Saturday, June 9, 2007

Cycles of Abuse in Monkeys

Researchers in Georgia studied a group of Rhesus monkeys who were abused and non abused as infants (both by natural or adoptive monkey moms) and found that while 9 of 16 of the abused infants grew to abuse their own offspring (whether abused by natural or adoptive mom), none of the 15 unabused infants abused their own offspring.

This is a pretty interesting study and is being correlated to cycles of abuse in humans. The only problem I see with such correlation is that while about 60% of the abused monkeys went on to abuse, current data shows that only 30% of human moms perpetuate the cycle.

It's still an interesting study... what are the implications here? If a human mom abuses her child should we place the child with adoptive (nonabusive) parents? Sure! I'm all for it.. unfortunately I'm not queen of the world, though, and what really happens is that the child is removed from the home (if they're lucky) and placed with family (if they're really lucky) or put into foster care where a great many of them are abused just as horribly as they were in their homes.

Am I saying we should just give up and not remove kids from abusive homes? Of course not! But it's really easy to say "take them out of the home!" and forget about it as a society... unfortunately its not nearly as easy as that.

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Great Work from Home Website!

Since I hope to work from home I have been looking around for information about how to successfully make an income while being a stay at home mommy. I have not yet looked at every work-at-home site (or even close to every), but I thought I'd tell you about the one that currently has my most interest.

Home with the Kids ( is a great site with a listing of opportunities that have been tested and found to be legitimate by the author(s) of the site as well as their members. There are easy and clear explanations of the kinds of work available and also links to reputable companies. I am just starting out with the process of finding work from home, and thus can't tell you about any results yet, but I will be sure to tell you about opportunities I do pursue and how they work out with me in future posts.

Staying at Home?

I see so many parents, today, who have children and only see them a few waking hours a week. I really hope I can avoid that with Lily. Lily may be the only child I ever have and I want to be there for every milestone I can possibly witness. I want to see that first smile, her first time sitting up, hear her first word, see her take her first steps, and also be there to guide her through the frustrations of development and experience. I want to be a full time mommy.

While it seems sure I will be able to be a full time Mom for Lily's first year, while I am finishing my degree, It is hard to say if I will be able to continue to do that once I graduate (and no longer have financial aid to live on. I do believe I will be continuing on to get my MFA in creative writing, but I may end up waiting to do that until I have a better idea of Eric's situation and where he will be in his work and physical location.

So I have begun to do a lot of research on ways to supplement my income via online work. Mostly writing opportunities (of which this blog may eventually be one), but I am also looking at everything that might be viable as a source of income that will allow me to spend time with my daughter.

I am even more dedicated to this course because Eric tells me that the first few years after he finishes his PhD he will have to work very long hours. I think it would be a terrible mistake to give Lily two part time parents... and I don't want to see someone else raising our child.

I think this is a big dilemma for many parents today, a much publicized one as well. Many of us feel that we have to choose between our careers and our children. For me the choice is easy; I will always choose Lily over my career, but I hope that in the end I will be able to have success in both. Luckily for me, my aspirations are pretty flexible and mostly allow for working at home (YAY!).

I will post on any good opportunities I find and let you know about my success in my working at home adventures. If you know of any, as well, please let me know about them and how they've worked for you :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Attachment Parenting

Since learning that I was pregnant I have been exploring many different philosophies of parenting. I've been around children all of my life, and feel pretty comfortable in my ability to care for my child, but am the sort of person who likes to have information on a variety of ideas about any given subject.

One parenting philosophy which I find intriguing, though I am unsure if I will subscribe to it, is that of "Attachment Parenting." Attachment Parenting (AP) is a philosophy of caring for, and raising, your child in a sensitive and nurturing way (As, hopefully, all parenting methods are). The difference between AP and more mainstream styles of child-rearing lies, it seems, in the intensity of care and also several non-mainstream ideologies.

There are 8 fundamental ideas which seem to define AP.
  1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting: This seems to be a commonsense thing to do, if possible, for any new parents. By having clear ideas of what to expect, the whole process should be calmer and easier to flow through. Many AP adherents also choose to experience natural childbirth, home-birthing, and other somewhat uncommon practices in childbirth. What I can tell you, personally, is that I am definitely not going for the "natural" childbirth thing ;)
  2. Feed with Love and Respect: AP very strongly supports the idea of breastfeeding as the best choice for all parents who are able to do so. As all medical professionals agree that "the breast is best" I think this is a difficult position to argue with and probably one of the best things a parent can do for their infant. That said, there are times when it is impossible for a woman to Breastfeed their baby. In those cases AP experts advise parents to make feeding time as similar to breastfeeding as possible; to hold the infant at approximately the same level, thus giving them the visual and emotional bonds that breastfeeding encourages. I do plan to breastfeed, if I am able, but I think that by occasionally supplementing with bottle feedings (of breast milk) we will be able to maintain flexibility of feeding and also give Eric (and other family members) the opportunity to share in this bonding experience with Lily. Many AP adherents also extend breastfeeding for much longer than is normal among parents (at least in the US). I've read several who are breastfeeding well past the age of three, and even occasionally until their children are 7 or older. I personally cannot imagine doing this. In my experience, children are normally off the bottle by the age of two and drinking out of sippi cups and regular table food. I don't think I can imagine any scenario that would convince me to breastfeed past 2 years (and likely not past 1).
  3. Respond with Sympathy: This principle is largely about responding to your child within the framework of what they are capable of at their developmental level, rather than imposing your own expectations (which may be unrealistic) upon them. And also includes the ideal of nonviolence when dealing with children (No physical punishment). I think this seems to be a largely sensible philosophy of dealing with children and that it is a good idea to be knowledgeable of what developmental capabilities your child has at any given stage of development. That said, I think that parents must also remain flexible about their expectations of how to interact with their children and be open to whatever is effective in correcting and guiding their children's behavior.
  4. Use Nurturing Touch: AP recommends giving the child a lot of physical contact in order to promote secure attachment and bonding. This includes skin-to-skin contact, as in during breastfeeding and holding, and baby-wearing. This is perhaps one of my favorite principles of AP. Studies have shown that skin to skin contact promoted healthy development and also leads to calmer babies. The idea of baby-wearing is a concept which has been popular in many natural child-rearing ideologies and seems to be the best method of keeping a baby calm and happy. Also, baby wearing would seem to remind small babies of the time in the womb and thus also seem to be a great choice for engendering security and contentment within them.
  5. co-sleeping: AP recommends sleeping with babies, or at least near them, and this practice has actually been proven to be effective in reducing SIDS when safely undertaken. The government guidelines currently do not recommend co-sleeping, though, and any parent considering it should thoroughly research the many variables surrounding it. I personally plan to sleep with Lily in the room, at my bedside, until she is old enough to be put in her own bed (and the risk of SIDS has passed). I considered co-sleeping but decided that since my cat sleeps with us, it would not be the ideal situation.
  6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care: AP suggests that parents should not rely too heavily on childcare and if their is a childcare giver that they are stable parts of the child's world to reduce anxiety. This is another ideal I hope to adhere to. I plan to not work (outside of the home) and enjoy Lily as her primary caregiver for as long as I am able to.
  7. Practice positive Discipline: Use empathetic, loving and respectful means of discipline and try to discover the root causes of bad behavior. I agree with this in word, but I'm not sure if I always agree with it in the definitions supplied by AP proponents. I think that empathetic, loving and respectful discipline is whatever method is effective for your child (who needs to have discipline methods which work for them) and that some children may require methods of discipline which do not seem empathetic, loving or respectful to some parents. I guess, in the end, I think parents should do what works for them and their child instead of continuing to use methods that are ineffective because someone else tells them that those methods are "correct."
  8. Strive for Balance in Family and Personal Life: Here, here! Just remember that part of striving for balance is to acknowledge that balanced for you may be very different than it is for someone else :)
If you'd like to learn more about Attachment parenting:
Atachment parenting International
Attachment Parenting on Wiki
Ask Dr. Sears

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Quad Screen During Pregnancy

I think one of the most frightening thins of pregnancy is the constant worry of "what if something is wrong with my baby?" Luckily for modern parents, there are now some simple tests which can help put our minds at ease.

The fact is that most pregnancies will go smoothly enough and produce healthy, normal infants. But the fear remains, what if you are the one who has a child with a neural tube defect or Down's syndrome? A simple blood screening at about 18 weeks gestation can be just the thing to set your mind at ease or start preparing you if there might be something wrong.

The Quad Screen is a simple maternal blood test that looks at the levels of certain hormones in your blood which are considered to be indicators of genetic problems leading to Neural tube defects and Down's syndrome. It used to be that parents would have to go through the invasive amniocenteses and it's risks of miscarriage because it collected amniotic fluid from the amniotic sac. Not only is the Quad screen extremely low risk (it doesn't even take much blood) but it gives an indication of whether further testing is needed.

A positive result on the quad screen indicates that there is a possibility of a genetic abnormality with the baby. The test needs to be followed up on through amnio in order to have a conclusive result and can sometimes be a false positive... the further testing will help with that.

If your result is negative you can be fairly certain that your child does not have Down's syndrome or neural tube defects, and you can set your mind at ease about those things at least, and focus more on the happy preparations of the newest addition to your family!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Thoughts about Lily and her education

We found out on the first of this month that we are having a girl. Lillian Grace is her name and I am quite excited about it ( I had guiltily hoped that she would be a girl... but I would have been happy with a boy too).

I know it is quite early to be planning and thinking about Lily's education, but I have been doing a lot of that ever since I found out I am pregnant. I have, for some time, believed that I will homeschool any children I have, and I remain pretty firm in that belief.

I know that many people do not agree with the idea of homeschooling, for many reasons, but I believe that it will likely be the best choice for Lily and myself (hopefully dad too :)).

I am not considering homeschooling for religious reasons. Neither myself or Eric are religious people (I'm agnostic and he's atheist). The reasons I hope to homeschool are more academic and... perhaps philosophical or general.

The first consideration is academic. I believe that, no matter what kind of child Lily is, Eric and I can provide her with a much better education (and more rounded) than any school could possibly do. By learning at her own pace and giving her the opportunity to help direct her own education I believe that we will be able to help her retain her natural love of learning and also build skills that traditional (well, contemporary) educational environments are not suited to. Namely how to learn independently and think logically and deeply about the things she is learning. Also, in terms of academic reasoning, it seems likely that Lily will be a gifted child. I know that many people believe that intelligence is not hereditary, but that it is nurtured and by chance, but the evidence seems to support the idea that IQ IS largely a hereditary thing, and both Eric and I have very high IQ's. Also, even if intelligence IS more of a nurture than nature thing, I believe that with both of her parents being very intellectually minded, that we will be raising her (even if unintentionally) in the sort of environment that would encourage the development of her intellectual gifts (and probably put her far ahead, academically, of the children she'd meet in school).

I guess a lot of my adamant desire to homeschool Lily has to do with my own awful experience with education. I was allowed, in the first two years of my education, to learn at my own pace in a private school. During those two years I finished the work for 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades. The school wanted to advance me to 4th grade since that was the grade I would be working in but my parents did not want that to happen... so they put me into second grade in the local public school.

But I was not intellectually or academically a second grader. I was, at that time, reading at what is now a high school level (my mother's novels) and had completed several years worth of the work I was then forced to sit through in boredom.

I believe that the education I received was inappropriate and ultimately that it made me lose much of my potential, academically. I learned awful habits because I was never allowed to be challenged in my education throughout public school, and never had to work at all in order to get an A... thus I was forever bored and grew to dislike school.

Now some people tell me that the way to make sure Lily does not have this experience is to make sure that she is learning at the average rate, so that she will not be bored in school and become too far ahead as I was. I can see what they are getting at but I don't believe it is the choice I would ever want to make.

I want to allow Lily to learn as much as she wants to, and to never slow her down. If she wants to learn to read before first grade, as I did, I will encourage her to do so. I want to help her achieve her full intellectual potential and help her learn to always challenge herself intellectually as well.

Some people would call this pushing. I think that it can be for some people, some parents do push their children to do more than they are ready to do... I don't believe I will be that kind of parent. What I believe I shall do is ask Lily to enjoy and exercise her freedom to learn a wide variety of things and to enjoy the challenge of mastering new ideas and skills as she encounters them.

How do I plan to do this? I guess you could say in an eclectic unit studies sort of way.

A few years back I started an online community called "The Hypatia Society." Oneof our ideas was to create a gifted program for children that taught them to integrate all areas of intellectual thought through exploration of subjects from an interdisciplinary point of view. For example, if they are learning about ancient Egypt, they would learn math by exploring the sorts of developments the Egyptians were making in math, they might learn science by studying the process of embalming or other scientific achievements they made. The would learn about math and physics also through studying the plumbing systems and how they worked. They would explore the art of the Egyptians and try to recreate their drawings and pottery, perhaps, and read literature from or about the Egyptians through the many texts available... if appropriate or desired perhaps even try and learn heiroglyphics so that they could read a bit in the original.

This is basically, it seems, what is called "unit studies" and it is a popular method of teaching among homeschoolers. I don't know that I will use it "exactly" like anyone else, but I do believe that by teaching children in an integrated way, you can help them understand the interconnectedness of intellectual (and general life) endeavors and also to think about things in a more holistic way.

I hope to allow Lily to direct herself in much of her learning. I will give her the option of choosing what she'd like to learn about and also ask her to work in conjunction with Eric and I to plan a broad range of things to learn about within any given topic area. I believe that by guiding her own education in this manner she will learn confidence and freedom... two things that both Eric and I believe to be extremely important.

Of course this is not to say that she will start out being as involved in directing her education as she will end up. I expect that at first I will provide a few topics for her to choose between and have a general plan for her to approve and develop with me. Young children should naturally need more guidance in these ways since they have less experience to draw from in deciding on topics to pursue.

But by allowing Lily to direct her own education (while, of course making sure she is getting a well-rounded and broad base of knowledge) we can also ensure that she is learning things that are appropriate to her; that are challenging but not impossible, and help to foster a love of learning and intellectual growth that is, unfortunately, hard to find within young people today (which is, in my opinion, one of the greatest reasons so many parents are choosing to homeschool now).

But many people argue that homeschooled children are not properly socialized. This is one area that I think should be a concern for every parent, homeschooling or not, and one that I think can be more than adequately addressed by making sure that the cbhild has many opportunities to interact with both children their own age and also with people of all ages, races, abilities and belief systems.

Since homeshcooling has become a much more mainstream thing I think that the opportunities for meaningful social interaction on all levels have become quite available for any parents and children who wish to take part in them. Not only are there co-ops of people who are homeschooling, of many philosophies, there are also ample opportunities to volunteer and activities for the children to take part in, from band, to sports, to dance, to playgroups... all of these things are opportunities to socialize that seem to be of a much higher quality than just sitting next to other children at a school, or being forced to interact with the same group of people for years on end.

I don't believe that homeschooling is perfect... nothing is perfect. I just believe that homeschooling will be the right choice for my family, and that I am willing and excited to put in the time and effort needed to make it work. This may not end up to be what we decide to do. There are so many variables that it could be that public or private schooling is a thing that will be better suited to Lily's needs. If that is the case I will happily do so, I just think it is unlikely and am planning for what I imagine is the most likely thing to be the best option for us.