Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Unschooling: Following your child's lead

I remember one Valentines Day, many years ago.  I had two young sons and I was babysitting their friend also.  I was so excited that my kids were at that age that I could finally do arts and crafts with them.  So I went to Walmart and splurged on stickers and paper and ribbons and markers and glue and... the boys had absolutely no interest in the activity.  I made Valentines myself that year.  It made for a great story though, about why I needed to have a girl (which, thankfully, #4 was).

Strangely, years later my third born son seems to really enjoy "activities" of that nature.  And even though I've transitioned into a much more laid back unschooling mother who doesn't lesson plan like some of my dedicated mother-friends whom I admire greatly- the root of the unschooling philosophy is that you follow your child's lead.  And lately we've done one hands-on project after another. All spontaneous.  They're even better than a planned one because he is absolutely impassioned about the activity at hand. And his little sister, who copies his every move gets to join us with delight. Once he wanted to make a bird-feeder, so we cut a big hole in a two liter soda bottle (one for each child).  Then we glued cotton balls around the edge so they wouldn't scrape themselves going in and we filled it with bread crumbs.  It was a hit.  Another time he wanted to do macaroni art, so I pulled a box of macaroni and cheese out of the cupboard, some colored paper and some Elmer's glue.  We did it right on the living room floor.  There was macaroni everywhere when we were through but nothing a five minute sweep couldn't fix and absolutely worth the fun, fine motor skill enhancing, creativity inducing, individuality promoting activity that my son and daughter engaged in.  Well, I'm not so sure that it promoted any individuality in my two year old daughter given that she (as usual) copied my son's heart design exactly.  Another fun activity he initiated was creating a mouse trap to catch the mouse we saw running around at night.  Without my help he gathered a bunch of supplies: string, cheese, a broom, a dustpan.  We ended up suspending a garbage pail over the cheese, ready to drop at the sight of the mouse.  Another time he did an experiment his brother had told him about involving inflating a balloon using an empty soda bottle, baking soda and vinegar.  Finally, my daughter enjoys coloring in her coloring book, an activity I never got to do with my first two boys. 

This interest in hands-on projects and arts and crafts is, in my opinion, a rare treat for a mother of a son.  But "following your child's lead" is so important regardless of where that interest leads.  Dimitri's passion for skateboarding is the other interest I support.  When I was a little girl, my passions included gymnastics and writing and (strangely) politics.  Every child is unique and that's what makes society a diverse place that succeeds.  If we were all architects, who would fight fires?  It's the major disadvantage of public schooling which, by necessity, must be very cookie-cutter. Sometimes support just means letting your child do what they need to do; like my second born who spent an inordinate amount of time on the computer.  This breaks the good parenting "rule" that says you need to limit media time.  But this kid is a computer genius.  I don't know how he figures it out, but he teaches me all sorts of things that I don't know how to do.  He has an uncle on both sides of the family who make good money as computer programmers and why would I want to squelch that if his strengths lie in that field? 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Womens Equality in the 10's.

We are so blessed to live in a country and an era when women are afforded all the same rights as men. We look back to Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others with gratitude

But we would be remiss to become complacent. We owe it to our daughters to remain vigilant and fight the equalities that continue to this day.

#1 Wage discrimination
I can't believe this is still going on but it is! Is it some sort of subconscious thing? My brother got a job at the same grill that his girl-friend worked at. His starting pay was higher than hers only he started with no experience and she did have experience!!!! That's infuriating!  Here is an article discussing this very issue in greater depth.

This is happening on all socioeconomic levels. There is only one solution. We need to have complete and open honesty about money. We need to talk about salaries. The secrets need to end. It is doing us a disservice. I know this is a completely foreign concept to Americans but in the best interest of women and minorities the gag has got to come off the mouths. Kudos to the Nurse Practitioners who sued their hospital when they were denied a pay raise, yet the electricians- at the same pay rate- were given a raise.  The Nurse Practitioners won.

#2 Job discrimination
A recent study showed (disturbingly) that mom's are still being discriminated against in hiring practices. I found this out firsthand when I was applying for a supervisor role at UPS. I thought that I could highlight some of the skills I had utilized as a stay-at-home- mom in my resume; for example "Safety conscience, as evidenced by only three ER visits with three boys in ten years." The hub manager (a really big kahuna in the company) gently took me aside and advised me to rewrite my resume. I admire that he went out of his way to help me and am thankful for the kindness he extended, but I am disappointed that the corporate world hasn't evolved to the point of recognizing the contribution of mothers in this world and instead still discriminate against them.

#3 High heels.

What is the difference between high heels and the ancient Chinese tradition of foot binding? Very little in my opinion. Both painfully alter the female foot in the name of cultural beauty. This has got to stop. The long-term ramifications of high heels are serious. And the expectation of women to perform difficult athletic feats (no pun intended) in high heels in the sport of ballroom dancing is OUTRAGEOUS!!! Their male counterparts have no such handicap put on them. I would really like to see one of the competitors in "Dancing with the Stars" take a stand on this issue and refuse to wear high heals. This is a gender equality issue! I can't deny that high heels are flattering. Even I can't resist a stunning pair on an evening out. But this aesthetic appeal is purely because we have been societally conditioned to see them that way. In the same way that Burmese culture came to see extended necks as beautiful in women. There is a difference between a symbol of beauty that has no implications for women- like the the eye popping enhancement of mascara verses the symbols of beauty that carry the weight of oppression, like high heels. They restrict a woman's movement to a slower pace and smaller step, reinforcing the idea of women as fragile and incapable. The only way to change our perception of beauty is to begin a conversation about it. Is this the image we want to project of ourselves? Is perpetuating a (mild) form of mutilation worth the current beauty pay-off? If we could change that for our daughters, would we? Styles change. We've seen girdles and pantyhose come and go. There is no reason the high heel can't meet the same fate.

#4Birthing rights. 
We are quickly losing the rights to our bodies when it comes to childbirth. Dr.s intimidate. Sometimes give no option to V-bac (AZ example). Midwives are more and more restricted.  RN's lose license if they even witness a homebirth in states such as Massachusetts. Charges are pressed when a woman births at home and something goes wrong. HIV tests are mandatory in ten states under the presupposition that the state is testing the baby but this is unconstitutional. HIV tests on a newborn only give the mothers HIV status, not the baby's. The only other two groups of people who have lost that right are soldiers and prisoners. The key to successful AIDS treatment is diagnosing HIV and that is compromised when the "Three C's" are violated: consent, counseling and confidentiality. Illegal testing of mothers compromises consent.

Finally, we must continue to fight for our sisters around the world who face the discrimination we defeated decades ago: Female Genital Mutilation in Africa. The death penalty in Muslim countries for adulterous women, but not the men. And women's rights to vote, drive, run for office and simply show their face in public.

We've won the right to vote, the legal right to equal pay, the equal sports scholarship ruling, protection from sexual harassment. The legal right to breastfeed any place/any time, gender neutral terms for previously male dominated careers such as fire fighters (firemen) and postal workers (mailmen). Let us continue the fight.


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