Personhood, babies and embryos

written by Hubby

With the thaw date for our children having suddenly arrived, I (Hubby) am making these remarks on somewhat short notice, but I hope they are clear regarding our reasons for approaching that landmark in the way that we do.

We affirm the following truth claims. We’ve got arguments that have convinced us of the truth of each of these truth claims, though some of those arguments will have to wait for a future date. I’m presenting here only very brief summaries of the arguments. None of these are our “opinions” – all of them are claims we make about the way the world is. We might be wrong, lots of other folks disagree. But based on the arguments both for and against these truth claims, this is way we believe reality to be. We’d seriously enjoy talking about any and all of the truth claims and arguments for them, so don’t hesitate to ask.

First, that all human life has a particular kind of value. The value we’re talking about here is sometimes called “human dignity” or similar. This kind of value is inherent to all human life, regardless of whether or not the human is sleeping or awake, conscious or unconscious, regardless of racial or ethnic background, the ability to feed or otherwise care for oneself, etc. When this value is present, but the person with this value is treated as if they didn’t have it, a grave injustice is committed. Examples include the treatment of Jews during the holocaust or those subjected to chattel slavery such as was practiced in the US until the civil war. The Jews under Hitler and the slaves were not treated according to the dignity present in all human life, and this poor treatment is why these horrors are horrific. The difference between the slaughterhouse where cows are turned into sides of beef and Auschwitz lies in the fact that the victims of Auschwitz possessed human dignity, and were treated as if they did not. Many people from vastly different worldviews believe in something of this sort – theist or atheist, scientific or not, Eastern, Western, secular, religious, etc. As an aside, our account of where this value comes from happens to be a Christian one – we claim that this value comes from humanity being made in the image of God, their creator.

Second, that human life (and hence this value) begins at conception. Because in the fertility industry conception has acquired a variety of different meanings (think of how literally is now commonly used to literally mean non-literally), we think it’s worth being specific. By conception, we mean fertilization (when the sperm penetrates the egg)– not syngamy (when all the chromosomes are first united in the nucleus), not implantation (when the embryo begins to receive it’s sustenance from the mother instead of from the reserves in the egg), and not from quickening (when mom first feels the baby moving). At fertilization, the resulting thingy (to use a totally non-technical, non-biased term) begins working as a unified organism. Prior to this, there are clearly two separate things (sperm and egg) each carrying out their own separate processes – neither of which is inclined to grow, divide, mature, be born, etc. on its own. At fertilization, there is a single entity working towards unified ends. At first, it works towards the end of achieving syngamy – the pro-nuclei don’t just bounce randomly into each other, rather syngamy is the result of a process which is ordered to achieve syngamy. The cell begins dividing, a process aiming towards eventual cell differentiation into separate tissues, organs and systems… all of which are ordered to living a complete human life.

At implantation, the embryo obtains a steady supply of vital nutrition, oxygen, etc. But if we were to accept that access to nutrition, oxygen, etc. is what makes a person have value, then victims of famine suddenly cease to be human beings. We reject the consequence that victims of famine cease being human – lack of a steady source of nutrition does not make something non-human, so we also reject the premise that human life begins at implantation. We reject the idea that life begins at quickening because movement – making oneself felt by another human being, is likewise not a condition for personhood. Victims of paralysis or some in vegetative states may not make others physically feel their presence, but this does not make them inhuman. Many other conditions for human personhood have been suggested, I will simply sum up by stating that any condition for human personhood that makes infanticide permissible, we immediately reject on the grounds that it makes infanticide permissible.

As a result of these two truth claims, we are lead to a third. If any of those thawed do not survive, a human person has died. And we bear a special relationship to these particular human persons – they are our children. If necessary, we will mourn their deaths in many of the same ways we would mourn the death of our 4-year old son Samuel. We will not have the specific sorts of thoughts, memories, attachments, etc. to these children that we currently have to Samuel – but our love for Samuel is not based on the fact that we’ve held him in our arms, or the fact that Rachael carried him for nine months, or any of our memories of him. Our love for him, and for the five embryos we have adopted is based simply on the fact that he is our son. Those memories can come or go – they are conditional, but our love for him is not conditional. Likewise, these other five are our children, our sons and daughters and if they die, we will mourn for them in many of the same ways (though certainly varied in strength, intensity, duration, etc.) that we would mourn if Samuel died. As we go through this process, whatever the Lord has for us, please keep us in your prayers. Statistically, we are told to expect to lose many of these children this weekend. So we approach the thaw date with fear and trembling, anticipating the probability of deep loss and grief in the coming days, alongside our hope that these children will live full lives. Whatever the Lord has for us, both joy and sorrow, we will accept from his hand. Our charge is to be faithful to the commitment we have made as adoptive parents, to care for these children placed into our family with everything we have, and to give them the best chance at a flourishing life that we are capable of.

How many children do you have?

Usually when someone asks, “How many children do you have?” they usually mean to ask how many children are you feeding, caring for, dressing, etc right now. But since you become a parent when that baby is conceived (aka fertilization), and that parent-child relationship isn’t changed by the unborn-status or death of that child, it is far more accurate for me to talk about the 7 children God has given me.

We have Little Man, who is 4 years old, and Ananias is in heaven with Jesus. We lost baby Ananias in June 2013, and it was an early miscarriage. But since we believe that life begins at fertilization, and even the single celled zygote is a person, our child, we openly claim that child. Just as if someone lost their baby during infanthood, or childhood, that parent-child relationship doesn’t change, so it is the same when the baby dies at the early stages of pregnancy.

In the same way, now that the contract phase is done, we are now the parents of 5 more babies, even in the frozen, very early developmental stage. So, if you ask me now, I’ll tell you I’m the mother of 7 children. God has given us one, so far, to raise, and he has taken one, so far, home to be with him. We don’t know what God has for those other five, but we are eager to find out. Yes, even if it means he is taking some or all home to be with him, we want to know.

Embryo Adoption, questions and answers

We started the journey of embryo adoption in March 2015. When we tell someone that we are doing embryo adoption, most often, the question is “What is that?” It is a most reasonable question, so I hope to answer it a series of blog posts answering the most common questions we are asked.

What is an embryo?
The word “embryo” describes a stage of development. In non-technical language, an embryo is the unborn or unhatched offpsring. In more technical language, the embryo is unborn offspring from the 4th day after fertilization through 8 weeks. During this time, the human baby goes from being a single cell with 1/2 its genetic material from mom and 1/2 from dad to being a fully formed baby with heart, lungs, legs, arms, brain, eyes, ears, nose, mouth. Human babies at 8 weeks of development very much look like a baby that has just been born, though many of their body systems are still immature.

Where do these embryos come from?
During in-vitro fertilization, eggs are harvested from a woman and fertilized with sperm collected from a man. In the United States, several IVF embryos are usually created at once, since the cost is in the fertilizing of the eggs and its not that much more expensive to fertilize many eggs at once (bulk discount of a sort). And since there is no guarantee that any single embryo will implant and gestate to full term, many couples find they need to do multiple transfers to get 1 live birth. A couple might have 1 or 2 embryos transferred immediately and any other embryos will be frozen so that they can be transferred later.

Why do these embryos need to be adopted?
Sometimes, a couple has all the children they want, but have embryos they never transferred. Or, perhaps due to any variety of circumstances, its determined that a woman can’t carry a baby. A couple then has a few options as to what to do with these embryos. They can discard the embryos, donate them to research, leave them frozen indefinitely or donate/make an adoption plan for the embryos. Both discarding the embryos and donating them to research means death to the babies. Some couples don’t want to take those options, so they either continue to pay the storage fees or find another couple who will accept the embryos.

Will you transfer them all at once?
No, we will transfer up to 2 at a time. Yes, this opens up the possibility of twins, but we accept and welcome that possibility.

How many children will you have?
7! Little Man, who is 4, Ananias, who died at about 6 weeks development, and these 5 frozen babies makes 7 children. Why do we talk about it this way? Because the parent-child relationship doesn’t change with death. I will talk more about this in the next blog post.

Any more questions? Please ask! You can email me at the [dot] china [dot] lady @ gmail [dot] com (change all [dot] to periods, and remove spaces) or leave a comment here.

Having it all together

I wrote this draft in February of 2014. On reflection, I realize how very much was going on. I was dealing with ‘weening blues’… Little Man had started weening the fall before and it was wrecking havoc on my hormones. We were wanting to try to get pregnant again, which meant we needed Little Man to finish weening, give my hormones a chance to settle down, then we could see what would happen. With that in mind, here’s what I wrote:

My dad gave me a great compliment the other day… he said “I’m so proud of you. You’ve really got it together and you don’t get overwhelmed, stressed out, or depressed over the business of life.” I felt an odd need to defend myself in that I don’t have it all together, I do get overwhelmed, stressed out and grumpy over all of it. But the Hubby-man is amazingly able to help me pull it together, get a few things done, and move on.

I’ve had several projects recently (as in late 2013) that I reached an “ARGH!” point where I stressed, freaked out, and verbally vomited all over Hubby-man. He is so effective at helping me deal in these situations that those outside our family rarely see the moments. And they are short lived, as in less than an hour usually.

It struck me, though, when Dad complimented me, that others might see me in the same light. And I desire that people know I don’t always have it together, but I try to be proactive about living life intentionally and living life in a state of peace and joy. As I thought over this, I realized my general ability to get back on track comes from three different areas, and I thought I’d discuss each area in turn. Today, the practicals of getting a handle on life at this point in life. Tomorrow, the foundations of having the right perspective on getting a handle on life. Day after, how knowing yourself helps a ton in getting a handle on life.

The practicals of getting a handle on life at this point in life
In light of the many flopped 2013 goals, my primary ‘goal’ for 2014 was something to the effect of ‘get a handle on life’. I flopped on so many of my 2013 goals that I decided to not make any such goals for 2014. For those who know me, they know that this is revolutionary and very out of character. I am a goal setter, list maker achiever. But before you start to wonder who this is and where did the Mom-mom go, I did decide to work on 1 or 2 habits each month this year to help me ‘get a handle on life’. And there were several things I decided to stop doing. So, here’s how 2014 is different…

  • No goals. Having a 2 1/2 year old (who turns 3 in May) around means less time for projects of the ‘no, you can’t be involved’ sort. My goals tend to be oriented in this way. Yes, I’ll still do some sewing and other projects, but I take them on as I have time and inclination. I’m not setting out a set of them as goals to do in 2014. Its just the right time of life to work like this. At least for me it isn’t.
  • Work on establishing good habits. For example, for January, I focused on daily routines and regular exercise. And, I’m working on the same habits in February since I felt that I didn’t really establish these as habits yet.
  • Not gardening. I love getting out in the soil, planting, watching things grow. I don’t like getting up early to water and weeding. I certainly love the idea of canning and preserving and having a store of food that we raised ourselves. But really, this is a family project. I’m so thankful I have the freedom to just buy my fruits and veggies and meat from the store and be done with it. I will garden again, just not in the near future.
  • Sometimes laundry stays piled in the living room for a day or two (or three). Sometimes the floor of the dining room gets a bit grimy. In other words, I’ve figured out what things I can live with and when I need to slack on something, I have a few things I can slack on without feeling guilty.
  • Remind myself often that most tasks are not huge tasks that take a long time to do. They are relatively quick. Rotating laundry. Wiping off the table. Putting books away (goodness, I’m as bad about having stacks of books around as Little Man is!). Making the bed. Vacuuming. Sweeping. Flylady teaches “You can do anything in 15 minutes (except whine).” Sometimes, I have to verbally remind myself, “this is a 5 (or less) minute task”.

I figure that as life progresses and our situation changes, I’ll have to make more adjustments. It might be that in 2015, I’m ready for goals again, and that might not happen till 2016. And I’ve decided I’m gonna be good with that. It helps that I know what’s important.

The key here is that I stepped back from what wasn’t working (making goals) to consider why it might not work (full time caretaker and Mom-mom of a little, sleep deprivation at times, general natural tendency) and how I might still get to where I want to go.

I’m inclined to say that if you feel like you don’t have a handle on life, work on some simple routines first. Simplify your general expectations (any other perfectionists out there?). Cut out extra projects/tasks (simplify!). Figure out what is truly important and focus on those things. (more on that tomorrow)**

**I didn’t end up doing more on this series. I might pursue it, especially now that I’ve come through that time, found my feet and am finding myself *feeling* rather stable. Just remember, no matter how together someone seems, they probably aren’t *that* well put together.

‘unschooling’: faith and academics

What is ‘unschooling’? I can see this question in people’s faces regularly when I mention it. A young man stopped by at one point to try and sell us books “designed” to keep your child interested in reading and learning. When I said, “well, we prefer to have living books around here that we learn from. So, I don’t think your books are a good fit for us right now.” I also name dropped “Charlotte Mason” in there, and the poor young man was very quick to leave at that point. I never mentioned ‘unschooling’ to him, but that might have made him run from our home even faster.

I had a friend write me what ‘unschooling’ is and how its different from self-directed learning and traditional schooling. That is a huge question, and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it…. yet.

Here is the beginning of an answer.

In the book “Unschooling Rules: 55 ways to unlearn what we know about schools and rediscover education”, Clark Aldrick argues that we must first teach children how to BE. Then, we can teach them to DO, and after that we can teach them to KNOW. (Generally, these days, education seems to be all concerned about what children KNOW, but doesn’t address the first two.) I think he’s got something very right here, but as he expands the idea he sets the bar awfully low. Aldrick states that learning to BE is about learning what you love, what you are good at, what you dream, and your role in a group (or larger society, even?). Really, though the question(s) could be much bigger… ‘Who am I?” “Who am I made to be?” “Where do I find my worth?” “From what place do I interact with others and how does that affect how I should treat others?”

Who do I want my child to be? I want my children to grow to be upright, God-fearing members of society (moral development!). I want them to be emotionally healthy members of society (emotional development). Whether any of my children got to college, or beyond, is more about what they choose and I will strive to provide the foundation so they can go in whatever direction they want, but, really, that is secondary (intellectual/academic development). I think ‘unschooling’ addresses the intellectual/academic development properly, letting children work in a way that is more self-directed, at their own pace, and according to their own interests.

How does this work in real life? Seriously, what three (or four or five) year old actually has any idea of what they want to learn about? If he had his druthers he’d sit around watching movies and eating peanut butter and candy canes (and starbursts and chocolate chips… you get the idea). Really, he isn’t going to learn to be a God-fearing, upright member of society on his own. Some teaching of some kind is needed, I think. There are certain things that I think are necessary things for a child to learn, and other things that are truly optional. Character is necessary, academics are optional.

It all comes down to being intentional. I don’t expect a child to just pick up good character and faith in God, especially not if I’m not living it. And I can’t expect my child to listen to my words if my life doesn’t reflect the same message. The book “Sticky Faith” discusses this extensively, and its not my purpose to retell what that books has to say (its worth reading as a parent or grandparent who desires to see an active faith passed on). A very simplified version is “live it out, talk about it, invite them along for the ride”.

Academics work the same way. If I’m not living a life of learning, how can I expect my child to? The best way to educate my child is to live it out, talk about it, and invite him along for the ride. No, this doesn’t mean I have to be all into mud like my child is. But it does mean he should be seeing me read, seeing me study, watch me be a learner. Then, I can talk about what I’m learning (no, he’s not interested in the history of the Renaissance era), and how I’m enjoying it. I can also talk about what we might do, like build a fort, blow bubbles or do paper mache. And then I invite him to do it with me. We practice taking turns as we take turns with the different items used to blow bubbles. We learn to work together as he wields the glue and I put down the craft sticks. Honestly, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to invite him to do paper mache with me, that will be very messy (we did do paper mache together… it was so messy he didn’t want to do much).

This is unschooling. Live a life of learning. Talk about it. Invite others along for the ride. This is how faith is passed on. Live a life of faith. Talk about it. Invite others along for the ride.

Sweet Nut Butter?

The other day I found a recipe for “Cashew nut butter cookie dough”. I thought, ‘woot! something that is like cookie dough and not totally bad for you.” The Hubby is more sceptical of I am when it comes to these things. He is wise that way.

Basically, I blended roasted cashews with a bit of oil, sugar and flavoring.

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It’s not that much like cookie dough. The texture is sort cookie dough like, and its a great idea. But the cashew flavor is still quite strong and the sugar didn’t really dissolve into the nut butter. And I added a bit too much almond flavoring, which can be quite overwhelming. Its a nut butter, not cookie dough. So, now we have a sweet nut butter….. and it just struck me that if I blend it all together, again, with the chocolate chips, we have a sweet chocolate nut butter, which, when its hazelnuts, is quite the hit around here. (nutella, anyone?) And peanut and chocolate is quite the hit also.

I posted last July with the words ” Since I can’t seem to keep myself writing on any regular basis, I’ll stick to publishing shorts.” But apparently, I’m struggling with posting shorts, also, since I’ve not posted any more since July.

It was a good summer. Hubby got a dissertation cranked out (yeah!), and we went camping in the Rocky Mountain National Park and Little Man did the Junior Ranger program. And, best of all, we were matched with a set of 5 embryos that we are working to adopt. We’ve been in the adoption process for a little over 2.5 years. There has been some back and forth (getting pregnant in the middle of applications will do that!), and we switched from domestic infant adoption to embryo adoption last March (2015). We are super excited that this genetic mom chose us as the family for her pre-born children. I hope to talk more about what embryo adoption is and why we are doing it. We will see if I can keep up my writing!

Little Man has found his “project”. He builds Knock Stuff Down Videos (KSDV). This involves setting up dominoes and citiblocks, then knocking them down. Many times, we video the KSDV (yes, do you see how that bit of language works?). I get roped into building parts, which I usually enjoy doing. Here is a video, as an example of what happens: KSDV Video

Little Man lost interest in climbing when it turned out what he liked was climbing just high enough so he could drop and swing on the rope. :::sigh:::

I did “Work the Plan” (http://www.simplifiedorganization.com/worktheplantraining/) with my sister. The philosophy of time organization that Mystie, the author of this blog, presents is not different from what I’ve seen before, but her methodology or application is a bit different and I like it. It involves regular reviewing of the tasks you have laid out, and planning by the interval (a time frame of 6 to 12 weeks long).

I really do hope to write and blog more regularly. There is something very releasing about putting words to ‘paper’ (okay, screen… keyboard?) and it really helps me organize my own thoughts. And I’m not even an introvert!

Summer Shorts

Since I can’t seem to keep myself writing on any regular basis, I’ll stick to publishing shorts.

-We are staying busy swimming, swimming and swimming. And now climbing. Yeah, every time we’d go to the university pool to swim, we had to stop and watch who ever was climbing. Yesterday, one of the guys working that area asked if Little Man wanted to climb, and he did! We went back today and he worked really  hard at it. He never got all the high, but he’s figuring it out, and working all his muscles to fatigue. This is the first thing we’ve found that really pushes him that hard.

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-On July 5, we got to join the youth group to set off firecrackers. Little Man really enjoys them and found that the little smoke bombs he could light himself, until he got a spark on his hand. That reduced his enjoyment some.

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-What, you don’t watch someone else on the computer while sitting on their shoulders? This is the preferred watching position of Little Man these days.

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-I was told on this day, “I am an artist.” And when he had finished he said, “I’m done being an artist.” I had always assumed ‘artist’ was a more permanent descriptor, but I guess I was wrong.

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Spring time shorts

Yes, I’m wearing shorts more often, but this is more short blurbs about life right now. And no pictures of me in shorts because it might blind you. Its still somewhat early spring.

Little Man is still totally in love with water. He is all about water play, which means turning on the hose and watching the water flow. We shut down our raised beds a year ago, and they’ve over grown with grass, but I did dig up a 2’x2′ square so he would have access to loose dirt to play in. Yes, and mud. Since the area was ‘raised’, there is an incline to watch the water flow down as it floods the dug up area. He would stay at that for hours if he didn’t get cold. Yes, the boy has found the ability to get cold… when its 70′, cloudy and he is wet.

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We are doing more ‘science experiments’ these days. Little Man is interested in different things and I’m just going for it. We made Oobleck (even made it green!), a paper mache volcano (we did make it errupt!) and we have three Forest Tent catepillars in a big jar on the table, and a Swallowtail butterfly catepillar also in a big jar on the table. No we aren’t doing any kind of worksheets, but we are learning and talking about the natural world.

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I mentioned life being unpredictable lately in my last post. I thought I might offer more explanation of it. For the past year, we have been ‘approved and waiting’ for domestic infant adoption. About 6 months ago, God started working in our hearts to consider embryo adoption. After losing a baby to early miscarriage in June 2013, we are starkly aware of the emotional risk and the resulting grief of losing a baby. We reached a point recently where we realized we were ready to take on that risk and the possibility of such grief. And so, right now, we are in the midst of the application process for embryo adoption.  Of course, we are also doing all kinds of thinking on the ethics of IVF, fertility clinics, and our society’s attitudes towards babies in the embryo stage. Hopefully, I’ll be able to more fully articulate our thoughts, but its such a deep, intense, and sensitive set of topics, its rather scary to approach.

I got a hair cut today. This is monumental because I’ve cut my own hair for the past 5 years. I decided this was what I wanted. My goal is to grow and donate my hair for as long as I can, and this is the 4th time I’ve been able to do this. A before picture….

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and after….

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I do think my hair is getting curlier as I get older.

What are you up to?

back to blogging… maybe

I’m finding that I have a love-hate relationship with a wide variety of tasks… blogging, vacuuming, laundry, goal setting. I find that these things I have this love-hate relationship with are such that I dislike doing it, but I *love* it when the task is done. I don’t really like to vacuum, but I love freshly vacuumed carpets. I don’t like sweeping and mopping, but I love freshly swept and mopped tile floor. Also, I love posting my stories and my ramblings, but getting them to a postable stage is an arduous task. And its hard to remember, at times, that things worth doing are often hard things to do. Yeah, I dislike vacuuming and laundry (and most other household chores) because they are dull and boring to do. That can be remedied with a podcast or audio book.

However, I’ve not completely figured out how to remedy this love-hate relationship with blogging and goal setting. And they are intimately connected, unfortunately. I love to set goals so that I can feel purposeful and intentional about my activities and course of daily life. I want to know what needs to get done, what I want to get done, and what I did get done. But I don’t want to have to set goals, nor look at them when I don’t meet them. I’m not thinking of writing out goals right now; life is just too unpredictable. And if I set goals and don’t reach them, that leaves me feeling blah… so I’m not doing “goals”.

But blogging is an outlet, a chance for me to declare to noone in particular “hey, look at me, I vacuumed this week!” And if I’ve set goals, I get to declare “I not only decided I was going to vacuum this week, but I actually did it! Look at me!” And, of course, if I don’t meet my goals, I just don’t blog about it. Blogging is also a creative outlet, yes, but I don’t want my blogging to be just about me getting things done, or merely me expressing my own creativity.

I would love for my blogging to have such focused purposes as encouraging women to love their husbands, or challenging the reader’s thoughts on this or that deep topic… alas, to choose one such area is not for me. Being a stay-at-home-mom suits me quite well, because the general topics I cover in any one day vary tremendously. And so, my blogging will reflect this diversity. For better or for worse.

During this 8 month hiatus, I didn’t write. In fact, the last draft of a blog post I have is from last September, so you see, I haven’t written in quite a few months. But I did do a lot of other things, from several work projects, reading a slew of books, enjoying the time with my family, and thinking deeply about a variety of topics. I hope to start writing again about all these things. I want to start writing again. I’m ready, I think, to do the hard thing that is worth doing.

So, expect a variety of posts. Some about day to day life, some about deep issues. Sometimes I have conversations with friends and family that I want to write about. Sometimes I read something I want to write about. Sometimes, its an idea that came out of the blue. So, I’m going to work on this discipline of making time, sitting down and writing.

Pursuing Projects

I’ve been reading a lot about “project based homeschooling” (PBH). The basic idea is that you let your child pursue topics as their interest takes them, and let them create as their interests prompt them. It fits well with ‘unschooling’, which is also all about child-led learning. The website I’m mostly working from is Project Based Homeschooling. I’m in the facebook group, also, and its been a ton of fun interacting over these ideas. I did the journalling class and the drawing class in June, and found myself quite inspired.

Of course, I’ve also realized that this is how I normally pursue my ideas. Its really bugged me in the past that I’m crazy into some topic, then the interest wains, and then I’m into another topic. But then, in talking with my Dad, we determined that I’m doomed… he’s that way, too. I have a few lasting interests, but what might be my overriding interest of the moment can vary.

Little Man hasn’t found his topic to pursue yet, unless sand + water counts (it very well might, he’s very interested in putting a ‘lake’ in his sand bin currently, and its taking some thought on how to keep the sand sides up and the water from soaking into the sand).

On the other hand, I have found my new topic: wood working. A friend who was moving gave me a fine particle compressed wood board that struck me as the perfect top to a small table for Little Man (for whom I’m considering the nickname of ‘Young Grasshopper’ — he loves jumping). This prompted me to start thinking about if I could build a table. It helps that my Dad is a carpenter, so I have a source of advice and information at my cell-phone-fingertips.

One of the things that is a big deal in PBH is journalling or documenting the project and learning. I’m still figuring out how that works. I might just use the blog…. then I don’t have to get pictures developed (if I worked in a paper journal), and its something I (sorta) already do.

All that said, here’s a bit of the woodworking that’s been going on…

designing. This challenged my math.

designing. This challenged my math.

My Dad sent me some chisels and a plane. Young Grasshopper was really excited to try them out.

My Dad sent me some chisels and a plane. Young Grasshopper was really excited to try them out.

Sometimes you just gotta jump.

Sometimes you just gotta jump.

I got him a little hammer, and he really enjoyed tapping nails into wood scraps.

I got him a little hammer, and he really enjoyed tapping nails into wood scraps.

Working. Part all cut out. Sanded. Next to cut out notches and put it all together.

Working. Parts all cut out. Sanded. Next to cut out notches and put it all together.

My first attempt at creating a 'notch'.

My first attempt at creating a ‘notch’. Not so great.

I’m actually using a design my Dad put together. He added a support piece and a different way of attaching the legs and table top.

Random Shorts (in other words #myunfilteredlife)

A random collection of short burbs from my life of late. Mostly unfiltered.

–Last night, I started dinner by cutting up chicken, getting out the pan, putting a tbsp or two of oil in the pan and turning on the burner. I began wondering what they smell was, and why wasn’t my oil in the pan looking hot. It was nearly 5 minutes later when I realized I’d turned on the wrong burner. I’d turned on the burner that I’d set the plastic oil bottle on… I lost about 1/2 gallon of oil to the top of the stove, which, luckily, has sides high enough to contain most of the oil. I’m grateful we live in a place such that the loss of so much oil was disappointing and a stink to clean up, but it did not limit my ability to cook or provide food, nor will it.

–We have learned that water balloons last longer in a pool of water than not.  Of course, if you leave the balloons in the pool all day, they all deflate. Though if that is due to osmosis or weaking of the latex, I don’t know.

water balloons in the pool

water balloons in the pool

— I was walking across the yard when I realized on particular step sounded like I was stepping on plastic. The step felt like it, too. So I stooped to look and poke at the ground. Sure enough, there was a bottle buried in the yard. Several years ago I found a spark plug while digging up the garden. Not sure if I should thank the owners of the land from before the house was built or the construction crew or, perhaps both. I’m guessing the previous owners provided the spark plug and construction crew provided the bottle formerly containing Mountain Dew.

what I found in the yard

what I found in the yard

— When Little Man and I head outside, I usually imagine I will sit and read. But I always find something else to do. Most recently, I took apart our 8 year old box fan and cleaned it. Oh, it was gross.

 a distraction from reading

a distraction from reading

— Earlier this week, I was chatting with a friend about raising a little boy and she mentioned “It sounds like he’s bored, really.” It was like a light bulb. So, I got more sand for our sand bin/table. He will happily play for an hour… quiet… as in not talking… and I get to read, quietly, without distraction. Why did I let the sand run out and not get more? Oh, yeah, teaching conservation….

how I find quiet time

how I find quiet time

— I found myself reflecting on my general inability to keep my dining room table cleared off. My mom had us clear the table off *every day* for dinner. And we put all the stuff away *every day*. I think I might be physically incapable of such a feat.  I am thankful we have a large enough table that we can just move most of the stuff to the far end and sit at the near end to eat. (this is a picture after I’d been working on clearing if off for 10 minutes or so.)

Why can I not keep my dining room table cleared off?

Why can I not keep my dining room table cleared off?

— Little Man is into ‘creating creations’. Yes, those are his works to describe a particular painting of his. This is a recent duplo creation. I didn’t think to have him tell me about it at the time, so we can only guess what he was thinking of.

creations. by Little Man

creations. by Little Man

— More fun “science”: rooting an avocado seed.

'growing' avacado

‘growing’ avocado

— And we played with modeling clay. He started out making ‘snakes’, but they became snails soon after. Family member might begin receiving clay snail when they finally dry.😀

making snails

making snails

 

— Really, life is going well. I’m getting reading done and enjoying. I’m exploring new ideas, and reviving old ones (got my sewing machine fixed!).

An end, or a means to an end?

Its been a week or more since the Hubby and I talked about this, but its been on my mind. In education these days, or at least this is the way it seems to me, reading, writing and math are taught as the goal of the teaching. A young man stopped by a week or so ago trying to sell us books to teach Little Man to read… they were colorful, bilingual and relevant topics (supposedly — shapes, colors, dinosaurs). But the goal was teaching reading. For car trips, I’ve picked up ‘preschool’ level books, with space to color and stickers to stick on for ‘A, B, Cs’ and ‘Math!’. The goal is to teach reading, writing and math.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. But it lessens the value of these subjects. Alone, what is it worth to just write? or just do sums? or just read? Okay, I get great pleasure from merely reading, but then it is mostly entertainment.

The value could be so much more, though. If we, as we teach, approach teaching these subjects as means to greater ends, however, their value increases exponentially. One caveat though… the greater ends must be worthy in themselves.

Yeah, gotta bring it back to ‘unschooling’. Its all about approach. After we seek to teach our children about how to BE, then we can teach our children how to DO. And its about doing something. Perhaps it is finding pleasure and entertainment in reading that we are teaching. Perhaps it is about becoming a better person, knowing human nature, or knowing God. Perhaps it is running a household or keeping track of spending, income or investments.

Anyhoo, that’s it. Lets change our approach. Don’t teach reading, writing and math as the end, but as the means to a greater end.

the start of an answer: unschooling, faith and academics

What is ‘unschooling’? I can see this question in people’s faces regularly when I mention it. A young man stopped by last week to try and sell us books “designed” to keep your child interested in reading and learning. When I said, “well, we prefer to have living books around here that we learn from. So, I don’t think your books are a good fit for us right now.” I also name dropped “Charlotte Mason” in there, and the poor young man was very quick to leave at that point. I never mentioned ‘unschooling’ to him, but that might have made him run from our home even faster.

I had a friend write me what ‘unschooling’ is and how its different from self-directed learning and traditional schooling. That is a huge question, and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it…. yet.

Here is the beginning of an answer.

In the book “Unschooling Rules: 55 ways to unlearn what we know about schools and rediscover education”, Clark Aldrick argues that we must first teach children how to BE. Then, we can teach them to DO, and after that we can teach them to KNOW. (Generally, these days, education seems to be all concerned about what children KNOW, but doesn’t address the first two.) I think he’s got something very right here, but as he expands the idea he sets the bar awfully low. Aldrick states that learning to BE is about learning what you love, what you are good at, what you dream, and your role in a group (or larger society, even?). Really, though the question(s) could be much bigger… ‘Who am I?” “Who am I made to be?” “Where do I find my worth?” “From what place do I interact with others and how does that affect how I should treat others?”

Who do I want my child to be? I want my children to grow to be upright, God-fearing members of society (moral development!). I want them to be emotionally healthy members of society (emotional development). Whether any of my children got to college, or beyond, is more about what they choose and I will strive to provide the foundation so they can go in whatever direction they want, but, really, that is secondary (intellectual/academic development). I think ‘unschooling’ addresses the intellectual/academic development properly, letting children work in a way that is more self-directed, at their own pace, and according to their own interests.

How does this work in real life? Seriously, what three year old actually has any idea of what they want to learn about? If he had his druthers he’d sit around watching movies and eating peanut butter and candy canes (and starbursts and chocolate chips… you get the idea). Really, he isn’t going to learn to be a God-fearing, upright member of society on his own. Some teaching of some kind is needed, I think. There are certain things that I think are necessary things for a child to learn, and other things that are truly optional. Character is necessary, academics are optional.

It all comes down to being intentional. I don’t expect a child to just pick up good character and faith in God, especially not if I’m not living it. And I can’t expect my child to listen to my words if my life doesn’t reflect the same message. The book “Sticky Faith” discusses this extensively, and its not my purpose to retell what that books has to say (its worth reading as a parent or grandparent who desires to see an active faith passed on). A very simplified version is “live it out, talk about it, invite them along for the ride”.

Academics work the same way. If I’m not living a life of learning, how can I expect my child to? The best way to educate my child is to live it out, talk about it, and invite him along for the ride. No, this doesn’t mean I have to be all into mud like my child is. But it does mean he should be seeing me read, seeing me study, watch me be a learner. Then, I can talk about what I’m learning (no, he’s not interested in the history of the Renaissance era), and how I’m enjoying it. I can also talk about what we might do, like build a fort, blow bubbles or do paper mache. And then I invite him to do it with me. We practice taking turns as we take turns with the different items used to blow bubbles. We learn to work together as he wields the glue and I put down the craft sticks. Honestly, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to invite him to do paper mache with me, that will be very messy.

This is unschooling. Live a life of learning. Talk about it. Invite others along for the ride. This is how faith is passed on. Live a life of faith. Talk about it. Invite others along for the ride.