Our Struggle with Reading – A Success Story

I remember my student teaching years with fondness. I also remember the one lesson I took away from the several months I spent in a first grade classroom: I never again want to teach children to read. Not ever. I never thought I’d say that, given what an avid reader I am. (God sure has a funny sense of humor, doesn’t he?) I was one of those crazy kids who taught myself to read in my preschool years. Not only do I not remember a time before reading, but I also don’t remember not loving to read. And while I may or may not still need to use my fingers for simple addition, I can devour a good novel in less than a day. I read the entire Harry Potter series in a week. Suffice it to say, I really love to read.

Fast forward about 9 years from the student teaching experience… and the Lord calls me to homeschool my children.

Fast forward another year… it is abundantly clear my oldest child did not inherit my gift of teaching himself to read. And suddenly I realize I am going to have to do that one thing I said I never wanted to do: teach someone to read.

Getting Started

My son already knew all his letters, but getting started with phonics I didn’t know where to start. We started with a popular phonics curriculum. It was full of worksheets, charts, worksheets, games, worksheets, oh and some more worksheets. He was not a fan and I was not a fan that he was not a fan. That first year I ended up putting him in private PreK by November.

download1The next year was our first year in Classical Conversations and several moms in our community recommended a program called “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons“. Easy? I am in! Only 100 short and quick lessons? Even better. We got started and got through about the first 25-30 lessons and we were making progress.

 

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However, the reading portions kept getting longer and more difficult. My very busy, active little boy was starting to get frustrated. He would see his reading for the day an immediately get defeated. He would see me pull that book out and immediately his whole body language would change. Soon the tears started and then his flat out refusal to do the lesson at all. I so wish I could go back and talk to that mom that I was. I felt like I had to push him through it. He was over 5 at this point he should be reading and we were no where near reading at all. I tried positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, bribery, begging. None of it worked, my son just grew to hate reading more and more. Every day he was crying, I was crying, and if by some miracle we made it through the lesson it had taken us well over an hour. Knowing what I know now I wish so much I could go back and hug that little boy and that mom!

Something had to Change

So finally after one particular bad day of us both in tears I just looked at my son and said: “honey, we are not going to do this reading book anymore” and I just stopped. I didn’t know what to do. I started getting online and researching all the thousands of language curriculums that were out there. I called a few companies and spoke to them and shared our story. Then one day I came across All About Learning Press and their All About Reading program. They were fairly new at the time but I remember they were the only curriculum I read about that I couldn’t find one negative review. I called and spoke to them and spent about an hour on the phone with them, I believe I even cried. They were so kind, spent so much time with me, and really believed my son would like their program and that it would help it.

When the curriculum arrived I was a little nervous how he would react, but he was really excited. He wanted to start that day. So we did and we made it all the way through a lesson and he loved it. He was making strides and we made it all the way through level 1 that school year and we both were super proud of his progress. He was still behind his public schooled peers, but he was making progress which was exciting.


If you are not familiar with the program there are several aspects about it that I personally believe make it the BEST reading and spelling curriculum on the market:

  1. It is very tactile. To get started you purchase a pack of letter tiles and a magnetic board. The children get to manipulate the tiles to create words while standing (or I guess sitting, but standing was good for us) to spell the words they are learning.
  2. The lessons are all broken up into small, short, and very different parts. This was key for us. Lessons in other programs can be so very lengthy The staff a AALP told me they designed their program differently on purpose so that when children start to get fatigued you can stop at a good stopping point. My son, who likes to finish things he starts, doesn’t have to feel like he is failing for not completing the lesson because each lesson has several different lessons inside it. Each section is also very different so one part may be standing up spelling with tiles while another part is cutting and pasting.
  3. The lessons teach the same thing several different ways. This was also key for us. As I mentioned above the lesson isn’t all just sitting, blending, and reading. There are the letter tiles, coloring, cut and paste, flash cards, and even some physical activities all in one lesson. It teaches the children the same thing without being so similar the child gets bored or feels like he is just doing the same thing over and over (which my son cannot stand).
  4. It teaches them how to read (and eventually spell) anything. Even as a voracious reader myself, I am learning rules about phonics I had never learned before and I love this. It doesn’t just teach my child how to read specific words on their level it teaches them why letters say what they do when they are in a certain order.
  5. It is affordable. Love this part. The first time you have to buy the letter tiles and a few accessories so I spent a total of about $150. However, the great thing is that you use those same letter tiles all the way through and for multiple children. After that initial investment each subsequent year has been between $45-130 depending on the level and what optional extras I choose. That is incredible for a language curriculum.

 

New Challenges

The next year we started Level 2 and as the year progressed it felt like it just wasn’t getting it. He didn’t like blending words and even when he did he would get a word and then completely forget it by the time he got to the next page. He was also forgetting simple words like “and”, “he”, and “the”. Frustration was rising again. This was about the time we made a big move. I contacted the awesome people at All About Learning Press again and they told me to try taking a break. So we did. About 2 months of no reading at all.

When we arrived in our new home we picked it back up again and he was still not getting it. I spoke to a few moms back at our Classical Conversations community and came up with a new plan.

The First Break Through

I made reading a privilege for him. In our new house he had his own room, which really helped. Although even if he didn’t I probably would have let him read in my bed or a special reading area in the house. Each night he got to stay up 20-30 minutes past his bedtime as long as he was laying in bed “reading” books. I also started a simple chapter book with him and would read a chapter to him each night before lights out time. This was also special because it was just him and I (or his dad).

Then one night about a month later it happened. He came downstairs one night in the middle of his reading time and said: “Mom can I read you this book?” Now he had done this before and it consisted of him telling me what was going on in the pictures and maybe pointing out a few words. There was never any actual reading involved. Not this night. On this night he sat down next to me and read me the entire book, every single word. I was astonished. It was not a book I had read to him before, so it wasn’t memory. It was one of his library books that he had read on his own. I cried I was so proud of him. From that night on he would select certain books to read to me or to his brothers. We picked up our All About Reading lessons again and he went through each lesson with no problem. We also started All About Spelling and he was flying through it. We had made it through another hurdle and I officially had a reader that loved reading.

 

download3Another Change

As the weeks went by and we were moving through our spelling and reading I began to feel a little bored myself and I felt like he was getting a little bored with the mundane as well. Reading for me is an adventure and I want my children to feel that same way. I didn’t want it to be another just another lesson, but a gift. It was about this time I came across the book The Well Trained Mind again. I had read it several years ago when we started our journey into Classical Education but I really felt drawn to re-read the sections on reading. I am so glad I did. After reading through again I made a few more changes to our reading. Specifically I was more intentional about our library trips. I now go to the library and we choose three types of books together each week:

  1. Easy Readers: just like I mentioned above, these are books that are right at or below my son’s current reading level. They are books he can read on his own with very little frustration. We choose about 20-25 of these a week.
  2. Story books: these are still picture books but they are above my son’s reading level. These are books we read together each week and as I read them I point to the words as I read. I get about 10-15 of these a week.
  3. Chapter Books: Each week I choose one chapter book (usually a classic or a classic rewritten on a lower reading level) for me to read to him each night. This book is usually significantly above his reading level. As we read I have to stop every few paragraphs so we can talk about what is going on and also so I can define any new words for him.

And we read. We read and we read and we read. Each day I would read 2 story books to them, he would read 3-4 books to use, and I would read 1-2 chapters to him. As we came to words and sounds he didn’t know we talked about it right then and there. His confidence grew, his love of reading grew, and his skills grew. It was so great to watch. We still did a reading or spelling lesson as we felt moved, usually about 1 or 2 a week instead of 4 or 5. We were still loving the spelling and reading from All About Learning Press. His reading skills were skyrocketing.

Another Success

Just this week we sat down to do a reading lesson on the “ee” sound. I opened the book and he already knew it! He didn’t know it from any lesson we had done together, but from our reading. We had come across enough words with the “ee” sound while reading that he already knew that when he saw “ee” he needed to make the long e sound. We skipped the whole lesson and he was so incredibly proud of himself. And I wanted to scream: “IT IS WORKING!” So we called it an early day and celebrated with some yogurt topped with dark chocolate chips for snack because that’s how we roll.IMG_0008

To The Stressed Mom of Years Gone By

I wish so much I could back in time and hug that stressed, worried mom that I was. If I could I would tell myself to breathe, stop wasting time on curriculum he isn’t ready for, snuggle up on the couch and snuggle that little preschool boy while reading some amazing books. I would tell myself to stop comparing him to all the public schooled children out there. If I wanted him to be educated like the public schooled children, I wouldn’t have chosen to homeschool him. I would tell myself not to be bound to a certain curriculum, but to be prayerfully bound to praying for direction for his education. I would look that sweet little preschooler in the face and tell him how much he is going to love reading one day, how his little brothers are going to prefer his reading over mine, and how incredibly talented God made him to be. I would tell myself to trust the method of education that we feel the Lord has called us to use to educate our children and believe that he knows what is best. I would tell myself to put my pride aside and be okay with having a preschooler who couldn’t read yet because he has so many other amazing qualities and part of the reason why we chose to educate the way we do is so that our children can learn at their own developmentally appropriate pace. And most importantly I would tell myself that I was chosen to be his mama over all the other mamas in the whole entire world and that when I slow down, breathe, lay down my pride and need to be right, pray, and listen to my God and my instincts I will always know the direction I need to head.

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The Post Every Pregnant Mom Should Read

If you want a natural birth don’t have your baby in a hospital, you will end up with a c-section. Having your baby at home is dangerous and stupid. Birth centers are amazing because they feel like home but if your baby isn’t breathing they can’t help you. Hospitals are the safest. Hospitals are dangerous because they will make you have procedures on your baby that you don’t want. Is anyone confused yet?

If you are pregnant or even mention that you are thinking about getting pregnant everyone and their mother (literally) will have an opinion on where you should have your baby. Really you don’t even have to tell anyone just check out the comments on social media on articles surrounding birth and be prepared for an all out war. However, now that I am on my fourth pregnancy and I have learned something I wish every mom would understand:

It does not matter where you have your baby, at all. Read that again. It does not matter where you have your baby.

Have your baby at home, have your baby in a hospital, have your baby in a birth center, have your baby squatting in the woods (although I have to say that sounds the least appealing to me personally). It doesn’t matter.
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Why doesn’t it matter?

Over the past 8 years I have been pregnant 4 times, have given birth 3 times, and am about to give birth again in a few short months. My first birth was a very typical 21st century birth. I labored for a long time, had an epidural, and had a baby in a hospital. Not exactly what I had planned, but nothing was terrible about it other than the 6 months of my upper thigh being numb to the touch from the epidural (one of the side effects I wasn’t told about). My second birth was probably the worst and most traumatic day of my life. He was also born in a hospital. You can read the story at the link above. My third birth was also in a hospital, but this time was the first time I took the time to really choose who I was going to have taking care of me. I think I interviewed half a dozen different OB/MW teams. This hospital water birth was the most incredible, healing birth I had ever had. Many of the natural birth crazies would say it was because it was a natural birth. I would somewhat disagree. It was because I trusted the birth team that was with me and my wishes and rights were respected. I was cared for like a real person and not just another patient. Having a natural birth is one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had, but I don’t think that is what made the biggest difference.

I had 3 hospital births and they were all completely different experiences. I learned the hard way during my second birth that hospitals aren’t always the safest places to have a baby if you don’t have a good team taking care of you. Both my baby and I faced moments where our lives were in jeopardy. Then I learned during my third birth that there are doctors in hospitals that will take phenomenal care of you. I experienced terrible care in a hospital setting, but I have also known women who experienced terrible care at home and in a birth center. It can happen everywhere, just like incredible care can.

So what does matter?

What does matter is who you choose to be there with you when you have your baby. This matters so much, so very much and I don’t think many moms grasp just how much this matters. Where you have your baby doesn’t matter, but who is there when you have your baby matters more than anything else you need to consider while pregnant. In fact, I am going to say that who you choose to be present when you give birth is the single most important choice you will make while pregnant. More important than the nursery design, more important than what travel system, crib, or baby toys you register for, more important than your baby shower guest list. It should be at the top of your list. Most moms that I know choose to go to the most well known practice in the area, the practice at the top of the list on their list of in-network OBs, or the practice that most of their friends go to. They make the choice and then blindly go to their appointments and trust everything that provider says. They are the doctor, right? As a new mom that is what I did. Most of the time moms wanting a home birth or a birth center birth are a little more aware of the choices they are making due to those choices being less popular, but still I have read home birth and birth center stories that are just as scary (and often more scary) than hospital situations.

First Things First

Before you can choose a care provider, you actually need to know something about pregnancy and birth and what is going to happen in your body during the process. This seems like common sense, but again it has been my experience that very few women have a clue about what goes on in their bodies during the 10 months (yep it’s 10 months, not 9) they are pregnant and during the labor process. You can’t really know how to choose medical professionals to care for you during the process until you know what kind of care you want to receive. So how do you do that? First, promise me you won’t read the book “What to Expect When You are Expecting” unless you want a book with zero references and just want to be told not to worry and just trust your doctor. I have compiled a list of some of the best resources I have found on learning about pregnancy and childbirth below. You may notice that several of the books have a very pro natural childbirth stance. The reason for this is because I have found that those are really the only books that seem to give real, evidence based information. As I mentioned above I have had 2 medicated births. I strongly believe that moms should be free to have an epidural or pain management if they choose, however I also believe that we need to have all the information on such choices in order to make a confident choice. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some of the best I have read. Feel free to share your other recommendations in the comments.

How to Choose?

Once you have an understanding of what you want for your pregnancy and delivery you are now equipped to choose a provider for yourself and your baby. I recommend interviewing several different doctors and midwives until you find one you really feel safe with. Let them know what you are hoping for and find a doctor that is supportive of your wishes and doesn’t brush you aside. I think many moms are used to being brushed aside by “doctor speak”. I know I was. Until my third pregnancy and I was interviewing the OB I ended up choosing. He was so kind and even apologized to me for the way I had been treated in the past. No doctor had ever done that before. I was under the care of the midwives for my pregnancy, but it is so important to know the OB as well. All the midwives are under his/her authority. Chances are if the OB is fantastic, the midwives will be so as well and unfortunately the opposite is not true. Fantastic midwives do not always mean fantastic doctors. Childbirth Connection has some really great articles on how to go about doing this that are worth checking out. If you find yourself having a hard time please reach out to me, no matter where you live I can help you find the places to look for really great care providers.

Santa is Dead! An Update

One afternoon last week I went to grab my kids from a neighbor’s house and my awesome neighbor pulled me aside and told me my oldest son was telling her son that Santa was dead. Not my proudest moment. Sigh…

The Back Story

Last year, my post regarding how our family handles Santa was published in a magazine and my site got more hits than it ever had. I was so happy we had figured out a way to handle the whole Santa thing without our kids turning out to be “that kid”. and I wanted to share what we did. Well, turns out my seven year old was “that kid” now. If you go back and read my post you will see that we most certainly do not tell our children that Santa is dead, but if you knew my seven year old you would know exactly how he came to that conclusion.
My seven year old is just like his daddy: extremely logical and analytical. He has very little imagination and almost no creativity. He is extremely concrete and likes things to be just so. He is a math genius, has an awesome sense of direction, and can assemble and build amazing creations with no directions. He is the opposite of his mama. We have always told our children the story of Saint Nicholas. We tell them he was a man that loved Jesus and gave to others as a result. so each Christmas when we see his face we are reminded to give to others at Christmas time. They know the story of the dowry and the stockings, so they know that people hang stockings and they are filled with goodies in remembrance of that event. We also watch and enjoy Christmas classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and other Santa based shows, just as we watch any other fun family shows like Toy Story. We don’t ever have serious conversations about them afterwards, anymore than we have conversations about whether or not Buzz Lightyear is a real Space Ranger.

The Aftermath

So that evening I sat down with my seven year old and included his five and a half year old brother as he was present for the conversation at the neighbors and asked them what happened. My oldest told me that his friend kept insisting that Santa was real. I told him that Santa is real. To which he replied, “No mom he was real, now he is dead!” Didn’t I tell you he is a realist? My second son is much more like his mama. He is a dreamer with an impressive vocabulary and has probably ten times the dose of creativity that I have. He says: ” Right, but his spirit is still here at Christmas reminding us what Jesus wants for his birthday.” I was impressed. what am I here for if my five year old gets it? Then my oldest says with arrogance in his voice: “Maybe, but he is still dead.” I couldn’t help but laugh. I knew he was not going to relent so I agreed with him. “Yes honey, you are correct Saint Nicholas the man is dead, but lots of people still like to celebrate him today and remember his kindness by giving to others. Some parents like to pretend to be him and give their kids gifts and let them be surprised and we need to respect that. So you are not allowed to tell children that Santa is dead because that is not kind to the children who still like to be surprised. Do you understand?” To which, he agreed and then asked if we were done talking. And so far this week we have been without any dead Santa incidences.

My Takeaway

Parenting is always evolving, as my children get older I have realized that my parenting style and conversations need to change. It goes beyond Santa. My children’s curiosity changes and their ability to observe and understand more increases. As parents we need to be open to changing our stance and continue conversations that we thought were done.
Christmas is full force in our house right now. The advent wreath is sitting on the table and our Jesse tree is in the works. This year my seven year old has asked to read some of our daily verses from his own Bible, which has been so much fun. This year since we live in Idaho we took a family trip up into the mountains and national forest to cut down our Christmas tree. Afterward my husband and I decided that moving forward this would be a special trip reserved only for children over the age of 6. Trekking through a foot of snow up a mountain with a three year old was less than fun. Don’t be afraid to adjust family traditions and add new ones as your kids get older. Honor and respect your child as they grow it will make them feel great as they get older and get more privileges and it will give the younger ones something to look forward to.
My oldest in a rare quiet moment in front of the Christmas tree.

My oldest in a rare quiet moment in front of the Christmas tree.

Westward Move Day 2-3: Omaha, Nebraska

Disclaimer: my westward posts are all written via iPhone while on the road. Please excuse any spelling, grammar, style, or formatting errors :)

We spent most of today in Omaha, Nebraska which was a surprisingly (to me) beautiful city. We arrived super late last night thanks to a scary thunderstorm in Kansas and Nebraska but we woke up this morning to beautiful weather. Our hotel was right next to a beautiful park with bison and geese sculptures which the kids loved:

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We then headed over to the Omaha zoo and aquarium, which was incredible. I highly recommend this zoo to any travelers. The zoo does a really amazing job of including visitors in the exhibit. We got to walk through deserts, caves, and swamps. Very cool. The kids especially liked the penguins feeding time.

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Tonight we are driving through South Dakota to Rapid City, which I have been looking forward to so much. I spent several months living in Rapid and working with Native American children coming off the reservation. This is also where I really fell in love with the west for the first time. I am so looking forward to taking my family to all the areas I loved. On the way in tonight I am hoping we make it to Wall Drug before they close so the bus can pick out a fun prize. On the agenda for tomorrow is Mount Rushmore and the Dinosaur Park. Then we plan to take the beautiful drive through the Badlands and stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We still have about 3.5 hours left of driving tonight before we reach Rapid.

Nick and I have the transfer from car to hotel down to a science from the past few days, it is really funny to watch I bet. But we are all looking forward to settling into our new home.

Westward Move: Day 1-2 St. Louis

Disclaimer: all my westward move posts are posted via my iPhone while on the road with varying levels of coverage. Please don’t use any of these posts to judge my spelling, grammar, formatting, and/or style. :)

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What an adventure we are on! This is something Nick and I have said many times over the past month. Moving across the country with three kids, two dogs, and a cat is not the most relaxing thing one can do. However, this is a dream come true for us so we have tried to repeat that phrase over and over again as we have hit some want to punch someone it is so stressfuladventurous situations along the way.

The Drive to St. Louis
We left early Saturday morning and headed out. I had prepared a fun bag for each of the kids to have in the car. I let them choose two things to open on the way. I bought 3 awesome series for the kids to watch on the trip: Where in the World is Carmen Santiago, The Magic School Bus, and Liberty Kids (which was accidentally packed and sent ahead of us). My poor kitty cried the first 3 hours and my little dog refused to go to the bathroom on a leash, but other than that we arrived just in time for dinner.

St. Louis Fun
After checking into our hotel we headed downtown for dinner at a Root Beer Brewery called Fitz’s. The kids loved the fresh root beer and I was super impressed with the quality of the food and their gluten free menu for my oldest son.

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The next morning we woke up and headed to the arch and to check out the Mississippi River. The park surrounding the arch was beautiful and gave the kids a much needed place to run. We didn’t have time to ride to the top of the arch. br />
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The Expansion Museum under the arch was amazing an FREE. The kids each got a Junior Ranger activity book to complete for a medal. The kids loved the challenge and they leaned so much. We talked a lot about all the families that did wha we are doing hundreds of years ago in a wagon. The exhibits were amazing for all ages. This is for sure a must do for St. Louis visits.

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On the way to the car we stopped at the Mississippi to take a few pictures of the dirty water. The boys did love all the barges and also throwing sticks into the water.

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Up next we headed to The City Museum, which is an incredible museum/art exhibit/playground. The kids loved it. Not exactly the best place for moms who are afraid of heights and get nervous in places where it is impossible to see all their children at all times. With three young children and only two adults it was challenging to keep track of all three of them at once. The imagination and talent that was out into the museum are incredible and my boys just loved climbing and running and playing.

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After the museum we were all sweaty, tired messes so we went back to the hotel for showers, packed up, and headed back on the road. Up next we will head through Independence, MO to Omaha. I believe we are going to check out the Omaha Zoo in the morning before heading out.

Currently all three boys are totally passed out from a busy morning.

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When Dreams Come True – Mommy Secrets Moves West

You know those dreams you have when you are a little girl? The ones that often fade with time and you forget about? Living out west was one of mine. When I was in high school I traveled to Colorado and fell even more in love. Then when in college I lived in South Dakota for a few months and that confirmed my desire to live there permanently one day. As time passed and I had children and we settled here, the dream started to fade. It just didn’t seem like it would ever be possible. I also didn’t want to uproot my children once they were old enough to really have roots. Through a series of events over the past few months my husband was offered an amazing job in Boise, Idaho and he accepted it.

This is about to be my new home:
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The Adventure

We leave this weekend to begin our 5 day, 2,500 mile trek across the country with 3 children, 2 dogs, and a cat.  We had to fit all of our belongings into one POD and a small trailer we are towing behind our van.10615516_10203211176294803_5773429087878900311_n

How perfect is it that this year we will be spending the entire year studying American History? I am going to get to show my kids so many of the awesome things that they are going to be learning about this year. Part of our trip will be along the Oregon trail, we are going to visit so many of the places they will be learning about this year. We will get to  drive over the mIssissippi River, visit Mount Rushmore, drive through the Badlands and the Rocky Mountains. So much fun! Make sure you are subscribed to the blog via email above so you can get my nightly email updates and photos of our journey. You can do at the top of the right side bar of this page.

Then once we arrive we are going to be living in the center of most people’s dream vacation spots. Hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, fishing, hunting, and biking all right in our backyard. Less than a day’s drive from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Denver, and Salt Lake City. A slower pace of life. wide open spaces, no rush hour traffic. And hopefully in a few years a small farm of our own.

Am I Crazy?

I can’t tell you how many people have said to me that they wish they had the courage to do what we are doing. And then there are the other people who think we are crazy. This move has been crazy stressful. I have had to sort through all my items and choose which are most important to keep and which to toss and donate. Let me just say living in the same house for 10 years allows you to accumulate a whole ton of crap. The kids have been crazy and all our items had to leave a full week before we did, so we have been living out of suitcases. I think sometimes we have dreams and ambitions and we try to reach them, but we hit stress or hardship and we just give up. Our culture is slowly moving towards an attitude of feeling like everything should be easy or just handed to us. Babies should be born with no pain, marriage gets hard and we give up, we shouldn’t have to search long and hard for a job, we want houses as nice as our parents, etc. Why is it we have adopted this attitude? The greatest things in life always require the most work. The past month has been so stressful and so exhausting, I literally feel like I could sleep for a week. But what is on the other side of this? One of the biggest dreams of my entire life is about to come true.

I just want to encourage you to not let go of those dreams you have had for your entire life. It may seem crazy, and it will probably take a massive amount of work to get there, but you can get there. I believe that most of those dreams and desires we have had for a very long time are there for a very specific purpose. I look forward to sharing our journey with you.

Product Spotlight and Giveaway: Bummis Cloth Diapers

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After cloth diapering for over seven years straight I have for sure come to know the best of the best when it comes to cloth diapers. Bummis is towards the top of that list. After being one of the very first companies to start the modern cloth diaper movement their quality, customer service, and product offerings are hard to be surpassed. I have one of their amazing diapers to give away to one of my lucky readers.

2 Reasons Why I love Bummis

Bummis just celebrated their 25th anniversary this past year and was started by Canadian moms sewing diaper covers after her littles were in bed at night. Over the past 25 years they have obviously grown substantially and are considered to be a leader in the cloth diaper industry. Here are just a few of many reasons they are so amazing:

  1. They are local.  They have a manufacturing center in Montreal where all of their diapers are also produced with fabrics and components that also come from either Canada or the USA. They employ local people in their factory, two stores, and warehouses supplying local jobs and paying a fair wage. Not to mention the support they are giving American and Canadian textile producers.

    Bummis Photo credit

    Bummis Photo credit

  2. Their Support and Education is Top Notch. The amount of Youtube videos, tutorials, and even cloth diaper science they provide are all amazing. They take to guesswork out of cloth diapering.

5 Reasons Why I Love Bummis Diapers

Bummis Photo Credit

Bummis Photo Credit

  1. They are AffordableAnyone who has ever spoken to me about cloth diapers knows how strongly I feel about not purchasing diapers made overseas. The biggest push back I get from that is that diapers made here are so expensive. Bummis makes cloth diapering with diapers from a local company completely affordable. A new mom can cloth diaper their baby with some seriously amazing Bummis diapers from birth to potty training for just a couple hundred dollars. I love that.
  2. They are Reliable. Having been around for over 25 years, they have perfected their design and they aren’t going anywhere. They are a staple in every veteran mom’s stash.
  3. Their Covers are Gentle. Bummis covers are the only waterproof covers I use on my newborns for several reasons. First of all their elastic is all encased in soft fabric keeping it off of my baby’s skin and the waterproof layer can be wiped clean.  Second, their velcro is small, quiet, and still does the job. I have tried other covers and the velcro is always such a huge problem for me. It either is too rough and close to baby’s skin or is so loud when I undo the diaper it startles the baby.
  4. They are Innovative.  I love following their Facebook page because they are always coming up with new products and American or Canadian produced prints. Today’s giveaway is their newest product: The Duo-Brite AI2. I love that they have been around for so long and are still coming out with new and exciting products. They also have an amzing line of the cutest swim wear for infants and toddlers including reusable swim diapers.
  5. They are So Cute. I just had to throw this one in there, because I absolutely love the prints Bummis have. It is rare for me to love almost every single print that a company comes out with, but there prints are always my favorites.

    The prints on the Super Whisper Wrap Line

    The prints of the Super Whisper Wrap Line

The Giveaway

I will be giving away a new Size 1 Duo Brite Wrap in Green with a size 1 Duo Brite Insert. Another great video by Bummis shows all the features of this great product:

The Duo-Brite AI2 is super trim and absorbent as well as durable. It is a great option to fit nicely under clothes and is cost effective with only the inert needed to be changed and the wrap being reusable. It functions similar to a pocket or AIO diaper without the need to stuff or the bulk.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclaimer: I have not been paid for this review. Bummis has supplied the diaper for me to giveaway to my readers, but this opinion is fully my own.

My Journey in the Vaccine Movement

I have shied away from writing on this topic for several years for several reasons. The first one being I know the unpleasant slew of comments that will more than likely follow this post, but I feel now is the time to end my silence on this topic. I want to start by making one thing very clear: I am not anti-vax, but I am also not pro-vax. I am in support of parents who have questions and concerns about vaccines being able to ask those questions in a supportive way. But i am getting ahead of myself.

A few months back I stepped away from my personal Facebook page. I was going to unfriend every single person and just stay in the groups that I was a part of (come to find out unfriending almost 1,000 people takes a considerable amount of time so I kind of gave up once I got down to around 150). But it is time for a confession: I wanted to leave facebook because the posts flying around social media on vaccinations were upsetting me to such a point that it was ruining my day and wasting my time. I was tired of the attacks on me and the moms around me. One side is going too far by telling moms that don’t follow the schedule should have their children taken away from them for being unfit mothers who don’t care about their children’s health. Another side is going too far by saying that if you vaccinate your children they will most surely die of cancer (or some other ailment). SERIOUSLY??? I even spoke to a friend that shared a pro-vaccine article with the above stance and was told, that I was different because she knew two of my children became severely ill after vaccines. One child was just a few hours away from an ambulance ride to the local children’s hospital. So because my child was almost hospitalized after a vaccine I guess I am not thrown into the lump of unfit parents. Whew! Can I just say…

ENOUGH!!!

My official opinion on vaccines:

Vaccines have risks, not vaccinating has risks and each parent should be free to make an educated decision on which choice is best for them with the help of a supportive pediatrician. Each parent should not be guilted, scared, or forced into either direction by anyone. Period. And to clarify, my definition of a supportive pediatrician is one who believes that vaccinating and not vaccinating both pose risks to the general public and want to partner with parents in making decisions about their child’s health. b555

 The Stats No One is Talking About

Most recently I have seen all kinds of pro-vaccine posts  sharing stories and showing pictures of children suffering with diseases that are supposedly preventable with vaccines. Posts talking about outbreaks and deaths and scary things all allegedly caused by people not vaccinating and people with children who are not old enough to vaccinate. I am not going to get into whether vaccines are effective or not because first of all I am not a doctor, second of all that has been discussed to death, and third of all I see both sides as having valid arguments. What I do want to address is the statistic that I have yet to ever see in any blog post on vaccines ever: the number of petitions filed to the US government for vaccine injuries and deaths. Before scrolling down does anyone want to guess how many petitions have been filed against the US government for vaccine injuries and deaths since 1985? Or how about the amount of money the government has awarded to families with children who have been injured or killed by vaccines? According to the US Department of Health and Human Services: 15,100 petitions have been filed for vaccine injury and death. Keep in mind that is only the number of official petitions that have been filed for compensation, it does not include reports made by doctors on behalf children, like mine, who were severely ill. Of that over 15,000 petitions 1,132 of those claims were deaths. The government has awarded $2,671,223,269.97  to families as a result and that number does not include attorney fees or cases that are still open.

Children are Dying

Children are dying of disease. Yes they are. Children are also dying from vaccines. And before you jump on about the numbers above are statistically less significant than other numbers, let’s remember that those numbers represent someone’s child. Over 1,000 children that will never be held by their parents again. And over 15,000 whose life and family will never be the same. A child’s death is traumatic and a tragedy that no parent should ever, ever have to endure. But it happens. Disease causes it and vaccines cause it. End of story. This is why parents need to be free to make a decision they can be confident in, because either decision poses a risk. It doesn’t matter how small the risk is, the bottom line is that there is a risk and that should be acknowledged.

Let’s End the Vaccine Movement and Start the Pro-Parent Movement

This is why parents who are concerned about the risks need to meet with a supportive pediatrician (see my definition above) and look through their family medical history, lifestyle, and life goals to decide which route will be best for their children. For example, in our family both of my older children had severe reactions to vaccines as infants. We also hope to visit third world countries as a family in the future. Both of these things greatly influence the decisions we make about vaccinating our children. Do we need to eliminate or fight against vaccines? Absolutely not! Do I think we need to make vaccinations a legal requirement? Absolutely not! Imagine what would happen if we partnered  together and stopped trying to prove who was right and who was wrong and instead worked to study vaccines to make them better, safer, and more effective? What if we took all the energy we use to sling mud at the opposing side and instead we worked to get more studies done and educate parents on the risks of both choices with facts, statistics, and studies instead of just trying to push one agenda with emotional pleas. Let’s empower parents to make educated decisions for their families. This goes so far beyond just vaccines but family health as a whole (but I could write a novel on that). My general opinion is that if you have a doctor that uses scare tactics and control to get you to accept or decline vaccines (or any medical procedure) it is time to find another one. There are doctors that want to empower their patients and their families and not belittle them. Find one and you will thank me and them.

My Story

For those that are curious, below is my personal experience with vaccines, if you are not curious feel free to scroll down and read my comment policy for this post.

As a new mom, vaccines were something that I was on the fence about. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I went to my pediatrician at the time and shared my concerns after my son was born. He laughed at my concerns, told me that everything I was reading was uneducated and it was silly for me to be concerned. He made me feel stupid for even questioning the safety of vaccines. So I trusted him and vaccinated my son. In the days that followed, my son had a fever that was over 104, was lethargic, vomiting, and would not nurse. My happy baby cried all day long inconsolable. I called the office, was told this was expected and to give him some tylenol. I endured this for 3 days. When I went back to his next appointment and shared my concerns for the second time I was told that reaction was somewhat normal for the first time and since he had them once it shouldn’t happen again. I still was nervous to vaccinate again. And that is when he started scaring me with what would happen to my baby if he got these diseases the vaccines were for. I asked if we could give him just one and see what would happen and he refused. So, as much as I regret it, I vaccinated him again. The same thing happened to him and I called into the office in tears. I was told it wasn’t reportable until his fever reached 105 and I just needed to “hang in there with him”. When I went back several months later I was firm in my decision not to vaccinate again and I was told I could no longer be a patient at their office. We found a new, wonderful pediatrician. Who after hearing our history told me we were not going to give my baby any vaccines until he was at least a year old and only then we would do one at a time if I felt comfortable. I had told her my family’s desire to travel to third world countries at some point and we discussed what vaccines would be most beneficial at that time. We also discussed things I could do in the mean time to protect my baby from disease (extended breastfeeding, no daycare, healthy diet, etc.). My son received one vaccine at 18 months with no reaction and has since then has been given more vaccines one at a time with no reaction. When my second son was born, based on my first son’s history my pediatrician recommended no vaccines until he was at least 6 months old. We gave him one vaccine at 6 months and within hours he began screaming and was inconsolable. His fever skyrocketed to 105 and came down only to around 103 with regimented rotation of tylenol and motrin. My pediatrician called to check on us several times a day and by the morning of day 5, she called to tell me she had already reported he reaction to the CDC and that if his fever had not broken by noon I was going to need to take him into the children’s hospital. I did cool baths and a whole lot of prayer and after his afternoon nap on me, he woke up covered in sweat and fever free. He did not have another vaccine until he was almost 3 to protect his newborn brother and after that he didn’t have another one until he was 4. Since then he has had no problems. My third son is now 2.5 and just had his first vaccine a few months ago. He had no reaction. Moving forward we (meaning my husband, my pediatrician and I) have decided that any further children we have will not receive a single vaccine until after their second birthday. Having a trustworthy pediatrician has been a lifesaver for me. She has always partnered with me, respected me as a parent, taken the time to share her knowledge with me in a way that empowers me and not makes me feel inferior. So again, I am neither anti-vaccine or pro-vacccine. I am pro-parent. I want parents to be given the opportunity to have a doctor they trust help them make decisions on the vaccinations of their child based on their family history and life plans.

And a disclaimer about the comments: If you are rude or sling mud I will not approve your comment. My blog, my rules :)

Top 5 Reasons I am no Longer a Homeschool Failure

I used to be a homeschool failure. I tried two years in a row to homeschool my children and had them in school by October, both years. It had always been on my heart to educate my children at home, but it was so hard for me those first two years. I wanted to try again last fall and my husband had the following to say about it: “Emily, this is it. If you get too stressed or overwhelmed, or I come home to you crying regularly homeschool just isn’t going to work for us. This is your last attempt.” Thankfully I thrive under pressure. :)

We ended up having a fantastic year and as we are gearing up for another year I have been reflecting a lot on what made this past year so successful. So here are the top 5 reasons this year went so well and the previous years didn’t.

1. I Learned that Community is Everything

As a former teacher, when I started out I thought I had everything I needed. I was so very wrong. Homeschooling is absolutely nothing like teaching a classroom full of children (who just happen to be about the same age). You can not homeschool without a support system in place. We joined a Classical Conversations group this past school year, and it was a lifesaver for me and the kids. Putting all academic benefits aside here (which there are a TON, but that is for another post) this group is the main reason we had such a great year. Getting together with moms once a week who have children my age and are teaching their children the same things was such a help. Plus, the groups goes all the way through high school, so those of us who are new to homeschooling have constant encouragement from those who are veterans. Some of the moms have become my very best friends. We have babysitters for doctors appointments, meals for when our husband is out of work for months due to a work injury, and friends to hang out with who don’t think we are crazy to keep our kids home all day. If you homeschool get in a community. I love CC (as we lovingly call it), but there are other communities out there to join and be a part of. Don’t hesitate. It is worth the cost, commitment, and travel. You won’t regret it.

CC Mom's Night Out

CC Mom’s Night Out

2. I Stuck to the Basics with My Littles

My first two years I was over-prepared. I had classroom like visions of all my children sitting in my beautiful homeschool classroom for hours of the day while I taught them with all the pieces of the extremely expensive preschool and pre-kindergarten curriculum I bought them. They got bored with all the worksheets and I was so tired of trying to force them to do them. This year, we spent a maximum of 20-40 minutes per child sitting at the kitchen table doing math and reading. The rest was all play and field trips and play dates. And somehow they magically learned everything they needed to know and then some.

Playing for math with some linking cubes

Playing for math with some linking cubes

 

3. I Discovered They Needed More as They Got Older

Towards the end of the year this year I noticed my oldest child was getting a little bored by the end of the day. He was getting through his seatwork quickly and acting out a little bit in the afternoon. As they get older I have found that they start needing more to keep them busy. 5 year olds and under learn well while playing with toys and exploring life, but I watched my oldest begin to want more of a challenge. I added a more in-depth reading curriculum by the end of the year and noticed a big difference. This coming year we will be adding in even more for him and being more structured with what he has to accomplish each day. I have found that when I relaxed this year and let him learn as he liked, he let me know when it was time for something more.

Mom caught a smile during seatwork

Mom caught a smile during seat work

4. A Schedule Helps, Actually it Really Helps

I am not a schedule kind of girl. I don’t like routine and I crave adventure and change. That has not been helpful to me as a homeschooling mom, at all. This was a tough lesson for me to learn, and I am still learning it. It seems that the older they get the more important it is to have a regular school schedule at home. I found that if I didn’t get up and get school done in the morning no one (myself included) felt like doing it in the afternoon and thus someone ended up frustrated and in tears. When I figured out that if schooling first was the routine there was a whole lot less revolt from everyone involved.

What my table needs to look like BEFORE lunch to have a successful day.

What my table needs to look like BEFORE lunch to have a successful day.

5. Sometimes I Need to Say No

I like to be busy, but I tend to overcommit myself. Volunteer at church? Sure! Volunteer to help organize an event? Sure! Speak at a conference? Why not? Babysit for a friend over their spring break? Sure! Swim lessons, Karate, Piano lessons, and field trips? Yes, of course! Do I want to join a homeschool co-op? Ye… Wait… when am I supposed to sleep or eat exactly?

I soon found myself involved in so many activities and involving my children in so many activities that we were all exhausted. This is still something I am working on, but as a homeschool mom, school has to be my absolute top priority accomplishment everyday otherwise I am going to feel like a failure and we will lose the routine of school first, play and extras second. The good news is that socialization is never an issue for our family, the bad news is that over-socialization is. So I have to really figure out what is most important for us to participate in.

Rainy day zoo trip

Rainy day zoo trip

My final thought is don’t give up if you had a bad year. I had two, but I am so glad I gave it one more shot. Homeschooling has been such an amazing thing for our family and I am so thankful for the life it lets us live. Not to mention the friends we all have made through the process. It may never be easy, but what part of parenting is? I am hopeful for another great year followed by at least 5 more reasons I had another successful year.

Dear New Mom, You are Enough, You have Everything You Need

I got one of those calls again this week. This time from an expectant mother. As her voice began to break she shared how she was feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, and stressed. How is she going to do it all? How is she going to know what to do or how to organize her time? Or how to breastfeed? Or how to use the right cloth diaper?

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You are enough, you have everything you need to be a wonderful mother. Do I need to say it again?

You are enough, you have everything you need. You are enough, you have everything you need.

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You don’t need to read a million parenting books or watch every documentary ever created on parenting or birth or breastfeeding. You don’t need every item on your baby registry or that new thing all the parenting experts are raving about. You don’t need to read every blog on the world wide web trying to decipher whose opinion is the right opinion.

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All your baby needs is you. Your voice, you smile, your songs, your scent, your snuggles, your love. Just you. You are enough.

Out of all the women in the world, you were chosen to be mother of your child. No one is better equipped or more prepared to raise your child than you are.

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There will be difficult times and sleepless nights and illnesses. There will be heartbreaks and uncertainties and unknowns. In the middle of all that I pray that you will hear the still small voice whispering to you that you have everything you need to be this child’s mommy. You were chosen just for them.

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So breathe new mama and trust your God given instincts that will come when your baby is born. Enjoy every second of those first few months because they will be gone in an instant. Breathe your little one in and believe that you are enough and you have everything your new baby needs. Your baby just needs you.
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