Unschool Epiphany!

This is our second year of homeschooling, and I couldn’t  be happier with the way things are going. This year we have shifted from a more traditional curriculum-based homeschooling style, to unschooling/child-led learning. The more I have learned about the child-led learning process, the more excited I became to go for it and give it a shot. The hardest part of unschooling is worrying that your kids aren’t self-motivated enough to learn what they need to learn to be successful adults. This has been especially challenging for my husband, who was traditionally homeschooled. I have found myself whispering “unschooling!” to him whenever one of our kids is engaging in something educational according to their own free will. Slowly, he has started to see it for himself.

One of our biggest successes so far happened just a few days ago with my five year old, Ava. Ava has been showing a lot of interest in number lately. One of her favorite games is to count and sort her treats. She got a full size bag of M&Ms for Halloween, and I told her she could only eat half the bag. So I gave her a paper plate and had her sort her candies by color, then divide each color into two even piles, then put one pile back into the bag for later. She had more fun doing that, than she did eating the candy. This is what child-led learning is all about! She enjoyed the game so much, that she didn’t even realize she was learning, and has wanted to repeat it over and over again. I believe it was the game with the M&Ms, that led to her epiphany a few days ago.

All day, Ava kept asking me “What’s seven and four plussed together?” “What’s eight and free plussed together?”. The tricky part of unschooling, is knowing when to just give the answer, so as not to interrupt their train of thought and derail their creativity, and when to use the moment as an opportunity to teach them something new. Since Ava seemed persistent in her math quest, I chose to use that time to show her how to do addition on her own using our dry-erase board.  Similarly to the M&M game, I wrote out an addition problem horizontally on the white board, and then showed her how to draw small circles under each number (very M&M-like), and then count the circles all together. And whataya know, it just clicked! Seeing her so proud of herself was so fulfilling for me.

I think back to doing math homework with my oldest daughter, Kylie, when she was in public school, and how we would spend 45 minutes on one worksheet. We would go around and around until both our brains were melting from frustration; all because she wasn’t ready to learn it yet. Then, on the flip side, it took all of ten minutes to teach Ava how to add and she had it down pat. Having the option of waiting until my kids are ready to learn something, rather than trying to cram the information into their brains so they score well on their tests is worth its weight in gold. Knowing that my kids will learn what they’re meant to learn, when they’re meant to learn it, is even more valuable.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to homeschool your kids, I say do it! Life is too short to be constantly battling your kids to complete homework deemed necessary by someone else’s standards. For more info on unschooling/child-led learning, please click the links below.

The Benefits of Unschooling: Report I from a Large Survey

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201202/the-benefits-unschooling-report-i-large-survey

“Unschooled” Kids Do Just Fine in College

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/unschooled-kids-have-few-problems-once-they-hit-college-180952613/?no-ist

This link has a whole slew of links to studies and info on homeschooling and unschooling.

http://www.johnholtgws.com/unschooling-research-and-support/

 

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How Childhood Trauma Impacts My Parenting Today

The subject of this blog post may cause a bit of controversy among some of my family members, but I feel very strongly about sharing my story. I find sharing the story of my childhood to be very therapeutic. I feel as though every time someone listens, they take a little bit of weight off my shoulders; so the more I share, the less weight I have to carry around. Not everyone in my family feels the same way. I will try to respect that as much as possible by only sharing my own personal experiences. My experiences are my own, and no one can silence me from sharing what I have been through. Sometimes it’s more important to do what feels best for you. And what feel best for me is to share my story and hopefully help others along the way. I can only hope that my family will understand.

Many people who know me personally have heard me mention that I grew up in an abusive home. Very few people know the details of that abuse. I pride myself on being an open book, so I willingly share the details of my childhood with anyone who is curious, but still, it’s not like it comes up often. My husband of 12 years, Ben, knows more than anyone else. In fact, he was the first person I ever told. Not only that, but he is single-handedly responsible for getting me out of that situation and has since provided me with a sense of peace that I had never experienced before. He truly is my knight in shining armor. I was raised by a single mother with severe metal health problems. She was very volatile and was often angry for no apparent reason. Even in my short stint in what I call “pseudo-foster care”, she still tried very hard to control me. I had to be careful about what I said to people, because if I were to ever speak ill of my mother, it was viewed as an act of treason, which would result in an excessive punishment.

There was a time in my life that I believed that things would never get better. That I wasn’t meant to have a happy, successful life. I would lay awake at night, sick with worry about the situation I was stuck in. I slept on a bare mattress with exposed springs, with a pillow that had dog poop on it. I had long since lost track of which side of the pillow it was on. It didn’t really matter, everything in our house was filthy. My mom has always had problems with hoarding, but it wasn’t until the summer before 8th grade, that it got really, really bad. My mom had started taking in animals, but had no ability to care for them. Slowly but surely, our house was taken over by filth and clutter. Our living room was no longer habitable. There were cockroaches in everything. One of the reasons I had so much trouble sleeping, was that when I turned the lights out at night, it was only a matter of time before the roaches would climb up the wall next to my bed. I would have to stay alert, so I could swipe them back down under the bed. I would listen for the “plop” of it hitting the trash that was shoved under there. If there was no “plop”, it had most likely had fallen into bed with me, which meant I had to get up, turn the light on and shake out my blanket. This was my nightly routine. It was one of these nights, that I lay awake with a knot in my gut, thinking about life, and what the future held for me. I was 14 and supposed to be in the 8th grade. I had no choice but to drop out of school because of the nightmare of a home life I had. My grades were horrendous and my attendance was equally as bad. There was just no way for me to keep up the charade that everything was okay at home anymore. I laid there in my bed, thinking about how I would never get a job or ever even have a boyfriend. I was probably going to die without ever being kissed. Who would want to kiss me? I was the stinky kid. Who would want to hire me? I had no education. I felt like I was the only person with enough foresight to see that I had no future. That’s when I heard a loud “Pop!” come from my closet and noticed a warm, flickering light. I got up to find the water heater on fire. I managed to quickly put it out. You know how sometimes you think things couldn’t possibly get worse, but then they do? From that day forward, we had no hot water. Which meant no more showers. Not that I was taking very many showers at that time, because the tub was filled with garbage and cat poop. So, horrible story horribler, I ended up going several months without bathing or changing my clothes. This was by far the worst time in my life. I only got to leave the house in the middle of the night, so as to avoid being around people. Strangers would make comments about the way I smelled. It was humiliating. It still is. The first time I told my husband about this time in my life, I actually thought I was going to vomit. Keeping secrets like that, eat away at your core and fill your body with a dark, black poison. When you finally unleash those secrets, your body physically hurts.

You might be thinking that this is the most depressing thing you have ever read, but I assure you, it has a happy ending…. Eventually. One morning my mom woke me up early to tell me that she was going to check herself into the psychiatric ward, and I was going to go stay with my aunt. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life that was also filled with pain and anxiety, but at least I was no longer living in a prison of garbage and feces. The thought of having to go to my aunts house in the disgusting state that I was in was terrifying. I went into my closet and dug around in the bottom of a box of dirty laundry that my cat had given birth in, and found a pair of underwear to change into. I knew that even if the cat had given birth on them, they would be cleaner than the ones I had been wearing for the last several months. I ended up missing around a year of school, but I did eventually re-enroll. Thanks to various extended family members and pseudo-foster families, I had clean clothes and access to a shower. And for the first time in a very long time, I had friends again.

The point of telling this story isn’t to make you feel sorry for me, but to illustrate why I take parenting so seriously. My number one goal in life to be the adult that I needed growing up. It is hard to explain the level of loneliness that you feel when the one person that is supposed to be your soft spot to fall, is the main source of your pain and fear. If you can’t trust your own mother to not hurt you, who can you trust? I am devoted to parenting my kids peacefully, so they will never have to know what that loneliness feels like. I hope my kids will never have to feel that knot of anxiety that I used to feel right before I would open to front door when I got home from school; not knowing what I was walking into. I want my kids to come home filled with joy and excitement. I want this to be their safe haven where they are free to say what’s on their minds, and express themselves. Where they can come to me if they are having problems without having to worry that I will be angry with them or hit them. I want them to feel at peace when they are around me. I’m certainly not a perfect parent. We all have bad days where we are out of patience. I lose my temper and yell at my kids. I hide from them in my room when I’m feeling overwhelmed. When I find myself doing those thing more often than I would like, I take the time to think back to when I was 14 and convinced I would die without ever being kissed. It puts everything back into perspective and helps me to appreciate having a life that I never thought was possible for a person like me. I will forever be grateful to my husband for swooping in and delivering me from that shit-hole of a situation. I will never understand why someone who comes from such a normal family would want to get involved with someone like me, who brings a whole lot of baggage with her. I mean, I have outstanding boobs, but they’re not “I’d love to marry you in spite of your emotional damage” outstanding. Whatevs… He’s stuck with me now. And boy, am I glad that he is, because he’s an amazing father and husband. Above all though, he is my best friend and I owe him a debt that I can never repay.

The Birth of Bailey

   Since my birth stories are in such high demand (they aren’t), I will continue the saga by telling the tale of how Bailey came to be.

We decided to wait until after my 21st birthday to try for our next baby. I wanted to get drunk legally for the first time in my life, so I thought it through, and figured it would be much too challenging to let hot dudes do shots out of my belly button while I’m “with child”, because when I get pregnant my belly button is flush with the rest of my tummy. And, when you factor in that it turns brown and has a perfect wagon wheel pattern in it, it looks just like a cat’s butt hole. And ain’t no one want to do shots out of a cat’s butt hole. At least I hope not. Goddammit, now I’m gonna have to Google that.. Plus drinking while you’re knocked up is frowned upon in most cultures. Although, I often wonder if giving up booze and coffee was even worth it since my kids turned out three quarters retarded anyways.

My 21st birthday was pretty fun. We drove to Portland with some friends, spent all of our money in like ten minutes, then decided to go home, get drunk there and play Mario Kart on the 64 to our heart’s content.

Three days after I conceived Bailey (I shit you not), I woke up and told Ben “I’m either pregnant, or I have Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.” I was sooooo tired. I am convinced, despite getting knocked up on the first try each time, that I was never meant to be pregnant. My body goes to shit in ways I never knew could happen. With Bailey I was foggy and tired all the time. My brain was exhausted the whole time. On top of that, I had a rapid heart rate and saw nonexistent spiders crawling on the walls out of the corner of my eye. On the plus side, my usual bout of nausea was shortened to a mere four months, as opposed to six months with my other pregnancies. (Can I please just take a moment to be thankful that I will NEVER be pregnant EVER again? Thank you God for Vasectomies! Ok, moment over. But seriously, I still have nightmares that I find out I’m pregnant and It’s HORRIFYING!!!)

Fast forwarding a bit, Bailey was a huge baby. And a total dick. She stayed in the same spot with her back as far right in my uterus as possible and she only moved so that she could wedge her bony, little feet under my ribs. I would push her feet down, and she would shove them back up even harder. Then three weeks before my due date, she dropped. Since I have hyper-extendable joints, my hips were always on the verge of being pushed out of socket, which basically destroyed my sciatic nerve. It was freaking miserable. So, as you can imagine, when they offered to induce me, I was super on board. I got the epidural shortly into my induction, which I now know was a mistake. Having someone shove a giant needle that looks like something manufactured by Acme into your spine is so much worse when you don’t already feel like you’re dying.

Since I pushed for three hours with our first baby, Ben assumed that we would be in for another long stint of pushing this time around, too. So when I told him it was almost time and he should go get Rachel, my sister-in-law (who was filming the birth) he decided to take his time and get a drink of water, go to the bathroom and then let her know that things might be happening soon. Meanwhile, my epidural totally abandoned me in my time of need, so I could feel everything. Including the overwhelming urge to push. My body just started pushing with all it’s might, whether I was ready or not. The problem with that, is that I was all alone in my room. I didn’t know what to do. I started pushing all the red buttons I could find and finally a voice said “Can I help you?”. A few seconds later, my doctor came in and halfway lifted my leg and barely put her hand down there when she said “Whoa!! Here we go!” She started ripping my bed apart and the clown car of pediatricians started piling in my room. Just as she unfolds one of the stirrups, and gets my foot in it, Ben comes moseying around the corner. I had been internally freaking out, thinking he was going to miss the whole thing. There was no holding this baby in. Ben made it to my bedside just in time for me to push two and a half times and pop out our baby girl. No joke, if she hadn’t been attached to the umbilical cord, she would have hit the wall on the other side of the room. She was a healthy, fat, 8lb 12oz baby, and she totally tore my junk up like none other on her way out. They managed to repair my lady parts, but I’ve had to sleep with a pillow between my knees everyday for the last seven years because my hips and lower back are a hot mess. Side note, after they stitched up my junk, restoring it from a “t’isnt” back into a “taint”, I wouldn’t stop bleeding. So the nurse practically shoved her entire arm up to the shoulder in there, grabbed a blood clot and yanked it out. I may be exaggerating a bit, but that’s what it felt like. I left that experience with four thoughts, 1) “Ouch”. 2) “Ew”.  3) “I did not want to know that about myself”. (It’s one thing to push a baby out of there, but having a stranger lady’s hand up past the knuckles in there AFTER you’ve been stitched up is just off putting.) And 4) “I must share this experience with the world so that we may all collectively vomit into our own mouths.” You’re welcome.

Alas, I am nearing the end of my birth stories. I only have one more left; the birth of Ava. I’m sure everyone will be super bummed when I no longer have an excuse to talk about my private parts on a public forum, but what can you do?

Who Owns Your Body?

Today the girls and I will drive with my husband’s parents to our state capitol to protest SB 442. If this bill passes, it will eliminate all non-medical vaccine exemptions in Oregon. Only two other states allow only non-medical exemptions; West Virginia and Mississippi. Personally, (and no disrespect to these states) I would never want to model the health of our people after those two states. Mississippi has the highest vaccine coverage among kindergartners in the country, and the highest infant mortality rate to go with it. Coincidentally, (or not) The United States is the most vaccinated country in the world, and has one of the highest infant mortality rates, as well. Correlation doesn’t equal causation? I’ll let you decide. I mean, obviously there are other factors at play here, but it does seem a little weird that Finland and Japan have the lowest infant mortality rates and give 11 to 12 vaccines to Americas 36 vaccines by age 6.

The point I’m trying to make is, wouldn’t you like to have the power to look at all the data and decide for yourself what is necessary for your children? Who knows them better than you? Those decisions should be between you and your doctor. (But ultimately you, since you have to live with the consequences.) The government is trying to tell you what is best for your kid, and when has our government gotten anything right in recent times? Not only will this be taking away our power as parents to decline a medical procedure that carries the risk of injury and death, but it also takes away the power of the doctors to treat you on a patient-by-patient basis. Believe it or not, but not all doctors agree with the CDC’s bloated, aggressive vaccine schedule.

Not only does this violate the religious beliefs of many people, it also violates the Nuremberg Code, which was put into place after the atrocious forced medical experiments conducted by Nazi doctors.

“The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.

This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved, as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision.”

No one should be in support of forced vaccination. We have a broken system in place, as it is. Did you know that a parent cannot sue the drug companies if a vaccine injures or kills their child? Since 1986, the drug companies have been protected by the government (whom I was under the impression works for us.) so they cannot be held liable, even for a faulty product. When this law was enacted in 1986, a tax was added to every dose of vaccine, and that tax goes towards a government fund. When someone is injured or killed by a vaccine, their family has to petition the court to review their case, and after a process that can take years, they may or may not receive a settlement. Let me give this to you strait: Our tax dollars are paying for these children’s injuries and deaths, while the billion dollar pharmaceutical companies get to rake in the profits. They have zero accountability. So, it’s really no big surprise, then, that the vaccine schedule has more than tripled since that time. Why wouldn’t it have? As last month, over $3 billion has been paid out to the families of vaccine injured and killed children.

Right now, there are over 200 new vaccines in development. If you are okay with today’s vaccine schedule, will you be okay with it in another thirty years? What if it triples again? Who owns your body? Who owns your child’s body? Who stands to lose the most if your child is damaged by a vaccine? Will you be okay with vaccinating your other children, if your first child dies from a vaccine reaction? If we allow laws like SB442 to pass, we will be forcing Jews to inject themselves with pork, Hindus to inject themselves with beef and Christians to inject themselves with aborted human fetal cells. Now is the time to stand up for our rights; our rights to pick and choose what we wish to put inside our bodies. A very fundamental right, if you ask me. Learn more about vaccines ingredients and side effects, by reading the vaccine package inserts.

http://www.immunize.org/packageinserts/

The Birth of Kylie

What Better way to start off my blog than by talking about the one thing people get sick of hearing me talk about the most? Birth! I’m one of those people who finds watching things give birth totally fascinating. And I forget that some people get uncomfortable when you describe your placenta to them and then physically reenact pushing a person out of your lady business, grunting and all. With that said, sit back and enjoy The Birth of Kylie…

From as far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mommy. I was obsessed with babies as a kid. I even used to nurse my baby dolls in my armpit when I was really little. So after five long months of marriage, my husband, Ben and I started trying for our first baby. If I’m being honest, Ben didn’t have to try all that hard. One month later, I was officially knocked up! I always imagined pregnancy would be this magical experience. That I would be one of those adorable pregnant chicks with the little basketball tummy, who still wear their pre-pregnancy jeans with a rubber band around the button. Boy, was I mistaken. I spent six months just trying to hold down food, yet every time I would go in for my prenatal appointments, I gained like 80 lbs. I was afraid that when I finally went into labor, that the fire department would have to knock a wall out of my house and hoist me out with a sling attached to a crane like an injured manatee, or something. The doctor would tell me “You should probably go see the nutritionist.” Yeah, well you should probably go fuck yourself. I can’t eat anything. It all smells gross, has a weird texture or I’ve already puked it up at least once, which really turns you off of that food for a very long time. I started eating things based on how easy they were to barf back up later. Sidenote, the worst foods to puke up are burritos (the tortilla congeals everything into one giant softball size blob that wants to all come up at once [the toilet water actually splashed my shirt.]) and barbecue chicken out of your nose in a parking lot.

Fast-forwarding to the action, Ben had been trying to politely decline my sexual advances for most of the third trimester because having a baby right there kinda icked him out. But it wasn’t until four days before I had Kylie, when I lost half of my mucus plug (at the time I thought it was the whole thing. Turns out that sucker is so freaking big. Like, oh my God, SO big.) that he finally put his foot down and said NO MORE! Fine. Whatever. Jerk.

I waited about 12 hours after my labor started to head to the hospital. I was in a lot of pain and figured things must be moving along. I was only one centimeter dilated. Lame. By the time I got to three centimeters, it felt like someone was burying and ax into my pelvis and leaving it there for two minutes, then taking it out, only to do it again three minutes later. Over and over again. The pain was beyond what I had ever imagined. Indescribably bad. I finally got the drugs. Why not? I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to live through this anyways. I would have agreed to a quadruple amputation if it meant stopping the pain. I later found out that Kylie was facing the wrong direction, which was why it hurt so bad so soon.

After pushing for three hours, they finally decided to bring in the forceps master to aid my doctor in yanking that baby out. She was stuck. Apparently you can’t be good with forceps AND manners because this dude walks in and dives into my vadge, knuckles deep without so much as looking my in the eye. No formal introduction, or even a casual nod in my direction to say “Hey, sup? Don’t mind me, I’m just gonna make myself at home here.” At this point I didn’t really care. I already had a clown car of pediatricians in my room wandering about. I would have been fine with the janitor checking my cervix at this point. I was really out of it. I was so exhausted that I was sound asleep between contractions, which were about two minutes apart.

I’m gonna let you in on something; having forceps in your lady junk is worse than you would imagine. They should just call them what they are; Metal salad spoons. It wouldn’t have been more painful if a Bengal tiger had chewed the baby out of me. But finally, she popped out! They laid her on my belly and this is what I said verbatim “Ohhhh, she has my lips! Did I poop?” Then exhaustion punched me square in the face and I felt like If I didn’t eat and sleep simultaneously, I would die. But I had to wait for them to stitch my lady bits back up so they at least resembled female reproductive parts again. That’s when I noticed that Kylie was born with this flappy little booger-mole on her face and all I could think was “Ew, she’d flawed. Take it back. I didn’t work that hard to have a baby that isn’t perfect.” It’s funny how hormones can make you crazy like that. I slept for like two hours, and when I woke up, I was so freaking excited about finally having my baby! She was perfect, booger-mole and all! (Ps, the booger-mole dried up and fell off after a few days.) Ben, on the other hand, slept like the dead for like twelve hours. He was white as a ghost and silent the whole time I was pushing. He looked like a wreck. I think giving birth was harder on him than it was on me.

So that’s it. The story of Kylie’s birth. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the answer is no. I didn’t poop. Thank God.