5 Books Every Parent Should Read Before Enrolling Kids in Extra-Curriculars

From a favourite site of mine, https://1000hoursoutside.com/.

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Let’s Stop Stealing Time from Children

Life holds one great but quite commonplace mystery. Though shared by each of us and known to all, seldom rates a second thought. That mystery, which most of us take for granted and never think twice about, is time. -Michael Ende, Momo

I saw it happen right before my eyes. During the last year of my pre-mom life I spent one last year in an administrative role in a public school system dealing with the math curriculum for the entire district. Prior to that I was a high school math teacher for some years.

Our district, like every other one around it, ushered in full day kindergarten like a sweeping torrent of rain. And so I sat, plump with baby number one, surrounded by teachers and administrators in several meetings to determine how this extra school time for the five-year-olds would be spent. Mind you, there weren’t any children in the meeting.

Now the kindergarten teachers, they were unanimous and unwavering. Play time and rest. Play time and rest. They echoed each other and they never strayed from this message. With both physical and anecdotal reasoning, the teachers held fast to what they believed the extra time should be used for because that is what the children need. They need station time and recess… and they need a little rest. But if you had to hedge your bets as to what the extra time eventually was allotted to what would be your guess? It was not play time nor rest but academics.

After spending years in the public schools I quickly learned that although there are many great things that happen within the schools walls, the people who are ultimately the decision makers aren’t the ones who are actually with the children.  It sometimes seemed as though decisions got passed down from the heavens. No one really knew where they come from. So many of the high schoolers had the same questions, “Why do we have to learn this?” But I really didn’t have a good reason so I just got to saying, “Because the president says you can’t be left behind” – and for high schoolers it was a sufficient answer because they already deeply understood that much of childhood was about jumping through hoops. 

The thing is compulsory education is relatively new. Just over 100 years ago the only compulsory education law was that all children had to complete elementary school. Things have changed dramatically in just ten decades. We’ve gone from five years of compulsory education to thirteen and we now mandate such subjects as “Algebra 2 and Trigonometry” in order to graduate. Do we really know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these are the things all children need to succeed in life, especially given the incredible trade-off in time? The things we call “best practice” are at best a guess. I know that for certain because best practices, as they pertain to childhood development, change all the time. The curriculums and sequences change often with the winds of political change.

Surprisingly, sometimes people buck the system and they still turn out furthering the point that 13 years in a classroom may not be necessary for lifelong success. Kids have not always needed to pass trigonometry to successfully transition into adulthood, but they have always needed time. Time to learn who they are. Time to explore their surroundings. Time to figure out how to enjoy their own company and how to structure their free time. Time to think, and to dream, and to dawdle, and to wonder. Kids needs time. And as the school day, homework, and adult-directed activities take over much of childhood, we are left with lost children.

John Taylor Gatto was a public school teacher in New York for nearly 30 years and a world renowned speaker for another 20 years afterwards giving over 1500 speeches in 9 counties. He was named the New York State Teacher of the Year twice and has written some prolific literature. Gatto was a huge advocate that at the right age and stage, and in the right environment, children could learn phenomenal amounts in short periods of time. After spending thousands of hours with children over the course of three decades and after untold amounts of research, Gatto concluded that, “It only takes about 50 contact hours to transmit basic literacy and math skills well enough that kids can be self-teachers from then on.” 50 hours. Let that sink in. That’s just over one week of school. Today, children spend between12 and 15 THOUSAND seat hours within the four walls of a classroom.

There are many other brilliant men and women who advocate for less formal learning and more hands-on experience. There are also those who advise that later is better when it comes to the type of academic work that has crept its way into the kindergarten classrooms. Children need time to develop their sense of self and their own self-knowledge. 

How can we stop stealing time from children? Here are five ways:

  1. Schedule fewer extracurricular activities. When kids go straight from the classroom to extracurriculars, even extracurriculars they enjoy, they miss out on the expanses of time they need to learn who they are. Ensure that your child has afternoon and evening time several days of the week in order to play and direct their own learning.
  2. Advocate for more recess and less homework. Be a voice at your school. Bring in the research. Talk to the administrators. Take a group of parents with you. Movement is the precursor to all learning and it is vital that children get a chance to move and to play throughout the day.
  3. Skip all homework at least through elementary school. Or forge it. Or give the answers.  Seven hours a day is enough. Remember that at the right developmental stage 50 hours will get a child to enough functional literacy to become a self-teacher. 35 hours a week in a classroom is more than enough time for seat-work. Leave afternoons, evenings, and weekends for play time and family time.
  4. Wait on formal education or choose from play based options like forest schools, Waldorf or Montessori.  See what is in your area. You might consider skipping preschool altogether. In some states formal education isn’t required until age six. Read books like “Better Late than Early” by Raymond and Dorothy Moore and make sure your decisions about school are well-informed and well-researched.
  5. Buck the system in whatever ways you deem necessary and trust that your children will learn anyway! Find ways in which your child can learn through play. Read these books and be confident that kids are innately driven to learn. If we allow them the time and space to explore their world, they will learn the most extraordinary things.

Do you want to know what kids want to do? They want to dawdle. They want to explore. They want to sniff the dandelions and squish mud between their toes. They want to laugh and they want to run. They want to read exciting books in your lap and then move on to reading exciting books in the space between two strong branches of a tree. They want expanses of time to satisfy their curiosities and to learn how to relate to themselves and to others. And do you know why they want to do these things? Because each of these things will contribute to their development in deep and untold ways. Children desperately need their childhood hours. Let’s give them some back!

A shocking number of women are harassed, ignored, or mistreated during childbirth

People, check this article out. It just reminds me of why I will continue to encourage sistahs to plan their homebirths with midwives and doulas they trust. Always.

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A new study finds one in six women report maternal mistreatment. The number is higher for women of color.

Tanefer Camara, who gave birth at home because her midwife ignored her labor signs, with her son Tajiri and daughter Zeynab.
 Courtesy of Tanefer Camara

Tanefer Camara had no intention of giving birth at home. She’d planned, with her midwife, to do it in a hospital.

But at 38 weeks, she went into labor. When she called her midwife to say she thought it was time to go to the hospital, the midwife dismissed her, telling her to wait a little longer at home.

Camara then found herself sprawled on her bed with the uncontrollable urge to push. Assisted only by her husband and then-6-year-old son, she gave birth to a daughter within 30 minutes, covering her bed in blood and other fluids.

“I was not prepared for a home birth,” Camara, who’s a lactation consultant in Oakland, California, said. Her husband had to scramble to find something to tie the umbilical cord. He used a shoelace. On the way to the hospital, Camara developed blood clots. When she arrived, she was hemorrhaging and had to take medication to stop the bleeding.

In the end, she and her daughter were healthy. But “every step of the way, I had to advocate for myself,” she said. “If I didn’t have the knowledge that I had around pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, it could have been a lot worse.”

One in six women experience mistreatment in childbirth. The numbers are worse for women of color.

Javier Zarracina/Vox

From regular moms like Camara to celebrities like Serena Williams, more and more women are sharing stories about mistreatment during pregnancy and childbirth. But we’ve never had good data to understand exactly how common these experiences are across the US. A new study finds they’re common in childbirth, especially for women of color.

The first quantitative study to examine mistreatment during childbirth in the US was recently published in the journal Reproductive Health. The researchers found 17 percent of the 2,700 women surveyed — or one in six — reported experiencing one or more types of mistreatment, such as verbal abuse, stigma, and discrimination, and having requests for help ignored.

The rates of mistreatment were even higher for certain racial groups: Indigenous women were most likely to report being mistreated (33 percent), followed by Hispanic women (25 percent) and black women (23 percent). Fourteen percent of white women reported being mistreated. Women who gave birth in hospitals, who were 24 years old or younger and lower income, reported higher rates of mistreatment.

“This is a widespread phenomenon,” said the study’s lead author, Saraswathi Vedam, a midwife and professor at the University of British Columbia.“Mistreatment, when you look at it in all of its aspects, certainly includes people being shouted at, scolded, or experiencing physical and verbal abuse. But there’s also … not being listened to, not being engaged in the decision, not having the ability to self-determine what care happens for you and your body.”

The finding is important because researchers increasingly understand that maternal mistreatment is linked to poorer health outcomes for women, said Vedam, and often leads to the misses and near misses that harm moms and babies. Another study, newly published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, found women who declined medical interventions (such as tests or medications) during childbirth were more likely to report discrimination.

Camara was lucky that she and her daughter survived an unassisted home birth. Serena Williams also got lucky: The day after her emergency C-section, she said doctors and nurses dismissed her complaints about shortness of breath and her history of pulmonary embolisms, accusing her of being confused because of the pain medicine she’d been on. They ran some diagnostics she didn’t need, instead of the CT scan Williams requested, and finally discovered she indeed had small blood clots in her lungs.

“This is a million-dollar athlete who gets paid to understand changes in her body. Of anybody we were going to listen to, it should have been her,” said study co-author Monica McLemore, a nurse and professor at the University of California San Francisco.

But instead, researchers “have repeatedly found missed opportunities for health care providers to listen to people, to recognize signs and symptoms of deterioration and to be able to act differently,” McLemore added. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that most maternal deaths are indeed preventable.

That’s why, Vedam said, the World Health Organization now asserts that respectful maternity care should be considered an outcome in and of itself. But her study shows health care providers have a long way to go.

The most common type of abuse: being shouted at, ignored, and forced to get treatment you don’t want

The most common type of mistreatment women reported in the survey was being shouted at or scolded by their doctors, midwives, or nurses. The next most common was being ignored by their health care providers, or having their requests refused or not responded to for a reasonable amount of time. Five percent of women reported that their health professionals threatened to withhold treatment or forced them into treatment they didn’t want.

That’s what happened in Paress Salinas’s 2007 childbirth. Salinas, an event planner in Los Angeles, said she had to fight her doctors and nurses to get out of a C-section she didn’t want or need.

Salinas’s doctor told her she had to have the surgery because she’d been in labor for hours, but Salinas decided to push “with everything I had” instead.

Within 45 minutes, her nurses told her she was ready to deliver. At first, her doctor dismissed Salinas. Then, she came back into the room, lifted the sheet covering Salinas’s legs, and acknowledged Salinas was ready to deliver. “I had a first-degree tear because there wasn’t enough time to do the massaging and preparing,” Salinas says. And at that point, I didn’t trust anybody to help me.”

But it wasn’t just the physical scar that’s stayed with Salinas; it was the disconnect between her hopes and the reality she found in the hospital. And that’s something that sets childbirth apart from other interactions with the health system, said Columbia University public health professor Lynn Freedman, who was not involved in the Reproductive Health study. “People have different kinds of expectations and desires around childbirth care than perhaps if you break your leg,” she said. “It has a different meaning for people, and they go into childbirth with different kinds of hopes and expectations, and aspirations and meaning. So when things do not go the way they had hoped, it’s meaningfully different for many women.”

Actually fixing the maternal mistreatment problem, particularly among women of color, requires systemic solutions, Freedman argued. “These are broader issues of racism and other social power dynamics that then play out in health system — as well as the education, police, court systems.”

Even before that kind of systems reform, Vedam believes there are measures that can help. “We have the capacity right now to really address these issues,” she said. “These initiatives include diversifying the health care workforce, mandating anti-racism and implicit bias training for everyone who interacts with childbearing families, increasing access to doulas and midwives, and raising public awareness of their human rights. The road may be long and hard, but it is the only right path.”

Earthing. Grounding.

Recently there’s been lots of talk about the importance of going without shoes. Many refer to it as “earthing” or “grounding.” Of course many of us were raised this way so it’s old news to us. The following videos explain the “why” of it all.