Our Breastfeeding Journey

I’m a little late to the party (I blame the kids), but I wanted to share some of my experience breastfeeding two babies for World Breastfeeding Week. 

My first baby was born in the hospital. In light of my second birth at home with a midwife it wasn’t a great experience, but it is what it is. On the second day she was struggling to latch and they didn’t want to release us until she did. After a long, uncomfortable night slammed into a tiny room with a baby who kept coughing up fluid and not having slept in 24 hours we were desperate to just go home. The hospital sent in a lactation consultant who simply threw a nipple shield at me and told me that I would be able to just stop using it at some point. I didn’t get any advice on how to position the baby, no advice on how to stop using the nipple shield, no way of getting follow up care, no real support. They sent us home a few hours later and I spent the next eleven months nursing with that damn shield. 

Now, I know without support I needed that shield and I know other women need them too, but in our situation I think it caused more problems than not. Cam gained weight, but was always thin. It never took less than 45 minutes to feed her. I felt revolted by the sensation of nursing her. My period came back six weeks postpartum. It was always a production to feed her between the shield filling with milk and spilling, popping off, and needing to be kept track of. It was just kind of a mess. I was so grateful when she weaned herself. The idea of needing to breastfeed another baby really put me off the idea of a second child for years.

When I got pregnant with Malin and started care with my midwife we discussed the breastfeeding woes I had with Cam and my apprehension of going through it all again. She confidently told me we would simply work hard to ensure I didn’t use the shield this time around and she got me in touch with a lactation consultant before I gave birth. We got all our ducks in a row so that when I needed support it was already there. 

Once Malin was born we struggled. There was a lot of pain. She latched poorly. My nipples cracked and bled and scabbed over and cracked again. There were nights of wanting to just give up. I cried and cried and cried- partly from hormones, but also because I physically wanted to give up but mentally wasn’t ready to. We sank a lot of money into the lactation consultant, who was incredibly helpful but still didn’t fix the problem. I had to use the shield at various points to protect my healing nipples. We had Malin’s posterior tongue tie clipped. I have had five blocked ducts and run a fever three of those times. And we’re only four and a half months in. But you know what? It was trial by fire and, despite her seeming to forget how to latch properly every three or four weeks and the occasional bleeding crack, I feel confident in feeding her. 

Malin is much bigger than Cam was. She’s longer and two whole pounds heavier. It only takes her 10 minutes to feed and we’re rarely soaked in milk after feeding. And I love feeding her. I look at her little baby body and the rolls on her thighs and feel proud that I’ve sustained her. 

I am really disheartened that the US did not support the WHO resolution for breastfeeding. While feeding babies can be accomplished many, many ways, breastfeeding is natural, healthy, and people who can breastfeed and choose to may need a lot of support. The opposition is both misogynistic, but also deeply entwined with the ills of capitalism. I hope by sharing stories about successfully breastfeeding healthy babies we can stress the importance of having that choice promoted and celebrated. 

Van Life: Tent Camping with a Baby

Van Life BannerWe had a good run with the van over the winter and then took a break from camping because we had a baby. Then in April we camped overnight at the Woodland Celtic Games which was a lot of fun and the baby did beautifully. She was just over a month old at the time. It was supposed to be a test run for the summer. 

The grand plan was to spend the entire month of July driving up California, Oregon, and Washington and camping in the van along the way, but three things happened. One, the van is having transmission problems and a long trip like that is sure to be the death of the current transmission. We were going to fix it, but then the second thing happened. My husband, tired of putting up with a ton of crap at work, decided not to renew his contract which means we’re living off a smaller amount of money so we decided not to spend the $8,000 just yet to replace the transmission. Then the van needed a couple minor repairs which my husband is in the process of doing himself. Not a big deal, but we can’t drive the van right now even on easy expeditions.

Not wanting to give up on camping we busted out our tent and transferred some of our camping gear to our car and headed out into the Tahoe National Forest this past weekend. With our four month old baby. And you know what? It was just fine with a couple hiccups- primarily sleeping on the ground is not fun when you’re our age. 

Here are some tips for camping with a baby:

  1. Pack light. I know the impulse is to pack every last little thing you *might* need, but resist that urge. You will be miserable trying to fit it all in the car, more miserable trying to find a place for it in camp, and mad when you don’t end up using 95% of it. The purpose of camping is to get out and away from everyday life, so don’t recreate your house. Plus the baby will be fine getting a bit dirty. That being said, keep reading for the things we found essential. 
  2. Have a place they can lay/sit outside the tent. Since our baby is not yet sitting, standing, crawling or walking we could fairly easily corral her. We had bought a folding wagon to schlep stuff from the car to the campsite (it was a 5 minute walk). When we were done unloading we laid out her blankets and put her down in it. But to be honest, we could have thrown some blankets on the ground (enough to cushion her little baby head) and called it a day. Blankets are washable as are babies so it’s okay if they get a bit dusty. For older, more mobile babies, consider a folding chair with a tray. They make one that looks almost exactly like a camp chair, but it has a tray and is super short. However, I don’t think this is a necessity. Baby can sit on your lap for meals and may not want to be confined to a chair at other times. 
  3. Consider co-sleeping with your baby. For us that was me not using a pillow (I don’t at home either) and laying out several blankets next to my sleeping bag for the baby’s sleeping pallet. I opened up the sleeping bag and draped it over us much as I do with a blanket at home. 
  4. Borrow a good carrier. We have an awesome baby carrier. It cost $20 and we have now used it with both our girls. The problem is, it’s best for around town errands and not so great on a hike. We needed something that would do a better job supporting the baby while we hiked. Ergos are, in my opinion, way to bulky and hot for around town, but it worked well for the hike (it was still bulky and hot for all involved, but the baby isn’t big enough to sit in a hiking back pack). We borrowed one from our neighbor because it isn’t something we’re going to use all the time and I refuse to spend $120 on it. Once the baby can hold her torso up better we’ll see if we can borrow a baby backpack or buy one used. Again, a super expensive item that really won’t be used all that often. Going back to tip #1, don’t bring a stroller. Unless you’re in a paved campsite and have all the space in the world, you won’t use it and it will just be annoying to maneuver and take up space in the car. 
  5. If you are breastfeeding, bring extra snacks and water. I know for me I get hungry between meals while breastfeeding and I need to constantly drink water. We eat light while camping and I felt hungry a little more often than I normally do. Extra snacks would have been perfect. Along the lines of water, you might want to pick a site close to the bathroom so getting up in the night (or running over during the day) isn’t a big production. The site we were in didn’t have any water and as a result I drank less than I wanted to. It worked out, but I wish we had brought more. 
  6. Pack a sun hat. If you’re going to be outside, which you’re camping so you will be most of the time, make sure the baby is covered. Malin seems particularly prone to burning on her nose and cheeks and despite my best efforts she still got pink. Having the right kind of protective clothing is essential and remember, you’re outside for nearly all the activities you are normally inside for. 
  7. Diapers might be a hassle, but they might not. So the site we went to had no trash. Because of this I brought along cloth diapers which we normally use. It was fine, kind of a pain, but we were going to have to trek the dirty disposables out too, so why bother? In retrospect, though, there was a pit toilet. We have gDiapers that make a flushable/compostable insert and I could have used those and thrown them into the pit toilet. You might consider biodegradable diapers so that when they go into the trash at the campsite, they will eventually break down. If you cloth diaper, know that it wasn’t really much more of a hassle than it is at home. 

Honestly, the best thing you can bring with you is a flexible attitude and a sense of humor. Camping with a baby is not impossible, so don’t let your youngest family member deter you from getting outside. 

Montessori Infant: Four Months

A lot has changed in the past month with Malin, both in terms of her development and in her space. I’m also running a couple weeks late with this post, but that’s fine.

Malin's RoomWe still have three spaces designed specifically for her, but one of those spaces has morphed into an actual room all for her. The room we called the classroom was never that useful and we rarely spent time in it. If Cam and I wanted to work on any homeschool activities we would bring them out to the dining room table. It’s bigger and the room is better lit during the day. So instead of wasting the space we decided to convert it into Malin’s room. So we moved some furniture out, some in and voila! Malin’s room. We’re all very happy with how it turned out. 

She was outgrowing the side car crib she had and we needed a new, safe space for her to sleep. With Cam we threw a mattress on the floor, much like you see in many a Montessori infant space and I wanted to do the same with Malin. Part of her growth this month has been a increase in movement. Floor BedNot only does she constantly roll herself onto her tummy, but she kicks and pushes and wiggles herself all around her mats and blankets as she looks at things and follows us around the room. This development really convinced me it was time for her to be in a floor bed. 

I put out the octahedron mobile that I made for her and that’s hanging above the little pad she has in Cam’s room. She hasn’t been all that interested in it. But in her new room I hung out the Dancers mobile and wow does she LOVE that. She watches it move in the breeze from the ceiling fan. You can see it here in the picture of the floor bed.

Bell on a StringAlso part of the Montessori infant materials suggested for this age is a bell on a ribbon. You hang it so the baby can grab or kick it and it gives them instant feedback with the sound. Malin is doing a lot of intentional grabbing, so I thought this would be a good addition to her environment. When Cam was the same age it was December. One of our Christmas tree ornaments was a large silver bell, shaped like a jingle bell, and Cam was captivated by it. She spent hours touching it and playing with it. I got out the ornament to hang for Malin and she has been equally entranced by it. The poor thing will need some polishing after being manhandled by our two babies, but it’s perfect for this age.  

Just to plug it again, if you want a chart with the various Montessori materials in the infant/toddler years see this post where you can download it. 

Parenting for Social Justice: World Pizza and Subtle Messages

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We recently came into possession of a book titled World Pizza. It came as a part of a book subscription service we use. My daughter was excited to read it and we sat down one evening to do that. The book is about a misheard wish for world peace that becomes world pizza. It’s silly and sweet and on a level that young children can grasp the meaning of world peace. 

And yet as we were reading I came across this illustration:

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As you may notice the text that accompanies this spot illustration doesn’t specifically call for this depiction. I immediately stopped reading and told my daughter, “I don’t like this picture.”

She asked why and I explained that it was showing a stereotyped image of people in Africa that was neither culturally accurate, flattering, nor historically accurate. My daughter said she thought some people in Africa might look like that. I was kind of horrified by the response, but figured she was extrapolating from images of various indigenous people in Africa she’s seen in books and on TV shows. 

I told her that it was true some people still dress in their traditional clothing and live in ways that reflect their traditional cultures. I then explained that the picture was not showing any of those people, or if it was it was not identifying them. Either way the illustration was wrong. It would have been better if it had showed someone in a specified African country living in a modern city or if it had specified which culture they were from and depicted their dress accurately. 

Frustratingly she has asked to read the book again several times. Or at least I was frustrated at first. But during each reading I have taken the opportunity to stop there and have a shortened version of the same conversation again. Certainly her thought that it could be accurate was a call to me to ensure that she sees more images of people across the African continent living much as we do. And to draw attention to that to counteract the stereotyped images she has clearly absorbed. 

IMG_4844The bigger issue here is that these kinds of subtly incorrect depictions turn up everywhere in children’s books. Sometimes it’s the fact that an older book has been republished or reprinted again and again so those images are still with us. Sometimes it’s just plain ignorance on the part of the author or illustrator. Whatever the case maybe for the appearance of problematic content, it’s how children quietly internalize these ideas and that’s why it’s so important to call them out when we see them. To name them and make it explicit that they are not okay.  

Friday Five: The Tooth Fairy

Over the past six months Cam has lost six teeth. Six! All right in front which makes eating pretty difficult. We don’t actually believe in the tooth fairy here, but Cam likes to read about her and pretend we believe. Here are five books about tooth fairies of varying stripes, although be aware none of them are overly pink and sparkly.

Anna and the Tooth FairyAnna and the Tooth Fairy written by Maureen Wright, illustrated by Anna Chernyshova

This one is funny. Anna has a loose tooth and a newish little sister. As she tries to draw a picture of the tooth fairy she realizes the tooth fairy and her baby sister have a lot in common (they both stay up all night, they have wands- or rattles, they have pink and frilly outfits). This can only mean one thing, her baby sister must be a tooth fairy in training. Anna decides she has to keep her tooth in so her sister won’t have to leave to become a real tooth fairy, but in the process of keeping her tooth in she discovers how fun it is to play with the baby which makes the idea of parting so much worse. Fortunately her mom helps set Anna straight, or does she? Part book about loose teeth, part book about siblings/new baby this one is definitely worth checking out. 

Tallulah

 

Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO written by Dr. Tamara Pizolli, illustrated by Federico Fabiani 

I have plugged this one before both here on my parenting blog and on my library blog. If you haven’t checked it out yet, what are you waiting for?! Tallulah runs a tooth fairy industry and she is ultra cool. She’s also black, something I have yet to see elsewhere in tooth fairy books. The illustrations are to die for if you love clean and modern design and the story is quite amusing. I’ve seen a fair number of tooth fairy books that allow there to be more than one fairy that goes around and Tallulah trains fairies as part of her dental empire. 

Tooth Fairy Cat

 

Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

I haven’t read any of the other books featuring this cat, but I know he is beloved. I found the story to be very funny as the cat tries to prank the Tooth Fairy and ends up getting pranked himself. It’s the perfect story for the little tricksters loosing teeth in your life. It might also help you discourage any tricks your kids might have up their sleeve to catch the Tooth Fairy in action…or not. It’s also a good title for the animal lovers in your house. I know Cam prefers stories with animals over people (and I did too as a kid), so it might appease those kids who would otherwise not be too interested in reading Tooth Fairy books. 

The Untold Story of the Tooth FairyThe Untold Story of the Tooth Fairy written by Jose Carlos Andres, illustrated by Betania Zacarias

This book is particularly interesting for how it weaves together several myths around the Tooth Fairy and an undersea world. Lady Oyster has lost her pearl and she is very distressed. To help her out a series of sea and then land creatures go in search of the pearl. A mouse finds a tooth and decides that should do as a replacement for the pearl and passes it along down the chain of animals until it reaches Lady Oyster who is overjoyed with the find. The story has the opportunity to make up voices for all the different characters and also has a some interesting repetition and cumulative narration that make is especially engaging and a prime read aloud candidate. The book was originally published in Spanish.

I Lost My Tooth in Africa

 

I Lost My Tooth in Africa written by Penda Diakite, illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite

Another interesting take on what to do with a lost tooth. This story is based on what actually happened to Penda Diakite’s sister when they went back to Mali to visit family. Amina’s tooth is loose when they set out on their long trip to their home in Mali. Her father tells her if it falls out there she can place it under a gourd and she will get her very own chicken. This piques her interest and Amina wiggles and wiggle the tooth trying to get it to come out. When it does fall out she gets not one, but two chickens- a hen and a rooster. She diligently cares for them and the eggs they lay. But will they be in Bamako long enough to see the chicks hatch? An end note from the author and illustrator, a daughter-father team, reveals the story and culture it represents. There is also an adorable photograph of the real Amina holding her chicken and proudly showing off the hole where her tooth was. Chickens and loose teeth, what’s not to love?

Why the idea of curriculum is absurd

Okay, that is a deliberately provocative title.

The thing about curriculum (particularly in schools), and even more so standardized tests, is that some one has arbitrarily chosen the content in or on them and said that, in our vast sea of knowledge out there, this is all you need to know or be interested in. Rarely do educators or students ask, who decided this was important and why? And even more importantly, do I agree?

Parents and educators are often up in arms about how hard it is for children to discern what is good information and what is bad, what is useful and what is not They also work themselves up into a tizzy over the amounts of information that are at all of our fingertips in the form of the Internet. The solution, curriculum and standardized testing. In worrying over the information ocean and overload, they decide not to give them the skills to navigate that sea or evaluate it or even how to be efficient. Instead curriculums tell the children what they need to know so they never have to dip their toes in those information waters.

But this sets kids up in a Catch-22. They are told what to learn, are given an arbitrary set of information (that often is not particularly useful nor relevant to them or their interests), and then are berated for not knowing how to go out and find and evaluate other information when they discover how useless and miniscule their “well-rounded” education has been.

This for me is a large part of why I want to unschool. Instead of dedicating money and hours and hours of my child’s life to a set of information that someone else had deemed interesting and important I would infinitely prefer to give my daughter the skills to create that set of information for herself. Her time will be infinitely better served in doing that. Plus, in having those skills, instead of a collection of facts, she will know how to learn on her own and follow her interests.

The thing is, children will learn to read, will learn basic arithmetic and science through their own natural curiosity and through their need for those skills.* Saying I want Cam to form her own curriculum does not preclude my stepping in to help her learn skills or explicitly teaching them to her. I just need to tread lightly and at the right time. Many of the skills we hyper obsess over in school, in curriculums, and on tests are not the end goal. Reading is a skill to be put into service of learning, not the other way around. And for that reason children will be motivated to learn to read.

So, using a one-size-fits-all arbitrarily curated curriculum doesn’t serve the majority of children well and I would like to opt out of that for my children. 

*I am well aware that there are children who will not come to those skills easily or at all because of learning disabilities and I know how important early diagnosis is for those children. I also know that the reason for curriculum and forcing skills on kids is NOT to ensure that kids with learning disabilities get the help they need as early as possible. Learning disabilities in schools is a whole other thorny issue that is often not addressed correctly or appropriately.

Zero Waste: Going Down the Rabbit Hole

Zero Waste BannerWith all the time I’ve spent over the last four months nursing a baby, I’ve gotten really into Instagram. I used to follow a lot of social media on my computer, but it’s just too hard to maneuver a laptop while sitting on the sofa and cradling a baby. So while trapped under her for an hour while she was tiny and nursing for long periods of time and frequently I got really into scrolling through Instagram. While cruising around on there I’ve come across the zero waste movement and I kind of went down the rabbit hole with it. I started following a variety of people, researching products, and reevaluating various aspects of our lives.

The underlying principles of environmentalism, environmental justice, and minimalism are not new to me. They’re ideas that I’ve been thinking about and exploring for awhile, but zero waste (which is kind of a misnomer) really gave me a tangible way to live those principles. I’m hoping to use this series on the blog to talk about how I have started to put those ideas into practice and how it’s getting incorporated into our unschooling journey as well. 

The zero waste movement isn’t without it’s issues, though. For starters no one is perfect and it’s hard not to produce any trash. Our economy is not set up for that to be easy. And for now that’s fine, I’m discovering. Some people prefer the term low impact over zero waste because it sets a more realistic expectation.

More troubling to me is how the movement is problematic in terms of social justice. For starters, the idea of zero waste is not something that hipsters started. It’s something that indigenous cultures around the world have practiced for eons, but capitalist, primarily Western companies, have co-opted the idea to sell products. Sure, they’re green, eco-friendly products but they’re products benefiting the company and their founders. Also, it’s hard to hold the expectation that all people can and should be zero waste. Not every one has access to the kinds of stores that allow them to reduce their waste. Many products that are low impact are expensive. Other ideas within zero waste, such as making your own foods, household cleaners, etc. require time and effort not all people can take on. 

All of this is information I’m beginning to research and sift through. I do really like the idea of zero waste and know we can do our part to reduce our impact as a family without having the expectation that everyone will be able to do everything we are. I’ll be sharing here to offer inspiration to others who might want to take the plunge. 

Book Club: I Love the River by Maya Christina Gonzales

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Book Club is a series dedicated to extending the reading experience either through an activity. Activities will tie in with other areas of study or cross over subjects. 

Today we’ll be looking at art style. Maya Christina Gonzales is a phenomenal author and illustrator that you should know about. She and her husband run Reflection Press which publishes diverse stories that promote equality, peace, and freedom. The website has some sobering and incredibly important statistics about the state of children’s publishing and while this is only tangentially related to the activity in this post, I encourage you to check them out and reflect on what that means for you as a parents, educator, and consumer. 

I Know the River Loves MeWe were particularly drawn to her book I Know the River Loves me when we ran across it on display in our library. The white space and bold illustrations with bright, vibrant colors were really inviting.  On picking it up I discovered it was written with the Yuba river in mind, which is near where we live and somewhere we’ve been. The story of the connection between the little girl, nature, the river, and the seasons was especially appealing. The activity below is how we used the book to extend the learning experience. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper (drawing paper, scrap paper, whatever is around the house)
  • thin markers or Sharpies
  • I Know the River Loves Me written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzales

Together read the book I Know the River Loves Me written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzales. Pay particular attention to the art style as you read. Point out colors, patterns, and lines. While the illustrations appear simple, they are incredibly beautiful and impactful.  

When you are finished reading get out your art supplies. Together you can think of pieces of nature that speak to you. for the drawing prompt we filled in the sentence “I know the ________ loves me.” Maybe it’s mountains. Maybe it’s a river like the little girl in the book. Maybe it’s clouds, the sun, or the rain. Using simple shapes and lines draw an outline of that thing. Then fill the shapes in with swirls, colors, dots, and waves just as Gonzales does. Flip through the book and study the pictures as you draw. 

Here is a glimpse of how Gonzales uses lines and patterns to embellish her illustrations.

Here is a glimpse of how Gonzales uses lines and patterns to embellish her illustrations.

Not only does this encourage your child to look closely at the art in the picture book, but it also helps them draw connections between their own lives and experiences and the story. Take it a step further and get outside! Is there are creek nearby that you can walk to? A hike you can go on together? Or a park to visit? The point is not to find a secluded nature area, but to find a natural space that can welcome you. If you have a pad of paper and a bag to pack up your markers, head over there to draw what you see using patterns like Gonzales.

Friday Five: Lighthouses

Maybe it’s the cheerful colors of lighthouses or the fact that they’re so iconic of costal places, but they signify summer time to me. In honor of July here’s a Friday Five dedicated to lighthouses.  

Hello LighthouseHello Lighthouse written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Watch the days and seasons pass as the wind blows, the fog rolls in, and icebergs drift by. Outside, there is water all around. Inside, the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his family unfolds as the keeper boils water for tea, lights the lamp’s wick, and writes every detail in his logbook.

We recently bought this one and love it. I have mixed feelings about Blackall since the fiasco with A Fine Dessert, but this one is a winner. It’s got intricate, beautiful illustrations and the story is fun too. The form factor of the book is especially neat- long and tall like a lighthouse itself and many of the illustrations contain circles and circle motifs echoing the rooms of the lighthouse.

 

Keep the Lights BurningKeep the Lights Burning, Abbie written by Peter and Connie Roop, illustrated by Peter E. Hanson

In the winter of 1856, a storm delays the lighthouse keeper’s return to an island off the coast of Maine, and his daughter Abbie must keep the lights burning by herself.

I remember reading this book in either first or second grade. I loved it then because it was such an exciting story and I was so struck by how brave and tenacious Abbie was. Even better, the story is based on a real storm and a real girl- the end has a note about the true events. Cam and I pulled out our copy of this after we stayed in a lighthouse keeper’s quarters back in February of this year. Keep the Lights Burning is actually an easy reader, which might make it good for emerging readers to partner up with a parent or older sibling to read through. But even if your child isn’t reading yet, give it a try. 

 

Little Red LighthouseThe Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge written by Hildegard H. Swift, illustrated by Lynd Ward

If you like sentimental, classic stories this is one to try. A little red lighthouse happily keeps watch over the mouth of the river in New York City until one day a large gray bridge it built, towering over the little lighthouse. The new bridge also has a bright light on the top of one of its towers. Feeling forgotten and replaced the lighthouse believes it is no longer needed until a storm blows in a familiar tug boat wrecks on the rocks. The bridge calls out to the lighthouse telling it the light on the tower is for planes and that the lighthouse is still needed. The lighthouse keeper also appears and is grumbling about his keys being hidden by some naughty boys. The lighthouse beams out once more and finds its purpose again. The full sentiment of the story may be lost on most children, but I don’t think that will take the enjoyment out of the story. To me it’s reminiscent of Virginia Lee Burton’s books and it is from the same era so it isn’t surprising that it does bring those to mind. I love that the book is a small nearly square rectangle much like the little lighthouse squatting on the edge of the river. 

 

The Abandoned LighthouseThe Abandoned Lighthouse written by Albert Lamb, illustrated by David McPhail

This was such an interesting book. It felt a little existential, a little dreamy, and a little magical. Definitely give it a read if you like gentle, but exciting stories. Also, strangely, most of the lighthouse books I have read feature girls (not complaining) or animals. This book has a little boy (and a bear) as the protagonist. The two are brought together by a row boat and an empty lighthouse for a quick overnight adventure.

 

 

 

Gracie the Lighthouse CatGracie, the Lighthouse Cat written and illustrated by Ruth Brown

Gracie is a great study in how illustrations can convey an entire story not written in the text. This is even more interesting as that second story shown in the pictures is a true story of a ship wreck and a lighthouse keeper and his daughter rescuing the stranded survivors. The text in this book is short and simple, but also very dramatic. Be aware that the kitten is swept out in the storm and the mother looks frantically for it. But all is well in the end, for both the cats and the people. 

Unschool Update: I Walk the Line

Money MaterialsFor anyone that knows about unschooling or practices it with their children, they are probably also aware of how different it is from the traditional model of schooling. I know for me, the traditional model of school (think desks in rows or pods, teacher at the front, set curriculum, benchmarks, etc.) is both what I went through for my education and was also the setting I taught in when I was in the classroom. Unschooling is much freer, following the child’s interests, introducing skills when they are useful to the child, and trusting the child to know what they need when they need it. I’ll be the first to admit it’s been incredibly difficult to break away from that traditional style of instruction when working with Cam over the past school year. 

It’s a fine line to walk, at least in our home, between offering Object Boxesdirect skills instruction to Cam while also following her lead. This year has been the year she has been both ready and willing to start the process of learning to read. I know from experience that she’s a decoder by nature. Basically she relies on phonics to read. She breaks words up into phonemes and is very focused on letter sounds and combinations. This makes for a slow progress and also does require some hands-on and planned instruction by me. It will ultimately make her a stronger reader over the next few years as grows into more and more complex books, but in the meantime it could really feel like we had veered off into a more traditional model of schooling. That was really a sign to me to back off. Reassess. Check in with Cam and stop anything that wasn’t working for her. Did I manage unschooling perfectly this year? Absolutely not. I’m unlearning how I was taught and also trying to find the best way to use the knowledge I have to help Cam master skills and learn things that she wants. But it wasn’t a complete failure either. 

Hundreds BoardSome other things we worked on or studied this year, prompted by Cam’s expressed interest, were taking nature classes at our local nature center, learning about pregnancy and birth as she watched my belly grow and then saw the birth of her sister, and a little bit of numeracy (counting up to 100 and learning about money). 

This year also saw the addition of Cam’s sister. That basically tanked the last couple months, which was fine. A new baby and being a big sister is a learning experience in and of itself. Cam has grown incredibly over the past three months and I couldn’t be more proud of that emotional and developmental growth. It’s far more important than any academic skill she might work on or any subject she might study. 

Pregnancy MaterialsThis coming year I want to work in some social-emotional learning and mindfulness practices to our daily schedule. I know, though, that this is going to be another area where she needs the skills (we’re working on taming anxiety in her that has reared its head), but I don’t want to push too far or become the driving force behind offering them to her. I am new to these practices too, so maybe that will mitigate some of that. I can frame it as we’re learning together and instead of planning ahead we can plan together. That’s the line I’ll try to walk next year.