Parenting From A Place Of Calm

Being calm and modeling that for our children will do more for them than any class at school or any extra-curricular activity.  Being calm shows children and teens a way to approach problems, a way to carry an inner confidence and the strength that we need to get through life. What a wonderful start to give children and teenagers!

Many parents ask me how can I parent from a place of calm?  And I ask them, what prevents you from doing that?  Sometimes the answer is MY CHILDREN! LOL. With that in mind, I would like to share with you some of the ways I help myself come from a calmer place.

  • Understand developmental stages – This might be the number one thing to help you realize that “this is a stage, this too shall pass” and “I can help guide, but it will most likely work out!”  Understanding developmental stages makes you feel less stressed, and more connected to your child.  It is much easier to connect and have empathy if you know this is a normal developmental stage.
  • Let logical consequences prevail.   I see too many parents bailing their children out of small things that really their older children need to fail and learn from that failure.  One prime example is homework and projects, where the child procrastinates and waits until the night before it is due and then is screaming for help to get it done.  Failure, and the ability to know that one can come back from failure and know one can triumph is a far bigger lesson than whatever the project was.  Let them fail!  Making restitution is an important part of logical consequences, no matter what the age of the child.
  • Get the energy out.  Many parents say their children prevent them from being calm and my guess is most of the time the children just have too much energy. Get the energy out!  Be active with them, and most of all, get rid of the screens.  The screens do nothing to get energy out and to help everyone be calm.  Which leads to…
  • Be outside. Most things are calmer outside.  Especially if you have children under the age of 14, you should be outside every afternoon in some form of unstructured play.    Teens need this too, but the reality is many teens do have commitments at that point and cannot be outside every afternoon like that.  However, do make it a priority for those under 14.  You will never, ever get those under 14 years back.
  • Limit activities outside the home and plan for rest and downtime. Do not go out every day, even if it is fun things!  Be home!  A child and teen needs to know that the home is more than a launching pad to get to a class or activity, and that being home can be fulfilling too.
  • Understand that energetic and calm are not contradictory.  You can have and be both.  This was important for me personally to understand when I looked at all those soft-spoken, quiet Waldorf teachers.  I am energetic and dynamic.  I like to work and play hard, and it was super important for me to understand being energetic wasn’t a minus and calm is carried in your heart.  Being a calm parent could mean you are quiet and soft-spoken but it could also mean you are energetic and fun.
  • Have a plan for inner growth and development.   This is another complete game-changer.  If you profess to follow a religious or spiritual path, and yet invest no time in that at all each day, then you aren’t growing toward compassion, calmness, and all the things you profess to be important.   The inner path sets the inner stage for calmness. It can take as little as ten minutes a day, but DO SOMETHING.
  • Have something outside of your children as they get older.  As children grow, you do hit a point where you have time for some of your own interests or pursuits or to have a date night out or whatever it is that it time without your children.  However, the caveat is that no matter how many children you have, they will fill your 100 percent UNLESS you really put the effort into saying, no, this is my time.  I find this is especially important to do this with the early teen group who want to be driven a lot of places.  I am here for more than just driving and sitting and waiting.  Please show your children there is more to the world than just them.  
  • Know your limits and what you need for self-care! This is the most important one. If you are absolutely empty, then you cannot fulfill being calm.  Self-care means different things to different people, so figure out what makes things nurturing for you.

How do you come from a place of calm?

Blessings,
Carrie

Needs of The Waldorf Homeschooler

I have been thinking  the “drop- off points”  in Waldorf homeschooling (if families get through the second and third grade then it seems many drop- offs occur between fourth and fifth grade, again around sixth grade, and then again before high school.  Lots of drop-off!).  I   find lack of curriculum and understanding how to develop academic skills a Waldorf way is a reason many  parents cite.

I don’t think this should be so; Waldorf Education is supposed to be a rigorous education.  However, skill development is often something that seems to be more of a subject of discussion in the “early grades” with Waldorf Education .  For example, for the early grades, many of those  “How Does Waldorf Education teach children to read?” or “What is the Waldorf approach to learning math?”  articles abound.  In general, I think we see less regarding academic skill development in the Waldorf community for grades 5 and up, and even less discussion for Waldorf homeschoolers regarding what needs to be done to prepare seventh and eighth graders for high school.

And yes, there are products on the market for some of these areas.  However, I do not consider having only ONE product  ( or even two!) that may or may not resonate with a Waldorf homeschooling family to be enough!  Waldorf homeschooling families  would also  like to hear a variety of experiences and “how we really did this” for the upper grades especially, because these upper grades can vary considerably in experiences and skill levels.  Waldorf homeschooling is not Waldorf School!

What I hear over and over from Waldorf  homeschooling mothers regarding what they want in ” subject-specific  ” curriculum is:

  • Something for spelling by grade and block .  Yes, the spelling words should be pulled out of the blocks, but I think homeschooling parents are searching for what spelling rules are taught when, how a spelling word is different than a vocabulary word,. and how spelling can be built upon year after year, block after block in a systematic way.
  • Something for grammar by grade and block.  This is a constant source of difficulty for most parents.
  • Something for math, that includes MANY creative practice problems for daily use .  Yes, there are guides, yes, there are Waldorf math books, but  I think a few more options on the market to help parents along would be well- appreciated for the upper grades and high school.  The amount of topics needing to be reviewed gets intense, and for those parents less well-versed in math, even something like mental math can be difficult to make up on one’s own. (For that matter, even parents with children in the early grades would like some more laid out mental math options.  If a homeschooling parent has a child in first through third grade, chances are he or she may also have a kindy aged child and maybe a baby.  We are sleep deprived!  It is hard to create number journeys about gnomes  and fairies for second graders when we are sleep deprived. :))
  • Something for  developing great writing skills for the middle school years.  This is particularly needed for grades seven and eight as students look to transitioning into high school subjects. Between the  idea of an “animal report” in fourth grade and a “state report” in fifth grade, and the standard “Wish, Wonder, Surprise” block in seventh grade (which sometimes works well in the home environment and sometimes not!),  I think parents are often left wondering what they should be doing step by step in writing instruction, especially if writing is not their forte.
  • Along this vein, more ideas for general preparation for high school.
  • For the upper grades, more ideas for blocks and how a block can look very different from homeschool to homeschool… More of the “how” to teach these blocks and the academic skills that should be intertwining in these blocks. Many of these subjects  in grades 6-8 are foreign to parents.  Some parents never had Roman History, for example, in high school or college. It is a lot to put together every block with no background, and it is a lot to learn about every subject from scratch well enough to teach it to your child (plus figuring out HOW to teach your students the academic skills using this subject as vehicle).  Parents get frustrated or simply are scared off because they think Waldorf homeschooling is no longer for them because they don’t know much about these subjects, let alone  how to teach these vast subjects in a “Waldorf Way”.  I personally want Waldorf homeschooling parents to feel very supported in these upper grades and high school so they don’t give up!
  • In that vein, we could use more high school products to choose from.

What products would YOU love to see on the Waldorf homeschooling market?

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood- Screens and Temperaments

This last post in this series talked about Chapter Three; today I wanted to finish up the last little bit of this chapter.  The very last section talks about screens and how children sometimes react based upon their temperament. (If you need more information about temperament, I suggest this back post.)

Choleric Children, also noted to be “active children” in this chapter:  they may soon tire of screens as it is not active enough for them, but they may be very attracted to computer games and such. It is noted that these types of children need very strong boundaries and structure so the child can feel safe and secure in these limits.

Melancholic, also noted as “sensitive children” in this chapter:  sensitive children need their parents to hear them, they need a lot of empathy and as they are often full of feeling and sometimes vulnerable, screens can increase their isolation. Not only that, program content can also be overwhelming for their level of sensitivity.  They often cannot just shrug off what they have seen on a TV show or what happened in social media.

Sanguine children, also called “responsive children” in this chapter:  these children usually like change, have many interests, and are outgoing and very social.  They are easily distracted and can “flit” around.  From page 47, “They enjoy reacting to life’s experience and need stimulation, but can throw tantrums if they don’t want to move on.  If left to the screen, they can be caught by the ever-changing images – and this can really over-stimulate them.”    These children need help turning the screens off – usually some sort of even better distraction will do the trick.  Since the early years are noted to be a time of sanguinity, I find this description applies to many small children.

Lastly, phlegmatic children, called “receptive children” in this chapter are the children who need a regular rhythm, who like repetition and routine and like to know what is coming up.  They often enjoy just sitting and being dreamy.  Since these children often enjoy comfort, they may get into a rhythmical habit of screen time that is difficult to change.  They need help from their parents as well – they need tasks to do, and they need help to develop their own interests.  They need a rhythm to the day and week that capitalizes on other things than screens!

Of course, every child is a UNIQUE individual.  However, the temperaments can be a helpful, loose guide of what some children need from their parents regarding screen time and what would be helpful in the pursuit of balance.

Many blessings and on to Chapter Four.  Who is reading along?

Carrie

 

 

 

A Month of Michaelmas

A beautiful month of Michaelmas is upon us!  Don’t you love the call of the spiritual path that this time of year brings forth?  Let us engage in this longing and searching for the good to triumph over evil, for our inner light to shine over our baser passions, for our love for the world to expand in our deeds and responsibility toward all of humanity?

Here are some ways to prepare. If you have older children and ESPECIALLY teenagers, they should be part of preparing these things for younger children and I have included some suggestions for older children and teens directly.

1-   Make a little dragon for your nature table or place to display in the house.  My favorite little dragon pattern/kit is here at Mama Jude’s Etsy shop.  It is called Little Dragon Friend.

2 – Create shooting stars for Michaelmas.  Rhythmic Silence blog has suggestions as to how to dye and wet felt some beautiful balls for this (and add a tail!).  Perhaps you could make them and then hand them out on the day of the special festival celebration.

3 – Learn Michaelmas verses.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Michael the Victorious

Thou Michael the Victorious,

I make my circuit under thy shield

Thou Michael of the white steed

And of the bright, brillant blade!

Conqueror of the dragon,

Be thou at my back.

Thou ranger of the heavens!

Thou warrior of the King of all!

Thou Michael the victorious

My pride and my guide!

Thou Michael the victorious

The glory of mine eye.

And:

I rise through the strength of Mi-cha-el

Light of Sun

Radiance of Moon

Splendor of Fire

Swiftness of Wind

Depth of Sea

Stability of Earth

Firmness of Rock.

Mi-cha-el!

4- Find depictions of St. Michael the Archangel in art to display.  Some show St. Michael as a dragon-fighter or holding a  balance scale.  Different works of art show different aspects of St. Michael.

5- Stress doing good for others during this four-week period.  In the book, “Festivals With Children,” Brigitte Barz talks about bringing a balancing scale into the children’s space with dark stones on one side and helping the child choose a task each day to  help the archangel.  In this way, different stones can be added to the other side of the balance and hopefully by Michaelmas, the scale will be in complete balance.

7 – Make kites to fly.  This has been associated with Michaelmas for some time.

8 –  Make a dragon out of clay or modeling beeswax

9 – Decorate a candle with a Michaelmas theme with the thin modeling candle wax.

10- Tell fairy tales to the grades-aged children that fit into Michaelmas:  The Devil With The Three Golden Hairs, The Drummer, The Crystal Ball, The Two Brothers, Sleeping Beauty are all suggested.

11 – For children ages 9 and up, find Christine Natale’s story “The Golden Soldier”.  You can find Christine’s work here.

12 – For even older children, Parsifal is read in eleventh grade, so those 16 or so may enjoy this tale.

13 – Tell stories about St. George, a brave knight, who is a human symbol of this conflict of slaying and taming dragons; the personification of carrying inner light at a time when the outward light is diminishing

14 – For tiny children, try Suzanne Down’s story “The Brave Little Knight” or  the story “The Far Country” in the back of the book “All Year Round” for those five and up.

15 – Make plans to make “dragon bread” or a Michaelmas Harvest Loaf.  There is a story to go with this in the book “All Year Long”

16 – Learn Michaelmas songs.    There are some good ones in the Wynstones Autumn Book and yes, also on You Tube!

17 – Gather Michaelmas daisies.

18- Build an obstacle course that requires courage and bravery.

19 – Make a Calendula Courage Salve.

20 – Gather flowers to dye silk capes yellow for the big day.

21 – Make wooden shields or swords; have a knighting ceremony.

22 – Create a community gathering.

23 – Meditate on how we bring imagination, creativity, and fearlessness to the colder months ahead.  How do we overcome anxiety or fear? How do we bring more love into the world and how do we help others?

24 – Angels can be a lovely theme for this month.  I like the Paraclete Treasury of Angel Stories for reading aloud.

25 –  Make a Michaelmas drawing for your chalkboard

26- Learn a Michaelmas fingerplay for the littles.  See this post over at Little Acorn Learning

27  – Make a window transparency.  You can see an example on my Michaelmas Pinterest board.

28 – Make shadow puppets of St. George or the archangel and the dragon.

29  Michaelmas Day – shape your celebration in the way that feels most fitting to you and your family or community.  Over the years we have done simple soup and bread sharing; puppet shows; obstacle courses that involve courage, bonfires and singing.  I think it just depends who you have with you and what wonderful gifts you can share with each other.

Many blessings on this time.

Carrie

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: September

September, I love you so!  Cooler weather, harvest, leaves turning colors, long walks and bike rides, apples and pumpkins, acorns, getting the house organized for fall, searching for things to make for the holidays, fall decorating!  So many wonderful things to love about September!

September often seems to be about new beginnings.  Here in the South, the school children have been back to school about a month, so perhaps it is not “new”, but  it still has that feel to me and my Northern upbringing (where we always started school the day after Labor Day) , that it is a time of possibility and change.  Things are full of fun and new life over in our house as well.  We  recently got a brand new cute little rescue puppy, and she has energy and fun in her, but is also pretty calm.

We are three weeks into school, and finishing up our first blocks of first and sixth grade, with our first block of ninth grade planned to take about six weeks.  We have been going on a few field trips, (and I hope to talk in another post about field trips!)

This month we are celebrating:

September 5 – Labor Day – I have written before about trying to find a Labor Day parade or going to take your small children where something spectacular was built and finding out the history of how it was created and built.

September 8- The Nativity of St.Mary, the Theotokos

September 21 – The Feast of  St. Matthew

September 29 – Michaelmas

There are a host  of wonderful Celtic Saints to celebrate this month in Anglican tradition as well – really to many to choose from. St. Cyprian, St. Hildegard, and St. Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury.  I hope to at least read about some of these Saints to our children.

Some of our Field Trips this month may include:

  • Apple Picking

Ideas for Celebrating this Month with Littles:

Ideas for Celebrating this Month With Older Children:

Ideas for Celebrating this Month With Teens:

  • Find great theater, museum, and festival events to attend
  • Longer hiking, camping, and backpacking trips
  • Bake and cook fall dishes
  • Work on fall organizing and cleaning
  • Stargazing
  • Find new activities outside the home that your teen will adore
  • Find  new knitting, crocheting, sewing, woodworking and woodcarving ideas to try

Homemaking:

  • Getting our rhythm down. I often have to make changes and tweak things a few weeks into school.  This year has been busy with some outside things ( judging events in 4-H, taking care of a puppy down the street, etc) so once some of those things  have ended, I think it will be simpler.  You all know how it goes – hard to garner a fanstastic rhythm if the time is just being broken up.
  • I have plans to really go through the children’s toys.  Some things need to be refreshed and moved around for our soon to be seven year old, and some things just need to be weeded out.  The Konmari In The Waldorf Home group on Facebook has been very inspiring to me.
  • Planning landscaping.  This house had the bushes planted during construction and we would like to do something more and get back into having a fall garden.  Not a lot of this has happened since we moved into this house.

Homeschooling:

  • I am feeling pretty settled into what we are doing, other than my children in general move rather slowly when it comes to the “doing” part of putting anything in our Main Lesson Books (but that isn’t new).  It can be a real juggle to teach three children, and I find I am often teaching fairly non-stop between 8:30 and 2:30 or so.
  • One thing I have been contemplating so much is the loss of people homeschooling in general as children grow older; the loss of older children in Waldorf homeschooling in particular and the development of academic skills within the Waldorf curriculum that children around the fifth grade and up mark really and truly need to be successful at the high school level.  I just don’t think there is enough emphasis regarding the HOW to develop skills in the upper Waldorf curriculum and Waldorf high school  – whether that is increasing artistic skills or academic skills – for homeschooling parents to really sink their teeth into.  More on that at some point in the future!

Self-Care:

  • School starting has really thrown off my self-care routines, but I feel it coming back to the surface after several weeks of putting myself on the back burner.
  • Spiritual studies are taking on a new life for me.  I took part in a really wonderful prayer event for homeschooling, and am  looking forward to adult Sunday School beginning at church next week.  I have been rather inward focused this summer, and feel a new period of growth coming on.  There is also a study I am taking part in through our local Waldorf School, and another one on-line.   I like to feel my knowledge of Waldorf Education expanding.  Even things as small as picking out new verses for the children’s grade to open the day and picking out verses for me to focus myself for this school year has seemed significant.

I would love to hear what you are up to  this September!

Blessings,
Carrie

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