Thursday, January 29, 2015

Is Tess Munster a Bad Role Model?

I keep hearing, even from people I love and respect, that Tess Holliday (Munster) is a bad role model promoting an unhealthy lifestyle (I won't link any of those because they're awful.) I think it's complete bullshit. Yep. Bullshit. Let's pull it apart, shall we?

1. Fat people are not necessarily unhealthy. Skinny people are not necessarily healthy. There are both fat and thin people with healthy and unhealthy lifestyles. Healthy people have all sorts of bodies. Does an unhealthy lifestyle have serious consequences? Yes. Does the size and shape of one's body have serious consequences? Not unless we're talking about the consequences of societal bullying.

2. Do NOT tell me this doesn't exist. Fat people have to pay more for clothes. Fat people have to pay a premium to fly on airplanes. Fat people don't have the societal currency of a thin body; they're other.

3. According to a study done in 1984 (yes, this is old, the numbers are actually higher now, but it's what I could access easily) 52% of women start dieting before the age of 14. Before they're physiologically an adult, a MAJORITY of girls have been on a diet. The earlier a woman starts dieting, the more she is prone to alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and obesity. The South Carolina Department of Health estimates that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder. Over a quarter of girls aged 12-18. Yes. We're making people fat and sick by bullying fat people. Cool, yeah?

4. According to a study in Pediatrics, about 2/3 of girls in the 5th to 12th grades said that magazine images influence their vision of an ideal body, and about half of the girls said the images made them want to lose weight. We're bombarded with images of thin women. Bombarded. One person isn't even going to change that, but maybe she can make a small difference.

5. Tess is a model. She's not being paid to promote anything other than the clothes she wears. What does she promote in her free time? Body positivity. Loving your body, loving life.

6. She is very open about the fact that she works out with a personal trainer 4 times a week. Let me tell you, it's embarrassing for a fat person to admit to working out. Why? Nobody actually believes us, because obviously if we work out we'd be thin, right? Furthermore, it's HARD to work out when you're fat, and you look stupid doing it.

7. People with an unhealthy lifestyle aren't going to look at a fat successful person, decide she's unhealthy too, and go, "Oh, yay! I don't have to be healthy now!" They already were unhealthy and not bothering to do anything about it. What's changing? Nothing.

8. People with a healthy lifestyle aren't going to look at a fat successful person, decide she's unhealthy, and go, "Oh, yay! I'm gonna eat a dozen donuts and sit on the couch every day!" No. Fat acceptance isn't going to MAKE people fat.

9. She takes a LOT of shit over being fat. She's still keeping on. She's amazing.

10. Having fat and healthy role models is one of the BEST things I can come up with for public health. It shows us we can be fat and healthy and beautiful, and we don't have to constantly strive for skinny. It shows us that fat people can have healthy habits (remember her workouts?) and it's okay to try and have them even if you're fat and embarrassed. It shows us that fat people can follow their dreams and be successful.

So tell me again how she's negatively influencing people. By showing them that she has healthy habits even though she's fat? That it's possible for them to do that too? By showing them that it's possible to be healthy and not hate yourself even if you aren't thin? By showing them that fat people can be beautiful and successful? If you still think she's so terrible, you might want to check out This Post by The Militant Baker. Maybe this is more about you than it is about her?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Finding and Losing Bits of Yourself

I think sometimes as we get older, and especially if we have kids, we forget who we used to be. We’re all made up of all these parts, all these components, all these stories. Every one of us has thousands upon thousands of pieces, things we’ve done, things that have happened to us, things we love or like or hate. And sometimes you get so focused on just a few of those components that the rest disappear. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I mean, my kids take up the vast majority of my time right now, and that’s okay. I even think it’s right. They’re growing humans, and they need me. So I’m there. But somehow, somewhere, I started feeling like Bugbug and Speck’s mom. Dr. Scientist’s wife. Everything I am to everyone else. I’m the girl who cooks and cleans. There are pieces of me from my entire life, and sometimes I see them come out – the girl who had to learn to pick up work wherever she could. The girl who reacts well in a crisis. The girl who tells stories that can scare herself, or make herself cry. Sometimes I even see them in my children; though they’ve never seen those sides of me. Various bits. But this year, I’ve been making changes. A lot of changes. Trying to go from content to happy; from good things to the things I really want. And in doing so I’m remembering myself.
I’m trying to leave behind a few of the things I’ve become. I don’t need to be afraid of what the neighbors will think if I dye my hair pink (I’m doing that next week.) Who cares? Does it matter what anyone will think when my son wears a skirt? Not remotely. I’ve gotten myself into this combative mode lately, because it's wearying fighting with people over my choices. And that has to stop. I need to leave behind the cynicism, combative and angry nature I’ve picked up. Accept that I’m not going to make the same choices as anyone else; we're all different. I got my lip pierced a few weeks ago (I'd wanted to for a long time, and never had because I was worried about what people would think) and I almost didn’t post a picture on Facebook because I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to deal with any backlash. Then I told myself this didn’t matter; I’m pleased with it and I wanted to share. So I shared. Guess what? No negative backlash. None. The worst was a reminder from my mother to make sure it doesn’t damage my gums (something I’m already watching).

Me, right after I got my lip pierced. I look pale because I was. It didn't really hurt; I just had myself really freaked out over it. The change, not the pain.

I’ve closed myself off so much over the years that when I decided this year to start trying to share more about myself it was a huge effort. It started when my husband told me last year he’d never realized I like comic books – something I’d never purposefully hidden from him, but also hadn’t made any effort to share. Somehow, before I started writing for work, he’d never realized I enjoy writing, either. I’m done with that. People who care about me need to know ME, not the face I put on. They need to know Christina who likes bright colors and fun makeup and cute lingerie and mystery and romance novels. Christina who hates bugs but loves to play in the rain. They need to know Christina who doesn’t like carrots but loves almost all other veggies. Christina who loves people, but can’t quite handle groups of them. Christina who likes to push people’s buttons, but wouldn’t hurt anyone on purpose even if it meant hurting herself instead. Christina who has all the patience in the world for those who are trying, and none whatsoever for those who are reckless or hurtful. Christina who loves to cuddle, but doesn’t like strangers touching her. Christina who is scared of more or less everything, but puts herself in the middle of it all anyhow. Christina who wants honesty and beauty and love and to make everything better. Christina who can be cynical and needs help balancing that. Christina who takes care of everyone else and forgets to take care of herself – reminders to do so are always appreciated. Christina who thinks our choices and experiences create us in a way that keeps us all from ever being like anyone else, no matter our DNA, but is constantly pleasantly surprised by the effects of our building blocks. 
We are, deep inside, the sum of our experiences. We are each a story, of millions and multitudes of tiny parts. Don’t lose parts of your story. Even if they’re in the footnotes, don’t forget they exist. Dye your hair. Get your lip pierced. Tell your best friends a secret about you. Remember a story from your childhood. Ask someone about their favorite memory, their first kiss, their best friend when they were 5, their favorite teacher in high school. Let’s help each other remember who we are, especially if we’re losing that in the face of just getting through the day.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Black Bean Soup and Homemade Hummus Recipes

Easy recipes today; I'm really tired and don't feel like cooking, so I thought I'd share a couple, "I'm not cooking right now" recipes.

Black Bean soup

1lb dried black beans
Water to cover
6 cups veggie stock
tomatoes, onions, peppers to taste, OR, if you're feeling really lazy, a jar of medium salsa
1 tablespoon taco seasoning (I make my own; it's different, just put what you like in it)
cheese or sour cream or both to top, or chopped fresh cilantro if you actually like it (I don't) or avocado if you're not allergic to it (I am). Obviously without the dairy it's vegan.

Sort the beans into your crock pot. Cover with water plus one inch. Add all other ingredients to pot. Turn on high and cover and just let it go 6-8 hours or until it's all soft and nice. Add salt to taste, top with whatever you feel like. 

Hummus, my very ridiculously easy way

1lb dried chickpeas
one lemon
nice flavorful olive oil

Put your chickpeas in the crock pot, sort, and cover with water plus two inches. Turn them on high and let them go 6-8 hours or until they're all soft. Don't peel them. It's a waste of time. Now, I measure out two cups and put the rest in the freezer for later. Into your food processor or vitamix or whatever, add half a cup of tahini (I like raw) and the juice of one lemon. Run it until it's fluffy and pretty. Add the two cups of chickpeas and one large garlic clove or two small. Run until smooth. Add a drizzle of olive oil to taste/texture. That's it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Happiness vs. Being Content

I’m sitting outside, in a communal yard, writing on my laptop while my children play with five other children and three dads sit here, a five month old chillin’ in the shade in his stroller. The stay at home dads’ club is chatting about classic movies, bad movies, B rated movies, and the children blowing bubbles and losing their shoes. Sometimes I join in the conversation. Sometimes I just sit here and listen. I feel like after 34 years I’ve found my place, at least for now, somewhere I’d never imagined. It’s not what I wanted, or even what I’d choose now if I could pick. But for this moment, it is definitely my place.
For this moment, it doesn’t matter that I woke up in tears, and in pain because a child had been kicking me in the back since she climbed in at midnight due to nightmares. It doesn’t matter that while I scrambled to find clothes for everyone and put them on myself, my oldest (age 5) took eggs and bacon out of the refrigerator for breakfast and proceeded to break three of the eggs on the floor and try to clean them up with towels from the guest bathroom. He’s already forgiven me for yelling at him when I found the soggy towels and eggs all over the counter and floor. He cuddled in my lap and told me he was sorry for the mess, and I told him I was sorry for yelling and made him bacon and eggs for breakfast after I finished cleaning half-dried egg off everything.

Just for now, I don’t miss my friends and family enough that it’s a huge effort not to collapse in a heap on the floor and not move. Oddly, in this place I didn’t want, with these people I didn’t know six weeks ago, I’m comfortable. I’m content. Happy? At times. I think happiness is something we strive for – not something we are. It’s the pinnacle of human existence – that moment when your story is published, or a paycheck comes in, or a child shrieks with delight over her new bicycle. It’s that moment when your spouse comes home from Texas, or you pick up your friend from the airport for a two week visit. It’s the instant when your lips meet someone else’s, or someone thanks you for cooking them dinner. Happiness is a shared smile, a shared memory. Happiness is the rain falling on your face, the first cool day at the end of a long summer. Happiness is a moment, not a constant condition. Savor your moments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Motherhood Resignation

For all you lovely mommies and daddies and other caregivers who have ever spent time alone with your children, I have a story for you. It will lift your spirits, and remind you that life is so good. But first, I'd like to announce that this doubles as my resignation from motherhood. In five weeks, you can find me in Washington State, Italy, Costa Rica, Iceland, Ireland... I frankly don't care. Does anyone need a 34 year old whose skills include doula-ing, typing thoughts very quickly, communicating profusely with everyone, and holding spectacular pity parties?

There once were two children, who we shall call Bugbug and Speck. They were lovely little children. (I'm not joking, they're so adorable I want to eat them up. On days that aren't today. The girl in Starbucks told me she wished she could Instagram my son.) Their daddy, Dr. Scientist, is really Captain Scientist, because he's in the Army. And because he's Captain Scientist of the illustrious United States Army, he gets to go away sometimes, for weeks or months at a time. One summer, very very shortly after a PCS (that's permanent change of station, or "the Army is moving you wherever they feel like it, whenever they feel like it" to civilians) he was sent on TDY (temporary duty, or "being away from your family for whatever period of time the Army feels like"). Now, I know I sound bitter about the Army right now. I'm not, really. That's how life works; it's what we signed up for. And there are plenty of good things to balance out the bad. But I must set the stage here, so you, my darling readers, know exactly what was going down - I'd been alone with Bugbug and Speck, with no childcare, in a new home, for five and a half weeks. The house was full of boxes, a broken desk tipped on its side until Dr. Scientist could fix it, and the messes that two little ones make more than daily.

I woke up to the sound of silence (okay, no. That's Fun. I woke up to my daughter telling me it was morning at 5:55am.) I'd barely gotten any sleep, because Dr. Scientist was upset about some things and we'd talked late into the night. But I wanted to be up anyhow, since a friend was coming by to visit for a little bit, and company that doesn't say things like "banana pants!" out of nowhere is welcome when you mostly talk to a three year old and a five year old. We shall call this friend Troll, for reasons unknown. (He doesn't look like a troll, though I suppose that depends upon your view of trolls... he looks yummy. And sort of dangerous.) So, he dropped by to hang out and drink my smoothies (yep, my smoothies bring all the boys to the yard). And first, Speck covered us both (faces, shirts, arms) with stickers. Happy faces, mostly. Then, after Bugbug woke up, the darling boy started hitting Speck with a mermaid. Yes.  He hit her with a mermaid. Seriously, in my household I often say things like, "We don't hit each other with a mermaid!" or "I don't actually know the moon's phone number," or "No! We don't put carrots in our vaginas!"

Moving right along, I was having a bit of a pity party after Troll left. I'm tired, frustrated, emotional, I've been alone with them for 5.5 weeks, and I deserve a minute to sulk. So during my pity party, they went outside. In their pajamas. To play in the mud. With their friends. Whose mom was watching, incredulously, from the doorway in HER pajamas. Because it was STILL BEFORE 9am.

I wrangled them into actual clothing, and we did some lessons. Because, homeschooling is da bomb, baby. (I don't even know where that came from; don't judge me.) Then... "No, you may not have chocolate. You just had breakfast." "We're not doing recorders right now, and please don't do that in my ear." "No, please don't use 'fuck' in every sentence." "'Frickin' isn't appropriate either." "Let's go outside and paint on the porch with our friends." Okay, that was my most brilliant idea of the day. They spent an hour doing watercolors on the porch with their friends while I had a cup of tea with their mom, who had actually had a shower and put clothes on by that point. This was seriously the high point of the day, and then... it all fell apart.

I was making lunch, like any good little mother does, when I heard water... splashing, pouring, making a huge ruckus. The ocean shouldn't actually be in my house, so WHAT? No, no. The ocean wasn't in the house. My children were pouring water out of a watering can over each others' heads in the downstairs bathroom. Why? No reason. Bugbug and Speck: the true homewreckers.

I was dealing with my herbs and a spider crawled across my hand. This doesn't sound like a tragedy, but my arachnophobia is pretty severe, and there was screaming. Then the little darlings laughed at their mama. Yes, they laughed at my emotional distress. Because children are, from the moment they are conceived, parasites.

Now, the second most awesome thing of the day happened. Speck took a nap. Her naps have been getting few and far between lately, and though clearly I have the patience of not only a saint, but also a mother, my nerves are pretty frayed by the afternoon. And when she woke up, she decided to climb me as I did a shoulder stand. And this is why I can't do yoga anymore.

At this point, I should remind you all that they really are adorable sometimes. Speck calls Wonder Woman Wondermelon. She also made up, by herself, the phrase, "You want some frickin' chicken?" Bugbug thinks the lyrics to "Move Along" By All American Rejects include "Mow the lawn, mow the lawn." Yep. They're cute. And then Speck pooped in her pants. Outside. And took the pants off. And dumped the poop on the neighbor's porch. And stood there with no pants on until I came and got her. And I had to clean poop off the neighbor's porch. Yes, I'm a mom. Yes, I'm used to dealing with poop. But it was on the neighbor's porch. This beats two days prior when I had to mop the kitchen floor three times due to various calamities. It beats the time she walked outside to pee in the yard, and six people were watching her, horrified. It beats the time Bugbug shouted, in the store, "I see a fat lady! Look, I see a fat lady!" (he was actually referring to me, thank you darling... and oh yeah... that was Sunday.)

None of this, NONE of it, was in the job description. NOBODY ever said, "you will not ever get to sleep another night in your entire life." NOBODY told me, "When you try to do yoga, not only will you be more spectacularly out of shape than you've ever been in your life, but your children will CLIMB YOU." NOBODY told me, "Your child will poop on the neighbor's porch." NOBODY told me, "You'll desperately want to stay home with your children... but then you'll feel like the most boring person on earth, and you won't actually ever do anything you want to do just for you ever again." They did tell me I'd love it. Which I do. But for now, I'm resigning. My Mom Card is in the mail. Ask me next month if I want it back. In the meantime - anyone have a spare room?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Woke Up This Morning...

I should give this a title that makes more sense with the content, but I can't figure that out just now. Sometimes I write to get things out of my head... share the burden, people.

Anyhow. I woke up this morning, and had this feeling. This isn't unusual, but it definitely isn't how I always feel. I had this paranoid feeling that everyone in my life was just messing with me. Because, what's special about me? Why would anyone want to be my friend? Why would they want me to spend time with them? Why would anyone pay me to do anything at all? 

I'm not good at anything. I'm really not very interesting. I'm not particularly pretty. I'm not fun. I seriously spend my days doing the stuff that must be done. Know what I did yesterday? I got up, got the kids dressed, made breakfast, washed dishes, taught them lessons, swept and vacuumed and made lunch, washed those dishes, did some laundry, put Speck down for a nap, started dinner in the crock pot, pretended to relax for a few minutes (I can't really relax; there's far too much to do), took the kids grocery shopping, came home and mowed the lawn, had dinner, played outside with the kids for a bit, then got them down for bed and collapsed into my own bed. That's pretty much what I do every day, except sometimes it's actually more busy. 

I don't go out. I don't go clubbing. I can't play any instruments. I can't knit. I don't have any special talents. I don't even work anymore, other than writing part time. I am literally the most boring person I know. I know a whole bunch of really interesting, talented people with interesting jobs and hobbies and lives.Why would anyone bother with me? Do they think its funny, humoring me? Making me think I'm loved? Or that I actually do things that are worthwhile? I don't belong here. I don't deserve these friends. What if they realize that I'm just faking it, and I'm really not very smart or clever or fun or anything else I sometimes pretend I am? How did I get here in the first place? Maybe I'm a better actress than I give myself credit for.

And then I saw confirmation that Robin Williams killed himself. Seriously? A man who won Grammys and SAG awards and Golden Globes and and Academy Award, who was universally renowned as funny, quick-witted, kind, generous. If you'd asked me about him three days ago I would have rattled off my favorite roles of his and spent a few minutes being amused thinking about it. Maybe mentioned Comic Relief, because I think it's awesome. Now all I can think is - did he wake up feeling like that? Like he wasn't someone incredible? So many people in this world struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety, mental illness - and of course (what I was describing feeling this morning, which also often coincides with other things) Imposter Syndrome. How many of us deal with thoughts like that every day? Why does it get overwhelming sometimes? 

It's a terrifying idea. That people don't know the value they bring to this world. I don't feel any different than I woke up feeling, but logically I do know I'm kind of being silly. Sometimes it doesn't change how we feel, though. Bugbug and Speck need me. That's something that keeps me going, even when I feel like I don't deserve the good things and people in my life. I love you, friends. Please know that you mean something to me, whether I see you every few years, almost never, or every week. My Green Moms. My March Moms. My family, that I was born with and that I've chosen. My friends from WoW and EQ :). The Troll. My friends from everywhere else. Dr. Scientist. You bring value to my world, and everyone else's. Whether you're in my life for a little while, or forever, you've brought me something. And I hope I've done the same for you.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why I'll Never Have an Office

I know I've been writing about homeschooling a lot lately, and not really much about doulaing. There's a reason for that - being a doula is not feasible for me right now. We move every three years due to Dr. Scientist's work, and I am currently a stay at home mom, homeschooling mom, and a writer. BUT. I WILL go back to it. I love-love-love being a doula. It's one of the most wonderful jobs I could even imagine, and I can't fathom ever giving it up for good. So, I keep up with the birth world to some degree, and I think about it a lot. And in thinking, I considering... what should I share with you? Because when I go back, I'll continue to link clients to this blog so they can learn more about me. Here we go, something I want to share:

I won't ever have an office as a doula. I know some people think it's unprofessional to just meet in public places, but I prefer it, for several reasons.

Reason one: A doula is NOT a medical professional. We are there to comfort, to calm, to assist, to help your family through a birth experience. This is also the reason I won't actually certify with any organization, though I've completed certification requirements for more than one. I don't want to give the impression that I'm a medical professional - I'm not. I'm a professional, but I'm a professional provider of emotional, and physical support and information. Doesn't really sound like office material, does it? It's a much more intimate profession than the impression gained from sitting behind a desk for an interview.

Reason two: The interview itself... not only does it go both ways, but I'm looking for something in particular. I call it "recognition". You might also think of the concept of "namaste" or "namaskar" - while used as a greeting, it's intended to honor the love, light, and peace within each other, and recognize that when we are in that place, we are one. I'm looking for someone I feel that "click" with - almost like on a first date. Is the chemistry there? Could she be my friend? Am I comfortable with her other support people? Does she feel that way about me? I feel that the informal setting is vital to this recognition - we can just chat. No pressure, no expectations, just feel each other out and decide if we're the right fit. (For the record, I always have the names and contact information for other doulas, if you ever interview with me and feel I'm not the right fit for you! I want to help, even if I'm not the one to provide that support for you.)

Reason three: I don't want to. I like meeting you somewhere fun. Please feel free to make suggestions - we can meet for lunch or coffee or an amble through a botanical garden or just somewhere you feel comfortable!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby...

As a parent, sex, love, and relationships are difficult topics. Really, these are just fraught any time, but once you're a parent there's so much more there. It's not just about you anymore. Like everything else in life, it also becomes an example you're setting for your children. So you think about it, probably more than you used to, but also in a different light.

Google the word sex. 789,000,000 results. Love? 1,670,000,000. Now let's jump outside the box. Homosexuality has 6,890,000 results. Bisexuality has 726,000 results. Asexuality? 1,130,000. Polyamory has 564,000. Polyfidelity, only 60,800. Transexualism, 63,800 (though transexual has a lot more.) 

In this culture (I'm American, if that wasn't apparent) we generally think of adult relationships as being between one man and one woman, who are then expected to get married and have two children. And live alone in a big house with two cars and be so separate. And sex is something for the bedroom, never to be discussed outside, except in whispers between female friends over a glass of wine, when we talk about whether we can even achieve orgasm anymore, or if we're quite daring, how great coconut oil is as a sexual lubricant. 

We've made sex taboo, while advertising with it, discussing it in media, talking about everyone else's sex lives. Anything out of our cultural norm elicits whispers at best, and can lose friendships, jobs, and even family at worst.

Because of this, and many other things I'm going to call "cultural repressions", people hide who they are. Celebrities "come out of the closet". Why were they in the closet? Why is there a closet?

Most people know I'm pretty open minded, so I hear things they don't tell others. This friend is polyamorous. That one is bisexual. That one is a sexual sadist. Even things that are fairly "normal" - like a friend who enjoys anal sex with her husband - are whispered behind closed doors. 

I'd call bullshit on the whole secrecy thing, but I get it. I completely get it. Being open is hard. You can get buried under half-truths, untruths, and the entire character you've made up that's now as much you as the real you. How hard is it to throw off that mantle? What happens if we drop it? Do our lives fall apart? Do our friends think we're cheating on our spouses, or dirty, or will their religion say we're "bad" or "wrong"? Have you spent so long crushed under the weight of the person you've constructed that you'll come apart and float away? 

This actually kind of goes back to my freedom post... our choices are our freedom. Now, whether we can even make choices or whether we're biologically programmed to do certain things, like nifty machines, is a completely different question. But I can say that there are choices we can make, and mostly they're intellectual. The choice to lie, the choice to cover up, even to yourself. The choice to be free and do what you feel is right. The choice to choose a mate and be devoted, whether or not you have loving or sexual relationships outside that pair - or not. Letting others' judgment (this includes religion) cloud your own intuition and feelings, or guiding your own life. And it's hard. It's hard to make those choices. It's hard inside you to bind yourself into a role in which you're not comfortable - to be comfortable in other areas of your life (no difficult conversations with friends, for example). And it's hard to be you, and step outside those bindings, and seek out what you want.

So maybe you're happy with what you have. Maybe the two plus two (or more) lifestyle is really just right for you. Maybe you're not. Maybe religious upbringing or fear or what others will say is just too much for you.  But maybe you have something inside of you that isn't the same. Maybe it's not about sex or relationships. Maybe you always wanted to be a writer. Maybe you're terrified of breaking the rules, even if you feel there are rules that it would be right and honest to break.

Maybe you have children, maybe you don't. But either way, isn't being honest, being open, being yourself the best way to demonstrate for them that it's okay to be them? What if your daughter is bisexual? Would she tell you, or would you spend your life (and hers) not knowing a key component of her personality? What if you were secretly bisexual, though? How would you feel knowing all that? And what if you were openly bisexual? Would you be able to celebrate her unique personality and sexuality with her, or are you still hiding your own personality, until you really aren't there anymore?

I love my parents. They did their best raising my brother and me. (So if you're reading this, don't think I'm picking on you; you're just the only parents I have.) My mother said something to me a few years back that resonated, in a way that made me really truly think about how I'm raising my kids. "We exposed you to different religions, because we wanted you to be educated and pick which one you felt was right for you... as long as it was Christian." (I'm not, so sorry that didn't work out quite right.) Anyhow. The point here is... I don't want to limit my children that way. In religion or sexuality or anything else. Who they are is wonderful, is perfect. And who you are is, too.

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!)