Mothers' Voices: Lisa Winter from "mama.rainbow.skies", Glasgow, Scotland

I’m so excited to start again my series of interviews Mothers’ Voices that I have initiated in 2015 and delighted to have as my guest after such a long pause.

The purpose of these interviews is to share about the joys and the challenges of motherhood and to hear the voices of wisdom of mothers around the world. They are all unique, with a unique story and might raise their children in different ways. They live in different countries and sometimes they move around. They might have made different choices for their families or for their children’ education. But they all have in common is their love for their families and passion for what they are doing.

I came across Lisa on Instagram and each time I connect and see her bright, colorful pictures I feel inspired. I particularly love Lisa and her daughter Cleo’s universe and Cleo’s way of peacefully playing indoors or outdoors, lost in deep concentration.

Lisa is based in Scotland where she raises her “rainbow child” and she has previously lived in Dubai and Athens. In this interview we talk about homeschooling and her sources of inspiration, how she chooses Cleo’s materials and toys and how she gets motivated to go outdoors by any kind of weather. Lisa will also share with us what self-care means to her and how she finds support in her motherhood journey.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your family? What is your story?

We are a family of three, my husband and I along with our three year old daughter Cleo.

Our journey towards parenthood was arduous one, I have an incompetent cervix resulting in loosing our son and daughter before finally having Cleo after emergency cervical stitch many months of bed rest.

Although we had not planned on having an only child we have joyfully embraced being a small family.

To celebrate our family and give thanks to Imogen and Noah for each giving us clues that went towards saving Cleo on the 18th December each year we have a special family day.

Photo:  Lisa Winter

You are homeschooling your daughter Cleo who is 3 years old. What made you decide for homeschooling and how long are you planning to do it?

During my teenage years I spent many happy hours in the library reading anything and everything, setting myself essays during the school holidays.

I have a clear memory during my last days of high school as I completed my exams feeling like my independent library education was of far more value and would guide me better than much of what I had been taught in school. It was then the idea of homeschooling was born, long before Cleo's birth.

Our plan is to homeschool right to the end of high school.

What philosophy or approach(es) influence(s ) you in your homeschooling journey? Where do you find inspiration? And what resonates with you most in these learning approaches?

Our homeschooling style is eclectic. During my time as a nanny I read many homeschooling blogs and books which lead me to becoming interested in Waldorf, Montessori and Charlotte Mason.

Each of the three philosophies help guide different areas of our family and schooling life creating what I hope is a rich learning environment tailored to suit our needs as a family.

Waldorf helps me to create a family culture that nurtures our love of creative expression and stories. Encouraging me to keep a annual, seasonal and weekly rhythm allowing our days to flow calmly whilst ensuring we enjoy many meaningful pursuits together.

Montessori reminds me that Cleo is capable of directing her own learning. I truly had no intention of doing any form of pre-school so early with Cleo however seeing how readily she has taken to shelf work has helped give me the confidence to move forward with her education.

Charlotte Mason with its love of beautiful books and encouragement to immerse yourself in nature speaks to my soul, it educates me just as much as it educates Cleo.

Photo:  Lisa Winter

How your days look like? Do you have a particular daily and weekly rhythm?

Our days are guided by our weekly and daily rhythm. Our weekly rhythm focuses on one particular activity for each day such as baking, adventure day or art class.

Then our daily rhythm is broken down into three sections morning, afternoon and early evening.

I usually arrange outdoor and social engagements in the morning, with afternoons being for rest with our early evening being directed towards creative or sensory play.

Photo:  Lisa Winter

How do you choose the materials and the toys you suggest to Cleo? Which one has been her favorite for the longest period of time?

I knew when Cleo was born that I wanted to take a Waldorf approach to her toys and environment, favoring simple open ended toys. Rotating her toys each month means she is never overwhelmed by the amount of toys available.

The three toys that are never out of rotation are her play silks, Grimms wooden blocks and her Grapat loose parts. All three are played with every day in a variety of different ways.

Photo:  Lisa Winter

You and Cleo love to spend time in the nature. Tell me a bit about what you enjoy when being outdoors. And how do you both find motivation during the rainy, cold days?

We love the outdoors and unless I feel it's unsafe to go out (such as high winds) we go out in all weather.

The main thing that makes this possible is appropriate outdoor clothing for both of us during the colder months. Good waterproof clothing, good boots and knit wear for all the family makes the difference between begrudgingly tolerating being outdoors in the wet and cold to being able to enjoy it.

My motivation comes from habit and good organization. When my motivation take a dive the fact that I always have my backpack packed means it takes less effort to get out the door. Working daily outdoors time into our daily Rhythm means we are in the habit of going out, it has become second nature.

Photo:  Lisa Winter

As a “Waldorf-inspired mom” what is your attitude towards screens? For Cleo and for yourself.

Cleo was screen free for the first 2.5 years of her life. Currently she is allowed some screen time to watch a tv show or film.

It is a huge regret of mine that I allowed it in the first place reversing the action can be difficult especially with a strong willed child.

My aim going forward is to only allow limited screen time at the weekend for Cleo replacing her current weekly screen time with Audiobooks.

Photo:  Lisa Winter

You have been a nanny before Cleo was born. What is different when you raise your own child?

In some ways it's much easier I have the freedom to do as I please. If we need a PJ day cancelling plans I'm free to do so. However nannying can never prepare you for the enormity of the responsibility of being a parent.

Photo:  Lisa Winter

We have all heard that “it takes a village to raise a child” but most of us in the Western countries are raising our children in nuclear families nowadays. What challenges do you face as a mother “without a village”? What gives you strength?

Being without a village can be hard, parenthood can be isolating at the best of times.

I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone joining Instagram to document my way through motherhood. It's not a village my grandma would recognize but I value all the same.

I have made many great friendships through Instagram, kept in touch with much valued old friends and been inspired by so many other mothers who are living all different sorts of lives but we are united by one common goal to raise well rounded happy children.

We also talk a lot about “self-care”. I believe that more than self-care, mothers need to be nurtured. How does that look for you? What nurtures you?

As an introvert raising an extrovert I can find it challenging at times, I've found the best way to recharge my batteries is to make sure once Cleo is in bed each evening is to take time to focus on my own interests such as knitting and reading.

My husband sees the importance of making sure my need or solitude is respected too, neither of us want me to burn out. Each Saturday he takes Cleo on an outing for most of the day leaving me free to enjoy my free time.

Photo:  Lisa Winter

What book(s) had the biggest impact on you as a mother, as a woman?

The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff has had a huge influence over my life not only as a mother but a nanny too. The book lead me to research attachment parenting extensively before I was ever pregnant. A lot of what I still do extended breastfeeding, Co-sleeping and validating Cleo's emotions stem from reading The Continuum Concept.

And finally, if you had to ask yourself a question, what would that be?

How do you view your own mother now you are one yourself? Despite raising Cleo completely different to how I was raised my mother has always been supportive of how we raise Cleo even when it's meant she didn't get the grand parenting experience she was expecting.

I have found it much easier to be compassionate looking back on parts of my childhood that I didn't enjoy at the time such as my mothers over protective nature. Her complete unconditional love for me inspires me to give the same to my own daughter.

Photo:  Lisa Winter

To follow Lisa and Cleo’s adventures, follow them on Instagram