Martinmas: Warmth, Light, and Protection

 

I love this time of year.  Martinmas is nearly upon us, and it brings an entire season of warmth, light, and protection that extends all the way through Candlemas and the very first inklings of spring.

St. Martin was (and is) an exceedingly popular Saint – the patron Saint of vine-growers, winemakers, beggars, tavern keepers. It was traditionally a time of great harvesting – the wine was ready from the summer harvest, grains and vegetables were ready to be made into porridges, the larger animals were slaughtered for winter food, and the community came together and reminded themselves what we all know: that to dwell in community and unity is protection through the long, cold, hard winter nights.  This was actually a time that perhaps we in America more associate with Thanksgiving, where the fruits of the harvest were showed off (goose was the traditional meal, and in the United States this extended to turkeys),  there were games and dances and parades.   Barns and larders were filled, and the people were thankful.

Today, we recount the story of St. Martin.   St. Martin, a Roman solider, who saw a shivering beggar outside the city gates. He cut his cloak in two and used half to cover the beggar.  Later that night, in a dream it was revealed to him that the beggar had been Christ himself.  This experience, and experience is one way that we learn about faith, became transformative and set St. Martin’s life on a course of compassion and light toward the most down trodden  and poor.   We carry lanterns in a meditative walk to remind us of the light we all possess inside. And we carry lanterns in community as we shine our collective light out into humanity.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about warmth, light, and protection as we shore ourselves not only against winter, but against division, fear, coldness and uncaring.  Instead, we will be talking about ways to nourish ourselves and our families toward warmth, unity, joy and openness, and caring.

Many blessings to you,

Carrie

 

November Love and Gratitude

I was thinking about gratitude the other day in this month of thankgiving…and I was thinking how often, we think in our head that we KNOW we should be grateful, that we should be full of gratitude…but in our hearts we still feel this discontent; that things could be different; things could be better; things could be more perfect.  Have you ever felt that way?  And Steiner talks about gratitude, love, and duty.  I thought this blog post did a wonderful job talking about this topic.  It has been on my mind a lot.

Gratitude is a way to look at the world. How do we nurture this in ourselves and in our children?  I think in order to model this for our children,  we need two things.  The first thing is to find our own contentment and the second thing is to find our sense of wonder.

I find if I can say, “This will somehow all work out for good,” or “I am exactly where I need to be,” or  “I am thankful even though this didn’t work out the way I wanted it to,” the more my contentment grows and the more thankful I feel. The less I complain and find joy in the ordinary moments, in telling the people around me how much I love them and how I appreciate them, the more my gratitude grows. Especially for  small children, this modeling is what they see and need.

The second thing we need is our sense of wonder.  We often talk about this for tiny children, but I think our older children and teens also desperately need this.  However, in order to have a sense of wonder, we must not be rushed.  We need unhurried time and space in order  to mark the sunset, the appearance of the stars, the whiskers of our furry friends, to see the strange bud of the sunflower blooming right now, in November, in my yard.   Gratitude occurs in these ordinary moments and cannot be scripted.

I think with older children, we can speak more directly about the pitfalls of never being content because contendness goes with gratitude.  To say that we are thankful “but” is not being thankful with our whole hearts.  We can look at books that have gratitude as a theme.  We can say what we are grateful for that happened during the day whether at night before bed or around the dinner table.   We can talk about how we can dial back our “wants” for material goods and instead foster volunteerism.  We can still model. We can do with love for each other in our own families because that generosity toward others begins right at home.   And we can be persistent. Volunteer, wonder, and have gratitude together.

I would love to hear about your traditions for fostering gratitude and love in this month of November.

Blessings,

Carrie

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: November

November is one of my favorite months – the colder temperatures, the crisp air and falling leaves that crunch under my feet, the birds coming to the feeder, the wonderful hiking, bonfires and hot chocolate.  Yay for November!

This month we will be celebrating:

November 1 – The Feast of All Saints

November 2- The Feast (Commemoration) of All Souls Departed

November 8 – The Presidential General Election (We already early voted but will be watching the returns and perhaps we will even make an Election Cake!)

November 11 – Martinmas

November 24- Thanksgiving Day

November 30 – St. Andrew the Apostle

plus this month marks my husband’s birthday!

Wonderful things to do this month with the children:

  • Tell favorite Autumn stories!
  • Make Autumn crafts – dipping leaves, making beeswax candles, leaf and bark rubbings, splatter painting around leaves
  • Read the book Cranberry Thanksgiving  and make Cranberry Bread
  • Go hike and be outside
  • Rake leaves, fill bird feeders and bird baths, take care of the all the winter gardening chores
  • Start deep cleaning the house in preparation for the holidays
  • Stock up on all the woolies for warmth – If you need a re-fresher as to why warmth is important, try this back post on “Warmth, Strength, and Freedom”
  • Make lanterns for Martinmas!  Even teenagers enjoy making a new lantern.  You can even buy the biodegradable sky lanterns as a twist to the traditional Martinmas Lantern Walk for teens.  This can be wonderful for older children who have done a lantern walk for years  and years and who would like something different to mark the season.
  • Have a coat drive; collect food for your local food bank.
  • Start traditions of gratitude for the month of November . Some have a gratitude tree where the leaves become a gratitude for each day.

Homeschooling this month:

  • Our first grader is deep into drawing, painting, and modeling the alphabet.  More on that to come!
  • Our sixth grader is finishing up mineralogy and moving into European Geography and Roman Studies.  This promises to be a fun time that will carry us until Christmas.
  • Our ninth grader is studying High School Spanish II, Biology, Algebra I, and a block on Comedy and Tragedy.  We are following the Christopherus book, “Comedy and Tragedy” and just finished with Sophocles’ Electra.  This week we will be moving into Noh Theater.  I ended up switching biology textbooks and hope for going through the basic concepts of biology that we already covered in our eleven weeks of school and move into our new material soon.  I feel confident this is going to work out well for our ninth grader.

Holidays:

I am already starting to think about making gifts.  And I am thinking about a post-holiday get-away. 🙂

Inner Work/Self-Care:

  • I have been attending a series at our parish regarding dismantling racism by a reknowned professor.  It has been wonderful and also the focus of a Bible study I am persuing right now.  My head is full. 🙂
  • I am finding it difficult to get up super early to head to the gym at 5:30 , so hope to get back into the swing of things this week.
  • Feeling gratitude for all the local farm fresh food available in our area.

I would love to hear about your plans for November.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Darkness and Freedom

This time of year brings the impetus for the nourishing spiritual work that will sustain us through the darkness and cold of winter.  As the light fades away, we ask ourselves where is the light in our souls and how is this shining into humanity?  How do we not hurt others with our thoughts, words, and deeds?  How do we live with what we have done and by what we have left undone?

The only true answer to this is inner work.  Inner work requires an awakening.  It requires looking at the dark places that are inside of us. Sometimes our irritation is with those that we see outside of ourselves, and perhaps that is a good signal to look inside ourselves. Examining the darkness is what leads to freedom.  Awakening and asking the questions is the beginning.

The great Master Waldorf teacher Else Gottgens had a checklist she used at the end of each day of teaching in grades 1-8.  She would ask herself if she had given the children real and appropriate images or pictures (not  judgements); had she used the night wisely; did every child make an effort; did she translate the main lesson into movement; did she make the children laugh; did she address one or more of the temperaments; did she teach them something new? Then she would go back and make a lesson plan based upon the observations.

I think the outer observations, if we can slow down and look, are the easier parts.  I have not made a little checklist like Else Gottgens’ for my days of parenting children ages 7-15 at home, but I have some thoughts in my mind.  Things that would govern my days like:  did we laugh together; did we find moments of reverence and wonder toward God and nature; was I kind; did I succeed in guiding ideas, perceptions, or behavior with appropriate boundaries or discussion; did I put forth a love of all people in humanity today; did I put forth a love of all of Creation; did I instill an attitude of capability, accountability, and responsibility in my children?

The harder part is the inner attitude.  What did I do that was wrong or left undone?  Where was my perception completely wrong?  Where was the Divine nudging me and I ignored?  Where did I need to forgive myself or others?  Was I humble?  Was I generous?  Where are the dark places inside of me that need rooting out?   What am I modeling and is it reflective of my innermost thoughts? Is my outward time and activities reflecting what is inwardly most important to me? I find a practice of a spiritual path to help explore and face these areas in love is a necessity.

Thinking as the days grow shorter….

Blessings,

Carrie

 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: Halloween and More

People who know me well know that Halloween is actually my least favorite holiday.  I am a complete Scrooge about it all – well, at least as far as the unhealthy candy, and creepy stuff – as it  just doesn’t fill my bucket.

However, I love the FALL HARVEST aspect of Halloween and my favorite of all,  pumpkins! Who ever knew that a round orange vegetable could be so lovable?   I look forward to every October to begin doing circle times about pumpkins, games with pumpkins, songs about pumpkins and harvesting, cooking with pumpkins (and moving into cranberries in November) and using All Hallow’s Eve to prepare for the festivals I do love, which is the Feast of All Saints (All Hallows), and the Feast (Commemoration) of All Souls Departed.  These are huge feasts in my religious tradition and I love it.

I also love the bright colors, fireworks, and festive food of Diwali.  Our neighborhood has been celebrating Diwali and it has been so joyous to watch and be a part of!  So many wonderful things to love this time of year!

Here are a few of my favorite things about Halloween, The Feast of All Saints ,and the Feast of All Souls Day.  Maybe you will find a few of your favorite things on this list too!

  • Using All Hallow’s Eve as a springboard to talk to my children about our upcoming religious festivals
  • Experiencing Halloween as this beautiful transition point between Michaelmas and Martinmas.  I love what the book “Festivals With Children” by Brigitte Barz says about this:  “The candle inside the pumpkin or turnip, both fruits of the earth, is like the very last memory and afterglow of the summer sun with its ripening strength.  Then for Martinmas a candle is lit within the home-made lantern; this is the first glow of a light with a completely different nature, the first spark of inner light.”
  • Carving pumpkin lanterns; roasting pumpkin seeds; shadow puppet shows; bobbing for apples; celebrating Guy Fawkes on the fifth of November!
  • Tapping into the sacred and the significant in this time; if this is the time of blurred space and time where the sacred connection between what was and what is,  what am I doing to be a part of the solution toward connectedness and love?  Where is my spiritual food coming from that will nourish me for the winter months?
  •  There is a sweet little Halloween Circle in the book, “Dancing As We Sing” that one could really flesh out with terrific songs and fingerplays such as “Five Little Pumpkins” and more (see the book “Let’s Do Fingerplays” by Marion Grayson);  pumpkin games.
  •  Christine Natale’s story called “The Littlest Pumpkin” – great for wet on wet painting or beeswax modeling or to tell before pumpkin carving! One of my favorites!  I also like the story about the little hobgoblin.  Do you all know that story as well?  Suzanne Down also has lovely stories for the younger set.
  • These posts on Halloween,   All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day,  and thinking ahead to lanterns for Martinmas!
  • For The Feast of All Saints today, I used many of the ideas from over at Loyola Press.  For The Feast of All Souls tomorrow, we will be making soul cakes.

Please share with me your favorite things about this significant time and transitioning to Martinmas!

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

Sixth Grade Mineralogy

This is my second time through Sixth Grade Mineralogy, as it is popularly known in Waldorf Schools. Some Waldorf homeschooling parents want to take a bit broader view of mineralogy as well.  I think Waldorf Schools do traditionally include such things as an introduction to plate tectonics and  some include more about weather and such (see below), but many of these things are really expanded upon in eighth grade with Earth Science being taught through all four high school years.  You can see some Main Lesson Book pages from A Waldorf Journey

I like to do an introduction to plate tectonics in Sixth Grade Mineralogy, and put Oceanography, Atmosphere, and Weather/Climate in mainly Eighth Grade.  Water as a topic is something I would like to see worked into every grade in varying forms, and I think that is a possibility looking at the blocks in Waldorf Education.

The first time I did this block, I focused more on a movement from looking at the surface of the Earth through biomes and ecology, then what helps shape weather on the Earth and how that shapes the Earth’s surface, and then more into traditional rocks and minerals and ending with fossils and the record of time.  You can see a full, long post about this approach here.

This time around, different child, different year, I first and foremost did have the Earth Science Literacy Standards in my head because I was just at a conference.  These include nine “big ideas”:   the idea that Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet; that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and how the Solar System formed, the two types of Earth’s crust , the fossil record; that Earth is a complex system of interactions between rock, water, air, and life; that Earth is continuously changing; Earth is the water planet; that life evolves on a dynamic Earth; that we depend on the Earth for resources; that natural hazards do pose risks; and that human beings significantly alter the Earth.

So this time around, I started with the minerals around us – what minerals do we eat?  where are minerals in things we use every day?  From there I moved into :

  • What the Earth looks like from above; the layers of the Earth; an introduction to Plate Tectonics
  • Old versus new crust – subduction zones; how tectonic plates can move (introduction); the idea that continents collided, drifted apart, the oceans opened and closed – and how this happened in our own state.
  • Our state was mainly shaped by tectonic processes and erosion; review of our five distinct geographic regions;
  • Mountain building; types of mountains and what we have in our state; how plates moving determine the location of earthquakes and volcanoes; types of faults; tension/compression/shearing; using longitude and latitude to plot where volcanoes and earthquakes have been located;  contour maps
  • Igneous rocks- granite, basalt, andesite, obdisian, pumice. Look at the igneous rocks of our region of our state, and then at other regions in our state. I would suggest making volcanoes here.
  • Sedimentary Rock – sedimentary rock formation;  the most prime example in our state is that half of the world’s kaolin is in our Coastal Plain area; so we talked a lot about kaolin and how its uses, how it is processed; looked at sedimentary rocks in the rock game I have for our state. Limestone and caves; veil painting
  • Fossil record, walk back through time; what is a fossil and what is an index fossil; the eras of the Earth; what fossils do we have in our state and why; Mary Anning; Louis Leakey
  • Metamorphic Rock – ; the rock cycle including erosion and deposition (water, wind, glaciers); properties of minerals; how minerals form
  • Coal and Oil;  formation; the coal mining industry in our state; fracking; renewable energy; what our state is doing with renewable energy (which will be our next five paragraphy essay to write – we wrote one about Jupiter in our Astronomy block)

Resources I used:

  • I mentioned my two favorite ones here – Roadside Geology of Georgia and the game for identifying rocks in my state (boxes of rocks for each region of our state with a playing board for each region); notes from the symposium session I just attended regarding botany and geology
  • Library books: Mary Anning biographies, Diving to a Deep-Sea Volcano by Mallory; we tried When The Earth Shakes by Winchester – very text heavy; Experiments with Rocks and Minerals by Hand; Outrageous Ores by Peterson; Volcano Rising by Rusch; DK Eyewitness books on Fossils and Oil
  • Salt by Kurlansky and Schindler; Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea:  Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Burleigh
  • The Living Earth by Cloos (Waldorf resource); Geology and Astronomy by Kovacs (Waldorf resource)
  • All About Rocks and Minerals by White (old)
  • Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth:  A First Book About Geology by Schneider and Schneider
  • Explore Rocks and Minerals! by Brown and Brown
  • Different books about renewable energy:  Biomass:  Fueling Change by Walker; Generating Wind Power by Walker; Geothermal, Biomass, and Hydrogen by Ollhoff; Ocean, Tidal, and Wave Energy: Power From the Sea by Peppas; How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Bishop
  • Rock samples and samples of coal

Field Trips:

  • Limestone Caverns including Luray Caverns in Virginia and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky; Granite Museum
  • We missed both a tour of  one of the kaolin facility and the marble festival – they are both only open to the public once a year in our state.
  • There really isn’t anything much for fossils in our state as far as digs but I might join our state’s mineral society because I hear if there is any to be found it is done through that society
  • Our  Natural History Museum does have quite a lot about dinosaurs and a “Walk Through Time” going through our state’s prehistory – we were lucky enough to attend our museum when it had a traveling exhibit from NYC’s American Museum of Natural History about “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs”
  • Another museum in our state has an extensive gem collection and a focus on the uses of gems and metals found in our state
  • Gem show
  • Viewing local streams and watersheds; looking for erosion
  • There are some places of geologic significance we have not yet seen in our state so maybe we will get to some of those in the spring.

Main Lesson Book/Projects:

  • So many projects you could do with this block!  Growing crystals and  basalt columns; making volcanoes and speleothems.
  • Clay modeling seemed so appropriate for this block!
  • Veil painting
  • The writing was intensive in our Astronomy block and our sixth grader cannot write that much two blocks in a row,  so this time we are going to use more of a main lesson book with foldouts, drawings and paintings and any brochures from places we visited in lieu of traditional drawing/summary tactics ( plus a report on renewable energy) that can be extended into the next block.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

 

October Rhythms and Meal Planning

I love October.  I love the temperature dropping, the leaves turning color and falling down, I love the golden rays of the Southern sun.  October is also when I feel the outdoors beckoning us, and the beautiful changes of seasons scatters us.

It is a perfect time to re-think rhythms and meal planning and perhaps get a little more grounded in the process.  Lately I felt like being outside, but at home and in our own neighborhood, so I think it is a good time to look at the things in our home as we head into cooler weather and  the autumnal rhythm.

Rhythm:

Well, if I had tiny children, I would be totally focused on warming meals, layers for outside, and rest and outdoor play, and work around the house.  My rhythm would be simple, lovely and held.  I urge those of you with tinies to get some old watercolor paintings and cut them into pieces and write your daily rhythm on it.  Turn off the screens for yourself and your child (if any are on during the day) and sink into the warmth of nourishing your home and each other through play, song, work, and warmth.

I find it much harder with teenagers and the spread of ages we have. So, I have settled into

  • Warm Breakfast and Discussion about the day
  • We try to start around 8:30 or 9.  This is our littlest first grader’s time.  We try to start by going outside and doing most of school outside if possible.  Make sure high schooler and sixth grader are starting with music practice and any work they can do on their own.
  • Check in with high schooler about Algebra or Spanish or other work.
  • Sixth grader’s time with me- we will be moving into Roman History before Christmas, and I want to start our time together with the idea of being a Roman soldier.  So, hearty movement and then main lesson.  Work in handwork into our read alouds and invite first grader in.  High schooler usually has work that she is trying to get done, so it has been difficult to not honor that during this time, but I am hoping to get into a better rhythm with this so my high schooler has time to do handwork too.  She has gone back to crocheting for making some holiday gifts, so that has been fun.
  • Check in with high schooler and if time, start Biology. Sixth grader and first grader do chores around the house; walk and play with the puppy.
  • Warm Lunch and Rest
  • High School Time.
  • Finish sometimes between 3-4 in the afternoon
  • We have planned  several wonderful field trips a month.
  • I have planned one main lesson period for our first grader and anyone who can join in solely for nature/seasonal crafts in the backyard or neighborhood each week.
  • What I would like to see:  my goal is to free up one afternoon a week for “open studio time” where we can complete Main Lesson Book pages that need extra time and care.
  • My other goal:  toward mid to end of November, we plan to free up entire afternoons for crafting holiday projects. 🙂

This is more complex than I would like it to be, but I guess that is life with a high schooler, middle schooler, and first grader.  It is what it is at this point.  I could spend eight to ten hours a day on schooling stuff, and it just isn’t feasible for my own sanity, so this is what I do.  We start early and try to get done!

Menu Planning:

I love, love, love Heather Bruggeman’s Whole Foods Freezer Cooking Class and am doing that now and re-working some of our menu plans.  October seems like the perfect time to think more about crock pot meals, stews, baked goodies, and heartier meals (even though it has still been rather warm here during the day!)

For breakfast, lately  I have mainly been making eggs in tortillas with avocado; oven puff pancakes;  french toast; oatmeal in a rice cooker with apples and cinnamon or baked bananas over the oatmeal; buttermilk banana pancakes; frittatas.  There is a recipe for morning millet that I want to try.  I always offer fruit as well; sometimes we juice.

For snacks we have been having hummus and carrots; muffins.  And three words:  pumpkin pudding cake.

For lunch, I have mainly been making green chile chicken enchiladas; caesar salads;  kale salads; leftovers from dinner, pot pie

For dinner, I have mainly been making fast meals such as marinated pork loin (olive oil, whatever citrus I have on hand that I can juice, thyme); chicken in many forms in the crock pot or grill; shepherd’s pie; beef stew in the crockpot, and still am grilling. I always serve at least two vegetables, salad and fruit salad.  I think as the weather gets colder we might add in some rice or potatoes. I am loving roasted veggies right now –  beets, butternut squash, cauliflower are my favorites.  And I just picked up cranberries in the store, so I am excited about making cranberry sauce!

Rhythms of Self-Care:

  • Rest. I find rest and just being able to do nothing an important part of my own rejuvenation during the school year, especially as we head into winter.
  • Making time to be with  family and friends who love me.
  • Making time to exercise and cook nourishing food.
  • Participating and being a part of the life in my parish.  It encourages me and helps me so much.
  • Learning things!

Please share your rhythms of October!  I am always looking to learn from other mothers, and usually get so many wonderful ideas when we all share.

Blessings,

Carrie