Monthly Archives: January 2013

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Homeschool Manifesto: Introduction

Homeschool Manifesto BannerThe following are the principles I came up with that guided my responses to the questions that make up the bulk of my “manifesto”.

  • I believe that my daughter is a capable and intelligent person. I respect her as independent and strong. She has her own preferences, desires, thoughts, priorities, and opinions.
  • It is incumbent upon me to support her independence and abilities. I will include her as a full member of our household, as she demonstrates that she is ready and willing. I will teach her how to care for herself, for her environments, and for her education.
  • My daughter needs only to learn to love learning. She needs only the ability to engage with the world as a curious and responsible citizen.
  • I believe I am her first and best teacher. While I will act explicitly as her instructor, I will also lead by example.
  • I will encourage her to be human and accepting of her faults and strengths as well as those of others. I will encourage her to be kind, generous, giving, thoughtful, logical, reasonable, gentle, and interested in the world. I will expose her to the world and encourage her to explore and experience it.
  • I will love her unconditionally and give her a safe place to discover and express who she is and what she believes. I will encourage her to lead a full life with all the pain, joy, suffering, excitement, embarrassment, and beauty that a full life can hold.
  • I will continue in my own quest for knowledge of the best ways to help my daughter. I will explore pedagogy, parenting, and education. I will also continue to indulge my own interests and academic pursuits in an effort to set an example for her.
  • I will consciously and conscientiously raise her to her full potential.

Homeschool Manifesto: Preface

Homeschool Manifesto BannerIf you read my recent post on Reflection you will know that I have been working on laying out my thoughts about homeschooling and our decision to keep our daughter home. I’ve spent the last couple weeks agonizing over committing my opinions about it all to paper. It was a really difficult task (and one I put off more than once), but I knew that was exactly why I needed to sit down and make myself do it. In it I use a Q&A format to cover my ideas in addition to a little manifesto of sorts as an introduction. Instead of one long post, I thought I would break it up into parts.

The whole process, though, really struck me as almost absurd. Because, you know what? I never saw myself as one of those parents that would want to homeschool. I don’t think it had a lot to do with stereotypes of homeschooling families, although I’m sure those colored my feelings about the concept. I just always saw myself as needing and wanting to work. I like my chosen profession and I’ve invested a lot of money and years in gaining the education and experience I need to build a career. And in a lot ways I do still want to work and invest in that career. I think I have a lot to offer the library community.

But the funny thing about parenting is how off guard my feelings about it caught me. My first surprise came in the hospital after giving birth. I was so surprised how perfectly suited to the job of being a mother I felt. Intellectually I knew it would be rewarding, but I had never felt so prepared to take on something so unpredictable and mysterious as motherhood.

Before I got married my best friend, a new mother, was talking about becoming a parent. I distinctly remember her telling me how she felt like a hollow shell. I thought that sounded awful, but it turned out she was right, if not also a little overwrought. I realized she didn’t mean she felt consumed by her child. She just meant that her son is what she is giving to the world. She won’t change the world at this point, but her child might. That means she wants to ensure she does the best job she can raising him and that might entail making some sacrifices on her part.

And that’s the crux of it for me. My daughter is what will survive me, nothing else. Cam is what matters more than my career and my own ambition to offer something to the library community and beyond. I don’t think every mother will or should feel this way. It’s just how I feel. That is what has surprised me the most about myself and motherhood, because I didn’t know I was one of those mothers.

 

A Little Weekend Reading: Importance of Reading

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Literacy in the home is an issue I feel very strongly about, but, despite being a librarian, I haven’t really addressed it here. This point was hit home for me this week when I came across this study from University of Nevada, Reno (through one of my library blogs) that found that being raised in a home with 500 books is the same as having two parents with masters degrees. That means a child raised in a print-rich home will have much higher educational achievement than one who is not. Of course, not all of us can afford or accomodate 500 books. So how do you expose your child to so many? The library.

In this vein I thought I would give you a few suggestions to help you promote literacy and reading in your own home. None of them are revolutionary or ground breaking, but it can’t hurt to share them.

A Few Book Related Suggestions:

Read to your child every day. Read the paper. Read them your favorite blog. Read them picture books or the classics. It doesn’t really matter what, so long as you read to them.

Let them catch you reading. It’s really important for your kids to see you reading. You are setting an example that they will emulate. This is especially true for dads and sons. Men are much less likely to be life-long readers, so seeing your dad reading can make a real impression.

Use your local public library. Libraries are a treasure trove of resources. Did you know that if they do not have a book you want on their shelves you can request that it be brought from another branch? I use this service all. The. Time. Most libraries have an online catalog that will allow you to browse their collection from the comfort of your own home (and in pajamas!). If they don’t have a book you want you can usually request that they purchase it. It’s not guaranteed that they will, but I’m pretty sure they will do their utmost to get you what you want.

Check out library programs. There are always storytimes for kids. But there are all kinds of other programs too. Summer reading (which often has prizes, and is catching on for adults too). Craft days. Family fun days. Literacy programs. Writing programs. You name it the library has it. If your local branch doesn’t, don’t be afraid to request it. Sometimes librarians are busy and aren’t necessarily aware that there would be interest in various types of programs. This is also a great way to meet other families from your area.

Thrift shops are a jackpot for books. Our local Goodwills have tons of children’s picture books for very inexpensive prices. They have a fantastic selection of good books in excellent condition.

Organize your books. It will make it easier for your child to put them away and take them out. It will also save you from reading the same story over and over again every day because you can’t find anything else. It will not prevent your child from wanting you to read the same story over and over again. Sorry.

So if you don’t already, make time for reading. Ideally you would read everyday, but that isn’t always possible. Even I don’t get to read to Cam everyday and I’m a librarian! Don’t beat yourself up, just make sure you promote literacy with your child.

Curriculum

Curriculum

A New Bed

If you have read my About Me page you will know that what sold us on the Montessori Method was the idea of the floor bed. When Cam was 4 months old she began having issues with acid reflux that led to a lot of crying at night. Once we got her back to sleep the only way to keep her asleep was to lie next to her. This was difficult with a crib (obviously) and our bed is not big enough for three of us. Not to mention she is a noisy sleeper and my husband is a light sleeper- a terrible combination. So in an act of desperation and inspired by Montessori, we drove out to IKEA and bought a twin mattress. We have not looked back. Best. Decision. Ever.

Co-sleeping on a floor bed, which admittedly sounded really weird to me at first and certainly it isn’t for everyone, really revolutionized how I looked at parenting. The good night’s sleep we all got that night didn’t hurt either. I suddenly looked at Cam and realized that she was a person with her own preferences. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t know that or think that before per se, but it became a very explicit thought in my mind. I didn’t like sleeping alone, especially when I didn’t feel well, so why would she? Plus she was so small and new, why was I relegating her to a big cold room (besides the fact that she is quite a restless sleeper)? Co-sleeping worked for us. I could start the night out in my own bed and when she needed me, I could move into hers. I began to reassess how I looked at every aspect of parenting and began to find my own way.

Unfortunately we just discovered a downside to the quickly assembled floor bed: mildew. Since it is winter we have been running a humidifier in Cam’s room every night. The mattress was up against the outside wall and our house is on a raised foundation. Lots of moisture in warm air + cold air underneath and around + a mattress = mildew on the carpet and underside of the mattress. Whoops. I discovered it the other day and cleaned it up. Mildew isn’t a great substance to be exposed to, but it is by no means dangerous. But we did need to figure out a way to get some air circulating under the bed.

Another trip out to IKEA yielded a mattress foundation on short legs and Cam’s new bed was born. She is thrilled. The first night I was worried about her rolling out of the bed until I read about the proprioceptive sense. This is, in essence, the sense that tells you where your body is in space and allows you to assess the dimensions of your environment. (See here for an excellent description.) This is why adults do not (usually) roll out of their beds. While the sense is still developing in children it is possible that they will roll out of bed, but this is yet another reason the floor bed works so well. Cam has been sleeping on this mattress for over a year now. She is very aware of the size of it and the shape of it. I put down a few pillows just in case, but there really wasn’t a reason to worry. We all slept very well that night.

 

A Little Weekend Reading: Emergency Planning

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In addition to my New Year’s Resolutions, I have some projects I want to tackle around the house. They’re pretty mundane and boring, like replacing our can lights in the living room with LED can lights, but they need to be done. However, I thought I would share one of them here because I think it’s important for all families to at least consider.

Emergency BoxAwhile back I read an article in Parents magazine that was all about creating a disaster preparedness kit. I thought it sounded a little daunting, but also kind of practical. The idea wasn’t new to me. We have several birds and I am always meaning to purchase travel cages just in case we ever had to evacuate. We also keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

Now I am not the paranoid type. My kid occasionally touches chicken poop in our yard, eats food that has fallen on the floor, and goes out without a coat (it’s okay we live in California :)). Sometimes she bangs her head or scrapes her knee. But I did take a CPR class through the Red Cross and it really hit home for me the importance of being prepared for something major (an earthquake, a broken bone, a car accident, etc.). Add some of the scary things that have happened over the past year (school shootings, hurricanes, etc.) and I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be prepared. I don’t expect anything to happen, but with minimal effort we can be prepared just in case.

I highly reccommend you read the article (I’ll post the link below) and consider doing a bit of emergency preparedness this year. It walks you through preparing your kids, preparing a box of supplies, and writing a letter in case you are not present when something happens to your child (say a flood or earthquake while they are in school). It shouldn’t take much time or money, but better safe than sorry.

Are You Prepared for an Emergency?

Photo credit: “Unnamed.” Parents. 2011. Web. 14 Jan 2013. <http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/emergency-preparedness/>

Reflection

Homeschool Manifesto BannerA recent conversation about homeschooling with one of our friends has led me to do some reflecting. The conversation made me realize not only that I was still on the fence about committing to homeschooling but that, if I was going to, I needed to clearly articulate why.

After a lot of thought and discussion, my husband and I decided our tentative plan would be to homeschool after one year in the preschool at the school where my husband is employed. (I would just like to thank my husband here for being understanding and willing to follow my lead.) I love their program and the teachers and I think being in a classroom with other children will be good for Cam. Even with that plan in place, though, I felt that I needed to go further and really commit my ideas about homeschooling and education to paper. The following is a list of ideas I want included in my manifesto (of sorts):

  • The big question: Why homeschooling?
  • In light of my research on the Reggio Emilia approach, I want to articulate how I define Cam as a child which should include qualities and values.
  • I need to state our values as a family and as a community (or at least, as part of a community). Values I want Cam to internalize.
  • What kind of learning outcomes do I want her to have?
  • What is my educational philosophy? Meaning not how I teach, but what I believe about education.

I’m going to be working on this document this week. Obviously it isn’t something I would distribute to some one who asked about why we will homeschool (although that would be pretty amusing), I will share it here. Mostly I need to internalize these thoughts and ideas so I can refer to them when we get questions.

A Little Weekend Reading: Diaper Free Before Three

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I know this method can be controversial and I want to begin this post by saying: you must know your own child. What works for one, may not work for another. You need to watch for signs of readiness for toilet training and many other things. Only you and your child can decide if and when they are ready for something.

That being said Cam has been ready for potty training for awhile. I read the book Diaper-Free Before Three back in March or April because I was struck by a sentence in Montessori From the Start (see here for more on how we are toilet training). She mentioned something about toilet training at a very young age, which is not the current position most parents take.

If early potty training is something that sounds appealing and you want to learn more, as well as how, I would certainly recommend Diaper-Free. It’s not very long; it’s very readable; and she gives a bit of everything for everyone, from history to theory to practical how-to. I tended to agree with the case she made saying that, culturally, the late potty training that is popular now is a very recent shift and there is not much research to back up benefits of potty training late or back up claims that early potty training is harmful.

The method is rather labor intensive with a very young child, but I think it can really pay off by making your child feel capable and empowered early on.

Rich Experiences Quote

Toilet Training

One of the first books I read about the Montessori Method was Montessori From the Start. I was looking for a manual that would give me a sense of the philosophy behind the method, some history, and a glimpse at how to go about implementing the principles. For the most part the book did that. But it also piqued my curiosity about toilet training, oddly enough. There was just a passing comment made about potty training around 18 months, but it stuck with me. Eighteen months sounded really early, but also rather appealing. Who wouldn’t want to be done with diapers that early?

I started to do some research, both in books and by asking around. What I learned was that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends toilet training closer to three years old and outlines some pretty ambiguous readiness signs, but this is a recent change in culture and practice. There is a movement of people, including many Montessori proponents, who advocate “early” potty training (18ish months). I ended up reading the book Diaper Free Before Three, which I found interesting and meshed well with my parenting philosophy/approach.

We began the process of potty training around 9 months which involved nothing more than sitting Cam on the potty from time to time and getting her to associate it with going to the bathroom. We’ve also been using training pants on and off since a year old, especially as we battle some nasty bouts of diaper rash.

I was excited to come across this post on How We Montessori last week that gives excellent advice about how to go about potty training. The post also gave me courage to ditch all of our diapers (except the nighttime ones) and go completely for training pants. I think this is going to be a process, but I can already see Cam beginning to take to it. She never ceases to amaze me and I really need to give her more credit for being capable.