Q & A Time!

Thanks to all who sent me your questions in the past few days. You asked about some of my favorite topics, so I may have gotten a bit windy (sorry ’bout that). I also combined some similar questions to simplify things a bit. 

Q: How do you eat so much chocolate and stay so thin?

A: Right now, it’s probably because BoyWonder is still nursing. Those extra 500 calories a day being sucked off of you really does make a difference. 

On a practical level, on days that I do things like eat a half a box of chocolates, I don’t eat as much food. Half a box of chocolates is pretty filling. And I try to make sure that all my other food is healthy. 

Otherwise, I really don’t know. I wish I could say I worked out religiously, but I don’t. By all logic, I should weigh 400 pounds. 

Q: How long are you going to nurse BoyWonder? And don’t their teeth get in the way when they’re that old?

A: To be honest, I wouldn’t be too sad if he weaned now. I’m beginning to feel like a mama cat batting the kittens away. But he’s still fairly attached to it, so we’re taking weaning slowly. The girls both nursed until they were three. (OMG, she’s one of those moms!) It’s common in both my family and Havarti’s that babies nurse until past 2. My mom is a lactation consultant, and she nursed me until I was 2 1/2.  

That may sound insane to some of you, but keep in mind that nursing for a year, which is becoming more the norm, used to be seen as “extended nursing.” My mom nursed my older brother until he was 9 months, at which time she got flack from people and questions like, “Are you going to nurse him when he goes to college?!” So normal nursing length is pretty relative. The AAP recommends at least a year, and the World Health Organization recommends at least two years. I’ve always gone with the natural weaning approach, meaning I wait until they seem like they’re ready and then gradually start cutting back and distracting them to something else. So I imagine BoyWonder will probably still nurse for a little while. 

I can say from experience that a person’s comfort level with any age of nursing totally depends on how long they nursed their own babies. If you nurse for a year, it’s hard to imagine nursing a baby older than that. If you nurse for two years, it’s hard to imagine nursing any longer than that. My comfort threshold is about three. I can’t really see nursing past that, but I know kids who’ve done it. And they’re not any weirder than the other kids I know. So I don’t judge. 

As far as teeth goes, this is a common question with a quick answer. Can you suck your thumb without biting yourself? Same thing. Each of the kids basically only bit me once, and it was early on. The alarming yelp that ensued pretty much startled that urge right out of them.

Q: How long do you plan to homeschool?

A: Good question. I used to say we’re taking it year by year. That’s still sort of true. However, the longer we’ve homeschooled and the more homeschooled high schoolers we’ve known, the more I can see us going all the way through. I can’t teach chemistry, but I can pretty easily find a chemistry class. Same with pre-calculus (gag), advanced biology, and other classes I don’t feel qualified to teach. Lots of high school homeschoolers take classes at community colleges. Homeschooling doesn’t mean I’m always their teacher, of that they always learn at home. I’m more of a facilitator, helping them find ways to learn the things they want or need to know. 

Q: How do you know what to teach? Do you worry about missing something?

A: First question: I have a great book called “Home Learning Year by Year” that gives an overview of what is generally covered in each grade level in regular schools. I use that as a jumping off point, or to get ideas of things to introduce. The thing a lot of people don’t realize is that there’s a wide variety of “what’s covered” at different ages depending on where you live. Two states or two school districts can have two completely different scope and sequences. So I don’t worry too much about it. I try to keep them generally near “grade level,” just in case, for whatever reason, they had to go to school. But one of the main reasons we homeschool is so the kids can learn at their own pace and explore their interests and passions. It would sort of defeat the purpose to expect them to meet some arbitrary standard.

Second question: We all have gaps in our educations. If the kids need to take a test or know certain material to meet a goal, then we make sure that they have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Otherwise, I focus on writing skills, reading, and basic math. We use the Story of the World series for world history. Other than that, most other subjects are “covered” by exploring whatever the kids are interested in. 

For example, right now The Muse is really into architecture. She draws floor plans daily. So we’ve been learning about styles of architecture, famous architects, history of building and design, drawing skills, geometry . . . you get the picture. Dolittle has a very nature-driven education because that’s her “thing.” I do introduce different things, but I believe (and have experienced) that kids learn better and more deeply by delving into the things they’re interested in. One of my favorite quotes about education sort of sums that up: “Learning can only happen if a child is interested. If they’re not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at their head and calling it eating.” 
Q: A lot of my social awareness came from my experiences in public school, sharing LARGE amounts of time with people who were different from me. Knowing how important diversity and justice are to you, how do you make sure your little tykes gain that social awareness?

A: Excellent question. I have a few thoughts here. 

One, we really don’t homeschool in a bubble. We have a whole network of friends, homeschooled and otherwise, who we see and hang out with on a regular basis. And honestly, that network alone has more cultural diversity that I was ever exposed to in my predominantly white schooling experience. 

One of The Muse’s best friends spent her first three years of life in an orphanage in Haiti. She also has a completely different style of learning and being in the world than my daughter. But they share a love of music, and they spend hours together each week playing make believe or doing other projects. That’s just one small example, but finding common ground with diverse people is sort of our daily way of life. 

Two, we are involved with various homeschool groups that provide larger group experiences. One of the advantages of living in a large metro area is that there are a lot of homeschoolers, and they all homeschool for different reasons. Some of them are gifted, some of them have Asperger’s, some of them are from another country, some of them have other special needs. So there really is a lot of diversity within the homeschool population. 

Sometimes the group activities are structured classes, but often they’re free, open play times. So during those gatherings the kids are interacting with lots of different kids – of different ages – for a long period of time. And I mean really interacting. Think about how much time school kids actually have for real, meaningful interaction. During most class hours, interaction is discouraged or not allowed. There’s the occasional group project in class, a short lunch period, and if kids are lucky these days, a short recess. For some kids, a bus ride home. Of course, there are extracurricular activities, but my kids are involved in those, too. So I feel quite comfortable with the social exposure we have. I imagine that would be more difficult to come by if we were living out in the boonies somewhere. Then again, that’s true for many schooled kids, too. 

And three (I’m almost done, I promise), I think the kind of social awareness you’re speaking of is probably more about parenting than about where a kid learns. I’m sure we all know people who went through the public school system and came out bigots on the other side. I imagine the message that you were getting at home (in fact, I’m sure, since I knew your parents!) is that understanding, compassion, and diversity were important. Exposure to diversity is only one aspect of creating socially conscious people. How that exposure is processed is the more important thing.

Q: One comment on your website caught my eye and I invite you to explain: “prefer all religionists before yourselves” is part of a quotation that you listed. Any idea what is meant by a “religionist”?
A: OK, switching gears. I looked up “religionist” and got a couple of different definitions. One is “a person who strongly adheres to a religion or belief” and the other is “a religious zealot.” Personally, I’d go with the first definition. So my best guess is it’s referring to any person with religious beliefs? 

However, looking at the Baha’i writings as a whole, I wouldn’t take this as only putting other religionists before yourselves. Baha’u’llah wrote, “Blessed is he who prefereth his brother before himself,” and there are many references in the writings to seeing all men – no matter what their beliefs – as our brothers. It’s really about being humble and following the Golden Rule. Because there’s such an emphasis in the Baha’i Faith on the unity of religions, I’m guessing that might be why the word “religionists” was used here. I don’t think it was meant to exclude anyone.

Q: A while back you were harping on about the lyrics of the Emimem/Rihanna song “Love the Way You Lie.” Clearly the behavior of the song’s protaganists is not something we should be aspiring to. However, when I read the lyrics, I was able to view the song as more of a cry for help instead of glorification of violence . . . Maybe the song is not all that bad?

A: Ah, yes. I greatly enjoyed that little debate. 

No, I don’t think the song is all that bad if you’re an adult who has the emotional history and perspective to recognize that it may be a cry for help, or a catharsis, or an artistic expression of a societal reality. But I have this automatic habit of looking at things from a child’s perspective. Especially a child who may not have parents or other adults to offer the history and perspective needed to digest a song like this one. When it comes to music and other arts, kids – even older kids and young teens – are like sponges. What they hear and see goes straight to their minds and hearts, and without a filter of some sort, what do they do with a song like this? What’s the message they’re internalizing? That’s my big concern. 

An interesting question that came out of that discussion is: What, if any, responsibility do artists whose work is consumed by the masses have? My thought on this haven’t fully formed yet. But I believe art is extremely powerful. More powerful than politics, in many ways. And I believe that those in positions of power (which famous artists definitely are) have a moral responsibility, whether they like it or not. I’m not advocating censorship. Not at all. I just think artists have too powerful an influence to not consider how their artistic expression is going to affect others. 

Another discussion for another day, perhaps. 🙂

Q: How do you find time to blog, and what made you start blogging regularly?

I started blogging nightly when The Muse’s insomnia required me to sit in her room so she could go to sleep easier. Parenting was feeling really difficult at that time, and sitting the dark, quiet room gave me a perfect focused time to get some thoughts out in writing. I spent the first couple of weeks cursing her insomnia, but now I’m really thankful that it got me started on this. 

And once I started, I realized how many creative needs this blogging thing fulfills. It really is like having a scrapbook, a journal, a soapbox, and a creative writing experience all wrapped up in a pretty package. So I’ve made it part of my nightly routine. Some nights it’s harder, and I am sacrificing some sleep, but the benefits outweigh far outweigh the costs. 

Plus, I didn’t realize how important it is for me to have something creative to call my own. If I fulfill that need, it’s easier for me to give the rest of myself to my roles as mom, wife, and teacher. So in a way, I do it for me, but the rest of the family benefits, too. 

This was fun! Like a little chat over coffee. Let’s do it again sometime. 🙂 If you’ve come up with any more questions, feel free to post them in the comments or e-mail them to me at motherhoodandmore@gmail.com

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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