Freedom, Responsibility, and Leaving the Dominant Paradigm

A little over a year ago, I wrote about being in the first trimester of an unassisted pregnancy (UP), leading towards an unassisted birth, or UC (unassisted childbirth; also known as freebirth).

I wrote, in part,

"I wish I could be dumb. Ignorant. Unquestioning. Willing to worship at the altar of modern Western medicine.

A friend of mine said that her mother, when talking about birth, made the statement "...that is faith. You were willing to stand under, even when you did not understand."

And 99.9% of the time, I am content to have faith in pregnancy, faith in the process, faith in evolution. Yes, I realize the last is particularly ironic. But in those moments of doubt that come to all, every one else has something upon which to fall back. The early ultrasound, the heartbeat they heard on Doppler, the later ultrasounds, whatever.

All I have is myself. All I have to fall back upon is my own faith, and to a lesser extent, the faith in the process that is shared by Sam and by a handful of people in this world, in that I can look to their confidence and say, No, I am not insane to trust.

I don't have any particular doubts at the moment. It's just that I have the awareness that I am it. I am all that is standing, that is holding this space. It's an awareness that I will not leave this process the same person that began it. It's one thing to step outside the main paradigm for birthing, but this - this is somehow different. It's all on me.

It's scary... and it's extremely liberating and empowering."

Yes, it was and is scary. Yes, it is and was liberating and empowering. What I did not anticipate was the exhilaration.

My UP/UC baby turned six months old just over a week ago. The process of unassisted pregnancy and birth was scary at times, because I had to accept not just part of the responsibility, but rather, all of the responsibility. Taking on all responsibility is especially nerve-wracking in our society because it encourages the exact opposite action - to take on no responsibility for one's actions or the outcomes that result. In taking on the ultimate responsibility, though, I think there is immense freedom to be found.

Many times women will talk about wanting to refuse this prenatal screen or that procedure, and will ask for advice about how best to approach their provider with their desires. Many times, women find themselves compromising, and some are angry about this. However, the reason that they do not have this freedom is because they do not want to take the ultimate responsibility.

I'm not saying this as a condemnation. There are a variety of reasons that a woman may choose to have an attended birth, or may variously need an attendant at her birth, because of outstanding health issues. However, women need to understand that freedom and responsibility are joined. When an outside attendant becomes willing to take some of the responsibility, she (or he) necessarily has an investment in seeing that certain protocols are followed, those that best make she (or he) comfortable with the assumption of responsibility.

This is not a wholesale call for unassisted birthing. I don't feel that unassisted birthing should be a default state, and I definitely think that there are people that should not birth unassisted. In this, I find definite parallels between homeschooling and freebirth. Both require the parent or parents to take all responsibility for actions and outcomes. Beyond that, however, I certainly feel that both are decisions that need to be carefully made, and should not be made for the "wrong" reasons. There are many people who should never freebirth or homeschool. Quite apart from physical, mental, or emotional health, or intellectual ability, there is an inner willingness to assume all responsibility that must be present.

I found great joy in my decision to freebirth. It was a gift I was given, in exchange for the responsibility that I embraced.


2009/2010 Plans: Literature & Read Alouds

Having titles for reading aloud allows me a little more freedom in composing our literature list. This year, I've placed just four on it.

Sing Down the Moon, O'Dell.
The Hobbit, Tolkien.
Where the Red Fern Grows, Rawls.
The Hunt for Red October, Clancy.

Our literature list is much longer. We'll study these to varying degrees of depth. I have four different goals for her literature study, so the books vary widely. On one hand, I want to challenge her current reading level and have her progress. Secondly, though, I want to expose her to classic good books, many of which fall below her current reading level. Third, I want to expand on her history study with good historical fiction. Finally, I want to spend time studying some of these works in a more in-depth fashion. She's not going to be writing a high school level essay comparing and contrasting Twenty and Ten and Number the Stars, but I certainly think we can have a great discussion about the two and the time period that they both depict.

Little Women
Caddie Woodlawn and Magical Melons
Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years
Gone Away Lake
Around the World in Eighty Days
The Terrible Wave
All of a Kind Family
The Secret Garden
all of the Peter Rabbit stories
The Red Fairy Book
Peter Pan
Cheaper By the Dozen
Hero Over Here
The Enchanted Castle
A Christmas Carol
Chronicles of Narnia
Thimble Summer
A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt
Out of the Dust
The War of the Worlds
Twenty and Ten
Number the Stars
Code Talker
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
The Twenty-One Balloons
Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot
Miracles on Maple Hill
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
The Cricket in Times Square
Charlotte's Web
The Wall
A Year Down Yonder
Plain Girl
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Maniac Magee
The Wind in the Willows
Poetry, including The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems, Walter de la Mare, Carl Sandburg, and Robert Frost.

Over the summer, she's going to read Home Price, The Perilous Road, and a simplified version of Treasure Island. I have the suspicion that the full Treasure Island would intimidate her, so I want her familiar with the story; we'll likely tackle it in fifth grade.

It's a really long, full literature list, and as I said, for some books, the point is merely exposure, but if I feel like she's just reading and not getting anything out of it, we'll cut some books. On the other hand, she reads quickly.


The Year Of Hard Truths

In the next twelve months, my daughter's going to be learning about history from 1850 through the present. She's also going to learn that Santa Claus nor the Easter Bunny are real.

There's a tiny part of me that's afraid of what this will do to her.

Despite being alive on September 11, 2001, she has no idea of what happened that day. Going further in time, she has no real knowledge of assassinations, the Holocaust, or various deprivations of war. I can't help but imagine that all of this new knowledge will weigh upon her.

Given that, I suppose it's a bit cruel, on some level, to assault her with the truth about Santa Claus et al at the same time, but yet - she'll be nine years old in August. Many of her peers ceased to believe in Santa as much as two or three years ago now. If she still maintained a belief but seemed to be losing her dependence on it, I'd feel differently, I think. However, she instead clings to these fantasies, wrapping them ever tighter in imagined rationales and logic, pushing them into other parts of her life.

I want my children to have imagination, but I worry that she actually lives in the World of Make Believe. Correct as usual, King Friday? It's one thing to enjoy imagining things and to create stories. It's somehow quite another when your newly four year old can seem to distinguish more easily between reality and what is simply an enjoyable story.

It's unfortunate timing, though. My daughter will be plunged straight into history within weeks of this planned discussion, progressing quickly to the Civil War and going from there. I hope that she can look at the horrible events of recent history with some of the cheerfulness that infuses her view of today's world.


Top Two Things Learned This Year

I started the year with a different approach to planning. Instead of scheduling dates, I scheduled days, and had a separate spreadsheet that lined up the days with actual dates. That way, there was flexibility, yet it ensured we'd still finish everything that was written. I scheduled 180 days of work, since we're required to do 180 days for the state.

Therein lies the only problem. Education, of course, is more than finishing a texbook, but I forgot that cardinal rule. Accordingly, next year, I will be scheduling only 165-170 days in most subjects, allowing us to take a day here or there for classes, field trips, and other enrichment activities. The only exception would be our writing programs, which are structured for a five-day week. Still, a day where all that had to be completed was writing work would definitely accommodate other activities.

We also started using an assignment book. Each weekend, I write in the week's assignments, so that Eclectic Girl can see what is required of her for each subject each day, and mark the completed subjects as they're finished. I've also used it for teaching notes, though, and I'm wondering if I should separate the two functions next year. My teaching notes would actually be much less extensive, and could be in a small supplementary notebook easily. In general, I only need notes regarding writing, spelling, and read-aloud books. I could also use the space to jot down what I intend to do each day with Fabulous Boy.

Overall, though, the assignment book has been a huge boon. I don't think we would have been nearly as successful this year without its use.

With that said, we have seven days of school left. We've officially finished history, and both the read-aloud list and reading list have been read in their entirety. It looks like we'll be able to mark Life of Fred Fractions complete either this week or on Monday.
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"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson