90 Days of Homeschool and Evaluation Time

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We recently completed the first half of our homeschool year, we’re due for portfolio evaluations soon and I’m stressing out probably more than I should be. It’s been a wonderful experience. I love homeschooling all in all. Some days it feels like an uphill battle, some days none of us want to do it but we know we have to so we do anyway. Most days are met with enthusiasm and “what are we learning about today mom?” though, which I’m greatful for.

Everyone’s looking forward to our upcoming holiday breaks, Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.

Here are some things I’ve learned from our first half year of homeschooling:

  • If you need a break, take one. The public schooled children get lots of days off for teacher development, snow days and federal holidays. It’s OK for you to take one off too.
  • Make it a point to get your kids involved with other kids. My oldest is an introvert, he’d be happy building Legos in his room all day. My middle is a social butterfly though and he needs to be around kids that are not siblings. We usually do some kind of activity, from taekwondo to ballet to boyscouts, every afternoon so that we get out and see other people.
  • Stay organized, have a routine, have a plan, but stay flexible. I plan out what we’re going to do every Sunday but sometimes that plan changes. Recently my oldest has been interested in DNA, cell division and cloning. We spent a week learning about that instead of our usual science.
  • It’s realistic to expect that you children only spend a couple of hours a day on seatwork. Something that surprised me was how fast my kids got all their work done. For my Kindergartner he does maybe 45 minutes of seat work a day, for my 2nd grader he does 1 and a half to 2 hours. I later learned that the homeschool “rule of thumb” is 1 hour of seat work per grade level, so we were right on target. Remember that much of the day at public school is spent doing busy work, waiting for other people to finish their work, standing in line, traveling from class to class and on break and lunch period.
  • Don’t be afraid to outsource just a bit. I hate teaching art and I feel underqualified to properly teach music so my kids take those two classes, along with drama (just for fun) at a co-op every Thursday.
  • You don’t have to follow your curriculua verbatum. My kids move slower in science than the lesson plans suggested in their curriculum, that’s fine. My oldest moves more quickly through his reading and spelling, again fine. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can tailor your lessons to fit the pace and style of your kids’ learning.

So far it’s been an adventure, bring on the next 90 days!

Life Plus Homeschool

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We started homeschooling 12 days ago. I know it has been 12 days because of our handy calendar system (which the kids love, by the way). It’s interesting to see how much my “style” of homeschooling has evolved in even this short amount of time. When I went into this, I thought I’d be regimented. I had my days planned out in a spreadsheet in 15 minute increments, just like they do in school. I wanted to make sure that I was spending enough time per subject per day.

I realized something a little while back though, my kids don’t need 45 minutes for math. They don’t need 30 minutes for writing. The blocks of time that one has in a school are there to accomidate kids that learn at different paces, they’re there so that the teacher can address every student as they are doing their task. When you’re one on one, or one on two as it were, things move much more quickly.

The county that we live in suggests that you spend 6 hours a day on school. 6 hours?! I suppose they don’t account for other things that happen in a school environment like recess, lunch and PE.

My kids actually spend about three hours a day “doing school”. They do their every day subjects like Math and English first thing in the morning, from 7 until about 8:30 or 9. They do their every other day subject when the toddler naps at 10:00 because that’s either History or Science, both of which are more involved with large projects or lengthy explanations.

Their afternoons are spent playing, building with Legos or doing their extracurricular activities like taekwondo and dance (which also count for PE!). They go grocery shopping with me and bake with me and tromp around outside in the woods. The other day my oldest child made and buried a time capsule for “future archeologists” completely on his own. It wasn’t part of the curriculum, it wasn’t in the lesson plan. He just did it.

So far I’m really enjoying this. We’re more relaxed as a family. The boys still fight, my oldest still has to lock himself in his room sometimes just so that he can have his alone time but the pace of life seems more natural than it ever did when we were rushing out the door at 8:15 every morning to make the 8:45 school bell.

More activities begin in September like co-op and cub scouts, it will be interesting to see how things shift when that happens but so far the kids are doing well, I feel less stressed out and our house is slightly more harmonious than it was before. I count that as a win.

How to encourage your late talker

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I made a post some time ago about how my oldest child was a silent toddler. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion on a birth month board that I’m a part of about what to do if you have a late talker and how do you encourage speech in your toddler. So I’m going to share my experience with Early Intervention, the Infants and Toddlers program and teaching a late talking toddler how to speak.

When my oldest child had only 5 words at his 24 month appointment, we were referred by our pediatritian to the Infants and Toddlers program. She was the one that gave me their contact information. I realize, however, that this won’t always be the case. If you need to contact your local Early Intervention program, you do not need a referral from your pediatrician. Google search “Early Intervention” followed the name of your state (if you are in the US) and it should be easy enough to find. When you call Early Intervention, explain to them your reason for calling and they will ask you a few questions over the phone. If it seems like your child needs an evaluation, an evaluation will be scheduled.

Our first evaluation occured at a school. My mother in law and I took J to the school and there was a room with lots of toys and two evaluators. The evaluators tried to get him to do things like stack blocks, label objects, make a face, play with a puppet. Just games. J spent most of his time screaming in the corner.

It was determined that he needed a second evaulation and that it should likely occur in our house since the unfamiliar environment of the school made him shut down completely. An evaluator came to our house and was able to evaluate J properly, it was then determined that he had a speech and cognative delay. We were assigned a Speech Language Pathologist who came to our house once a week for therapy. J also attended a therapy pre-preschool environment with 3 other little boys twice a week.

All of this was at no cost to us as it fell under the umbrella of the public school system.

J did this routine until he was 3, then he qualified for an EI preschool program. We visited the preschool and I decided that it wasn’t a good fit because J seemed to do better in an environment where other children were talking. He was also toilet trained by that time. Most of the kids in the preschool were not speaking, most were in diapers. I decided instead to put him in a private preschool for “typical” kids. He had a hard year, but being around speaking children did him a lot of good as well.

Here are some techniques that I learned from his time in therapy. If you have a toddler who isn’t speaking or only has a couple of words, here are some things you can try to encourage speech with your child:

– In order to get your child to look at you when you speak, take his hands and put them on either side of your face.

– Speak very deliberately, make your words slowly with exaggerated mouth shapes.

– Praise any attempt at speaking, even if it’s incorrect. Always correct it, however. So if you hold an apple up and your child says “aaahhll” say “Good! Ap-ple” .

– The SLP used to tap syllables on J’s shoulder. So, again, using the apple example. He’d say “aaahhll” and the SLP would say “ap-ple” and tap twice on his shoulder as she said it.

– Use games to reward for speaking. Like get a ball run, hold the balls and let your child put one down the run. Then encourage your child to say “more” or “ball” before you give him another.

– Another good one is tickle your child then stop and holds your hands up. If your child wants more tickles he has to say “more” first. Once he’s saying more, move to “more tickle”, once he’s saying “more tickle” move to “more tickle please” and build like that.

– Play blowing games. Like blowing bubbles or blowing a cotton ball across the table. Kazoos are also good. The blowing shape helps with word formation.

– Have your child use a straw to drink with. Again, the sucking through a straw is good for word formation.

– Narrate constantly. It may sound silly but it does help. So as you’re going about your day say stuff like “We’re going upstairs, up-up-up-up!” and raise your voice with each “up”. Or “We’re going down stairs down-down-down-down” and lower your voice with each “down”. Or whatever. Putting on your child’s shoes say “Let’s put your shoes on, first right foot! Put shoe on right foot! Put shoe on! Now left foot! Put shoe on left foot! Put shoe on!” It seems like a lot of repetition but the hope here is that your child will pick up on it and join in the repetition.

– Make sound effects for everything. Your child might not be able to say “cow”, but “moo” is a bit easier. Your child might not be able to say “car” but “vroom” is easier. So every time you see something that makes a sound, make the sound. “Look! It’s a dog! Woof!” “Look! It’s a train! Choo-choo!”

– Even some things that don’t make sounds can have action words associated with them. Like “Bunny! Hop hop!” or “Ball! Bounce bounce!” or “Bubble! Pop pop!”

– Try not to give your child what he wants until he asks for it. So if you know he wants some milk because he’s pointing and grunting at the fridge, say “Do you want milk?” and try to get him to say “milk”. Then you build like the tickle game. “Milk please” etc.

 

I actually still use all of these. I used them with my “typical” middle son and I use them with my “typical” youngest son. My youngest really likes the tickle game.

I hope that this post helps you if you have a toddler who is struggling with speech.

Why I weaned my toddler cold turkey

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Ap-poo! Ap-poo!

As I type this, my almost 20 month old is carrying an apple around happily munching little bites out of it and announcing to anyone who will listen that he does, in fact, have an apple.

We started our weaning journey about a week ago after a marathon nursing session that started at around 3 in the morning and went intermittently until we left for school at 8:00. I’ve been ready for wean him for a while, personally, but I stuck it out this long because I know the benefits of nursing a toddler. My oldest child weaned at 19 months, my middle child weaned at 23 months. I swore up, down and sideways that I’d try to make it to two years this time but when they are toddlers my constitution wains.

There’s a huge difference between nursing a baby and nursing a toddler. Babies nurse on a schedule pretty much, sometimes it’s a tight schedule granted but it’s still a schedule. It’s predictable. Toddlers nurse because they want to. Many people, especially on the internet, will make you feel like a terrible mother if you do not kowtow to your toddler every time he throws a limp-noodle screaming fit because he wants boobie NOW and whatever else you’re doing is not nearly as important. No a cup of milk will not suffice.

When they are walking, talking little people I start to feel odd about nursing. I start to feel like my personal space is being invaded. I’m naturally an introverted person, being climbed upon and crawled on and having my shirt unbuttoned, tugged on and pulled up (sometimes in public) is not something that I generally enjoy.

Are you clucking your tongues yet? Yes, I weaned for selfish reasons.

My older two kids were easy to wean. With my oldest, I was 5 months pregnant and already huge. He was losing interest in breastfeeding and was down to a session a day maybe. My milk dried up, it wasn’t a fight. With my middle, he was addicted to nursing but I had all sorts of problems. I had reoccurring bouts of mastitis and was on my 6th round of antibiotics in as many months. I could justify weaning because I was not an effective parent while suffering from pain, chills and fever almost constantly. I stuck some cabbage leaves in my bra, told him the milk was all gone and that was that. We had a couple of days of tears and asking but that’s all it was.

I don’t have a legitimate reason to wean my youngest child. I don’t have a reason that’s good enough. I still make lots of milk, he’s a little guy that would almost always chose nursing over food so he was still nursing on demand. Sometimes his nursing pattern looked just like it did when he was a newborn, especially at night.

What can I say, I want my body back.

I’ve spent the past almost 8 years of my life pregnant or breastfeeding or pregnant AND breastfeeding. I’ve almost lost the sense of what it’s like to have my body belong only to me, to not have to surrender it in the middle of the night to a vice like little mouth while being kicked in the face by little feet and pulled upon by little hands.

I also wanted to be done nursing before we began homeschooling. I can’t imagine trying to explain stone age man to my two older children while my toddler is pushing his nursing pillow into me and crying for boobie as he did constantly whenever we were at home.

Conventional advice would have you gradually reduce your nursing sessions and replace them with other things or distract your toddler when he asks. Apparently those dispensing conventional advice have never met my children. They all had similar personalities as toddlers, and it was very much a case of all or nothing.

Perhaps it’s my reason for nursing in the first place that leads me here. I do not enjoy nursing. Many mothers will describe it as magical, a special bond, moments of peace staring lovingly into their child’s eyes. I never viewed it that way. Sure, I had those sweet moments with my children but I view nursing as utilitarian. I did it because it’s free, it’s easy and I’m a lazy person (you automatically bring boobs with you and they’re always the right temperature) and, yes, there are benefits to be had from it. Over the years, I’ve learned more about breastfeeding than any sane person should know. Did you know that your milk ducts go all the way up into your armpits? Did you know that any child crying can make you “let down”, that is shoot milk everywhere like a fountain? Always convenient in the middle of the supermarket.

I fully believe that new mothers should be educated about breastfeeding and heavily encouraged to do it. I believe that making resources like lactation consultants and nursing clubs at the hospital available to everyone is important. I believe in breastfeeding. It’s a good thing. I just don’t believe that it’s the be all end all to motherhood and that I am a terrible person for ending it before my kids hit preschool age.

As the Time magazine cover would have you believe, I am apparently not “Mom Enough”.

So yes, I am weaning my toddler cold turkey. He has done fantastically with it. His night wakings have decreased, he drinks milk from a sippy instead and doesn’t ask to nurse during the day. I made the nursing pillow disappear, he asked a couple of times and I told him that the boobies were all gone but he could have milk and a cuddle instead. That seems agreeable to him.

I’ve been in a huge amount of pain, this is my punishment for weaning him. I’m leaking and engorged like I was when he was a newborn, for three days it felt as if hot brands were attached to my chest. I stood under the hot shower and rubbed them for fifteen minutes on the first day. The pain is finally starting to subside and with it’s disappearance comes the realization that this is it. My breasts will be deflated with the memory of milk. I will have moved beyond a chapter of my life that I’ll never return to. It makes me a little sad, like finishing a long book that you’ve been thoroughly engrossed in.

I look forward to the next stage. I look forward to there being no more babies, to the crib being dismantled for the last time, to potty training.

Bring it on.

 

Curriculum Rundown

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When we first decided that yes, we are going to homeschool I felt overwhelmed. The first thing I started doing was looking for a boxed, ready made, all in one curriculum. There are a bunch of fantastic ones out there but in the process I started discovering different individual subject curricula and instead started picking and choosing which of those I liked the best. So far the process has actually been pretty fun. This post has been a couple of months in the making because we’ve spent that long gathering our resources.

My state requires me to teach English (they call it Language Arts but I’m going to be calling it English), Math, Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, PE and Health. My older child will be 7 in July, a 2nd grader and my middle child will be 5 in July, a Kindergartner.

First we’ll talk about the curricula that I’m going to use for both of my older children to do in combined lessons. You can see them all pictured above but I’ll examine them piece by piece.

Science: Apologia

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Our science curriculum for next year is called Apologia. I like it because it’s a Christian world view centric curriculum and it doesn’t speak to the students like they are idiots. I was dubious at only doing one subject for the entire year at first but Apologia’s reasoning about it makes sense. I like how deep they delve and how thorough they are with each subject they cover. We actually bought all of the elementary text books and all of the junior notebooking journals to allow the children to choose which topics of study they want to learn in which order.

They chose swimming creatures followed by chemistry and physics for next year.

 

Social Studies – History: Story of the World

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I love anything by Susan Wise Bauer. The Well-Trained Mind is a valuable resource for homeschooling parents and really just parents in general. We actually purchased her history books before we decided to start homeschooling, all we had to buy for this were the student pages. It’s important to me to teach history chronologically. History is a passion of mine and I dislike very much how country-centric most History programs are. American kids are taught about the world from America out. British kids are taught about the world from Britain out. I like that this series does not focus on one country as the “center” of the world.

Most kids my kids’ age will be doing “all about my community” or similar things in their social studies programs, I think that this is kind of a backward way of teaching things. The best way to tell a story is to start at the beginning.

Next year we’ll be starting with stone age man and moving up to the Egyptians. If they want a faster pace, well go faster than that.

 

Music and Art – Story of the Orchestra and The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas

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Art will be done at our co-op for the majority of the year, but we are going to have a semester in the spring of 2016 where I will need to teach Art because the co-op is doing cursive writing that session and that is something that I’ll be teaching as part of English. I like the Usborne art book, it’s good for once a week lessons. There’s also a free art curriculum called Art Tango which has a lot of artist appreciation in it that we’ll use.

For music, I actually bought the pair of the recorders and a recorder lesson book (heaven help me) but The Story of the Orchestra was recommended to me by a homeschooling forum, so we’ll use that as well.

Now that we’re through the combined subjects, time to explore the individual subjects.

2nd Grade English – All About Reading, All About Spelling, Shurley Grammar, Watch Our Writing, Copycat Books Copywork, Journaling

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All About Reading / Spelling:

I was actually having a lot of trouble finding a reading and spelling curriculum before I discovered the All About series. It’s important to me that my kids learn to read and spell using phonics, I really liked the program that my oldest child did in 1st grade this year and I wanted something similar to that. All About was something I kind of stumbled on and I absolutely love it. It’s quite teacher intensive and there are a lot of fiddly little bits like magnetic tiles and flashcards but it is a good, solid program.

Shurley Grammar:

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The Shurley Grammar series is something that my kids’ private school uses starting with level 1 in 2nd grade. I’m a little dubious about it, it gets mixed reviews and the teacher book is quite a complicated read but we’ll see how we do. The great thing about homeschooling is that if you don’t like something you can scrap it and find something else. I like the jingles that this series has, my oldest likes to use jingles to learn things.

 

Watch Our Writing is a custom cursive curriculum that the private school graciously gifted to me. The Copycat Books copywork was downloaded for $5 a piece, we used the “Traditional” cursive pages and they’ll likely compliment our History curriculum. Finally, my oldest loves to write stories. I’m going to get him a journal and encourage him to just write whatever he wants to write.

 

2nd Grade Math – Singapore

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My oldest did Singapore math in private school this year, it made sense to just continue with it. The Singapore materials are bright, colorful and explain things well.

 

Kindergarten English – All About Reading – Prereading, Explode The Code “Get Ready”, “Get Set” and “Go”

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My oldest did Explode the Code in 1st grade, but I’m not sure if we’ll use it for second grade. I do like Get Ready, Get Set and Go though for my Kindergartner. We’ll be doing a “letter of the week” curriculum that I have written myself, these books will be a great compliment for it.

 

All About Reading – Pre-reading

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My Kindergartner will be starting to learn phonics next year, I don’t expect him to be reading next year but if he wants to I won’t stop him. We’re starting with the AAR pre-reading curriculum and moving on from there. We also own AAR / AAS 1 in case he’s ready for that next year.

 

Kindergarten Math – Singapore

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The Singapore Kindergarten Math books are interesting. Book A moves appropriately slowly, book B moves, in my opinion very fast. So what I did was go through book A and find more free examples online of the sort of activities that are in the book to pad my lessons out with. We intend to only do book A next year, but again if he’s ready for book B we’ll do it too.

 

For PE they take Taekwondo twice a week. For Health we work that into our daily lives.

 

Scanning System –

I have taken all of the consumables from these curricula and scanned them to our fileserver. I did this because it means that we won’t have to buy additional consumable books in the future, I can just print out pages as I need them. Sure, we’re going to go through a lot of printer paper and ink but I prefer it this way. It means that when our youngest is ready for school, all of his materials will be ready to go.

 

Subject Card System –

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This is my subject card pocket folder. I initially had a very detailed XL file with every day planned out in 15 minute increments. Then I stepped back, took a look at it and said “why”? My kids don’t need to be that regimented, they need to get certain subjects done yes but part of homeschooling is flexibility. So I came up with this idea. Each kid has his set of cards, I’ll put the cards that he needs to do that day in the folder in the morning and he can take the card out when he’s done. We’ll be doing Science and History twice a week, Art once a week and Music once a week.

Latin is a subject that I have added but I’m not sure how often I’m going to teach it. I think that Latin instruction is important, but not more important than the other subjects. I’ll be playing Latin by ear next year.

 

My favorite thing that we bought for homeschooling this year, however, is this –

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What kid wouldn’t want to have recess here?

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Homeschool Room Tour

Hello everyone! I’ve been waiting to post because my husband and I have been working hard on gathering materials and creating our homeschooling space. We’re finally pretty much there (though I do have a “Carpe Diem” wall sticker on the way!) so now I can post some images and do a walkthrough.

Before we actually get into the room itself let’s look at the library / tot area in the living room.

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We have a very large living room area that we visually separated into two areas. A couple of Target bookshelves are on the left, a play rug and a chair. I plan on doing DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time here as well as circle time type activities for my two younger children. The two rainbow things there on the right are a little tot bookshelf, that my 18 month old loves, and a multi bin toy organizer. There’s also a fabric toybox beside the chair that you can’t see in this picture.

Next we’ll actually go into the homeschool room. This was just “my office” before, blank walls, very blah.

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Here you can see the rainbow cursive letter board, the Quartet cork board, two posters (one scientific method, one numbers 1-100), the calendar time board and my desk. Pretty much everything here was purchased off of Amazon.com, except for the calendar time board. I got the printables for that from here http://www.mamajenn.com/MamaJenn/CalendarTime.html . It was a little bit of work but in the end worth it. My toddler has already stolen some of the flip cards from it, I’m grateful for them being all held together with lose binder rings. If we had a traditional pocket chart calendar I could just imagine the little cards everywhere in a heartbeat.

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Here’s a closeup of our calendar time board. Mama Jenn recommends you make it on a piece of poster board, I actually made it on a foam board because I wanted something that would take the tacks a little better. I also had to make my own “year” cards.

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This is the desk area. We got a desk for the toddler too so that he can feel like a big boy. The desks are from hayneedle. They are the perfect size for my soon to be 5 year old and my soon to be 7 year old will get at least a year out of them depending on growth spurts. I really like these desks, they’re adorable, they’re made of solid wood and the compartments inside are large enough to hold a couple of binders, a pencil box and more. I like that each child gets his own little storage area. The whiteboard is a Quartet magnetic white board. My husband had one in his office that I like, we just got the smaller version.

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Here’s my desk! Yet another Quartet cork board that will be flanked by some shelving, our weather station on the right there is the “AcuRite 01036 Pro Color Weather Station” and the printer scanner combo is the Epson Workforce WF-3640. We’ve been pretty impressed with the Epson printers so far, we’ll see how it holds up in the long term.

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Finally, here’s the inside of one of the closets. The bookshelves are $30 specials from Walmart, they serve their purpose and I don’t need them to be pretty. Our curricula is all on the two top shelves, the second shelf with the magazine organizers is going to be for student materials for individual subjects. On the right I just have supplies. Down on the third shelf I have all my maniplatives and counters.

The glass jar may be a little difficult to read, it says “Fruit of the Spirit”. My middle son’s preschool teacher does this and I thought it was a cute idea. Basically when the children do something nice or follow the rules they get a piece of plastic fruit to put in the Fruit of the Spirit jar. Once the jar is full they get a reward like a picnic or a trip to the bounce houses or something.

Beside that there’s the obligatory laminator and electric pencil sharpener.

Finally the fourth shelf has a bunch of stacking plastic boxes for my middle kid’s “centers” activities. The other plastic shoeboxes have magnatiles in them. I’ll go more into Kindergarten centers in a future post because right now I have to run out and take my kids to school. I’m counting down the days until we don’t have to do the 40 minute early morning drive to their school. Not long left!

 

Our Home Education Adventure

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Remember the issue with our private school and my middle son’s pink shirts? Perhaps that was the tipping point for me, I don’t know. I have been considering homeschooling for years, ever since my oldest was a baby in fact. Things have compounded that have shown me this is the way we should go. The cost, the travel time (the poor toddler spends hours and hours in the car) and the general schedule. I want more time with my kids. I’m sick of rushing from school to extracurricular activities and then rushing home, rushing through supper and homework and bed.

I’ve been full of doubts, however. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to motivate my notoriously stubborn middle kid, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to juggle the baby and the dogs and the housework and trying to take care of myself and the extracurriculars along with having the responsibility of my children’s education. But you know what? I’m going to take that leap anyway.

I liken this feeling to the feeling that a parent gets when they are expecting their first child. Can I do this? Can I have all the responsibility for the upbringing of a brand new person resting on my shoulders? What if I screw up and ruin them for life? Everyone has these feelings. In spite of this, we still do it. We still take a huge leap into the unknown and have children. This is just another leg in the adventure.

Now that I’m over my initial terror at the concept, I’m actually really enjoying the process. Right after the realization hit me that yes, we are going to do this, I thought I’d just use an all in one boxed curriculum and call it a day. Since then I’ve become hooked on researching curricula, reading reviews, talking to other homeschoolers and piecing together my own stuff. It’s getting fun and not so daunting.

I’m excited! The money we would have spent on private school will be spent on our homeschool room, our materials, music lessons and a playground for the back yard (we need somewhere for recess after all). So not only will I be chronicling our chickens this year, but I’ll be posting stuff about our homeschooling adventure as well!

 

Boys are boys and girls are girls

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Raising a child that does not conform to societal gender norms, even a little bit, is difficult. As D gets older, we encounter more resistance from the world at large. He is mistaken for a girl more and more often. The one haven that we had was D’s preschool. At the beginning of the year, parents had to fill out an “all about me” page about their preschooler. I carefully explained that D likes to wear colors, play with toys and do activities typically associated with girls. I explained that this is who D is and that we encourage him to be who he is.

So far, there hasn’t been a problem. The kids at the school love D, he has so many friends from all the grades.

That is, until last Friday.

“We believe that boys are boys and girls are girls” was one of the things that was said to us by the administrator of my childrens’ private Christian school as I sat down with her to review D’s Kindergarten readiness assessment. I expected to talk about fine motor and verbal skills, instead I was confronted by a discussion about my son’s pink shirts. I felt blindsided. This was unfair, I was unprepared, what was her aim? I felt defensive. I had to defend my son. Our discussion became muddled and was kind of all over the place. I left feeling angry, perhaps irrationally so.

“Please explain to me about the way D dresses.”, it started off innocently enough. I explained what gender nonconformity is in children. I explained that, while D knows that he’s a boy and identifies as a boy he likes to wear colors, play with toys and do activities not typically associated with boys. I mentioned that if D was a girl who wore a lot of blue and played with trucks we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

She mentioned something about bullying, assuring me that while D has not been bullied “people” have been “asking questions”. She said they believe that boys are boys and girls are girls, that God is not gender neutral.

I became angry. I said that God made D who he is and that God does not make mistakes. I left.

After a week of seething at home, I requested another meeting with the administrator. We love this school, they so far have been nothing but awesome for us. They were the first people that recognized that our oldest son, J, is not a “bad kid” or a “stupid kid”. They recognized that J is incredibly bright and needed a bit of help socially. They were willing to work with us, as allies, for J’s cause and J has flourished with them. This fact has made this harder for us. If D was our only child in this school we would have simply pulled him, but he’s not.

Right now I prepare myself for this meeting as it decides the future outcome of my children’s education. I go in optimistic, with the hope that I will be able to work with the school to be an advocate for my son and an ally for his education.

We will see.

Our Medicated Kids

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Something that’s been a great interest of mine has been the history of psychiatry and how we came to be were we are today in terms of our psychiatric treatments and the medical model. Certainly we are far beyond transorbital lobotomies and the age of the asylum… or are we? In America today on average over 7% of children are on medication for ADHD, in some states it’s over 9%.

This is a map from 2011 showing prevalence of medication for ADHD

 

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And this is just ADHD, this map does not take into account other conditions we medicate children for like depression, anxiety, ODD or OCD.

The statistics are much worse for adult Americans, with 70% of adults on some sort of prescription drug and 1 in 4 experiencing some sort of mental health disorder, such as depression, in any given year.

I don’t have much to say about the over medication of adults in the US because I’m a firm believer that once you  turn 18 you have full licence over your body and you can do whatever you want with it as long as you aren’t hurting anybody else. If “what you want” is to take a cocktail of mind altering medication then who am I to tell you otherwise?

Kids are a sticking point for me though, and this issue is close to my heart because when my oldest was three we had the “ADHD” acronym thrown around by a preschool teacher and principal. It’s quite likely that one of my kids, at some point, might encounter some adult suggesting that he has ADHD. Hopefully it never happens but if it does I’d rather pull him out of school and homeschool him than I would medicate him into compliance. My opinion probably isn’t a popular one but I believe that ADHD is often a code word for “I can’t handle this kid and want the problem to go away with as little effort as possible on my part.” Teachers are overtaxed with increasingly larger class sizes and a rigorous “teach to test” curriculum, they don’t have the time to devote to one kid who wiggles in his seat or stares out the window.

It’s far easier to just put him on meds that make him silent and compliant.

In my opinion, it’s debatable whether or not ADHD is a valid diagnosis at all but especially in the case of children younger than 8 or so. I’m a great believer in non medication based therapy, exercise and possibly diet changes as a means of bringing calm and focus to children. All too often though teachers and doctors will throw prescriptions as a first line of response and that is doing our nation’s children a great disservice. Many of these medications are untested or cause catastrophic side affects like suicide.

There’s nothing wrong with American kids. They are kids, just like they always were. It’s the system that needs to change around them. Recess needs to return, sports and arts and other hands on, creative vocational or trade based skills need to be taught. We are looking at this backwards, we shouldn’t be drugging kids to fit into an inflexible mold, we should be changing the mold to fit the kids.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/medicated.html

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/policy-seventy-percent-of-americans-take-prescription-drugs-062113#1

CDC: Got Ethics?

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In a move that makes routine infant circumcision proponents all over the country pat each other on the back, the CDC has recently endorsed circumcision as a means for preventing the spread of HIV and other STDs.

I knew that I wanted to write about this, but to be honest I’ve had several false starts on this post. I was unsure about which angle I should approach it from. Should I talk about the Africa HIV study that the CDC’s recommendation is based off of that was flawed before it left the gate? Should I talk about American cultural bias or insurance companies or the business of selling amputated infant foreskins for profit?

I don’t know.

It sometimes feels as if the battle for genital integrity rights is a losing one in this country. Americans hold so tightly to their belief that parents should have the right to amputate healthy, normal tissue from their infant sons (not daughters mind you) that some become incensed should you suggest an alternative. The CDC’s recommendation is much like that of the AAP. They recommend it enough for insurance companies to continue to cover the surgery, but not enough to recommend it for everyone. It’s a convenient position that appears to please as many people as possible, but is it ethical?

If the CDC or AAP denounced the practice, insurance companies would stop covering it. The instances of routine infant circumcision would plummet because people are not willing to pay $200 – $500 for elective cosmetic surgery on their newborn. If someone else pays for it though fair game.

The CDC, however, is not just targeting the parents of infants anymore. They are recommending that doctors speak to intact teenagers and adults about the “benefits” of elective circumcision. I have always always said that the choice about what healthy, normal body parts should be amputated should be left up to the owner of the body parts. What if that decision is based upon misinformation, though?

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My pediatrician has always been very intact friendly. I wonder if the new recommendations will cause her to change her tune. I wonder if circumcision will be pushed upon my own children when they are old enough to decide for themselves. I wonder if their adult doctor will raise the issue with them. How many teens and young adults will now have elective amputations of healthy tissue done due to misinformation?

If I wasn’t already hyper vigilant about this issue, I certainly am now.

There’s a better way to prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs and it doesn’t require any amputations. Regular, correct condom use.