Category: Issues

More {natural, non-candy} Easter Ideas

I was feeling a bit bummed about my lack of Easter goodies for the kiddos even though we’ve been determined to go easy on the presents.  At first I was like, Those crayon rolls are awesome, they don’t need anything else!    And it’s true, they don’t need anything else and they’ll probably get goodies from the grandparents… but I still love spoiling my family on special occasions!

After sharing some of my Easter pinspirations the other day I found a few more ideas that I got excited about.  I haven’t taken any pictures because I’m still putting them together [even though I should be in bed], but I wanted to share in case you’re still scrounging for ideas.   

The other day we were working on 2 Teaching Mommie’s The 12 Days of Easter unit and on day 4 we used bubbles as a metaphor for our prayers going up to heaven.  We didn’t have any bubble solution leftover from last Summer, so I had to open up some new packages that I had put away in my gift cabinet.  They were originally given to the kids but they had these big plastic cartoon figure wands and I didn’t really care for them.  And they don’t even work very well. 

Fast forward to today, trying to think of what other trinkets I can make for the kids, and it hits me – bubble wands and bubble solution!

credit: kleas.typepad.com

I love Kleas’ homemade bead and wire bubble wands, which I’m using as inspiration to bedazzle some wire bent into shapes (a heart for Gwen and a star for Josiah).

credit: ashleyannphotography.com

I’m pairing the wands with Under the Sycamore’s diy experiment of “the world’s best bubbles,” tinted pink for Gwen and blue for Josiah (though since the dishwashing liquid I used was green, Gwen’s is orangey and Josiah’s is greenish). 

credit: probablyactually.wordpress.com

These sleepy bunny goody bags from Probably Actually were so stinkin’ cute and looked so easy to put together – especially since there’s a free template to download – I knew I had to make ’em for the kiddos.  The ones I made each contain a little bag of colors-of-faith jelly beans, but other than that they’re pretty empty.  I was going to put the bubble wands inside until I decided to make the bubble solution, too, so now I’ll probably tie those together.   

credit: purlbee.com

If I had thick enough felt I would have been all over these Super Simple Felt Easter Baskets from Purl Bee.  Even the filling is felt!  There’s always next year…

credit: amazon.com

Yesterday I was out running errands looking for some last-minute holiday items.  I can never find what I need right away, but of course I always see something I can use and end up buying other stuff.  I was excited when I saw a whole bunch of Tovolo ice pop molds; I’ve had a set on my Amazon wish list for a while now and scored the rocket molds (in red) for $7!  Homemade popsicles, here we come!

Miseducation

When we lost power during the hurricane last week, one of the books I started thumbing through was on old copy of Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk that my mother had bequeathed to me. I’m already familiar with the concepts author David Elkind writes about, but began to feel somewhat uneasy as I read his words…

All across the country, educational programs intended for school-age children are being appropriated for the education of young children.  In some states educational administrators are advocating that children enter school at age four.  Many kindergarten programs have become full-day kindergartens, and nursery school programs have become pre-kindergartens.  Moreover, many of these kindergartens have introduced curricula, including work papers, once reserved for first-grade children. 

When we instruct children in academic subjects at too early an age, we miseducate them; we put them at risk for short-term stress and long-term personality damage for no useful purpose.  There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.

I understand there are those that don’t have much of a choice in the matter – families where both parents have to work in order to pay the bills, for instance – but it has often saddened me when parents put their children in daycare programs rather than keeping them at home – especially as early as the newborn stage.  I was fortunate that I was able to take Gwendolyn to my part-time job when she was a baby; despite the inconvenience factor, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

As Gwendolyn has gotten bigger, neared school-age, I have been re-examining my role as her mother and caregiver.  The idea of public education has always turned me off, for a number of reasons, and private school has its own issues (aside from being expensive).  I myself graduated from a Christian school; while it has its upsides, and one school can be vastly different from the next, I don’t know that I would choose that for my own children.  However, I was homeschooled for a few years before entering private school, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Having a background in homeschool, knowing people who homeschool their families, having a support network in place and feeling as strongly as I do that God entrusted His children to my care – not wanting to hand over a large part of their upbringing to someone else to raise and instill them with values – homeschooling my kiddos seems like the obvious choice.

As I have researched the vast array of homeschool teaching methods, the one that most appeals to me is unschooling.  The idea of cultivating a child’s natural love of learning, keeping it alive simply by pursuing your interests and learning through those pursuits, finding what works best for us “without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do,” sounds inspirational and freeing.

Because each and every family is different, each and every method will be different, and you will find variations on a theme.  I didn’t worry too much about getting Gwendolyn ready for grade requirements, because we already engage in educational activities and pursuits all the time.  She loves books, we go to the library every week and come home with an armload – she’ll learn to read, no problem.  

I was constantly surprised when people would ask me if – at three years old – she was in school, or would soon be riding the bus to school.  They were often surprised that she was with me every day.  Gwen started showing an interest in the idea of school, of course riding a bus, and I told her Mommy wants to teach her at home.  Since she has enjoyed structured, classroom-type environments – like at Sunday School, one-morning-a-week Bible school, and VBS (vacation Bible school) in the Summer – I thought I’d do a little experiment and plan a preschool curriculum for her.

We’ve officially begun preschool (or what probably amounts to pre-pre-K), and have three weeks under our belts, but I’m constantly questioning myself.  Some days it feels so forced; I have to conjure up the excitement to try and get Gwen (and Josiah, depending on the activity – though he’s up for anything) to “do school.”  I wonder if I’m forcing something for which she isn’t developmentally able, if my good intentioned-efforts will amount to her being frustrated and losing her zest for natural learning.  I try to turn fun things into learning experiences, and vice versa, but sometimes it feels like I fail miserably.  

Parents oftentimes do things for their kids, thinking it’s in their best interest, when really it serves to make the parents feel better – things like buying toys in excess, putting them in lots of extra-curricular activities and not allowing for downtime.  I believe miseducation is one of these things.  How much is too much, and too soon?  As David Elkind says, “We miseducate young children when we assume that their learning abilities are comparable to those of older children and that they can be taught with materials and with the same instructional procedures appropriate to school-age children.” 

I would also take this a step further and say that, since each child is different, traditional schooling as a whole can provide miseducation for a child at any age.  It keeps kids in an aritificial environment (a room full of their peers), relies on specific teaching-learning styles, while discouraging and labeling those personalities that are seen as disruptive. 

Babies and kids are smart – but there are some things for which they truly aren’t ready, and no amount of toys and gadgets and flashcards and memorization will make them learn those things before they are ready.  But in a society where infant education is accepted and promoted, and children are being expected to learn skills at a younger age, how do you realistically adjust your expectations and make the right decision for your family?

Earlier this morning I was reading some of my blog subscriptions, and I was inspired by Passionate Homemaking‘s Early Learning Preschool post.  I liked the idea of their casual, playful-yet-conducive-to-learning Circle Time.  This afternoon, doing some educational things with Gwen I spread a blanket on the floor first, and it suddenly became more fun for her. 

I so desperately want to do the right thing for my kiddos; I know I’m not supposed to be perfect but I want to be the best mommy I can be and do right by them.  I want to keep their love of learning alive, not squelch it with drills and instructions and workbooks.

Early childhood is a very important period of life.  It is a period when children learn an enormous amount about the everyday world.  It is also the time during which young children acquire lifelong attitudes toward themselves, toward others, and toward learning.  But it is not the time for formal academic instruction.  To appreciate this truth, we need to see the early years for what they are and not through the lenses of social, political, and personal dynamics that provide a distorted image of early-childhood competence.

Breast Is Still Best

Nursing Josiah

You’ve all heard the “breast is best” slogan, and perhaps it’s high time we as a nation started believing it.  The article When It Comes to Breastfeeding, We Can’t Handle the Truth had me knodding my head in agreement, and got me thinking of my own experience.  Despite having read much of the breastfeeding research out there and understanding its many benefits, I have always felt guilty for pushing “my way” onto other mothers and expectant mothers.  I think the idea of being tolerant has become so enmeshed in our society that we are seen as the enemy when we speak up on these issues.  Similar to telling people they shouldn’t eat sugar and refined foods; but in the case of breastfeeding, it’s a baby who can’t make that decision for him or herself.

Formula companies make money just like any other commercial food company, and it’s in their best interest to make their product look good.  And in a society of convenience like ours, it seems like such a good idea.  Doesn’t it?  This website has excellent information on the ingredients in formula, and how other countries have actually controlled its availability due to its harmful effects.  There may be instances where the giving of formula is medically necessary – and even then I question its necessity (hello breastmilk banks) – but we are doing our children a disservice by allowing it to be so widely available and not informing consumers of its true nature.  But if we aren’t told what’s in the food on our table, why should we expect it to be any different for the food advertised for babies?  

I believe there are instances where some mothers truly cannot – for whatever reason – nurse her child.  But this is the exception, not the rule.  And you can always find a story to defend your position rather than looking at the facts and statistics.  While breastfeeding may have many benefits, it’s not a cure-all. Kids (breastfed or otherwise) that are in daycare or some type of school environment tend to get sicker just by being around other children.  If you’re giving your older baby or toddler fast food or refined foods, or course she’ll have a tendency to get sick.  But as a rule, breastfed babies tend to get sick less often, and when they do get sick, it’s for a much shorter duration.  I can attest to that.  Don’t believe me?  Go to the La Leche Leauge’s website to read all about the benefits of breastfeeding.

I didn’t have an easy time nursing Gwendolyn, my first.  She was only a week early, but weighed just over 5lbs.  I came down with rH disease during my pregnancy with her, and had IUGR to boot, so everyone was concerened about her size.  She cried constantly, always wanted to nurse, and I thought my body couldn’t keep up.  Did I mention how much it hurt?  Here I thought nursing would “come naturally,” and I was in pain for at least the first three months.  I kept saying, No wonder some mothers give up!  My pediatrician wrote “poor growth” on her charts, harped on it with each visit, and I was devastated as a first-time mother – I couldn’t feed my own baby!  She kept talking about supplementing, which I was firmly against.  Despite the fact that my baby was healthy, she remained on the small side, so all I got was insistence that she was too small and I needed to supplement.  Well, I didn’t give in, and Gwendolyn is just fine.  Turns out this is just her genetic pattern – on the small side, in the 5th percentile according to the charts they’ve developed for pediatricians.  Charts, mind you, based on averages for formula-fed babies.   I wonder how many mothers just take their doctor’s say-so because they’re supposed to be the expert.  I did see a couple lactation consultants, and will honestly say they weren’t much help; when my babies were newborns, they didn’t have a good latch so I just had to work at it and give it time.

I went back to work part-time, and pumped so my daughter would have breastmilk.  I never produced much milk (I firmly believe this correlates so breast size!), so I would set my alarm and get up at different times at night. Inconvenient?  Heck yeah!  But I’m so glad I did it.  I ended up nursing her past a year, until one day she shook her head “no” when I went to nurse her.  I thought I would be the one pushing for her to wean – I wasn’t ready!

Nursing for me wasn’t quite like riding a bicycle – the second time around it took a bit to get back into the rhythm.  Now, with Josiah at 19 months, we’re still going strong.    And since a toddler nurses far less frequently than an infant, some people have no idea we continue to breastfeed.  I love nursing him, and will be so sad when he stops.  Some people ask why you can’t get the same intimacy with cuddling as opposed to nursing.  “Just cuddling” isn’t the same as nursing – besides the nutrition and antibody aspect, it provides an intimacy and comfort that can’t compare. 

I consider myself a private person – somewhat self-conscious and not the most comfortable in my own skin – so I try not to nurse in public if I can help it.  I’m perfectly comfortable nursing in the front seat of my car before I go into a store, and tend to be as discreet as possible.  Though I’m proud of breastfeeding, I’m not ready for the scrutiny and criticism, especially when breasts are seen mainly as sexual objects in our society.  Truth be told, I get scared off by stories of patrons told to leave a restaurant because they offended someone by breastfeeding their baby (nevermind the scantily-clad gals the next table over), people who approach nursing mothers and give them an earful.  You don’t have to be a tree-hugging, crunchy-granola mama who is comfortable baring her breasts in front of everyone to enjoy breastfeeding.  I love the bond it has afforded, treasure the calories it helps me burn, and feel wonderful knowing I’m doing one of the best things for my children by giving them the healthiest start in life.

Put Down That Chocolate Milk

A few weeks ago I read an article about the proposed ban of flavored milks in public school systems, opting instead for healthier white milk.  At the time I thought how ironic it was, considering that neither option is really “healthy.” 

Everyone has her own opinion on the matter, of course, and recently I came across an article entitled “Why Banning Foods in Schools Sends Kids the Wrong Message.” Aside from being a mom, the author is a registered dietitian, interesting to note while reading her remarks as well as her response to comments. 

Since reading more about food choices these days, becoming informed on the food products available in our grocery stores, I have been appalled at some of these so-called “foods” that are played off as having any semblance of nutritional value.  Just like any other Big Business, the USDA’s nutritional guidelines are skewed by those that give the most financial contributions to their cause.  I give them props for adding such a large portion of produce to the proverbial plate, and suggesting a reduction in sodium and “sugary drinks,” but they still recommend products that contain unhealthy ingredients. 

It scares me, seeing how much the government has injected itself into our every-day lives, trying to control how we raise our children, drive our cars, and even having a say in the food we eat.  While I’m against government control, don’t think they should have a say in what we choose to eat or drink, I find it interesting that they would suggest a ban on sugary drinks in schools or implementing a beverage tax, rather than informing people of the true nature of much of the packaged foods they throw at us in order to make a profit.

I actually haven’t followed up with the flavored milk proposal, although I believe the proposed beverage tax was defeated.  Do you think it’s a good idea for the government to make these decisions for us in the interest of public health?  Gets me thinking about my kiddos’ vaccination schedule (arrrgh)… but that’s for another time.