Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Making Progress

When making the change from a schooled, authoritative parenting atmosphere to that of an unschooled, peaceful parenting lifestyle there is a transition period. For Josh, this is a time for him to learn how to be self motivated and take charge of his own time and learning. For all of us, it is a time to learn how to solve our problems peacefully and respectfully.

Making it through this transition is hard. Just yesterday Josh wanted me to unpack some of his moving boxes to play with his things. I told him I wasn't going to do that and he got really upset. He started yelling and crying at me about how unfair that was because those were his things and he wanted to use them. Old authoritative parenting Mama Bear would have gotten angry and yelled right back, or responded in some other mean way because "how dare he act so disrespectful toward me!?!"

Peaceful parenting Mama Bear was actually happy with his reaction though. Not that I want him to be yelling when he gets frustrated, but I can see that we're making progress toward peacefully resolving issues and effective communication. How can I see that? Because in the past Josh would have taken my answer and silently dealt with it, bottling all his frustration up, not communicating his feelings.

Now he is feeling comfortable enough to open up. He's not afraid to get angry and upset in front of us.  He's learning he won't be yelled at or scolded for displaying his feelings. He's standing up for himself. He's seeing that what he has to say is important and that I care enough about him to listen. If he's courageous enough to stand up to me and Papa Bear with his thoughts and opinions, how much easier will it now be for him to stand up to other people?

I calmly acknowledged his frustration. I conceded he was right, the things in the boxes were his to do with as he pleased. I explained why I did not want to unpack any boxes and how the next few weeks were going to be frustrating for everyone while we move. I gave him some examples of other ways he could have communicated his feelings instead of yelling.

After we talked he decided to help me pack up more of his room instead of unpacking things. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do...

As you probably know, we're moving to a bigger house in about 2 weeks! Currently the four of us are living in a two bedroom, approximately 800 square foot condo. Squished doesn't even BEGIN to describe our situation. We all cosleep in the larger bedroom, we've made the second bedroom into a playroom for all the boys' toys, and even still at least 1/3 of the living room has been taken over by toys. We have no area outside for the boys to play, and cabin fever is a major issue.

The new house has 3 bedrooms, is approximately 1600 square feet, and sits on a fabulous 1/4 acre lot. Everyone will have their own room for their things! The boys will have a huge yard in which to play! I'll be able to line dry Bug's cloth diapers and have a garden! Very exciting times!

At first Papa Bear and I were planning all the new things we'd like to buy to fill out all the new space we'd have. But then I got inspired by my friend over at The Gnome's Mom who has been posting about clearing out their home down to the bare essentials. Our society is all about consumerism. Buy things to fix your problems, keep you entertained, make less work for you. We don't want that for ourselves anymore, or for the kids. Instead, let's focus on creative thinking and problem solving, finding ways to entertain ourselves that involve time together making memories, and feeling the accomplishment in a hard day's work.

I looked around our house and saw all the things we have that we never actually USE. They sit there taking up space, collecting dust, needing to be cleaned and moved around, creating stress. Most importantly, the more things we have, the more things Bug can drag out around the house. It's his favorite pastime.

So this weekend we set to work. Our first project to tackle was the bookshelves in the living room. Formerly home to tons of dvds, books, games, toys, piles of paper, and photo albums.

First we went through our dvds. Our goal was to keep only 10 each. When that proved to be difficult, we exempt all our series (Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, etc) from the rule, and then only kept 10 each. It was really painful! How silly, right?! I can't remember the last time we actually sat down and watched most of those movies. Heck, some were even still in the original packaging!

You can see from the pictures above, the shelves still aren't completely sorted and packed. These boxes are the things so far we are NOT keeping. That big box on the bottom- FULL of dvds. Sad right?

We're going to ease into our new minimalist lifestyle. Our ultimate goal is to each have only 100 things. Wish us luck as we tackle the rest of the house! And be on the lookout for a huge garage sale!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review of ISR Lessons

A few months ago I was hanging out on one of my many Facebook Mommy groups and heard talk of ISR swimming lessons. Someone had posted this video and I found it absolutely amazing! Have I mentioned how much I love social media as a means to spread good ideas? It's greatness. I found some more information about ISR from their website here.

While I was researching I came across some really negative reviews. People speaking of how terrible it was to torture children by making them cry through lessons, throwing them in the water, simulated drowning, all sorts of crazy things. Having now completed Bug's lessons, I want to set the record straight on some of these negative comments, and share my experiences. Please understand, I am only sharing my observations and am not speaking for ISR in any way.

As with any situation where you are trusting another adult to work with your child, it is so important to find someone who fits with your parenting style and personality. If you've been reading this blog at all, you know we're all about peaceful parenting. I used ISR's website to find an instructor in our area and sign Bug up. She was fantastic. If anyone in the Dallas area would like a recommendation, please let me know and I'll get you her information. 

ISR lessons are not your typical swimming lessons. The focus is on teaching kids water survival skills. Bug went to lessons every day Monday through Friday for ten minutes each day. It took him 7 weeks to complete the course. It was huge time commitment, and they were on the expensive side, but completely worth every minute and penny.

He did cry. The first week he cried the entire 10 minutes of each lesson. It was hard for me to watch at first, but I knew he was safe. I am confident that crying through the lessons was not traumatizing for him. He excitedly got dressed in his swim gear every morning. He ran out the door to the car when I said "let's go swim!" He was all smiles headed into his instructor's back yard, and watching the other students while waiting his turn. Sometime during the second week he stopped crying when he first got into the pool. He had mastered the skills he'd been working on and was confident. From that point forward he only cried when he started learning the next skill, which is completely understandable. Learning new things is hard work, and he has no other way to express himself. Besides that, his lessons were early in the morning, and who wants to work first thing after they get up?!

He was NEVER thrown in the water. His instructor started by teaching him to hold his breath, and then to open his eyes under water. Once he had those skills mastered, she taught him to hold himself up on the steps of the pool. Then to swim a short distance to reach the steps. Lessons progressed in the manner. He was shown his goal, then worked backwards from there so he always knew what he was working toward. Only during the last week when he was testing out did his instructor simulate different situations he may encounter in an accident. These were all done in a gentle manner, after he had all the skills he would need to confidently "save himself".

Watch the gentle way in which his instructor simulates different situations here.

Simulated drowning. These negative reviews just make me shake my head. First of all, I believe it is ISR policy that no child is ever under the water for longer than 7 seconds. When Bug was learning to float on his back, he was never just let to sink under the water for any amount of time. His instructor worked with him until he was able to float with her supporting his head only, then on his own for a moment, then longer amounts of time. If he would lose his float, he would go under briefly, and he was given the time to try to correct it himself. If he couldn't, his instructor was right there to help him fix it. The point of these lessons is for children to have the skills to save themselves in an accident. They need to know what to do if water gets in their mouth, or on their face, or in their eyes. Much better to learn safely under the supervision of an instructor than alone and in real danger.

The last week of Bug's lessons he "tested out". Having mastered the necessary skills in his swim diapers, he would now do everything fully clothed. What is the likelihood of a water related accident occurring while a kid is in their swimsuit? ISR instructors don't want the first time a child experiences water in clothes and shoes to be while they are alone. One day Bug wore summer clothes- shorts, t-shirt, sandals. The next day he wore fall clothes- long sleeves, pants, socks, shoes. The next day he wore winter clothes- pants, shoes, long sleeves, coat, and hat. I cannot stress the importance of these simulations. Bug was really thrown off at first by the weight of his clothes and shoes. I am so thankful his instructor could help him tweak his skills for each situation. The day of the winter clothes, Bug was really thrown off by his hat and figured out how to pull it off so it wasn't hindering his float. Each day his instructor simulated different events, falling in face first, backward, upside down. Even getting caught in a pool hose, floating near the wall, and waves in the water. No, he didn't enjoy it, but it was 10 minutes out of his day and taught him skills that could save his life.

You can watch Bug's entire summer clothes test here.

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under 4, and second only to auto accidents in children under 15. There is no substitute for constant supervision and safety precautions. ISR has not made Bug drown-proof, but it has given him the skills to buy precious moments in an accident which could save his life. Have you done everything in your power to keep your children safe?

Happy Bug with his graduation fishie!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ah-ha Moment

Throughout all the struggles of our transition to peaceful parenting and unschooling, I encounter several "ah-ha" moments. Moments which show me we are making progress, and unschooling really is working.

This afternoon I had such a moment at the library. Josh wanted the next Wayside Stories book.  He sat down at the card catalog computer, logged on with my library card info, got to the catalog and asked where to go from there. I said, "Well if you know the author's name you can look it up that way" and he just chimed in "Louis Sachar". He even remembered how to spell it. He then went along to find the book, check it out, and we headed home.

He started reading as soon as we got in the car. He was so immersed in the book, he didn't even notice me snap this picture while we were at a stop light.

Josh hadn't read his other Wayside Stories book for at least a week, and even when he was reading it Papa Bear and I never called attention to the author's name. This goes to show, when kids are allowed the freedom to read and learn things which are interesting to them, they retain the information because it has meaning to them. Also, my heart swells to watch him develop a love of reading for pleasure.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Challenging Kids

I recently watched/listened to an interview with Dr. Ross Greene conducted by Stefan Molyneaux of Free Domain Radio. Usually I turn on long interviews like this to listen to while I pick up the house in the evenings, but I found this one so intriguing I sat down at the computer to take notes, and I'd really like to share them with you.

You can listen to the interview yourself here.

Here's my summary of the interview.

Dr. Ross Greene has a background practicing in family therapy. He found the techniques used to help parents deal with challenging kids wasn't working and asked, "why not?" It had been thought that kids who were not meeting expectations or able to deal with normal challenges needed to be motivated to behave acceptably and reprimanded when they didn't. As it turns out, Dr. Greene found that these "challenging" kids had plenty of motivation, but rather lacked the skill set to deal with normal daily challenges. Some of the skills he mentioned were impulse control, problem solving, and flexibility. What made these kids seem so challenging for their parents was they had an ineffective response to the challenges in their lives.

He found responding to the kids' behavior authoritatively was not fixing their lack of skills. Rewards and punishments are effective for people who need motivation, but children naturally have motivation to do well. What they lack are the skills needed to resolve their problems. Dr. Greene suggests that instead of responding authoritatively, parents need to model a collaborative problem solving paradigm.

Dr. Greene speaks of three approaches to parenting/problem solving. Imposition of adult will, collaborative problem solving, and dropping unsolved problems.

Taking an example of a child not wanting to brush their teeth, he examines each approach.

Approach A-
Using Imposition of adult will would sound something like, "You get in there right now and brush your teeth! I'm your parent and you will do what you're told!" This approach will yield two outcomes, both of which are dysfunctional. Either your child will submit to authority and go brush their teeth, or they will respond with more challenging behavior (arguing, yelling, crying, etc). The child who submits demonstrates skills of just going along, impulse control to avoid more conflict, self talk, organization, and emotional control. But these are not problem solving skills, rather problem avoiding skills. When dealing with the challenging child, too often parents using the authoritative approach without success try to solve the issue with more authority instead of trying a different approach.

Approach B-
Using collaborative problem solving would sound something like, "I've noticed you don't want to brush your teeth lately, what's up with that?" The parent gathers information on the kid's perspective. The child could respond in several ways. Maybe the toothpaste doesn't taste good, or the toothbrush hurts their gums. The parent then voices their concerns about the kid not brushing their teeth- cavities, bad breath, whatever the case may be. Then both brainstorm to come to a realistic, mutually satisfactory solution. Perhaps they could go to the store to get new toothpaste and toothbrush.

Approach C-
Using the approach of dropping unsolved problems is more than just picking your battles and dropping one in the heat of the moment. Rather, it is planning ahead of time to work on a limited number of challenging situations at a time, and dropping all others until the first challenges are resolved. It is preplanned and a prioritization of issues to be tackled. In this case, likely teeth brushing would take a back seat to more pressing conflicts.

Dr. Greene then outlines some of the effects of the first two approaches.

The effects of Approach A are that the parent is blowing off the concerns of the child. They are not involving the child in the solution. It implies the parent doesn't care whether the solution is mutually satisfactory. It teaches disrespect and does not teach necessary problem solving skills.

The effects of Approach B are a reduction in challenging behavior. It solves problems while simultaneously teaching skills. The parent agrees the child has legitimate concerns. It implies the parent is curious about those concerns and willing to take the time to figure them out. It shows the parent is devoted to addressing the concerns of the child. It teaches respect.

Lastly, Dr. Greene expressed he found a major shift in families when parents changed the way they viewed their children. Instead of thinking of your kids as manipulative, attention seeking, and limit testing think of them as motivated to do well but lacking the necessary skills. Then you can fulfill your responsibility to teach and nurture those skills. 

What does all this mean to our family? It reinforces our understanding that respect is something children learn to show others by respect being shown to them. It reminds us that we are the parents, meaning we are the ones who should not jump to conclusions about our children's motivations and act rashly, but rather be patient and ask questions because we have the skills to do so. It gives us an outline for solving conflict peacefully.

I hope the information is helpful for other families as well. <3

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Road Trip!

One of the great things about unschooling is the flexibility. Love it! We can go anywhere at anytime without worrying about sending a note to the school, or missing our curriculum for the day. Its really quite liberating.

Just this Monday we took a road trip out to visit the boys' great grandparents (Yup, GREAT! How awesome is that?!). We didn't even make the decision to go until Sunday evening. We had such a nice time spending all afternoon with them, and what a treasure for everyone to be able to spend time with family.

 Josh and Bug with their Papaw and Nanny

Currently, Josh is on a working road trip with Papa Bear, and from talking to him earlier he's loving every second of it. I'm so happy for him to have these opportunities. Not only to learn what Papa Bear does to support the family, but also because he's out seeing new places, meeting new people, having experiences out in the big world.

I think someone stayed up late having a little too much fun!

Being "schooled" in a classroom with 20 kids of the same age and general demographic could never give him that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Clarification

I have come to realize my earlier post about how hard unschooling can be at times didn't explain what was so difficult.

So, what exactly is so hard about what we're trying to do? It's the peaceful parenting part. For us, unschooling and peaceful parenting go hand-in-hand. We couldn't have one without the other. We have made a commitment to treat the boys with respect, as equals. To trust them to be the masters of their own lives. To trust that only they know what is best for them and to support them in every way we can.

We are trying to teach the boys about self-ownership and liberty. We want them to be free thinking individuals. We want them to question things and find answers for themselves. We don't want them to be bullied or put down or take anyone's crap. We want them to be confident in themselves and trust their gut. How do we try to instill these qualities in them?

First, we try to teach them they own their own bodies. No one else has a right to touch them, push them, hit them, poke them, physically force them to do something, etc. And we teach them to respect other people's bodies in the same way. We hope that by empowering them and allowing them to feel comfortable speaking up about what they want to do with their bodies now, with us, they will feel confident speaking up and defending themselves if they were ever in an inappropriate situation with other people (God forbid). And we hope in the future they will not allow themselves to be part of an abusive relationship. 

We try to teach the same respect for people's property. We ask permission to use other people's things. We respect their right to say, "No". We don't grab objects out of someone's hand (you can see how this comes up a LOT with siblings). We don't make them share. I know I have things I don't want the boys messing with, and I have to respect they have things they feel about the same way. We try not to pull the "I bought that for you so it's mine" card. As parents it's our responsibility to provide them with things, and once its given it's no longer our property, but theirs.

The next goal is the hardest for us to adjust to. We try to parent without punishment or reward, without trying to control them. The three manipulative actions we try to avoid are physical force, fear, and coercion. Instead we try to reason with them. If we can't effectively communicate a good reason to do/not do something what does that mean? I find it usually means we need to rethink our want for them to do/not do it in the first place.

Please understand, these are our goals, certainly not our reality. Believe me, there are countless times every week when I want to grab Josh by the arm and MAKE him go to bed. Or when I get so frustrated I want to yell, "because I'm your mother and I said so!". Or when I want to bribe the boys with treats, or manipulate them with guilt. There are plenty of times when I still do these things, but when I do I recognize that it wasn't the best choice. I apologize and ask forgiveness, and ask for help to avoid it in the future. I grit my teeth every time Josh points out when I break "the rules", because I know he's right.

It is hard to hold yourself to the standards you set for your children. Really, really hard.

When I need a reminder to treat the boys with respect, as equals, I quote Horton from Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who. "A person's a person, after all. A person's a person, no matter how small."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

This is HARD

Although this publish date is immediately after the previous post, it was written a month or so into our unschooling journey

Unschooling is HARD.

It really brings to light all of our own bad habits. All of our own flaws.

We knew going into this there would be an adjustment period for Josh. What we didn't anticipate was the adjustment period for US.

Tonight was rough. Josh was rude, short, snippy, snide, condescending. Papa Bear and I were left pulling our hair out. "Arg! Where is this all coming from?!" Take a good look in the mirror, Papa and Mama Bear, he had to learn it somewhere.

We want to raise the boys to be kind, compassionate, patient, and all that other good stuff. But these qualities aren't something we can teach the kids. We have to live it every.single.day so they can learn from our example. When I roll my eyes and sigh after Josh asks me to spend "just 10 more minutes" playing games with him, what kind of example does that set? Certainly not the one I want to be setting.

Tonight was not our best effort. We will give it another go tomorrow. Change of this magnitude won't happen overnight.

In order to change the world, we must first change ourselves.

How We Decided to Unschool- part two

In my previous post I talked about why we started looking into other options besides public school for Josh. You can read about that here.

In this post I'll talk about what made us decide unschooling would be best for our family.

Starting out our research I knew of three options we had- private school, charter school, and homeschooling. We couldn't afford private school unless I went back to work, which would mean Bug would need to go to daycare. Neither Papa Bear nor I are comfortable with that. There are a few charter schools in our area that come highly recommended, so I started looking into those. Of course since they're great options, there is a high demand for a place, and waiting lists. I kept this option in the back of my mind, but I knew I wanted something for the coming school year and we'd need a solution in the meantime if we were waiting.

I will admit right now, I went into researching homeschooling biased against it. You all know that stereotypical "weird" homeschooling family I'm thinking about. Some friends of mine home school so I asked them for resources and was immediately overwhelmed. There are SO MANY options for curriculum, its seriously out of control. I started wading through information and in the process ran across the facebook pages of some homeschooling groups in the area, which exposed me to the idea of unschooling. Thank goodness for social media and the ability it gives us to spread great ideas!

Someone on facebook (I'm sorry I don't remember who it was to give proper credit) posted a link to an interview with Dr. Peter Gray talking about "School is a Prison". It really intrigued me and fueled my research into how children best learn. Feel free to watch the video below. The point I most took from it is that children learn best when they are allowed to choose what, when, and how to learn based on their interests and abilities. This is the fundamental idea behind unschooling.

The interview above was hosted by Stefan Molyneux of Free Domain Radio. He has years of videos and podcasts full of interesting philosophical material, including interviews with psychologists, biologists, and neuroscientists on the topics of parenting and education (as well as many more) which I am still listening to and learning from.

 Tangent, but it is relevant to our unschooling decision-
 I'd like to thank him especially for the following video he posted, which made me not only start questioning how we educate our children, but how we parent them as a whole. Thank you Mr. Molyneux, you have changed my children's lives for the better.

We have spanked Josh in the past. I was spanked as a child. Papa Bear was spanked when he was a child. After watching this video I recalled many points in my childhood. Society paints this picture of how carefree and wonderful childhood is, but after really looking back, you couldn't pay me enough to go relive mine (sorry mom and dad, just the truth). And in the world's perspective, I had it pretty good. I want better for my kids. I made up my mind there would be no spanking in our house, that our kids should never be afraid of us. I sat Josh down and told him I was sorry we had spanked him before. That it was wrong. That no one ever has the right to hurt him, especially not the people who love him. That we would never spank him again. His reaction shook me to my core. He cried, said "Thank you, Mommy" and hugged me.
(end tangent)

So I had all these articles, interviews, and personal stories in front of me that made me question our parenting methods and the education of our kids. Papa Bear and I talked about what we really wanted for our kids. We want them to be happy, healthy (mentally and physically), free-thinking men who are able to support themselves doing something they enjoy. Based on the evidence we've seen, unschooling is the best way for us to help them achieve these goals.

Unschooling is not just a means of educating, but an entire lifestyle change for us. We have to trust the boys to be the masters of their own learning. It's funny, really, how it's easy to trust a baby to learn but not older children. We never told Bug he needed to learn to walk or talk, or gave him lessons on either. He found both intriguing and learned them himself, all we had to provide was support and encouragement. We will have to relearn how to trust Josh in the same way. And we will have to learn to treat the boys both with the same respect we expect them to show us.

It is definitely going to be a journey and a challenge.

Some of the videos and books I've found interesting-

Parenting a Free Child: An Unschooled Life by Rue Kream
The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child's Classroom by Mary Griffith
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
"Waiting for Superman" a film by Davis Guggenheim
"Declining by Degrees" a PBS documentary
The Element by Sir Ken Robinson 
The Philosophy of Liberty
Philosophical Parenting
Interview with Dr. Stuart Shanker
Parenting without Punishment
Why We Do What We Do by Edward Deci
Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How We Decided to Unschool- part one

I have Bug to thank for most of my hippie crunchy parenting choices, but if it weren't for Josh I'd have never questioned traditional schooling. This post is all about Josh, and how he helped me discover unschooling.

Josh is, well, brainy. I'm not saying that in a, "MY kid is soooooooo smart" kind of way. Every kid has their strengths, and thinking analytically is one of his. Gross motor skills, not so much. And that's okay. He was recognizing sight words at age three, memorizing books and "reading" them to us shortly after. He has a long attention span for things he finds interesting, remembers details, and finishes 2,000 piece Lego sets in a few hours. If he were here he'd tell me exactly how many pieces were actually in the set I'm referring to. We often joke that he's the child version of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. He comes by it honestly, I'm pretty nerdy myself.

He went to daycare/preschool from the time he was two and had fantastic caregivers who kept him challenged- furthering his reading skills, working on worksheets, all that fun stuff. He went into kindergarten already adjusted to all the sitting still and "circle time", and well beyond what was expected of him academically.

first day of kindergarten

Papa Bear and I cried when we dropped him off. Our baby was growing up, taking on the world. Mid-way through the year we met with his teacher for conferences and got this chart-
The green area is where the teachers would like to see the students test scores fall. The red dots are Josh's test scores. We couldn't have been more proud! We were going to have him tested for the gifted and talented program! He would be at the top of his class! He would take dual credit classes in high school, enter college as a sophomore, and have full ride scholarships to anywhere he wanted to go! As it turned out though, he wasn't accepted into the gifted and talented program and his teacher was having major issues getting him to complete his work. Luckily she recognized it was because he was very bored with the material, and she put forth the extra effort to work with him on time management. She also made a special workbook for him with more challenging material. Great teacher.

The next year Josh didn't get such an awesome teacher for first grade. Conferences came around and now the chart looked like this- (I can't find the reading portion, but you get the idea)

 He's learning. A ton apparently. Awesome, right? Not according to his teacher. Despite his test scores, which obviously show he is proficient beyond his grade level, she has concerns that she will not be able to advance him to second grade. WHA??? He is regularly daydreaming, not paying attention, and not finishing his work. I suggest she give him more challenging work. Her response was that she can't give him more challenging work until he shows her he can do the easier work first. Which translates to, he can't work on multiplication problems until he colors this picture of a flower. Her hands were tied. She had to have proof that he had mastered certain skills before moving on.

My first thought was that he just had a teacher who didn't understand him. I tried to get him into another class but every class was already at full capacity. While there are great teachers out there, there are just as many not-so-great ones. Its a total crap shoot as to which one your kid gets.

That's when that little dream bubble from his kindergarten conference popped. The future I saw now took a total 180. Unless he sat around and stagnated for a year or two, he was always going to be above his grade level. He was always going to be bored with the work required. He was going to stop trying because he was never challenged. He was going to be "that kid" that always gave his teachers trouble. I couldn't sit idly by and let that happen.

I started researching other options, more about that in the next post.

If you decide to read this, Josh, I'm sorry that your brother gets to reap the benefits of the experience your childhood gave me. I'm sorry I can't give you those two years back. We all live and learn and make the best choices we can in the moment. 

Do your kids go to public school? Private school? Charter school? Home School? Unschool? What brought you to that decision? Please share in the comments!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How I Came to Stay at Home

When Josh was born I stayed home with him until he was almost two. He went to mother's day out, and later to a full time daycare while I started working full time. By the time Bug was due to be born I had worked the same job for 5 years. Josh had started kindergarten at our local public school. We were in a financial position that I needed to work, and with our savings and insurance benefits I was only able to take 12 weeks off when Bug was born.

This terrified me. Maternity leave in the US is such a load of crap. The stress of going back to work (among other things) contributed to me giving up breastfeeding after only 8 weeks. I breastfed Josh exclusively for 6 months and I STILL have guilt about not breastfeeding Bug.

 how could I leave this Bug everyday?

So Bug goes off to daycare with reflux and dairy sensitivity issues. I go back to work stressed out, running on no sleep. The daycare was only 3 blocks from my office, so I visited Bug every day on my lunch break. While I was there I saw things that concerned me. They would have Bug sleep flat on his back despite a doctor's note to sleep upright due to reflux. He wasn't able to sleep when he wanted, or eat when he wanted. Other infants were crying. My Bug was crying. I ignored my mommy instincts and told myself it was ok for babies to cry a little. That all his needs were being met. That he was ok while I was at work. And what could I do? I HAD to work. Wrong.

In the 10 weeks Bug went to daycare he had 4 ear infections. Basically he was on antibiotics for 10 days, well for maybe 3-4 days, I'd get a call that he had a high fever, back to the pedi, another ear infection, another 10 days of antibiotics. If you've ever had the displeasure of dealing with an infant on antibiotics, you know they wreak havoc on their poor digestive systems. The visit for the 4th ear infection his pediatrician said she wanted to put in tubes. I was NOT ok with putting my baby through surgery, and got her to agree to hold off. The condition was that if he got another ear infection that summer she would insist on tubes.

That was my limit. I went home and told Papa Bear I just couldn't do it anymore. The next day I quit my job and worked from home until they trained a replacement. I don't know how we made it through the next months financially, but we did. This month marks one year since I came back home, and Bug has not had one single infection of any kind since.

our happy, healthy Bug is 100% worth every financial sacrifice

And thus began my tumble down the peaceful/natural/attachment parenting rabbit hole...


Hey there! This is the ongoing story of our little family as we try to live life more simply and raise our boys the best way we can. Our family consists of me- Mama Bear, my hubby- Papa Bear, our 7 year old- Josh, and our 16 month old- The Bug. Our lives are so completely different than they were a year ago; I worked full time, Bug went to daycare, and Josh was in public school. Now Papa Bear works crazy hard to provide for all our material needs and I stay home with Josh and Bug. It is definitely an adjustment and a learning experience, but I wouldn't change a thing.