Posts Tagged "Natural Parenting Carnival"

Begin at the Beginning

Posted on Nov 9, 2010 in Childbirth Options, Featured, Parenting | 9 comments

Begin at the Beginning

Forgive me for being a bit obvious here: Natural Parenting came pretty naturally to us. When I look at the list of principles that make up the natural parenting philosophy, I identify with so many of them that it’s hard for me to think of just one that might resonate more than another. I can’t even really pinpoint how or when I came to incorporate them into my life. Sometimes I end up in a situation (like the sign-in sheet at La Leche League meetings) when I am asked where I first heard of La Leche League or co-sleeping, or when did I first become interested in homeschooling or midwifery, or when did I decide to breastfeed and to leave my son intact, and I just can’t say. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about those things, yet the truth is that somewhere in my twenties I must have started absorbing the Natural Parenting principles from somewhere, little by little. I have a feeling that the process was very organic, each of these ideas meshing with some part of who I was already. There were no epiphanies; just a feeling that “hey, this makes sense—how could I do it any other way?” If I had to say what opened the door for natural parenting in my life, I’d have to start at the beginning, and for me, that is homebirth. I was born at home and thus, all my life I’ve understood homebirth as a legitimate option. In grade school, I was more interested in the fact that I could wow my classmates as the only one not born in a hospital. I didn’t give much thought to the significance in terms of birth options or maternity care reform, but subconsciously I must have realised that I was proof that hospitals were NOT a vital part of the process of birthing a baby. In University I took a class on the Psychology of Health where one section looked at maternity care around the world. I was instantly enraptured by the system in the Netherlands. In the Dutch system, prenatal care is delivered by midwives and general practitioners, unless the patient is deemed high risk and transferred to the care of an obstetrician. Thirty percent of Dutch births take place at home and every new mother receives free daily in-home post-natal care visits by a nurse who helps with chores and gives assistance establishing breastfeeding. Sitting in this class in my early 20’s I knew that I would be seeking midwifery care for my own pregnancies. Midwifery care was attractive to me in the beginning primarily because the midwifery model of care is so strikingly different than the medical model. For a really in depth explanation, I highly recommend Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, but in a nutshell, the midwifery model of care views pregnancy and childbirth as normal, natural parts of life.  The midwifery model believes that birth unfolds best when left alone and that the fewer the interventions the better. Even though I’d never been pregnant before that rang true for me; I didn’t believe that pregnancy was a disability or that birth was an emergency waiting to happen. I guess what it came down to is that midwifery validated what I’d known deep down my whole life—that birth is a safe and normal part of life. Nevertheless, when I was pregnant with my first my attitude toward homebirth was “we’ll see.” I thought we’d explore it, talk it over with the midwives but that it was more likely we’d have a homebirth with our second baby. I thought back to my mom saying that one of the reasons she had me at home was because she’d already given birth twice before. She talked about it like it was no big deal, but there was always the underlying explanation that she had experience. And me? In my first pregnancy? Of course, no experience. Over and above the fact that many studies have been done recently that verify the safety of homebirth, a few things...

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What We Do All Day

Posted on Sep 14, 2010 in Featured, Learning | 10 comments

What We Do All Day

This month’s carnival topic couldn’t be more appropriate for us. Last week was our first official week as homelearners. Of course, as the carnival theme points out, “we’re all home schoolers” and “children, of whatever age, are learning all the time” whether they attend traditional schools or not. In fact, our daily routine this past week really didn’t differ much from our routine over the summer. The difference now is just that as I’ve officially signed up with a home learning program, I’m responsible. Ack. How nerve wracking! The program we’ve signed up with is called SelfDesign and it isn’t curriculum based. We can learn any way that we want and follow our kids’ whims and interests. There really are very few constraints and I love that the program recognizes exactly the theme of this month’s carnival: kids are learning all the time, just by going about their daily activities. We are assigned a learning consultant who helps us come up with a learning plan for the year. They encourage you to do mind maps with your kids so they have input into what they want to do over the year. The learning plan becomes the road map that guides us. The more overwhelming part is that we must report weekly to our learning consultant. The report includes a journal and reflection on our weekly activities and we must log a certain number of hours spent in these activities each week. Initially I felt really worried that we wouldn’t DO enough to account for all these hours. I have ordered some books and art supplies and other project materials that I intend to have in a cupboard to dig into when the little sister is napping. But alas, they haven’t arrived yet. Swimming lessons don’t start until October. We’re still deciding on some other group activities. What were we going to do every day?! It turned out that the answer to my dilemma wasn’t to rush to the computer and start googling and printing off worksheets for my not even 5 year old, pre-literate little one. The answer was to just start observing our day with fresh eyes (funnily enough our reports are called Observing For Learning). What did I see? The first day, Rain was outside in the garage with his dad. He came inside with a board. Onto the board he had screwed some fasteners to hold down some flexible hose. He had attached some plumbing bits to the hose, including a spout and a tap/valve. He showed me his handiwork and then went straight into the bathroom to test if his valve worked. Sure enough, it did. Water poured from the faucet at the bathroom sink, through his hose, past the valve (which he had put in the open position) and straight onto the bathroom floor. Success!! We mopped up the water, and put him in the bathtub with his contraption and he proceeded to play experiment for another 30 minutes. Early science experiment disguised as play. Later that day, we went for a walk on the beach for an hour. Rain ran about and dug for crabs by following the air holes in the sand at low tide. He identified various types of shells, filled our van with rocks and driftwood and watched some kite surfers playing in the wind. A walk at the beach became both science class and gym class. And what about the questions I answer all day long? In the last couple of days, I’ve answered questions on why the tide always changes, how to identify an evergreen tree, why someone might lie or steal and whether or not it’s a good thing to do, what is in the center of the earth, and a surprisingly tricky one to answer: what is math? It’s a little tricky getting the hang of logging our “schooling” hours but it’s not from lack of time spent learning. It’s more a matter of quantifying all these little moments spent in conversation through the day, as we drive, as we grocery shop, as I keep  a...

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Outdoor Education

Posted on Jun 8, 2010 in Featured, Learning, Parenting | 17 comments

Outdoor Education

Living in the Pacific Northwest means that the winter is dark, gray, rainy, and wet. As you can imagine, we have rubber boots and rain gear so that we can still get outside in the middle of winter, but I will be honest with you: we really don’t do it a lot. Come summer though, we practically live outside. The days are long and bright. The weather is warm, not hot enough for my liking, but we make up for that with the lack of bugs. There are plenty of opportunities for fun in our backyard and around our lovely corner of the world. There are so many amazing things about outdoor play: the opportunity to blend play with exercise and fresh air, the ability to create unique and imaginative play spaces with fewer restrictions than you might have indoors, the possibilities for open-ended play because there are fewer toys outdoors.  One of my favourite things about outdoor play is the way that being in nature inspires learning. From the time he could walk, Rain loved bugs. This is probably where his outdoor education began as we started turning over rocks in the back yard to find pill bugs, snails, banana slugs, ants, ladybugs and spiders. He learned their names and where they were most likely to be found. He has an observation jar (clean peanut butter jar with holes in the lid and the labels removed) where he keeps the specimens he catches so he can watch them. We do enforce one observation jar rule that all critters be released at bedtime each day so they don’t starve or miss their mothers too much. From there he started learning plant identification. Daddy is an arborist so we tend to notice and talk about trees quite a bit. By the time Rain was two and a half, he knew how to spot a weeping willow, a mountain ash (rowan tree) and a Japanese maple. Some great books to incorporate when learning about trees and shrubs are the Flower Fairies series by Cicely Mary Barker. We have the Flower Fairies of the Autumn book which has lovely illustrations and poems for Oak tree, Rowan tree, Dogwood, Blackberry, Rosehips and more. He would point and call out the names of trees he noticed when we drove around town. There are many tree related learning activities you can use to continue the conversation after you move indoors or as you explore the forest. You can: Talk about the shapes of leaves. Gather a whole bunch of different ones and paint them and use them to make prints on paper. Discuss the difference between conifers and deciduous. A fun story to listen to at the same time is The Evergreens by Odds Bodkin (find it at your local library on CD). Compare the size of a seed to the size of a mature tree. Talk about the different types of tree seeds/flowers there are: samaras, catkins, cones, acorns or other nuts like horse chestnuts etc. (Oh and by the way, they aren’t called pine cones if they’ve fallen from a hemlock or a cedar tree. My husband has pointed this out to me more times than I care to admit.) You can also compare the size of cones from different evergreen trees. Identify the shapes of different trees. Are they triangular, oval shaped, bell shaped, globe shaped? Talk about the life cycle of plants over the seasons – this is particularly obvious for trees in fall and spring of course. When Rain was 3.5 years old we moved to a new house where we had a yard that was big enough to plant a veggie garden. This created many new opportunities for outdoor learning as he helped us plant seeds. He learned that they need warmth and water to grow, that when they first sprout there are usually only two leaves and that sometimes the sprout is still wearing the seed case like a hat. (A great book that talks about seeds in called A Seed is Sleepy).  He learned about transplanting bedding...

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A Quiet Example

Posted on May 9, 2010 in Birthing, Childbirth Options, Featured, Maternity Care Options | 13 comments

A Quiet Example

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. *** In 2005, we had a baby. We used midwifery care. We had a home birth. We had a son and we did not circumcise him. We used a cloth diaper service. We breastfed. Aaron and I were the first in our group of friends to have kids. At first it was kind of strange and we felt like outsiders among them. Life had changed in that instant, punch-in-the-face kind of way that seems normal among first time parents, and we found ourselves withdrawing from our childless friends. Out of necessity, we hunkered in and learned to parent. Along the way, one-by-one our friends joined us in parenthood. Five years later, nine of the couples that we regularly associated with back then either have kids or are pregnant. In this group of nine couples, seven used (or are using) midwifery care. The two couples that didn’t were pregnant with twins. Only one birth was by cesarean (and it was one of the twin births). Two couples had their babies at home and two more couples are currently planning home births. Surrounded by these people, I often make the mistake of thinking that midwifery care and home birth are more widespread than they are. But when you look at the data, a different picture emerges. According to the most recent reports from the BC Perinatal Health Program, only 5.8% of births in BC were attended by a midwife (versus 78% in our friends), and 29.3% of births were by cesarean section (versus 14% in our friends). In 2007/2008, there were 671 home births out of a total 43,505 births which gives us a home birth rate of 1.5%. If all goes as planned, the home birth rate among our friends will be 44%. Why is it that our group of friends has this vastly different set of statistics for their births? I suppose it is partly demographic. Perhaps we share similar mentalities that would predispose us towards these kinds of choices: cloth diapering, eating organic, and so on. We are friends for a reason. But it’s not like our friends are hippies. Overall, most of our friends are regular people, professionals, home owners. Aaron and I were probably closest to the home birth “type” – you know, living in a bus and sporting dreads and all. When I look at the numbers though and realize how different our group is from the rest of the province, I would like to think that maybe we were a positive example to our friends. I tried not to be preachy but I answered questions when they came our way. I only remember a few conversations and no one has ever said that we influenced them. I don’t take credit for their decisions. After all, I don’t think anyone chooses home birth because their friends did. You have to make that choice for yourself and you don’t make it lightly. You ask questions. You read. You talk to your caregiver. Yet, even knowing one person who has actually had a home birth can demystify it for you. Every single person who uses a midwife or has a baby at home helps to normalize birth options for everyone they know. Even if you never really talk about it you become a shining example that there is another way, that there are choices. So in some small way, I like to think that we did have a role to play, that we were a positive influence among our friends. Maybe when they walked into their first appointment with a midwife and she offered them a choice of birth place, they didn’t brush it off as quickly as they might...

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Balancing Needs When Baby Trumps Mama

Posted on Apr 13, 2010 in Featured, Parenting | 20 comments

Balancing Needs When Baby Trumps Mama

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice! This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. *** Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don’t be afraid to say “no”. Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself. ~ 8th Principle of Attachment Parenting, Attachment Parenting International. Sometimes I think this oft-overlooked 8th principle is the most important principle of the Attachment Parenting philosophy. Sometimes I think that it’s the part that makes all the other principles possible. However, for me, it is also the hardest principle to implement. And I don’t think I’m alone. It seems that striving for balance and finding time for self-care are on the minds of most parents in some shape or form. There are a lot of sites out there rife with advice on how to do this. Jen Louden of Comfort Queen talks about renewal, comfort and making time for yourself, with coaching geared specifically for women. Sarah Juliusson from Mama Renew gives tips and offers workshops for mothers. Renee Trudeau wrote a book called The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Advice varies from lighting candles to attending week long child-free retreats. There should be something there for everyone. And in many ways, there is. However, dear reader, what does one do when trying to honour our own needs pits us against our children? I recently read Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, by Mary Kurcinka. The book outlines the different ways that a child can be spirited and has scales for rating your child on the various aspects. There is also a section where you rate yourself. I was reading the book because I suspected that my powerhouse of a four year old was spirited and he did come out mildly spirited based on our appraisals. What surprised me was that in some ways I am spirited as well (I think Kurcinka would term me spunky). And here’s the kicker: Rain and I are spirited in opposite ways (for the most part). He rated low on the things that I scored highly on and I rated low on the things he scored highly on. An example would be that Rain is fairly exuberant (for those familiar with Kurcinka’s book, you will recognize my attempt to use a positive label) and I am sensitive. Rain rates highly for energy; he is always wiggling, always on the move, always making noise. He can’t talk; he yells. He loves to bang on drums. I scored low on energy. I have always been quiet. As I child I preferred to read, colour or draw rather than join in on a team sport for instance. It drives me crazy that my husband shakes his leg or drums his fingers when relaxing on the couch. I tend to be still. I rate high however, on sensitivity. I am a far pickier eater than anyone in my family, I am always cold and I find noise extremely stressful. I am often reminded during the course of my day that excessive noise is used as a method of torture and as a means to end hostage situations. I have also been known to joke that having kids is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain. When our house gets especially noisy, I feel myself tensing up and my reactions to otherwise innocuous behaviour become harsh and grouchy. I react like someone being attacked. I counter-strike. I understand that kids have lots...

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