Thursday, October 15, 2009

They are all so different

You always hear "all babies are different" and I can't say how true this is for Riley and Amity- they are practically polar opposites.

When Riley was a baby she wanted to be held and carried around to look at things, constant change of scenery and position was required to keep her happy.

Amity when she is awake also loves to be held, unless Riley or I are right in front of her enteratining her she wants to be in arms and held and talked to. She is high maintance in the sense that she wants all your attention, she wants to smile and see you smile and she loves playing itsy bitsy spider (when the spider goes over her face she giggles).

Amity is interested in people- she could care less about what the person is doing as long as she has an adoring undevided audience. Riley was (and is) interested in things-how they work what they do, figuring those things out.

They are also very very different when it comes to sleep (praise the Lord!) Riley found it nearly impossible to settle, she never discovered a position she liked- except reclined...She really enjoyed sleeping reclined in her swing. Sleeping with her was hard, she just didn't know what she wanted- except breastmilk, she knew she wanted that. That was really the only constant with her, she loved to nurse and did it alllll the time- I rarely got more than an hour break between nursin sessions but after the first couple of months she didn't nusre very long, just OFTEN. Riley only slept longer than 2 hours a handful of times her first 11months of life. And nursing and driving in the car was really the ONLY ways to get RJ to sleep it was hard work.

Amity loves to be snuggled but it's not a requirement and unlike Riley she (at this point) has a favorite position BELLY. If she's on her belly life is good. She enjoys nursing, she giggles and grins so big when I offer the breast to her- and continues to smile so big that she can't nurse (as RJ say's "shes d0 silly!"). Amity likes to cluster nurse, she'll nurse several times an hour and then go 2-4 hours and then nurse again- during the night she usually only nurses once and sleeps 4-7hours straight...Whether this pattern will continue who knows- it's the pattern right now. To get Amity to sleep all *I* have to do is either nurse her and lay her down (and she has been transferring to being laid down very easily since I discovered her love for her tummy)...Or if she's fussy and awake, lay her on her belly pat her bum for a minute (or not depending on her mood) and walk away... She'll kinda fuss/complain for a minute or two (but never a "pick me up!!!" sound just a "I'm tired trying to get comfy" kinda cry) and then she's OUT. It's the strangest thing to see a baby actually put themself to sleep on their own.

It feels so weird to see the difference. I have caught myself saying "I don't know why I thought the newborn days were so hard wtih RJ, they were a piece of cake compared to now" and that is so true, a high needs toddler is way more intense in some ways than a high needs baby...High needs toddlers run away and get into things, and they are very loud when they are in a needy mood.

I was telling Ryan the other night that I am so so so thankful that Riley was first. That she was the nightmare, I am scared to find out, but I really dont' think there could be many babies who are worse at sleep than Riley in her first year. I haven't done any thing really different, I follow my gut the same as always...I think had AMity been first I would have taken some pride in how well she sleeps. Feel a little smug that MY good parenting made this happen. I can't take any credit, it's all Amity- it's her personality...Just like it wasn't bad parenting that caused Riley's sleep issues, it was just RILEY. And I think we did ourselves a huge favor in being responsive (for the most part- except around 8 months when we were ready to lose it because she was such an awful sleeper), and finding a way to sleep Harmony. I'm glad how things have panned out, it was a good lesson to learn. And I also learned that it's not "over till it's over" Amity may turn into a terrible sleeper, or have somer eally bad weeks/months... It isn't a reflection on my parenting, just the way she deals with change...

In other news Riley has cut 4 more teeth- she now has SIXTEEN teeth...That is ELEVEN teeth to come in since Amity was born 2 montsh ago!!!! WOW!
I gotta run.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Huge Epiphany. Breakthrough!

So as RJ races towards the age of two I've been realizing that I'll have a school age baby before I can blink. I've been starting to do some research and formulate MY thoughts on education. I've always figured that I'd homeschool. But I realized this week that I not only want to homeschool, I am absolutely positive it is the best educational option for my family, and maybe the best out there ever.

I'm still formulating my thoughts here but a few things stand out.

I've been thinking over my high school "career" ...I've always felt very frustrated with that whole time in my life...Personally a ton of crazy stuff was going on at home. And in school I was feeling defeated, no matter how hard I studied I never got a grade better than a B maybe 3 A's a year and many many many C's and D's. I always saw this as a weakness, all my good friends were straight A students they'd tuck their 100% into their folders knowing the satisfaction of those 3 numbers all in a row. While I quietly slipped my folded 64% History test into the back of the book.

I was homeschooled in elementary school. Mom had school from 8am-12 or 1pm- we were expected to work on the work outlined in the syllabus (a section of the math book, a unit in spelling, a page of dictation, a section of grammar). We didn't have to be at the kitchen table we could sprawl out anywhere in the house but the work HAD to be done. If the work was failing to be completed we were required to be back at the table once again until we could prove we could stay on track.

In the afternoons we were free to do whatever we wanted- but no computer or TV (the years we had a TV) until after 4. We were expected to play outside or inside with hands on toys (my fave was my American Girl doll or my wooden doll house the boys played with k'nechts and Lego's). A few days a week my Mom would take us to the park and read out loud while we climbed in the trees above her head or the lower trees nearby. We were encouraged to study whatever interested us and we made weekly trips to the library to get books on whatever interested us.

I mean there were definitely things I would have done differently in my homeschool education, but all in all it was a huge gift. I learned how to teach myself, how to LEARN about things- and retain the knowledge.
And then 8th grade came and I was thrown into this cookie cutter environment, the teacher talked, you took the notes, you studied and memorized the information, you took a test, you passed the test, you forgot 90% of every thing you just learned. I mean there were definitely things like that in my homeschool education, and like I said there are a few subjects I would have taught *me* differently if I were my Mom...But then again I wasn't an only child and my Mom had 4 other students to invest in and help and she did the best with what she had to teach. But I went into school feeling reasonably smart, I had always struggled in math, and mathematical concepts but in homeschooling I eventually got it- kinda.

I got to school and I repeated Algebra 1 three times- yes three years of Algebra (8th,9th and 10th)...That HAS to say some thing about the way schools teach- the cookie cutter doesn't fit every one- and when a student is failing it's shouldn't be blamed on the kid (especially in my case where effort was in play). I FINALLY got it when a kind teacher (in my 3rd year and my favorite teacher ever) started showing me how it could be helpful in every day thinking skills- it clicked, or at least I got to where I could finally PASS the class (with C's and B-'s I understood the concepts it didn't change the fact that I don't test well/ get very very anxious and also have slight dyslexic issues)

Today I had an epiphany. My early education had "ruined" me. I had learned what learning was, what having knowledge was and I wasn't getting that opportunity in school. My slight learning challenges were impeding me from passing tests. Test which tell you that you're smart, that make the teachers feel good about a job well done. Tests that make the students feel smug that they are smart, that they have learned some thing...Have they???
I wasn't LEARNING, I was trying to cram to pass a test so I could feel good about myself...I spent my years in high school feeling very anxious about tests, and depressed/apathetic about how awful I was doing. The learning cycle study+pass= forget was leaving me feeling of very low intelligence. I graduated high school wondering how much had gotten in there and how the heck it would help me in real life. And I've felt that way ever since.

But this week I started studying and asking questions about education. I've been looking into unschooling and asking unschooling Mom's to share their experiences. I am no where near to a definite conclusive thought on all of it. But I realized some thing extremely important. I am NOT stupid- I know that sounds really pathetic and awful. But I can't tell you how much I've felt that way since all that failure in school. I realize today that I have been unschooling myself ever since, I love to learn and research. It's not ever going to help me pass a test but I know more about childbirth, statistics, VBAC, csections, breastfeeding (a favorite subject of mine), attachment, early childhood development than most people I know in real life do. I've found things I'm passionate about and I've studied the life out of them...And I still have so much to learn!

It's also helped me see my husband with new eyes. He desperately wanted to head back to college a couple years ago. There was no way we could afford it and so instead he started educating himself..He started reading and reading and listening to lectures online, studying politics, history, the constitution and economics and talking my ear off about all the things he was learning (to process).

I'm still researching and learning about education and I have a few years, but I've decided I want to head in the unschool direction- We'll have structure to our day but I want our kids to study what they want to study...I may try to encourage some learning in all subjects but only as they apply to real life! If all Riley wants to study for a few months is math than that's what we'll let our little engineer do. We'll look at it in all aspects of life. If all Amity wants to learn about for a while is reading we'll get her as many books as she can stand. We'll work on writing and spelling and grammar as it apply's to the things they are interested in. We'll use the curriculum that has been given to us (sunlight) and fit it in with their interests.

I think the thing that has really stuck out to me about unschooling is that we are all born with the ability and drive to learn. Amity is learning to roll over right now, she is obsessed! I can't teach her, but she is driven to learn. Riley is learning to talk- she realizes talking gets her things she wants and needs so she practices and tries new words constantly. When its' time to learn to read she'll learn because she wants to know what books say with out being read to...And I'll help her understand but I think it will happen much like talking has- slowly and gradually...Not with any certain curiculum, but just by teaching her the sounds letters make and allowing her to take over our reading times little by little.

Everyone learns (that means retain) the things we need for life. We learn best by studying things we are interested in. If they need it they'll learn it in life! Why are we forcing them to learn arbitrary subjects if they aren't going to use it in real life? So we as parents/teachers/schools/governments can feel good about how smart they are and how much we can measure what they know? The government has their fingers in it: "Oh look the schools are doing well- look at these kids grades- one smart nation we're building." The The schools say: "Wow, all our students passed the state test- we did a really good job." The parents say: "Wow, my kids got all A's we've done a good job raising them. Look what great parents we are!"

Does that REALLY mean the kids learned any thing?? Or could explain it and teach it to a peer? In some kids maybe, but I would bet the majority not so much.

So that was my epiphany and it's a big one! I gotta run, RJ's feeling a bit neglected.

wanted a link with a lot of answers to unschooling questions.