Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to Homeschool

 I'm all about the imperious titles right now, I know!

Right now, I'm homeschooling my five year old and my almost-three year old. So, let's start with what I'm not doing, because otherwise you'll probably read this and wonder just what I'm thinking. I'm not into tot school. I won't strap my child into a high chair and feed them only red snacks so they can learn about red (yes, I totally overheard some ladies discussing this at the park!) I'm not using any particular method, though I am taking inspiration from a number of methods. I won't make my kids sit at the table and do worksheets. I'm not unschooling, either - not strictly at least. Radical unschooling is a bit much for me, especially considering Dr. Scientist's job takes us all over the world with little notice and the requirements to homeschool (or whether we can) are constantly changing. So, what am I doing? Mostly, child-directed learning, inspired by various curricula, with the routine mostly based on Oak Meadow
My little "pollinators" with "pollen" stuck to their hair

We have a few rules and responsibilities for each of us. The children's responsibilities include:

1. Participation. They have a few things they can choose to do during the day: school work, housekeeping, playing downstairs (they have a playroom with a balance beam, a slide, a work bench, kitchen tools, costumes, etc.), or playing outside.
2. Being respectful to me, each other, and anyone else we happen to be around.
3. No playing with or asking for media - TV, tablet, video games - until Daddy is home (or 5pm, because sometimes, being in the military, he's gone). Then they can have one hour.
4. Help me prepare the curriculum for the week.

My responsibilities include:

1. Create the curriculum each week, with their input.
2. Set up 1-2 play dates each week.
3. Set up and take them to 1-2 outside lessons each week.
4. Be respectful and not pushy.

All that said, here is what a typical day looks like:
Wake up. Have breakfast. Personal Hygiene. Then we start school.
Circle time
Circle time - we put a blanket on the floor, sit on it, light a candle. We start with a verse from Oak Meadow, then continue with several songs, especially ones that have motions to go along with them. We do a closing verse, also from Oak Meadow. Then, we start working on one of our weekly lessons - the children mostly choose these. Lessons from this week are below:

1. Each week Bugbug has a letter, and he writes this is his morning notebook. Usually Speck just colors in her notebook. This week in particular, we're reviewing A, B, C, and D, and he's learning words that can be made with these letters. He puts these together by himself. 
2. Learning about bees and other pollinators - discussing plant biology (and relating it to human biology) and how and why pollination occurs. We also watched a video on youtube of starting a bee colony, and several videos of bees pollinating flowers. In order to explain how the pollen sticks to the hairs on the bees' legs, the children "drank nectar" from one of my hands while dipping their heads in (gluten free) flour - pollen - in my other hand. 
3. Learning about stars - what they're made of, how far away they are, the sun is a star, etc.
4. The number 2 for Speck and the number 3 for Bugbug. They write these, and draw things that occur in that number. We're also doing a line painting for Speck and a triangle painting for Bugbug, where the colors will mix into new colors.
5. Bugbug will work on memorizing my phone number. (This was mine; the kids didn't come up with it - he just needs to know it.)

They have free play time every morning and afternoon, along with chores to do. We don't have a schedule as much as a vague routine we follow.

A palm tree made of beeswax; made during discussion of conservation
That's actually about it. They guide the curriculum, and I make sure to learn as much as I can so I can help them learn about it. We use the internet (a lot of youtube videos!) as a resource, along with books of fairy tales, books of mazes (I'm fond of Kumon mazes, and the mazes from Krazydad).  We have a lot of art supplies - beeswax for modeling, beeswax crayons, normal crayons, colored pencils, sketchbooks and watercolor paper, watercolors, etc. They have a bookcase full of books they can access at any time, and a bookcase full of books we read together (my signed children's books, etc.)

One of the measuring sticks we made - the kids painted them and helped mark inches, then predicted snowfall.
We've made sock puppets, and a "wind sock". We made sticks to measure snow and created hypotheses about how much snow would fall. We've learned about architecture, and some basic physics. Honestly, it's incredibly fun, and it's reinforcing the bond my children share. They do see other children, and there is plenty of time for free play. They both have exceptional social skills for their age - they know how to introduce themselves and their family, they know to say "excuse me" when they bump into someone or stand in the way - they know "please" and "thank you" and "I'm sorry", and I've never made them say any of these things - they learn them because I use them. I enjoy watching them learn, and seeing the clever things they come up with. I hope to get even more kinks worked out as we go along, and I love that I'm learning along with the children.

There are going to be So. Many. Pictures. below. Enjoy :)

Afternoon book - labeled with the date we started this book and the child's name. Their math and science notes.

Morning book - labeled with the date we started this book and the child's name. Their language arts and history notes.

School drawer, which has their notebooks, sock puppets, lots of crayons and other art materials!

Kindergarten curriculum book from Oak Meadow

Family science book for this year

My science notes on Oviparous and Viviparous

My science notes on Newton's third law

My science notes on hydrophobic


A watercolor

A watercolor over beeswax demonstrating "hydrophobic"

Colored water - demonstrating freezing and also for painting in the snow!

A "Tornado" in a bottle - weather/meteorology

Some other sort of beeswax tree...

Gluten free Crescent rolls we made while discussing the letter "C"

Materials - modeling wax, beeswax crayons, watercolors

Kumon mazes, and pencils - they have pencil grips - Dr. Scientist and I both still hold pencils wrong!

Some of our inspiration!

Why to Homeschool

Well, that was a presumptuous title, wasn't it? Are you irritated with me yet? I'm not actually talking about why you should homeschool, I just wanted to get your attention. I'm talking about why WE homeschool. The next post will talk about how we homeschool.

At the beginning of the school year, I sent my then-four-year-old (Bugbug) to a Waldorf preschool. He had asked to go, and though I had reservations, we did a lot of research and chose a school we felt would work for him. It was going well, until the bullying started. The older children were bullying the younger children, and the teachers told us, "Some aggression is normal, and the older kids will pick on the younger children." We responded with, "That's not okay. He's learning that it's okay to pick on his younger sister." We asked for concrete solutions to the problem. They provided none, since they weren't willing to step in, even when the older children were doing pretty dangerous things, or creating a system of abuse in which any child who did not conform to the standards they set (costumes for Halloween should be knights, Bugbug's firefly caused ridicule - birthday party themes were all the same - etc.) was ridiculed, and even hit. We felt we could work with the teachers to solve the problem, but it got worse.

Then, the bullying from the teachers started - I allow my children one hour of TV or video games each day. I believe it's unrealistic to prevent children from engaging with media in this world, and I had previously discussed this with the faculty and they were fine with it - the school did not have an official no-media policy. Well, apparently they weren't fine with it. They started insinuating that his media engagement was bad, and that he shouldn't be doing it. He started coming home crying but afraid to talk to us. We finally pinned him down (not literally, he was actually cuddling in my lap) and got the whole story out of him... the teachers were implying to him that he was bad because he watched TV and played video games, and that it should be taken away from him. He broke out in hives while telling me this, and sobbed in my arms. That was the last straw for me. The tentative faith I'd placed in the institution of learning outside the home was broken.

I started questioning again, as I had before. Why should learning be separate from living? Why should children be placed in classrooms, away from the routine of home, away from nature, away from their parents, away from how the rest of us learn? Why should "socialization" only include children of the same age? Why do we feel that sitting at a desk, raising a hand to ask to use the bathroom, enduring public ridicule if you want to share a thought or you get excited about learning, or you don't do exactly what you're told, is even okay? I know, in my heart, it shouldn't, and it isn't. That it's very silly, in fact. Perhaps you feel differently. In fact, you probably do, since I'm definitely in the minority - there are currently about 100,000 public schools in the US, and about 30,000 private schools. But for our family, this is the choice I feel is best. I'll, naturally, reconsider as time goes on - all decisions can change based on circumstances! But after much discussion with Dr. Scientist, we're both on the same page. For now, at least, our children will learn at home. (How? See my next post!)

Friday, December 27, 2013

And how are you today? Terrified

It is 11:00pm. I am awake. My son has been coughing so hard he gags a bit at the end, and it frightens me.

It is midnight. I am awake. I managed to sit him up and dose him with the only thing that helps, for a while - honey. He is four years old, so this is not our first rodeo. That doesn’t make it easier to hold his little body as the coughs wrack it.

It is 1:00am. I am awake. He’s now coughing only every 15 minutes or so, and so I start to drift. I miss my grandmother. She died four days ago. I’m sure that’s contributing to my wakefulness - the reminder of mortality making me kiss his sweaty little brow even though a part of me wants to shove him over to the other side of the bed and just sleep.

It is 1:30am. The coughing is more gentle now, and he feels cooler. I think of him, and of all the times he’s been ill in his four little years. Nearly five now, really. I think of my daughter and my husband, and hope he’s faring better - she was pretty congested but not coughing. I think of my grandma. I think of the fact that I’m lying here with him, awake, like I have before. I think that I never really tell anyone about this. This part of motherhood. It’s a secret. It’s like when I tell people my grandmother and I were “close” and I’m “a little down”. 

When I say motherhood is “hard”, it doesn’t cover it. It’s true, but it’s not the whole truth. How many times have I not told the whole truth? Every time I open my mouth, probably. What I say is true, but it can’t cover the whole of it. It doesn’t cover how terrified you get that maybe that cold is something more. It doesn’t cover how irritated you get because they just can’t seem to listen to you. Nobody listens. Nobody hears.

If you tell a pregnant woman that it’s easier to take care of that baby in her belly than it will be when the baby is out, she acts like you’re being mean, or crazy. It’s just the truth. We all talk about how motherhood is wonderful, or difficult, or it changes you. We don’t really talk about how terrifying it is. How every time you hear of something bad happening to a child, just for a moment that child is YOURS. That is your own child, and you feel that pain with all your heart. How every time your child complains of a belly ache, you worry that it’s something more. How every time you make a choice, you don’t know if it’s the right one or if that one little thing you just did will forever mess up your children. Maybe you just knocked them off the path to change the world for the better onto the path to murder thousands. You just don’t know - and though sometimes you learn that a choice was wrong in time to change it and do better in the future, sometimes you just never know. How scary is that? 

Motherhood isn’t just hard, or fantastic. It’s so scary simply the idea of being a mother (or a parent, really) should have you shaking in your boots. But maybe you’ll make the right choices, or the bad choices you make won’t matter or can be corrected. Maybe. Maybe my children will turn out okay in spite of me. Maybe he’ll get over this cough, and we won’t have to go to the doctor (which is a whole different kettle of fish - every time you take them in amongst those sick children are you risking them catching something worse than what they already have?) 

Maybe I’ll learn to tell the whole truth. Not to just give cheerful platitudes. Maybe the next time someone asks me, I won’t say “great, how are you?” Maybe I’ll say I’m sad, and I’m scared, and I’m happy, and I’m content, and I’m frustrated, and I’m so afraid I’m a terrible mother and a terrible wife. But I'm doing my best anyway. Maybe it's good enough. And how are you? Because I actually want to know. The truth, this time. Please.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why I Don't Censor My Language Around My Kids

Google any combination of "curse" "foul" "vulgar" "potty" "language" "words" "kids" and "children"... see what you find. Probably hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to stop your kids from using words that may offend others. Perhaps a few about how to stop using them yourself. But mostly it's about preventing your kids from "swearing like a sailor". There is even a place called "Cuss Control Academy" (no, I'm not joking), which informs us that swearing:

It contributes to the decline of civility

It represents the dumbing down of America
It offends more people than you think
It makes others uncomfortable
It is disrespectful of others
It turns discussions into arguments
It can be a sign of hostility
It can lead to violence

If I stub my toe, and say, "Shit, that HURT!" am I being hostile? Starting an argument? I really, really don't think so. Do I sound dumb? What am I really doing? Actually, scientifically speaking, according to some researchers at Keele University, I'm easing the pain. Swearing starts a surge of adrenaline in your body, which actually does help mitigate pain when you're injured. Is that a bad thing for my child to hear? Will they take it out in the world and start being stupid, uncivil, violent, and disrespectful? 

So, let's start with my personal belief that words have power. You're not going to catch me arguing against this, unless I'm being contrary. I don't think words are inherently "good" or "bad", but we do give them power. Words mean something to us - language is both a banal and integral part of our lives. With it, we ask our spouse to take out the garbage before dinner, and we write treatises that change the world. Word choice has meaning in our lives - otherwise there wouldn't be much point in poetry, would there?

This leads into our word choices, as parents, having power. I'd like my children to have a wide vocabulary, so I use my own wide vocabulary with them. If I tell my four year old something is "innocuous", I'm not going to sigh and use a smaller word when he asks what it means. I'm just going to explain it. This is partly because I believe knowledge is power, and I don't like restricting, censoring, or greedily hoarding knowledge... and partly because I want him to know what is going on in the world. He knows the proper words for his penis and testicles, and he also knows that those parts are private, and not only are they not for others to touch, but they aren't things we just run around talking about. Anyhow, this is related. I swear. (ha, ha)

Just like I don't censor knowledge from my kids (though I might explain certain things in a way less likely to frighten or cause undue stress, because they are, in fact, children) I don't censor my language. I do believe words are powerful, so I use a wide variety of them, sometimes pausing to pick one I feel is most appropriate in any given situation. This means I use profanity rarely - I'm not a chain-swearer, because I feel that usually there are words more appropriate to most occurrences. But I do use it. My children have heard all the words, and have tried them out. I don't mind them hearing, or knowing - knowledge is power. I don't want them hearing things on the playground and coming home and telling me things like, "Susie is an asshole!" I want them to know that school probably isn't an appropriate place to say that, actually!

 I want them to know what the words mean, when they're appropriate and inappropriate to use, and in what situations they could be hurtful to others. So they know when NOT to use them! Each "bad word" has resulted in a discussion of that word, what it means, and that sometimes words offend or hurt other people. We heard someone use the term "gay" in a pejorative manner a while back - and we had a long, serious discussion about it. Personally, I think "gay", used to hurt, is worse than "fuck" when I stub my toe - why? "Fuck" is for me. It's releasing my anguish, mitigating my pain, expressing my power, releasing my endorphins, expressing myself. "Gay" (and other words like "retarded") is hurting someone else. 

So no, I won't censor my language. If something happens that triggers that primeval part of me that really wants to let loose and use "low language", instead of taking time on my diction, I will. In front of my children, or yours. Call me vulgar. Call me disrespectful. Call me stupid. Then think about what you're saying.

Do you censor your language with your children? Why or why not?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why My Children ARE the Center of My World

I'd intended to get a bit of work done, but something has been on my mind for the past few days. There is a blog post that has been linked like crazy on Facebook and everywhere else. And if you're a parent, you've probably seen it, and maybe already guessed what this post is about. I'll link it for you, though, so you know what's bothering me. Here ya go. I'm not going to refute it word by word, because that's tedious and frankly, I don't want to. While Ms. Metz has some valid ideas, she's using them to support an invalid conclusion. But thinking about it has me feeling queasy and uncomfortable with just how many people support the idea that your children should not be the center of your world.

Some of you may agree with me. Some of you may not. Either way is perfectly okay, as it's honestly not my business how you parent. (Edited to add that while it's not really my business, I do care. Your children live in this world with mine. Your child may be the one pushing mine off the play structure next week or something much bigger in 20 or 30 years... so please don't raise neurotic, violent bullies. Yes, I'm exaggerating. Sort of.)  But people do get influenced by what they read, and I'd encourage you to read more than that blog post to make up your mind, if you're wavering on the state of your parenting or just wanting encouragement in one direction or another.

Here we go. Let's start with a perfectly rational viewpoint. We are the apex predators on a planet on which we barely qualify as predators. If we want to continue to be so, we need to work at it. We have children for many reasons, but rationally, there is only one. Biologically we need to carry on the species - we have children because we're biologically programmed to want to do so. We're also biologically programmed to think small things are cute, and to like the smell of babies, among other things. Probably to keep us from eating our offspring like crocodiles... but I digress. We're carrying on the species. That means that rationally, the second you actually give birth, your biological imperative is to care for that child above all else. You're carrying on your species, people. If we're talking a perfectly rational world here, the only time it's okay to put yourself before your child is when your life is in imminent danger - i.e. put your mask on, then secure your child's mask, right?

But human beings aren't perfectly rational creatures. We're social, we're selfish, and "love" means different things to all of us. So let's take a step in a slightly different direction and consider a study that recently came out in Social Psychological and Personality Science (would Mrs. Metz have changed her mind about her rant after reading the article? I don't know...) The findings of this study suggest that putting your children at the center of your world - being "child-centric" - will actually make you happier and help you derive more meaning from parenting. So, selfishly, you're actually going to be happier if you put your children first - at the center of your world. Another added edit here, because of a friend's valid argument: I do not mean you have to spend all your waking time on each of your children, and neither does the above study. I mean that your children, as a whole, are the primary focus - your world isn't you-centric, it's kid-centric. The time you have to spend with them is spent with them, giving them the benefit of you. Because, face it, in your child's eyes - you are important. You are the one preparing them for the rest of their life.

I know some of you are now thinking, "well, how will they ever grow up if you do everything for them?", or, "how will your child ever learn independence if you wear him 24/7?", or, "you can't give children everything they want."

They'll grow up, no matter whether you do everything for them or not. But, I haven't suggested doing everything for them, or giving them everything they want. I've suggested them being the center of your world - meaning they come first. This doesn't mean there is nothing else in your life. You're still you. You still have hobbies and work and friends and family and perhaps a spouse. But your children are your first priority, and you are responsive to them - you meet their needs. Those change as they grow, but you meet them to the best of your ability along the way, without hurting yourself in the process. This means knowing something about human development - while I don't want to start a debate about a different topic, it means knowing the biological norms of breastfeeding (until a child starts getting his permanent teeth is the current biological theory), sleep (children are not meant to sleep alone, or through the night for a long time), and care (children need you). They'll grow up. But will they grow up confident and independent, knowing you've met their needs and having the security to branch out and grow?

Now, let's get back to my personal philosophy. My children are the center of my world. Frankly, I didn't expect that when I planned a family. I figured I'd just make them adapt to my world. But I realized (and isn't it wonderful that we can learn, and grow, and change, even as adults?) that I no longer wanted to be the same person I was. I wanted to put my children first. I craved their happiness more than I craved my own, and that in turn made me happy. I didn't abandon my husband, or stop being his wife. We both put the children first. (To clarify, this does not mean our spousal relationship takes a back seat. It is important for all of us that we have a healthy relationship.) What it does mean is that during this short time our children are young - when they truly need us and depend on us - we are there for them. They are the center of our world. We recognize that they are children and they need us to care, to guide, to love, and to teach. We are not here to show them the "reality of the world". To paraphrase an old teacher I once knew, "We don't need to show our kids how mean the world is. The world will do that all by itself." We are here to help them grow to be people who can not only deal with the harsh realities of our current world, but be peaceful, kind, caring, confident individuals who can change it. We, all of us, as parents, are creating the next 60 years of life on this planet. Should that EVER not come first?

Further reading:
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

SAGE Publications (2013, October 31). Can putting your child before yourself make you a happier person?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 6, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2013/10/131031175659.htm

Monday, October 21, 2013

Giving Away Our Rights

Have you seen this document?

Americans like to claim that we “know our rights”.  Lately, I’ve come to question whether that’s actually true. In many cases, we’re giving those rights away – to a doctor, to a corporation, to our own government. Have we even thought twice about it?
Have you heard a pregnant woman say, “My doctor says if I go over 40 weeks I have to be induced.” Is that the truth? Or is she (sometimes mistakenly or unknowingly) giving away her autonomy?

What about the “Trespass Bill”, passed last year? Does that infringe on our first amendment rights? It stops us from protesting or assembling without permission, restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.” Did we just quietly give away our first amendment right to peaceably assemble?

Are you afraid to say anything about our government in public? I am. The still unfolding NSA wiretapping scandal combined with the bizarre neofeudalistic idea of dissent again becoming criminal has created an odd dichotomy – a people who theoretically have the freedom to speak out, but as our freedoms are being violated more and more, we are becoming less inclined to do so.

One of the most grievous violations has quietly snuck up on us in the name of capitalism. We’ve been loudly protesting the “fat cats on Wall Street” while we quietly allow them to rule our lives – indeed, reward them for doing so. While their lawyers, publicists, photographers, and image consultants create a public face of philanthropy, they quietly rob us of our civil rights – those assumed, and those granted by law.

Corporations such as Monsanto have created the (publicly accepted) bizarre myth that our food supply can be owned as their property – every seed we grow can be genetically modified, sprayed with pesticides, and turned into a profit – which kills people in Argentina, causes suicides in India, creates health problems in our own country. The “revolving door” of politics and big business perpetuates this, but it starts with us – do we care or not?

Walmart has repeatedly asked people to leave who were carrying guns – lawfully. Is the law a problem? Perhaps. Does that mean the business has the right to restrict our rights without any prior notice? Absolutely not. Target and many other businesses have repeatedly violated statelaws allowing women to breastfeed in public. Is this acceptable? It cannot be.

We view others as similar to ourselves. We look similar. We look more like each other than we look like fish, for example. Our DNA is so close that you are the tiniest fraction away from being Michael Phelps. (Sorry, Mr. Phelps, but you’re a fantastic mutant.) This, however, is where we’re wrong. We are not like anyone else. The public relations for those wealthy elite I mentioned earlier? It’s made us think that they are us. And in that great American tradition of being blinded by the shiny, shiny popular culture, we have come to believe that hard work, or luck, or something achievable separates us from them.

We are not even a step away from corporations, according to the Supreme Court – corporate personhood (yes, ridiculous, I know!) is legally acknowledged! But there is a vast space between us – those of us who fall into the 99% of the largest income inequality gap in the developed world, and those of us (them) who are stealing our freedoms.

We’ve allowed capitalism to not only flourish, but create an oligarchic ruling class. Yes. I just told you we’re not ruled by democracy, nor by our democratic republic – we’re ruled by the desire of those with wealth to keep and expand their wealth. We’re participating in our own destruction.
The next time you click, “yes” on a EULA, read it first. The next time you see someone fired over violating company policy which violates his constitutional right, think about it. The next time you eat your veggies like a good little American, consider how they actually got to your table.  Above all, before you do walk out your door today… make sure you know your rights.

Edited to repair final link - it should now direct you to a transcript of the Bill of Rights.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gluten Free Applesauce Cake sweetened with dates!

2 cups gluten free flour blend (I was using white rice, brown rice, sweet rice, and tapioca - you want something like rice that will help it hold together well)
1  teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger 
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla extract
1 cup applesauce
20 dates

Remove seeds from dates. Medjool are good. In a food processor, process dates until they're basically a paste. Add applesauce and process until mixed. Add eggs and process until mixed. Add spices, baking powder, baking soda, and process until mixed. Add coconut oil and process until mixed. Add flours and xanthan gum and process until smooth and cake-battery. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes, then cover with foil, turn off the oven, and let sit for 15. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting. Serve with fruit compote or slightly sweetened whipped cream or both!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Postpartum Problems

There are many things our culture does very well. Organization and management, for one. This sounds little, but it's not! Think emergency services - fire brigades, ambulances. Think small business. It's a fantastic skill we've really perfected as a culture.

One thing we do not do well is birth. I don't mean we don't know how to give birth. I mean we don't know how to prepare families for pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and motherhood. Imagine, for a moment, that you weren't just told what not to eat during pregnancy, or what not to do. Imagine that you had a sisterhood - time-honored knowledge passed down from woman to woman. You knew what to expect from pregnancy, and what to do to make it easier. What to do for the best chances of a healthy baby and a healthy birth. What to do to prepare for birth. Imagine that you knew that birth was a rite, an induction into motherhood, and the experience itself helped you on your way. Imagine that you weren't afraid. That you knew that it may hurt or it may not, but it was a beautiful experience. Imagine that you'd have someone by your side through your pregnancy, through your labor and birth. Someone who had been there, who had been through it, who knew what it was like. Who could coach you and provide information, love, and assurance. Who could coach your partner in how to provide those things as well. Imagine that your partner had what you had - a cultural knowledge of how to become a parent and how to raise children. Imagine that you'd seen women breastfeeding from the time you were a wee babe yourself. Imagine that you didn't need childbirth education classes, because that knowledge was part of your culture. Imagine that postpartum you were supported, and loved. If you had problems with anything, someone experienced was right there to help. Your partner knew what you were going through emotionally and physically, and never tried to push physical intimacy before you were ready. Your partner never had to be prodded to do his or her share, because that was just part of the culture. Imagine that the entire experience was not scary or difficult, was not exhausting and sometimes horrifying. Imagine that instead, it was a blossoming, the beautiful creation of new beings - baby, mother, father, family. 

I know our culture isn't like this. I wish it was. I wish, so desperately, that every mom could have this. That's what I'd wish for you, mamas. I'd wish that you knew you weren't alone, that motherhood is beautiful... I'd wish we could all be there for each other. I wish you knew that I love you, as you go through this. As you struggle through pregnancy or love it. As you have a beautiful birth or a terrifying one. As you have family bonding moments or postpartum sleeplessness, depression, or anxiety. As you struggle to keep your cool with your four-year-old, whose main talent is pushing your buttons. We've culturally resigned ourselves to being alone... but I wish you knew we're all in this together.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Birth Story

So, I've not hidden the fact that my daughter was born on The Farm. (Wondering why I chose that? See the info below) Anyhow, I have some interesting info for you... there's now a movie about the Farm Midwives! Want to know more? Here ya go!

Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives tells the story of counterculture heroine Ina May Gaskin and her spirited friends, who began delivering each other’s babies in 1970, on a caravan of hippie school buses, headed to a patch of rural Tennessee land. With Ina May as their leader, the women taught themselves midwifery from the ground up, and became an integral part of a new, entirely communal, agricultural society called The Farm. The people of the Farm grew their own food, built their own houses, published their own books, and, as word of their social experiment spread, created a model of care for women and babies that changed a generation’s approach to childbirth.
Forty years ago Ina May led the charge away from isolated hospital birthing rooms, where husbands were not allowed and mandatory forceps deliveries were the norm. Today, as nearly one third of all US babies are born via C-section, she fights to preserve her community's hard-won knowledge. With incredible access to the midwives’ archival video collection, the film not only captures the unique sisterhood at The Farm Clinic--from its heyday into the present--but shows childbirth the way most people have never seen it--unadorned, unabashed, and awe-inspiring.

I watched it. I cried. Like a baby. But quieter. It made me some crazy kind of homesick, along with happy and sad and elated... it's one of those rare documentaries that doesn't make you paranoid - it makes you FEEL.

It will be out on April 30 on DVD and available for download (there's even an educational version! Thinking this might be good for doula clients and childbirth classes later...) Seriously. Check it out. Go see. There could be a screening yet in your area, too. Go look. And get all inspired and stuff. 

Now, I said I'd tell you why I chose the Farm for birthing my daughter. The following info is from their statistics.

The Farm Midwifery Center has served mothers, babies, and their families for over 35 years with a practice based on the belief that pregnancy and childbirth are natural life events. Prenatal care, support during labor and delivery, and postpartum supervision are provided by a group of seven midwives credentialed as Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) by the North American Registry of Midwives, and also certified by the state of Tennessee. Central to their work is the Midwives Model of Care© in which the midwife:

• Monitors the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the mother throughout the
childbearing cycle.
• Provides the mother with individual education, counseling, prenatal care, hands-on assistance
during labor and delivery, and postpartum care.
• Minimizes technical interventions.
• Identifies and refers women who require obstetrical attention.

The statistics for over 2500 births at the Farm Midwifery Center show a C-section rate of less than 2%
(compared to a national rate of 32.8%), with low rates of anesthesia use, forceps deliveries, episiotomies,
and perineal tears (see preliminary report of 2844 pregnancies, 1970-2010 below).
Total accepted for care: 2,844
Births completed at home 2,694 94.70%
Transports to hospital 148 5.20%
Cesareans 50 1.70%
First time mothers 1,048 36.80%
Multiparas (woman has given birth 2 or more times) 1,796 63.20%
Grand multiparas (woman has given birth 5 or more
times) 243 8.50%
Total Breech 99 3.50%
Postpartum hemorrhage 46 1.70%
VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) 123 4.30%
Intact Perineum 1817 68.70%
1st degree tear 485 19.40%
2nd degree tear 87 3.20%
4th degree tear 1 0.04%
Forceps delivery 10 0.37%
Preeclampsia 11 0.40%
Maternal mortality 0
Maternal morbidity 0
Neonatal mortality (out of 1000 births) 1.7
Source: Birth Matters, by Ina May Gaskin, Published 2011, Seven Stories Press Press, pp235-236

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Probiotics for Children

Probiotics are a pretty big deal nowadays, so I'm sure you've heard of them. You may have taken a probiotic supplement, or checked the side of your yogurt container to see if it contains live active cultures (yes, this is a good idea!) You may have even tried kefir, or kombucha... but are you as diligent with your children? It can be hard to get probiotics into your kids - telling them it's good for them probably won't work. There are specially made probiotics for children, but are they worth it? How do you do it? Let's talk about that...

The health benefits of probiotics include keeping your digestive system working well, reducing incidence and severity of digestive illness in children, and reducing antibiotic related digestive upset (not to mention the potential for immune benefits - the more we learn about the immune system the more we realize how closely it is related to the gut!) Hopefully with even the limited list I've given here you're saying, "Sign me up!" So, how?

There are many, many foods that contain good bacteria - I'm not going to list them all (I'm sure you can google it.) I've been most successful with freezing yogurt tubes for my daughter (she calls them "Gamine" - ice cream). My son loves Lifeway's ProBugs kefir smoothies in a pouch - it's fun to eat, and he asks for them daily. I always use whole organic dairy, and we only eat cultured dairy... if dairy isn't an option for you, consider yogurt made from goat's milk, sauerkraut, spirulina, miso soup, or even kombucha (be careful with some of these, as they could cause stomach upset if you're not used to them.) If you can't get your children to eat probiotic foods, keep working at it, but in the meantime...

There are two kinds of children's probiotic supplements that are easy to use. For younger children who won't take a tablet, there is flavorless powder you can mix into their food, breastmilk, or formula. My favorite is Children's Therelac - I take this myself from time to time because I have trouble swallowing pills. For older children, or those who are suspicious of something mixed into their food, there are flavored tablets... we've tried several and all are similar. It's probably easiest to look through the refrigerated probiotics area and find one that suits you - we need gluten-free and free of artificial colors, and then I tend to pick the one with the most strains of probiotics. 

With so many options for probiotics for children, getting them into your kids' diets shouldn't be too difficult - just keep trying until you find what works for you!

**I am not associated with any of the brands I've mentioned here - they're just what we've liked.