Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Your Family Culture

July 22-August 17
4 Weeks

Join me for four weeks to explore your family culture and see how it shapes all aspects of parenting, family life and how you show up in the world. 
You'll focus on becoming more aware of family culture, more confident, and more intentional in making parenting decisions based on what's most important to YOU and your family values. 
You'll be inspired and supported to create a loving, rich, beautiful and nourishing home environment that is aligned with what is meaningful to you.
This course supports childhood, family life, strong relationships and celebrating the beauty that is Waldorf education.  Your Family Culture eCourse provides a  foundation for the early years of childhood and supports family life through the grade school years.
This course will help you create a strong foundation for a new school, homeschool or homemaking year!
I've deliberately kept the registration fee a low $25 to make it accessible to all!
I hope you'll join me.
With warm regards,

Included with July or August's Celebrate the Rhythm of Life ~ living curriculum program membership: July is here and August is here. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Mom

My Mom ~ Veronica Ruby Vassar Boisvert

I want to let you know that I've been quiet here and on social media for a few weeks because I lost my mom two weeks ago today.

On Monday morning of June 17th, she went in to see her regular doctor for a check up. Her doctor sent her straight to the ER for testing, she was kept for observation and admitted a few days later. The plan was for her to go to rehab for two weeks and then return home. A few days before she died the conversation shifted from rehab to hospice care. She spent two and a half weeks in the hospital.

I stayed with her around the clock during her last days, and had time alone with her. She passed over peacefully surround by us: her immediate family, which consists of me, my brother and my dad as well as extended family members.

Even though my mom was 89 years old, I wasn't anticipating the end of her life. Her mind was sharp and her cheeks were rosy with vitality until the very end.

I miss her madly. She's the one I'd go to in a time like this.

Squeeze your loved ones a little tighter today.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Old Fashioned Ways with New Fashioned Consciousness

Waldorf education is known for its festival celebrations that take place throughout the year and  return again the following year to be revisited and celebrated once more. The very foundation of the kindergarten and nursery is the festival life that is born out of the rhythm of the year.

Throughout history, human beings have created rituals and celebrations around light and dark, sowing and reaping, birth and death. This is an ancient way of finding meaning in the world and connecting with others.

Mother Nature along with the seasonal cycle of the year provide the foundation for festival life with the turning wheel of the year, from light to darkness, from sowing to reaping to composting back into the earth, birth and death takes place over and over again. The wheel turns, the light returns. A good deal to celebrate.

Festival life provides the cadence for the school year. Some festivals, as well as certain aspects of festivals, are celebrated in specific grades grades or classes, some by the entire school body, some include parents, and some are open to the broader community. It depends on the teacher, the school, the circumstances and the community. 

For many of us, especially those of us who find ourselves with leanings towards Waldorf education, either as parents or as homeschoolers, or perhaps both, a school festival can be the first experience of Waldorf education in practice.

Yet many of us wonder about these mysterious festivals.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine,  a new style of architecture, social reformer and much, much more, wrote and lectured on the rhythm of the year and the cycle of festivals through the year. His focus was on the four major events of the year, each of which takes place at or near the turning points of the year, that is Michaelmas, Christmas, Easter and Midsummer.

Before the advent of electricity and machines, people lived in harmony with the changes in the year, out of necessity. With the coming of autumn came preparations for the cold days to come. Food was preserved and stored. Wood stacked. Fires were lit to bring warmth and light to the night as dark came sooner during the harvest days of September. Neighbors and villagers came together to help one one bring in the hay, harvest the apples and the nuts, preserve the vegetables and fruits. These activities were not based on choice or lifestyle, they were necessities for survival. They were social events out of necessity.

Today many of the old ways are returning and to them we are bringing a new found conscious awareness to the celebration of festivals. No longer are most of us forced to bring in the hay or harvest the vegetables before the first frost in order to save the crops. We are free to work the land or not. We are free to help our neighbor or not. We are free to buy our groceries grown and produced miles away or to buy from our neighbor farmer or regional farmers who tend the land and animals in a manner that resonates with our world view and values.

Some old fashioned ways imbued with new fashioned consciousness.

Actions taken as a free choice.

This poster was produced and distributed by the US Food Administration at the turn of the  century during war time. Many of these "old fashioned" ways encouraged during war time have become conscious choices today.

Instead of doing it "because it has always been done this way," we are bringing new awareness to our actions, a deeper understanding of why our connection to the natural world and simple living matters.

Festivals offer us an opportunity to find inner meaning on the changes taking place in the outer world. The celebration of festivals gives us a chance to pause and take stock of our lives, in the moment and with reflection of years passed, they give us perspective on what it means to be human and to be alive. In a conscious and living way.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Waldorf Curriculum

If you're familiar with Waldorf education, you know that it has distinct characteristics. One of them is the curriculum, one that is taught at Waldorf schools around the world.

The Waldorf curriculum unfolds through the grades with a particular series of subjects that are taught in Main Lesson Blocks. These subjects that are studied in Main Lesson Blocks are not studied for information and facts, the way more mainstream education does, with a sort of filling up the child with information on a topic, or an era in history.  The subjects taught in Waldorf education are chosen and used because they reflect a changing aspect of human development, of the history of humankind, that is reflected in the child, at that particular age/stage/grade. These topics are taught artistically with stories that create inner pictures of how people lived, with stories, myths, legends they lived by. The stories that are told are rich in pictures of what it means to be human and meet us at a deep level, a soul level.

These topics reflect the change that humanity, that human consciousness was experiencing during that epoch. These changes are reflected in how people lived, and the stories we have from their times. 

The only way for Waldorf homeschoolers to be exposed to this without doing teacher training,  is to look at how Waldorf school teachers teach particular subjects. 

Charles Kovacs, twenty year teacher at the Edinburgh Steiner School left a legacy with his lectures in book form on topics that span Grade 5 though 8, and may also be applicable in 9th and 10th grade.

Eugene Schwartz in his lectures speaks to this. He is at Millennial Child

Others leave little bits, sort of like a trail of crumbs that become familiar once you begin to recognize them. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hello February!

During the month of February there is plenty to rouse us from our hibernation to celebrate:

February 1st ~ Groundhog Day
February 1st ~ Imbolc
February 1st ~ St. Brigid's Day
February 2nd ~ Candlemas
February 5th - February 19th ~ Chinese New Year
February 12th ~ Lincoln's Birthday in 1809
February 14th ~ Valentine's Day
February 22nd ~ Washington's Birthday in 1732

February is a very special month, distinct from all the others in that it has just 28 days for three years in a row, and then has 29 days making it a Leap Year. Next year 202 is a leap year. Hence the verse:

Thirty days hath September
April, June and November
All the rest have thirty one
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

On February 1st, we find ourselves smack in the middle, between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. We're six weeks away from each. It can feel like a tipping point in the year, when we know that despite the cold and snow and ice, the days are indeed growing longer, the buds on the trees are swelling, the hens will lay eggs again, and the blue skies are still there. It feels like an intense energy point in the year. 

I do feel a little overwhelmed with these different days to celebrate coming all at once, so I simplify, here's how:

Groundhog Day is so simple and child friendly that I include it each year. We go outside and stomp on the earth and remind Mother Earth to wake up. She's usually wrapped up in her thick comforter of snow, but we like to let her know that we're waiting.

Saint Brigid's Day or Brigid's Day is one that intrigues me, so I learn a little something about her life each year. When my children are in second grade I share a story with them about her life. Some reflections here.

Imbolc inspires me to reflect on the mood of the season, on what is happening in my inner mood, and what is happening in nature.

Candlemas is another one of those days that intrigues me. It is, as a religious holiday, the day of the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It is based upon the account of the presentation of Jesus in Luke 2:22–40. (That's from Wikipedia here, I couldn't make that up.) What intrigues me is that return of Mary to the Church 40 days after giving birth. And the notion of purification after giving birth makes me a little uneasy. As if the process of carrying a baby and giving birth makes one impure. The candle light is to honor Jesus as "Light of the World."

Another face of Candlemas that I've watch grow and transform is one of candle dipping and celebrating the bees that, if I have it right, seems to have originated from Marsha Johnson of the Yahoo Waldorf Home Educators Group, Shining Star School and the Magic of Waldorf. It's become a community celebration. I don't know anyone else who has had such enthusiasm for this celebration. More here.

Some years ago, I made a very conscious decision to no longer dip beeswax candles indoors after we set the stove top on fire in the process of dipping tapers. It was quite an adventure and I am now quite happy to do it out of doors when the weather is warmer with a dedicated hot plate and pot and pan. One pot dedicated for holding the beeswax and the pan for water.

Chinese New Year is one of my favorite celebrations in February because it is so uplifting and fun! The good food, dragon parades, the color red, prayers to the ancestors and gods for a good planting and harvest season, lucky money in red envelopes, revisiting the Chinese zodiac, it's a lovely awakening from hibernation.

Then there's Valentine's Day which I love. Maybe it's the chocolate, or the flowers or the frilly hearts, or the even the cupcakes. I've shared a bit from our celebrations here.

For the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I like to read or tell a little story about the lives and the times of the presidents Lincoln and Washington. Who can pass up Cherry Pie or Cherry preserves? As my children grow older it becomes a good opportunity to talk about what the times were like then, what is still with us and what have we (humanity) learned.

What's your February like? Leave a note in the comments below.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Toot Toot!

I'll confess to you that I am challenged with tooting my own horn. I am striving to learn how to do it better and promote my work. It does not come naturally to me. I am however, quite good at supporting others on their journey. Sound familiar?

For twenty years I have been freely and generously giving support to the Waldorf homemaking, homeschooling and parenting community. It comes easy for me to share in person, face to face, in workshops, in Yahoo Groups, Facebook Groups, private conversations and gatherings. Yet when it comes time for me to toot my own horn, wave my own banner, and say hey! come on over and sign up for this course, and pay me for it, I have a hard time.

I know my work is reaching and inspiring moms, teachers and caregivers because you tell me. I see bits of my work trickle out here and trickle out there, in some cases inspiring moms to start businesses of their own.  I imagine how many children are being touched in the sharing of this work as it ripples out and changes lives. I feel grateful to be a part of that movement in the world.

Gratitude alone, as important as it is, does not keep the lights on. It doesn't buy a new pair of winter boots for my child, or buy groceries. So I am learning to become better at promoting my work. Because I love it, and I give so much of myself to it.

For today I've decided to take a deep breath, wave my flag, and share with you the work I do, because it has been my guiding star, fills me with passion and joy, and has been my life for over twenty years. I love working with parents and children and watching parents find their voice, and uncover their power and step confidently into their role as parents.

My business is called Celebrate the Rhythm of Life, just like this blog.

Okay, I said it, my "business."

I'm working on making the shift from passion and joy, to passion and joy that's a business. With business smarts.

What Do I Offer?  Each month I offer an online gathering/class with a focus topic on an aspect of Waldorf homemaking, homeschooling or parenting. Each month the Celebrate Community delves deeply into that one specific topic on a private site where we chat freely. We have a community of wise and wonderful women, and a very rare - but occasional dad. You are all welcome dads! Some months we have a guest speaker. We've had many excellent guest speakers over the years including Howard Schrager, Lynn Jericho, Connie Manson and Cynthia Aldinger. 

The Celebrate Community focus topics include planning the year, and sinking into your family rhythms with Get Organized :: Sketch it Out!, work on daily rhythm with Rhythm in the Home, exploring warm, loving guidance with Love :: the Heart of Discipline, Storytelling, fostering imaginative Play, Starting a Playgroup, The Speech We Bring, Cultivating Your Family Values, Storytelling with Table Puppets, Simple Celebrations, The Sense of Warmth, Warmth in the Kitchen and more.

This month's Celebrate Community focus topic is Love :: the Heart of Discipline. We'll focus on warm, firm, loving guidance, with information, exercises, tips and strategies to help you better understand yourself, and your child, and feel more clear and confident in your parenting. It's included as part of the living curriculum program or you can join just the class with the focus topic for $25 . I keep the registration fee low to make it accessible for all. I hope you'll join us each month in the Celebrate Community focus topics where you'll find wisdom, warmth and community.

Each month of the year I offer season based online Monthly Guides in the form of a living curriculum program. This living curriculum program focuses on the inner and outer mood of the month as well as seasonal changes and celebrations. I include all the materials you need for both the nursery and the kindergarten years, including materials and suggestions for festival celebrations. Each month I include a Tip from the Morning Garden for childcare providers, from my own home based program. The living curriculum includes movement and circle games and for different ages, stories for different ages, songs, verses, fingerplays, crafts, nature activities and support for the weekly rhythm activities of painting, wet on wet water color painting, soup making and bread baking. Members of the living curriculum program also join the Celebrate Community topic.

When I began offering the monthly guides based on the season, and they do have a northern hemisphere perspective, I felt that it was not right to throw materials out there without providing more support and a foundation for home life and parenting. To include everything about every single possible topic each month felt like way too much information. For that reason I offer the focus topic each month. 

After a few years of only offering the living curriculum with the ecourse focus topic, I began allowing folks to join just the focus topic/ecourse each month. I've kept the monthly guides, called the living curriculum program coupled to the monthly focus topic because it complements them so well. They complement each other.

Each month, as part of the living curriculum program,  I include materials for festival celebrations as well, as I cannot find a way to hinge them from the living curriculum program.  September includes Michaelmas, October includes Martinmas and Lantern Walk ideas as well as Halloween celebration ideas. It flows this way through the way, with festivals and celebrations integrated into the stories, songs, activities, verses and songs. 

I know this is a challenge for my friends in the southern hemisphere, and I just don't know how to create this community based on the seasons, and hold the space for everyone to feel that their experience is fully reflected, when in February I am offering stories about snow and in March about sugaring. One possibility is year round membership to have access to year round materials, receive the daily notes from me, and be included in the Celebrate Community topic each month, which is not so directly related to the season. 

So there's a little bit about me - I mean my business. I hope you'll become part of this wonderful and wise community. Some of the moms who began with babies are now homeschooling in the grades. Which leads me to, oh yes, toot toot! I have created a support place for each of the grades, for Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Year Round Members, which is a lifetime membership, by the way. See what I mean!?

Toot Toot!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Rose and Thorns

As I work on re-formatting the Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Living Curriculum Program, I'll be sharing with you some of the material from the program. That way, when you hear about the new format and special offer, I am hoping you'll say, "Yes please!" and join the Celebrate the Rhythm of Life community. 

My children were young when their dad and I separated sixteen years ago. One was seven years old and the other was a newborn. It's hard to go through separation and divorce with young children. With divorce come new relationships, some are long lasting and some are not. The sense of who is family and who is not can be fleeting.  For several years after the divorce, my children were fortunate to have a "bonus mom" who served as a consistent, warm and loving person to guide them and care for them when they spent time with their dad. Among the many ways she warmed their hearts and inspired them was one that migrated over to my house and has stayed with us, to be shared with guests at our table. That is the gift of rose and thorns.

Rose and Thorns: We can't have one without the other.

At dinner, after the food is served, the candle is lit and the blessing has been said, we settle in a bit, taste the food, and then I announce that it is time for Rose and Thorns. If we have guests at our table I explain to them what it is, that we take turns sharing a little something from our day that was beautiful, sweet or beloved like a rose, and we also share something that was prickly, hard or challenging. Each person shares both a rose and thorn.

If there is a singular event that we're all wanting to claim as our Rose, we might place that aside, and dig a little deeper into the less obvious. Same with the Thorn.

Some days a person may not have a Thorn to share, that's just fine. Sometimes a person doesn't want to share, there's no pressure to join in.

What I do notice as my children have grown older is that Rose and Thorns can spark conversation into topics that might not have come up. They help us see each other a little better, and they help us to feel compassionate towards each other, as we are reminded with the Thorns that each of us has challenging moments in our days.

We began sharing our Rose and Thorns when my oldest was seven, school age, and that felt right age wise developmentally.

We recently had a friend over for dinner, who upon coming over the next time for dinner asked if we were going to play that game again, about the Rose and Thorns. And so we did.

My warmest thanks to the "bonus mom," for opening her heart and home to us, and for all the sweet rose goodness she has shared, as well as for providing a model of grace in meeting the prickly bits of life. The dinnertime Rose and Thorn tradition has nourished us and gone on to inspire many others.

Monday, October 1, 2018

A Quick Seasonal Meal

You know what it's like to have nothing prepared for dinner? One of those days when the day was fuller than you expected, your budget tighter than you'd like and you didn't make it to the store because that felt like one expense and one trip too many?

I do.

At this time of year with so many fresh garden vegetables and herbs, I assume that something will come to mind. 

And then it doesn't.

Here's one meal I made last week, that was really tasty and a big hit, with little planning, from seasonal food I had on hand.

It involved:
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Pasta
I cut the vegetables into wedges, sprinkled herbs on top, drizzled olive oil over all and roasted it at 400 degrees until the tomatoes and onions looked soft and smelled good. 

et voila, dinner is served!

Clean up was easy too. One pot, One pan.

Thank you summer for all the tasty goodness!

Thank you Lorrie for bringing over some of your tomato trove!

Read more about meal planning here.

What vegetables would you roast like this? Share your ideas for quick meals or roasted vegetables in the comments below.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Do You Struggle with Rhythm?

If your answer is yes, you'll be happy to know that...

Rhythm Boot Camp is Back!
ongoing enrollment
2 four week blocks
  • 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?
  • Are you struggling to homeschool and finding you need to work on rhythm?
  • 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?
  • Would you like more peaceful bedtimes for your children and yourself?
Join When Less is More :: Rhythm Boot Camp
If you pause and pay attention, you'll notice that all around you there is rhythm, the rhythm of night and day, the rhythm of your menstrual cycle, the rhythm of the waxing and waning of the moon, the rhythm of the sun's movement, the rhythm of heartbeat, of breath, of growing through phases of life, of starting and ending. Rhythm embraces us. It's like a big warm familiar hug.
Before electricity, electric lights and central heating were available with 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 and carried along through the year without conscious attention. 
Early people deeply felt the earth's rhythms through the day and all through the year and celebrated significant turnings in the wheel of the year. The return of the sun meant life was renewed in the earth. The sun's departure signaled a time for pilling in, going inward.Today, we can flip a switch and experience light and heat. We no longer live in the rhythms of nature. We have disconnected. We are plugged in and no longer attuned to the rhythms of nature. Our own inner rhythms can be overwhelmed by the distractions that come from the busyness and noise of daily life.

Yet we are rhythmic beings. 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 intention. We can tap into the energy that flows when our rhythm is balanced.

Children thrive when their life is rhythmic. It is so healthy and nourishing for children. Rhythm makes children feel confident that life is predicable, that adults are reliable and in knowing they can rely on order and harmony in their lives. With predictable days, children relax and can let go and be children.
A solid rhythm can eliminate frustration, increase a child's ability to play and to make transitions. Rhythm helps us breathe when we are frustrated and can carry us through times that are chaotic and unpredictable.

:: Gift yourself and your family
 with a strong rhythm to your days and weeks for the new year by simplifying your life through a strong rhythm.

:: Imagine pleasant mealtimes, smooth transitions, peace filled bedtimes and breathing time in your day. Yes, it can be done. By you.

:: Know this. It is already there, within you. The ability. Everything you need to bring some sense of rhythm, harmony and joy to your daily life with children.

This course is designed to help you access that inner wisdom and put it into action with daily notes of encouragement and reminders, videos, worksheets and activities, conversation and community.
  • You'll explore what rhythm looks like and feels like and look at sample rhythms of the day and the week.
  • You'll delve into what gets in the way of the rhythm you want.
  • You'll practice how you can make your rhythm breathe for you and help you flow through the day.
  • You'll examine how rhythm can help your child be more imaginative, playful and creative.
  • You' ll work on how your meals can be healthier and more pleasant with rhythm.
  • You'll be supported to practice routines for peaceful bedtimes and restful sleep.
  • You'll work on incorporating a rhythm for housework.
  • You'll practice using rhythm to make transitions smoother.
  • You'll experience how a strong rhythm supports homeschooling if you're a homeschooler.
  • You'll experience how a strong rhythm makes home a sanctuary for the school child.
  • You'll work on establishing and maintaining a rhythm that supports your life.
  • You'll discover rhythms you already have and build on them over four weeks.
  • You'll explore and experience how rhythm supports daily life with children and helps you carve out time for yourself.
  • You'll become more able to recognize the difference between breathing in and breathing out qualities of experiences.
  • You'll receive daily reminders and enthusiastic support.
  • You'll have the option to download and print the exercises or do them online.
  • You'll find templates for sketching out your rhythm, and explore the difference between writing it down, and living it from within.
  • At the end of the course, you'll be invited into a private Facebook community.
  • You'll always have access to the course and the materials.
  • You can return at any time.
When Less is More :: Rhythm Boot Camp 
Start each day with a healthy home rhythm!
*Enthusiastic support and encouragement* 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Summer Sundays

Sunday has, for the most part, been a day of rest and renewal for me. I was a child during the years when shops were closed on Sundays. We went to church on Sundays. We had a big early dinner and for the most part took it easy. It's a pleasant habit that stuck with me and carried over into my family life.

Lately, we've been falling into a new habit on Sundays. The family meeting. We share our rose and thorns from last week, and look to the week ahead, to have a sense of who is doing what and when, and organize our meal plans accordingly.

This time of year is such a great time for fresh locally grown food. Our backyard garden and the farmer's market are bursting with summer goodness: ripe tomatoes, fresh herbs, summer squash, corn, green beans, yellow wax beans, a purple string bean, scallions, lettuces, onions, sweet peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, even the first of the sugar pumpkins. The smells and tastes are exquisite. It's as if the senses have become wide open and everything is better, the color, the textures, the smells and the taste. During the cold, dark days of winter, it's easy to fall into the lull of eating food that has traveled or somehow miraculously been stored to make it through the winter and then forget how good fresh locally grown food can taste.

I want to savor it. It's a bit like those moments with children when you are certain you will never forget the exact moment, or words. And then you do. I do too. We all do.

So, with that in mind, this week we'll be eating lots of tomatoes, basil, corn, string beans, cucumbers, peppers and fresh herbs. They are so good fresh, I just can't commit to cooking them. Not today.

What fresh and local or homegrown foods are you savoring this week?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Thanks to the Children

In the early years of life, we make an enormous impression on our children by the examples we give them, every single day, in how we live our life, in how meet the world.

Whether our actions, gestures and speech are conscious or unconscious, our children learn how to live by our example. Children imitate what we do and say and how we move in and through the world.

Whether we take risks, handle our mistakes with grace, blow up and yell with frustration or remain calm in a difficult moment, our children are taking it in and learning how to be human, based on what we do.

They also learn what it means to be human by how we respond after we look silly, make a mistake, blow up and yell or stay calm by taking deep breaths. They get to see us learning to do better. They learn that life is a process of learning.

You know the saying of how we become our parents? Have you had the experience of saying something and then realizing, "I sound just like my mother."

I remember when my first born picked up his beautiful hand cut and sanded wooden block and put it to his ear to imitate me talking on the telephone. Hmm, I wondered, "Is this how he experiences me?" That wasn't how I imagined him using those blocks.

That was one little wake up call to pay attention to what I do.

We can uplift our actions and deeds in reminding ourselves that living life is an art, it's ways unique to each human being, with unlimited creative capacities.

The art of living is what we teach our children.

With this, we have a choice to become conscious of who and how we are in the world, and to work on that, to be the best we can be.

We grow as human beings in our quest to be good parents. This is the best example we can give our children, of life as a process of learning and growing, of showing up,  being vulnerable, taking risks and failing. And doing it all again, learning as we go. A process.

In this way, the path of parenting, as well as homeschooling and caring for other people's children becomes our own journey, into understanding ourselves and how we show up in the world, and in daily life.

We have this opportunity to uplift ourselves and how we live into an art that we practice each day.

Thanks to the children.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Festival of Candlemas

Sundays are a day of rest and renewal for my family. That was how I experienced Sundays growing up. We went to church in the morning. That was followed by a big breakfast and then an early big dinner ~ Sunday dinner. There was plenty of down time in between. It's always stayed with me, and I am happy for it.

I like to keep some spaciousness in my family's Sundays. One of the things I like to do is to quietly take some time to look ahead at the week, review what is coming, and make sure I have in place what I need, to be prepared for anything outside of the ordinary.

Ideally the meal plan is sketched out, our work is planned, and I know where everyone is going each day. This moment on Sunday gives me time to have a picture of the week ahead.

This week as I look ahead, I see the week brings three things that are out of the ordinary, three, well almost four, feasts or celebrations that all fall on February 2nd, which happens to be on Friday of this week. They are:
  • Groundhog Day
  • Imbolc
  • Candlemas
  • Brigid's Day
Groundhog Day is a fun little day that doesn't require too much forethought or preparation to celebrate.

Imbolc is the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It "crosses" the quarters (or seasons) of the year.

Brigid's Day ~ I wrote about this day here.

Candlemas is a church feast. Whenever we have the suffix ~ mas added to a word, we know it refers to a feast day. Besides Candlemas, there's Michaelmas, Martinmas, and Christmas too.

Sometimes Candlemas, Brigid's Day, Imbolc and Groundhog day are conflated.

I'll begin with Candlemas and come back with some reflections on the other celebrations over the next few days.

~ painting by Lodovico Caracci 
This feast has layers to contemplate. Candlemas is celebrated in the Catholic and Orthodox Church as the Feast of the Presentation at Church of the Blessed Mary, and is also known as the Feast of the Presentation of the Holy Child, or more popularly as Candlemas. It has its origins in what is known as the rite of the "churching of women," the return of a woman to the Church after 40 days of rest, after giving birth to a child. It signifies the return of Mary to the Church after giving birth to the Christ Child, along with the Presentation of the Child in the Church.

 In our busy modern world, the notion of convalescence is becoming obsolete. Women are encouraged to "do it all," which we can't, but that is another conversation. More traditional cultures honor the postpartum period as a time of rest and of nourishing both the mother and baby. This piece by Joyce Gallardo explores this very topic, here.

Was the churching of women a recognition of the importance of rest and slowing down after giving birth, or was it a banishment that needed "purification" of the fleshly body in order to re-enter the life of the Church?  It strikes me as rather odd that it was a question for men to expound on, rather than women. But the women were busy tending to daily life, so that the men could expound on such things. Ha!

Yet we know that the question whether a mother who had given birth recently should enter the church or not has been debated long before the eleventh century. The most prominent example is Pope Gregory the Great's letter to Augustine of Canterbury, as we find it in the Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England. Augustine had asked among a number of other questions: 'how long after she has brought forth, may she come into the church? and then adds in the end: 'All which things are requisite to be known by the rude nation of the English.' Gregory answers that even if she came the very hour after giving birth she was not committing a sin, but rather forbidding her to come would turn the punishment she was bearing for the sin of Eve into a crime. But the Christian tradition is not clear and uniform on this question. It seems that Gregory remained an exception and traditions like those of the penitentials which strongly suggested the need for purification became more influential. In the fourth century Hippolytus records that a mother who had just given birth was to be seated among the catechumens. Emperor Leo in 460 forbade women to take communion within 40 days after the delivery, but did not count it as a grave sin, if they did in case of emergency [Stephens 1854, 1751f]. 

This comes from here.

As for the feast of Candlemas - this is a feast of initiation, of possibility, of light, of the old meeting the new and the old giving way to the new, the frozen earth giving way to the stirring of new life. This is why candles are blessed in churches on this day.

This is the time of year in which the light is growing brighter, the buds on the trees are beginning to swell, the birds seem to be singing more, and on some days the feeling of the return of warmth and sunlight is in the air.

We put up our Christmas tree up later than most, close to Christmas Eve. This has wonderful benefits and challenges too. Some years we keep the tree through January, with Candlemas as the final marker - the end to Christmastide. I like the word Christmastide. It feels like so much more than a singular day that has a make or break quality to it, with reverberations that last through the year, and eventually a lifetime. Christmastide makes me think of the tide of the sea that rolls in, pulsating with energy, and then rolls out, as seasons do. Each year bringing something new.

How does this all fit in with Waldorf education and life? This is a really good question. The 2nd of February is a significant day in the rhythm of the year, as it is the mid-point, a cross quarter day, one that falls smack in between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. We are six weeks from each of those turning points in the year. On February 2nd, we are as close to spring as we were to the winter solstice. After February 2nd, we are closer to the onset of spring that the onset of winter. It is a threshold day in the year.

In looking back, and wondering how this day came into celebration among Waldorf Home Educators, I think of Mrs. M, who started the Yahoo Group that inspired (and continues to inspire) so many Waldorf home educators, as the first to make something of the day, in the context of Waldorf education. You can find the Yahoo Group Waldorf Home Educators here. It's been quiet lately, or visit her Facebook group, the Magic of Waldorf to see what she is up to. She has celebrated with a Festival of the Bees at this time of year in the past. 

What are your thoughts on the rite of the churching of women? Is it in recognition of the need for women and child to rest after birth, or in disdain of the female body? Does it matter? What can it inspire within us today? I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments.

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