Monthly Archives: September 2011

Our Decision To Homeschool

The decision to homeschool is an easy – and a hard – one to make. For us there weren’t many factors to consider. We don’t like the school system. And we can’t find an alternate school capable of providing what we think is a better option. However, everywhere we turn someone questions our choice. The funny thing is that not only do people question our choice, but they seem to take it as a personal affront.

The biggest argument against homeschooling is that children won’t be socialized properly. I can only shake my head and laugh at that. Though I can understand where the argument comes from. People believe that homeschooling is school at home. In the sense that mom or dad or both parents sit their child(ren) down at the table and teach them much the same as teachers in schools teach. I’m sure some people homeschool this way, but many don’t. Home-schoolers meet up with each other regularly and their children grow up with mostly the same group of children around them. The biggest difference is that the home schooled children have a wider variety of ages and abilities surrounding them. Because we aren’t tied to particular lessons or methods of learning we also have the opportunity to spend time socializing with random people in the neighbourhood. We can spend a larger period of time at the library, grocery store, museum, or any other place that catches our interest.

I’m happy to say we socialize so much we’ve worn ourselves out and needed to take a bit of a break from all our play-dates. The girls are learning which people they prefer playing with as well as how to play with them. Parents are always close at hand to help our children navigate the tricky social interactions.

The second biggest concern with homeschooling is how children learn X, Y, Z. It doesn’t matter whether the topic is reading, calculus, biology, or some other subject. Other people are always concerned that our children won’t learn.

I’m not concerned. After all, I never took calculus. It wasn’t necessary. I also don’t think it would really add anything to my current life so I don’t pursue it now either. I did learn world history, American history, and a pile of other stuff that I don’t recall. But that’s the point. I don’t recall it at all. All I know about the world is based on actively finding the information now. Being forced to bring newspaper articles to school (didn’t it ever occur to them that not everyone buys the paper?) never encouraged me to delve into current events.

Certainly there will be things our children don’t learn. They might never be interested in the Renaissance, American or Canadian history. They might never learn about sin or cosine waves. They may not learn how to write a chemical formula. Sending them to school won’t guarantee they learn that either.  Teaching the information isn’t enough to make a student want to learn. Unless the desire is there, the information won’t stick.

If our children want to follow a path that requires they understand the finer details of the evolution of passerines, then they will find the information they need. We’ll help when necessary.

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Gluten-free Frosted Pumpkin Cookies

Cookies are the perfect treat.
They’re easy to carry with you, and they can be enjoyed in so many ways. With a glass of milk or beside a warm cup of coffee they complement any weather or appetite. As leaves change colours and the air cools, thoughts drift to turkeys and pumpkins.
Pumpkin pie isn’t as easy to make as it once was,  pie shells really aren’t quite the same. There are some good substitutes such as almonds or crumbs from gluten-free ginger snaps, but even a good substitute doesn’t quite live up to the memory. Nothing compares to those memories – and likely never will. Instead we find new memories. These cookies are perfect. They’re comparable to a soft gingerbread, soft and chewy and oh so good. In fact I think I may modify this for our gingerbread houses this year .
Cookies
2 1/2 cups Gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 tsp guar gum (Or xanthan gum)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
Glaze
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by small tablespoonfuls.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies.
  4. To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.
Drizzle the glaze over the cookies with a fork, or spoon over to cover the top. The glaze also works well as a ‘glue’ for designs cut from sugar sheets.

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Growth Spurt

An experienced parent knows that a baby eating more than usual, sleeping more than usual, fussing more than usual usually means a growth spurt. Most babies follow a similar pattern: 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months mark large periods of growth. During this time a baby nurses for hours on end, many mothers incorrectly assume they don’t have a large enough milk supply for their baby. Many mothers unwittingly supplement. A baby nursing even after the breast is empty will be okay. They’ll feed more frequently, they’ll feed longer, they’ll increase the milk supply just by nursing more. It might take a day or two, but Mama’s body will catch up and baby will thrive and grow – without ever needing supplementation.

It sounds easy enough. Baby wants to nurse, let baby nurse. Baby wants to sleep, let baby sleep, baby needs extra cuddles, then cuddle your sweet baby.

But what about older children? What signs mark periods of growth after baby is walking and talking? Unfortunately, even though they have so much experience with it, children don’t automatically realize they’re growing. In fact they seldom know until one day they grab something that was a foot out of reach the day before.

Parents don’t usually realize their children are growing either, until they buy new clothes. The clothes come home from the store, slightly big. Daddy removes the tags, by nightfall the clothes don’t fit.

There are other clues that our children are growing. Some sweeter than others. At all ages and stages of growth children tend to eat and sleep more while they’re growing. But they also tend to upset more easily.

Recently we’ve been faced with a houseful of growing girls. One day the girls sang in harmony. The next day they insisted no one sing at all.

We see little girls that push each other, bite, kick, or hit more often. They have a more difficult time talking things through with each other. A little stumble creates giant tears, that last for hours. If one girl wants something, the other wants the opposite. No food is the right food, something we don’t have is always the preferred choice.

For us other signs of growing include:

loss of coordination, more likely to stumble

rocking

hand wringing or shaking

stuttering

toe walking

refusing to sleep

gulping/sucking air

burping (think of the sound Gollum makes)

Chewing (on fingers, clothes, anything in reach)

 

Mostly we ignore the tics while they pass, but we also try to help the girls cope with them. We provide chew toys when needed, straws for drinking, bikes to ride rather than walking, a trampoline to bounce on, soft cushions to crash on. And most importantly we try to offer patience and love. These will pass, and they’ll pass faster if we offer support, rather than consequences.

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Sibling Bonding

Everywhere I turn I hear parents lamenting sibling rivalry. I hear them asking how to get one child to leave the other alone. I hear them saying they don’t want the four year old to touch the baby, but then in two years they get upset when the six year old doesn’t want the two year old around.

When Agatha was born, we had our fair share of ‘problems’ as we navigated from one child to two. Our poor little Agatha was bumped and bruised, cut and scraped so many times. But she was so in love with her big sister (when she wasn’t afraid). We eventually figured things out and the relationship improved.

Now that Cordelia’s here things could be very difficult, but instead we find things even better than before. Our two big girls are so excited to help and share, and Cordelia is so in love with her sisters. She can’t get enough of them. There is no fear, there are no cuts or bruises, just love.

How did this happen?

First, the girls were involved with the pregnancy. They came to appointments, they helped us choose names, they touched my belly, they talked to the baby, they hugged and kissed her while she was still inside. They were present at her birth, and were invited to hold her as soon as I was willing to let my baby out of my arms for the first time.

When Cordelia came home with us, we encouraged the girls to hold her as much as they wanted. We’d sit them at the couch and hover. After all a newborn baby is rather floppy. As Cordelia became stronger, we hovered less. Now Agatha holds Cordelia on her own all the time, Ella carries Cordelia around the house. Whenever they want to do something with each other, or the baby, we try to find a way to help them play together, to accomplish their goals.

Some ways we do that include: playing tag with the girls, and tackle games. I carry Cordelia and chase the girls around the house. I’m sure to give all of them plenty of chance to see each others faces. In the beginning, I’d point out the huge smile, the look of intense pleasure, on Cordelia’s face, now we just play. They all have so much fun together. They all get a chance to be on an even playing field. As Cordelia gets bigger I’ll add in soccer. I carry her (when she’s bigger I’ll hold her hands) while she runs and kicks the ball, and the big girls try to get the ball away, or Cordelia tries to get the ball from them. They aren’t competition games because there is no win or lose. The whole entire point is to have fun. It doesn’t matter who has the ball because everyone’s playing together. As they get older these games could translate into competition, but for now it’s bonding.

During the day I spend a lot of time interpreting for the big girls. They rush over and pick Cordelia up and she whimpers. I point out the sounds, and let them know she doesn’t like that. I then offer a suggestion for what they could do that’d she’d likely enjoy. As she gets bigger, I’ll also help her figure out words to use so she can let them know on her own that she’s unhappy with a particular turn of events.

Right now it seems as though the most important part of having a positive experience with their sisters is me helping them figure out what the other means. They don’t have the knowledge base to figure out on their own that certain faces or sounds mean someone else isn’t having fun. They also don’t have the ability to put someone else’s needs or desires above their own. It’s my job to advocate for each of my children.

It doesn’t matter, for the most part, what happened, who started it, why someone’s crying, or anything else that divides the children. What matters is figuring out how to find a solution that preserves respect. It matters that they learn new methods of communicating, and playing together.

One day they won’t need me to step in as often as I do, one day they won’t need me to point out when someone else cries. One day they’ll take these skills and use them on their own, in the ‘real’ world. But for now they’re little girls playing together, loving each other, and loving life.

Is there something your family did – or does – that helps promote bonding between children, particularly children of vastly different ages and abilities?

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Life Dreams

When embarking on the unschooling, life-learning path, a person needs to de-school. This invokes breaking away from the conventional set of wisdom that says a person needs to worry about X, Y, Z or should do Q, R, S. It means realizing certain things aren’t important after all, and other things are.

Each person, each family, will follow a different path. Some will need to de-school more than others. Some will have no trouble stepping away from certain fears, others become even more frightened at the thought of such freedom.

The questions revolve endlessly. How will children ever learn? How will they ever socialize? If no one tells them what to eat, or not to eat,t hen how will they be healthy? If they don’t have a bed time, then how will the adults ever have alone time together? The questions I ask are different than the ones you ask – and our answers will be different as well.

Because my family, my background aren’t yours.

Most of the time I don’t have those fears. I know myself and my husband, and I know my children. They’ll learn and they’ll be healthy.

For me, I’ve had to deschool in a different manner. I’ve had to pull away from the idea that adults wake up, go to work, watch TV, eat, and go to bed. There’s more to life than that and I’m not going to fall into the trap of believing I shouldn’t expect anymore than that.

Over the past year I’ve starting writing again. It’s slow at the moment, but I’ve completed two novels. I’m working on another. I’ve outlined a children’s/young adult story that’s been heartily approved by the girls. I think I’ll finish this one before I finish my other one. lol I find I work better with multiple things on the go.

I’ve also taken up painting. It’s just for fun at the moment, but I enjoy it and that’s the important part. I’ve also been having fun cooking, baking, sewing, gardening….I keep finding new ideas and pursuits. I’m not sure which I’ll stick with, which I won’t. I’m not sure if any of them will ever make me money. None of that matters. What does matter is that I’m showing my children what a full life looks like. They see me spending time with them, with Ryan, with friends and family. They see me doing things for myself as well as my family.

Someone once told me that in order to be ‘happy’ a person needs to have ten labels for themselves that do not involve their role within the family or work force. Only in the past few months have I been able to actually say I’m leading a full life, by this definition. And I feel better than I have in years. I enjoy jumping out of bed each morning (okay that’s figuratively – I really love my bed int he morning) and wish there were more hours in the day in which to chase my dreams (and children).

Have you tried something new recently, pulled yourself out of your comfort zone in order to pursue your dreams?

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