Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homeschooling just got easier

My husband has been ambivalent about homeschooling our children since we first started discussing the topic. I found that I enjoyed being home with my children, playing with them and educating them more than I thought I would. Considering, I did not have a stay at home parent as a role model and had a tenous relationship with my parent who was an educator, I didn't see my taking naturally to that role. I figured I would rely on the school system to give my children what I couldn't provide for them at home. It was a pleasant surprise where I found myself hoping and even sometimes believing that I could give them better opportunities than the school system.

As the years have gone on, I've begun to consider homeschooling more seriously. Between my husband and I, we still discuss the pros and cons to homeschooling. In particular, his greatest concerns are regarding quality of science instruction, extra curricular opportunities (music and sports) and social interaction.

If we stayed in Seattle, I feel like I can cover most of those concerns. In the Seattle area, there are homeschool resource centers that offer classes for homeschoolers that act like electives. If a family feels like a child has a particular interest or talent in an area and the parents do not feel qualified to teach them at their level in that topic, the child can join other children in that class to learn. They get the classroom experience but its not all or nothing. Instead of committing to 7-8 hours a day, a schedule can be structured to be just a couple of hours a few times a week or one or two longer days a week.

I have been impressed at the communities of families that develop in these settings and find that ample opportunity is available for children to interact. Also, informal homeschooling groups provide those opportunities and many communities have groups of homeschoolers that get together on a regular basis for social activities, field trips, group work and service. There are so many sports and musical ensembles offered to children that those opportunities wouldn't be lacking either.

Science education is one of my husband's biggest concerns. Understandably, he's about to be a PhD in biology. He cares a great deal about science education. My own experience in private school meant that my math and science opportunities were lacking and he believes that its public schools who have the resources to teach students in lab settings. Some public school systems will allow homeschoolers to come into regular classes to pick up a subject. Even though that is an option, it wasn't ideal to us. Homeschool resource centers might be able to handle those classes well, especially if my husband were the parent teacher of the class...

He might be seriously considering that possibility now however. I don't understand what possessed him but last year, he found an old good quality telescope on ebay for a good price. He decided that was a learning opportunity he wanted to bring into our home and share with your children (who are only 5 and 2, mind you). He went all out and got 2 sets of mounted slides--in total 400 slides of various life forms from the plant and animal kingdoms as well as a slide preparation kit so we can mount our own slides with the children.

He kind of undercut his own argument by getting a better biology/telescope set-up than most high school labs have, and having more qualified instruction on hand for one and one interactions. I think he's completely lost that argument since we got on the mailing list for a certain catalog. It is a natural science supply store that basically supplies educators with tools and curriculum for science education. They sell pails of frogs and animal hearts for dissection for goodness sakes!

Especially exciting to us were the AP science curricula, and lab kits for children ages 8 and up. I can completely see my husband and I leading our children through the labs for AP biology, chemistry, physics and environmental science and supporting them as they prepare for the AP tests. That would be the kind of idealized science education where we were sure on the quality of instruction and felt like we had found a way to do it even better than the school system.

Obviously that is many years down the road at this point. For now, my son is a homeschooled kindergartener that is undeclared with the state since he technically does not qualify for state kindergarten. I get very frustrated with the age cut offs and my solution was to celebrate his 5th birthday with beginning kindergarten at home. If at some point we do put him into the school system, he'll go in at his age matched grade level but for now we are doing our own thing.

I'm just happy as the more I learn and discover about what all is out there, the more confident I am that we could homeschool our children and that they would get a good (if not better) education with us as their instructors. I'm especially confident in my children's abilities to seek out learning once they learn to read and write. That to me seems like the biggest challenge but I do believe that when they become motivated and see how much latitude and freedom they get from those skills, they'll be just fine in directing their own learning and getting everything they need from the education resources around them.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Home of Uncertainty

My husband is nearing graduation from his 6 year PhD program. He's hoping to finish this spring or the end of summer at the latest. Because its not clear when he will finish, its not clear where and when we'll be going or even to what we'll be going--postdoc, job, unemployment? As the spouse of PhD candidate, I'm just waiting to hear when/where we'll be going. I used to be much more impatient about things like this and the uncertainty would be killing me. I guess I've mellowed a bit and now I'm more curious than anything else.

Everytime, my husband comes home and mentions another possibility for a job or postdoc opportunity, the first thing I do is locate the university and search for real estate nearby. I get an idea of whether or not our family would enjoy living there based on what I find. Some things I generally look at: homeschooling laws, nature attractions, access to organic and local agriculture, birth community, etc. So far I have surveyed places like Brisbane, Australia; Ithaca, New York; Provo, Utah; somewhere in Florida that I can't remember; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Humboldt, California. This is probably the most exciting and interesting part. Its fun to daydream about possibilities and exciting new adventures.

The flip-side is the fear of What if? What if he has a hard time finding a new position and we're stuck where we are? How will we get by? He'll lose his stipend Will he be able to get a job in another field when he's at the same time riducously overqualified and underqualified at the same time? Will he be able to find a position nearby so we wouldn't have to move?

Instead of making no plans, or making plans that are based on dreams, I'm trying to be practical and prepare myself for the possibility of a few months with no income. I've stock piled some food so if we have to go lean for a few months, then we're prepared in that way. I'm still planting our garden this year in hopes of getting some fresh vegetables without relying on the store. We're trying to save money where we can now so we can continue paying utilities and such.

I'm trying to grow my doula and family services business with plans to offer classes in Signing Time, and a playgroup and take a few doula clients this summer. I would really like to gain enough midwifery skills to be able to be paid as a birth assistant by the end of the summer. It will tricky to see how well that can work with a new baby. My husband and I will try our hand at equally shared parenting if this is the case. Hopefully the baby will transition between my husband and I easily enough. I've found that birth work with non-breastfeeding children works really well for an equal partnership, but breastfeeding will definitely complicate things. I'm hoping a combination of pumping and visits from baby and husband while I'm away will allow the baby to get exclusive breastmilk.

My husband's plan to bring in money and to share income requirements is to turn his woodworking and photography hobbies into an income stream. For the last year, he has been turning wooden pens and salt and pepper grinders. Next, he'll be branching out to turned wooden bowls and decorative boxes. Already there is a local retailer who would like to put his pens up for sale in her store and everything else will be put up for sale at Etsy (since Etsy is already overrun with pen turners!).

There is a part of us that kind of hopes that this is what the summer will be like but that some good opportunity will come up for fall. If we find that job sharing and childcare sharing works, excellent. We'll know that the experiment worked and its possible and if it doesn't, then we'll be back to the stereotypical world of professor husband and stay at home mom (who has her part-time work on the side).

However, the ideals of radical homemaking and equally shared parenting are providing quite the emotional comfort in this period of uncertainty. Who knows what the future will bring, but we're pretty sure that whatever it is, we'll have the skills and know-how to keep going comfortably.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Attempting to Correct Pelvic Prolapse and Two Reviews

A few months ago, Rixa at Stand and Deliver posted about a giveaway opportunity to review a new product designed to help women address their pelvic floor prolapse issues. Since that has been one my most major concerns this pregnancy, I volunteered to be a reviewer.

After getting pregnant again, it became clear to me that my hip issues were connected to other places where I have been experiencing pain. Back when I was pregnant with Belle, there was situation where I found myself 28 weeks pregnant with a resistant toddler just when I saw the bus we needed to get was pulling in across the street. The toddler (Willem) wouldn't walk and I didn't want to wait another 30 hour with a tired, hungry toddler at the bus stop for the next bus. I grabbed him and ran. As a result, I pulled a ligament on my pubic bone. It was that ligament that caused me to stop participating in my Irish dance company because the weight of the pregnancy and the pain in that ligament was too much. My hip issues then started a few weeks later and continued intermittently. The ligament didn't give me any more trouble after Belle's birth; that is, until I got pregnant this third time. Its been bothering me more than my hip has the last few months.

Between pregnancies, I also noticed that I was experiencing some minor prolapse issues with my pelvic floor. It seemed to be worst when I was wearing a heavy 25 pound toddler on either my front or back. My hip would also start hurting and I'd feel that familiar ache into my thigh bone. It with those experiences that I concluded that all my hip trouble is likely related. My pelvis has been through a lot the last 6 years of childbearing and mothering!

My goal for this pregnancy was to find some effective ways to address these issues so they would not get worse after this baby was born. I've spent the last year trying to strengthen my body with regular exercise through a gym membership and personal training. I think its made a difference because here I am 32 weeks pregnant with only minor stiffness and achiness in my hip joint.

I had considered for quite a long time finding a skilled Physical Therapist to address the pelvic floor issues but for various reasons felt that I wasn't sure about the effectiveness in regards to the cost. I wanted to learn more before I made that investment.

Some friends introduced to me the company Whole Woman about the time Rixa posted about reviewing the Laselle exercisers. For Christmas, I purchased the First Aid for Prolapse DVD and its a good thing I did because I started using the Laselle exerciser before and it became much more effective after learning the principles taught in the DVD.

Since receiving the Laselle exerciser, I've tried to use it for about an hour at a time a few days a week. Usually, I use breakfast time for it because I'm able to focus on my posture while I cook and sit to eat.

At first, especially before viewing the Whole Woman DVD, I found the Laselle exerciser more annoying and discouraging than anything else. It seemed like it didn't matter what I did, but the exerciser would not stay positioned and I'd have to reposition it every few minutes.

After viewing the DVD, I learned that the explanation was probably in my posture. After spending a couple of weeks trying to retrain myself to hold my body, I started using the Laselle exerciser again. I find now that I better understand how to isolate my pelvic floor muscles and focus on holding the LaSelle exerciser in.

Because the exerciser is a weighted ball, its unlike something that is designed to stay inside the vaginal opening without falling out. It rolls out and the goal is for the woman to be able to use her muscles to hold it in and prevent it from rolling out.

I do plan to continue using the exerciser now that the review period is over. I'm especially greatful from what I have learned from the Woman Woman DVD and will continue to remember those principles of good posture. Because I am currently pregnant, I find that I cannot easily do all the movements in the Whole Woman DVD. Its not designed for pregnancy at all so I will pick up with that after the early postpartum period is over. I believe it will be a wonderful DVD to use to get back into exercise after the baby is born.

Until then, I find that using Spinning Babies for baby positioning, pelvic rocks, hands and knees position, focusing on proper posture, using the Laselle exerciser and belly dancing (using my new Belly Dance for Birth DVD!) are all helping my hips feel good and to address my pelvic floor issues without making them worse with the advancing pregnancy. A good diet of plenty of protein and fiber has also been really important to prevent constipation. Green smoothies and rice and beans are my new best friends.

In conclusion, I highly recommend learning the principles of Whole Woman posture because that is what I have found most helpful in addressing my prolapse issues. The Laselle exerciser is a helpful way to practice and ensure that I'm getting the posture right. For that reason, I feel like the Laselle exerciser would be more effective if the product included more information regarding its use, specifically counseling women on good posture to prevent and correct prolapse issues from occuring.