Jul 27, 2012

Reading Update

It has only been a year and a half since we started using YBCR.  You can see where he was then in this earlier post.  He has come a long way since then.  After he finished the YBCR program, the “Your Child Can Read” videos helped further his progress, but at that point we had our foot in the door.  I made a few home-made books, like the “Krypto” book in the film, to help with the transition from single words to sentences.  This gave him confidence in his ability to read “real” books.  He also loves Starfall.com, so we bought a set of their beginning readers.  Most of our reading program since has consisted of reading a lot of books from the library.

Helen has had access to the “Your Baby Can Read” videos since toddler-hood, and usually watched the videos with Peter.   However, I was focusing my attention on helping Peter first, and have only recently started working with her.  My program with her has been more of a mix between YBCR, Monkisee, and “Meet the Sight Words” from Preschool Prep.  The latter is a new addition to our library, and while I was skeptical at first, it has proven to be a valuable asset.  Peter learned sight words on his own quite easily just from context.  I never “taught” them to him specifically, in other words.  There’s no real need for it.  However, in Helen’s case, knowing the sight words has been her road to reading.  Almost every sentence has at least one word that she knows, and usually more.  This has given her early confidence.  I suppose her reasoning is, “I know half the sentence already, just tell me the other half and I’m good to go!”  When our family does scriptures every night, she reads a verse.  We point to every word, and she reads the ones that she knows.  When she doesn’t know a word, we simply say the word and she repeats it.  We read a lot of story books this way as well.  Helen doesn’t like the flash-cards as much as Peter did (he loved them).  Her program is to watch the videos, and read a lot.

Patrick is 22 months and is also becoming a young reader.  He knows quite a few words from YBCR, but is more excited about sight words.  He likes to point them out when we read.  If there is a book with a dog, he will point to the picture of the dog and say “dog”.  He can read “dog”, but he won’t point to the word.  Instead, after pointing to the picture, he’ll point to the word “like” and say, with as much enthusiasm, “like!”  It’s really cute.  He knows more than 50 words.

In closing, I wish to again express my regret that “Your Baby Can Read” has closed its doors this month.  I feel like we are losing a lot of our freedoms in this country, and this event is a testament to that.  Many of their products are still available on Amazon.com and Ebay, so if you are at all interested I would think that now would be the time to buy before they sell out.  I hope that the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood doesn’t go after the other early learning companies out there.  Some of the alternatives to YBCR are as follows:

Monkisee
I have only purchased the first DVD, so I don’t have a lot of experience with this program, but my children love it.  There are cute rhymes and puppet shows, which I really like.  The only thing I don’t like about Monkisee is that there isn’t very much repetition in the video.  You see the word once, and then have a cute mini-lesson to understand the vocabulary.  There is a flashcard track that helps, but the repetition isn’t built into the main video.  However, if you had her reading program, you would have the flashcards with the pictures, and using these cards would more than compensate.  One thing I really like about Monkisee is that it uses large red words, as recommended by Glenn Doman.  Red is an attractive color for very young babies.  The volume 1 DVD also uses the words Doman recommended starting out with.  I also bought her "Teaching Babies to Read Guide", which was helpful, especially if you haven't read Doman's book.

Starfall.com
We have a family membership, and my children LOVE it!  About 8 months ago, I asked Peter what helped him learn to read the most.  His answer was “The man in dext.”  Huh?  It turns out he meant the main index on Starfall.  We also bought their beginning reader books, and the kids really like them.
It’s completely free, and was created by Larry Sanger.  Sanger co-founded Wikipedia, but left when it started hosting pornographic content.  His son Henry was an early reader and has been an inspiration to our family.  Much of the content on Reading Bear was in part created by other parents, and I even helped a little.  It has more of a phonetic approach, which is helpful if you are starting with a 3+ year old child.

I have been a member of the online community for a couple of years now.  There are a lot of parents, as well as early learning experts that frequent the forums.  It’s a great place to go for advice for teaching many subjects to young children, not just reading.  Things like foreign language, music, art, math, and music are discussed regularly, and if you don’t see what you like, you can start your own topic.  The forum is free, and it’s a great place to start.  I have also been eyeing their Early Reader, especially after watching their recent promotion video.  It comes with 25 books!  I also love the idea of working with customizable software.  I’ve done a lot of that on my own, but it’s a lot of work.  If you have a nice budget to work with, I think Early Reader would be the way to go.  I'm a sucker for this kind of thing though.  In spite of all the other products we already have, I want this for Christmas...

I have no experience with the Leap Frog videos, but we have a neighbor who learned to read while very young with the help of Leap Frog videos, specifically the word factory one.

I vouched for the “Meet the Sight Words” videos in my post, but they have other products as well, including books.  Apparently there are a lot of libraries that have these videos.

I’ll put a plug in for him whenever I can.  His “How to Teach Your Baby to Read” book is what started it all for me.  My philosophy for early learning changed when I read that book, and the very name of this blog (Professional Mothering) came from his charge to become a professional mother.  His books tell you how to make your own reading materials for cheap, as well as giving tips for creating homemade books and flashcards.

Then of course you don’t NEED a program at all to teach your child to read.  Library books have ultimately been the bulk of our whole reading program.  Spending lots of time reading to your children teaches them the “why” for reading in the first place.  We want them to love books!  When something clicks in their heads that they can read to themselves, nothing can hold them back.  I love watching my 5-year-old read to his younger siblings.  He loves it, and they love it too.  Peter is not limited to looking at pictures when he is interested in a book.  He can also learn what the text around it has to say. He can learn about the things that he is interested in.  He LOVES to read.

Loving to read.  Isn't that what it's all about?

Tribute to Your Baby Can Read


On July 16th, 2012, Your Baby Can, creators of the “Your Baby Can Read” and the “Your Child Can” series, was forced to close its doors due to legal battles with the organization “Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood”.

CCFC argued that babies can’t read, and accused YBCR of false advertising.  Although they have no proof of this, reading experts who witnessed babies reading from this program gave their opinion that the children in the YouTube videos were not really reading, but were only memorizing the words.  Furthermore, CCFC pointed out that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television or movies for children under 2.  Such was the foundation for their case.  “Your Baby Can” still strongly believes in their products, but could no longer fight the legal battles.

As a parent, I think I’m smart enough to decide for myself what products I will buy for my children, and judge whether or not my child really learned to read from Your Baby Can Read.

I attest that they can read, and I was very happy with my purchase.  If I was unhappy, they would have given me a full refund.  In a free market, parents(the consumer), not reading experts, would decide whether or not the product worked for their family.  If the product was not good, consumers would stop buying it and the company would have folded on its own.  However, YBCR was immensely popular, and the company grew. 

It grew a lot. 

It is only because of the legal battles that it was forced to fold.  I was very sad about that when I heard about it.

This video is a tribute to “Your Baby Can Read”:

Jul 24, 2012

Circumcision Apologetics


Until now, I have left this delicate, controversial subject to other bloggers because I know what I have to say is against what most “natural parenting” blogs will tell you about circumcision, and frankly, it’s not an issue that I feel that passionate about, one way or the other.   My husband and I did our research, discussed it at reasonable length, and chose to have the procedure done on our two boys.  It’s a decision that I don’t regret.  I have friends who identify with the “intactivist” movement, and so I have been fairly low key about that decision up to this point.  However, I recently have decided that because my decision IS so different from most crunchy parents, I want to speak out and say what I feel needs to be said.

We decided to circumcise for a number of reasons.  None of them would be reason enough alone for our choice, but collectively they made a good enough case for us.  They include medical, hygiene, cultural (our family culture), aesthetic, and even to a small degree, religious reasons.  I really don’t want to hash those reasons out here, it was a personal choice and it’s not up for debate what we do in our family.  For that matter, it’s none of my business what you do in your family, and I respect your choice either way.

And that is really what this post is about, parental choice.

You see, I’m not passionate about circumcision, but I am passionate about a parent’s right to choose how to parent their child, and I don’t think it’s the government’s job to tell parents how to do it.  The recent attempt of San Francisco to ban circumcision is wrong, just as it was wrong of them to attempt to ban fast food restaurants from including small toys in their happy meals to make them more appealing to children.  The comparison of circumcision to unhealthy kid’s meals is not at all comparable as to the magnitude of that parental decision, but the bottom line is, what kind of society do we want to live in?  Our freedoms are being challenged on so many fronts and the principles of freedom are little understood by much of our population.
Parents make many choices for their children that will have a permanent effect on what kind of adults they grow up to be, and short of child abuse, parents need to be given the freedom to make those choices.  While their children are under their jurisdiction, parents need the freedom to decide between public, private, and homeschool.  They should be able to choose whether or not to vaccinate their kids.  They should be able to choose the diet their children will have, including breastmilk or formula.  They will choose the child’s religious behaviors and patterns.  They will decide what they will wear, where they will live, and who their friends will be.  They will make medical choices for their children.  Discipline, hygiene, etiquette, and family routine are all choices made by parents.  Parents love their children, know their children best, and MUST be trusted by society to make those choices for their children’s welfare.  Even if we decide not to circumcise our future boys, I will never support a ban on the practice because that’s not the kind of society I want to live in.  I’m glad that we no longer routinely circumcise our infants, and the 56% rate of the USA at this time is a testament to the fact that we really are free to choose for our children.

That’s the main point I wanted to make.

However, I have been a little obsessed with researching circumcision in preparation for this post, and there are a few items I want to address before closing.  The anti-circ crowd has some excellent reasons not to circumcise and they have been duly noted.  There is a part of me that wonders if we did the right thing.  The pro-circ crowd also makes many good points that have been reassuring to me.  On a scale of one to ten, ten being on the pro-circ side, my husband and I are about a 6.  I have read so much material from both sides, and have especially looked for testimonials from men who have had it both ways, as well as the attitudes of men who have never known the other way of things. 

First I want to clarify the difference between male circumcision and female genital mutilation (FGM), also often referred to as female circumcision.  Male circumcision refers to cutting off the foreskin.  FGM refers to cutting off the clitoris, and often, more.  Circumcised men have happy, healthy sex lives, and the Victorian idea that introducing its practice would stop masturbation was a complete flop.  Premarital sex didn’t change when circumcision was introduced.  FGM on the other hand DOES stop young women from masturbating.  In fact, it usually shatters any hope that the young woman will ever have an orgasm, ever.  Depending on what stage of FGM is performed, the young woman may have a difficult time ever becoming a mother as a result of FGM as well.  FGM on a boy would be like cutting off the whole head of the penis,  or even more!  In history, the best example of male genital mutilation that comes to my mind is the castrati singers (boys that were castrated so they would keep their boyish soprano voices).  I shudder when I recall that part of my music history education.  However, there is a medical equivalent of male circumcision in a girl, and it’s called hoodectomy, which is the removal of the clitoral hood, or female foreskin.  This procedure is becoming more popular here in the USA to successfully treat women with anorgasmia.  Hoodectomy is also sometimes performed for hygienic and aesthetic purposes.  This is the true equivalent to male circumcision; FGM truly is not.

Next, I address the “his body, his choice” argument.  As a parent, you have jurisdiction over that body while your son is under your care, and you will make many choices regarding that body during your years as his parent.  Circumcising your infant is a permanent decision, but you know what?  NOT circumcising your infant is a permanent decision too, as it is the only time in a boy’s life where the procedure can be done without stitches, and with the boy having no cognate memory of the procedure.  I have read testimonials of young men who resent that their parents circumcised them as a baby and are now undergoing foreskin restoration.  BUT!  I have also read many testimonials from men who were not circumcised as an infant and had a medical need later in life and they bemoan the fact that their parents didn’t circumcise them as an infant.  It’s terribly embarrassing to be circumcised while you are in Jr. High.  Men choose to be circumcised for all the other reasons as well, and love the results.  Furthermore, I have read testimonials from circumcised and intact men from birth who are very happy with their body.  The American Academy of Pediatrics neither recommends nor condemns infant circumcision, rightfully making it the parent’s choice. 

In closing I have what I hope will be comforting words for you as a parent, regardless of your choice.

If you choose NOT to circumcise, or, to use more friendly language, if you choose to leave your son intact, you have a growing number of supporters.   Your son will probably not have any issues in the locker room.  It isn’t medically necessary, and the chances of him getting a UTI, or any other diseases as a result of being left intact are very slim.  The foreskin does serve a purpose in protecting the penis head, and if your son decides he wants to be circumcised later in life, he can always make that choice later.      One word of advice, which you probably already know, is to clean only what is seen.  Don’t force the foreskin to retract before it is ready, and don’t let anyone else do it either!  Only the owner of the foreskin should make it retract.  Many of the “problems” people experience due to the foreskin are a result of prematurely pulling the foreskin back.  Other problems come from not keeping it clean, so teach your child to clean properly down there.  Be matter-of-fact about it and don’t obsess, and your son will have a healthy attitude about his foreskin.  There are many healthy, uncircumcised men out there and there is no reason to think that your son won’t grow up to become one of them.  Here is a good website that will give you information to validate your choice:  http://www.circumcision.org/

If you DO choose to circumcise, there are still a lot of supporters.  Regardless of what the other camp may say, there ARE medical benefits to being circumcised.  Having established that, the debate is whether or not those benefits warrant infant circumcision.  There are other factors that come into play as well, such as hygiene, religious, aesthetic, and cultural reasons, all of which individually can warrant your choice.  You are your son’s parent, and it is nobody’s business what you choose for your baby, or why.  There is a plethora of reasons to satisfy society that circumcision is okay.  For what it’s worth, all of the men in my family were circumcised as infants, and all of them are happy with it.  There are also males in my sphere of acquaintances who were circumcised past infancy and wish it was done when they were a baby.  I know this because they told me when I researched for our own sons.  My recommendation is to use anesthesia for your little boy though.  If they get a shot to numb the pain, PLEASE know that it takes five minutes for the litocaine to be affective, and that there are many doctors who get in a hurry and don’t wait.  That happened to my second son.  Now we know better.  Also, sugar water is an effective pain relief for infants.  My first son benefitted by having a sucker.  In the Jewish Bris ceremony, the infant is often given a kind of sweet wine that apparently is very soothing for the infant.    I will also add that one of the main complications from circumcision is skin adhesions, or skin bridges.  This is easy to prevent.  While your son is healing, gently pull the skin away from the penis head during every diaper change to make sure that the skin doesn’t stick to the wound.  In closing, circumcision is not just a failed experiment of the Victorian era, or a political error of modern America.  It has been practiced for thousands of years in cultures around the world.  Here is a good website that will give you information to validate your choice:  http://www.circlist.com/

Ultimately, while the debate rages on over the internet, the choice of what to do with your son’s foreskin is only one parenting choice.  I recommend that you do your research and make the choice and be done with it.  Don’t beat yourself up for a previous choice if you have changed your mind on the issue for your future sons.  There are pros and cons to both, and you have a lot of other things to consider in your parenting journey.  Good luck!

For now, I’m going to leave this debate and turn my thoughts to some of my other concerns as a mother.  For example, what’s for dinner tonight?

Jul 11, 2012

Legend of Korra and natural parenting

Warning:  This is a geeky post.  It's a side of me that hasn't been shared as much online, but everyone who knows me knows that I can get geeky over shows that I like.  For example, I used to wear a Star Trek communicator pin to high school, but that's a different story.

Any Korra fans out there?  It's the sequel to "Avatar: The Last Airbender".  My family loves it.  What an exciting season!  I'm not going to get into the details of what the show is about here, if you don't know, you can find out at nickelodeon if you are interested.  The purpose of my post is rather to compliment the show's quiet example of natural parenting that can be observed throughout the season.  In "The Last Airbender" we see a little bit of natural living when Katara helps a couple with an emergency natural birth in "The Serpent's Pass", as well as a few natural remedies when some of the characters get sick.  (okay, I don't know if sucking on a frozen frog counts, but there were other examples too).

But I digress again.  Let's look at Korra.  First, co-sleeping.  Apparently Meelo co-sleeps with his parents on a regular basis, as shown here:



And when Tenzin is away, the daughters join them, as shown here:

They are also a homeschooling family.  Granted, Tenzin is the only Air-bending master in the world, and his children are the only air-bending children, but everybody homeschools for different reasons.  The children are often present during Korra's training.



Now I give them kudos for the home birth.  Yes, you could argue it was an emergency homebirth since Air Temple island was under attack, but I think it was a planned homebirth.  (and yes, Republic City did have a hospital, we hear about that in the first episode.)  Pema's midwives did a great job reassuring her that her children were safe so she could concentrate on the birth.  I love this 3-second shot:


Here is Pema with Tenzin and Rohan shortly after:



The parents didn't hesitate to invite the siblings in so they could meet their new brother.  That was a tender moment.  (The only reason they look distressed is because more air ships are coming to attack them, but this is the best shot I could get of their family.)



Of course I don't own the rights to these pictures, but I think that I'm sharing them under fair use.  I really loved the quiet example of this highly popular television series, and I applaud them for it.  Thank you, Team Avatar for great writing and for entertaining my family.  We love your show.

Jul 6, 2012

Co-sleeping a family of 6

Many people have asked me how we fit our family in a two-bedroom home, especially when one room is my husband's office, so here is a vlog tour of our bedroom:


Quickly I would like to address two questions I get that aren't addressed in the video:

First, how do you and your husband get, ahem, some privacy?

Well, my children, once asleep, sleep very, very soundly.  Also, we're big fans of starfall.com.  Even before we had kids, we rarely went to bed or got up at the same time anyway, so it's not a big deal to us.

Second, why would you even want to do that?

Why not?  We save a lot of money by living in a smaller home, and we're living in a nice town-home where the kids have a lot of room to play outside, we don't have to worry about yardwork, and our home feels modern and new, but is well within our price-range.  It's easier to clean a smaller home.  While I am attracted to the green small/tiny home movement, the truth is, this is just what works well for our family right now.  I'm not saying every family should do this by any means, nor am I a die-hard co-sleeper.  I simply love co-sleeping, so it works for our family.  My husband has a nice office to himself, as well as his "man-cave" out in the garage to do his projects, so he is happy.

The take-away lesson from this post is whatever you want it to be.  Maybe you like our triple bunk bed that my husband made with plans from bunkbedsunlimited.com.  Great.  Maybe you like the idea of storing clothing all in one place and cutting back the laundry beast.  Cool.  Maybe you're just entertained by our parenting style, and the chaos that comes with it.  I'm good with that.  Thank you for watching!
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