Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Can Words Just Be Words?

Can words just be words? That can be a tough question to answer. For the most part words do have power. They can insult or lift up another person. They can cause blame or forgiveness. Words do have some power. They have the power we assign to them.

In my home the only words that are not acceptable are insults. Any word that means something derogatory or is used as an insult is not part of our home and family culture. Beyond this, our children are allowed to speak any word or words they see fit. We do not use "potty words" often in front of the children, yet they are welcome to use such words in front of us.

We frequently discuss how other people see "potty words" or "curses" because in the real world not everyone is like us. Some people are very religious and some religious people look down on certain types of words. Some people are steeped in culture and think such words are "bad" or "dirty". We talk about job interviews and visits to the store. You just never know who you will offend and why. Until you know someone well, avoid "curse words" so as to not offend.

We also stress that the children not hide themselves. These words can be used to explain frustration or excitement. These words can place emphasis on a feeling that other, more commonly used words do not. If these words are something the children use to express themselves, so be it. As I mention above, the only real requirement is that we insult no one using such words and that we do not use words that are commonly used as insults even if that is not our intent in the word's usage.

You might think we swear all day long as do our children. It is rare that any of us use "swear words", even the kids. If something is not banned, humans are less likely to want to participate in that banned activity. Not only are we encompassing all non-insulting words, but we also are helping our children to develop their self-led inner compass. They are learning inner discipline, instead of peer pressure or fear based "discipline".

Friday, April 12, 2013

Eight Ways To Teach While Grocery Shopping

Many homeschooling and unschooling families use every day experiences to teach. Grocery shopping is a fantastic way to teach math, wise choices, nutrition, and how to budget. Below is a list of ways to teach and be productive while grocery shopping. I used these ideas and tips even when my children attended public school. Feel free to add to the list. These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I hope you find them useful.

1. Make a list for each child. Use pictures and/or words depending on the child's reading level. I usually put different items on different lists so each child is looking for different items and there are no arguments.

2. Bring paper and a pencil to practice math. You can practice adding to find the total, subtraction to find out how much change is due, multiply by the amount of each item you are purchasing, divide to find unit price, or use percentages to find out how much tax you will pay.

3. Allow the children to push a cart, lift items into the cart, and unload the cart as is age and ability appropriate. Not only does this increase awareness of surroundings, it also helps them get some exercise in which helps many children focus even more.

4. Ask your children to read signs in the store. Take time to explain why some words can be sounded out phonetically, while others do not follow basic rules of English. We have completed many impromptu grammar lessons in the grocery store.

5. Show your children how to stay with the list and budget. Have the children check off items as you select them.  Also, ask the children to make choices between similar items that are different prices and sizes. Discuss the per unit pricing and how long each item or box will last in your family.

6. Discuss how food gets to the table. Talk about farms, farmer markets, grocery stores, and delivery services. Discuss organic and non-organic foods. Discuss why some foods go bad more quickly than others, often due to a long travel time from farm to store. Find ways to use less processed and less genetically modified foods.

7. Allow your children to help choose the meal plan for the week and then help write the list, as is age or ability appropriate.

8. Discuss needs versus wants and talk about how to plan ahead to save money. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Just To Be Clear - Allergies, Veganism, Weston Price

Lately there has been another uproar, yes another one, about the Weston Price Foundation's recommendations. For some reason some of their representatives are claiming that a vegan mom's breast milk is not as good for a child as homemade formula (which is based on dairy whether it be goat milk or cow milk). Sadly this is a huge blanket statement. You can eat meat if you want, though I do not. That really is not the big issue here. My concern is the children with allergies.

My son had hard stools 1-2 times a week. He had no other bowel movements during the week, except these stools. This began around age 5 months, after a vaccine injury but that is another topic, and continued until he was nearly a year old. As he approached a year of age, I had already taken gluten and corn out of my diet as he was allergic to those items and we noticed a huge difference in behavior and apparent pain for him if I avoided those foods. Around that time he also had eczema issues so I pushed for a dermatologist visit. The dermatologist asked me what his stools looked like and how often they came. After finding out that they were suspect, our regular pediatrician was not concerned of course, he suggested I double check for food allergies. After much Internet research, yep I know doctor google is not the best but it actually helped diagnose my child, we found that my son had blood from his upper gastrointestinal tract in his stool. Apparently he was bleeding from the upper tract; it was clotting, and then slowing down his stool because it was dry and clotted. This was why his stools were black, hard, and infrequent even though he was nursed.

After all was said and done, and after my tears and guilt over not knowing he was bleeding internally for months, we found that he was indeed sensitive and allergic to many things. The list includes, but is not limited to, genetically modified foods, sprays they use on foods, carrots, some strawberries, soy, most corn, most dairy, gluten, and egg. Our regular pediatrician praised me for figuring so much out with so little support. He said it was good that I didn't stop nursing and give formula because the bleeding would have gotten worse and my child could have become very ill or died.

I really do not know why people think pushing the milk of a goat; goats will eat most anything, or of a cow, which is meant to feed a HUGE baby, would be healthier for an infant or child than a vegan mother's milk. After all, a mother who cares will make sure she has proper nutrients no matter what her diet is based on. My point is that mother's milk is the most perfect food even if she is vegan. If she is worried at all about nutrition, she can research or see a nutritionist. My nutritionist helped me to stay healthy and feed my child even with all the allergies. I am very thankful for her. If you support nursing, then you support vegan moms. If you are concerned, offer to pay a nutritionist assuming you know the mom well enough to say such a thing.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

FYI - Toys And Clothing Do Not Magically Change Child's Genitals From Boy To Girl

Today a close friend and I had a short chat about life in general. We do not have many opportunities to catch up, so when we do talk we tend to vent about society. (Yes, I know, what a shock that I would ever vent about societal norms.) We both have degrees in anthropology and an extensive background in researching human rights and gender roles within various societies.

My friend told a story about a son and father she observed at a store recently. She said the little boy wanted a water bottle that had flowers on it. The father said no and told the boy it was because the water bottle was for girls only. Of course, my friend was upset because she feels men tend to be repressed because of situations like this one. I have to agree. Gender roles are a societal constraint, not an innate necessity.

I went on to say that people who think clothing, toys, hair bows or lack thereof, and other items affect a child's genital constructs or a child's future love for another human are clearly not level headed or science minded folks. Are we really saying to our children that their brains will be harmed by playing with toys that are for children? What a ridiculous concept.

My significant other often struggles with this issue. He often feels that something is odd or not right about another person, but cannot tell me why. Usually his feelings are because of the gender roles forced on him as a child and young adult. He is very calm and patient with our children. He does not put them down for liking or not liking stereotypical boy and girl things. He encourages their interests and rarely says something to me about gender roles these days. I know it can be a struggle, but as adults we must work to encourage children to be themselves regardless of the gender roles we have been taught. In my opinion, this is the only way to raise just and kind children who are accepting of all people.

I Suppose No Shopping Trip is Ordinary When Peacefully Parenting

This morning I took my three children to buy new shoes for the spring and summer. We went to Payless Shoes because of their buy one get one half off sale. For a larger family this can be a good deal, in my opinion, though I do get frustrated because sometimes we cannot find leather free shoes.

While at the store, my two daughters independently searched for shoes which rocks! My son and I looked for toddler shoes together. They all did a great job using their words, listening to my directions when I had something to say, and respecting the store as well as the products.

Another family came in with young children. The parents were trying to look at shoes and the children were being children. I mean what typical young child isn't noisy, isn't full of energy, and doesn't like to explore? Unfortunately, the parents were very stressed out, I have been there plenty of times, and used loud menacing voice and actions several times. It was rough enough that I said something to the clerk who seemed fearful to speak up or give gentle direction. At one point the male, perhaps the father, picked up one of the young kids by the shirt and shoved his face in the child's face while shouting.

Well, you all know me, that was NOT going to fly especially with my children present. I gently and calmly said, "Please don't do that. I know children can be stressful. I have three as you can see, but please do not do that. It would be sad if someone got hurt because of anger." Of course I got a dirty look and mumbling directed at me, but that was the kindest way I could muster to speak up. I really do understand. Stress can make a person very very upset and makes it hard to think things through. I know I am fortunate to have had a lot of practice before I had kids. My parenting tool box is very full, though there is always room for more strategies and ideas. After all, no one is perfect and stress does affect our behavior.

I realize the children probably have a bleak home life and wish I had more time to talk with the parents in a low stress environment, but that is not always possible. I can say that I often wonder if stores understand that the profits would dip if all the peaceful parents chose to shop only in places that require calm voices and gentle touch. I spent nearly $100 today. I do not know if I will go back to that particular store with my money again. Maybe I will because people need to see peaceful parenting in action plus what are the odds the same family will have the same stress level and be there at the same time we are again? Maybe I won't go back because my children deserve to have a calm, peaceful, kind experience when out shopping.

At any rate, I did the best I could. I was kind. My children  saw me being respectful and patient. They saw me stick up for those whom cannot defend themselves. If I had my phone I would have most likely called someone to investigate further, possibly rather than say anything, because it is my belief that if people will bully a child like that in public, the child may be in danger at home.

While we finished our purchase, the clerk praised my kids repeatedly and said, "Your peaceful way works better than their non-peaceful way." I hope that, at the very least, the clerk passes on my concerns to the manager of the store and also that she internalizes the experience of seeing peacefully parented children behaving successfully in public.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Why Our Wedding Proposal Was Cringe-Worthy In My Book

I have a confession to make. When my husband proposed, I was embarrassed. I am not someone who likes to have attention from strangers so you might think the fact that he proposed in public might be the issue here. (He proposed at downtown Disney because I ran late and the park we both loved was not open that late.) The truth is that I was embarrassed when he got down on one knee. To many people this is the default way to propose. This is a necessary behavior in many people's minds. I never liked the idea of giving a bride away or of a man having to basically bow to the woman in order to propose marriage. I generally am not a "traditionalist" in any way. It just seems condescending for me to insist someone get on his knee on the ground in order to, I guess, prove his love and commitment. We have been married for about ten and a half years, have three gorgeous children, and are really enjoying life together. Yet, to this day, I cringe when thinking of the proposal because I do believe we are equals, not one above the other. I hope more people rethink their roles and ideals because truly we are all equal.