Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Homework Debate

There has been a lot of talk recently about an article shown here.  In short there was another study done in which they "prove" that homework isn't needed.  Grades apparently don't increase with homework and there is no correlation to success from homework. 

One school in my area has decided to do away with science homework all together beginning next year.  They feel it is the teacher's job to teach the students during the day and that the kids will be fine and understand the materials.

I beg to disagree. 

Kids benefit from homework for many reasons.  My oldest daughter is a natural student and brings home great grades without putting forth too much effort.  She completes her homework daily and she and I both see a benefit to it.

She would probably still get good grades but not great ones.  In many subjects especially math there are often a couple of problems that she just doesn't understand.  She attempts her best at them and then we talk about how to solve them.  I usually make up a new problem and show her step by step how to do it then she redoes her homework.  She is a perfectionist and if she didn't have homework to show her the types of problems she had trouble with she would be devastated come test time. 

Now take my middle daughter who is not the most natural student.  She works hard for her grades.  She puts countless hours of work into her schooling every single day.  So this year when she no longer had math homework her grades TANKED.  Big time.  She is not a perfectionist she is okay with a decent grade.  No homework meant indecent grades.  She was devastated. 

Cue a long talk with the teacher about why there is no math homework and arguing my daughter's case.  Lo and behold there was math homework we could do on our own.  She now spends 10-15 minutes a night doing math homework (that the rest of the class doesn't do) and is actually achieving the highest grades on her tests.  She has so much more confidence and went from crying every day that she hated school to enthusiastically running to school each morning. 

Now when her "spelling" work is getting harder than she can handle and there is once again no homework to support her learning I know what to do.  Ask the teacher what we can do at home to improve the learning.  Guess who's idea that was - my daughter's.  Kids don't want to fail or do poorly.  Elementary aged children in particular still strive for assurance and praise.  If we can help them to succeed early on by providing them tools for success then they won't give up on themselves later. 

If my daughter hadn't gotten the homework she needed we still would have worked to improve her grades but it would have been much tougher.  Instead she is learning to ask for help and seeing that "homework" is really just more learning, she knows that she is capable of achieving more than she was.  That knowledge could have been squashed very easily if she had continued her low level of achievement.

Now I get it not all parents are home after school to do homework with their child.  I get it kids have so many other commitments that homework may be the last task of the day.  I get it that most parents don't necessarily know their kids grades until progress reports or later.  I also get it that there are kids out there who have ridiculously too much homework.  But I wholeheartedly believe that homework has many benefits.

1. Homework is a connecting force between child and parent. We get to see what they do each day and can have meaningful conversations about how they will use this later or even how they won't (yes we can laugh when our kids tell us something we learned and don't remember). 

2. Homework teaches kids good habits, it is like a chore it teaches them responsibility.

3. It can give a child that extra confidence that they are capable.  To know that they are able to finish with a slightly higher grade.

4. Doing homework alleviates time when a student just didn't understand something in class.  Maybe they had an emotional night and can't focus, maybe they are sick and just not concentrating, maybe the teacher really didn't do a great job with this lesson, homework allows them to recoup what they missed.

Hearing that schools might be doing away with homework is extremely concerning and saddening.  I agree to limit homework - no child should spend every minute from after school until bedtime doing homework.  And yes please get rid of busy work.  We should maybe even tailor homework to specific groups within the classroom (my daughter's teacher has three levels of reading comprehension homework). 

Please do your child a favor and encourage them with their homework and ask for homework in subjects that are difficult for your child.  Our kids are our future and I for one want to encourage our future to be even better than our present.

-Ash of All Trades



Friday, April 8, 2016

My Labor Story(ies)

This won't be an ugly detail oriented or nausea inducing tale of the births of my daughter's but more so how I came to accept my deliveries with the girls.  My deliveries you see didn't go according to plan - not in a horrifying or bad way - just not according to the "perfect" way I had imagined them or at least been led to believe they should go.

I have finally accepted that the outcomes of my births are all that matter not the process by which I got there and that it is 100% okay that I didn't have the unmedicated perfect birth that is socially popular right now and also the only real way to have a baby according to some.

Of course I knew labor would be hard and actually thought it would probably have a certain level of grossness to it but I also thought that since the end result would be so magically amazing that those details would elude me later.  And while the pain eluded me enough to go through labor and delivery three times the emotional pain of it not being what I imagined took quite awhile to accept.

I had it all planned out - sometime around 9 months or so I would go into labor.  I would know it was labor and suffer through as much as I could at home before heading to the hospital.  Once there my husband and I would walk and laugh, imagine the future etc etc.  Sure I had imagined that I would at some point scream in pain and cry with anguish.  Finally ending with an amazingly natural, medicine free yet exhausting birth.  The birth of my child at which point I would cry, laugh, smile, and be ecstatic.  

Let's start with my first birth, after a pregnancy with almost constant bedrest (though not full stay in bed and don't move bedrest) we had a scare.  Possible preterm labor at about 34 weeks, enough contractions to require tribulilain and a fetalfibronectin test.  Once cleared that I wouldn't deliver for at least 2 more weeks we rested a bit more easily.  Then the last two weeks settled in - the ones where I didn't want to be pregnant anymore but instead wanted my baby here with me.  I thought she would never come. 

Day after day going to work, hanging out with family, avoiding the "when will she be here" voice that was a constant nag in my head.  After work one day we headed to the Angel's Baseball game with my husbands family - a great distraction.  So great in fact that after we got home and had gone to "sleep" it didn't even cross my mind that my cramping and just overall not feeling well could be labor.  For several hours I just thought I was sick.  Fast forward to 1 a.m. and I am definitely in labor.  Walking around, taking showers, and then bam contractions are 3-4 minutes apart by 3 a.m. We called the doctor and they said to come on in.  While in the back of my mind I knew this couldn't be that easy I thought I had breezed through at least part of labor.

When I checked in around 4:30am my contractions were close together and painful but definitely bearable.  No screaming, I was actually smiling and pretty happy.  They got me hooked up to the monitors and pretty soon told me I was 6cm dilated.  Wohoo I thought!  Around 9am the doctor broke my water - I was still 6cm and she assured me this would help me progress.  Well it sure did make the contractions worse and on top of each other.  The nurses kept coming in to check on me - my contractions would end only to start again with no break.  In hindsight I think you should wait for your water to break on its own.  I think it makes the contractions worse but unnaturally so - there was no easing into them or anything.  This is just my personal opinion.

Fast forward and somewhere in the afternoon and after sitting on a birthing ball, taking multiple showers and just hanging out the contractions were bad and I wasn't progressing.  I finally gave in and agreed to some iv pain meds.  Mind you I wasn't screaming in pain, wasn't even crying, yes I was miserable but it was bearable.  The pain meds didn't really work - actually they did nothing...at all.  Finally sometime between 3 and 4 p.m. my doctor came by again and was getting concerned.  I was still 6cm and contracting like crazy.  There was no progress.  She told me that the baby was fine but her heartbeat was starting to change a little bit with each contraction and that in the next couple of hours I would need a c-section if I hadn't made any progress.  She said I would probably want an epidural for that and I agreed.  She also said she thought the epidural might help me deliver without a c-section, so I opted for it.  I felt like I was giving up, like I had failed - right in the instant I asked for it but I also knew deep down in my heart that I would stay 6cm forever and I was more terrified of a c-section than of an epidural. 

When the anesthesiologist came in he was the best.  Calmed all of my fears made me feel like I was in great hands and honestly I felt absolutely nothing while getting the epidural.  Nothing not one iota of anything.  And then - full body relief.  I felt nothing no pain nothing and I realized how exhausted I was and how beat up my body felt.

Not 30 minutes later I was dilated to 10cm and ready to push.  The epidural was so fresh though that I really couldn't push.  When my doctor realized that I couldn't push she used the vacuum and helped me deliver.  18.5 hours into labor I finally had my beautiful baby girl and life was good.  My recovery was very slow.  I had torn every way imaginable and couldn't sit, stand or walk very well for many weeks to come.  I also had no feeling in my right leg between my knee and ankle due to the epidural.  The anesthesiologist called several times at home to check on me and I had a 6 week post partum appointment as well as a 10 week since I hadn't fully healed at 6 weeks. 

For a long time after I avoided all questions about the birth of my first born.  I didn't want to tell the story at all and when I did I made sure to point out the 16ish hours I went without pain medications and glossed over the epidural and other parts. 

Then we got pregnant with our second baby and I hoped and prayed for 9 months that I could have that "perfect" delivery this time.  Yet days after my due date I was induced with pitocin and my water was broken.  Only a few hours into the delivery the Pitocin levels were so high that I was crying in pain and got the epidural quickly this time.  Good thing too she was born less than 5 hours after my induction was started.  I was able to push all on my own this time and recovered like a champ, heading to Costco just days after her birth. 

A few years later when we were pregnant with our third baby I still hoped (albeit faintly) that maybe I could go natural this time.  Conversations in my head went like this: "this is your third your body knows what to do now - this kid will slide out let's hope you make it to the hospital."  Then in my ninth month it happened I went past my due date.  My doctor said we should induce I agreed - the hospital though was full they didn't have a single bed open.  Full for three days during which I dilated at home to 5cm yet still no labor and still no room at the hospital.  Finally I went into labor and it was nothing like the two times before.  It was searing back pain contractions that started at 7 minutes apart and quickly went to 4 minutes apart.  Never mind that we lived 45 minutes from the hospital. 

While we rushed to the hospital the contractions increased in intensity and I was in the most pain of all three and it was only the beginning.  Upon admittance I was 6cm and finally felt in my heart of hearts that how I labored didn't matter just having a healthy baby did.  So I asked for an epidural and then I slept for 3 hours and woke to find out she was sunny side up hence the searing back pain.  The nurse thought she could turn her and as they did I pushed my third and final baby out in 1 push.  Full head of hair and a set of lungs that never sounded better.  I was somewhat refreshed from my nap and from not fighting labor pains this time.  I headed home quickly and went back to my normal routine and life was grand.  I took my daughter to her soccer practice and game only 3 days after leaving the hospital and nursed my sick family better in the week after delivery.  This was my easiest delivery.  I know it was my third and that definitely helped but it was also the only one in which I didn't agonize over doing this the "right" way. 

I now know in my heart of hearts that my body needed extra help it just would not birth a child naturally - at least not without much damage.  This is why some women and babies used to die during childbirth their bodies simply didn't respond the same way.  While my babies are growing up and our family is complete there is no doubt in my mind that I would have gotten an epidural if I had delivered again.  That is how my body delivers and it works for me.  My babies all arrived healthy and I was safe too and for that I am eternally grateful to our God above.

 I sure wish I hadn't beat myself up over failing at giving birth and I sure hope that no matter your stance you can refrain from asking people their birth story - it might be one they don't want to relive.  It is definitely one they don't want to risk judgment over - who cares how they got here, the miracle is that they are here.

- Ash of All Trades

Monday, April 4, 2016

School Projects

     It is that time of year when Open House looms on the calendar for all teachers and parents.  It is the perfect time for teachers to show off all that the students have learned and for parents to come to terms with the fact that their child is about to finish their current grade and move on into the future.

     With Open House comes projects.  Every teacher wants their classroom to showcase the best work and likely some pinterest inspired ideas.  While most projects occur in the classroom at this time (to surprise mom and dad.)  Naturally one or more make it home to be completed in off school hours.

     My oldest two are in the 3rd and 1st grades.  They both have projects looking right now.  My first grader came home with an assignment to learn about an animal and build a pyramid style diorama with writing, a habitat, and a poem.  Cue the complaints from parents.

     It seems in today's world parents don't want to contribute to their child's projects.  Everyone is incredibly busy with this and that and well they think the project is to complicated for a child to do. Some parents went so far as to question the principal (thankfully she agreed with the teacher).

     As is our teacher and she clearly on multiple occasions pointed out that this is the child's project.  Our job as parents is to guide them.  Don't get me wrong - mom (and some dads) have to take the kids to the library, help kiddos research on the internet, buy supplies, help construct said pyramid, and inevitably help their child with correct spelling, facts, and placement of the pieces, but it is their project.  Their work, their ideas, their creation.

I was ECSTATIC!

     I have been waiting years for the day my kids would have a project to do at home.  I couldn't wait to help my little one create this thing and make it a masterpiece.  Yet as I pondered the teacher's words: "this is the student's project" my pinterest inspired ideas vanished.  I thought of the work my daughter could do on her own and of what she would think looked amazing.  And that folks is what we did.

     My favorite sentence from her writing portion was in response to a fur seal's predator: "Orcas eat fur seals, it might be sad but it is the food chain."  I would never have written that but it put to paper her exact feelings.  She was sad that the seals would be eaten but she knew it had to happen.

     Oh we had our arguments about not wanting to do the project and not liking that her answer was wrong.  And the arguments when I didn't like her answer and thought she could do better even though she was correct.  But in the end her project was so uniquely her.  It was beautiful and a little silly, somewhat brutally honest but it was her.

     I am humbled that I was able to work on the project with her.  To see just how far she has come in this first grade year.  To see her thought process in action.  To see her cry when she heard about the orcas and the fur seal coats people make.  For her excitement to know that fur seals like seafood just like her.

     Our at home project experience was awesome and I am so glad I had this experience.  I don't want projects every week or even every month but once in awhile I think they can be great bonding tools.

     So next time your child comes home with a project - that they are likely over the moon about-- share their enthusiasm and let them know you are excited to spend time working with them and sharing in their learning.

     Now I must say adieu as I prepare materials for my other daughter's soda pop bottle model of Sacajawea and the report that goes with it.

Ash of All Trades