Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"Water, Water Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink"

For the most part, I've kept the fact that I don't vaccinate or let my kids use fluoride toothpaste to myself, even though I feel so strongly about it, because some people have a tendency to react quite violently to that news.  Still, I stuck to my guns when push came to shove, and my kids have never gotten the "fluoride treatment" at the dental office, no matter how many weird looks I've gotten -- and I've been given plenty.

Although I'm not condescending or preachy about my parenting decisions (parents are hard enough on themselves -- they don't need to get flack from other parents), people are often threatened by my choices, as if they feel that I am judging them simply because I made a choice that was different from theirs.  In my mind, we all are just doing the best we can with what we have, and that's all that can be expected of anybody.  When people feel threatened, though, they sometimes close up; instead of asking why I made the choices I did, or doing some digging on their own, it's easier to just roll their eyes and call me a wacko.

Here's a good life tip, though: Anytime you need to put someone down to feel good about your own choices, that should be a big red flag that you are feeling insecure or unsure, and you should find out why.  A wise person knows that there is always more to learn, so while they gather reliable information and form an opinion/make a decision, they still leave themselves room for the possibility of being wrong, and with that possibility comes the ability to change their mind with immense freedom and abandon.

Recently, I came across this really great video that was made to raise awareness about the dangers of fluoride, especially to our children, to the greater public.  It's beautifully done, and only 20 minutes long.

Speaking up about things like fluoride and vaccinations is difficult, because the marketing to support them has been so strong for so long, and the idea that we might be doing our own children harm is so horrific, people just want to cover their ears and pretend not to hear (or accuse the whistleblowers of being crazy, conspiracy theorists!),but the tide is finally beginning to turn.  As the real science becomes available to the masses on social media, more people are joining the whistleblowers, and it's harder to ignore that the group opposed to these products are no longer a "fringe" group of our society.

My children have had a couple of cavities, it's true.  Then again, I had more than they did as a child, and I used fluoride toothpaste then.  I do have two friends with children who have fluorosis, though.  I remember when my one friend confided in me; she was furious, and well she should be.  Like a good mother, she did what the dentist said and let them give her child fluoride treatments and used fluoride toothpaste, only to be met with a shrug when the same people who told her that fluoride was good for her child told her that her child's teeth would forever be marked by the same substance.

Her anger is justified, and directed at the proper target.  It's so interesting, though, that there are so many who would rather ignore the science and pretend that fluorosis (and worse!) is better than cavities, than to admit that they might be wrong, or that what they were told was wrong, when there are countless examples throughout history of the public being assured something was safe  (even good for them!), only to find out later that they were lied to (DDT, cocaine, partially hydrogenated oil, lead, etc.).

Anyway, the thing is, I want fluoride taken out of our water, and the more people that understand why, the better the chances of it happening.  Open your mind; take the 20 minutes.  If you still decide that fluoride's your best bet for your child, I won't call you names or be angry with you, I promise.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ending the Transgender Bathroom Debate

I have a love/hate relationship with social media, but the one thing it has a knack for doing is letting you know what the hot topic of conversation is.  Right now, it happens to be the Great Transgender Bathroom Debate of 2016, and I have seen and read my fill of it, today.

What's interesting about the debate is this obvious fear for children, and the idea that they will be in danger if the opposite sex is allowed into the bathroom (particularly for little girls, of course).  While the wise course of action seems to be to stay out of the fray, whenever children are involved in a topic, I have a really hard time keeping my mouth shut.  Besides, I think I can show you something that will make just about anybody see this issue a bit more clearly.   Take a few moments to read and/or watch this.

It's the story of a child named Ryland, who was born a girl but, as soon as she could talk, insisted she was a boy.  After you read the story and watch the video, I want you to imagine that Ryland is your child.  Imagine what it would be like for a child like Ryland to go to school and to be forced to use the girl's bathroom, because that is the sex listed on their birth certificate, when every fiber of that child's being knows that isn't who they are.  

This is not just a trend.  Ryland, and many children like Ryland, begin life this way, without knowing anything about the term "transgender."   It is not a case of "being a tomboy," nor is it something that is "just a phase they'll grow out of."  Attempts to force a child like this to be the "right" gender is to do serious psychological damage, because that is messing with who they are as a person.

This is also not new.  Quite likely, there have been transgender people almost since there have been people; either their culture embraced it, or they hid it very well, because they understood that their culture would not accept them as they truly were.

That is one of the real issues here:  accepting people as they are.  As human beings, we want to categorize and label everything; it's natural, and it helps us...most of the time.  When it comes to people, though, it generally isn't helpful, because people are lazy, and we tend to overgeneralize and over-exaggerate.  Furthermore, people really fear what they aren't familiar with (which is another useful survival instinct, in most cases).  

Unfortunately, for most of history, transgender people have been well-hidden, so your average Joe/Jill wasn't familiar with any.  Of course, when they did hear about a transgender person, they didn't fit the standard categories most people apply to people, so they were scary.  They were also almost always adults, because transgender children, much like women, are oppressed culturally, so their differences were not noted until they were adults, and able to express themselves "freely."  This is why, in most of these debates, people who are flipped out about transgender people in the bathrooms are assuming they are adults, and they are assuming they are "perverts."  Let me ask you:  Does Ryland seem like a pervert to you?  Do you think that Ryland will be a pervert when she grows up?  Transgender people are all around us, and they always have been.  When necessary, they've used the bathroom of the sex they identify with, because that is how they appear to the rest of us.  In fact, if they used the bathroom that matched with their genitals, that's what would cause an uproar.  

I am a woman, and I am the mother of a 13 year old girl and a 10 year old boy; of all the things I fear for myself and my children, a transgender person being in a public bathroom with me, or them, isn't even in the top 1,000 list.  Statistically speaking, of the roughly 293,000 sexual assaults that happen each year, four out of five are committed by someone known to the victim, and 47% of rapists are friends or acquaintances.  There are actually zero incidents of sexual assault by a transgender people.  Zero.  All these bathroom bills are doing is creating fear where none should exist, and oppressing another portion of people.

If you're going to get angry about something, be angry that victims of sexual assault are usually blamed for it, and usually feel that it is their fault, because that's what their culture teaches them.  Be angry about the fact that perpetrators of sexual assault are rarely punished.  Be angry that we live in a world that continues to oppress people, because it's easier to be afraid than it is to take the time to understand one another.

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free. ”

― Emma Lazarus

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One Shot Language Classes

So, I'm doing these Language classes for Middle and High School kids at one of our co-ops, and I thought I should share them here.  They're pretty funny, if I do say so myself.  I made them in Power Point, but these could also be printed into a book.  When I'm all done, maybe I'll publish it:)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I Am Not My Children's Teacher

As a homeschooling mom, I am often referred to as my children's teacher.  Most of the time, it comes from people who only have a public school education as a reference, so I let the term fly - it's the easiest way to describe my position within the framework that they're working in.  When I can, though, I try to explain that I don't consider myself my children's teacher, at all.

The term teacher, unfortunately, often conveys a sense of power over students. In many a school setting, the child's natural ability to learn on their own is taken away from them; instead, they are taught that they can only learn through their teacher.  This is an idea that I find pretty pompous, arrogant, and wrong.  After all, nobody knows everything, and there is something to learn from everyone.

For instance, when a child is learning to walk, we trust them to figure it out themselves.  All we need to do is provide a safe area for them to practice in, and to give them space and time.  We are all born learners, and this natural ability to test and explore will continue, indefinitely, if we are simply given space and time.

If we took a current educational approach, we'd arrange for special walking teachers for our children.  We'd make them sit on the floor and lecture them on the finer points of walking, show them documentary films about walking, or force them to observe our particular style of walking and then make them practice it until they have it right.  Finally, we'd test them on it and give them a grade.  We wouldn't trust them to figure it out on their own - we'd take away that power.

I prefer to think of myself as my children's learning partner, or educational facilitator.  I would be lying if I said I had all the answers for them - and so would anyone else.  Everyone has to find their own answers - that's the way it's always been.

My favorite blogger, Teacher Tom, refers to this type of teacher as a "Natural Teacher." He had this to say about it in a recent post:
"...a natural teacher, I think, is someone who knows that she is teaching fully formed human beings. I will not be your master, nor will I be your servant. Perhaps at times I will be your guide, just as there will be times when you are mine. It's a stance that says, you are competent and respected; that you have the same rights and, indeed, responsibilities as the rest of us. It's an approach toward children that acknowledges that the most important things children are learning (as opposed to mere academics) are things that we adults continue to learn throughout our lives, and that we have no lock on profundity or expertise."
Imagine if Mozart's father hadn't given him space and time to explore music.  Where would we be if Thomas Edison hadn't been allowed to mess around with his experiments all day when he was a kid?  In fact, if you take a close look at just about every famous anybody, they almost always have one thing in common:  they were given time and space to pursue their interests and their passions.  They didn't have people treating them as if they were incapable of figuring it out on their own.

That's not to say that your kid will be the next Mozart if you leave them alone with a piano every day, of course, but it is a reminder to respect your child's own ability to learn, which - most of the time - looks like messing around.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Letting Go

Every little milestone in your child's life is bittersweet.  On the one hand, you don't have to nurse anymore; on the other, you will never nurse this child again.  That period of their life is over, never to return.

You will never be able to carry them in that Baby Bjorn again.

You will never push them in the baby swing again.

They will never say quesadilla as "case-of-dias" again.

You will never carry them again.

Sure, they can get their own drink, walk on their own, swing independently and order their own food at a restaurant without any weird looks, and that's all well and good, but with every step forward, there is the reminder that you cannot go back.

My daughter has a very special baby she received not long before her brother was born.  She named him Jelly (she's always had a knack for naming her guys:  she has a red plaid pig named Rusty, a big pink pig named Squash, a dog named Shovel and a polar bear named Chai, for example).  She immediately decided that Jelly was a boy, despite the fact that he arrived in a very pink outfit.

I vividly remember her 2 year old self mimicking me and her new baby brother; hoisting Jelly up on her hip with a sigh and asking, "How am I going to hold the baby and do the 'puter?"

Jelly has traveled the country with us - even on a flight in which my daughter insisted on wearing him in a sling because he couldn't breathe in her backpack.  Duh, mom!

Although he has a crib of his own, Jelly has always slept in my daughter's bed with her - after all, I co-slept with both of my babies, too.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I went into my daughter's room to kiss her goodnight, and Jelly was tucked gently into his crib for the night for the very first time.

"Jelly's going to try sleeping in his own bed tonight," she explained.

I knew that day would come, of course, and I gave her a reassuring smile while my heart broke a little bit inside.  "I think Jelly will like sleeping in his own bed, and you'll have much more room in your bed for you," I told her confidently.

As I turned out her lights, though, I remembered back to when my babies left the nest of our bed.  How good it felt to have my bed to myself and my husband again... and yet, there was that sadness of knowing that part was over, and we would never go back.  Sure, they might crawl in with us after a nightmare every once in awhile, just as my daughter might bring Jelly back a time or two - to comfort her - but it's not the same.  This period of her life is over.

Then I realized, she's still mimicking me.  She likely felt the same way I did on the first night when I let my babies sleep in their own beds.  She is going through with Jelly what I went through - and am going through still - with her and her brother.  Letting go.

I still feel sad, but comforted, too.  I have no doubt that my daughter will one day have a child of her own, and she will be a wonderful mother; a mother who knows when it's time to let go, and how to do it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Reminder

I came across this article on Hands Free Mama today called To Build (or Break) a Child's Spirit, and I simply must share it.  I am the Type A, controlling, anxious, perfectionist mother in the article who is too often criticizing her children instead of building them up - but I have also been the child who was criticized (and many of us were),which led to the voice inside my head that is never happy with me.  It is past time to tell that voice to shut the f*%# up.

It was a brutal realization, but also an inspiration:  "...I will not dwell on yesterday.  Today matters more."

And then I made this, to help me remember better:

Thursday, January 30, 2014