an interest in the outside world, and using imagination and intuition.

Trying to picture my spouse and children as clearly as possible and taking these pictures into my sleep.  Don’t we all often do our best thinking in our sleep?

Wishing you a magnificent St. John’s Tide;  perhaps you will spend the day outside with cooking over open fires or creating a bonfire that you can leap over; finding edible flowers; creating platters of fruits; gathering sunflowers and leaving a light on the porch burning all night long.  However you choose to celebrate, may renewal and transformation be yours.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

The Beauty of Summer Solstice

King Sun he climbs the summer sky

Ascending ever higher.

He mounts his gay midsummer throne,

all made of golden fire.

His flowing mantle, flowing free,

His shining gifts he showers

All golden on the earth and sea,

On men and beasts and flowers.

-From “Summer” by Wynstones Press

Beautiful sunny summer is here!  Images of beaches, the ocean, radiating sun, heat and warmth, dragonflies, bees, butterflies, and sunflowers are filling my head right now in my happiness that summer has arrived!

I have been collecting verses and songs for summer.  My favorites can be found in “Summer” by Wynstones Press and “The Singing Year” by Candy Verney.  At this time of year, I like to change the nature table to  just a little cloth and  a small vase of flowers although pebbles, seaglass and shells often make their way to our table.   I have a little branch hanging in my school room, and I would like to make some little sylphs, those little elements of air and warmth the way gnomes are seen in Waldorf education as elementals of the earth, to hang from this branch.  This is also the time of year I love to re-read Steiner’s lectures about bees and butterflies.    Have you read those?  They are very inspiring!

For work with small children, one could consider many little projects as an adjunct to outside play, such as sand painting, making terrariums, and making grass dolls.  I like to save shooting streamer ball kinds of projects for Michaelmas, but some make these types of toys now as well.

One project I want to make with our rising second grader next week is a large moving picture of a boat and fish.  There is an example of this in the book, “Earthways” by Carol Petrash and you can see an example of a very large moving picture I made for Vacation Bible School in this back post  (and yes,  that is me and our now almost eight- year- old back when he was still able to be with me in a sling when I taught!).  I put together that giant-sized mural in one afternoon by soaking the pieces of paper in the bathtub as they were rather large, but it was not a difficult project.  Perhaps you would enjoy creating something like this with your children!

Other fun things include all the summer gardening – bean teepees and sunflower houses-, and all the wonderful baking with berries available this time of year.  Many of you are no doubt collecting and drying herbs for your family’s use as well!

We are still keeping to our rhythms of mealtimes and bedtimes.  I was recently re-reading the article, “Rhythm During the Summer” by Karen Rivers in the book, “Waldorf Education:  A Family Guide” in which the author writes that “the daily and weekly rhythm of the school year have a deep significance for children especially up to the age of fourteen…Therefore, we invite you to bring as much form and regularity into your child’s summer life as you possibly can.”  This is a wonderful time to bring in more work, more chores, and some activities to be alternated with free time.

I hope you are having a wonderful summer; look for some upcoming posts about celebrating June and St. John’s Tide; planning for homeschooling; gentle discipline and communicating with our children and more.

Many blessings in this fruitful period,

Carrie