Friday, June 30, 2006

The World Revolves around Talula as of Late

We haven't been getting too much accomplished lately. Well, I haven't. Tania has been keeping up with her work, and Joey has been basically doing my job and his. The house is pretty spotless, thanks to him.

It's not that Talula is hard to take care of; it's just that I like to stare at her all day long. So even when she's sleeping, I'm holding her.

Luckily, I think I am finally coming around. I have her in the sling for most of the day, so I am at least mobile. I was able to do dishes and cook breakfast for everyone. I should clean the bathroom today.

But how could you do anything but stare at this cute face all day long? Tania has to take breaks from her work or her play to come and give her kisses. She's really turning out to be a wonderful big sister. They're both really lucky to have each other, and Joey and I are very lucky to have both of them.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Talula is here!!!

Our little girl is finally here! Talula Violet Aiston arrived on Thursday, June 22, 2006 at 8:57 p.m. She weighed 7 pounds, 10 ounces. She was 19.5 inches long.

This is the best we can do for a picture right now because our beloved Canon Elph was stolen and we had to use a disposable camera. They're not very good for close-ups at all.

I went to sleep Wednesday evening with contractions. They were totally bearable, and I could sleep through them. Joey kept waking me up by rolling over on top of me, so I had to kick him out of the bed. I just had this feeling that I needed to get a good night's sleep.

I had contractions throughout the next day, but they were still bearable. Joey had the day off, and we just hung around home. I knew it was the day, and I let Tania open her "big sister" presents. There was a game of Crazy Eights among her gifts, so we played that for a while. Joey did some frantic cleaning and took Tania to the bookstore. When they came back, my contractions were getting more intense, and were about 5 minutes apart. We packed a bag and headed to the hospital. It was about 4:00 p.m. when we arrived. My cervix was 100 percent effaced and 3 centimeters dialated. I thought that I would have a long way to go.

We were extremely disappointed to learn that Tania would not be allowed to stay overnight at the hospital with us. We really wanted our family to be together. But Tania didn't mind; she wanted to go to her cousin's house. We decided that we should take her sooner, rather than later. Joey drove her around 6:00 p.m. and I got in the jacuzzi. My contractions were getting more intense.

When Joey came back, we walked up and down the hallway. My back hurt with every contraction, and he would apply pressure to it. It was really helpful, to the point where I could not let him go anywhere, because I needed him to apply the pressure with every contraction.

Around 7:00 p.m., the contractions were extremely intense. I was yelling and crying with every one. The nurses started talking about the epidural. I kept saying no thank you, but I was thinking, who the hell do I think I am? There were about 12 other women in the birth center at the same time I was, but none of them were yelling and crying. They all had taken the epidural. If they couldn't handle childbirth without drugs, why did I think that I could? I asked the nurse to check how dialated I was. I was 8 centimeters already. I really don't know what I would have done if I was only 4 or 5 centimeters. The nurse said that if I wanted the epidural, I had to have it then. I said no. I knew it would not be long. About two minutes later, I felt like pushing. I was standing by the bed, and the nurse told me not to push until she checked me. I pushed anyway. I think she knew it, and she asked me to get on the bed, because she thought the baby might fall onto the floor.

She checked me and said I was ready to go. She said I could start pushing when I felt the urge. It was sort of funny because I had already been pushing, but whatever. The next time I pushed, my water broke. The paged the doctor, and she and another nurse came rushing in. Pushing was really hard and scary, but it took the pain away from the contractions. My doctor was really good. She knew my wishes, and when I said, "I wish you could just take her out of me," she said, "No you don't. You want to do this the way nature intended." I didn't feel pain from the baby coming down the vaginal canal, but I was afraid, because I tore a bit with Tania.

The doctor and nurses kept saying that she was about to come out and that they could see her head. I thought they were trying to give me false hopes so that I would keep pushing or something. I didn't see how she could come so quickly. On about the seventh push, she shot out. It didn't hurt; it just felt really uncomfortable for my hips.

They put little Talula right up on my chest. She was crying a cute little cry, but she stopped crying when she heard my voice. She was so pretty and healthy and perfect. Joey was crying and we both just instantly fell in love with her. The nurse took her to weigh her and everything, and she just lay in the little warm baby bed thingie looking at Joey as he stood next to her. Then the nurse brought her back and I breastfed her. She knew exactly what to do. She must have taken a class about it when she was in my uterus.

That night, I put her to sleep in the baby bed that the hospital had for her. I was afraid to sleep with her in my bed because the sides were not very sturdy. I was afraid also because I was so exhausted. I might not even wake up if she fell out of the bed. But she ended up getting too cold in the baby bed, so I brought her in with me and just stayed up. She loved sleeping with her mama, and we got her temperature up in no time.

About not taking drugs: I didn't research any effects of the epidural. I just wanted to do things the natural way. I wanted to feel in charge of my body, and I wanted to trust that my body would do what it was supposed to do. I wanted to know that I was strong enough to do this. I have heard that the epidural leads to a failure to progress in labor which leads to a higher likelihood of c-section. But my reasons were really mostly selfish, like running a marathon. I just wanted to know I could do it. With Tania, I did not have the epidural, but I did ask for it. The anesthesiologist was unavailable. I guess I would have gotten it otherwise.

We went home the next day, much to everyone's surprise. I think the hospital staff thought we were weird. We didn't want the epidural; we wouldn't let them give Talula any shots or put ointment on her eyes; we didn't want anyone watching her so we could sleep. I honestly didn't think we were so "out there" until now.

The first night home, Talula had a poop-fest all night long. She didn't let me sleep much, but it was so nice to be home, and so nice to snuggle up to my little angel in my own bed. Joey had 4 days off, so he got to spend time with her too. He loves to hold her and rock her and lull her to sleep. He's such a good, gentle daddy.

We took Talula to the doctor for her first check-up yesterday. She was four days old. The doctor had expected her to have lost weight, but she had gained 3 ounces! I must have some high-quality breastmilk. It made me feel good, since I felt at the hospital like everyone was doubting that I knew what I was doing.

We decided to make that day Talula's first day out, so we went to the library and checked out some books for Tania. She got three pretty cool looking chapter books and a Gilgamesh children's book. We got a bunch of National Geographics and some wine magazines out of the "free" bin. Then we went to Umeke Market (a health food store in Kahala) to get our DHA pills and some groceries. I also bought lavender and tea tree oil and some pure aloe vera gel to make a good baby wipes potion. I don't want to poison her with the stuff at the store.

We have been using this amazing sling that I got as a gift from my friend Leela. (It's the first one - orange and beige tiger print on one side and a brown, orange, and beige sort of batik print on the other side.) Talula loves it. She goes right to sleep in it. It's made out of a thin cotton, so it's not too hot, although we do sweat when we wear it. She likes to be facing me right up against my belly and chest. I love having her in it. It's like she's a little kangaroo...a little joey.

Today is our first day using cloth diapers. We got two free packs of disposables, so we thought we'd use those up first to make my life easier. We will mostly use prefolds, I guess, since they're cheap. They work for me. Some of the fitted ones just leak right out the side. We're going to try Fuzzi Buns tonight, since she sleeps about 6 hours straight now! (God, am I lucky!)

Tania is such a big help. She loves her little sister. She always wants to hold her and help change her. She watches her if I have to go to the bathroom or something. It's really nice to have her around. She was a little jealous at first, but I think she gets it now.

Well, that's the news about Talula. Homeschooling has slowed down, but we want to get back on track. I have to get Tania through the first-grade materials in time for second grade. Piece of cake!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind

First Language Lessons
for the Well-Trained Mind

by Jessie Wise

This is the grammar book that we are using for Tania. Read the reviews on Amazon link above. Most are positive. One talks about typos, but the one she mentions is not in the book I have. I have not found any typos yet, but maybe I am just stoopid. Tee-hee.

We like it. I wanted to get through it, even though it starts at a first-grade level, to see where Tania is at with grammar. It seems like they did not do a lot with grammar at her school. She did not know what a noun was, and accordingly, did not know the difference between common and proper nouns. I guess some probably theorize that this knowledge is not important at such a young age. I can see why, but for me, grammar was something that I learned early and it sort of set the stage for learning how to write. I want to establish habits now, so she can concentrate on more important things later. And she seems to have a mind for it, so there you go.

The author thinks memorization is important. I am not sure yet if I believe that it is, but Tania enjoys it, so we do it. Narration is another thing emphasized in the book, i.e., you read about something and your child narrates what you read. I think this is an incredibly important skill.

After you are finished with this book, you are supposed to move on to some other grammar program. They recommend Rod & Staff, which from what I have heard, is heavily Christian, to the point of irritating even Christians. There is a new secular grammar program that I just heard about called Growing With Grammar. I reviewed the website and it looks pretty good. We might go with that for third grade. They actually only offer third grade right now, but are in the process of preparing 4th and 5th grade curricula.

But anyway, as far as First Language Lessons goes, Tania is eating it up. She really likes it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

the Story of the World

the Story of the World: History for the Classical Child
Volume 1: Ancient Times

From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor
by Susan Wise Bauer

This is the history book that we have started using with Tania. I really like the Classical method rationale that says it makes no sense to teach history the way it is taught in schools. It makes more sense to start at the beginning and end at the end. In a traditional school setting, the child learns history as if the world revolves around them. They usually learn about themselves, then their state, then United States history. Eventually, they learn about other Western cultures, but rarely do they learn about African history or Japanese history. So what the Story of the World series strives to do is teach history from beginning to end for first through fourth graders. And in all honesty, reading the books has been a good refresher for me as well.

Let me just say that the first review on Amazon is very thorough, and you can read it for a detailed critique. Click on the book title, above.

Also, some people have recommended that I buy the activity books to go along with the texts. I have not done so. I am not sure whether I will or not. For now, we are supplementing the text with library books and websites. Like this one. And this one.

It seems that Tania likes hearing the stories in the book, but does not really care about geography matters. There is a story about a nomad girl that she was very interested in. The nomads ate lizards, apparently, and Tania is fascinated by that. But show her a map of the Fertile Crescent, and she could not care less. I think that is totally fine. My goal here is just to give her a brief overview of how things were and what happened. She will learn about the Ancients again in fifth grade, and again in ninth grade. I am sure we can get more specific then. So I want to keep it interesting rather than bore her to death.

I do not think this will take a whole year, so we will probably move on to Volume 2 by January. I guess I am trying to do two years in one because I just want to review what I think she should have learned in first grade before moving on to second grade. One of the things I read about the first year of homeschooling after you bring a child home from school is that you will be surprised at how little they have learned. You just assume that since they spend six hours per day at school, that they are learning so much, but it is just not the case.

Well, to sum up the Story of the World, we are happy with it. I have read through it ahead of time, and Tania seems to like it so far. If she ends up hating it, we'll let you know.

Wasting No Time on Earth

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 2

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask'd where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,'
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.

Barnes & Noble Online Homeschooling Course

I graduated from law school on May 15th. I am about to give birth. So naturally, I decided that I needed to sign up for some online courses. Did you know that Barnes & Noble has free online courses? Here is a link to the B&N "University." You have to sign up for an account, and then you can select "Browse Courses." I suppose the catch is that they assign books to read in conjunction with taking the course, and they hope you buy from them. But you can buy the books from where you want, or check them out from the library. So I signed up for "Homeschooling Your Children," and guess who the instructor is? Linda Dobson! One of the leading writers on homeschooling today. The course is supposed to last for four weeks. There are eight lessons, and you can do them at your own pace. Since I'm about to pop any day now, I've been trying to get through them rather quickly. I have one lesson left.

I know that you might be wondering what the point of my reviewing the course is, if it's too late to sign up. Well, I heard from some reputable sources that the course is actually offered a few times per year, so you may be able to sign up at some point in the future.

I honestly did not think I would learn so much from this course, because I've been studying homeschooling for a while and am quite a know-it-all. But the activities that Linda had us do really made me think about all sorts of aspects of homeschooling that I had not considered. I have developed my educational philosophy through an activity in this course. Want to hear it?

A Well-Educated Person:

-Sees learning to be intertwined with everyday life;
-Is a confident and independent thinker;
-Is resourceful in finding information that she seeks;
-Is academically, emotionally, socially, and mentally prepared for life as an adult, whether that life include college, work, or starting a family of her own;
-Possesses knowledge and understanding about her community and about the world around her;
-Has an understanding about social injustice and has the character to become an activist where she sees a need.

It might change a bit as I think about it more, but I went from nothing to that, so I'm happy with the progress.

All the relevant homeschooling topics were covered in the course, like socialization, money, the law, networking, the usual.

We discussed what we actually learned in school, and how much of it we use in our adult lives. We discussed the things that we wanted for our children in life. We basically made a list, and then checked off whether these things could be achieved in public school, private school, and homeschool. It was a real eye-opener. I honestly felt that none of the things that I want for my children can be achieved in a school setting.

We discussed how to become a learning family, how to make learning a way of life. That's the goal, right? It's the name of this blog!

We discussed intelligences and learning styles. I learned through my own observations that Tania has a combination of intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal. The types of intelligences are from a book called "Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences," by Howard Gardner. Basically, I concluded that Tania has a typical learning style that schools cater to, but that because of this, she can be ignored by teachers who need to focus on teaching other students. I am not saying that the other students do not deserve the attention that they get, but I just feel like as soon as Tania gets to a level that is "good enough," she is left alone. She deserves more than she gets in a traditional school setting.

We discussed how to help our children to love learning. I learned a lot about just letting her be, letting her play, letting her be a child.

The course has really been great, and I learned more than I ever thought I could. I guess I learned the most about myself as a learner and about Tania as a learner. It has been as eye-opening experience.

I also am really excited to take more B&N courses. I signed up for "Becoming Human: The Story of Evolution," which is taught by Ken Mowbray, a paleoanthropologist (whew!) and Curatorial Associate for Physical Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. I went to a Fundamental Baptist boarding school for high school, so I actually never learned about evolution. I am really excited to learn about it now. It starts July 10th.

B& you!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Kids Should Climb Trees More

Remember climbing trees? I can't imagine getting myself up there nowadays, but I remember spending hours in this very tree that Tania climbs today in my parents' backyard. She climbs the tree and stays up there for so long. I don't know what she's doing up there, but I remember what I used to do up there. I used to just pretend I was someone else. Sometimes I was hiding from someone, and the tree was my secret hiding place. Sometimes the tree was where I lived. One branch was the kitchen, one was the living room, and one was my bedroom. I would lay down on a branch just to prove that I could sleep there if I wanted. Sometimes I would go up there because my little brother was not big enough to climb yet. I would grow tired of playing with him and would climb up to escape and hide. Sometimes I would go up there to pretend I was a spy. I would bring binoculars up with me and try to catch some action at the neighbors' houses. I would freak myself out, telling myself that I had seen something strange, when I really had seen nothing out of the ordinary at all. Sometimes I would bring a book up there with me. I had a little spot up there that was perfect for sitting and reading. The house was too noisy to read in, so I would go up into my little retreat. Sometimes I would bring my journal up in the tree. I wanted no one to see me write in it, so I would climb as high as I possibly could climb and write everything that crossed my mind. Sometimes I would leave my journal up there so that no one could look in it. Sometimes I would tie little string bracelets that I had made up there, as if to mark my territory. I wonder if they're still up there. Nah, I would have heard about it.

I wonder what Tania does when she's up there.

Friday, June 09, 2006

School Is Over! Yippee!

And we headed straight to the beach. It was absolutely beautiful. The sky was an undescribable shade of blue, the ocean was several shades from deep blue to a brilliant aqua, and the sand was a heavenly white. There were a LOT of people there! It sort of looked like a "Where's Waldo" scene with kids building sand castles, grown-ups reading books, teenagers splashing each other in the water, tourists tipping over on kayaks.

So what does Tania build out of sand? A desk and a chair. The twigs sticking out of the desk are supposed to be pencils. I thought it was sort of ironic. She might miss the formalities of school for a while. We may need to feed her some of those formalities, although I had big plans to do our first lessons at this beautiful botanical garden called Ho'omaluhia.

Oh, so since it was the last day of school, guess what Tania got from her teacher? All the things that had been confiscated during the year and held hostage in her desk. There were all these bracelets that I thought Tania had carelessly lost and refused to buy any more of. I guess she was afraid to admit to me that she had gotten them confiscated because she was playing with them. I wish I had known, because I would have demanded them back. I mean, how can a teacher take someone's property and hold it for the whole school year? That's just ridiculous. She could have just as easily sent it home with a note explaining the situation. I would have thought the situation was stupid, but would not have let her wear the bracelets to school anymore. Playing with her bracelets...oooooooohhh...sounds like a future criminal! That must have disrupted the entire class and prevented them from learning!


Tania, Artist Extraordinaire

I cannot tell you how proud I am of Tania for painting this picture of Joey for Father's Day! Come on, it's genius! She is so good with color schemes.

I just thought I'd brag a bit. I can't help it. This blog may turn into nothing more than book reviews and shameless bragging.

I better relate it to homeschooling. I am just really, really happy that she will be able to explore her articitic talent as much as she wants and needs. This painting was a project that she did at school. They have art once a week for about thirty minutes. At home, she will be able to paint every day if she wants. That makes me so happy.

She was so excited about this painting that she had to give it to Joey early. He was so impressed. He could not stop talking about it even after she went to sleep. We all think she's some kind of artistic genius. Doesn't every parent think their child is a genius? I know mine thought I was a genius. Well, I can't wait to show my mom what her genius granddaughter has been up to. My mom is a painter, so she's always thrilled with Tania's work. She taught Tania how to paint.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Detrimental Schooling

While reading "The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child," by Linda Dobson, I came across a pet peeve of one woman:

"I admit I sometimes become impatient with the zeal of first-year homeschoolers, and especially irksome is the tendency to justify their decision by denigrating their public school system. Of course, I am occasionally guilty of this as well, but here's my advice on the subject. Never criticize your local school in an attempt to justify homeschooling. Homeschool and public schools are different; both have strengths and weaknesses. Just because you homeschool is not as "bad" as public schools doesn't make it "good" either. There may be a day that your children enroll in school through a change in circumstances or change in needs or interests. children often have friends who attend public school, they will marry a spouse who attended public school, and they may have children of their own who attend public school. Discriminatory remarks about public school will be remembered in the future as unkind about the educational experiences of friends and loved ones."

I sort of see what she is saying, but I think most homeschoolers would shut up about how bad public schools are if public school proponents would shut up about how bad homeschooling is. I also think that the public schools really are a problem that society needs to address. Dialogue about the problems is imperative if the situation is ever going to change. I wonder if the lady who made this remark has had her children in the public school system. Because I have, and it really is that bad.

Via a poster at the homeschool forum, I found a link to this list about why our current educational system is detrimental to children:
  • Its structure, demands and curriculum are not child-centered or in line with developmental or learning needs
  • It regiments children's basic physiological needs and fails to allow children to respond to their own needs at times unprescribed by the teacher
  • The physical body is denied not only liquids, snacks and elimination, but exercise and rest (one or two "recesses" per day end around age 10)
  • Half of the states in the USA still permit teachers to assault children with paddles
  • It does not take into consideration that there are seven different learning styles
  • It provides no time for solitude, small child-led group meetings and independent study
  • It does not allow children to direct their own learning based on talents, interests and abilities
  • It fails to function as a democracy to prepare children to function in a democratic society
  • It is an institution based on control, order and punishment for non-compliance
  • Mistakes are not viewed as learning experiences, but as failures or infractions
  • Children’s effort and performance is graded according to the subjective opinions of a teacher
  • Grades are permanent, undisputable and are used to divide and "track" children according to performance
  • It labels children who cannot conform as "learning disabled" or "behavioral problems"
  • It isolates children from their families
  • It isolates children from the community
  • Children are forced to take busy work home after being confined for seven hours in school
  • Homework further isolates children from family time, play time, social time and time for pursuing one’s own interests
  • Children’s knowledge is assumed by using standardized tests designed to cater to those who excel at structured, pressured, recall of isolated facts, rather than dialoging or expressing knowledge in a variety of ways
  • It isolates children from taking part in contributing their ideas and talents to society
  • Learning is considered to be about "getting the right answer" rather than about the process of how to ask questions and where to find answers
  • Finding answers from peers or parents is called "cheating"
  • It is responsible for 1000’s of children being prescribed stimulant drugs for their exuberance, boredom or due to the teacher’s inability to provide a stimulating learning environment
  • It isolates children from interacting with people of various age groups
  • It creates a climate for children to isolate themselves into exclusive groups in order to establish a sense of power and territory in a hostage-like system (similar to prisons)
  • Its insensitive, control-based practices offer little opportunity for children’s voices to be expressed, leading to rage, rebellion and revenge
  • It is an outdated institution based on the work ethic of the early 1900’s
  • It has refused to modernize to meet the creative and intellectual needs and demands of a modern society

If you believe the things on this list, then why shut up about it? There's a big problem in our society. The homeschooling movement is an effect of the problem. I think that the homeschooling community has done enough research to be able to comment on it.

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child
by Linda Dobson

I read this book a while back, but just reread it so that I could put it up here. It's a really great book. The author has a section that's all about different methods, and even has real families who use these methods relaying what a week was like for their family. There is a ton of advice from real-live homeschooling families, and throughout the book, there are little ideas for learning opportunities.

The book is really encouraging and inspirational. Reading it again made me feel more confident than ever. She includes some stories about families who experienced real crises during the first year of homeschooling, but made it through and are now better off for it.

I think this would have been a good first book to read. It gives all the how-tos and encouragement that you need.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Countdown: Three-and-a-Half Days!

School gets out this Thursday, a half-day. Yippee! I am so sick of that place! I may write a letter to the principal to lay out all the problems I have with that place.

On Thursday, I went to Tania's class to help out with their class party. When I saw that her desk was way in the back corner of the room, separated from the rest of the class, I asked her why it was so far away. She said, "I talk too much." Now, normally, kids who "talk too much" get seated in the front of the room. But Tania's teacher has too many of those. Tania is the only one who can get her work done independently, so she gets to sit in the back.

My heart is seriously broken for my little girl. I had flashbacks of my own school experience. I would finish my work and be bored, so I would talk to my friends who weren't finished yet. I always got in trouble for it. After a while, I started believing that I was a bad kid, and when I got older I acted on those beliefs. Joey was the same way when he was in school. We both had a really hard time because we were bored to death. Then, we went on to fulfill those self-beliefs about being bad kids. I will not let this happen to Tania.

I also think that there is a problem going on in the schools right now where kids like Tania who are at the top of her class are being ignored. Teachers are being forced to focus on the students not meeting the No Child Left Behind standards. On one hand, good for those kids who are finally getting attention. On the other hand, pulling Tania out seems more urgent than ever if I want to give her the education she deserves.

Well, I am ready! So is she. Yippee!