Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Grays of Parenting

I am on my 3rd or 4th rendition of this blog post. I keep reading it and think it ends up sounding condescending and that I have THE opinion. My goal is to share my opinion and have it be just that, my opinion. Up until I hit motherhood, life was pretty black and white to me. There was right and wrong and not much in between. My mother in law will tell you how annoying I was. :) And then I became pregnant with my first son and realized there is a lot of gray in life, especially parenting. There are the extreme BADS in parenting, e.g. verbal, physical or sexual abuse and neglect or on the other side not parenting, meaning not having rules and standards for your child to abide by.

Overall, though, the majority of parents see a path with many different forks we can travel that aren't bad. And we begin to realize even if we start down a path it may fork in a direction we never intended; it was out of our control. A mom can be adamant that she is going to breastfeed for the first year and have her milk dry up at 5 months. A dad could be convinced his kid is going to play hockey or the guitar and his child can have two left feet or be tone deaf. Parents have done everything right and have had a kid turn out horribly and other parents barely do it right and have their kids turn out to be wonderful.

As a parent, I do have strong opinions about certain things and feel more ambivalent in other areas. My opinions on education were in the middle. A couple of my best friends are teachers and I think they are wonderful to teach. It is amazing to me that teachers can and do put up with all of the crap that society reigns down on them. Our government is again discussing education reform, and I feel they are looking at it the wrong way. They want to put more and more on the teachers when a lot of the learning and schooling should start with the parents at home. Parents need to instill character and morality in their children. Parents need to sit down with their children after school and spend time with them both by helping them with their homework and just by giving them attention. If our government needs to do anything, I think it's to provide educational classes for parents. Teachers all ready have our children 7 hours a day and their function is to set an educational foundation for the children that is nurtured in the home and in their daily life.

Up until 6 weeks ago, I was going to send my kids to either a local charter school or to our public elementary school. My thought was as long as I live in a safe area with a school that has awesome test scores my kids are going there, period. Then I sent my son to a 3 hour, 3 day a week pre-Kindergarten class and realized it wasn't that simple. It is that simple for some but it isn't for me. I realized sending my 5 year old off for 5 days a week to have a stranger teach my child wasn't optimal. As I began to research my options and began to learn about different education philosophies, I also realized the mentality of the public school system did not align with my philosophy.

I am a product of the public school system and turned out just fine. I got good grades, I passed 7 AP courses in high school and feel I had a solid education. In saying that, the majority of my education was not done in the public school system in the state I live in and I think things have changed even since I was in school. I am not anti-public school and I do have this internal battle of am I just being unreasonable?

But as I have read about Classic education, I have fallen in love. Classical education is new to me but in society it is very old. Up until 100 years ago, kids were taught classically. This education philosophy clicked with me. And now my husband and I are discussing how do we teach our children this way? If my eldest son gets into one of the local Charter schools, they teach classically. There is another charter school that has a half home school, half in school Classical type education. My second concern though is teaching my child about God while he learns about grammar, writing, science, math, history and everything else. So then begs the question do we just homeschool or do we start a school that shares this combined belief of a school that teaches Classically and about God? Or a third option, do I send my child to a public charter school and fill in the gaps at home? This is where I am at right now, researching, reading and praying about a path. I struggle with feeling too uneducated to do anything.

I don't think I'm making something that should be easy hard. There is a reason why 5% of parents are homeschooling and why private schools exist and are being started. As I said teachers are amazing to me. The majority of teachers are incredible and they love education and children. I don't think the teachers are broken but I think (and the government thinks) our educational system is broken but I don't foresee them as fixing the real problem. There is so much emphasis put on passing the state standardized tests that we miss the point. Our administrations and government are focused on how to get the lowest ranking schools to have more of their kids pass the tests so it has become about teaching the kids specifically to pass these tests. I saw something amazing when I visited this school that is located in the best school district in San Diego county and it made me think that WE need to re-think this focus on the tests.

Cambridge teaches classically and they don't even have their kids take practice exams. When the public school district officials came to rank this school and to make sure they were teaching these children enough to where they could pass the state tests they found that these students test 2 years above where the students in this school district test. This shows me that it shouldn't be about the tests, this change should be about either reducing class sizes or having the student/teacher ratio be lower. So when kids excel there is someone to motivate them to shoot even higher. And when kids are struggling there is someone who can focus on helping them. But now when kids struggle the kids who are excelling take a back seat to those who struggle because the teacher has to get her/his kids to pass. I just hope that as we all consider the changes needed in our public schools that we fight for smaller classes and chances for those who are average and who excel to be challenged also.

I know I can teach my children about religion at home. I don't need to hide them from the world and people in it. Reality shows me that in 13 1/2 years my first kid will be out of the house and on his own. He needs to know how to function in that world and to be strong in his convictions. But as I think of education I don't think I'm ready to throw him into that world of 25+ Kindergartners in a class. And so I struggle daily with my thoughts of what do I do then? Hopefully, soon, I'll share with you what we decide and feel free to share your thoughts and opinions because maybe you think I have this all wrong. ;)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It's amazing how much television dominates MY life! I have a DVR and you should see my TV show line up. When I don't have time to watch TV and start to see those shows add up I begin to realize it's a little ridiculous. Then I started thinking about how when my middle son wakes up, we go down stairs and I turn on Playhouse Disney. He sits on the couch, asks for cereal and a drink and then proceeds to watch whatever show is on. I start to catch up with whatever I didn't finish the night before. I will do the dishes, make breakfast for everyone, make my mocha and then shower. By the time I've gotten all of this done including some computer time up to 2 hours and 4 shows have passed!

Yesterday I decided to go radical. I have so much going on in my life right now, I have my eldest getting close to starting Kindergarten, I have a middle son who is in the "terrific" threes and a baby who still wakes up every couple to few hours to eat all night long. With just those three kids I shouldn't have time to even think about TV. They are all in different phases and have minds that move a million miles a second. They are little sponges who want to learn and explore and while the shows they watch tend to teach things such as numbers, letters, colors, etc. there are so many other, more exciting ways to learn those things. And so we're cutting it out. We're going cold turkey the TV is off for the next little while.

I am not anti TV I think it's an okay pass time. My problem with it is it becomes so much more than a pass time. We start to ignore each other in order to watch a show, we use it as an electronic babysitter because mostly you can stick a kid in front of it and they'll be mesmerized for at least a little while. I don't see a problem with doing that some times but my problem was it was all the time. My kids should be able to find other ways to entertain themselves when I have something to do and I sometimes need to let things go to just entertain my kids.

And it's not just a problem with kids/parents, it's a way for spouses/significant others to not have to interact too! My husband works a lot and our time together is limited during the week. My husband can take or leave the TV which I think is great. He isn't one to come home, turn on sports and proceed to ignore what's going on around him. I am more the one who has the problem! But I think he and I could be playing games or reading books together after the kids go to bed instead of being planted in front of the TV. Although I know sometimes, especially for my husband, he gets home and he's done. He's worked a 14 or 16 hour day and he does need to just eat dinner, watch something mind numbing and then go to bed and I see nothing wrong with that but over all on good nights when he's had a more normal day I don't want to go to bed wondering how we missed having any sort of conversation with each other.

I want days or weeks to go by and realize we were able to entertain ourselves so much with non-electric items that we haven't even turned the TV on. Of course in this day and age I might pass out if someone told me I had to give up my internet access! And my eldest son is still playing his learning games on his V-Tech (which time with that will be cut back too, but one media device at a time). But in this day and age how can we totally remove ourselves from electronic devices? I don't know that we can or should have to but I do think they can be all consuming, life draining forces. So my goal is to control myself and my time on my media outlets whether it be TV, Facebook, internet searching or whatever so that I'm enjoying my kids, my husband and the great outdoors more!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Advocates and the Government

As I read articles such as this one and this one, I am left to wonder where should the government step in and where does it leave us alone to make decisions, good or bad? We live in a free democracy which to me would technically mean the government should never step in unless asked. So then who is allowed to ask the government to step in.

As with the situation with Daniel Hauser the hospital stepped in on behalf of the boy. Is this okay? If both parents are willing to make an extreme decision to take their child off of Chemo and try alternative routes should the hospital be able to act as an advocate for a child who is on board with their parents? I understand if mom is for something and dad against needing an advocate but where does government take it too far? If parents accept that their decision may kill their kid and they are OK with that then should the hospital let them have their way? I honestly am not sure to the answer of that question. I think for me it really depends. If Chemo has a low chance of healing a person then I understand wanting to use that time to look into alternatives. But if Chemo is almost guaranteed to cure the patient and the alternative medicines are an untested unknown and parents still want to take their child off of the known and try an unknown then I'm not upset that a judge made a decision in this case. It's a slippery slope though.

This article is what made me again start thinking of this whole situation. When is the government taking their power too far? If the government is going to have a hand in fighting childhood obesity and fixing that problem I think it should begin and end with educating the parents and the kids. Re-write Health Education curriculum and instead of having health class as a 1 semester high school class, have there be a health class every year or incorporate it into an existing class.

But to rezone where fast food restaurants can build and to tax unhealthy foods is taking it too far for me. It's the same with this recommendation to redesign hot dogs. At what point do we as a society let parents be stupid and at what point do we let government step in? Some would say these are elected officials who represent what Americans want. So I ask you, if you voted for Obama did you really want him to start passing laws that tax foods you eat because he deems them unhealthy? Where does it end?

So I leave you asking if a parent just doesn't care what his/her child puts in their mouth and they lead their child down a path of obesity, childhood type 2 diabetes, etc. do we want a complete overhaul of eating and fast food as we know it? Do we want advocates to step in on a case by case basis? Or do we just let parents do that to their kids?