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Immigration Detention: The People Along the Way

As you know this weekend was our much-anticipated immigration movie screening event, and trip to visit immigrant detainees at the Stewart Detention Center. Along with the hospitality house, El Refugio in Lumpkin, GA, which houses families coming to visit loved ones.

Through my endeavor to learn more about immigration, I can officially say from the other side that I was successful. Possibly more successful than I expected.

I learned that Stewart Detention Center is the largest detention center in the country, detaining about 1,800 immigrants at any given time. I’ve learned that it is one of MANY detention centers scattered across the U.S. that are for-profit, owned and run by corporations, such as Corrections Corporation of America, which is the owner of Stewart. I’ve learned that the CCA makes $100 a day per detainee that resides in their facility, which offers great incentive to keep detainee numbers high, and that money is paid to them from our government straight out of your tax paying pockets.

Stewart Detention Center falls in the top 10 worst detention centers in the U.S. Detention centers have ongoing issues and complaints for inadequate medical care, sexual and physical abuse, insufficient food, and high costs for communication to those outside of the facility, making contact with family members hard. I’ve learned that breaking immigration law is considered a civil offense, and not a criminal one, so detainees are denied the right to government provided legal defense.

Detention centers are primarily built in impoverished areas, away from major cities to make it difficult for families to travel to visit their loved ones. In Lumpkin there are no hotels, or public transportation options, not even a regular grocery store.

I’ve learned that our immigration policies and our high rates of deportation have destroyed many families. Thousands. Nearly 45,000 immigrant parents were deported in the first half of 2012 alone, separating them from their U.S born children. It is estimated that at least 5,000 of those children (in 22 states) now reside in our foster care system, which doesn’t account for the number of children in foster care in states unaccounted for, or those that have been orphaned by these policies that now reside with other family members living in the U.S. Husbands separated from their wives, mothers from their children, and fathers from their children.

These are just a few factoids though. Stats. Just a few, since there are so many more I could be throwing out there. And while they are disturbing and sad, they don’t put a real face to what is really happening here.

So, more important than what I’ve learned here, is what I saw.

I saw how difficult it is to navigate the detention system without guidance, and you can wholeheartedly expect to get little to no help from those running or those employed by these bureaucracies. We can mince words all we want about how detention centers aren’t prisons, but only those that haven’t been there would ever make that assumption. Or those that have a monetary or philosophical interest in them. They are very much prisons.

Stewart Detention Center is completely surrounded by high fencing topped with barbed wire. Not only one fence, but two. You can’t walk into Stewart without being buzzed into their two-gate system. You enter the first gated door, and it closes you in before allowing you to enter through the second. Detainees are only allowed one visitor per week, and families sit for hours waiting for the opportunity to visit (I waited 2 ½ hours.) Each visit is one hour long, and only 5 visits can take place at one time. These visits allow no actual contact with the detainee and take place over phone, while being separated by glass. When you go through to visit they require that you remove your shoes, empty your pockets, remove you belt, and place all belongings in a bucket so that they can be scanned. After you walk through metal detectors you are allowed your shoes back, but must replace all belongings inside a locker for the duration of your visit.

However, it wasn’t the inner workings of Stewart that made the biggest impression on me. It was the people along the way.

It was the story I heard of one man’s personal experience in hiring a coyote to take him to the border to get here. About how his group was lied to about how long it would take, so they were inadequately prepared with food and water. About how merciless coyotes can be, and that they were not allowed to rest, even the children. He described the fear of stopping, because their guide would leave them behind with no way to find their way forward or back. He described the experience as a nightmare that still haunts him today, I could hear his pain, and I cried for them. All of them. In my lifetime I will surely never understand the fear or necessity that drives so many to make that trek, or the level of bravery that it takes to make that choice.

Most of us, those “lucky” American born folks never will.

It was the people who traveled from all over to visit their loved ones. Mothers. Fathers. Wives. Children. Sisters. Brothers. Friends. The woman I spoke with who was trying to visit her husband, but was turned away after 40 minutes of waiting because they realized that he had been visited earlier in the week, so was not allowed to see him. The woman that was almost denied visitation access due to her shirt baring too much skin. The woman I met that travels every Saturday from Buford to see her husband, who has been at Stewart for the past 8 months.

And it was the man that I had the privilege, along with my husband, to spend an hour talking with that I gained the most insight from. The man who has been fighting his case and residing in Stewart since Sept. 2011. The one whose mother died from cancer shortly after his visitation request was denied to go see her. The one whose wife suffers from a heart condition, who has been without insurance since his detention began, and can no longer afford the expensive medications she needs. I listened as he expressed his fear for her, as she has been in and out of the hospital. His fear that he may never see her again, and his fear that she will die before he ever has the chance. I listened as he told us the story of how they met, and fell in love. I watched him as he cried for his life being denied him, the loss of his mother, for his wife, and I cried with him. He is scared (like so many others), and he has every reason to be.

So, those are the faces. The people behind all the stats and facts and articles. And it makes me angry. And so so sad. And scared too.

Because as my new friend, Jose described to me – the American Dream has become a nightmare.

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Border Crossings Educational Event

Last semester during my Sociology course, the topic of immigration in the United States came up. In an attempt to learn more about the barriers immigrants face, I ended up having some great conversations on Facebook with my friends, and connecting with a friend that is very passionate about immigration reform, and volunteers much of her time to helping detained immigrants and their families.

In order to learn more about a topic that I have (in the past) been sorely lacking knowledge on, and with the help of said friend, I have been helping to organize an educational event that is taking place this Friday night!

So, my local readers… Join us for an educational event on January 25th @ 6 pm to view the film, A Better Life in Avondale Estates near Decatur. A Better Life tells a typical story of Latino immigrants that bring to light many struggles that Latinos/as face in the United States. We will follow the film with a discussion, which will be a great opportunity to learn more about immigration and detention issues, and start thinking about and discussing ways to take action and work towards social change.

You can find full details for the event at it’s Facebook Listing.

Wanna know why you should care about immigration in the U.S? Watch this short 2-minute video for a brief glimpse into our private immigrant detention industry.

This Saturday, along with my husband and a group of friends, I will be driving to Lumpkin, Georgia to visit El Refugio, a hospitality house, right outside the gates of Stewart Detention Center. Its purpose is to serve the family and friends of men detained and, thus, separated from their loved ones. Stewart Detention Center is the largest immigrant detention center in the country. During our trip we will visit with detainees at Stewart Detention Center. You can look forward to reading about my experience after I get back. 🙂

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Year 2012: A Round-up on the Blog

Another year has gone by, and while I didn’t blog nearly as much as I hoped, I still managed to write a WHOPPING 93 posts in 2012. Yeah, I was surprised by that number too. I thought it would be fun to look at some of the highlights from the year.

My NUMBER 1 most visited blog from this year was…..!!!!

Stand Strong and Loud: My contribution to Blog for International Women’s Day that was hosted by Gender Across Borders and CARE. This year’s theme was “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.”

Following behind (in order) were…

Our Next School Year: The Plan: My post on this years curriculum plan, which I should probably just write a complete update post on considering we have completely ditched Time4Learning, and are now using How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, ClickNKids, living math ideas, and Pintrest to replace it. Oh, and we ditched our Road Trip USA curriculum too. I have really been reevaluating our approach to school recently, especially since we’ve been on our Winter break. This one was originally posted on a Homeschool Blog Hop.

Rethinking Education: A persuasive essay on homeschooling, outlining benefits and considerations.

Our Homeschool Space: The title is pretty self-explanatory. 😛 Another one that I did on the above mentioned Homeschool Blog Hop, which is what contributed to its popularity.

This is me… throwing down: My response post to the whole Chickfila controversy BULLSHIT over the summer. It is probably my favorite post from the past year.

Now, I figured that I would add in a couple of honorable mentions, because even though they might not have made the top five traffic-wise on my blog, they were in MY favorites when I wrote them. And really that is more freakin’ important.

Warning Snark Ahead – with a fair amount of cussing: From just last month – 5 things that I learned after the Sandy Hook shooting.

Homeschooling: An Interview with My Kids: It was just so darn cute.

Tit Terrorists?: My thoughts on how we (lactavists) talk about breastfeeding and approach our activism.

 

Get to reading the ones you missed! 😉

 

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Drugs, Prostitution & Decriminalization

So, this week my Sociology Professor asked us, “Should victimless crimes such as prostitution and recreational drug use be decriminalized?”

My answer?

Yes.

Well, what I really said was this….

When decriminalizing recreational drug use and prostitution would essentially save the United States large sums of tax revenue and resources, boost our economy, and provide for a safer worker/consumer environment for the millions that participate in these activities – a better question might be, “Why SHOULD we keep them criminalized?” These policies are not accomplishing the goals of making society safer or preventing involvement.

The United States is known for its strict drug policies, and its imposition of the harshest penalties for drugs sales and possession across the world (Szalavitz, 2009). Historically, prohibition has done little more than create dangerous and violent markets, without seeing a decrease in consumption (“Should we legalize,” 2012).  America’s “War on Drugs” is failing, with a 2.5 trillion dollar price tag and little to show for it (“Should we legalize,” 2012).

As a case study, Portugal is a great example of how decriminalization of drug use can be beneficial to a society. In 2001, Portugal became the first European country to eliminate all criminal charges for personal possession of drugs, which was done with the goals of reducing deaths and infections by focusing on prevention and treatment instead of jailing (Vastag, 2009). Since their decriminalization, the number of street drug overdoses and new HIV cases among drug users has declined, with the number of people getting treatment for drug use rising, while the number of drug users is notably lower than those in the U.S. (Vastag, 2009).

Prostitution is one of the oldest jobs in the world, and instead of the profession declining, it is growing. Prostitution in the United States is estimated to bring in 14 billion dollars a year, with over 1 million people working as prostitutes (Gorbenko & Lakomy, 2011). Anti-prostitution laws do nothing to deter the frequency of prostitution, but do aid in pushing it underground, which makes it unsafe for all participants and for our society as a whole.

Most prostitutes are at the whim of those that pimp them out, and are regularly violated, abused and raped with no way for recourse of being helped for crimes committed against them. Some of this can be contributed to the non-reporting of crimes for fear of arrest for solicitation, but also for the abuse that prostitutes experience directly from law enforcement by way of assault and rape. Also, anti-prostitution laws and the enforcement of them are unequal in their attention and target prostitutes, not their clientele, which account for only 10% of all arrests (Gorbenko & Lakomy, 2011).

Laws against prostitution are unjustified and hypocritical. In no other way does government interfere in our sex lives and determine when, how or why we are allowed to have sex. Pornography is legal. Government isn’t out policing the number of men or women that marry (and have sex) with people of high financial backgrounds purely for financial gain.  Or people that are promiscuous is their behaviors, having sex with relative strangers after being bought dinner or drinks on  dates. If sex for money is what defines prostitution, should we be investigating all circumstances involved in citizen’s sexual activities to rule out the possibility of compensation in any form?

Prostitution and drug laws cost us money. A great deal of it. The U.S accounts for 25% of the world’s prisoners, but our high imprisonment rates have done little to cut down on the frequency of these “crimes.” (“Should we legalize,” 2012). Enforcement of these laws drains our police resources, clogs up our court system, and wastes our time, which could be better allotted to real crimes. Crimes that actually aren’t victimless, like those committed against people and property.

At the end of the day, the main motivators behind these laws are religious, rooted in societies definition of morality, and are used to unfairly target minorities and other social groups. None of which have any place in the making of government policy.

References

Gorbenko, M., & Lakomy, A. (2011, November 12). Prostitution: The ‘world’s oldest’ and most dangerous profession.

Should we legalize drugs? [Radio series episode]. (2012). In NPR.

Szalavitz, M. (2009, April 26). Drugs in Portugal: Did decriminalization work?. TIME Magazine,

Vastag, B. (2009, April 7). 5 years after: Portugal’s drug decriminalization policy shows positive results. Scientific American,

 

Funnily, this assignment was only supposed to be a discussion post for my class and not a full essay, but once I started writing about the topic, I realized I had a good deal I wanted to say, and I still only managed to cover a small portion of it. Maybe one day I’ll  have the time and opportunity to do a much deeper study to build more thorough cases for both.

Also, I haven’t answered to whether or not I support legalization and regulation for both.

1 – becasue that wasn’t my assignment

and

2 – because I’m not entirely sure to what extent I feel it would be good to regulate either, if at all. I’ll have to think and research on it more.

 

Here are some resources worth checking out:

NPR Debate: Should We Legalize Drugs? – A panel of experts — including former Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson — tackled that question in the latest installment of Intelligence Squared U.S. They faced off two against two in an Oxford-style debate on the motion: “Legalize Drugs.”

Washington Post: Should the U.S. Legalize Hard Drugs? – Some really compelling points that I didn’t even touch on in my post.

Prostitution: The ‘World’s Oldest’ and Most Dangerous Profession – Filled with a great deal of stats on prostitution.

Prostitution Law Reform: Defining Terms – Understanding the difference between decriminalization and legalization.

 

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This is me… throwing down.

Today, I sat idly flipping through a Star magazine, trying to kill a few minutes while I waited for my stylist to finish up with another client so that I could get a trim. I can’t say I was shocked, when the 2 stylists closest to me and their clients started talking about the Chick-fil-a controversy. I mean, who isn’t talking about it right now??!! I wish I could say they were saying things that made my heart happy and caused me to think, “Hey! Kindred spirits!” It was more in a way that made my blood pressure go up and I felt an extreme urge to throw down. However, I refrained. Barely. In the end I knew it would be a pointless battle, just like many of the others I’ve had this week. Or in the past. And will likely have again in the future. The one I’m waging at this very moment…

I sat there easily listening to their conversation, while they took no notice of my being there. No care for the teenage girls listening. What if I were gay? Or one of those teenage girls? Or both? Or even one of the people participating in that conversation? How would all of these little conversations make me/them feel?  The one today or one of the thousands I can find just about anywhere on the internet right now. If there is one thing that this CFA controversy has surely succeeded in doing, it has been to pull down the walls that made being anti-gay socially unacceptable. That used to be one of those things people *mostly* just kept on the down low. Oh, but no more! “CFA” has deemed being anti-gay a wholesome Christian value and that has everyone with the same values(however misguided), stepping over lines they wouldn’t have once crossed. I miss those days.

Yesterday, thousands of people flocked to their local Chick-fil-a’s, so they could effectively and “on their turf”, support CFA and give the gay community the finger. A message sent out to the roughly 9 million people that identify as LGBT; it was surely a job well done. I wonder how many LGBT youths were dragged to CFA with their parents yesterday and forced to show their support for a mentality that treats them as if they are less than people? That there is something WRONG about them.

 

So here’s the thing…

Research from the Family Acceptance Project… “shows that LGBT youths “who experience high levels of rejection from their families during adolescence (when compared with those young people who experienced little or no rejection from parents and caregivers) were more than eight times likely to have attempted suicide, more than six times likely to report high levels of depression, more than three times likely to use illegal drugs and more than three times likely to be at high risk for HIV or other STDs” by the time they reach their early 20s.”

And now, not only do they get to feel that rejection in their homes, they can blatantly feel it everywhere they turn. Great job, folks!

My brilliant friend, Amanda, gave me the idea of trying to take away from all the negative that is being put out there, and do something good. So, instead of throwing my money at hate, I’ll opt to take the money I could have blown on chicken sandwiches and waffle fries yesterday, and give it to the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBT and questioning youths. With the influx of hate spreading right now, I would place bets on the fact that they could use the extra help.

[box] BTW, for those that think this whole thing is still just about one guy’s religious beliefs, then you obviously haven’t given any of this very much thought.[/box]

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Stand Strong and Loud

Today on International Women’s Day, I am reminded of how far we have come, how deserving we are, but also of how far we still have to go. This is the third year that Gender Across Borders and CARE have hosted Blog for International Women’s Day. There are over 200 blogs participating in this uplifting event, and I am happy to count myself among them for the first time; this year’s theme is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.”

At times, I feel very discouraged when I think about the challenges that we still face, and the ones that our girls will face as they grow; the battles my daughter will endure.

In today’s world, many still view women as being an “inferior” sex, and you can see this mentality reflected back to us in many areas of our lives. Women make less money, have less opportunities for promotional opportunities. We are told how to birth our children, and how to feed them. As women, we are objectified; society defines our sexuality for us, placing value on our bodies. Literal value.

We live in a culture where sexual violence against women has been normalized. It isn’t uncommon to hear people “poke fun” at the issue of rape, especially in the entertainment industry, and to blame the victims of sexual assaults, because of course no woman would get raped if she weren’t “asking” for it, if she hadn’t dressed so “slutty”, or acted like she wanted it… well, you know, until she didn’t.

 All of these things are apparently okay through the eyes of our society. We have inadequate laws established to help prevent or to punish people that would take our human rights away from us, and on the political level there seems to be a big push bent among some politicians on serving their own moral agendas, at the expense of our rights.

So yes, discrimination towards women is not dead, and will affect us throughout our lifetimes. When I think about how we as a culture, and as individuals can educate and inspire girls in a positive way, my first thought seems to stem back to parents. We need to start at home. We don’t live in a world that looks out for our best interests, so that task is left to us; it is our responsibility to teach this to our growing girls, and the time to start is now.

As women, we first have to stop hating ourselves. Hating ourselves for not measuring up, or because we feel inferior, and to stop hating other women that don’t embrace the dogma we have adopted as defining womanhood.

This is about RE-teaching ourselves, and passing on empowerment to our children. Positive empowerment. Though, this isn’t just about what we can do for our girls, this is also about our boys. We can set positive examples for them, teach love and respect, for all people. We need to show them that they ARE capable of anything, and that society, with it’s labels that they like to place on our sexes, does not define us. Those labels are not an indicator of who we are, or what we should be, and that we have the capacity for so much more than being a label.

My daughter, Addison, is about to turn two. She does not yet understand the world that we live in, but it one of my biggest goals to prepare her for it. I want her to value herself and others, stand strong and loud, and always be willing to fight for the things that she believes in.

Our children, all of our children, will be the key to a more inspiring future.

 

(Note to readers: It doesn’t miss my attention that some of the issue’s I have raised do not apply solely to women. 🙂 )

 

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Blog for International Women’s Day

I just signed myself up to to participate in this year’s Blog for International Women’s Day! This year’s theme is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures,” and I will be addressing the question of  “How can we, as a culture and as members of the global community, involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way?”

 

I would love to make this a collaborative effort, if anyone would like to weigh in their thoughts on this important question. You can email me at [email protected], if you would like to contribute.

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Rethinking Education

After my son was first born, I remember spending hours snuggled up with him, enjoying the feel of his soft skin, and that fresh baby smell. I took pleasure in the newness of motherhood, and reveled in my feelings of protectiveness and love. In those early days I indulged in daydreams about all the things we would eventually do together; I developed this vision of how I wanted our lives to be, and the opportunities that I wanted my children to have that had been lacking in my youth.

During that time, one of the things that caught my attention, were my feelings about my experiences in public schools. I felt that public schooling had few positives to offer me, and many negatives, so I began to worry about how these things would potentially impact my son and my future children. My hopes for my children have always been for their childhood to be centered in family, and for them to learn through living. Ultimately, I felt like those things couldn’t thrive to their fullest in the public school system, so I began immersing myself in research, trying to learn about alternative forms of education.

The information that I found astounded me, and the culmination of my exploration into the world of education, left me with the conviction that homeschooling would be the best choice for us. For parents that are concerned about the quality of their children’s education, homeschooling provides many of the things that seem hard to find in our public schools; the potential for quality-rich curriculum, approaching children as individuals with different learning styles and needs, and a more positive social environment for children to grow.

Public education has always had the goal of being “a pathway to opportunity” by giving education to all children, many of which might not have otherwise had any (Ravitch 241). While this is a noble goal, and a necessary part of society, we seem to be missing the mark on giving children an education of worth, as we rank average in education among other developed countries (“USA Today”). In her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Diane Ravitch, the former Assistant Secretary of Education writes, “At the present time, public education is in peril. Efforts to reform public education are, ironically, diminishing its quality and endangering its very survival. We must turn our attention to improving schools, infusing them with the substance of genuine learning and reviving the conditions that make learning possible” (242).

The president, leading experts in education, teachers, and even parents admit that our education system isn’t working for our children, but no one can seem to agree on the best ways to implement positive change. School reforms that actually work could still be many years off.  For those of us with school-aged children, these reforms might not come into effect until after our children have graduated.

Our current reform, No Child Left Behind, has it’s main focus on accountability and assessments of schools, teachers, and curriculum, which is judged primarily through statewide-standardized tests. (Popham 14 -18) In theory, holding our schools to a higher standard sounds like an excellent idea. However, since the implementation of this reform, there has been great pressure put on schools to show adequate yearly progress through testing scores, else they are labeled as “failing.” This has influenced many schools to follow strict curriculum guidelines, with the purpose of bringing up test scores. While other schools flounder with no set curriculum, leaving children to a “regime of basic skills and no content at all” (Ravitch 237). Emphasis has been put on the subjects of reading and mathematics, leaving less time for history, science, music, art, and physical education (Rubenstein).

Programs, such as these, don’t allow for variation or creativity. There is no flexibility, as the structure of the system is built around “average” children. This leaves many falling through the cracks. The innovative teachers, the ones willing to think outside the box and inspire learning, are the ones we most want to be teaching our children. Yet, many of those very same teachers don’t stray from the rigid rules set forth by administration for fear of being labeled “failing.” This results in children and teachers with little enthusiasm for school.

 Horsey, David. “Dismal learning is not the path to success” Cartoon. Seattlepi 7 Oct. 2010. Web.

There are amazing teachers in the public school system, schools that are above average, and even entire states that seem to fair better in the department of education, than the rest of the country. Sadly, we have little way of guaranteeing that our children fall into the category of youths that receive those benefits. We are bound by the school district that our homes sit in, and by the teachers assigned to our children. It is a small majority of people that can pick up their homes and move, just for the right to be in a better school district. Ultimately, we have no choice in the quality of education our children receive in school, leaving us with only the hope of lucking out.

As of 2007, the government estimates that there are 1.5 million children homeschooling in the U.S. In the four years since those figures were acquired, that number has likely grown considerably, as homeschooling has become more widespread (Toppo). While you lack in choices in public schools, you overflow with choices in homeschooling. Today, due to the popularity of homeschooling, there is no end to the options you have in curriculum for your children. All children learn differently, and families prescribe to different methodologies when it comes to education; there really is something for everyone. You could spend hours just researching the different philosophies, and investigating the curriculums available.


We are all individuals. Do you know anyone in your life that is exactly like you? Someone that learns the same way you learn? Someone that enjoys or excels at the same things you do? Well, children are the same way. One might excel in language arts, and flounder in mathematics. One might be an overall slower learner, or someone that churns through new concepts at a fast pace. You have to meet children where they are at in their learning, if our goal is to have well-educated children. With classroom sizes of twenty students or more, how can public school teachers accommodate everyone equally?

Children instinctively want to learn; sometimes this instinct seems to be defused in the school system. Children are typically in school six to seven hours per day, and can sometimes look forward to upwards of two hours of homework time at night depending on grade level, and the curriculum being used. When you are homeschooling, you can free up many hours in the day for self-motivated learning. Self-motivated learning is one the biggest qualities I aspire to instilling in my children, because I feel that is how information is best remembered. Think about the things that you know the most about; even as adults, we tend to retain the things that we actively sought to learn.

When self-motivated learning is encouraged, and then flourishes, it never fails to amaze me what you will see children accomplish. When left to their own devices they might take on projects like writing and acting in dramatic plays, starting websites or blogs, building and repairing computers, wood working, community service, and other experiments in life. It isn’t unusual to see them start their own businesses at a younger age. I once met a very impressive 9-year-old homeschooled girl, running an exhibitors table at an event, selling beautiful jewelry that she had created. She was quite passionate about her work, and for me that was a perfect example of what I wanted for my children as they grew.

Proponents for public schooling tend to hold strongly to the belief that being in the school system is the only way to socialize children; homeschoolers don’t know how to interact with people or function in the “real” world. I wonder if being surrounded by their still-maturing peers for the majority of their time is really socializing our children in a good way? The socialization of our children in violence, profanity, drugs, peer pressure, and blatant sexuality are very realistic expectations during the school experience.

Bullying in schools has become an epidemic in the United States. Although, not a new problem, the far reach of the Internet has made it possible for bullying to follow children home, and suicides caused from bullying are showing up more frequently in the media. According to a 20/20 special called Bullied to Death in America’s Schools,  “160,000 kids per day miss school because they are too afraid to go. (Dubreuil, and McNiff)” This is a very disheartening number to me, and realistically it is important for people to understand that many kids that are being bullied do not speak to school faculty or parents about the problems they’re having.

It is the responsibility of you, as parents, to ensure that your children are exposed to a variety of different social situations, and have the opportunity to grow friendships. Homeschooled children actually tend to spend more time in the “real” world, while other kids are stuck in an institution for the majority of their days. They interact and form friendships with children of all ages and backgrounds, as well as adults. It has been my experience, as a public schooled person, and someone that has been living quite successfully in the “real” world for many years now, that there is not much correlation between your experiences in school, and the ones you will have once you are no longer there. Now we have new longitudinal studies that are showing that, “Not only are home-schoolers actively engaged in civic life, they also are succeeding in all walks of life” (“Washington Times”).

The social outlets available to homeschooled children are numerous, especially when you live in an urban area, you tend to have multiple options on groups to associate yourself. The size, goals, and philosophies of individual groups will vary, but typically you can expect a sense of friendship, support, and community within them. They plan outings, such as park days, field trips, and parent’s events; while some other groups, like cooperatives, may have parents volunteer to teach classes for the children in subjects that they excel.

My family keeps membership with a large homeschool cooperative, which has about 90 families total. Very diverse families make up our group, and it has been an amazing resource for us. Every Wednesday morning, my son takes three hours of classes, taught by other parents. This affords us the benefit of being able to spend time with friends, take advantage of the knowledge base of others, and gives my son the experience of a “school-like” setting, in which he is learning how to take instruction from someone other than my husband or myself.

Picture from my son’s Fun with Nature class, performing community service by cleaning up the park.

Another strongly held assumption is that parents do not have the ability to adequately teach their children at home. Although, I don’t believe testing is the only way to determine how much a child knows or how successful their schooling has been, the most recent large scale study done on the success of homeschoolers showed that, “the average home-schooler scored 37 percentile points higher on standardized achievement tests than the public school average” (“Washington Times”).

You are your child’s first teacher, and regardless of whether you have any specialized training in teaching, no teacher will ever know or understand your child the way that you do. This within itself offers a strong foundation to build a child’s education upon. We are parents. We will never get things just right, all the time. We will make mistakes, and we will learn from them. We can always look for help; resources for parents abound, including the Internet, tutoring, and online school options with access to experienced teachers. If you need it, you can find it! You should view homeschooling with your children as an adventure, one where you both learn and grow together.

Lastly, some people feel concerned about homschooled children’s ability to get into college. As the number of homeschooled children rises, more colleges actively seek them for their schools; you will find no shortage of colleges working tables at large homeschool conferences around the United States. Colleges are also reaching out to these children in other ways, such as advertising in homeschooling magazines, and offering specialized scholarships.  Prestigious schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT, now all accept homeschooled students, making the choice of colleges for students fairly unlimited (Romanowski 127).

Homeschooling is a time investment, and is surely not one that every parent can or would be willing to make. It requires that you spend most of you time with your children, which let me be honest, can be emotionally and physically draining at times. This is a huge commitment, aside from doing actual schoolwork, you also have to take on lesson planning, field trips, and researching topics on which you need a better understanding; it can be a very timely exploit.

Every parent has to choose what will work best for their family; maybe homeschooling isn’t for your family. Parents can offset some of the potential negative aspects of public schooling for their children by keeping the lines of communication open. Talk to your children, and see if there are areas that they are struggling. You can involve children in extra curricular activities, community services, and tutoring as you feel your children need or would enjoy doing them. There are also other education options, such as charter schools, private schools, and schools of educational philosophy, like Waldorf or Montessori. Remember that all of life is an educational experience, and take advantage of those teachable moments!

My son is in Kindergarten now, and we are only in the beginnings of our homeschooling journey. Having experience in reality, and not just in theory, has left me with many revelations. I must confess, homeschooling can be hard, and is rarely convenient. There are days when I just want to give it up, days when I want to cry in frustration, and days that we fight.

Then, there are those moments that make it feel worth it; we have our leisurely mornings, still snuggled in bed when the school buses drive by, our impromptu educational moments, and all those times that we get to experience as a family that would otherwise be lost. Though, my absolute favorite moments are the ones when my son realizes he just learned something new, that he “gets it,” and the look of pure joy and elation that I get to see on his face. That is when I feel like I come full circle, and I know that despite some of the sacrifices, ensuring quality education and experiences for my children, and living life experientially with them is worth it.

* This is an academic paper, originally written for one of my English Composition classes. 🙂

 

Resources

Types of Homeschooling

Charlotte Mason

Classical

Eclectic

Montessori

Online

Traditional 

Waldorf 

Unit Studies

Unschooling

Books

Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything

The Everything Homeschooling Book: All you need to create the best curriculum and learning environment for your child 

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home

The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom

Websites

Homeschooling Reviews – Reviews on curriculum

Rainbow Resource Center

Home School Legal Defense Association

 

Works Cited

Dubreuil, Jim, and Eamon McNiff. “Bullied to Death in America’s Schools.” ABC 20/20. ABC, 2010. Web. 23 Feb 2012.

. “HOME-SCHOOLING: Socialization not a problem.” The Washington Times. N.p., 2009. Web. 23 Feb 2012.

. “In ranking, U.S. students trail global leaders.” USA Today. The Associated Press, 2010. Web. 24 Feb 2012.

Popham, W. James . America’s “Failing” Schools: How Parents and Teachers Can Cope with No Child Left Behind. 1st ed. New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004. 14-18. Print.

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. 1st ed. New York: Perseus Books Group, 2010. 237-242. Print.

Romanowski, Michael H. “Revisiting the Common Myths about Homeschooling.” Clearing House. 2006: 127. Print.

Rubenstein, Grace. “No Child Left Behind: The Good And The Bad.” Parenting . Parenting Magazine, n.d. Web. 23 Feb 2012.

Toppo, Greg. “More higher-income families are home schooling their children.” USA Today. USA Today, 2009. Web. 23 Feb 2012.

 

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Numbed Bliss or Agonizing Pain?

My fourth essay for class, a compare and contrast essay. I made an 88 on it. 🙂

 

Numbed Bliss or Agonizing Pain?

Anyone who enjoys watching television for entertainment has likely viewed a dramatic birth scene, like the one in the movie, Nine Months. Julianne Moore’s character, Rebecca, is about to have dinner when her water suddenly breaks in the restaurant, “Honey! My water broke!” Panic then ensues; there is the rush to the hospital, in which her husband Samuel, played by Hugh Grant, is driving extremely recklessly. Rebecca is already having strong contractions, in severe pain, and stressed out. She is rushed on a gurney through the hospital, screaming in agony, and in agitation at anyone who talks to her. Samuel yells at the doctor, “Can’t you give her something for the pain??!!”

Rebecca never does get her much wanted epidural (Columbus). Granted, the scene is a mixture of drama and hilarity, but this is a reflection of our birth culture, and is fundamentally a contributing factor to our opinions and perceptions surrounding birth. However, there are more points to consider in regards to pain management for labor and birth; it is not just a simplistic choice between numbed bliss and agonizing pain.

We live in a society where it is very beneficial as consumers to investigate the options available to us. When it comes to deciding what you want during your birth, it is important to know the positives and the negatives of the choices that you have. Then, with all the information available, you can make the best choices suited for you. This is also what is known as informed consent.

Natural birth, for my purpose, is defined as birth without pain medication being used during the course of labor. There are numerous ways for women laboring without medication to gain relief from their contractions. These techniques can include massages, movement, positional changes, and being submerged in water. Simple things like dim lighting, music, focused breathing, and even prayer can be comforting (Kitzinger 189-225). Possibly the most effective comfort measure a woman can have during a natural labor is being surrounded by supportive people. A doula, which is a labor support person that is trained to help laboring women on a physical and emotional level, is a terrific addition to a woman’s support team; regardless if they are having a medicated birth or an unmedicated one.

Other than the obvious benefits of being able to avoid the risks of medication by choosing to have a natural birth, there are actually several others that don’t usually get much consideration. Pain during birth, is pain with a purpose. It tells you what you need to do to birth your baby. The sensations of labor are a guide, which promotes you to move in ways that will help your labor progress and move your baby into a more optimal position for birth (Goer 138). Women that give birth naturally are statistically more likely to have an easier recovery after birth, and are less likely to need many commonly used, risky interventions such as forceps, vacuum extraction, and cesarean section (“Promoting Pregnancy Wellness”).

The downside to natural labor is that you will feel it. All of it! For some women this negative will outweigh all others, but not every woman considers this to be a bad thing. It is important to change the context of how we think about labor pain. The experience of childbirth is hard to compare to anything else that we do in life, but it does not necessarily equate to suffering (Goer 139). It is a pain that only lasts for the duration of your labor, and culminates with the birth of your child. It comes and goes, giving you the opportunity to rest during this time. Labor does not normally begin excruciatingly painful; it progresses and builds, becoming stronger as the birth becomes more imminent, while our body supplies us with a hormonal cocktail designed specifically for helping us go through labor.

This is an image of mom laboring in water with support of her doula and son.

From Kitzinger, Shelia. The Complete Book of Pregnancy & Childbirth.

4th ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. 299. Print.

Epidurals are the most commonly used form of pain medication amongst laboring women; about 76% of all births take place with the use of an epidural (Declercq, Sakala, Corry, and Applebaum). This is because they offer the promise of taking the pain of childbirth completely away. Epidurals are injected into the outer membrane of the spinal cord, where a small plastic tube is left in place, which continuously drips medication (Kitzinger 310). Epidurals have a numbing effect on women throughout their torso and pelvis, so that they do not feel their contractions, but in some cases it may cause no feeling in a woman’s entire lower half of her body.

Image from Goer, Henci. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth.

1st ed. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1999. 130. Print.

 

The majority of the time epidurals will give mothers what they most want, which is the ability to feel none of the pain, and stay alert and coherent during the birth of their child. However, in about 15% of women, epidurals will not remove all pain, at which point it can be harder for some women to cope with the pain of labor due to their inability to move (Declercq, Sakala, Corry, and Applebaum). Epidurals can be especially helpful in long, hard labors, and seem to promote dilation in labors where women are fearful, stressed out, exhausted, or may not be able to relax; these can all contribute to stalling the progression of labor.

Ironically, one of the more common risks of epidural use is the slowing of labor, which generally happens when an epidural is given too early in labor, before good contraction patterns have been established. This results in the use of a drug called Pitocin to help speed up labor (Goer 132 -34). Pitocin is a synthetic drug meant to produce effects similar to the hormone Oxytocin, which is the hormone our bodies naturally produce during labor that cause contractions. However, it does not mimic our body’s natural contractions. Pitocin contractions tend to be much stronger, longer, and closer together. This can interfere with the oxygen supply that baby receives through mom’s placenta and can cause distress in the baby (Goer 133).

 

This is an image of a mom laboring with an epidural.

From Kitzinger, Shelia. The Complete Book of Pregnancy & Childbirth.

4th ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. 341. Print.

 

Monetarily, the cost of a medicated birth will cost more than a natural birth. The estimated cost of an epidural can range from $1000 and up, which includes hospital, and anesthesiologist fees (Mathews). Then, there are the potential costs of associated complications from epidurals that can make that amount still higher (Atherton, Feeg, and El-Adham). Planning for a natural birth raises the odds of saving on costs, but birth is not something that always goes as planned, so these incurred costs cannot always be avoided.

Birth is a momentous time in the lives of a family and nothing will affect you so profoundly as the birth of your children. While, how you give birth doesn’t define you as a mother, it can sometimes affect how you feel about motherhood and yourself. Traumatic birth is something that is very prevalent in our society, is experienced by women on both sides of the spectrum, and can put a mother lead at higher risk for postpartum mood disorders. Women that have experienced both a medicated and unmedicated birth will vary in their feelings about each.

Some women feel that their epidurals made them feel like bystanders in their birth, cut off from the experience, and lacking in control. As if their birth was something done to them, not something that they actively did themselves. Women who have birthed naturally may feel like their birth was empowering, something that they accomplished; that their birth brought them closer to their partner, and that as a mother it left them confident that they could do anything (Iorillo). Others feel more of a sense of control from their epidurals; having no painful memories associated with the experience of birthing their child, made the experience a more positive one.

The potential risks associated with epidurals that I have mentioned really only scratch the surface of what is actually a much longer list. However, for some women who do not know what to expect during labor, are unprepared for coping with labor, or that really don’t want to experience a natural labor, an epidural may be the best option for them. Women that worry about the risks related to medicated birth, and want to have a less medicalized experience would be better suited to a natural birth.

It is essential to remember that birth is as unique as the person experiencing it, and that despite what plans you may have for your birth, these may always change in the moment. It is best to be prepared for all possible paths that might be followed; an exceptional way to do this is by taking an independent childbirth class. There is nothing more inspiring than a woman’s ability to give life and love. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to give birth, just the best way for you.

Works Cited

Atherton, Martin J., Veronica Decarolis Feeg, and Azza Fouad El-Adham. “Race, Ethnicity, and Insurance as Determinants of Epidural Use: Discussion.” Medscape Today. Jannetti Publications, Inc, 2004. Web. 4 Feb 2012.

Columbus, Chris, dir. Nine Months. Perf. Huge Grant, and Julianne Moore . 20th Century Fox, 1995. Film.

Declercq, Eugene R., Carol Sakala, Maureen P. Corry, and Sandra Applebaum. “Listening to Mothers II.” Report of the Second National U.S. Survey of Women’s Childbearing Experiences. Childbirth Connection, 10 2006. Web. 3 Feb 2012.

. “Epidural Anesthesia.” Promoting Pregnancy Wellness. American Pregnancy Association, n.d. Web. 3 Feb 2012.

Goer, Henci. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. 1st ed. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1999. 132 -39. Print.

Iorillo, Maria, prod. It’s My Body, My Baby, My Birth. Stormproof Filmz, 2007. DVD.

Kitzinger, Shelia. The Complete Book of Pregnancy & Childbirth. 4th ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. 189-310. Print.

Mathews, Anna. “Tallying the Cost to Bring Baby Home.” The Wallstreet Journal. N.p., 2009. Web. 4 Feb 2012.

 

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Tit Terrorists?

Breastfeeding Nazis. Being called superior, condescending and judgmental. These are just some of the not-so-nice things I have heard said about lactavists.

I have counted myself amongst lactavists for the past 4 years. In the beginning, my first thoughts when hearing those kinds of insults about lactavists were defensive ones. People that would say that about lacatvists obviously don’t understand. They don’t understand that we are coming from a place of passion! If they really knew what I KNOW then they would feel the same way I feel. Blame it on ignorance, because we all know that if every woman were as smart as me, then they would obviously think exactly the way I do. (Sarcasm) I say that sarcastically now, but there was a time where I really felt that way.

Some people might assume that those kinds of remarks would come only from women that are hard-core promoters of formula feeding. The mothers who formula fed all their children and firmly believe that there is no notable differences between the two. I have been noticing though, that that doesn’t alway seem to be the case. There are many women that support breastfeeding, have breastfed their children or are currently breastfeeding their children, that don’t have positive feelings towards lactavists and wouldn’t want to count themselves amongst them.

Why is that?

Recent events have shown an upsurge on Facebook amongst  lacatavists , posting about the horrors of formula feeding. I really have to take a moment to thank a friend of mine. Reading her blog this past year about her trials, her thoughts & feelings about a breastfeeding relationship she had originally wanted and ended up not having and the emotions she has felt through it all, has gone a long way to opening my eyes about the WAY we talk about breastfeeding and the profound effect that it can have on all different types of women.

 

These ads were created to demand honesty in formula advertising. Who is the demand being made to though? Are formula companies seeing these ads? Or just thousands of mothers across the internet? False advertising isn’t a new idea. Check out most items on any given shelf in your grocery store and you will see some. If we want there to be more honesty in advertising, is this the most productive way to try and achieve it?

Is this about educating mothers? Pretend for a second that you are a mother who doesn’t know about the awesomeness of your breasts and how amazing breastfeeding is… yadayadayada. What would you think if you saw this posted somewhere? Do you feel educated after reading it?

Does it strike you as condescending? Or would it?

This is the ingredients off of the back of a formula can. So, what if this were captioned along the lines, “Another baby died from formula this week. Crap in a can.”?

So, what does that make mothers feel? To read that? For us breastfeeding mothers, it surely makes us feel even more awesome and superior for our choice to do “what is best for our baby”. What about every other mother out there?

Do we care?

I love breastfeeding. I breastfed my son until he was a few months shy of 4. Those last 3 months for him, he was tandem nursing with his sister, who is still nursing at 22 months. I probably have quite a bit more nursing to look forward too. I think that it is important for women to breastfeed in public so that other women can see it. The more often it is seen, the more it will seem less of an oddity. I think sharing the positives about breastfeeding is important. There are so many. I just also think that the way that we approach talking about breastfeeding and formula feeding should be and can be done in a more thoughtful and considerate way.

Think… COMPASSION. Because at the end of the day you can’t force women to think the way you do. You can’t strong arm them into it. You can’t treat them like they are stupid in hopes that they will believe it and then want to be “smarter”. Just like you. And many of them do know what you know. Maybe they made a different choice or they didn’t really HAVE a choice.

Obviously, not all women will be offended by those kinds of lactavist tactics but I think the numbers are higher than most of us would  think. Some people will be offended no matter what you say or how you say it, but I know it is hard for me to remember that not everyone thinks and feels the way I do. Or the majority of the people that make up “my world”. My world view has become very narrow. I know that in the past I have made similar types of posts or said things that weren’t very thoughtful. It makes me wonder how I have made people feel. My friends? My family?