Monday, July 29, 2019

Inner Work

Our days can be quite full of tasks. 

They're filled with caring for children, pets and the home, planning, preparing and serving wholesome meals, cleaning up afterwards, maintaining healthy rhythms and routines, ensuring time and space for free play and getting outside in the fresh air and being the chief cook, bottle washer, organizer and overseer of family life.

In addition, some of us work from home or have jobs outside of the home, and garden or farm.

Some of us are homeschoolers too. As homeschoolers we add to the daily tasks of preparing and presenting lessons. This is an even bigger task for a single parent, or a family in crisis. It’s big my friends, and full of opportunities for transformation and growth.

Each of us is our child's first teacher. We teach our child what it means to be human in this world through our own life, our words and gestures and deeds.

What does this have to do with inner work?
Our most important task as parents and educators is described in a quote I share in the description of my program, Celebrate the Rhythm of Life eGuides and eCourse ~ living curriculum. It’s from Rudolf Steiner and it is so meaningful in the context of inner work that I’ll share it here:

“Essentially, there is no education other than self- education, whatever the level may be. This is recognized in its full depth within Anthroposophy, which has conscious knowledge through spiritual investigation of repeated Earth lives. Every education is self-education, and as teachers we can only provide the environment for children’s self-education. We have to provide the most favorable conditions where, through our agency, children can educate themselves according to their own destinies. This is the attitude that teachers should have toward children, and such an attitude can be developed only through an ever- growing awareness of this fact.”


This “self-education” that Rudolf Steiner describes is not a memorization of dates or facts. He is talking about working on our self, on getting to who we are and what makes us tick.

Inner work is about getting to know ourselves, and through that process we are better able to see and get to know our children.

When we observe our children through our own pain and wounds, without knowing they are there, we tend to project our needs on to them. In getting to know ourselves, we can better recognize what’s our “stuff” from the past and who our child is, as separate from us, as the other. Inner work helps us come to a place of being present, so we are able to respond rather than react to our children, and whatever life throws at us.

Through this process of inner work, and with it comes inner growth, we are better able to meet our children and guide them along.

You may have thought that Waldorf education was about the material in the curriculum, yet it is about so much more. So many parents come to Waldorf education for the beauty and simplicity, and find themselves growing and stretching, getting to know themselves better, and feeling more clear, confident and connected to what they value most. Sometimes it comes as a surprise. I often hear, "I didn't expect it to change my life." Yet is does, if we are open to it.
It is through inner work, the ongoing and sometimes subtle and not so subtle work of getting to know ourselves and embracing the muck in our lives that transformation occurs. In becoming more clear about who we are, and what we are doing in this wild and precious life of ours, we become more present and more able to easily make decisions that resonate with our deepest and most heartfelt values. We open to creativity and often find answers coming to us, seemingly from out of blue, but really from our deep longing for getting to know ourself and our truth.

It’s exciting, no? To be spurred on with our own growth as human beings. Who would have thought that parenting brings so many hidden gifts.



Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::   Soulful Parenting with the 3C's : Consciousness, Connection, Creativity
Waldorf Homeschooling + Homemaking

Saturday, July 27, 2019

True Reading Readiness

These guidelines by Dr. Susan Johnson are intended to help parents, caregivers and early childhood educators notice movement integration and development in the young child.

True reading readiness (as opposed to forced reading “readiness”) is a biological phenomenon* and requires that a child has passed a number of benchmarks of sensor-motor integration – which is an aspect of healthy brain development.  Many of these benchmarks have been passed when a child is able to do the following:

  • Pay attention and sit still in a chair for at least 20 minutes
  • Balance on one foot, without her knees touching, and in stillness, with both arms out to her sides – and count backwards without losing her balance
  • Stand on one foot, with arms out in front of him, palms facing up, with both eyes closed for 10 seconds without falling over
  • Reproduce various geometric shapes, numbers, or letters onto a piece of paper with a pencil while someone else traces these shapes, letters or numbers on her back
  • Walk on a balance beam
  • Jump rope by self
  • Skip

If children can’t do these tasks easily, their vestibular and proprioceptive (sensory-motor) neural systems are not yet well-integrated, and chances are they will have difficulty sitting still, listening, focusing their eyes, focusing their attention, and remembering letters and numbers in the classroom.

Support for sensory-motor integration comes not from flash cards or video games…but from the following activities:

Physical movements such as

• Skipping                                          • Running
• Hopping                                          • Walking and hiking
• Rolling down hills                         • Clapping games
• Playing catch with a ball              • Circle games
• Jumping rope                                 • Climbing in nature

…as well as fine motor activities to strengthen important motor pathways, such as

• Cutting with scissors                     • Beading
• Digging in the garden                    • Drawing
• Kneading dough                             • String games
• Pulling weeds                                  • Sewing
• Painting                                            • Finger knitting

By contrast, watching television or playing video or computer games are extremely poor sources of stimulation for sensory-motor development and actually interfere with the healthy integration of the young nervous system by keeping the child’s nervous system in a state of stress.  The “flight or fight” system is activated and maintained.

Children who have difficulties reading and writing often also have

• a poorly developed sense of balance
• difficulty making eye contact
• difficulty tracking or following with their eyes
• trouble distinguishing the right side of their body from the left
• difficulty sitting still in a chair
• difficulty locating their body in space
• poor muscle tone exemplified by a slumped posture
• a tense or fisted pencil grip
• “flat feet” (collapsed arches)
• oversensitivity to touch
• overactive sympathetic nervous system (“flight or fight”), thus have extra sensitivity to the stimulant effects of sugar, chocolate, lack of sleep, changes in routines, watching television, playing computer or video games.

Sometimes these children have difficulties in their peer relationships because they are using their mind and eyes to help their bodies navigate in space, and miss the non-verbal social cues from their playmates.

Dr. Johnson has seen children diagnosed with AD/HD or learning disabilities “miraculously” improve when they are taken out of an “academic” kindergarten or given an extra year in a developmental kindergarten that emphasizes movement, play, and the integration of their sensory-motor systems.

*On reading readiness as a biologically-based development: we would never label a child with a “disability” if they were slow to lose their first tooth, or begin menstruation…and reading is similarly linked to a child’s unfolding biology.  Relax!

Copyright Susan Johnson, M. D.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission.  For more about Susan R. Johnson, MD, FAAP, and her practice in Colfax, California, go to You and Your Child’s Health.


Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 

Harmonious Rhythms ::   Soulful Parenting with the 3C's :: Waldorf Homeschooling

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,
Lisa

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.

Warmly,
Lisa


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.


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