|March 13, 2013||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Sneaking Up On A Theory of Homeschooling from Sierra at ChildWild resonated with me. She talks about how in a short time their homeschooling pattern has already changed to be less about textbooks and more about being self-directed.
I understand the allure of textbooks, but I want more freedom for Dylan. I can imagine my future unschooling self (and anxious self) in a constant mental vacillation between more and less structure.
As Sierra seeks a foundational theory for their homeschooling, she lands on this:
What if I approached schooling like I approach food?
Here’s how I feed my kids: I put healthy food on the table for them at regular meals that we sit down and eat together as a family. I trust them to decide what to put on their plates, and how much to eat. Snacks are similar: I prompt them to eat a few healthy snacks a day, but I let them choose what they want and how much. I restrict sweets to a degree, and try to model the kind of healthy eating habits I hope they’ll have as adults.
Sometimes they eat great food! Other times they eat peanut butter & honey sandwiches at every meal for a week straight. I have absolute faith that this will sort itself out over time, and that what matters most is the good food habits their dad and I model, not the details of what they eat this Thursday.
As I’m reading I’m thinking, yes! This is great! Just like I provide healthy food and creative food and model good eating habits, with unschooling I can provide good learning materials and inspirations for learning, model passionate learning myself and then let Dylan freely flow within that framework.
But then, wait. Uh. That’s not really how we do food around here. Sometimes I forget to feed Dylan entirely, a luxury of extended breastfeeding that I kind of lean on. There’s certainly not much of a schedule. Dylan eats a lot of whole foods, mostly fruit and meat, but I’m not sure I’d call what we’re doing “modeling healthy eating habits”.
Frankly, it’s probably unrealistic to think our unschooling days are going to have much form, either. We’re flexible on bedtimes, nap times, showers… very flexible. All those sorts of things that people put into schedules and routines, we just kind of dance around.
As Dylan gets older, I know our meal patterns and eating habits will change with him. But at least for now, if I’m seeking out a compatible analogy for educational aspirations food is probably not going to cut it.
|January 23, 2013||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
I mentioned in Dylan’s 19 month old post how hard he’s working to do things just like we do.
This results in adorable things like him trying to carry things twice his size.
It also results in purely not-yet-functional things, like him trying to work a screwdriver (here on an old laptop).
Even as young as he is, his desire to participate allows him to really get involved in our daily life.
He has started carrying in firewood, for example. Yes, he’s very slow, toddling the wood in one piece at a time. But he picks it up from the garden cart himself, carries it into the house, and places it in (approximately) the right place.
He can let Basement Cat in or out when she asks.
He can turn on a light when requested. This one is awesome, because it requires tools. He has to find something to stand on and move it to the light switch in order to reach.
He’s started helping with cooking tasks, like stirring up the eggs in preparation for making scrambled eggs.
Last night I was cooking dinner, and he picked up the pepper grinder and tried to grind pepper.
It’s really easy to overlook all this effort on his part – to be in a hurry, to want things done a certain way, to be mocking of his “helping”.
But what’s happening is extraordinary! I never taught him what to do with the pepper grinder. He just thought, “I can do that,” and he did it. Each of those little steps in learning tasks and skills is fascinating and enjoyable to him. His whole life right now is, “Hmm. I can do that,” “Hmm. I can do that,” “Hmm, I can do that.”
How awesome is that!? Please, may my tedious ideas about schedules and correctness interfere as little as possible in the face of such connectedness to the tiny details of right now.
|January 16, 2013||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
I missed writing this at 18 months old because the days can slip by so easily and here you are almost another month older. They are all wonderful days. Oh sure, some of them are louder and more chaotic or darker with more tears. But always, always we are in love, we two, and it’s good to be together.
A month or so ago, there was a time outside where Joshua walked into the barn to refill the pig buckets with feed for soaking. You started to toddle into the barn, and Joshua told you to go back and get a bucket to bring in with you. With a little bit of prodding, you walked back over to the buckets, picked one up, and carried it into him. I was sitting a ways away, watching this process, and what I noticed was the look of intense concentration on your face. You had seen us carry buckets, you knew just what to do, and you were determined to do it and do it well. I could see how important it all was to you.
Since then, I’ve noticed so many ways that you are turning into a little person just like Joshua and me. You talk on a pretend phone all the time (anything can be a phone!) and you tuck the phone to your shoulder just like I do and copy the patterns of our speech. We brush our teeth every night, and you go through all of the motions, from taking the cap off the toothbrush (which you can’t do yet, it’s just a cute little twisty motion you make), to brushing, to spitting (which you do as a little head bob and a kiss noise). Everything we do you’re watching and learning and enjoying.
Your favorite word/phrase is probably “thank you”, although you’re trying to say all sorts of things now (with very few consonants). I can more readily understand when you’re saying my name. It comes out like Aye-ya, and it is the sweetest sound in the universe.
You are so independent. Just a couple of days ago we were playing outside and I went inside but you didn’t follow me. I talked to Joshua for a moment, and when I next looked out for you you had walked all the way down into the pasture to play with the trailer. I got my shoes on to go after you, and by the time I got out there you had walked up to the sheep and were having a conversation with them. You’d go “Aaaaaaa!” (remember, not many consonants!), and they’d “Baaaaaa!” back and forth. You were happy to be exploring, all on your own.
On the other hand, you are so snuggly sweet and you need me so close. You’ve been learning to kiss, but it’s still open mouthed and I get covered in slobber. We hold hands when we walk together. you pull my arm over you as you drift off to sleep, snuggled deep in next to me.
I love you.
It’s getting harder to get videos and pictures of you, because you notice the camera and want to see things from my side of it. It’s even rarer that we’re in photos and videos together, since it’s always me with the camera. But, here are some of the snippets of life from the last seven months.
|December 11, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Back in September 2011, this article of mine was posted at the Natural Parents Network. I’m reprinting it here for you now.
Parenting Through Play Starts in Infancy
One of the overarching values that guides my parenting is playfulness. Through my years as a nanny, everything was made a bit easier with an attitude grounded in play and lightheartedness, and I bring this sense of play to parenting as well. When I think of playfulness as a parenting technique, I’m not just thinking about the games and stories that will be useful years from now. Parenting through play starts in infancy. It has already started, even though Dylan is only 3 months old.
Taking a parenting action that might otherwise be stressful (for either of you), harsh, abrupt, or coercive and turning it into something funny or silly or gentle or cooperative makes your relationship that much more joyful. Keeping play in mind as a value reminds me that things don’t have to be stressful; they shouldn’t be stressful. We can enjoy one another instead.
I’ll give an example.
When Dylan was in the hospital, he used the jacket-style shirts, but when we got home the shirts I had for him went over his head. Right off the bat, he hated anything touching his head or going over his eyes. Putting a shirt on was stressful for him as he jerked his body trying to get away from the offending object, stiffened up his limbs, and made gasping faces. Putting a shirt on only took seconds, but I knew I didn’t want to continue with it being stressful for him. I’m going to put a gazillion shirts on him throughout his childhood, plus touch his head for so many other reasons, like cleaning or putting on hats. I didn’t want to set a pattern of head/face touching being a horrible thing he had to put up with, but I also wasn’t going to stop putting shirts on him.
I started turning shirt-putting-on into a silly moment. I’d lightly touch his face with the shirt, make a silly noise, and pull it away before he could really react. I made it into the same game as the boop-your-nose game or tickle-your-tummy game, all sound effects and light touching. The first couple of times, he was still skeptical. I’d touch his face, make a sound, and pull away, repeat, and then make a different sound and slip the shirt over his head. He’d still be surprised, but not as much so when I’d just put the shirt on him out of nowhere. But these days, he loves the game. I scrunch the shirt up so I can see him through the neck-hole and he smiles at me in anticipation of my putting it on him.
This is such a small example of playful parenting. Maybe it seems like it’s too much work to figure out how to make something a game. But with an attitude of playfulness, the motions of play are fresh in my mind. Maybe it seems like play would take up too much time. But a few moments making something fun can save you many moments of sadness getting in the way later. Maybe it seems like any one example of an unwanted moment for your kid is insignificant, but those small moments add up to many, many moments over the life of your relationship.
Play keeps me centered on the truth that we are having a relationship. It’s not my job to just get a shirt over his head (or whatever other situation arises). It’s my job to give and take and learn and teach and give smiles and get smiles and have a good time while we’re spending our time together. With our relationship full of the joy of playfulness, we’re off to a good start.
|November 26, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
On a parenting email discussion list that I moderate, a parent recently suggested the “10-20-10″ method of attention giving. You spend 10 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes in the evening paying 1-on-1 attention to your child.That sounded like a great idea to me and easy enough for anyone to implement, right? I figured I was already doing 1-on-1 with Dylan at least that much, but that having the guideline in mind would be helpful going forward.
Right off the bat, I got a swift kick in the butt reminding me that what sounds easy to me doesn’t apply to everyone else’s situation. One parent on the list said there was no way she could do that. She had 5 kids. 40 minutes a day in 1-on-1 time with each of them would be over 3 hours a day. Not going to happen! She was an at-home mom, but still! 3 hours is a lot of time! And what would the other 4 kids be doing during the over 2 hours a day she was busy with another child?
I started paying attention to the time I spend truly focused on Dylan. I was really surprised to discover that we can go through entire days where we are never 1-on-1. I’m an at-home mom and so of course we have a lot of time together, but various tasks large and small fill up that time. There’s animal care, meal prep, eating, cleaning, the time I spend working, errands, and naps. Joshua works from home, too, so he and I interact a lot through the day.
Dylan still nurses several times a day, so I know he’s not starved for mama time. I really value that time together, as well as our sleeping time, but it isn’t what I think of as time where I’m focused on him. I’m not really paying attention to him during those times, even though we are literally connected.
Thinking about this has reminded me of the importance of routine activities. When our day is busy and distracted, it’s even more clear to me how important it is to enjoy the tiny moments, like during diaper changes. Normally, you might think of a diaper change as something to hurry through. A little shift in perspective, though, and a diaper change is 2 minutes all to yourselves, 1-on-1. It’s time for a song, some smiles, some touching, some eye-contact, and a moment to “get away from it all”.
The time it takes to get from one place to another is also a great moment to connect. Whether it’s walking from room to room hand in hand or it’s driving somewhere and singing or talking together along the way, these are great times to catch a little connection.
In this way, I might not always spend 10 or 20 minutes fully focused on Dylan, but we have an entire day of being connected even when it seems like we’re really busy.
|November 19, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting, Radical Self-Acceptance|
As a person-with-depression, I have good days and bad days. Do I have more bad days than people without depression have? How would I know? There’s never anyone else on the therapist’s couch with you, and all you can see are other people’s outsides. What I believe is that my bad days are worse than most people’s bad days. They aren’t the worst kinds of days a person can have. Not by a long shot. But they suck.
Dylan is stuck with me. He’s along for my ride.
On good days, I am an excited, engaged, creative parent. Songs! Explanations! Ideas! Love!
On bad days, I’m kind of a lump. Stares. Sighs. Turning away. Some hard core whining.
When I’m feeling like a lump, I feel guilty about sticking Dylan with me. I worry that my bad moods are damaging to him somehow. I worry that my moods changing from highs to lows are confusing for him. I wish that he had a better mother.
When I’m not in a depressed mood, I know that that’s all bullshit. Dylan deserves a mother who is human, who has ups and downs, and who isn’t the picture of perfection all the time. And he definitely deserves his actual mother. I am exactly the mother he needs and wants.
What’s your big insecurity as a parent? I’m sure we all have them. What’s the thing that’s central to your personality that makes you question your worth as a parent?
|November 14, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Yesterday, I decided to start day-weaning Dylan. Then I changed my mind. Then I changed it back. Then I changed it again. Maybe some more times, too. Then I started to get really upset at my lack of decision. Then I realized that most mamas have complicated feelings about weaning. So I gave myself some slack and nursed my baby.
I’ve been nursing Dylan for 17 months now. He nurses 6-8 times a day still, which means he’s still getting significant calories from breastmilk. He comfort nurses some during the night, and he nurses to fall asleep, and he still has at least two “meals” at the breast.
My reasons for thinking about doing some weaning are complicated and sad and sometimes desperate feeling. I go back and forth about whether I want to treat my mental illness/es with medication and if so, whether I want to do that while nursing.
What I settled on yesterday is that I really love breastfeeding. Sometimes when I am severely depressed it’s hard to know what I want and what’s important and what matters. Breastfeeding is all of those things, and I have no doubt about that.
Today I’m making a phone call to another potential doctor and I’ll go back and forth about whether or not to try another medication. But for now I’m still committed to breastfeeding.
|November 12, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Parenting has a lot to do with trust. You set the stage for so many things. You prepare, you explain, you suggest, you encourage, you discourage, you show and you tell. But you also trust your child to pick up on the other side of the equation, to take what you’ve offered and run with it, to be a person, and specifically to be a new person. To be an individual who has never existed before.
A lot of parents want to do more than set the stage. They want to guide their kids in a particular direction. From the day their kids are born they are pushing them to make the next milestone.
But that isn’t me.
I was excited to see when Dylan would roll over, but I never laid interesting toys just outside his grasp and encouraged him to roll towards them. No matter, he learned to roll over anyway. We never did any “practice walking” with me leading him around the house held up by his hands. No worries, he learned to walk plenty quickly! Right now I’m not doing much in the way of teaching him to say certain words. I talk to him, and I figure he’ll learn how to talk.
Even for the more milestone oriented parents, most of them don’t institute some kind of “walking program” or “sitting up training” or “first words school”. The early years are pretty educationally laid back. The years go by, and somehow your child learns to do a million things – roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, jump, run, climb, talk, point, turn the pages of a book, stack blocks, eat with a spoon, help put on clothes, pull the cat’s tail and then not – all without any kind of formal instructional effort on the part of parents.
Check out the beginning of this post, Natural Learning: One family’s story:
I have 3 daughters. Tannah, my eldest at 5, walked at almost 18 months. Willow, the middle child, walked at 10 months. And Harper, my baby who has just had her first birthday, is yet to walk-but she can climb!
I did not put Tannah in remedial walking. I was not taken aside by an expert to say that she was behind her peers and we would have to work hard to have her catch up. Willow was not in a gifted walkers program. There was no pressure on her to then perform all her milestones early to keep that “gifted” label. Harper does not have a “walking difficulty” because she is learning in a different way to other walkers.
That’s the language of schooling, of course, and many of us are familiar with that language. School is about making sure a child learns certain things and fits in certain boxes. It’s the opposite of trust. It’s control instead.
I’ve long been intrigued by unschooling. I read the blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write which is written by a person who did not go to school and is now an adult. In the post Unschooling and Trust, the author explicitly ties the two together in several different ways:
Trusting that Nature/evolution/the Divine/God/Goddess has created human beings capable of learning, capable of following their innate drive to learn, capable of making the important decisions in their lives. It’s trusting that nature got things right.
Trusting, as a parent, that you have the capability (and strength, ability, surety) to make the decision to take your kids out of school, or to never send them to school to begin with. And trusting that your children are capable people, able to learn and grow guided by their innate desire to explore the world around them.
Trusting yourself, as someone who is themselves of an age to be in compulsory schooling, to have the insight, foresight, strength and ability to take the leap of leaving school, or if your parents made that decision at an earlier point for you, trusting that you really have always been and continue to be capable of controlling your own learning, “education,” and life.
What causes us to go from the trusting days of early childhood to the controlling schoolhouse years? Some people might say that school subjects “matter” more than babyhood skills. But surely walking and talking are pretty damn important. Maybe you would say that walking and talking are “instincts”, but that doesn’t account for all the other things young children learn to do.
Right now I feel very trusting about my relationship with Dylan, his desire to learn and grow, and our ability to navigate an enriching experience together. But how long will I continue to hold onto that trust?
|October 16, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
This article of mine originally appeared on the site Write About Birth. I recently noticed that Write About Birth no longer exists, so I want to republish that article here. This was written in March 2011, three months before Dylan was born. The path his birth took differed from my imaginings, and you can read the whole birth story as well, starting here.
Planning a Freebirth Experience
I’m pregnant with my first child, and sometime in May I’ll be having a freebirth – that is, I’ll be at home, surrounded by my partner and friends with no medical personnel in sight. Freebirth, also called unassisted childbirth, is a fringe choice. I live in the US where around 1% of birthing women give birth at home, usually with a midwife. The numbers for freebirthing women are even tinier. An interesting question that arises then is what leads a woman to choose this, and more to the point, why have I chosen it?
Some women think that birthing at home is safer. The research on this is hotly debated elsewhere online, and frankly, I’m conflicted. Medical emergencies happen sometimes whether you’re birthing or not, and it seems like if we lived in a hospital 24/7, that would probably be “safer”. If everyone ate all their meals in a hospital, probably no one would ever die from choking or allergic reactions, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest that we do that. I don’t eat my meals at home because it’s “safer”, and I’m not birthing at home because it’s “safer”, either.
Some women choose to freebirth because of religious or spiritual beliefs. They believe that god designed their bodies to give birth easily and they trust in god’s will to get them through birth however the grand plan is intended. I’m an atheist and have no such beliefs to drive me.
Some women seek out homebirthing or freebirthing because of past trauma with the medical birthing system. They may have had a C-section that they felt railroaded into or experienced physical violations at the hands of doctors. This doesn’t apply to me, either.
In fact, some women who choose to homebirth or freebirth shy away from modern medical care entirely. They are more interested in natural remedies of healing, such as herbs, homeopathy, and other alternative medicines. I’m the complete opposite. While some women use natural remedies to boost fertility, for example, I had a LOT of modern medical help getting and staying pregnant. The one time I tried a home remedy for something, I ended up over-dosing on parsley. I’m a skeptic when it comes to natural remedies.
So if I’m not doing it because it’s safer, I’m not invested in a spiritual practice, I don’t have a negative medical experience in my past, and I’m a pretty big fan of modern medicine in general, what the hell am I doing have a freebirth?
Olivia [the owner of Write About Birth] posted recently about the often mocked “birth experience”. People who are opposed to homebirthing or natural birthing talk down about women who are seeking a particular birth experience. I loved Olivia’s point that aren’t women who go to the hospital seeking a particular experience as well? But whatever it is that you’re after, whatever your goals are, whatever leads you to give birth in the hospital, at home with a midwife, or at home alone, you’re supposed to deny that you’re after an “experience”. You wouldn’t want to appear “selfish” or overly concerned with your “comfort”. You’re supposed to have reasons like safety, trusting god’s will, or something, anything that sounds like a “good” reason.
Well, I’m here to confess.
For me, it’s all about the experience. My experience. My comfort. Giving birth is very important to me, and it matters to me what kind of experience I have while doing it. It matters who is there with me and what gets said. It matters that I feel free to be myself and am not being watched by strangers. It matters that there’s no one there guiding me in a particular way and that I’m going with the flow with only myself as a guide. Even the really supposedly petty stuff that anti-homebirthers make fun of matter to me – how dim the lights are, what music is playing, what clothes I’m wearing, and that I can sit in my favorite chair.
I’m going to be at home, with my own bed, my own bathroom, my own stuff, my partner, my friends, my cats, and my own comfortable self. Me. I just want to be myself. Giving birth will be one of the most important things I do in my life, and I do not want to hand it over to someone else. Neither the experience itself nor the responsibility that comes with it can be given to someone else. If it all goes right, that will belong to me. If something goes wrong, that will belong to me, too. Being in a hospital is a fundamentally impersonal experience, and I’m just not signing up for that.
Going back to the safety question, if giving birth at home really is just as safe as giving birth in a hospital, then that’s perfect. I’ll have given birth just the way I like with no additional risk. If even the scariest proposed numbers are true, though, then the risk to the life of the baby goes up a couple of percent, at most. To my mind, this is still small. This is still worth it. I know some people would reel in horror at me saying that I accept some additional risk to the baby. They say all that should matter is a healthy baby. And of course I care about the baby! I’ve tried very hard to have this baby, and to suggest that I don’t care about the baby is silly. But I want to remind the critics that there are two of us here, and we BOTH matter.
In the end, it’s okay if people want to call me selfish. Too often it seems like the directive of “you shouldn’t be selfish” is code for “you don’t matter”. I matter. I matter to myself very much. So, fine. It’s selfish. I’m okay with that.
This birth is MINE. It belongs to me. It is of my body. And you can’t have it. You can’t dictate how it will go or where it will occur or who will be there or any of that. It’s mine, and I’m not giving it away.
|October 15, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Dylan has gotten to the stage where he needs new, bigger cloth diapers if we’re going to continue on with cloth. I got an offer to check out a sample of Itti Bitti brand’s new one size diaper called Bitti Tutto. This sounded like the perfect opportunity to check out a new diaper possibility for Dylan as well as review it for you guys. My product review went through a few stages – the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Let’s start with the beautiful!
If you’re into cloth diapers, you know that the colorful fabrics, the soft textures, and the neat styles can really draw you in. When I first started reading about cloth diapering, I couldn’t figure out why all these parents were swooning over diapers. But, after I started getting into it I got swept along, too. Cloth diapers are neat!
When I got the Bitti Tutto, I was so delighted at how it looks and feels. The diaper I got is a gorgeous multi-color stripe. The outer minky fabric (no cover required!) is so silky soft, and the inside and inserts are super-soft as well.
The three included inserts immediately delighted me. The different shapes and the color coded snaps make sense and make this diaper stand out in it’s versitility. This is a cool diaper.
Okay, let’s talk features and quality. This is a luxury diaper, no doubt. It retails at $27, so you want a lot of quality details for that price, and the Itti Bitti comes through.
- The fit is trim through the legs, making it suitable for smaller babies and comfortable for older ones. You can use the inserts to achieve the desired absorbency rather than having a lot of bulky redundancy built in.
- The rise is adjustable to four positions. The waist is adjustable to five positions PLUS crossover snaps that hideaway if you don’t need them. This gives the Bitti Tutto incredible adjustability, especially on the tiny end.
- The diaper has leg gussets to prevent leaks PLUS the gusset goes all the way over the back, giving extra protection against poop leaks.
- The whole package is well-made with attention to detail and worthy of the luxury price.
Okay, with all that said, what could possibly go wrong? Well, it turns out the Bitti Tutto has a tragic flaw, at least for my family.
The diaper has so much adjustability for different sizes and shapes of babies. They advertise fitting babies from 8 pounds to 44 pounds. Dylan weighs 35 pounds so we should have been sitting pretty. Unfortunately, Dylan needed the biggest rise position and the biggest waist position, meaning there wouldn’t be much useful life left in them for us as he continues to grow. BUT, the worst part is that even at the biggest sizes, an inch and a half of his butt crack was sticking out. I don’t care how good the magic poop gusset is if his butt crack is showing!
So sad! All these different sizing possibilities and none that fit Dylan!
I’m in the market for a diaper system solution right now. Everything else was just right about the Bitti Tutto. If it hadn’t been for that wayward butt crack, I would invest in these right now.
Can you recommend another option that might work for us?
Or have you tried the Bitti Tutto? How did it work out for you?
Click here to buy your own Bitti Tutto diapers!