As we begin a new school year here in the States, I know many are looking for inspiration for homeschool moms. ALL moms work hard, all moms need inspiration, but taking on the task of homeschooling really is a unique endeavor. It takes a phenomenal level of emotional, spiritual, physical and mental energy - and the demands on our energy are relentless unless you have a great support system. (Unfortunately, many of us don't.) When I first began homeschooling full-time four years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. I had no no idea how HARD it would be to be home with my children all day - to be almost completely responsible for their education, our household, our homesteading efforts, and to balance that with my need/desire to contribute financially and to take care of myself as well.
Fortunately, September for us is a little "New Year." I have always loved Fall - I love the cooler weather that reminds me of home in the PNW, I love the changing colors, I love sweaters, I love pumpkin spice and I am not ashamed. And since Fall has also typically meant the start of a new school year in the US, September really has that "new year" feeling for me.
To add to that feeling, September now means celebrating Michaelmas, a Christian feast day celebrating Saint Michael the Archangel that has been adopted and embellished by the Waldorf community for generations. Our stories this month center on triumphing over dragons as in the stories of Bilbo Baggins, St. George, the Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, or the Ingalls family battling the cold of nature on the Dakota prairie in The Long Winter.
This new year feeling and the focus on slaying dragons, real and imaginary, has me mindful once again of self-care and family rhythms. For the past several months, I've been taking steps to improve in these areas inspired by three books. I thought I'd share my reading list with you!
The first two are both by Renee Peterson Trudeau: Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life and Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life.
In the introduction to Nurturing the Soul of Your Family, Trudeau writes, "Imagine experiencing more simplicity and spaciousness in your life--in how you think, work, parent, and connect to those you love. Imagine your family as your greatest source of joy. Imagine having the ability to transform and more easily navigate the challenges you face each day, so you feel less hurried and rushed. Envision a life that is slower, more relaxed--with plenty of time for those things that matter most. Imagine a new way of being in the world that supports you in experiencing more trust and flow and happiness." I read this and felt so seen and understood - and I wanted to read more. The rest of the book is full of ideas for how to find your way to all of this - it isn't a bunch of cookie cutter solutions and pithy statements. She includes guided exercises and journaling prompts at the end of each chapter that are very helpful.
The second book of hers I picked up was Self-Renewal - which was actually written before Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. This little gem is jam-packed with ideas and exercises to find your road-map to self-renewal. She really GETS IT that not every woman's path is going to be the same. What is life-giving to you, may not be life-giving to me - we are all unique individuals and need to find our own way. It's organized to be used one chapter per month that concludes with extensive guided journaling exercises, creative ideas for implementing your work, and references to additional resources on the topic. She also includes information for connecting with a Personal Renewal Group in your community. (I have no desire to start one, but wish someone near me did!) You can do the chapters in any order and topics include reconnecting with yourself, self-care, creating a support system, managing your energy, owning your personal power and expressing creativity among others. I've been visiting the same few chapters in rotation for quite some time, gleaning new insights with each reading.
The third book is geared toward Waldorf families: Homemaking as a Social Art: Creating a Home for Body, Soul and Spirit by Veronika van Duin. If you are an Anthroposophist (the philosophy underlying Waldorf-Steiner education), you'll love it. If like me you aren't a devotee, but you can read with openness and listen for what speaks to you, I think you will still love this book. If you get wigged out reading things that don't jive with your particular religion/worldview, skip this one. (But you're missing out.) Published in 2000, van Duin really understood even then the low value placed on the art of homemaking and opens her book with an entire chapter about the vital work we do as keepers of the hearth. Then she goes through the life processes, relating them to various tasks and groups of tasks in the home, giving specific suggestions for how to elevate our own opinions of those tasks, increase our joy in doing them, and to do them even more artfully. Topics include all the things homemakers do from arranging our spaces, providing meals, creating a harmonious atmosphere for our families and guests. Again - if you aren't in Anthroposophy or at least into reading for wisdom in varying sources - this book will likely be way too "weird" for you. But it's definitely one I love and so I share it here for the seekers. :)
So, that's what's on my shelf as we head into this "new year." What are you reading?