Story Power!

My son illustrating two people in love having orange juice.

Stories are what hold our social reality together. Physical reality takes care of itself – eat, wash, build shelter, and so on. Story reality, however, is actively created, shared, and upheld through common agreement. Various cultures have their own stories and thus in accordance have their own customs and ways of being (i.e. mannerisms, cultural beliefs).

Every now and then I get the bug to categorize my homeschooling method. In this way I bring my mind into alignment with a given homeschool story line, complete with educational beliefs, mannerisms, and ways of being.

Sure, sometimes I like to make up my own ideas about what the ideal homeschool will look like: gardening together, playing outside, travel, wild foraging, and sustainable living. Other times, I mix and match the story elements of developed homeschool methods such as Waldorf and Charlotte Mason.

As much as I admire the concept, I have never been the beautiful, crafty, homespun wool, Waldorf mom. I do perhaps flow with some Waldorf practices, such as reading kind and gentle stories in the early years, watercoloring, and taking up a slower mindful approach to living in tune with the rhythms of nature.

I am also not a Charlotte Mason educator. My personality is more lenient then the tight schedule bound curriculum provides. Although I love the nature studies and call to studying topics through living books.

But then, Waldorf teachers are guided to read the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales which are pretty frightening. And Charlotte Mason followers are given instruction for teaching the Bible (also containing frightening stories).

As a sensitive person I cringe at violent stories – be them Fairy Tales, Greek Myths, famous plays or wisdom from The Bible. Growing up watching Disney movies, I hated the parts where a villianous character took over the screen. I wished I could cut out all the scary parts and watch the lovely animated stories in peace.

I can’t imagine sharing stories about murder with my children. Is it denial? Am I trying to protect them from the terrors and sorrows of the world as long as I can?

My son (now almost 6 years old) has long been fascinated with superheros. I tried for a time, and unsuccesfully at that, to redirect him to other adventurous tales. Instead I found myself grudgingly seperating those versions of the heroic triumphs which I found acceptable from those I found too graphic in their language or illustration. “Bedtime for Batman”, sure babe, we can read that one. Still, the grocery store and library are full of bright images of flashy characters fighting one another.

What is it about all these violent stories that has had people captivated for generation after generation? Why are they so prevalent? What is their value? Can’t we just read Ghandi and call it good? Doesn’t Jesus speak about kindness and compassion?

I consider myself a spiritual person. I pray, I believe in a Higher Power, I value the teachings of Jesus, and I try to align my mind and actions with compassion and understanding.

My ultimate question is, how do I bring home stories that are full of wisdom, spiritual depth and beauty? Will they have to be violent in order to convey their meaning? Are the struggles meant to offer our children (and our selves) tools to overcome the meanness we will inevidablly encounter in our life? To battle the feelings of anger, jealousy, or despair that take us into their grip?

I have tried to find the homeschooling method that most fits with a lifestyle of non-violence. Despite my efforts, even as I write this my daughter speaks the words “kill” and “defeat” as she watches her dad play an old arcade game on his phone. Yet, are my children mean-spirited? No. Are they playful, imaginative, and loving? Yes. Do they like dramatic storytelling? Yes. Do they wrestle with fear? Yes. Do they at times loose control of their emotions and fight with one another? Yes. Do they identify with the hero archtype? Yes.

As my heart explodes with love, I realize my children are growing. Expanding our adventures in the written word is a growing pain I have tried to ignore. So what will it be, a childrens’ Story Bible, Harry Potter, or some other fabulous tale of the battle between good and evil, the fight for life, peace and love?

What we learn through storytelling are directions for navigating our shared experience. Saying, this is how people speak, this is how they think, and this here story is how peoples’ actions and ways of being affect one another. We are all connected, therefore listen closely so you can form judgements for yourself and choose your own character.

One might even go as far as saying this is what education is all about, choosing who you want to be, what you want to be, and how your life will contribute to the greater whole. What will your story be in this life? What legacy will you leave behind for others?

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February

I was feeling bored being cooped up in the Tiny House, despite my love for the sound of rain plunking on the gutters. I knew the kids were also feeling this by the amount of, “what can I do?”s that were coming out of my son’s mouth. So, naturally, I began looking for ways to liven up our days. 

I have historically not been good at setting time frames for accomplishing tasks. They get done, or they don’t, in a more free-for-all manner. Some days I call this good while other days I criticize my lack of discipline (especially when it comes to wanting to instill good discipline habits in my kids). In particular, with both of them learning to read, I want to provide a routine space for them to practice every day. If my kids missed getting a star on their reading chart last month, it was no fault of their own, only my lack of creating the space for them to make it happen. 

I adore freeplay. Watching my kids play make-believe together, listening to their complex story worlds is a highlight of my life. It has been my philosophy to let them be. However, I can tell when they have had enough of eachother and need my help to transition into something different. 

Having twins means they have always done everything together. Naturally, they are learning to read together, play the piano together, do math together, climb trees together, tell jokes together…..and you get the point. Since in the past I didn’t need to occupy a kid of a different age while I worked with an older one, I now have a tricky scenario to navigate. How do I keep one busy while I have one-on-one time with the other? I will add this to my growing list of “February Challenges”. 

Last month we did the Read Aloud Revival (RAR on Instagram) 31 day Reading Challenge that my kids want to have a repeat of this month. Plus, I am doing the Coffee and Books Challenge (Coffeeandbooks on Instagram) as well as the Children in Nature Challenge (Childreninnaturechallenge on Instagram). Perhaps I’ll put up an additional calendar with ways to occupy a child in a solo activity (I’m only half joking).

And so with February (and a Lunar Eclipse that I missed only due to clouds) I commence with my personal goals and fun challenges to inspire our brightening (and lengthening!) days. 

What are you feeling inspired by this month?  

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Living and Stuff

​I was scrolling through my Instagram feed this morning when my eyes fell upon a picture of Courtney Carver’s book “Soulful Simplicity”. My first thought was, “lovely, but how could you stand there and buy it? I can’t buy books, I can’t even bring in more from the library…I currently have unread books waiting that I promised myself I would read…and…I live in a Tiny House…I literally have no where to store another book in waiting…” 
I have considered switching to e-books, a brilliant idea to reduce physical clutter…although, now, not only do I have a busy bookshelf (which by the way was supposed to someday turn into a full personal library, of course), I have a train of unread books on my Kindle shelf. Simplicity? Where?

But I went to the Overdrive app anyway. It was waitlisted. So I snuck on to Amazon to check the Kindle price – too much (free or $0.99 would have done it). Next to the book were listed several others on the same topic. I just looked at the titles and synopses. Sometimes, all I need is the inspiration of an idea, not the whole book. What stood out to me was that perhaps it was time for some radical giving. 

Over last summer I moved out of my Tiny House temporarily. I pulled everything out of the storage unit I had been keeping and moved into the basement of a friends house. During this time my housemate was reading the book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I had read it before and did what I thought was my best, however, at the time I still had a full storage unit. I couldn’t really give myself credit for tidying up when I was hording a secret stash of stuff. 

Now was my time. I took those boxes I had relocated from storage into my friends basement and began opening them. I decided it wasn’t fair to only look at my husbands boxes – so I put those in front of him straight away and turned to my own. (I even tried to keep my mouth shut about my opinion on what he should do with his boxes.) 

We had spent two years in the Tiny House together and now I was looking at all the items from apartment living that were meant to belong in my “future house”, things like muffin tins (the TH doesn’t have an oven), a bunk bed, camping gear, and so on. What now? The Tiny House was only meant to be a two year stay while we saved enough money for something “real”. We still weren’t financially able to get into a house that we desired (we recently considered a trailer park but I became very sad upon driving through it and decided I couldn’t take all the cement…). 

Was I to keep holding on to all these belongings while waiting for that next phase of housing? Or, was I to let it all go and aquire new stuff when the future finally came? What was that future really going to be…and when…? I had never dreampt I would be in a Tiny House yet there I had been…I wondered where my life might lead me next and what it might feel like to REALLY let go of all this stuff. 

Interestingly enough, although I never dreampt of living in a Tiny House, I did dream of living in a simple cabin…or even in an RV, traveling around as a homeschool family. And never in my imagination was I worried about the “school materials” like board games and activity books I would need a closet for. Yet here I was, surrounded by items I thought I needed for my house, that I thought I needed for my homeschool. 

I took piles of old stored items to the donation center and kept working on recycling ancient paper work and discarding strange photos that were blurry or not interesting (how many photos did I have of me standing in front of a dolphin at Sea World? Why?).  

After a time I began moving back to the Tiny House…except…I still had a basement full of belongings…that obviously weren’t going to fit in my Tiny House. I had thought I was done decluttering…because all that’s left I really do enjoy (or think I do). I considered a storage unit again…but that seemed ridiculous…I considered moving to Texas near my sister and grandma, taking all my stuff with me…but my husband seems to have stalled out on the idea…So Tiny House living continues… as does the question, “what do I do with all my stuff”?

How do I navigate what really matters to me? Keeping stuff locked away for later, discarding all of it to live fully in the now, or trying to cram as much as possible in the smallest space available? 

I see above what I think my answer should be…then sneaks in the voice, “but what about that house you want…the one you don’t want to buy new furniture for…the one you need to put the bunk bed in?” 

What does it take, to stop focusing on the unknown “future” and truly live for the now, to be present and open to possibilities that may be hidding behind the distraction of a cool vinatage card table? (And I mean mine…not my husbands…because he has one too…)
Do you have your own purging story? I would love to hear. Share with me in the comments.

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Buried Treasure

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When I stopped repeating the story of what I didn’t want or didn’t think I had and instead turned my attention to believing in the unexpected, my brain switched from complaining about a problem to inviting in a solution.

Over and over again I discovered the power of this wonderful process.

When “I can’t afford a decent house” turned into “I have everything I need for the house I am meant to live in” I ended up sharing space with family where the kids could play freely in the yard I so badly wanted to have.

When “Exercise programs just aren’t for me” turned into “I love exercising in ways that are fun” I found a fitness class that was perfect for me (see Post).

And frequently, when I lost my keys, “I can’t find my keys” turned into, “where are my keys?” and I found them (with the exception of the time my then 2 year old son told me he threw them off the balcony of our apartment into the blackberry bushes).

Seeing how new things were working out lead me to try this technique on my relationship. After nearly eleven years, it still wasn’t functioning in a healthy way. So I decided to re-narrate stories I was telling myself. Instead of complaining, critiquing, and engaging in power struggles, I changed my tune to appreciation, surrendering to a higher power to guide me, and affirming character traits that I wanted to bring to my relationship.

Not only did I begin to step into the better person I wanted to be, I started telling myself how fabulous my dream partner was as if a real person had just walked into my life. This was not a form of denial but of re-creation. My husband wouldn’t stop drinking alcohol and getting drunk regularly. Instead of trying to change him, I was going to change my relationship to him. I gave myself permission to leave. I could let go of the toxic relationship and create a healthy relationship. I wanted our two kids to grow up knowing what a healthy, happy family life was.

What I didn’t expect was for my husband to become a partner in co-creating that healthy relationship with me. When I walked out, we were both able to take a step back and look at the ways we had maintained the unhealthy relationship together. It was not just him. I had my anger, I had my patterns of pain that were not aligned with the better person I knew I was inside and wanted to project into the world.

Hiking my own mountain and looking into myself to transform negative stories about my life into affirmations of love and gratitude, I put shovel to earth, and uncovered the glittering treasures that were within. My own inner strength, my connection and trust in a power greater than myself that is loving and supportive, lead me to see the ways that I was cared for and guided to make positive changes.

Not in asking someone else to change, rather, asking what I could change has empowered me to act from a place of courage, self-worth, and compassion. It has allowed me to forgive myself and forgive others.

I cannot underestimate the power of story. Stories are acts of creation, they are invitations, they are affirmations of the way things are and the way things will be or can be. Complaining kept me stuck in a story of an unhealthy relationship. Opening to new possibilities, shifting my energy from a place of anger, bitterness, and judgment, into gratitude and appreciation, valuing myself, seeking strength and guidance from a higher power, and inviting in love at a deeper level has lead to a new understanding of how I can show up better in the world.

I am truly grateful that my husband is shifting his patterns as well, choosing sobriety and collaborating to bring a shared vision of family come together.

Earlier this evening we played the board game “My First Stone Age” as a healthy, happy family – fully present to one another and the moment. A dream come true.

As the New Year draws closer and resolutions are being written down or spoken into the wind, what do you intend to create for yourself? How do you intend to show up for yourself in 2018? What stories will you re-write?

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Resolutions in Motion

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You read (in my post) last week that I was declaring myself financially able and enthusiastically ready to shop locally. It has seemed easy in the past to let myself fall back on old habits of shopping at corporate chains because it is perceivably faster and cheaper. But shifting my perceptions through affirmations of the opposite of what I had been doing is opening me up to see opportunities available to meet my intentions.

After writing the post I decided that I was going to begin exploring what shopping locally really meant to me. Is it ONLY getting food from Farmers Market? Is it shopping at the locally owned grocer? Is it buying Christmas gifts at locally owned stores? These are important questions because they can become ways that I sabotage myself. If I set too many limits right away then my goal of shopping locally could become difficult or impossible to sustain.

My first need for groceries landed me in the local grocer. But I kept in mind items I would find at the Farmers Market to guide my shopping. Although not everything I bought was made or produced locally, I acknowledged my process and my success at even beginning the journey. Every time I affirm success I invite in more success. The opposite – finding fault in my shopping – would only lead me into a bad attitude and lack of desire to continue trying or exploring.

Maintaining openness and a sense of adventure gives me inspiration to try new things. There is a small produce stand down the street from where I have been living the past few months. Now seemed like a good time to finally go down there. Since I had driven somewhere each day, I decided Thursday would be the day to walk with the kids for some groceries. I didn’t check where their food comes from, they had avocadoes available so I know its not all locally grown, but the produce stand itself meets the goal of local. It was an added plus that we had a no driving day!

I intended to go to Farmers Market on Saturday. I didn’t happen. I almost gave myself a hard time about how this shopping locally thing wasn’t going to work for me if I never went to Farmers Market. Instead, I told myself it was OK because I did my writing at a local tea house this weekend rather than at the Coffee-shop-that-shall-not-be-named. I also purchased loose leaf tea from the tea house to drink during the week, replacing the boxes of tea that I otherwise would have bought from the store.

Then I got a surprise later in the day. Have you ever heard of “Urban Gleaners”? If not, they are a non-profit organization that collects food from around town that would otherwise go to waste and brings it to places like community centers for people to have free. Well, they happened to be set up at the community center we went swimming at. My husband walked over to the tables, grabbed an apple, then walked away. I, on the other hand, saw dinner. A baggie of pre-cooked Spanish rice, one with precooked black beans and chopped cilantro, a pack of organic tortillas, and I was making tacos!

See, despite not making it to Farmers Market this week I found numerous ways to explore what “shop local” meant to me and gave myself credit for the choices and changes I did make to bring my resolution into motion. (I even picked up a couple Christmas presents from locally owned stores, more success!)

Part of setting resolutions and saying affirmations is exploring how opportunities show up and how I bring to life my intentions in unexpected ways. Synchronicity, new ideas, inspired action, and shifted perceptions all come when I am open to the possibilities.

Are you wondering about what your New Year’s Resolutions will be for 2018? Read my last post on how to rephrase them in a way that will help you bring them into being. You can find that post here.

Have you changed an old story into a new one that resulted in positive change? Share below in the comments.

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Inviting the New Year

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The technique I used for making one of my most elusive resolutions happen resulted in the actual manifestation of an opportunity (read that Post).

With such surprising success, I have decided to rephrase my intentions for 2018 the same way.

In the past my resolution list has looked something like this:

  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise
  • Shop locally

They are goals in line with my values for well-being and sustainability. Yet, with all of them success was temporary or partial.  Somewhere along the way I walked back toward the old worn path of past habits.

But intentions are supposed to be life changing, action producing, miracle workers, right?

Yes, unless there is a secret backstory taking up all the room in the brain, causing me to remain on that same old path, doing the same old things, and seeing the same old world.

What do these backstories look like? “I am just going to go the old way because it’s: easier, comfortable, familiar, cheaper, faster…because I can do better: later, tomorrow, next time, next year…because I’m: tired, overwhelmed, in hurry, short on money.”

Looking at these backstories is like laying out a platter of keys to help me unlock some new doors. These are the real stories that need to be re-written in order for me to find success with my goals and intentions. It doesn’t matter how nicely I say shopping locally is, unless I can release the problems behind them that are creating resistance.

Pam Grout tells me in her book E Cubed that in order to invite real change I need to adjust the language I use, “[the troubles I have been seeing are] nothing but the harvest of words [I] spoke up until now.”

Using her suggestion to change my story into something positive, into what I actually want, my new resolution would go something like this (and meant to be spoken aloud on the regular so that I can find evidence of its truth):

“I have all the money necessary and am filled with enthusiasm to shop locally and cook with the fresh seasonal ingredients I find at Farmers Markets.”

This sentence not only affirms that I will shop locally, but it also rephrases two underlying stories that were keeping me stuck, 1. That it’s too expensive to buy local, and 2. It’s too stressful to shop at Famers Markets because I can’t find what I need to fit my recipes.

What is going to happen by shopping locally is that my spending habits are going to shift, as is the way I decide what I am going to cook this week. And by affirming I am filled with enthusiasm rather than secretly harboring stress I can open up to the possibility that shopping locally won’t be a sustainability obligation but a fun-filled, life changing adventure.

Are you ready to change your life? What possibilities are you opening up to this year?

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Transformational Learning

Understanding ourselves and our habits of mind can bring attention, awareness, and intention to our interactions, deepening our relationships. These personal insights can help support us in letting go of those pesky old habitual responses and actions that are not serving us or our highest values and visions for who we are and want to be in the world. Adopting new perspectives, thoughts and actions that assist us in living our best is what transformational learning is all about.

If I want to “be the change” and co-create a healthier relationship with someone close to me, then I see the need to reflect on what has been going right and what can be adjusted in terms of my participation. Through an investigation of the inner narratives I am living in and how they are supporting or are not supporting me I am able to introduce space for growth and change. I do not want to continue with patterns of thought and behavior that are defensive, destructive, and dividing. I want to master instead those that are empathetic, constructive, and unifying.

Beginning not only with myself but within myself, I can look at how I use words to bring myself to life or put myself down. Constantly narrating an internal story that I am not understood or valued prevents me from creating an atmosphere of respect and understanding. It holds me back from living up to my desire to navigate challenging situations with empathy, grace, understanding, and respect. By first treating myself with the qualities I wish to be treated with, I can then treat others truly as I wish to be treated, thus bringing a new way of being to life.

In order to see our personal thought patterns clearly, it is sometimes useful to get an outside perspective. A month or so ago some friends brought up the Myers-Briggs personality test. Jokes were going around about which Star Wars character we each were and which Harry Potter character we were. It was funny, however, I didn’t immediately see any more into it.

Later, I happened upon the Enneagram personality test and thought I would give it a try. It was insightful as well, although, I wasn’t sure what to do with the information. On the same thought-wave as me, one of my friends said she had still been looking at the Myers-Briggs test wondering how it could be useful to her beyond simply reading it for amusement.

The next day, a new episode came out on The Homeschool Sisters Podcast about understanding personality types for use with our families. When we know that someone else (like our child or significant other) has a unique way of expressing themselves and interpreting the world around them, we can then align ourselves in a way that brings harmony to our interactions; we can approach that person with understanding of where they are coming from. Further, having an awareness of our own needs, strengths, and weaknesses that we may not have been giving voice too can bring us to deeper self-understanding, self-respect, and empathy for our own character.

For Spirit to really drive home a critical point to me, another blogger who writes about personality type in homeschooling, shares the idea that we can utilize the Myers-Briggs descriptions for personal growth. Having not only awareness of our strengths and weaknesses but having compassion for ourselves and the desire to harness our fullest potential, we can live more consciously aligned with our highest values and visions, living with the intention to create a better world beginning with ourselves.

Making the world a better place, living in ways that are sustainable, can seem like an overwhelming or daunting task. Yet, if we remember that sometimes the whole world is simply our own immediate surroundings (internal and external), we give ourselves a great deal more power to make effective change. So start small, start inside, and allow yourself to bloom into exactly who you are.

So what’s your “personality type”?

 

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Reading Up

I had always imagined reading picture books to my kids and having them say something like, “Oh, I see that Max is yelling and stomping his feet when he is mad…I see now that other kids don’t hit each other when they get upset…I guess I won’t hit any more either…I will just yell and/or stomp.”…right?! That’s how it’s supposed to work isn’t it?

Although we talk about feelings, label them in the moment, and recall what “appropriate” behavior to engage in when feeling the feeling, I hadn’t read a book with the kids that had significant meaning or impact on their emotional development or expression (that I recall or am aware of, I realize they are often internalizing and processing without communicating to me about it).

Recently, however, I was surprised while reading a chapter book that I had expected to be too advanced for them. I bought it because it looked funny and I have a mild book obsession. So, I didn’t actually intend to read it to them yet…it was just going to be on my “save for later” shelf…where I have many books living.

Thinking it was going to be one more of those books I read a few pages from and then set back on the “for later” shelf, I started it with the kids one day. We were between books and I was trying to find something fun and engaging (there are a few books I tried and definitely went on the “for later” shelf either because I suddenly couldn’t read further due to content or because the kids weren’t into it).  Now, this one almost landed there after those first few pages. It contained dialogue that I wasn’t sure I was ready to be reading with my kids. My son, however, is more interested in these “advanced” books than I have been ready for. For example, we read Old Yeller and although I left in all the dog and hunting parts I did cut out any text about “Indians”…we just aren’t going there yet.

Anyway, we have slowly been working our way through this chapter book and I was wondering what my kids were getting out of it. Then my daughter rolls into me and says, “that’s hilarious!”…wait…OK new word from the book…and then my son passes gas and says, “holy bagumba!”…(know what we are reading now?!). I love using new words and phrases from books. This is perfect. I’m happy with these. Then my son goes on to say, “Mom, you know why I do terrible things sometimes like hit Ember?”….Terrible things? I had just read that line in the book…Continuing he says, “it’s because I’m lonely.”…also from the book…

I am excited about his revelation for several reasons, 1. my son was able to recognize his underlying emotion which now I can help guide him with, 2. he is listening deeply and communicating about what he is hearing, 3. he is responding to more dynamic material than I expected him to.

Scholastic rates the book we are reading as being best suited for grades 3-8…that’s 8 years to 14 years old. My kids are 5. There is a big difference in development between those years. But what I have found with homeschooling is that when I offer the kids an experience that is developmentally advanced, they absorb what they are ready for at their own level. Of course there are still things I won’t read or do, but for now, this book has been advanced in just the right way for us. By the way, the book we have been reading is Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, which is in fact hilarious.

Have you read anything lately that was surprisingly enriching? What was it? I’d love to hear.

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Rhythms

 

I was watching the bows swing up and down along the violins, watching the conductor dip and swoop his hands, and listening as the orchestra grew loud, soft, fast, slow, in synchronized rhythm. It brought to mind how we synchronize with those around us or fall into dissonance depending on our emotional patterns or thoughts.

There are times when I notice my thoughts are causing me to carry a rhythm that is having a negative impact on my kids. When I am worried or stressed the kids are cranky and anxious, making it difficult for them to settle in on a focused activity. However, if I am peaceful the kids are open and attentive to their desire to play, explore, and create.

In addition to personal moods, they day itself also has its own rhythms. The morning has a different feel than the afternoon or evening. One of my favorite times of day is bedtime (and no I don’t mean after the kids are asleep). As long as I am not trying to brush their teeth or fight on pajamas, the kids can usually be found looking at books, coloring, drawing, or writing. This is a stark contrast to the typical energetic story-driven play they engage in earlier in the day (which I love too).

The relaxed and inward feel of the evening is reflected in our call to quiet activity. Since our schedule is flexible, I often let them stay up so long as they are immersed in this personal calm space.

These various energies or rhythms, whether they are moods or times of day, social or solitary, bring out aspects of ourselves that reflect what is going on within and/or around us. I am grateful that homeschooling gives me the freedom to follow the natural rhythms of the day and take the time to nurture the inner rhythms. And most days we make beautiful music together.

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The Inner Life of Sustainability

Most often I think of sustainability as being solely ecological, relating to waste and the overuse of natural resources such as trees and fresh water. However, there is another aspect of sustainability which is energetic in nature and other consequences … Continue reading

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