Category Archives: Reflecting

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. 

Confessions from a picky eater

My husband and I have this running joke. We’re both finicky eaters and always have been, but we’re not picky about the same things. Our joke is that, if push comes to shove, I’m the kind of picky eater that will starve before eating something I don’t like. Of course this stems from never having been truly hungry in my life, but when we go to places and the only option is a cold sandwich (or a hot one for that matter) he will eat it and dislike it. I will go without lunch. 

My poor, long suffering parents. They didn’t exactly cater to my every whim, but I was seriously limited in what I would eat and try and they still fed me with little coercion. My mom never ceased to be amazed that my strict grandmother would make me different foods to be sure I ate when we went to her house. That was not the norm when my mom was growing up. Bless my parents for letting me give up meat for Lent one year. I am still not sure how I didn’t starve or get some deficiency-related illness. I still remember being forced to eat mayo covered bologna in preschool. To this day I can remember the taste and texture in my mouth and it makes me want to hurl. 

The funny thing was I loved thinking about eating a variety of foods. Pretend kitchen play was one of my favorite things as a kid. When my grandmother taught me to cook, I loved planning meals and cooking a lot of the foods. But beware the advice that getting kids involved will make them more adventurous eaters, to this day I will gladly cook things that I would never let cross my lips. I still refuse to taste things before I completely cook them. I can’t even bring myself to think about trying foods mid-cook. 

I had to laugh when a close friend of mine told me she was pregnant and began texting me about the food aversions she was experiencing in her first trimester. Nearly all the things she described were things I experience on any given weeknight making dinner. Some things sound good, what I had planned doesn’t, and just thinking about certain foods makes me gag. Sometimes nothing sounds good and I wait too long to eat and then feel nauseous. I make our menu out a week in advance and frequently I ask myself what I was thinking about planning a certain food or ingredient. I have a fairly short list of things to choose from to begin with and I have to coordinate it with my husband’s food preferences. At least once a week we give up and go out.  

I wanted to promise you, your picky eater isn’t (usually) doing it to spite you or make your life more difficult. This from the perspective of a person who was very picky as a child and is still discerning. As an adult I have figured out what makes me picky or turn a food down. Usually it’s a texture, either confirmed or suspected. Sometimes it is strong smells or tastes. I still despise cold food. Sandwiches are the perfect storm of disgusting foods for me, hence I will go hungry. If you have a picky eater I highly recommend helping them figure out what it is that is turning them off to various foods. My palette has also changed over the years and gotten better about allowing me to eat and try foods. So know that this too shall pass or at least they move out and have to cook for themselves. 

Both my parents and in-laws were hoping our daughter would be a picky eater. Just for karma’s sake. She isn’t. She is one of the more adventurous eaters I know, actually. But even she has her limits and times when certain foods she usually likes don’t sound good to her. She’ll even go through phases of disliking foods that she normally loves. I don’t push it when that happens, because I know what it’s like to be willing to starve before eating something that you don’t like.  

Waiting on Stories

I have had a running joke with my daughter for some time now where, when she asks what movie we should watch, I tell her that we should watch Jurassic Park because it’s a great movie about dinosaurs. By now I’ve leveled with her that it’s a potentially scary, definitely suspenseful movie. She now often beats me to the punch with the joke. But this took an interesting turn the other day when I learned one of my good friends has let her four year old watch the movie (actually it might have been her husband who put it on, I’m not sure). 

To be clear, I’m not throwing shade at her. Her daughter seems to be into in and not at all bothered by it (this would absolutely not be the case for my kid). I told Cam, though, that her friend had seen it and I could see her processing the fact that this girl is younger than her and weighing whether or not she wanted to muscle up and ask to watch it.

Then she started reasoning through it out loud and I was both impressed and proud of her self reflection. She asked me what I thought would make the movie scary to her. I explained that the dinosaurs were very realistic and the storyline itself was written to be suspenseful. She asked if the dinosaurs were green screened (apparently she knows what this is) and I explained that, no the technology wasn’t as good back then and the movie makers had chosen to use robotic dinosaurs instead. She asked how big they were and I explained many were person-sized, but many, particularly the t-rex were quite large. She asked which kinds were in it (no, idea, I am not into dinosaurs like that). Eventually she decided that it would frighten her too much and give her nightmares. I agreed that it was possible and told her the movie freaked me out when I saw it at 10 years old. I was impressed that she was self aware enough to know it wasn’t going to work for her on that level. 

But our real conversation came when I began explaining the story. I think we really came to an understanding about why movies, and stories more generally, get lines drawn around them by me. I summarized it for her so she would know what it was actually about beyond just dinosaurs. I told her that it was based on a book that both her father and I had really enjoyed and that the movie, while different, did a very good job adapting the story and telling it visually. And it’s true. It’s one reason why we love the movie.

But, I explained, the story isn’t just a complicated narrative that a six year old would have some difficulty following. That would be the case and she may not enjoy it for that simple reason. It might also lead her to focus on the suspense and fear factor in it instead of how the story arcs. Even more than that, though, the story grapples with some really deep existential questions: should humans create life in a lab? should humans play god? what about the ethics of bringing life into being and then leaving it on the island? what about the profitability of the park as a driving factor in this creation? 

Yes, I enumerated all these questions out loud for her. I know she doesn’t know how to even begin to think around them (the power of a story like Jurassic Park is that it gives you thought exercises to wrap your mind around). I also know she would not be able to tease out these deep issues in the story and I told her that. I pointed out that a big part of this particular film and movie and others written and produced for adults is that they bring up these kinds of questions and push us to probe our feelings and ideas around them and sometimes change our beliefs. It is another layer to these types of stories and, unless she can appreciate it for that, I think she would not get nearly as much enjoyment out of it. That isn’t to say if in two years, at eight years old, when she is still not ready to grapple with such existential ideas, she can’t watch and enjoy the movie on some level. But to me I would love for her to come to these stories at the right time when she can really start to appreciate them and then return to them again and again to continue to evolve her thinking around them. It brings to mind several books that I have read over the years that are frequently assigned in high school English classes that, for whatever reason, we never got to or weren’t assigned. I read many of them a few years or even a decade later and know I would have hated them as a teenager, but absolutely loved them as an adult with more perspective. The Joy Luck Club. Things Fall Apart. The Giver. All excellent literature that would have been so far over my head at 15, 16 and 17. I am so grateful I came to them later because they were all incredibly impactful stories for me. 

Again this isn’t to shame my friend that showed the movie to her younger daughter. It’s fine. I just know as something I love, I would really like my own daughter to come to it when she is really ready to see Jurassic Park and other stories like it as the reflections of our world that they are and help her form a deeper understanding of the complexity of being human. 

There is a flip side to holding back on stories that is directly related to our white privilege and I plan on addressing that in my next blog post. Because there are hard stories with deep existential, identity-laden issues that she needs to begin to address now. I will post a link to that once it’s up. 

How #MeToo Is About Power, Not Just Sex. At Sacramento Country Day School

Or How Apologies Can Turn into Fertile Grounds for Perpetuating Misogyny. This happened at SACRAMENTO COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL. Update 6/26/2018: I’m naming names after hearing about some shit that’s going down there now. 

I think at this point we’re all aware of the #metoo movement of 2017, but what I haven’t seen discussed is how sexual harassment isn’t necessarily about sex but about sexism and most particularly about power and how women fit into power dynamics (or don’t as the case may be). I recently read this article by Katherine Cross and she points out that “…this moment points to larger, more systemic issues of men in power silencing and marginalizing those they dominate — whether or not they use sex to do so.”  I would highly recommend you go read it too as it really helps frame what I am going to be talking about with the incident I experienced. Thank you to the author, Katherine Cross, a woman who has far bigger issues than I in regards to gender, power, sexism, and trolls. I appreciate how it helped articulate feelings I had about my own particular incident. 

I have blogged over the past about an incident that happened with my daughter, a school, and ultimately me. I am well aware of the jeopardy this places my husband in, but I feel very strongly that the behavior I encountered needs to be named. If you read on, I address this concept further. I am not sure, at six months out, if this blog is being monitored for either damage control or simply control, or even morbid curiosity, but to be honest I am hoping it is. What happened was not okay and the underpinnings of sexism will continue to influence the culture in that place.

I was asked to remove the posts that discussed the incident from this blog and, if I would not, I needed to tone down my language. Either way they were ready to get their lawyer involved. What you need to know about this conversation is that it took place between a wealthy, white, cishet, male in a position of ultimate power and a middle-class, white, cishet, woman not in power. I suppose fortunately this was merely about my gender. I suppose. Let’s be very clear, though, this was about power and exerting that power over a woman. Cross’ article hits eerily close to home when she talks about some of her own run-ins with men. “None of this behavior was sexual…But these people abuse their power in the same way; certain white people and men try to control the narrative in public, while cribbing you in private, making sure you can’t say what happened there. The consequences will be yours to reap, after all. You’ll be unprofessional if you come forward. You’ll get sued.” 

The words “I’m sorry” and “I regret” were used a fair number of times, but only as a way to manipulate and bully me into taking the last post down. In fact they were almost an afterthought to trying to salvage the school’s reputation. If you use those words in that way, no matter how sincere you believe they are, no matter how many levels you think there can be to an apology (yes, I was told there were levels to this apology), they have zero value. Zero. Value. Any thinly veiled threat that comes after them negates it all. I understand that our experience made the school look bad. But let’s be very clear, I did not make the school look bad. The school made the school look bad through their actions not through any fault of mine. I merely shared it out of anger and frustration. Out of a complete lack of being heard by anyone that stood to recognize my daughter’s humanity and my own and atone for stripping us of it.

Apologies sound like this: I’m sorry. I screwed up and/or hurt you and someone dear to you. I recognize how I played into the issue (i.e. racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc. or any combination of these). I will learn and do better. Period. You then go on and do better, do what you can to right the wrong, and, most importantly, do no more harm. Apologies are never qualified, otherwise you are simply victim blaming.

In asking me to self-censor with the threat of legal action if I didn’t, the school showed that they were and continue to be only concerned with their reputation and not at all interested in making things right, learning from their mistakes, or building and maintaining the human relationships that sustain a small business like that. They hid behind people unrelated to the incidents feeling offended by my language, because to them these people’s offense was more important than how my daughter and I had been treated by the school. I’ll say it again, even those people mattered more than me and my daughter. She and I have no humanity in their eyes. The woman who did the testing made sure to remove it. The school never restored it.

The post itself was found by another employee who claimed to be my friend and felt comfortable enough talking to me about abortion, but apparently didn’t feel like she could even mention this to me. Her first instinct was to report it to a man in power. There was a woman in power that she could have gone to, but she chose to jump over her and go straight to a man in power. You can be complicit in your own oppression. This person was another woman and often they are some of the most vehement, and yet unknowing, supporters of patriarchy and woman-bashing. Had that person reached out to me personally I may have been inclined to update or even rewrite the post. At this point it’s hard for me to say how I would have handled it. 

The phrase “you are emotional” was also used in this conversation. No matter if it was intended to or not, this tapped into a deep history of misogyny with those words. A history which has denigrated women and been used to take their power, undermine them, remove their humanity, and subjugate them. In worst cases, it has been used to institutionalize them at the whim of men. He wasn’t wrong, I am and was emotional. My daughter was terrorized, traumatized, and treated like garbage. I was was treated condescendingly, had my judgement as a parent called into question over something as personal as the choice to have one child and to stay home with that child, and then I was dismissed by the school for my concerns over our treatment. And yet, to use that phrase in that way was not intended to acknowledge my very valid emotion over the whole situation. It was a weapon to try to bully me into submission much like the “apology” given to me.

In addition, the fact the school was happy to apologize to my husband and merely regretted not reaching out to me was more evidence of the underlying misogyny in the whole situation. It was implied further that I should have come to the head earlier, as if it was my job to come looking for an apology for the insulting behavior we endured and the school’s inappropriate response. Furthermore, I was told that the language in that post made me look bad. This continued to tap into the desire to tone police women. If any language dares belie the underlying emotion a woman feels, it become dangerous and in tone policing me, and women generally, men seek to keep us in a place of submission and repression. It is used to put the person with privilege and power (in this case the man and the institution) back into control of the conversation by ignoring the message and focusing solely on the emotionality. Please go read this comic to understand tone policing and emotion as a silencing tactic. Whether or not he set out to tap into that institutional misogyny, he did, and that is how it works to maintains its power. It’s always lurking under the surface and intent does not matter. That is why I still feel, after all this time, it is important I put this out there.    

I refuse to allow myself to be devalued and, more importantly, dehumanized like that. I am extremely fortunate to be in a place of privilege that allowed me to protect myself and stand up for my humanity. Many people in worse situations don’t have that privilege. I recognize that. It is something I need to work towards fixing as a person with privilege. But I have inherent value as a person simply for being a person and it is sad to me that an institution that is educating our next generation cannot see that and does not practice it.

More generally this makes me sad that there is so much work to be done until the world is equitable for women. It’s the world I am now raising two girls in and if misogyny runs this deeply it’s going to be very difficult to root it out. Until then I need to stand up for myself and I need to teach my daughters to do that too. 

I’m Over the Play Teepee Trend

To be honest I was never comfortable with it, so to say I’m over it is a misrepresentation, but they’ve become ubiquitous. You can’t look through Pinterest or your Facebook feed without seeing a clean modern children’s play area set up with one: a play teepee. Meant to be twee little nests for children to hide away in, the reality of what they represent is quite insidious. When I look at them I see the worst of cultural appropriation, hurtful cultural stereotyping, Native erasure, and fetishizing.

Teepees, or tipis, are a real cultural object used as dwellings by several Native Nations, including the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota. They were and are real homes for real people and continue to be used ceremonially by many of these tribes too as they hold onto their traditional ways that have been forcibly erased. In reducing something that was integral to the cultures of these Nations to adorn your living room, we erase its cultural significance and history. These play teepees are generic, where the originals would not have been. Even the word itself “teepee” is a generic, Anglicization of the real term used for these dwellings, which comes to English from a Lakota word. Parents aren’t using these play tents as a way to talk to their children about the history or culture of the people they come from. We’re appropriating them as something cutesy for our playrooms.

Which leads to another piece of this trend, native erasure. The teepee is so often used as a generic symbol of all North American indigenous people. Except they were used by some Native Nations, not all. Moreover, teepees as a generic dwelling, have been used by other indigenous people in other places around the world. In pairing them with broader stereotyped depictions of “Indians” seen in popular culture and ignoring their cultural and historical importance, we reinforce those hurtful stereotypes that have allowed these people to be colonized and erased. It also reduces the cultures and people in the eyes of our children to something they can take from to make their homes and spaces more on trend and ultimately discard when no longer fashionable.  

I also fear that this will encourage a resurgence in children “playing Indian”. The idea is still out there, even though I think most people see it as something kids did in the 50s and 60s. I see it depicted again and again in new children’s books and even in magazines and certainly at Halloween time. “Playing Indian” either includes fighting and villainizing the “Indians” or fetishizing them as the gentle, nature loving Native Americans. It’s all more stereotyping. But a stereotype of people who were exterminated by white settlers and government and continue to be marginalized.  Again neither villainizing nor fetishizing gets at the history of colonization of Native Nations, nor does it show our children that their cultures are not there for our taking. 

Now I’m sure there are some people who want to argue that these play teepees honor the cultures they come from and I want to directly address that. You would only be honoring the culture if you were talking about their cultural and historical importance and, considering how generic the play teepees look, you aren’t. Just having it in your house does not impart the significance of the object if you do not give it the proper context. More importantly a big, non-Native company has taken this culturally significant object and turned it into something generic that they are now marketing and making money off of. None of those sales are going to benefit the Native Nations the object has come from (not that that would indicate any form of reverence, anyway). They have appropriated the teepee to make it into something they can sell stylish parents and make a quick buck. In no way does any of that honor a living culture. 

If you have a teepee please consider opening a conversation with your child about what it is and remove it from your living room too. If you are considering buying one, don’t. Click through to the links below (also found in the links in the paragraph above) if you need more convincing. They are articles written by people more knowledgable than me as they are members of Native Nations. I will be writing letters to companies that sell them. A drop in the ocean to these companies, but if you agree and would like to join me, maybe we can make a difference. 

Repost: Step away from the “Indian” costume! by Dr. Adrienne Keane, Cherokee, from her blog Native Appropriations

When Media Promotes Offensive Indian Stereotypes by Sarah Sunshine Manning from Indian Country Today

Lane Smith’s new picture book: There Is a TRIBE of KIDS (plus a response to Rosanne Parry) by Dr. Debbie Reese, Nambe Owingeh, from her blog American Indians in Children’s Literature

Why We’re Homeschooling. All the reasons.

Update 6/26/2018: After being threatened in private by the head of Sacramento Country Day School (you can read more about this in another post) I changed this post. I am restoring it today after finding out about some other things going on there. THIS STUFF HAPPENED TO ME AND MY CHILD AND THESE ARE MY VERY VALID FEELINGS ABOUT BOTH HOW WE WERE TREATED AND THE ADMINISTRATIONS RESPONSE TO HOW WE WERE TREATED. THIS NOW SPANS TWO ADMINISTRATIONS. 

This coming school year we’ll need to fill out our affidavit that basically says we’re homeschooling. After lots of reflection, thought, research, hemming and hawing, and more thought, we’re doing it. Here’s why:

1. Our abysmal experience applying to the school my husband and I work at (and are alumni of). Never did get an apology or any acknowledgement that what happened was not okay.* So I definitely won’t be giving them my money. The admissions office didn’t even ask us this year if we’d be applying. I don’t know if they thought they were snubbing us for being royally pissed last year or if they just don’t give a crap. Either way, that looks really bad if you can’t even treat your alumni and employees properly. I also happen to know from a friend who is currently applying that they are struggling to get the time of day and considerate treatment from the admissions office too. 

1a. Private school is expensive and not only would it make things tight, it would rule out another baby and would ensure that I need to go back to work so I could get medical benefits. Because tuition is the same price as what we pay for our medical insurance. Plus, at this point I wouldn’t consider it money well spent considering our options. 

2. Our local public school is full this year. I considered them for two reasons. We have an incredibly diverse population at the school (that draws primarily from our neighborhood) and I want Cam to meet and make friends with diverse people, not just the rich white kids that go to private school. We don’t have to go to our public school to do that (all she has to do is walk outside our house because our neighborhood is very diverse), but it was an appealing part of the idea of the school. Also, they have a half-day kindergarten program. Unfortunately, next school year they would push her into first grade because of her age and she is too young. It’s that cut-off date quandary again without the options. 

3. They don’t teach what needs to be taught in any school I’ve encountered. Even with alternative methods they still skirt around the content/skills that needs to be taught. We’re going to focus a lot on anti-bias and social justice in our family for the next four years and beyond and I have not found a school that will do that. But more than that, I haven’t found a school close enough and good enough that steers away from traditional philosophy. Many schools claim to base their education on non-traditional models, but they still maintain that kind of thinking and never get far enough away from it for my preferences. 

From here on out, I probably won’t be posting here very often. I’m working on reviewing diverse books for my library book blog. I haven’t quite figured out what it is I want to do here, although I do really like popping in to talk about books and what is going on in our house. But after the election that all feels very hollow. I am going to try and share booklists and resources you can use in homeschooling that work towards the goal of anti-bias education and fighting racism, sexism and xenophobia. I would point you toward my library blog, but that isn’t really geared for parents. I can tweak content I post there or create new content that speaks to how parents can use resources and I will do that as the mood strikes me. 

*I realized I never did share what the aftermath was beyond saying the admissions department wanted to do some role playing. That never happened and they pretty quickly went into damage-control mode and played the blame game. They took zero responsibility for what had happened and never admitted to being sorry. It was a lot of covering their asses and making it out that we would just have to suck it up and deal with shit behavior from the screener if we wanted Cam going to the school. I have two words for that: fuck you. Also since that experience and telling people Cam won’t be going to the school we’ve had people in the administration tell us they think it looks bad that she won’t be. I have the same two words for them: fuck you. That is not my problem and maybe you should consider fixing the admissions office and experience instead of trying to convince me I should pay for shit service and treatment. What happened was not okay. At all and I’m certainly not going to sacrifice my principles and money so the school can look good. 

Learning to Read

We’re all very excited around here because Cam is learning to read. She really started to show some interest a few months ago when she began memorizing the names of the letters and identifying them when she saw them. 

This is most exciting for me because I have plenty of experience with abilities later in the process. All my years working in lower school, and particularly in second grade, I have seen fluency really come together and skills strengthen. But I haven’t seen the start of the process and quite frankly it’s amazing. 

Some resources 

I’ve been looking for resources to help support her and here are some things I’ve discovered. I tend not to like worksheets and things like that, but she’s motivated and interested so I’ve been using them.

First, she needs lots of practice working out the sounds each letter makes. I downloaded a bunch of printables that have her practice letter sounds both by themselves and as initial sounds. Scour Pinterest for these free resources. Here’s a link to a Pinterest search for some of those activities and printables.

Next, she needs to be able to identify the upper and lower case letter as the books she reads in have different cases and different fonts. I bought this game on Amazon that is a memory-style game. It’s nice and she likes Memory so I figured she would be willing to play. Also, here is a search on Pinterest for matching upper and lower case letter games

Then we needed some little books for her to read. Costco has a four or five BOB book collections for $11. I just bought all of them. Many of them are way above her ability right now. One set is called the Pre-Reader Collection and it goes through some skills readers need (like pattern recognition) and also all the letters of the alphabet with their sounds. I find the BOB books totally boring, but Cam likes them a lot. She is also able to read the first few in the first collection. Which brings me to my next point. 

Let’s talk about easy readers

There are a lot of really great easy readers out there. You know them. They have a smaller trim size than picture books, but are bigger than an actual chapter book. They’re kind of short and have large print with spaced out lines on each page. They’re books like Frog and Toad and Little Bear and Cat in the Hat. The thing is, even the easiest ones require a fair amount of skill and ability to read. The vast majority do not use simple short vowel patterns and CVC word patterns (consonant-vowel-consonant). Add to this the fact that a bunch of companies publish them and their reading levels are not consistent across brands. Kids learning to read do quickly put spelling patterns together in their minds and memorize sight words (words you know on sight without having to sound out or look more closely), but it takes some time and practice. They do eventually get to a place where they can really read those types of books, but where Cam is now she needs super basic readers. That’s where the BOB books seem to have the market cornered. 

Waiting until the time is right

So one thing I am trying very hard to balance is pushing her to practice and actually read with not killing the interest she has. I know the more she practices the better she’ll get and the easier it will become. But right now it’s hard and laborious and fatiguing. I’m glad I allowed her to pick the time she actually began to work through it. It’s coming quickly and she’s incredibly motivated. Hopefully she can sustain that interest while her skills catch up. 

A final thought. I know the concept of your child learning to read can be incredibly stressful (as is nearly everything with parenting). Will they ever learn? Will they want to? Will they struggle? What if it happens later than all the other kids? The thing about reading is that by fifth grade, it’s all a wash. With very, very, very few exceptions teachers in the upper grades do not know who read first, second or last. (Well, maybe last. There are children with learning disabilities that continue to struggle.) But those super star readers in kindergarten and first grade? They are not always on top and frequently become totally indistinguishable from their peers. Repeat after me: it all becomes a wash. What does that mean for you right now, with a young child? Enjoy them as they are. They will get there. They do all learn to read. It’s an amazing thing to watch as this whole new word opens up to your child (remember how the world opened up when they learned to talk and to walk? it’s like that all over again, but with a more cognizant person). Enjoy that and don’t worry so much. 

In Praise of the Friend Without Kids

We all have mommy friends. Either ones we’ve known pre-children and have stayed friends with or ones we’ve met because we have kids. But today I am grateful for the friends we have that do not have children. 

As a parent it can be really difficult to separate your own emotions from your kid. So when they go through a phase or have some sort of issue it can be hard to remain objective and understand what is going on and what to do. I have a stellar mom’s group I can turn to and they often have superb advice. But they draw on their own experience with their kids. That isn’t always a problem, but I find that my friend without kids doesn’t have the same type of emotional attachment to parenting and sometimes you just need that. They can give you that hard, objective perspective. 

It helps that my friend without kids does have experience with kids. It also helps that she’s a level-headed sort of person and generally has good ideas and advice no matter the situation. I’ve watched her draw on her own childhood experience (something I also like to do). So it’s not like she’s coming from left field when she talks about kids and kid issues.

She’s had good advice for me when Cam struggled with preschool and with the admissions process for the school we originally considered. Even naps! She’s had good advice about naps. Sometimes she just affirms what I already know, but other times she pushes me a step further or makes me look at a situation from a different perspective. And that’s really refreshing and often the best advice I get. 

So to my friend without kids, you know who you are, thank you for all your thoughts and advice over the past few years. Outwardly you may not seem like the first choice for parenting advice, but you are. Also, get ready for the teenage years. I’m going to need all the help I can get. :)  

Introvert parenting introvert

I know talking about introverts and extroverts became really popular after Susan Cain gave her TedTalk and published her book Quiet. I have seen her TedTalk, read the article she wrote in The New York Times (I think?) that sparked the idea for the book, but I have not read her book. The thing is I’ve known long before she became popular that I was an introvert. I’ve also known that introversion-extroversion is a sliding scale. My husband is a lot more outgoing than I am, but he certainly has some introverted qualities and I am far less introverted than some of my friends. 

When Quiet came out it inspired a bevy of articles about introverts parenting extroverts and vice versa. I think they offer a lot of food for thought and good advice. I read a couple of them when Cam was little and I began to wonder where she would fall on the spectrum of introversion-extroversion. Now that she’s a bit older (almost 5!!) I’m starting to discover the answer to that. Turns out she’s a lot like her father. She is outgoing, but still needs that alone time to recharge her batteries. 

This past weekend was an excellent example of how that works in our family. Thursday we went to the zoo for dinner with two families. Friday night we drove several towns over to have dinner with another friend’s family. Saturday we were out and about running errands and then went swimming at Grandpa Tom’s house, then dinner at another friend’s house. Sunday we went to a birthday party in Napa. I knew in planning this that I would be fried by the end of the weekend and I suspected Cam would be too.

Friday night ended in tears as we left our friend’s house. Cam didn’t want to leave because she was having fun. While she loves to play, she’s usually pretty willing to leave when it’s time. She has never been the kid you have to pry away from something kicking and screaming. The tears were the first sign. Saturday night dissolved in lots of tears and opposition. Sunday was a lot of the same. By Sunday there was a lot of asking if we were “there yet”, another behavior we rarely see, and yet more tears and clinginess. 

I knew when I planned the weekend it was going to be too much and I was right. I usually limit us to one “event” per weekend or every few days. I don’t think we had much choice this weekend though (many of these dates were the only ones that worked). I do think I could have been better about making sure we had breaks between activities and got to bed earlier. My husband was frustrated with Cam and I was too, but we also knew her brain was just overwhelmed and wasn’t getting what it needed to recharge. This meant lots of hugs and cuddles even though we weren’t really feeling cuddly. Thankfully, because I was just as spent I knew exactly how Cam felt. 

I guess my point in writing this is a reminder to parents to consider how your child needs structure and downtime. We all need to be sure they got enough sleep, ate recently, and aren’t getting overstimulated. But don’t forget the power of their personality in the equation when you start seeing difficult behavior. 

Summer of Science: Round Up 5

This week ran a little less efficiently. I was teaching a makerspace class in the afternoons which compressed our day into a couple hours. I let stuff go and didn’t stress about it. It is summer after all! Please see the widget in the sidebar for pictures from each day. 

Day 1: Garden Harvest

I didn’t get a picture this time, but there were more tomatillos, squash, tomatoes, and peppers waiting for us in the garden.

Day 2: Lego Building

Our neighbor came over to play with Cam and they got out the Legos to build with together. Cam has told me she wants to be a builder when she grows up. 

Day 3 & 4: Machi Koro

I bought this card game at Target for Tom and I to play, but Cam saw it and wanted to give it a try. There was a lot of practical math and economics involved with it and she won the first game. She ended up asking to play again and again.