Homeschooling

ImageHomeschooling is a controversial issue. It evokes in some images of unsocialized, awkward and downright “weird” kids. Of religious extremists and isolationism, of parents bent of shielding their children from the “real world”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Of course, for others, homeschooling is just a fact of life. By now, many homeschoolers are second generation homeschoolers. It’s a trend that has caught on and it’s still growing.

According to the most recent statistics, 1.5 million students are being taught at home. The advent of easy and affordable internet access has increased the numbers. The explosion in homeschooling groups makes the idea of the unsocialized homeschooler an obsolete one. There are even homeschooling conferences for families to attend and a plethora of curriculum and materials to be had, often available used at half price books or through a local homeschool co-op.

Families choose to home school for many reasons. Some to avoid bullying and other problems that are rampant in our public school system. Some simply to give their children a good education because, let’s face it; our public schools just aren’t cutting it anymore. Certainly some families home school for religious reasons and so that they can teach their children the values they want them to have, rather than the ones they learn in public schools which, again let’s face it, aren’t always the ones the teachers are trying to instill. Many families who aren’t very religious choose to home school for many reasons and even families that are often have other reasons for choosing to home school.

There is no doubt that a much more individualized education can be found at home, and a much more hands on, fun one at that. Forget the text books and head to your local museum for some real world learning. Talk about shielding your child from the “real world”, that’s what schools do. The real world is all around us; it’s in watching the squirrels chase each other up the trees and watching the ants build their home. It’s in learning about careers by taking trips to the actual places, a bakery, a fire station etc. It’s in the act of learning by becoming interested in something then looking it up and learning about it for yourself. That’s an important life skill that often gets missed when we try to spoon feed learning to children.

For an excellent book on homeschoolers and socialization, try Rachel Gathercole’s book, “The Well Adjusted Child, the social benefits of homeschooling”.

Are There Benefits to Routine Infant Circumcision?

Circumcision rates in the U.S. are falling as more parents find that the risks outweigh any potential benefits. A closer look at the purported benefits of circumcision. Here are the most commonly given reasons for circumcising baby boys.

Hygiene

According to many sources, it’s easier to keep clean. Really? The vulva would be easier to keep clean without the labia but we don’t amputate that. Well, some cultures do and that is one of the reasons they give. Why do we cringe in horror at the thought of doing that to our daughters but not our sons?  Not to mention that the foreskin is a self cleaning organ and circumcision actually removes this function from the penis. http://www.circumstitions.com/Care.html

Urinary Tract Infections

Circumcision lowers the rates of urinary tract infections. Okay. But urinary tract infections are easily treated with antibiotics. Removing the lungs would prevent respiratory infections but that doesn’t seem like a good idea.

HIV

Circumcision is often touted as a way to decrease the risk of HIV. However, even those reports still caution that circumcision by itself isn’t enough and that there is still a need for a condom. So why not just use a condom and skip the circumcision?

Phimosis

Circumcision is sometimes necessary for boys or men who have Phimosis, so the logic is to preemptively circumcise. This falls a little flat when we look at the facts. It is difficult to find actual rates, there is very little research out there on Phimosis. The rate seems to be from 1 to 10 percent, depending on who you ask.

http://voices.yahoo.com/uncircumsized-penile-adhesion-information-advice-10989162.html

http://www.male-initiation.net/statistics.html.

It should be noted that the rates fall with age, as the prepuce separates on its own, the phimosis resolving  itself.  Only 1 percent of men still have it at age 17. Of that one percent, most responds to conservative treatment (not circumcision). http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/442617-overview.

It’s important to remember that the prepuce is not supposed to retract in infants. Being fused is normal at birth, it gradually loosens on its own by about age 13.

Penile Cancer Risk Decreased

Penile cancer is rare in the first place. While circumcision may decrease the risk, is it really worth the amputation of an organ to slightly decrease an already low risk? We would not consider that logical for any other organ. Remove the cervix to prevent cervical cancer? Remove the stomach to prevent stomach cancer?

So He’ll Look the Same

The other reason frequently give is the old locker room/look like dad argument. Seriously? With the risks associated with it and the minimal benefits to be had, this is the lamest and flimsiest excuse to date.

Are Circumcision Rates Falling?

Circumcision rates are falling.

A previously posted article on circumcision rates seems to have stirred up a bit of a controversy, so I thought I would revisit it here.

What is in question is if newborn circumcision rates in the U.S. fell to 33% in 2009 or not. There is evidence that hospital circumcisions of newborns did indeed fall that low. The original study that claimed 33% was presented in Vienna http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/809763. Here is a slide from that presentation: http://www.flickr.com/photos/intactivist/5323491644/

The CDC has stated that this study was used to track complication rates and not to track circumcision rates. Fair enough.

Exactly how much circumcision rates have fallen in the U.S. may be a topic of debate. What it not in question is that rates are, in fact, falling.  They are falling faster in some areas than others and though the rates in any given year may fluctuate up or down, the overall picture from 1979 to 2010 is a decline. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/circumcision_2013/circumcision_2013.htm#fig1

The important point is, rates are falling, as they should be.  More and more parents are educating themselves on this unnecessary cosmetic procedure and declining circumcision.

What are the risks and benefits to circumcision? Why does anyone choose to circumcise their child? First, you have to understand that this is a cultural issue. For some, it is a religious issue, but for many Americans, it’s just what we’ve always done and they look no further than that.

To get an idea of how cultural ideas about circumcision change, consider the history of female circumcision: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~mcbri20s/classweb/worldpolitics/page1.html

When we think of female circumcision (aka female genital mutilation) we react with horror and disbelief that anyone could do such a thing to a child they claim to love. However, when the belief is deeply embedded in the culture, they do it precisely because they love that child. They truly believe that she will be unclean, unable to attract a husband etc. And it’s what they have always done. I would like to think that in a modern country like America we can rise about the “but it’s always been that way” mentality and take an objective look at the facts.

Consider also, rates in other countries: http://www.photius.com/rankings/circumcised_men_country_ranks.html

Male circumcision is by no means a universal practice and there are more men worldwide that are intact than have been cut yet no epidemic of penile health problems associated with these populations. So again, why have your child circumcised?

One reason circumcision became so prevalent was to prevent masturbation (that seems a little extreme): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/male-circumcision-and-the_b_249728.html

One reason for the fluctuation in rates may be the AAP, which has revised their official position back and forth several times over the last few decades. Their current position is supportive of the practice: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/585

However, the rest of the worldwide medical community disagrees and a report in their own publication calls the policy out for reflecting cultural bias: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/12/peds.2012-2896

Each parent must educate themselves on the risks and benefits and make an informed decision for their child.

Military Service Affects Attachment Process

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Military life involves sacrifice. Physical sacrifice of course, the giving up of creature comforts is obvious when soldiers are out in the field. But there are also sacrifices made of their family life.

Even before birth a baby is bonding and attaching to primary caregivers. At about the third month of life inside the womb, an infant develops their sense of sound. About midway through a pregnancy, parents can feel their child’s reaction to noises. Even before birth, a baby will startle (jump) at a loud noise. A baby may calm and sleep in response to mellow music.

By the time a baby is born, he or she shows a distinct preference to familiar voices. Try having mom or dad talk on side of the baby and a nurse or other unfamiliar person on the other. The baby will turn toward the familiar voice. This is all part of the bonding and attachment process.

When dad is deployed during pregnancy and the early weeks or months of a baby’s life, he misses out on some of these bonding opportunities. Families can keep dad present by playing videos or voice recordings of his voice to the baby so that his voice remains a familiar one.

With older children when mom or dad is away, pictures of the absent parent can be laminated for the child to carry with them at all times. Frequent phone calls, emails, and with today’s technology, even video conferencing help keep that parent’s presences alive for the child. Teachers, family members and caregivers should speak of the absent parent frequently and answer the child’s questions appropriately.

Pictures, cards, letters, email and phone calls will help keep the parent and child connected to each other and help ease the separation and make reunion go easier and more smoothly.

There are meet up groups for military spouses, fiancés and significant others. Meeting with others who are going through the same issues can be beneficial to many people.

For civilians wishing to help out, there is also a Deployed Soldiers Family Foundation Charity to help soldiers and their families by providing things such as wellness weekends, financial help for times of crisis and help with Christmas for military families in need.

Does Your Child Need Preschool?

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Does your child need preschool?

Many parents want to know, does my child need preschool? In a word, no.

There is a trend in this country toward more and more structured education. More doesn’t equal better and more of the same doesn’t fix problems. In generations past, a sixth to eight grade education was the norm. Then came high school. Once having an associate’s degree advanced you quite well just as once a high school diploma ensured success. By the 1970’s it was a four year degree you needed post high school, and now we are hearing that if you truly want to succeed, you need six years post high school, a masters degree.

School keeps getting moved earlier too. First grade use to be just that, first. Somewhere along the way kindergarten was needed to ensure success in first grade. Then preschool came along to help you succeed in kindergarten. Now many public schools have three year old programs.  Where will it end?

The irony of all this is that the advent of earlier and earlier structured education flies In the face of all the research. Research dating back to the fifties as well as the most current research, which all states that children do not learn through structured education at such an early age. Children learn best through unstructured play.

Think back to your own childhood. Do it now, lean back, close your eyes and think for a few minutes through your childhood memories. What are your favorite memories, the ones that make you happy? When groups of adults are asked this question, the answer are consistently memoires that have to do with outside play, friends, imaginative play, family trips etc. None of them have to do with workbooks, watching tv or even with adult led play.

Certainly a young child can be made to memorize and repeat the memorized material back, but that is not true learning. Children who start structured education earlier show gains initially over peers, but after the first few years, generally score BEHIND children who did not. Many of the countries that beat us on test scores for school children, do not even start structured education until age seven.

From Maria Montessori and Friedrich Froebel to Dr. Spock, the experts agree that what your child needs to learn and thrive is play.

In the fifties employee’s were given IQ tests and promotions were based on those. The results were not good. Turns out IQ in no way predicts leadership skills or success. What does? EQ has been found to be the best predictor of success. EQ stand for emotional quotient and emotional intelligence, as it’s called, is what is required to succeed. So throw the workbooks and flash cards out and teach your toddlers how to label their emotions and let them learn to explore and play. Give them a secure, safe, supportive environment full of love and watch them flourish!

Circumcision Rates Fall to 33 Percent

ImageAccording to the CDC rates of circumcision performed on newborn males in the U.S. declined sharply from 56 percent in 2006 to just 33 percent in 2009. The decision to circumcise a newborn so that he will fit in with peers in the locker room is no longer valid.

Circumcision in the U.S. has been a controversial and hot button topic for years. Circumcision rates in 1970 were almost 90 percent. The credit for this incredible decline might be due to the ever increasing number of parents who are educating themselves about this unnecessary cosmetic procedure before making a choice.

No national health organization in the world recommends circumcision for healthy male infants, not the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the American Medical Association. Nearly all European males are intact, with no epidemic of penile health problems, thus discrediting the American held belief that circumcision is healthy.

Another myth is that circumcision removes just a little flap of skin. The truth is that roughly 15 square inches of tissue is removed, amounting to anywhere from one-third to one-half of the skin covering a normal penis. Removed with this tissue are 240 feet of nerves and up to 20,000 nerve endings.

Activists spreading the word about circumcision call themselves intactivists. Their argument is that an intact penis is the default and natural condition. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken. Risks and side effects can include hemorrhage and even death. The foreskin that is removed actually has a function. In fact, it has many functions. Read about them here.

Another argument against routine newborn circumcision is consent. An infant can’t give it. It’s his body; he should make the decision when he’s older. Some circumcised men have even opted for foreskin restoration.

Many organizations have come out against routine infant circumcision. Just a few of which are: Doctors Opposing Circumcision, Mothers Against Circumcision and even Jews Against Circumcision.

More information can be found at cicumcision.org, cirp.org and nocirc.org.

Added on 1/2/14: As it seems I have stirred up a bit of a controversy, are circumcision rates actually falling? I have added a follow up to this post here and are there any benefits to it? Here’s the answer to that. 

acceptance

I could not agree more!

a diary of a mom

20131213-070030.jpg

There is no chain so strong as that of unfulfilled expectation.

No tether more binding than that which holds to the anchor of an image of a life one believes should have been theirs.

Acceptance is not resignation.

It is not a declaration of surrender.

Rather, when truly and deeply drunk it is the draught that changes the fight – no longer against what is but for what can be.

Acceptance transforms.

Chains give way.

Anchors become wings.

And against the backdrop of an endless sky there is room for the one thing that matters most.

Life.

Acceptance is not surrender.

It is a set of wings.

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