celebrating earth day (every day)

Earth Day is tomorrow, the day after Easter Sunday.  This feels very profound to me this year as there was a large push within The Episcopal Church, my church, toward reconciliation in matters of race, social justice and the care of creation.  In fact, our entire Lenten season was dedicated to Creation Care and matters of eco-justice.   So it seems wildly wonderful to me that Earth Day falls on the day after Easter.   That is my own personal intersection with our faith and family, but obviously this work in  celebrating and conservation has been being  done by parents, Waldorf Schools, wildschoolers, and environmentally-conscious homeschoolers for a long time.  Every day is Earth Day!  If you would like to see more about that perspective from the Waldorf School movement, I suggest this brief article about this history of Earth Day in the Waldorf Schools.

I think as parents we are at the forefront of the environmental movement as we train the next generation of leaders through our example.  Here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate Earth Day every day:

  • Storytelling stories of good creation, of the wisdom of the plants and animals
  • Making useful products from herbs and plants – tinctures to natural dyes and more
  • Gardening and composting
  • Planting trees
  • Spending time in nature without agenda
  • Camping, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing
  • Conserving our own resources – reduce, recycle, reuse
  • Buying locally and sustainably
  • Handmaking things as much as possible
  • Living simply
  • Eating organically and using organic household items for laundry and hygiene
  • Looking for companies with sustainable packaging or better yet, stores and companies that are going zero waste
  • Letting children get dirty outside
  • Introducing children to naturalists, biologists, and environmental innovators through biography
  • For homeschooling parents and classroom teachers, making nature studies a vast and wide part of the educational experience

Tell me your favorite ways to celebrate Earth Day every day!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Celebrating Holy Week As A Family

For those of us who celebrate Easter, the entire Lenten season is now boiled down into this Holy Week that began with Palm Sunday and will continue this week until Easter Sunday.

There are many wonderful ways to celebrate Holy Week as a family, in addition to attending your local place of worship. Here are a few of our favorite family traditions:

  1.  Create an Easter Garden with small figurines.  Small children usually love this.
  2. Dye eggs with natural dyes, which is enjoyable for all ages.  Eggs were a symbol of creation, spring, and fertility long before Christianity. The Persians exchanged eggs at the new year; the Romans gave red painted eggs as a gift at new year.  Christianity adopted eggs as a symbol of the resurrection, and there are many wonderful stories about the resurrection and red eggs.  If you know any Orthodox Christians, ask if they have an icon of Mary Magdalene that they would be willing to show you -some icons have her depicted holding a red egg, so you can find out the story behind that!
  3. In the Anglican tradition (of which my family is a part of),  we keep vigil and pray during the time from the Last Supper to the time of the Crucifixion on Good Friday.  If you can find an Episcopalian parish in your area, prayer vigils are  often held all night there after Maundy Thursday Mass and times are rotated amongst members of the parish all night long.
  4. On Good Friday, you can bury a cross in a white shroud and uncover it on Easter. In our religious tradition, we decorate the cross on Easter with a multitude of beautiful fresh flowers.  This flowering cross on Easter Sunday is especially beautiful, and would be doable to do at home as well as in a community of worship.
  5. Spend time in nature and silence on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter.
  6. Create an Easter Candle, and bring home fire from the Paschal Candle at church to light your family Easter Candle.
  7. Bake Easter Bread to be eaten on Easter Sunday.
  8. You can make hot cross buns in order to break the fast on Good Friday (after sundown).  This tradition may have started with a 12th century monk in England who distributed buns to the needy on Good Friday, and it continues to be a tradition to this day.

I would love to hear your Holy Week traditions!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Taming Your Chaotic Household

Most children need a calm and secure home life in order to thrive.  Children who have extra challenges such as being highly sensitive, higher needs, AD/HD, etc really need this.  The main question parents ask me in relation to this idea is:

How do I get this?  I want it but I don’t seem to be able to get it!

There are easy steps you can take toward taming chaos in the family.

  1. Find the triggers for everyone in the family. Sometimes we can readily identify what our children’s triggers are, from clothes to routine changes to foods to light and sound, but we also need to think about the triggers of the adults in the house.  If we understand what all of the triggers in the family are, we can more easily all live in peace together.
  2. If the child is out of control, we don’t add fuel to the fire and ramp it up – we provide a calm response.  Be the calm.  Inner work of any form – prayer, meditation, yoga, physical exercise/walking meditation, being in nature – all helps us be the calm.
  3. We don’t blame the other adults in the house.  We enlist each other’s strengths, we give each other outs if things are getting intense, and we work as a team.  Some families need counseling to really grasp this as a technique.
  4. We provide a home environment that is calming and secure:  we take care of addictions and baggage, we provide balance, we provide a clean environment that is reasonably orderly, we provide routine and boundaries.  We provide love and connection and listening.
  5. We take care of the basic levels of calm by providing adequate hours for sleep, healthy meals, and really monitoring the effects of sleep and different kinds of foods on our children.
  6. Lastly, if our child is school-aged, we do our best to find educational settings that match what our children need.
  7. If we are drowning, we get help.  It can be a trusted family member or friend to help you organize, it can be that you ask for help with meals, it can be that you take time off of homeschooling and deal with the physical space in your home.   Ask for help and be open to receiving it.

I would love to hear how you tamed your own chaos!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

the 3 stages of adolescence: takeaways for parenting

There are three distinctive stages of adolescence, and our best parenting should grow in response to these stages:

Ages 13-15/16 Early Adolescence

This is the stage of distance between “self” and “other”.  It involves the adolescent measuring him or herself against others. It is a time of uncertainty, emotional extremes, confrontation to clarify oneself against confrontation, and a time of building one’s own worldview apart from one’s parents.

best parenting:  walking the line between boundaries that provide safety and the slow opening up of the external world outside the family

Ages 15/16 to 18:  Middle Adolescence

This is a stage of more personal responsibility; typically a time of not wanting to be identified with childhood and a great enthusiasm for new challenges, wider contexts, and experiencing the push and pull of intimacy where oneself is expressed but there is still room for the other person; sensitive adolescents can struggle during this time

best parenting:  be on guard for escapism in response to that pull of vulnerability versus self-set boundaries; help the middle adolescent take responsibility and not lose oneself within the wider world; artistic work is important during this time period

Ages 18 t0 21:  Last phase of Adolescence

This is a time of figuring out not only who am i? but what do I want? meshed with the understanding of what am I capable of?  This must come from the will; mature adolescents will see where their path of development helps their fellow man.  This is a time of choosing their place in life, their work, perhaps a significant other or significant community.

best parenting:  since action comes from being capable, providing support and encouragement for capacities and capabilities is important; support for the ideas of the late adolescent; the encouraging of community

Share some of your best parenting practices for adolescents!

Blessings and much love,

Carrie

why is my six-year-old so mean?

One of the most popular posts I ever wrote was talking about “defiance” in children under the age of six. In part, I wrote:

They are not “defiant”; defiance implies a fully conscious knowing of right and wrong and choosing to do the opposite, wrong, thing.  Since in the land of Waldorf parenting we believe the first seven years are a dreamy state, a state where logical thought has not yet entered, a state where the child is one giant sense organ (an eye!) and just taking in sensory impressions without a filter, there can be no “defiance”. Many times the power struggles we create with our children are a result of our own lack of knowledge of developmental stages, not having the right tools to guide our child, our own inner issues at the moment and not as much to do with the child as we thought!

Of course a small child wants what they want when they want it.  This is part of the fact that the small child lives specifically within their bodies and within their WILL.  Thinking comes in much later.  A two-year-old  will push against forms that you create in rhythm; this is why the rhythm is for YOU if you have a child under the age of 6.

But what do we do around age 6 when nearly everything a six year old does can seem mean, antagonistic, or a wrestling of power and clashing of the wills?  Doesn’t that behavior seem defiant and aren’t they “old enough” to know better?

Six is still very tiny, my friends.  I know it doesn’t seem that way when your oldest is six and you have tinier babies in the house, but six is tiny.  Six shows us the beginning glimmer of the polarity that lies in all of us and our ability to make choices that are good and bad and impact others in a real way.  Six is not only bigger than five was, but entirely different.

Six year olds are usually stubborn, and have a hard time in making up his or her mind, but once that is done it is difficult to get the child to change his mind.  A six year old usually adores his his mother, but at the same time, when things go wrong it is usually Mother’s fault and the Six year-old will take out everything on their Mother.  The child is the center of their own universe; the Mother is not the center of the child’s universe.

And yes, six year olds may not get along with siblings, especially younger siblings.  They usually want to win and be in charge and have everything.  They also love to have friends, but are frequently mean to their friends.  A six year old sometimes doesn’t seem to get along with anybody for too long a stretch!

So, as a parent, how do we handle this age?  

My answer is with love and connection and the understanding that despite all the surface antagonism toward others, six can be a very insecure age and an age of separation that makes children feel a little insecure and unsure.  They are trying to navigate things on their own terms, and often fail, and don’t need to be criticized constantly.

Six year olds need a strong rhythm at home that helps carry things (set bedtimes, meal times, set times to be outside and play), a strong period of time every day to free play and get their physical energy out and be in nature, and an understanding that six is not an age that deals well with overstimulation so to try to keep things calm.

They need a watchful eye when playing with friends of the same age or younger, because they may not be nice.  They need calm rules and for you to be the gentle and loving authority to show them how to treat people nicely both within the family and without.

One of the best tricks I have used as a mother of three children now all through the six year old stage were learning calm, stock phrases for that age, which helped me keep calm in the throes of emotion, because the more matter-of-fact you can be, the better things will go: 

I am here to help you.

I bet if you eat something/sleep/drink something, you will feel better.

Do you want me to tell you a story and snuggle?

This is just the rule in our family.

Let’s try that again.

Let me give you a minute unless you want my help.

Do you want to (accomplish this) with choice A or choice B?

If you are interested in learning more about the six-year-old, I recommend this back post on The Angry Aggressive Six Year Old. It has almost 70 comments with varying situations, so I bet you can find some thoughts on the situation you are experiencing, or feel free to set up a consult with me the week of April 22-27 through admin@theparentingpassageway.com

Many blessings and lots of love,
Carrie

guest post: the child is the curriculum community

I am excited to share with you today a beautiful guest post today by Annie Hass, a talented artist and Waldorf homeschooling mother of 3 whom I am forunate enough to have as a friend.  She and her homeschooled son have created a beautiful endeavor that is combining so many things the homeschooling community has been wishing for – support, connection, book studies, ideas about self-care, homeschooling ideas, art tutorials, lesson plans by the block for Waldorf homeschoolers.  If you like holistic homeschooling, arts-based homeschooling or Waldorf homeschooling, I think you will love her new site!  I intend to put many homeschooling ideas over there, both for free and for sale.  Here is what Annie writes to you all:

The Child is the Curriculum:  Helping You Bravely Create Your Own Waldorf Homeschool Curriculum: A Manifesto!

Over the years online I have seen people ask so many times over “What is the best Waldorf curriculum to buy?” and a slew of varying answers would reply, all very valid and heartfelt responses. Just as often as I have seen this, I have also witnessed expressed frustration at the amount of money people have spent on various curriculum, especially when they didn’t wind up using all of it! Always in the back of my mind, I wondered why people weren’t selling curriculum by the main lesson block (the Waldorf version of a unit study). It was as if everyone was truly funneled into buying an entire year or more, or even a lifetime membership! That’s quite a commitment, especially for parents brand new to Waldorf. To many, Waldorf can seem too difficult, hard to understand, inaccessible, expensive. . . and the worst: elitist.

What makes Waldorf Education so out of reach for many? There is a multifaceted answer. The Waldorf schools themselves will cost a person $8000 – $14,000 per year. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Schools never intended it to be this way. Even with his recommendation that government should have no involvement with the Waldorf schools, he knew that the seed he planted would grow. He paralleled these recommendations with other ones for ethical banking and the economy that would make the Waldorf schools affordable for everyone called the Threefold Social Organism. Even though those recommendations were mainly ignored by society, the Waldorf schools were not. The Waldorf movement continues to grow and the demand for Waldorf inspired education grows by the hour. Even despite the cost. The cost remains high for both Waldorf Schools and curriculum, but is this necessary? Not when we remind everyone that Steiner said that Waldorf Education is a pedagogy, not a curriculum. He also said it can be applied anywhere. . . city or country, high or low income, and is not connected to circumstances. Waldorf Education at its core is a deep understanding of the human being. 

Another reason Waldorf seems out of reach for so many is the very materialism that Rudolf Steiner was trying to help us avoid. In this materialistic era, Waldorf can really seem like its all about the “stuff.” The natural toys, the supplies, and the expensive books, can be extremely tempting and make you feel like you NEED them to be truly Waldorf. You don’t. You can practice Waldorf best when you are really understanding your child. Anything else you can bring them should be there to serve this purpose! Their invisible needs should always come above and beyond the physical world. Steiner emphasized the importance of beauty and quality. . . but only it how it serves us inwardly, not for its own sake. You can give your child a sense of beauty and quality around them without giving a kidney at the same time! I will repeat the last sentence of the last paragraph: Waldorf Education at it’s core is a deep understanding of the human being.

Yet another reason Waldorf seems so out of reach is focusing on what we are doing as teachers more than who we are. We are often so consumed with bringing the “right” facts, and doing it the “right” way and feeling no confidence in ourselves to understand our children and how to bring them things. It really parallels what is going on with diet in the modern world. People long ago didn’t have to be told what to eat, they just ate. So too, have we lost our ability to spiritually understand how to educate in a meaningful way. We forget to do the inner work on ourselves. We forget that we can educate by understanding ourselves more, and seeking understanding of our children more is really what is most needed. The things that we actually do, and the specific things that we bring in a certain way only exist to serve this purpose. I will repeat the last sentence of the last two paragraphs: Waldorf Education at its core is a deep understanding of the human being.

One more reason many people just cannot fathom truly Waldorf Homeschooling, is that they think they do not have the time. When you have a peak at curriculums or a peak inside the schools and get a glimse at all that they are doing, you can get a feeling that you cannot possibly do all that it entails. It’s just too much! You may feel that you don’t have the skill, you may feel you need to overhaul your whole lifestyle, you may feel like you need to do as much in a day as a school does… complete with extra subjects!! You don’t. You can work all the necessary elements of Waldorf Education into your school year, in a way that works for your specific family. Your version of Waldorf will not look like anyone else’s, and that’s as it should be. Waldorf should mold into your life, your life shouldn’t have to mold into an outer other form of Waldorf. I will repeat the last sentence of the last three paragraphs: Waldorf Education at it’s core is a deep understanding of the human being.

I could go on, but I think I am getting the point across. So how do you create your own Waldorf curriculum? You stay at the core. Anytime you go astray from the core of what Waldorf is, you remind yourself again and again and again if you have to. If you want to truly do Waldorf at home, your time is better spent reading Steiner’s free online lectures than it is mulling over thousands of toys, hundreds of opinions, pressure to do anything that is too much, or anything that distracts you from the core. Spend time gaining a deep understanding of the human being.

One thing you will also need is some kind of support, whether it is local or online. When we speak with others on this path, it can really be reassuring and also a constant reminder to stay at the core of Waldorf! I have thought about creating a curriculum for the Waldorf Homeschool community in the past, but instead, after all I have been through, I decided to create something else instead. An extremely low cost website that helps homeschoolers create their own! A website that helps support them spiritually on their journey. The Child is the Curriculum is a Global Online Waldorf Homeschool Community and A La Carte Curriculum Source. It is just a baby now, and with lots of love and growing, members will help it blossom into a big beautiful vibrant thriving file sharing Waldorf community that supports and encourages parents of all incomes and circumstances.

Our goal for this new community is twofold. We have created a community space that is separate from social media, where homeschooling parents can come together to support one another and have a place to share their own unique gifts with the community. Also, we created a space where these resources are affordable and easily accessible. We want you to be able to both select content from other teachers/parents, and submit your own content. We want you to be able to custom curate your own curriculum while getting lots of support!

What are the benefits of a cooperative?

  • ~ Teacher Autonomy: you will no longer feel the weight of needing to do things in one specific way. Others will be sharing their unique way and it will inspire!
  • ~ Organized for Convenience: It’s organized by block and topic so you can easily find what you need as well as many who have shared their way of exploring that topic.
  • ~ Alternative to Social Media: Forums have the ability to foster lifelong friendships and make deeper connections. Social media can be a time drain, and a space for specific goals can help you stay focused and feel support.
  • ~ Book Clubs and Study Groups: Dive deeper with others by really getting at the core of Waldorf with our book club section! Let us help you study so it is more understandable.
  • ~ Book recommendations: Let us help you find books in your price range, and ones that meet what you really need so you aren’t wasting time and money.
  • ~ Downloads Feature: Upload and Download, sell or donate, your files! With a PayPal account, you can withdraw the funds you make from selling your ideas and purchase tutorials and blocks of other teachers!
  • ~ Forum Discussion and Mentorship: Receive help and discuss every grade and subject! We also have sections for caring for yourself as a parent, seasonal festivals, special needs, skill building, and so much more to help you.
  • ~ Blogging Platform: Create your own blog in our system to privately share your journey with other members. Or, link to your outer blog!
  • ~ Buy/Sell Trade: A section that allows you to swap your used Waldorf goods or buy from others
  • ~ Calendar and Events: mark seasonal festivals, plan each festival in our holiday/festival section, join us for Zoom conferences, and get updated about podcasts and webinars!
  • ~ Albums and galleries: Share your images or browse albums of others for inspiration!
  • ~ Teach a class! Use our Book Club system to teach a paying class. Charge other members a fee to come into your club and give your expertise on a subject or host one for free!
  • ~ Video tutorials: We have a video tutorial section for premium members. Share your own videos to get premium membership. Please see our website for more information!

Ultimately, this cooperative serves to remind you to stay at the core of Waldorf. The rest is there to help you feel empowered and inspired. We hope to help more homeschoolers gain the confidence they need to chart their own course! The Waldorf Homeschooling community really needs to shake things up a bit, throw off some myths and out of touch feelings, and bring everything back to being about the human being. In truth, you have already created your own curriculum. . . your very own child! 

Our community is located at www.thechildisthecurriculum.com

We hope to see you there!!!

 

Warmly,

Annie Haas

(Carrie here:  Hope to see you over there!  Many blessings and love)

 

 

 

 

 

 

your child’s vestibular system

Many blogs are talking about the vestibular system of children The vestibular system is  obviously important in looking at the development of children.  It helps us orient our head against gravity (head righting), helps with gaze stabilization, postural adjustments, reflex integration, movement perception, the overall tone of our body (are we stiff? floppy?) and stabilizing the head.  

The general symptoms of vestibular challenges include vertigo (feeling like you or objects are spinning around) or dizziness (unsteadiness, lightheadedness).  Poor balance, nausea, headache, visual disturbances, hearing loss, pain in the ears can also be a part of vestibular disorders.  It can be very fatiguing, and cause challenges with concentration, memory, and thinking.   However, many times children cannot describe any of these symptoms very well.

Vestibular difficulties, however, can often be hard to recognize in children or can be part of other issues that parents notice, such as gastroesophageal reflux. Symptoms that can tie into vestibular system problems include a history of developmental delay or delayed integration of reflexes, low visual spatial abilities, hearing loss (although you can have vestibular problems without hearing loss), motion sensitivity, clumsiness or poor hand-eye coordination, nystagmus, history of seizures, history of vertigo.   There may be a medical history of trauma or head-jarring sports, ear infections, migraines, meningitis, medications that affect the inner ear such as antibiotics or chemotherapy.  Torticollis in infancy can sometimes precede vertigo and vestibular problems.

The vestibular system develops very early and by 8 weeks the embryonic inner ear is similar to an adult’s.  The parts of the brain that work with the vestibular system are among the first part of the the brain to develop, and myelination of the vestibular pathways are completed within 16 weeks after birth.  The vestibular system is developing most between ages 4-6 for more mature motor patterns, and inegrates with other sensory and motor systems like the visual, tactile, proprioceptive system by the age of six, but continues developing all the way through age 15.  

The vestibular system provides the input for the motor control of the eyes.  The vestibular-ocular reflex is usually adult- like by 6 months (which is what maintains stable vision on the retina when one’s head moves) and ties into eye movement.  There is also a vestibulospinal reflex that stabilizes the head and body for automatic postural developments.  

The main diagnoses for children with vestibular disorders is Childhood Paroxysmal Vertigo, which is the most common disorder for children ages 2-12, and often comes with a family history of migraines, motion sensitivity, and sometimes a prior history of torticollis.  Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo of Childhood usually is from whiplash types of injuries or injuries to the skull or neck, birth injuries, or inner ear or labyrinthine concussions.   Less common conditions include Vestibular Neuronitis caused by bacteria or virus infections, or Meniere’s Disease of Children, which is an imbalance in the fluid of the vestibular system. Most blogs about the vestibular system are not referring to these specific conditions, however, but an overall sense of development or sensory challenges in which the vestibular system may play a part.

Children who have vestibular dysfunction often become overwhelmed by  environments that are overstimulating or too fast.  The largest part of parenting children with vestibular dysfunction is to observe and notice what, where, when things become overwhelming and learning how to help children.  They may not want to be touched as it may make them feel even more dizzy, nauseous, or overwhelmed, and they may develop anxiety.  

Developing the functionality of the vestibular system involves more than just spinning or hanging upside down or rolling. These types of things are important for overall gross motor development, and we know that the vestibular system develops strongly between the ages of 4-6.   So, these gross motor activities, along with walking on different surfaces,wheelbarrow walking, activities with rhythm instruments, obstacle courses are wonderful but most components of vestibular system development also need a visual component.

Some of my favorite exercises actually involve things like having a target on the way and having a child commando crawl toward the target keeping the eyes on the target and then crawl backward once they reach the target still keeping their eyes on the target.  I also like things like using an eye chart  or letters on the wall and having the child walk toward the chart and call out different letters.  Hitting a ball or balloon in the air and keep it off the ground is a great exercise as well.

Tell me about your experiences with vestibular system development!
Blessings,

Carrie