Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rhythm is February's Focus Topic

Rhythm Give Away
  • Do you struggle with Rhythm?
  • Is Rhythm one of those mysterious things that you just cannot seem to grasp?
  • Do you fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day?
  • Do you wonder how Waldorf kindergarten teachers seem so calm and manage to sing through the day and knead dough, bake bread, chop vegetables, make soup, color and paint with children every week?
  • Would you like to bring harmonious rhythms to your home or to the children you care for?
  • Is there more you want from each day but cannot find the time for?
  • Do you sometimes look at the clock and panic because you have no idea of what to serve for dinner?
  • Are you struggling with tired, hungry and cranky children while you are making dinner?

Welcome to Rhythm, the life force that sustains each and everyone of us every day, every week, every month and every year.



Before we had electricity and lights and heat available at the flip of a switch, people lived in rhythm with nature. We slept at night and worked in the light of the day. We chopped wood, carried water and kindled fires.The stars guided travelers. Food was only available in season. We lived in the rhythms of the natural world, deeply connected carried along through the year without conscious attention.

We deeply felt the earth's rhythms through the day and all through the year and celebrated significant turnings in the wheel of the year. Today, we can flip a switch and experience light and heat. We no longer live in the rhythms of nature. We have disconnected. 

Yet we are rhythmic beings and when we find our way into a rhythm that flows for ourselves and our families, we find harmony, peace of mind, inspiration for new endeavors and time to take up activities that deeply nourish our families and ourselves as parents. We can bring rhythm into our lives with conscious attention.

Our children need rhythm. Children thrive when their life is rhythmic. It is so healthy and nourishing for children: rhythm supports healthy development of the child, of the senses, the emotions, the ability to play, the ability to transition, of the family, of the household. Rhythm helps us breathe when we are frustrated and nourished us to be healthy.



The focus topic for the month of February is Rhythm.
  • We'll explore what is rhythm and look at sample rhythms of the day and the week.
  • We'll look at what gets in the way of rhythm.
  • We'll look at how you can make your rhythm flow through the day.
  • We'll look at how rhythm can help your child be more imaginative, playful and creative.
  • We look at how our meals can be healthier and more pleasant with rhythm.
  • We'll look at peaceful bedtimes and restful sleep that come out of a healthy rhythm.
  • We'll look at the rhythm of housework
  • We'll look at how rhythm makes transitions smoother.
  • We'll examine how a strong rhythm supports homeschooling.
  • We'll look at how a strong rhythm makes home a sanctuary for the school child.
  • We'll look at how to put together a rhythm that works in your life.
  • We'll finding a starting point and implement our own rhythm and build on it over four weeks.
  • We'll look at how rhythm supports daily life with children and helps us carve out time for ourselves.
  • We'll look at breathing and healthy rhythm.
  • We'll have daily reminders and enthusiastic support.

The fee is $ 45 

This includes the Focus Topic of Rhythm and all the Packets, Story, Verse, Song, Fingerplay, Circle and Movement play, Start Up Guide, Meal Plan and Recipes, Daily and Weekly Rhythm Packet, Celebration and Festival Packet, Afterschool Enrichment Packet and video with songs and verse for transitions, Handwork Packet and tutorial, videos, blog posts and group discussion of the Celebrate the Rhythm of Life in Caring for Children Program.

The Focus on Rhythm includes:
Daily reminders.
Weekly topics.
Ongoing discussion in the group forum.
Consultation with me if needed to help you get rhythm going
Sample rhythms for the day and the week.
Meal Planner with Recipes that include the grains of the kindergarden.
Brainstorming on what meals work for your family and can be easily put together.

Sign up here:


Celebrate the Rhythm of Life in February ~ Focus Topic is Rhythm

For my articles on Rhythm:



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NOW CLOSED  ~ WINNERS ANNOUNCED BELOW

Give Away to TWO people for ONE  place each in the month of February with Rhythm as the focus topic. To enter please comment below and share the link to this post (click on title to get link) on FaceBook, your blog or Twitter or write a blog post on Rhythm and link back here to this post. Please note where shared in the comments and make a new comment for each share to have additional chances at winning. Drawing will be on Monday January 30th. 


The winners are :


Vanessa: " I have so much to learn and would be blessed by this course!
Thanks :) Vanessa"
and

 RedBeetMama: " I so humbly would love this. I will share with FB and my homeschooling group.  Namaste"





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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Basic Elements of Daily Living with Children ~ Circle Time

"When we choose one story and carry it in a rich nourishing way through speech, movement, gesture, song and drama over three weeks, we are bringing rich imaginations to the child that the child can drink in deeply and digest over time."
 The topic of Circle  comes up regularly among homeschoolers and is one that is also being taken up by early childhood teachers and care givers who are working with younger and younger children each year. It is a really good and really important question.

I will try to address this topic from my experience as a homeschooling parent, kindergarten teacher, Parent Child group leader and Morning Garden Mistress:

The very young child, 3 and under, does not need circle but can benefit from rhythmic elements of the circle brought one on one in play through the day.

The four year old needs a bit more and is in a transition and so much depends on the environment: if other children are present, and the child, who is this child?
Do we need to do circle at home?  It sure does seem odd to stand up and lead a child, one child around the room in song and gesture. What does it bring to the child? Are there benefits? Is it part of the pedagogy?

First let's look at the difference between circle for the grade school child and circle for the kindergarten and nursery child:

Circle time in the grades is a part of Main Lesson,  an opportunity to come face to face with each other, check in, experience the self within the group and do all sorts of rhythmic movement and games and verse and song. This is the age (6 +,7, 8 and 9 year olds) and time (older kinders,1st , 2nd, 3rd grade) that is really suited to playing the archetypal rhythmic circle games of childhood and ideal for math movements and math learning in a group. We can bring elements of that circle one on one at home. Unfortunately, some of the finer elements we cannot bring without a group at home for the grades.

Circle time for early childhood, for the child under seven for the Nursery and the Kindergarten is a completely different animal altogether. Well, two different animals: one for the Nursery Child (2, 3, 4 year old) and one for the Kinder Child (4, 5, 6 year old)

Children in the stage of early childhood from birth to seven (also referred to as the first stage of child development given to us by Rudolf Steiner) benefit greatly from the activities that take place within a circle. The circle invites children into the social realm. Children under three are not quite ready to enter that realm for they are still very much at one with the world, enveloped in the "mother bubble."

Yes they can take place outside of the "circle" too. The "circle" brings form and focus to the artistic activities that are so nourishing for the young child and rhythm as well for the child of three and older.

If we consider circle in the context of the pillars of Waldorf education, something Carrie Dendtler and I have recently blogged about, over "Virtual Tea, "

http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2011/12/as-person-who-has-straddled-worlds-of.html

We see many artistic elements of Waldorf education come into "play" with circle time:
  • Speech
  • Singing and music
  • Drama
  • Movement
These elements are can be connected to the Four Foundational Senses or four physical senses, the senses that involve being in a physical body: touch, life, self movement and balance through circle movement and play that Connie Helms has been writing on in her series over on The Wonder of Childhood. (They can be satisfied outside of circle as well) Remember that the young child is all about movement, doing and action, being engaged with the body, all physical.

The feeling of wholeness of the one: the circle, no beginning, no end, is mood we want to uphold for the child under seven and to a slighter degree until age nine and the fall. Circle brings that imagination, that picture.

Circle time offers benefits to the child in the areas of:
  •  singing 
  • drama 
  • movement 
  • speech
Let's consider the adult and the relationship to circle time. Circle offers the adult a moment to stand tall and clearly be the leader, the basis for being The Loving Authority. It also offers us, the parent, a chance to push ourselves a bit and begin learning verses and songs by heart, we can take up musical instruments for us the adults to use in circle, for this is what we will ask of our children in the grades and guess what? they need us as the model. It is so important for our children to see our striving. The young child is, as Rudolf Steiner wrote, all about learning through "Example and Imitation."

My humble opinion, is that it all depends on the adult's willingness and desire to take up circle for the child, as a flowing story with movement and song as an artistic endeavor.

In a training with Joan Almon many years ago, she taught us, the teachers and care givers, to make a circle that tells a story. She spoke of the smorgasbord too but emphasized the value of the story in the circle. She had particular advice for the smorgasbord too.

Story is one way to bring circle that can work at home. You might make it a movement journey, telling bits of the story in song and verse as you go and building as each day goes over three weeks.

Themes and particularly weekly themes break the world into bits for the young child, they fragment reality. A theme has no life, no breathe, no rhythm. The young child needs to be held and cared for with rhythm that flows through the year. No themes, no bits, the season, flowing one into the next through the years of early childhood. It is not until third grade that we begin to look at the parts to the whole.

The picture we need to carry for the child in the early years of childhood, up to age nine and the "fall"  is one of wholeness, of oneness. Weekly themes make for busy work rather than living into the rhythms of nature. This is really important to understand. We live in a busy world that is so fragmented with this and that and focus here and there, quick, quick, quick, easy come and easy go,  it is so important, so healthy, even therapeutic to stay with the flow, the rhythm that is inherent with nature through the year and reflect that back to the child over the course of the whole season.

The gesture we want to carry is one of the whole world, of oneness of the child at one with the world, connected to natures rhythms everyday through the season. This is why early childhood educators make a seasonal focus with story, song , circle and activities specific to the season.

The material can be brought over many weeks with a gradual building on the basic elements. Think of it as a flow, a rhythmic flow through the year reflecting Mother Nature's inherent rhythms. When it snows, we go out and play in the snow and then we make hot cocoa or tea to warm ourselves when we come in. The material reflects what is happening in the household and in nature, it reflects the child's world.

Young children do not need crafts in Waldorf early childhood. Crafts are for the adult. The teacher makes the puppet figures and the silks and the blocks. The children play with self initiated free play and movement. The Handcraft work for the young child (seven and under) is the daily living, being involved in the housework, the cooking, the baking, the washing of dishes, sweeping the floor along with the artistic activities of coloring and painting (for the over 3's). When we are doing that, who has time for crafts?

The crafts come in with the Handwork in first grade. The older kindergarten child may begin with some handwork to make useful objects. Let the decorative objects come from nature as much as possible.

When we choose one story and carry it in a rich nourishing way through speech, movement, gesture, song and drama over three weeks, we are bringing rich imaginations to the child that the child can drink in deeply and digest over time. Remember the child is like one whole sensory organ, a sieve, talking it all in, in imitation. (See Anthroposophy in Light of the Child for more)

 Painting can reflect the mood of the season and yes do use just one color. No need for story with the child under seven. Stories with painting, stories that describe the mood of the color, that elicit feeling in the child are for the middle stage of childhood (7-14) See my last post on painting to links where you can see it in action and learn more.

Changing it up each week does not give the child time for digestion nor does it allow us to deeply penetrate the mood of the season or the story.

It can be so simple. One story for three weeks. (and yes read or tell other stories at bedtime or nap time) but give yourself and your child the gift of one story (maybe a fairy tale for the 5,6,7,8, year old)  to carry through three weeks. The circle and the story can build together over the weeks with gestures, song and movement then either start anew with a circle and story or let elements drop off and introduce new ones. This is a great gift for the child.

Rudolf Steiner spoke of working in six week blocks. Today it seems that grade school teachers work in three and four week blocks. Kindergarten teachers work with the rhythm inherent in the season with a circle for early season, mid season, late season.

For me the whole circle experience really asks a bit of the adult to present it as storytelling, singer, poet and it takes quite a bit of understanding and experience to really get. Foundation Studies help grasp a picture of the developing human being.

My suggestion is for those who have never experienced a really well put together circle in a Waldorf environment is to take it up quite seriously as a study in speech, song, music, drama and movement. Consider it part of the adult training and the inner work of being the parent/teacher.

Look into the development of the young child, what serves the child?

 Ask the questions:
  • What movement is healthy for young children? Why? How do they serve the child?
  • What speech do we bring? Why? 
  • What songs?
  • How do I bring this dramatically yet without rousing feelings and awakening the feeling realm of the middle years of childhood?
  • Did I play circle games as a child?
  • What experience do I have of circle?
  • Where can I start building a wee little circle time for my child?
How is it with you to do circle? Are you doing it at home? What works? At school? With wee littles? Feel free to link your posts on circle below in the comment section.

If you'd like to gain confidence with circle time and movement games, have a deeper understanding of circle time, explore the myriad of developmental benefits for children and the opportunity for artistic expression through circle work for the adult,  join Celebrate the Rhythm of Life through the Year in Caring for Children, my program that supports homemakers and homeschooler on this path, and take up an exploration of this topic with specific examples and interaction.

Click here for more information on Celebrate the Rhythm of Life through the Year in Caring for Children

Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling

~living curriculum program to support parenting and homeschooling

Monday, January 16, 2012

Basic Elements of Daily Living with Children ~ the Morning

We all get up in the morning. How to you awaken in the morning? Begin with some reflection about your day, how does it begin?

  • Is it peaceful and slow without an alarm clock? This is the moment, between sleep and awakening when the spiritual world brings us the answers to questions we bring at bedtime. To hear the response, we must be quiet and still to listen. Do you have time to really listen?
  • Do you jolt out of bed? 
  • Do you need an alarm clock to wake up? 
  • Is your child your alarm clock? 
  • How do you like the way you wake up? 
  • How does it color you day?
Let these questions live within you this week, notice how you rise. Don't try to make answers or big changes, just notice, be gentle with yourself. It is an enormous task to care for children and a doubly enormous one to be solely responsible for the homemaking too.

Some of us work and help support our families materially too. (Whew! ~ hug yourself now and send hugs to all  moms striving and working so hard, everywhere on the planet. It is a huge big deal. We know we hold up half the sky.)

The question of daily living with children comes up frequently over on my discussion group.

The question of how to talk to young children comes up too.

This is one I wrestled with for many years when I went from working with children over three to working with children under three in the nursery program. Many conversations and questions on this topic still resonate with me from conversations at Sophia's Hearth wondering... what stories to tell? do we use puppets? when to use marionettes? sing? when to talk? when to sing? when to start painting? what about coloring? What about nursery rhymes and finger puppets? what about work? chores?

So many questions of how to go through the day with children.

So I've decided to do a little series here on some of the basic elements of daily living with children or the Basic Elements of Daily Living with Children. So often I respond in discussion groups and those posts get lost or buried in the archives. This way they can be found or returned to as a reference point if they help you.

My monthly and year long program, Celebrate the Rhythm of Life in Caring for Children though the Year penetrates these questions much more deeply and focuses on the practical aspects of being with children as well as the deeper pedagogy grounded in development of the child supporting it. I offer guides, videos, stories, recipes and materials for specific support in implementing nourishing rhythms and activities through the day, the week, the week, the month, the season and the year in living with children, in finding joy and wonder in celebrating in the rhythm of life.

In this series on the blog, I will explore some of the basics. My experience comes from spending sixteen years in early childhood with my own children as well as twenty three years of working with families and children of other parents, in the Morning Garden, Kindergarten, After Care and Parent Child groups. I've worked at Waldorf schools with other teachers in a faculty environment and in my own home based  nursery program. I've started a playgroup and taught childbirth education classes, a full spectrum of early childhood work that fuels my passion for this endeavor.

Over the years, in working with the children and carrying these questions, I began to find the answers. The children showed the way along with ongoing exploration of the pedagogy for greater understanding of the development of the human being. That part is ongoing.

The subject of rhythm of bringing rhythm to our lives with young children, is one all parents and early childhood teachers and care givers wrestle with, in finding one that will carry everyone through the day with a gentle flow, and tweaking it as it needs tweaking, ever so slightly to serve all through the year.

Rhythm is life. We breathe rhythmically, our heart beats rhythmically; we are rhythmic creatures. Until very recently in the history of humankind, we lived with nature’s rhythms, to rise with the sun, work in its warmth and light and turn in with its setting each day.

Through the year our ancestors followed the earth’s rhythms with sowing, planting, harvesting and preserving, all done to the beat of the earth’s rhythms.

Today we have light switches, heaters and grocery stores that make light, warmth and food possible anytime of the day or the year. We lost our dependence on that connection with the earth for survival. Now we must consciously become aware of the rhythm inherent in the natural world and implement it into our lives with full awareness of the need for that connection.

So how do we bring rhythm to our daily lives and particularly to the children? We do it artistically with verse and song to signal transition and to accompany our movement, to carry us along with our work such as chopping or kneading or washing or sweeping as well as playing and tidying up.

Remember those Pillars of Waldorf Education?

Our daily rhythm includes playing: inside and out of doors, preparing food, tidying, washing, eating, and listening to stories. Carrying these activities of our day in a rhythmic context helps bring a sense of containment to children, a feeling of security that helps them feel free to participate in the activities of daily living.

Weekly rhythm brings predictability to the child’s life; the child anticipates “ soup day”, “coloring day,” “bread day” and painting day.” Each week these activities remain on the same day of the week. With the seasons, we implement elements to reflect the rhythm inherent in the natural world, such as colors in painting and drawing and ingredients in the food we prepare, slight changes within the natural rhythms.

We have carried these activities into our grade school homeschooling with the new lesson on Monday, a writing exercise from it on Tuesday, a drawing on Wednesday, deepening on Thursday and painting on Friday. We also begin that three day within five day rhythm with a second part to the lesson on Wednesday, writing (and deepening from Monday) on Thursday) and painting on Friday.

Our mornings tend to go from 9:00 until noon with lunch around 12:30 and a rest to follow with handwork, French, movement games in the afternoon.

Joan Almon recommended a four hour morning for the under sevens to allow plenty of time for the children to engage deeply in free play and to allow plenty of breathing time, a flow through the activities of the morning, transitions and all.

With the under sevens, here is a sample of the morning in the Winter:

Begin outside:

I like to start out of doors. It is a time to feed and water the hens, check the bird feeders and fill them and shovel snow of the deck and pathways if needed (or sweep or rake in warmer times of year)

8:00 ~ 9: 00  Children arrive, play or help with work

9:00 ~ 9:15 Circle or Good Morning song time

9:15 ~ 10:00 Daily activity and indoor playtime, laundry to fold is waiting in baskets everyday, each day brings a housekeeping activity in the playroom that is my focus, the children are free to join in or not

10:10 ~ 10: 15 Wash hands (leave time to play in water a bit

10:15 ~ 10:30 Morning Tea and wash dishes

10:30 ~ 11:30  Free play inside

11:30-12:30 Outside play time

12:30 ~ 1:00  Lunch and lavender foot bath

1:00 ~ 3: 00 Story and quiet, rest time

3:00 ~ 3:15 Use toilet, change diaper, wash face and hands, brush hair, experience a slow gentle wake up

3: 15 ~ 3:30 Afternoon tea (use only candle for light)

3:30 ~ 4:30 Free play out of doors (come in to a dark house lit only with candles in the dark days of the year)

4:30
Cook dinner (mostly organized during rest time) you'll need to turn the lights on perhaps

5: 30 Eat dinner and clean up

Bath
Bed
(by seven for under sevens transitioning to by eight for eight year olds)

Now you have some adult time to yourself or with your partner.
Prepare to wake up before the household to have another 30 -60 minutes to yourself before the household awakens. Book end your day with breathing time for yourself. This is essential to finding and establishing a rhythm.

Next time, I'll share how that became the foundation for our grade school homeschooling days.

My friend Carrie, over on The Parenting Passageway, is blogging about Rhythm in her series on Eight Facets of Healthy Family Culture.

Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling

~living curriculum program to support parenting and homeschooling

Friday, January 13, 2012

Nine Years Old



Happy Birthday!










(this moment)

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.



inspired by SouleMama


Friday, January 6, 2012

{this moment}


{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.




Inspired by SouleMama

Happy Weekending!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Stillness is Here

The stillness is here. This morning seemed to be darker than all the others. It's snowing gentle flakes. The earth has finally frozen. Maybe now that all the excitement and focus of Christmas is passing, I am more still within. The earth seems still without. I am wrapped in a warm woolen blanket with the dog at my feet. He loves this cold weather with his thick wooly coat. He rolls on the ground with joy every time he goes outside, always a new impression for him, he sneezes as the cold air tickles his nose.


Somehow getting in motion on Thursday mornings is the greatest challenge of the whole week. The children seem tired or maybe I lack the energy to get things moving in the same way. Thursday feels like the day after the hump, we've been over the top, now we are down in the lowlands at the bottom of the hill and the hill looks steeper than usual. Friday somehow is easier with more levity, maybe it's in knowing the weekend is before us and we can let go of the weekday structure to our days.

It's baking day in our kitchen. For years we have baked on Thursday, ever since Angus was three and we lived in that 80 foot long house on Capitol Hill with the bright yellow door with a spectacular view of the Philippine Sea. The reason I know it is 80 feet is because I counted the tiles. The house was floored entirely in linoleum tiles, each one a neat square foot. The familiar smell of dough and then bread in the oven has filled the kitchen for fourteen years.  This winter Thursday buns have become Thursday Chicken pot pie crust to top our meal, from this recipe.

It was too beautiful not to take the camera on our walk. I found that the earth is not so still. Nor her creatures.








Once we got in motion, we stayed in motion.



How are your days going?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Twelve in Twenty Eleven :: Readers Favorites

Your favorite posts in Twenty Twelve include my Pages on What Makes a Waldorf Family, A Calendar of Days of Festivals and Celebration my piece on Celebrating Festivals and everything on the new Program I am offering. Seems fitting for a blog called Celebrate the Rhythm of LIfe, no? 

Twenty eleven completes my first full calendar year of blogging. In Twenty ten, it took  some time for me to figure out how to take and upload pictures from a digital camera and how to make changes on the blog. 

In twenty eleven I began the year with website building for the initiative The Wonder of Childhood. Over the year I built more sites on WordPress, Blogger and TypePad. What a journey. Who would have thought that website building could be so engaging and satisfying? 

Twenty eleven also brought the initiative Celebrate the Rhythm of LIfe in Caring for Children Program. I am greatly enjoying our lovely group of moms, some talkative, some quiet, all kind and generous with their reflections and contributions. I am striving to make it as close as possible to a gathering of us in person. One member described it as having me in her living room.     




This year on this blog, I'll continue having with Virtual Tea with Carrie over on The Parenting Passageway, I'll wrote more posts on my own journey, more posts on our family life, maybe even some examples of the school work we are doing.

I am so grateful for this little community that has taken form this past year, for all of you who have come into my life, for the friendships that have formed and are forming, thank you!



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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Back to the Mountain

Like a pilgrimage each year, we go to the mountain in winter. We go by there at other times of the year but there is something different, some magical quality in going when the snow has fallen and the mountain is covered with snow and icicles, our little paradise. It is tucked between other mountains.

That's where we headed on the first day of the New Year. We rose early, packed our lunch and set out.


 To get there we have to pass through a gap in the Appalachian Mountains, known as the Ap Gap.


 The view is spectacular, it brings me to a state of rapture and never fails to take my breath away. Huge icicles hang down from the rocky walls of the gap.


It is our mountain, our own little piece of paradise, shared with others, it is co-operatively owned and we are members of the co-op. My children learned to ski there and I learned to ski there too.

 The single chair lift is the only one in the country, a single seat to ride up the hill through snow covered trees in a magical forest. On balmy days like this one you can hear the brooks sing as they trickle their way down the mountainside.



The misty mountain.


One misty, moisty mountain when cloudy was the weather...


My little one has mastered the chair lift. In past years. he's had a few near dips in the little brook that runs beneath it. Now he is confident and asks for help if he thinks he might need it. He knows fear. This is new.

The sky was the clearest shade of blue on the way home.


That was our first day of Twenty Twelve.


Happy Twenty Twelve! 

May we all receive with grace whatever comes towards us this year.
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