Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ladan's 5-Year Photos

Well, I finally took Ladan out tonight to take some 5-year photos. I had to get out some new jeans for him... size 6 (slims cinched in about 6 or 7 buttons on each side of the adjustable waist, of course). He just turned 5, for Pete's sake! He's pretty much a giant and looks to me like he's about 9 in some of these photos. Here are a few.

(FYI--I'll be posting backlogged photos here in the next several days... really... unless I go into labor or something, which is HIGHLY unlikely.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Decisions, Decisions: Vaccines and Homeschooling

Well, I've had it on the radar to get caught up on photos and thoughts on here... and it hasn't happened yet. But I've had a few requests to write more about what we've decided regarding homeschooling and vaccines, so I'm going for it. I'll have to catch up on the other stuff later.

With regard to vaccines, our basic approach is to do most but not all of them and to do them in a bit of a different order than the normal pediatrician's routine. There are a couple of things that we've considered when approaching this issue:

1) We would prefer not to inject certain ingredients into our children, including cells from the remains of aborted fetuses, animal cells, and large amounts of metals and chemicals that can be harmful.
2) We would like for our children to have an opportunity to let their immune systems work for them when it's not necessarily a huge big deal for them to go through an illness.
3) We want to take care to consider the public health risk involved with NOT choosing certain vaccines, not only for us but for others who are higher risk in the community around us.

Based on these things, we've had to do a good deal of research. One of the most helpful resources we've used is The Vaccine Book by Dr. Robert Sears. It's fairly well-balanced and is easy to read, offering a host of additional resources for further research. After a bunch of research over the course of the last couple years, I think we've come up with a plan that leaves us feeling mostly comfortable.

We are planning to use Dr. Sears' adapted list of vaccines as a starting place (the one in his book that still gives the kids all their vaccines but adjusts the schedule of vaccines so as to avoid many harmful side effects). For example, he suggests waiting on the Hep B series (which starts in the hospital at birth for a baby) until age 2 1/2 UNLESS the mother, father or other close family member is a Hep B carrier. He never schedules more than two vaccines at a time, because the normal routine of sometimes four to six vaccines in combination is a whole lot for a kid's system to handle. And he delays some other things until later.

Using this adapted schedule as a base, we will take out the chicken pox vaccine for sure because it was developed from a cell line extracted from an aborted human fetus... and because we don't mind if our kids actually get chicken pox as kids and develop lifelong immunity that way. We will also almost certainly not give any girl we have the HPV vaccine for a variety of reasons.

I struggled with the MMR vaccine because the rubella strain used to manufacture the vaccine was taken from an aborted human fetus (they basically just keep using this cell line as it reproduces in a petri dish somewhere). There are also more chemicals in the vaccine than many others, and there is a long list of side effects. The main public health issue in our area is rubella in that it can cause some major birth defects if a pregnant woman is infected with the virus. While I'm rubella-immune (they do a test when you're pregnant to let you know), there are many people around who are not. In the end, we made a very difficult decision and determined that we'd give the kids the MMR vaccine, reasoning that it is definitely bothersome that the rubella component comes from an aborted fetus which is ridiculously awful but that it would seem even worse if one of our kids was a rubella carrier, passed it on to a pregnant woman, and caused some major birth defects or death to a baby who still has a chance to live. Not easy. I'm praying that the drug manufacturers will find another way to make this vaccine, that's for sure.

One great thing about The Vaccine Book is that Dr. Sears outlines the ingredient list in each vaccine produced by each drug company. For example, if there are two manufacturers of the same vaccine, one might produce the vaccine with animal products and the other might not. One might use more aluminum or formaldehyde than the other. You can know what you want and ask your pediatrician to order the one that is better for your child. This can be VERY helpful information.

So that's the short end of the vaccine discussion.

With regard to homeschooling, first of all, we've decided to go for it! After earning my degree in education and being trained to teach kids according to the "traditional" or "progressive" methods (the most common approaches in most public schools and MANY private schools), I wasn't completely satisfied with the way kids were being taught. After some extra research and investigation over the course of the last 8 years, I've become pretty committed to providing my kids with a classical education if at all possible. Please stop for a second and read the information at the link I provided if you don't know anything about classical education. The end result of classical education is that students can typically think more clearly and critically in a more organized fashion and have better tools for problem-solving later in life than students who are taught according to the methods used in most schools in modern America. In a public school, there may be honors courses designed around a classical model, but they are often still so disconnected from other subjects that the experience of these students is very different from those receiving a completely classical education.

That said, the classical model of education seems to stand out as the way to go. There are no classical schools in our area, so that wasn't even an option. So homeschooling, here we come! After a bunch of research and a lot of talking to more experienced homeschooling parents, we decided on the following curricula for Ladan's kindergarten year:

1) Veritas Press Phonics Museum. Since Ladan already knows how to read, we're doing the K-1 Combo Kit, speeding through the parts of the kindergarten portion that he knows but making sure to stop and work on the things that he hasn't mastered from that portion of the curriculum. And then we'll see how much of the Grade 1 curriculum he gets through by the end of the year. Maybe all of it, maybe not. It's GREAT because it includes a ton of history, art history, and art appreciation right in the content of the reading/handwriting lessons. For example, the letter flashcards show the capital letter, lowercase letter, and a piece of classic artwork to depict something that starts with the letter (i.e. a classic painting of apples for the letter "Aa"). So you get to talk about the piece of art, the time period, the style of art, and the artist if you want... and if you don't do all of that in detail, at least they're being exposed to great art while learning letters.

2) Saxon Math (Grade 1). Apparently, Saxon Math curriculum is designed so that most kids can typically start at a grade level above their official grade level if there are no issues requiring remedial help. I really like the way this curriculum is laid out. It's very easy to get organized and seems like it will be very easy to follow. And there are lots of fun activities using manipulatives that make it VERY exciting for Ladan. He has been asking for weeks when we can do a "real" math lesson!

3) Bible. We'll work through the Catechism and Scripture Memory Program that Ladan started at Clifton Baptist Church when we were still in Louisville (we're using this with our Redeemer Church kids here in Illinois as well), Chet will do some Bible lessons with him, and he'll probably help Ladan start creating a Bible timeline of sorts.

4) Science. We'll do just a few fun, totally random science experiments throughout the school year. For example, right now we're growing butterflies from caterpillars here in our home. We're observing the changes each day and recording them in a science journal. We'll also try to incorporate a few fun field trips throughout the year. Nothing too formal at all this year. We'll add more next year.

So that's the plan. We're not required in our state to school our kids until they're 7 years old, which means that I'm not required to abide by any rules regarding minimum number of days, etc. However, I've decided just to go ahead and do school for the full 176 days that will be required in the future. That way we can all practice getting into a routine while we're only doing a few subjects instead of waiting until we're doing 6 or more subjects and trying to go to school longer all at once.

Chet and I sat down over coffee a couple days ago and reviewed the school calendar I had roughly developed. We determined that we'll start school August 31 with just Bible and math. I'll still be fairly drugged and exhausted after my c-section by that point, but the math curriculum is so well laid out that Chet and I will work on it together with Ladan. That way, if there's ever a time during the school year when I'm struggling to get everything done or if another one of our kids needs more care, Chet will have been introduced to the math curriculum and can teach Ladan his lesson. I'm planning to take over math completely and add in the Phonics Museum curriculum starting September 7 or 8 if possible. This schedule should provide room in the school year for a couple of breaks and still allow us to finish our 176 school days somewhere around the beginning or middle of June.

Until we start the reading curriculum, I'll have Ladan read me a new book at least every other day to keep developing his skills. By the way, he's read at least eight books all by himself to date: The Foot Book, Green Eggs and Ham, Go, Dog. Go!, a few of the readers from his Phonics Museum set, and a couple others that I can't think of off-hand. Thankfully, he has a reading log, so I don't have to remember them all! :) We record the date he read the book, the title, the author, and his favorite part about the book. It's fun to hear what he says is his favorite part! He said his favorite part of Green Eggs and Ham was that "the guy thought he didn't like green eggs and ham, but then he tried something new, and he DID like it!" This has been very helpful for Ladan to consider as he's been asked to try some new things at meals lately. He sometimes thinks he's not going to like something, tries it, determines that he DOES like it... and then lets me know that he ALSO likes green eggs and ham. Who knows about that last part, but at least he's enjoying his reading and finding that it helps him in everyday life!

Hopefully that helps lay out the basics regarding why we're doing what we're doing in at least two areas of life. If anyone has additional ideas, please let us know.