Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Thursday, September 9, 2021
Right around week 20 of pregnancy, the realization hits:
Oh, no. It's coming.
That something, of course, is childbirth. The thought of labor scares me, every time, and it's something that I have to deal with, every time.
Thus, over the years I've compiled many techniques of childbirth preparation - and I wanted to share them with you!
Let's get started.
I. Preparation Itself
I have found it interesting that for me, preparation is helpful in and of itself, regardless of whether it works. It helps me to feel prepared, and to feel more confident and less fearful - and that is a better way to go into labor.
II. Childbirth Classes
I'm hugely in favor of childbirth classes, especially for first-time mamas. When I was pregnant for the first time, we made an unwise choice regarding childbirth education, and I paid for that mistake. If I were to make that choice again, I would choose a class that was...
(a) As long as possible: More classes mean more information and a better chance of retaining that information. Additionally, a longer-running class also helps in the formation of lasting friendships with classmates, which is a precious treasure when it happens.
(b) Balanced: Neither on the "here are the drugs we will give you" side nor on the "childbirth is like a dance with the rainbow unicorns" side.
(c) Information-heavy: Some classes tend to take an "ignorance is bliss" approach, but I prefer to have as much knowledge as possible. Personal preference.
III. Birth Doulas
We have had a doula at four of our births, and they are a wonderful blessing. They fetch supplies, calm anxious papas (and mamas!), make helpful suggestions, and make the birth process much more pleasant.
I am now at a place where I no longer desire a doula for my births, but for our first four births, a doula's help was essential. At one birth I even had two doulas! They are a wonderful asset for birthing families.
IV. Supplements & Super-foods
I have found that nutrition is incredibly important for me - both in real foods and in supplements. I do my best to avoid sugar and processed foods, and we eat as organically as we can afford.
I am listing below the supplements I take, along with links to the brands I use - but please know that there are many, many excellent brands out there. I provide mine only for the purpose of illustration. Ditto with the dosages, where mentioned - these are my best guesses, but goodness only knows what the ideal dosages are. Check with your midwife to find out!
Magnesium (800 mg/day) - If attempting this dosage, build up to it gradually or you may experience stomach upset! A lower dosage of 400 mg is also workable.
Vitamin B complex - Only if my multivitamin doesn't have enough. Mine does, so I've skipped this one this time.
Vitamin D (10,000 IU/day)
Vitamin C - This vitamin is so incredibly important that it's going to get its own section! See below!
Coconut Oil - used in the diet, rather than taken as a supplement. I also eliminate all bad oils (soy, corn, canola, etc.) and use other healthy fats such as butter, olive oil, and avocado oil.
Desiccated Liver Pills - This is normally part of my protocol, but the site from which I buy this was out of stock for the whole last half of my pregnancy (and still is, I see). There are other sources out there, however, and another option is just to eat grass-fed liver, cooked or raw.
Alfalfa Pills - These are to assist with raising vitamin K levels, which help with blood clotting and the prevention of postpartum bleeding - especially important since we do not use the infant vitamin K shot. Additionally, I eat a huge salad of dark leafy greens every day to ensure that my levels are as high as they can be (that is, as soon as pregnancy nausea lets up enough to let me!).
Dates (6 per day) - Dates have been shown to have incredible benefits for laboring mamas. I start the six-per-day protocol as soon as the third trimester rolls around.
Liquid Calcium-Magnesium – I use this for the third trimester and the postpartum. Because these products are so pleasant to take, I use it as my "reward" for getting through the fish oil dosage!
Red Raspberry Leaf - This one is also going to get its own section too - see below!
V. Vitamin C
In June, my mom gave me a fascinating article from the June edition of the Townsend Letter (a naturopathic medical journal) titled "Vitamin C Pioneer Frederick R. Keller, MD, An Historic Interview." Unfortunately I cannot link to the article or quote from it, as it is subscription-based and copyrighted, but you can buy the whole issue here.
To summarize, however, the article discuses one doctor's use of vitamin C mega-dosing in his pregnant mama clients, and how so doing resulted in astronomically improved levels of infant health, maternal health, and ease, health, and speed of labor. (The benefits the doctor mentions include reduced labor pain, reduced labor time and easier births, reduced stretch marks, less hemorrhaging, fewer miscarriages, and stronger and healthier babies.)The specific dosage mentioned is 4g per day in the first trimester, 6g per day in the second trimester, and 10g per day in the third trimester.
I wanted very much to try this, and started immediately. Unfortunately, I read the article only 36 hours before we went into labor, so I don't think it did much, if any, good. (Though I was already taking 4g per day.) Should we be blessed with another baby, I will be using this protocol without fail.
Here is another mama using high vitamin C dosing for pregnancy and birth health:
VI. Red Raspberry Leaf
Red raspberry leaf is an herb used universally in pregnancy for a variety of uses - everything from morning sickness relief to promoting easy labor. (Read all about it here.) I can't use it for morning sickness because I can't get near the stuff while pregnancy sickness rages, but I do drink it liberally during the third trimester (about a quart per day) and I use the "labor day" strength recipe when I can. (I didn't manage it this time, but I did last time). Here are directions!
How to make a gallon of raspberry leaf (regular strength):
Use 3/4 – 1 cup of RL herb per gallon of boiling water.
Add 1 rounded tsp. of dried stevia leaves for sweetener (optional).
Pour it all into a gallon glass jar, cover it, and leave it overnight.
Strain it in the morning and drink it over several days.
Labor Day Tea Recipe
1 1/2 cups of loose red raspberry leaf tea (or 24 tea bags! Yes, it’s a strong brew)
4 cups of filtered water
Put 1 1/2 cups of loose RRL tea in a pot on the stove.
Add 4 cups of filtered water.
Let the tea come to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer 20-30 minutes.
Add natural sweetener if so desired. Strain and sip throughout day.
Months of being bed-ridden with pregnancy nausea usually leave me a weak, shaky mess. I do both childbirth-prep exercises, and get-back-to-functionality exercises.
(a) Plies (squats)
(b) Relevee (rises)
(c) Other ballet exercises (whatever comes to mind)
(d) Front and back push-ups, done against a countertop to make them easier (rather than the real type against the ground!)
(d) Stretching (but not too much, because relaxin hormone makes it easy to self-injure during stretching)
(a) Cat-backs (40 each) - Arching and then lowering the back while on hands and knees.
(b) Butterflies (16 each) - Sitting with heels pulled in, alternately lifting and lowering the knees while providing resistance with the hands.
(c) Squatting - That is, just sitting in a squat for as long as possible (at least a couple of minutes). This is hard (for Westerners like me!) but gets easier with time.
(d) Kegels (40 each) - These are supposed to be done by the hundreds every day, but as I loathe this exercise, I do 40 and call it a day.
(e) Walking - every evening that I can manage it.
(f) Sitting up straight or forward-leaning (rather than reclining or slouching) as often as possible. This is incredibly important in encouraging baby to stay in an anterior position rather than swinging back to posterior!
(g) The forward leaning inversion, seen at 5:00 in this video:
(This is a great channel - I recommend it!)
VIII. Mental Preparation
When I spoke with our midwife about my recurring fear of birth, she advised me to work on mental preparation as well as physical preparation. This was extremely good advice.
(a) Affirmations - I usually steer clear of affirmations, because they simply are not my style. When I hear "I am visualizing how this birth is going to go" affirmations, the logical side of my brain immediately rebels. I instead like affirmations that direct my attitude, which I can control. Examples:
- I cannot wait to go into labor.
- I will welcome labor with joy and ecstasy.
(b) Bible Verse Memorization - I meditated on and memorized Bible verses that pertained to trusting the Lord, and also to having courage in adversity. There are hundreds of verses that you can use - here are mine:
Joshua 1:9 “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Isaiah 26:3-4: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength"
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
For my first four births, I did not have any prescribed method of breathing during contractions. This was not a good thing. Having a definitely breathing method during our last two births has been an incredible blessing, one of the most important coping mechanisms that I have found.
The method that I used can be summarized as follows:
(a) For early labor: In through the nose for a slow (silent) count of four, then out through the mouth for a slow (silent) count of six.
(b) When this stops being effective, move to the next level: Two quick breaths in through the mouth (using an "ee ee" sound) and two longer breaths out through the mouth (using an "hoo hoo" sound).
(c) For pushing: Either the "J breath" (see first video below) or the "balloon breath" (see second video below). I must be honest - though I practiced both of these pushing breaths, when it came to actual pushing, I didn't manage to use either. But I did remember one rule that I learned - that any type of breathing can be useful as long as the exhale is longer than the inhale. So even though I was using more of an "in-out-in-out" breath, it still did the job.
Check out these videos, both of which are very helpful!
X. Preparing the Labor Space
(a) Preparing my labor room(s): I know where I will want to labor (my bedroom and/or bathroom), so I do my best to prepare my space to be as comfortable as possible. For me, this means keeping my labor space clean and decluttered, and keeping my bags of labor supplies at the ready. Other mamas want to stock up on things like candles and essential oils.
(b) Choose the lighting level: I, like many mums, prefer low light or actual darkness for laboring.
(c) Posting verses and affirmations: I posted my Bible verses on the side of the tub, and then completely forgot to look at them - however, it helped me to feel prepared in the days that led up to our birth! Again, anything that helps me to feel prepared is inherently empowering, even if I don't use it in the moment. And speaking of other things I forgot to use...
(c) Playlists: Many mums love to have a playlist of their favorite songs to listen to during labor. This time around, I put a vast amount of time into preparing a labor playlist. I found that, personally, I wanted songs that were slower-than-slow, which made things interesting (a lot of the slower-than-slow songs I picked were still too fast for my preference). And when I went into labor, I didn't want the songs at all - I just wanted silence. But again, many moms really love their playlists. Another option is purchasing Hypnobabies sound tracks, which I used in one labor and loved.
XI. Remembering the Postpartum
(a) Afterpains prevention
I had insane afterpains with my first baby. After that, I wised up and got serious about afterpain prevention. The end result has been that my afterpains have gotten better with each birth, rather than worse (as is usually expected with repeat mamas).
Before pregnancy: I focus on micronutrient-dense foods, and good supplements (especially magnesium).
During pregnancy: I focus on micronutrient-dense foods (including dates!), and good supplements (including magnesium and a Calcium-Magnesium liquid supplement).
Immediately after birth: Ibuprofen (800 mg, repeated at six-hour intervals while needed), afterpains tincture (ask your midwife! - repeated as often as needed), a placenta smoothie (placenta, yogurt, orange juice, frozen berries - repeat daily), and continued use of the Ca-Mg liquid.
(b) Keeping up with diet and supplements
It's so important during the postpartum to eat good food (I do my best to accept all offers!), take my supplements, and keep a tall glass of water near me at all times. The postpartum is intense, both emotionally and physically, and it doesn't take much to turn my postpartum self into an emotional wreck. With that in mind....
(c) Guarding the postpartum space
Everything I have to say on this point can be found at this wonderful post. Enjoy!
And there you have it! If any readers have any great tips for preparing for childbirth, please do share them in the comments - I'd love to hear them!
Sunday, August 8, 2021
Just kidding. If there's anything to which I will ever not write a laudatory poem, it is pregnancy nausea.
It's been a while. As in, how on earth do I log onto this website so that I can write a new post? Anyone?
My life is crazy-crazy-busy right now, emphasis on the crazy. I don't even have time to shower or go online to buy new socks, let alone do anything crazy like write a blog post.
I have a couple of posts that I've wanted to jot down before I completely forget the material. They will cover: (1) pregnancy nausea, this round, (2) how to prepare for childbirth, and (3) the birth story for our newest.
So let's get going.
Pregnancy Nausea, This Round
In early October, I found myself staring bemusedly at a positive pregnancy test. What, really? After so many years without a new baby in the house, I had wondered if our childbearing years were over. But nope, here we were again.
I had made it all the way to a positive test with no nausea (unusual!), so my first thought was a tentative hopefulness. Maybe it will be different this time.
And for about a week, I was okay. The first feelings of queasiness hit the day after the test (so, 3w5d), and stayed manageable for almost a week. I was nauseated, but I could power through and keep going.
Then, at about 4w4d, everything fell apart. I had to admit defeat. I started on the four doses per day Unisom protocol (which I should have started earlier, but had wanted to avoid if possible), but I was almost immediately in the mode of being in bed all day anyway, and having about six vomiting spells daily. (I know that's not a lot compared to you hardcore mamas, but I found it very discouraging.) In comparison, it was definitely worse than the last couple of pregnancies.
The long-time reader may wonder why I didn't try keto again, as I have used it successfully in the past to mitigate pregnancy nausea. I can only answer that when one is done with keto, one is done with keto. I didn't even consider it. The fact that I am now dairy-free would also have been an impediment should I have tried it, as keto without massive amounts of dairy is difficult if not impossible.
A couple of new experiences:
- Waking up in the middle of the night to throw up. Again, I know a lot of you deal with this, but it was a new one for me.
- Injuring my neck through forceful vomiting. Note to self: Make sure body is aligned symmetrically before throwing up!
- Discovering that repeated forceful vomiting is a great way to clear up a problematic blocked tear duct in my eye that's been giving me trouble! Who would have known? (Unfortunately, the problem came back as soon as the vomiting frequency slowed down. Crumbs.)
- Ordering Thanksgiving dinner through a prepared-meal service because I was too sick even to think about cooking. Conclusion: It's okay in an emergency, but I'd rather avoid it otherwise.
I find it amusing how much of a dictator one's body is during times of strong pregnancy nausea. Thankfully, I was able to tolerate food throughout this pregnancy - and wow, my body was totally in control. I would find one food thing that worked, and my body would demand that and only that for the following week or two - until my stomach turned against it and moved on to the next thing. One's willpower is virtually powerless against the demands of the body! Some of my eat-it-for-two-weeks-straight foods included peanut butter banana protein smoothies, bean and rice burritos, and enormous sandwiches (which was when I gained most of my pregnancy weight!).
Because I have spent so much of my life nauseated (about eight years, or one-fifth of my life), I have also spent a lot of time thinking about nausea. Have you ever noticed, for example, that nausea seems to center in several different parts of the body at once? To me, it centers simultaneously in the stomach, throat, and face. Also, I've noticed that nausea radiates outward to the extremities (such as down the arms and legs) in the same way that pain does. Fascinating, no? I'd love to hear your thoughts about the odd manifestations and behavior of nausea.
For me, the lowest drop in nausea levels occurs in the early-twenties (say, weeks 21-25), before shooting back up again for the rest of the pregnancy. Once the baby was born, it took about a month to resolve fully. (This is much better than with our first-born, when my pregnancy nausea took between one and two years to fully resolve.)
This time around I was on medication for much longer, threw up for much longer into the pregnancy, and had a tougher time all around. I'm not sure if that was because I'm older, or because I didn't do as much preparation as I ought to have done, or for some other reason.
And there you have it!
Readers, I'd love to hear about your adventures in pregnancy nausea over these past few years. Any success stories or tips to share? Please do!
Coming up next, I'll be talking about preparing for labor, childbirth and the postpartum. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
A recently published article:
"Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy and Hyperemesis Gravidarum"
Writing about this article, the HER Foundation said:
"We have exciting news! The first comprehensive review of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP) and HG in a major scientific journal has been published in Nature Disease Primers! A collaborative project with UCLA, USC, and the HER Foundation, the article describes the most current information on NVP and HG and important areas to focus on for future research."
I have not yet read this article, being that I am still in the "no time for anything but housekeeping and homeschooling" stage of life. Perhaps some year. But in the meantime, I'm very excited to see serious scholarly attention being given to what is usually an otherwise neglected condition.
Sunday, April 7, 2019
While I am studiously not blogging at the moment (and it's hard, folks!), I realized recently that I needed to hop on briefly for a couple of purposes: to go over last year's homeschool year (and review a few curriculum choices!), to list our curriculum choices for the upcoming year, and to do a "life update" for our past year as a family.
However, not having the time (or presence of mind) to put together many posts, I have decided to lump them into one!
That being said, here is a very long (and probably very boring) blog post summarizing all of the above.
Homeschooling: Reviewing 2018-2019, and Curriculum Choices for Next Year
* In case anyone is confused, remember that I plan our school year to end in March and start in May, thus doing school over the worst of our Phoenix heat. That's why we're only a couple of weeks away from starting our 2019-2020 school year!
This year was an interesting one, because although it was our eighth year of homeschooling, it was our first with more than one student!
And wow, it's a challenge to manage more than one student - even though student number two was only doing kindergarten!
Thankfully it's a gradual process, and I know I'll learn more each year. Still, I take my hat off to those of you who homeschool many children at once. You are amazing.
Here's how things went (and what we're planning for next year):
Our daily morning time includes the following:
- Memorization of Bible verses, poetry, character trait definitions, and historical documents
- Poetry reading
- Literature reading
- Character book reading
- Bible reading
- Sermon Sitting Time
This year we began working through the Shakespeare memorization passages from How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. We are also (slowly!) working to memorize Horatius at the Bridge. For Bible verses, I am using KJV Verses Everyone Should Know, as well as whatever comes to mind. (For example, this year we memorized the Magnificat and part of the Christmas story from Luke.)
Poetry memorization continues to go well for us. Here are a few favorites from this year:
- The Sandhill Crane (Mary Austin)
- The Charge of the Light Brigade (Lord Alfred Tennyson)
- The UFO (Bill Watterson)
A funny aside is that for almost all of my life, I have regarded poetry as a pointless, absurd waste of time. I simply despised it. And now that we're homeschooling and I've been immersed in it, I love it and read it to the children every day! Another blessing of the homeschooling journey has been discovering the wonders of good poetry.
For character trait memorization, we use the free resources at Character First Education. Again, highly recommended! This year we got to "Patience" in the line-up (after three or four years of working through the list).
The newcomer to this year's morning time (and by "newcomer" I mean in the last month) is "Sermon Sitting Time." This is my new experiment.
Many years ago, when we encountered the work of Voddie Baucham, we immediately became convinced that we wanted to embrace the family-integrated model of church. However, church ever since has been something akin to torture as I struggle to appear composed while whispering furious instructions under my breath to various children. "Sit down! Come over here NOW! Stop whispering! No, you don't need to use the bathroom four times in a row! Don't drop your drink... and your cheerios... and your book... and oh, boy, why am I bothering anyway."
I haven't heard a sermon properly in years, though fellow parishioners have had ample opportunity to personally observe my parenting deficiencies.
Sermon Sitting Time is an idea based on an excellent article that I read recently suggesting practicing "church sitting" at home with sermon recordings. We recently implemented this as part of our morning time (starting at just four minutes per day, working up to 12 minutes at present), and I believe that it is going to bear good fruit. Not as in "church tomorrow will be wonderful," but in the fact that we are bringing a lot of bad behaviors to the surface and dealing with them - but while we're at home, rather than dealing with the embarrassment factor of having squirrelly children misbehaving in public. And I hope and pray that in a few months, if we are faithful, we will have more peaceful (and less embarrassing) times at church.
(Note: This blog post was published several weeks after writing the above, and yes, we are seeing good - though gradual - results. Huzzah!)
My fine arts goals for our family are to learn from the following categories, on an annual basis:
- 1-2 Shakespeare plays
- 1-2 other plays or musicals
- 2 classic films
- 1 ballet
- 1-2 pieces from "The Messiah" (at Christmastime)
- 1-2 pieces from "The Nutcracker" (at Christmastime)
One thing that I discovered (and LOVED) was picture-book versions of Shakespeare plays. One was an incredible hit with our 12yo - William Shakespeare's a Midsummer Night's Dream by Bruce Coville. Another big hit was Twelfth Night, also by Coville. Our children definitely learned the plots and characters from these plays, and enjoyed them greatly!
For help with Shakespeare, I highly recommend this wonderful article from Simple Homeschool. I need to get it out and re-read it myself!
Another big success - indeed, one of the highlights of our year - was our study of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance." Oh, my goodness. Why, oh why, did no one tell me how wonderful Gilbert and Sullivan material was? We have so enjoyed learning from this film.
We studied each musical number separately (via YouTube), and then were able to find the entire film free on YouTube:
I have not yet made our fine arts selections for the coming year, but hope to do so soon. Any suggestions?
(*Also see the below section on "Music History" for another part of our fine arts homeschooling!)
We do at least one official field trip per fortnight, with plenty of other field trips and outings sprinkled in with just the family. This is definitely a high point of homeschooling, and such a blessing for our family.
Here are a few from last year:
|At a local lake.|
|At the ball game!|
Yes! We have finished our last year of elementary school for our eldest, who is about to turn thirteen, and this spring will bring our first year of Junior High. Oh, my goodness - our first teenager in the house!
(And even if we are never blessed with any more children, we will have at least one teen in the house from June of this year through February 2037. Here we go!)
This was a good homeschool year for our son in sixth grade. He made some great strides, especially in writing, and we're very proud of him. It wasn't without challenges, but there were good things going on.
Here is what happened this past year in sixth grade, and what we have planned for seventh - though please note that some of our plans are still in flux. (There are four weeks left before school starts, which leaves me time to completely revamp our plans at least three times. Don't laugh, I've done it before.)
BIBLE AND THEOLOGY
Bible is assigned as a daily reading and weekly verse memorization, plus church and family devotions. We also memorize passages together during family time.
I also plan to have our seventh grader begin to study Luther's larger catechism with a resource from Concordia, as well as the Ecumenical creeds (Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed).
Side note: I continue to do my best to gradually work into practice of observing the liturgical year as a family. I think most of us who love the liturgical year rely more than we know on the church to help us with the celebration and observance of the church seasons. We currently attend a non-liturgical church, however, and so I am doing my best to bring the liturgical year home in whatever ways I can.
Here are a couple of resources for anyone interested:
Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family by Maria Von Trapp
(also love her autobiographical The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers)
A Time to Keep: The Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays by Tasha Tudor
The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Praying in the Home by Leila Lawler
Some or most of the above resources are Catholic, but almost all of the material will be suitable for any liturgically minded family.
(1) Homemade lanterns for a Martinmas lantern walk,
(2) Shoes out for St. Nicholas' Day!,
(3) "Diet of Worms" cake for Reformation Day,
(4) Pretzel suckers for St. Patrick's Day.
We continued with Christian Light Math 6, and were very pleased with it. This coming year we will continue with Christian Light Math 7.
We plan to use Christian Light Math through eighth or ninth grade, after which we will probably switch to Teaching Textbooks.
We continued with Christian Light Reading 6, and again, were extremely pleased with it.
In case you're wondering, this is not a "how to read" curriculum, but is a reading comprehension and English language program. For example, we are currently learning about concepts like meter, onomatopeia, alliteration, simile, metaphor, fable, parable, and other literary devices.
This coming year we will continue with Christian Light Reading 7. Christian Light's Reading curriculum goes through grade eight, and we plan to continue with it till the end.
This coming year we will also finish up with the last bit of Abeka's Read and Comprehend 6. Unfortunately, this great series ends with sixth grade, so we will not be able to continue further with it. (*Sob*)
This year we began the two-year project of catching our son up in language arts. We had originally started him one year behind, on purpose, as he was extremely slow in learning to write with any degree of fluency. Now that he was ready for it, we determined to do three years' work in two years, meaning that he will be caught up by the end of seventh grade. Thus, this year we completed Christian Light Language Arts 5 and half of Christian Light Language Arts 6. This coming year he will complete year six and move into Christian Light Language Arts 7.
This curriculum goes all the way through high school, and we hope to use it all the way.
For composition, I am not using a formal curriculum, but am giving writing assignments that we correct together: two narrations per week for history, and 15 minutes per day of writing on a given topic.
I have often felt the pressure to pick an official writing curriculum, but my mind has revolted each time: Good grief, not ANOTHER thing to do during our day! Homeschooling mamas out there, do you have any input? Has anyone survived without an official composition program, or do you think it's truly necessary? And if you think it's necessary, do you have any low-stress composition curriculum to recommend? Tell me in the comments!
This year we used Bob Jones Press Science 6, and were very satisfied with it.
I am currently vacillating between LifePac Science 7 and ACE Science 7. Any opinions, dear readers? I would like science to be more of an independent subject for our son, and both of those are independent and workbook-based.
(Later comment: And the winner is... ACE Science 7. I will let you all know next year how we liked it!)
I also provide an (overwhelmingly enormous) number of library books, which both of our sons devour. This is one of the reasons that I don't have to focus on science as a family - if I provide the raw material, they eat it up on their own!
Science activities are commonly saved for vacations, when we cram in as many as humanly possible. Here are a few activities from the past year: (1) Dye migration with Skittles, (2) earthquake safety with spaghetti and marshmallows, (3) unicorn bubbles!
HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY
This year we finished Story of the World Year 4 (Moderns) and began Story of the World Year 1 (Ancients).
Next year we hope to finish Year 1 and move into Story of the World Year 2 (Medievals).
It has taken us more like six years than four to complete the full Story of the World cycle, which is fine with me. My goal is to work through it once with our eldest before moving him on to either a textbook-based high school course (like Notgrass) or a homemade literature-based high school history course. Not quite sure about that one yet. (Input? I want to hear it! Leave a comment!)
This year we have kept history fairly basic, due to complicating life circumstances (more on that later). We do reading, literature, map work, coloring pages, and narration - but not so many of the extra projects. (And no, I do not plan to mummify a chicken. Ever.)
One supplemental resource that I'm enjoying is the timeline cards from Classical Conversations (here is set 1 of 4). I have our 12yo read two of these a day (simple, easy, quick) as a supplement to our ongoing history curriculum, and I think it's very beneficial. We also use and love Classical Conversations' Timeline Song (hear a portion of it here). Is there anything better than learning the history of the world in a ten minute song? (No, there is not!)
We will continue to use a generic maps book as a supplement, possibly moving back into the better Modern Curriculum Press maps series.
A subset under our history program deserves its own heading, because it is our favorite!
We started "History Video Time" three years, and it has been such an incredible blessing to our family. And it's so simple: I simply get three YouTube videos - one hymn, one classical piece, one folk or cultural piece. I do my best to find videos of live performances, rather than those with just a picture background. We watch them every day, and I stretch the time a bit by adding a bit of a documentary, a how-to video, or a fun video from Backyard Scientist or other. (This gives me time to get some paperwork done, and possibly sneak in a quick piece of chocolate.)
The end result is that we have a wonderful time of calming down before daily quiet time, the children are learning a massive amount of music, and we end each year with a beautiful playlist that we can put on to play whenever we want music.
(Here is our playlist from 2017-2018 and also our playlist from 2018-2019 - enjoy!)
Learning history through music is such an added blessing.
And if I may tentatively add in: Teaching good-quality historical church music at home is, for most American Christians, the only way that our children are going to hear learn good sacred music.
This is easily our favorite part of homeschooling!
This was our first year trying out classical studies, and I loved it! We are in the middle of Memoria Press's Famous Men of Rome, as well as using D'Aulaire's Greek Myths. We will continue with both next year, moving on to Famous Men of the Middle Ages when we finish the first.
I am also hoping to add The Aeneid for Boys and Girls (Alfred J. Church) from Memoria Press to our plan for this year.
We are close to completion with Memoria Press's Latina Christiana, and will move into First Form Latin after that.
I highly recommend Memoria Press's Latin curriculum!
FOREIGN LANGUAGE - SPANISH
We are tentatively using Duo Lingo for Spanish at this point. (I am using it myself for Spanish and French - fun!)
I am not sure if Duo Lingo can be used as a stand-alone foreign language curriculum or not. I'm guessing not, as it seems to be immersion-based rather than lesson-based. If anyone out there can give input into that, I would love to hear your thoughts!
We will continue to use the Mindbenders series.
We are also beginning with Memoria Press's Traditional Logic, which is their first-year logic program. When we're going to have time for this one I don't know, but I was so eager to begin it that I bought it anyway. And in our crazy world, I think that training in logic is worth its weight in gold.
For the past several years, I have assigned 15 minutes per day of "history reading" (reading from a historical novel or non-fiction historical work) and 15 minutes per day of "fun reading" (reading quality literature that isn't particularly assigned to teach about a certain time period).
(See Appendix B at the bottom of this post for a list of this year's books that our sixth grader read.)
This year I plan to continue that. I also plan to add another 15 minute reading period, which will be for spiritual and/or practical books, as well as worldview, philosophy, and sociology.
I use a multitude of booklists as a source: Ambleside Online, Sonlight, Memoria Press, Great Hearts Academies, and others.
One of my big on-going project is working on a "family booklist" to compile into one list all of our homeschool's literature favorites. It's a big, overwhelming project that will take years to complete. Right now I am at 66 pages and am nowhere near even having a rough draft finished.
This year I am going to be using the literature guides from Memoria Press, as well as their booklists for a starting point in our eldest's reading assignments. We will be starting with the sixth grade books (because they're too good to miss!) and then moving into the seventh grade books when finished, and so on.
I am also going to be using the poetry recommendations from Ambleside Online as independent reading for our 12yo.
We also use a variety of read-alouds for both family time and afternoon school - not as many as I'd like, but a fair number. I am always working for more read-aloud time! (See Appendix C at the bottom of this post for a list of our read-alouds for this year!)
We are almost to the end of our first year of formal piano lessons! Huzzah! Next year we plan to continue, using the Alfred series (which I adore!).
There is no need for any formal curriculum in this, as our son is a 100% techie who is voraciously consuming programming books by the dozens. He will be happily self-taught in this area!
We will also be attending a several-times-a-month tech lab activity in our area, which the boys adore.
ART AND ART HISTORY
I recently discovered a wonderful set of books, "Come Look With Me." Each book has a number of quality paintings made by various artists, with questions for discussion and a brief history of the painting and its author. Using the book we chose has been easy, fun, and quick. I plan to purchase two more of these books for the upcoming school year.
We also use YouTube videos and Bob Ross videos for art instruction.
Pictured: (1) The 6yo following a Bob Ross video, (2) One of the 6yo's drawings.
|By the 6yo.|
We also do various seasonal crafts and art activities. This is not a focal point for me, nor am I the least bit crafty. (My last crafting instinct was in 2009, when I bought an unfinished shelf to refinish. I put it in the garage, where it sat, tormenting my guilt-ridden conscience, until I finally put it in the Goodwill box years later.) But I do my best, and we do at least ten to fifteen arts/crafts projects per year.
I find that breaks and vacations are good times for us to fit in arts and crafts projects, as well as science experiments and demonstrations. These things are hard to fit into normal school days, and they work well on vacations. I try to plan for one per day on breaks. (Doesn't happen that frequently, but that's how I plan!)
Pictured: (1) Thanksgiving turkeys, (2) Eric Carle-style paintings, (3) Martinmas lanterns, (4) Popsicle stick and clothes pin military planes.
This year I asked my husband to go through Created for Work with our son. (Highly recommended!) They are about halfway through, and will continue with it this coming year.
When they finish with that, I will probably ask them to move into Boyhood and Beyond (by the same author) or Money Management for Middle Schoolers by Larry Burkett. (Preferences, anyone?)
And now, moving on into...
(HONORARY) FOURTH GRADE
Our second-eldest has severe special needs, and does not walk, speak, or have any ability to do academics. He does "school" by participating in his therapy sessions, and spending time with us as we do our work. He is a darling!
For our 6yo in Kindergarten this past year, we decided to use Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten II from Christian Light.
Previously, Christian Light had only a Kinder II program, with the assumption that "Kindergarten I" would be using the Rod and Staff ABC books. However, they recently came out with their own Kindergarten I.
Kindergarten I has a set of five books. Kindergarten II has two sets of five books (one workbook set and one activity set), meant to be used concurrently.
We enjoyed this series very much. I love the calmness of the drawings (books that are overflowing with bright colors drive me crazy!), the thoroughness and systematic nature of the work, and the conservative Christian values and morals portrayed.
Our one problem was that I underestimated (severely!) the amount of time that it would take to complete the two programs in the space of the year. The end result is that we will be working through the summer and will probably not finish even by the beginning of the school year!
(I'm not sure if Kinder I and Kinder II are supposed to take one year or two. With our next child, I am planning to allow for a year and a half, or two years, to allow for a relaxed speed.)
However, we are making steady progress, and our 6yo (now 7yo) has matured even within the space of a year to where he is able to do better and steadier work, so our progress is a bit smoother now (only a bit, mind you).
We started out also using my beloved Rocket Phonics, but sadly, it was not a success. I'm not quite sure where I went wrong. However, Christian Light's Learning to Read program will cover the same material next year, so I was (regretfully) content to leave Rocket Phonics behind for now.
I also planned to use my beloved Galloping the Globe this year, but again, it was not a success, and I found that it simply wasn't necessary or helpful for a kindergartner. I may pull it out again in a year or two.
This year I also made a mega-complicated plan for lower-grade science and social studies. We got through *maybe* one third of it. For this coming year, I hope to calm down a bit and not waste so much time making super-fancy plans that fall through!
Our kindergartner participates with the rest of the family in other subjects, albeit informally. This year we stuck to lots of read-alouds, lots of park days and field trips, and lots of hands-on learning with Mum and Dad. I am learning, slowly, that it isn't necessary to pack a kindergartner's day full with every schedule. So far, adding one subject or so per year has been a big success with our eldest, and I plan to continue that with our littles.
Here's how it has looked for our eldest:
Third Grade: Added Language Arts and formal history
Fourth Grade: Added Latin and formal reading
Fifth Grade: Added formal science
Sixth Grade: Added Classical studies
Seventh Grade: Plan to add formal logic
All in all, kindergarten this year was rocky but productive. The main issues, as usual, are character-based rather than academically-based. It's rarely the schoolwork itself that presents the snags - it's the temper problems, the attitudes, the obedience issues, the procrastination, etc. Homeschooling is a continual education in crash-course parenting, and it is never easy. (Perhaps it is for women who are better mamas, but that is not me - alas!)
We started out doing a bit of school with our 4yo, but it was not a success, and we gave it up about halfway through the year.
For this coming year, when she will be four-turning-five, I plan to purchase Kindergarten I from Christian Light. We will use it strictly on a "when she wants to" basis, and will probably take two years to complete Kindergarten I and Kindergarten II curriculum.
Two exciting things happened for me over this homeschooling year:
First, I have finally found my niche in regards to homeschooling style - and the winner is...
After several dalliances with styles including Charlotte Mason, delight-driven, etc., I believe that I have finally come home. And I am in love.
Oddly enough, Classical homeschooling was the one style that I barely acknowledged when I was a beginning homeschooler. I found it pointless at best, and downright foolish at worst. It was the only style that I didn't consider seriously - or at all.
However, as I have gradually learned more and edged further and further in that direction, I realize with no little amusement that Classical is the one style that fits me perfectly, and which I absolutely adore.
That's not to say that we use only Classical curriculum or use only the Classical style. Like everyone else, we are eclectic. But the overall style and theme of our homeschool follows the Classical model, and I am enjoying every moment of learning more.
(See Appendix A at the end for a couple of fun Classical resources.)
|Ham and Navy Bean Soup. Oh, this was a success. Source: Busy Family Menu Planning.|
|And another cooking adventure this year: homemade Spanish rice. Source again is Busy Family Menu Planning.|
A second exciting thing was that I found my particular passion in the homeschooling community - and that is....
Children's books, teen books, picture books, book lists, online book shopping, thrift store book shopping, book cataloguing. Mmm.
Right now, for example, I am exploring the works of Lois Lenski, Dick King-Smith, G. K. Chesterton, Enid Blyton, P. G. Wodehouse, and Jean Fritz. Most of these authors (all but one, in fact), were completely unknown to me before I started homeschooling.
One of the beautiful gifts of homeschooling is that it gives the homeschooling mama the gift of an awesome education while in the process of educating others. (But first, homeschooling slaps you in the face with the fact of how bad your own education was. Painful, very.)
My husband and I have agreed that I can spend $15 per month on books (huzzah!), and I am thoroughly enjoying my new hobby.
|Our 12yo's first solo attempt at a cake. Not bad!|
Besides my personal project of building a library and creating a (very long) homeschool book list, I am also working on the long, long project of renovating our family's book collection. While we have hundreds of books, many of them are in absolutely horrible shape. (Pick them up, they fall to pieces. End of story.) I am thus working on gradually purchasing better copies of our beloved favorites to gradually work the falling-to-pieces books out of our collection while replacing them with better copies.
Here are a few of my purchases from this year:
An interesting note, especially for any beginners out there, is that I only found my true homeschooling style (Classical!) and my homeschooling passion (books!) now, at the end of our eighth year of homeschooling.
I've written before how it takes at least three years to feel (in any degree) comfortable with homeschooling, and this is another variation on that theme.
In other words, if you're struggling, give it time. Don't expect it to be a smooth ride. (It's not. At any time.) And don't feel that you must give up just because you feel that it's not coming easily or quickly enough. It really does take time.
|Adding a random picture to act as a text-break.|
I have become aware lately that we are moving into a new stage of life - the stage of having older children. In the next six years, we are looking at teens, Junior High, High School, graduation, jobs, driver's licenses, college or trade school, etc. I am seeing my friends all around me - who used to have toddlers! - now with teens who are driving, taking SAT tests, graduating, moving out, and even (yes, really!) getting married.
It's scary! But it's good, too. I love having a child who is old enough to begin discussing important issues with. (We intentionally shelter young children from the ugliness of the world, but we are trying to introduce more adult topics - gradually - with our son as he enters his teens.) I love seeing a growth of maturity and responsibility, and I love moving into upper level academics - which is where my true spiritual home is. (Give me and chemistry and logic over play-dough any day.)
It's going to be an interesting next decade! I know that I shall be humbled over and over again as I am forced to admit that I can't do it perfectly, and that my family will not ever be picture-perfect. (Much as I'd like to deny the fact.)
|Sun cupcakes. These were a huge hit! Color the frosting yellow (turmeric!) and add candy corn around the outside.|
FAMILY LIFE 2018
This has been an interesting year.
If I had to characterize it in a negative sense, I would say that this year has been a year of loss.
Firstly, of friends. As I told my husband recently, we seem to be hemorrhaging friends. Several sets have moved out of state, several sets of neighbors with whom we are close are preparing to move, and we've lost some friends who have left our homeschool group to join other co-ops. Add that to a church change (or rather, three church changes), and you've got a steady loss of friends.
Additionally, I have realized with great regret that I am doomed to make and lose multiple sets of friends during my time in the homeschool community. Around here, most homeschool families seem to have two children, and they stop attending homeschool group functions when their children hit middle school years. I realized last year that I am now in the process of losing my second set of homeschool mama friends. While I love the new friends that I am making, I deeply regret these losses. (Unfortunately, it's just rare for situational friendships like this to continue out of context.)
Thirdly, and most importantly, I have this year lost the innocence of the presumption that I will never lose my parents or extended family. (Somehow I hadn't caught on to that one yet.)
I have four extended family members. This year, three of them were diagnosed with cancer.
Two of three have had happy endings: My aunt, diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer, was able to find healing through an amazing self-made regimen of supplements and diet. (Huzzah, Auntie!) My mother, diagnosed with a brain tumor, received the later news that the tumor was non-invasive and will (hopefully) not require surgery.
The third, unfortunately, has not yet had a happy ending: my father, who was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at the end of this past summer.
I am not sure that I can adequately describe the mind-numbing force that slammed into my heart and mind when we received this news.
However, we are actually at a happier place right now than we were at Christmas.
My dad unfortunately was given a nice staph infection at the time that he received his chemo port. The infection flew under the radar for a solid two months, with everyone from family to medical caregivers overlooking his symptoms as "just an unusually severe reaction to chemo." Thus, when he ended up in the hospital mid-December, he was very nearly dead. (None of us thought he would be coming home.)
Happily, he managed to come through, with a long hospitalization and time in rehab, and is now recovering at home with us. However, he has severely compromised health and permanent, life-long health effects (lung damage, heart damage, muscle damage), and there is still the trial of battling advance-stage cancer. Thankfully they decided to be done with chemotherapy - they are pursing immunotherapy and naturopathic treatment, and we hope and pray for a happy ending.
Right now my parents are living with us, and we are adjusting to the experience of blending families together.
|Cooking with mama. Learning to have the children in the kitchen with me has been a difficult learning challenge, but I am happy to report that now, years later, it has become second nature. Huzzah!|
Nutritionally, the cancer diagnosis has been amazingly positive for our family because it has given me the firm kick I needed in the direction of improving our family's diet. We are now eating much more organic produce and cooking much more healthfully. Two of my new loves are avocado oil and cassava flour. (Don't get me started on the wonders of cassava flour. We'd be here all day.) I am enjoying my new discoveries in the kitchen, although the issue of sourcing is - as usual - driving me up a wall. (I am not a fan of shopping!)
Note: If you're interested in treating or reversing cancer or autoimmune disease, I highly recommend The Plant Paradox.
|Cassava flour tortillas. If you'd like to sit around for a while talking about the wonders of cassava flour, I'd be glad to oblige. Love that stuff.|
On a spiritual level, my father's cancer diagnosis has had a positive impact on me in that it has forced me - quite brutally - to focus on the reality of death. Somehow, we humans have an amazing and innate ability to live in a state of near-complete denial regarding death. Death is simply... for other people. The reality of our own mortality is something that we keep tightly hidden from ourselves, unless it peeps through in the form of a midlife crisis.
But staring death in the face, receiving bad news at the hospital, talking with hospice workers... All of that has the ability to slap one back to reality. I think that my spiritual focus has taken a much healthier direction after having been forced to encounter death so closely.
|Speaking of cancer-protocol diets, did you know that you can make French fries with practically any root vegetable? These are made from rutabaga. I have done parsnips and turnips as well, and love them all.|
Oh, boy. This is a never-thought-THAT-would-happen kind of thing. In fact, I believe that I blogged last year on the thought that I would never be Lutheran again.
But here we are!
We are in a tiny denomination that is Lutheran theologically but not stylistically. As most Lutherans can tell you, half the fun of being Lutheran is the culture and liturgical style of Lutheranism, and I do miss that. However, I'm very much enjoying being back within the Lutheran fold.
|French Crepes, a.k.a. German Pancakes. My first foray into these in over a decade! The left is folded with peanut butter and banana, the right with lemon curd. Recipe source.|
The next three months will see our family's first teenager and our first Junior High student. We hope and pray that this year will also see new friends for our family, and my dad's continued healing from cancer.
We had assumed that we would already have welcomed a new baby into our family (our youngest is now over two years old). However, I have - quite surprisingly - graduated from the postpartum period with actual infertility issues in the form of a profound luteal phase defect. (That being, a luteal phase of 6-8 days, with 11 being the minimal functional length.) Unfortunately, while this does not keep us from conceiving, it does doom any pregnancy to miscarriage. We believe that this already led to an early miscarriage in December, and we are praying that I can heal from whatever is going on before we conceive again.
|Our newest family member, a pomegranite tree. Hopefully we can do a better job with this one than with our apple trees, both of which are good and dead.|
My main goal for the upcoming year is dealing with FOOD. Continually learning to cook for a cancer-healing diet, learning to deal with increased food costs and food amounts, and the eternal quest for good sources. It's an overwhelming task.
|Our kitchen at serving time, except that this picture is missing two plates.|
My secondary goal is decluttering. I can always sense when my "clutter-stress" levels are rising, and right now they are through the roof. (If anyone wants to come over to my house and steal half of our toys, feel free. As in, please come right now.)
I'm also at a point where our house is regularly at a mess level of why-bother-because-I-will-never-get-on-top-of-this-mess-ever. Part of this is a clutter problem. Part of it is a management problem. I need to figure out how to keep on top of the cleaning, because right now, it's a losing battle.
|Our summer beachfront property - flood irrigation!|
Another goal is, as always, continuing to improve my parenting skills. This is enormous and overwhelming, and drives me to my knees on a daily basis. I will never be an amazing mother, but I mean to do my best.
Homeschooling goals for the year include working on my family's booklist (currently 66 pages and counting) and learning more about Classical homeschooling. Right now I am in a flurry of summer paperwork: making curriculum summaries, ordering next year's materials, planning for next year and upcoming years, updating documents, cleaning out notebooks, making supply-purchase lists, and going through all of our drawers and materials. We're now three weeks out from our first day of school, and the time crunch is on.
My blog is going to continue to hibernate, with occasional brief periods of activity when the spirit moves. I have two upcoming posts in the making: (1) my annual supplement plan update, which was due last September, and (2) a post about going dairy-free. Look for those soon. ("Soon" as in "sometime in the next two years.")
Dear friends, I hope that each of you is having a marvelous school year and a terrific year in 2019. I pray for you all, and enjoy keeping up with several of you via email. Thank you for checking with me, and your patience as my blogging rate has slowed dramatically. I think of you all often!
Blessings to you all as we begin this new year.
Here are pictures from family birthdays this year:
Turning twelve: Our 12yo is crazy-creative, intensely verbal, and into all things technological. He is a non-stop writer, which has surprised me to no end, considering that he could not be forced into writing at any cost when he was younger.
|Volunteering at a local history-reenactment festival.|
Turning nine: Our baby with special needs is the darling of the whole family.
The cake above was not a success. When I made the 4yo's rainbow cake (below), one neighborhood child commented, "Well, at least it wasn't as bad as that last one!"
Turning seven: This little guy can be a challenge (can you tell by the grin on his face?), but also a complete joy. He is artistic, a hard worker, and loves to work hard with his hands.
The newest craze at our house is roller skating. I've been waiting with baited breath for the medical bills to start rolling in, but so far, we've gotten through okay. (It probably wasn't wise to say that.)
Turning four: A fashionista, a natural mama (her babies, wrapped in my dish towels, show up all over the house - see below), and a born story-teller. I am constantly learning more and more that she is no longer a toddler, but a little girl. I can't wait to share girls' literature with her!
Turning two: To all appearances, our first introvert! Shy and timid, but, strangely, naturally athletic and also intensely musical. He is definitely showing signs of a hard terrible-twos time (pray for me, friends!), but we keep going. He is super-affectionate, loves his daddy, and is a real joy!
Some pictures from CHRISTMAS!
Anyone who has made it this far deserves a prize. Congratulations, y'all!
Happy Sunday, everyone!
Appendix A: Resources for Classical Homeschooling
(If you know of great sites or books that I haven't found yet, please let me know about them in the comments!)
The Harp and Laurel Wreath
The Well-Trained Mind
Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum
Co-ops, Fellowship Groups, and Cottage Schools:
Highlands Latin School
Appendix B: Reading List for Our Sixth Grader During 2018-2019
Information or a link will be added at a later date.
Appendix B: Read-Aloud List for Our 2018-2019 School Year
Information or a link will be added at a later date.