Monday, September 24, 2012

Finding out your child doesn’t fit ‘normal’

  One area in which we’ve never had typical reactions has been the disability one. Reading a book of Deaf people’s stories has certainly driven home what i’ve always known-the husband and I are seriously weird in our blase attitudes to the differences in our Shorty. Like the husband said ‘All these people cry and grieve for their child. We just wanted to know what colours we could get hearing aids in!’

  But then there’s never been any doom and gloom. Upon counting fingers and toes at birth and satisfying myself that the gas hadn’t screwed my sight up any more than it is naturally, we shrugged it off. There’s video of us fanning out his hands, an hour or so after birth, exclaiming, ‘Aren’t they COOL!’ There’s never been much consideration of hacking bits of him off to make him fit in, just like a tummy tuck after having my twins was never considered for myself. Cosmetic surgery is cosmetic surgery in my head. It was a complete shock, the morning of his birth, to be told that if his extra bits had been discovered at the 20 week scan I would have been advised to terminate. I remember being completely pole-axed, clutching my perfectly healthy new baby to me, thinking that if events (and my views) were different, he wouldn’t be here at all, because of a ‘just in case’ view. Let’s get rid of him, just in case he’s not average! Kill off those differences!

  The strongest emotional reaction i’ve had was to the geneticist who delivered the diagnosis of his syndrome. As i’d already deduced with Dr Google it was most likely that one there was no surprise-except the surprise of him being such a bastard about it. Telling us our son would most likely be a vegetable for life, and not to have more children because they could be too, and wreck our life. Treating him like a liability. I should have gone with my urges and spat on him, I really should have. Especially now, considering our six year old bike riding, tree climbing, wrestling ‘vegetable’. And he got the syndrome wrong, too, by the latest assessment (three years ago, mostly because it really doesn’t matter what label they stick him with).

  But as I tell everyone I can (probably tiresomely, but can’t say I care), having a child with a syndrome is not a bad thing. Just a different thing. It can actually be a really positive thing, if you let it. Differences are so feared in our society. So many children are not even given the chance to live, with parents deciding they ‘couldn’t handle it’ and opting out. How many would make that same decision if exposed to real children and real parents who are handling their situation positively and joyfully? Rather than a bastard geneticist’s view? People take to Shorty instinctively, in a way they don’t to my other kids. They sense his happiness and contentedness, his perfect ability to live right now, his freely given affection and friendship. Qualities that adults practice and strive to obtain.

  Flawed? Or maybe even better off than the rest of us. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Home ed-as it is now

  I wrote this post a few months back, and it got way out of hand very quickly, to the point where I just had far too much to add to it, and gave up. So i’m just going to publish it as it is. So think of it as ‘home ed-as it was four months ago’!
  How do I sum up the natural education of five children in one blog post? Just cataloguing one day would be a mammoth read. We still unschool, and most likely always will-it’s so perfectly suited to our life (and my hatred of and inability to keep to schedules and regimentation), and the sheer amount they learn about a huge range of subjects is mind-boggling. I have finally gotten rid of all school-mind, relaxed and accepted that yes, unschooling really DOES work for young children. Meanwhile, the kids happily got on with it, as they always have. After our travelling we’re sticking close to home and enjoying our comforts while we can.
  Our most useful thing lately has been this whiteboard, picked up from a closing-down sale. The many things that are read, commented on, then lost in the million other same things can now be recorded in the lounge room and re-read until they’re stuck in those little heads. They choose what they’d like to put up there, like the poem, Auslan and Word Spy stuff below, and we change it every week or two. Yes, they enjoy rote learning when they decide what to learn.
   Before it’s taken off the whiteboard I copy it into the Family Fact Book-so anything they know was on the board, but just can’t remember, can be looked up.
  Narnia has also been the obsession for the last three months or so. First the audiobooks, then the BBC miniseries, all accompanied by Narnia guidebooks (and of course, a set of the actual books). There have been discussions and investigations on religion, cinematography and special effects, and the contrast between movies and books and why they have to differ. There has been endless roleplay-my kids will never miss a chance to live in pretend-land. Frosty with his very enthusiastic stick-swords does try my patience though, especially when he’s Peter and his unsuspecting brother is the wolf.
  History is another big theme, which is extremely interesting to me as I know virtually nothing about it. It just wasn’t covered at school. It started with a lift-the-flaps Roman town book and has snowballed from there into ancient Egypt and the Vikings, with the girls planning their future travels to ancient ruins all over the world, and Oods learning some Latin. Everyday life is the interest here-not so much the rise and fall of empires as how they built their houses, what they ate and what they believed in.
  Language in all it’s forms is another obsession-but not so much the Auslan, which i’ve been rather slack with. The Word Spy books have sparked much language play and interest, contributing to the interest in Latin and therefore Rome (it’s all connected somehow!) Secret languages and codes abound, and little symbolised signs and notes are appearing everywhere. I’ve no idea what they’re doing, and they like it that way. Because it wouldn’t be a secret language if I knew it.
  Lols and Sparkles are now fluent readers. They seemed to do this secretly, they didn’t want all the instruction that Oods did. Just the basics, then they were happy to decode the rest themselves. I’m still not exactly sure how well they’re reading, but they seem to be able to read books around the calibre of Aussie Nibbles just fine. Oods is reading Harry Potter at warp speed, she’s definitely following in my reading footsteps-she hasn’t hit my speed yet, but at the rate she’s going she may actually overtake me one day.
  Craft for the girls has progressed to making real stuff, with much less mess-I knew it would all finally be worth it one day! I still have two little confetti making boofheads who make an insane amount of mess, but at least I know that light at the end of the tunnel is not a train. The girls took it upon themselves to learn to knit and can all do so, and the clones have just learnt how to form stitches in crochet. Oods, meanwhile, crocheted me a pair of slippers completely from her head that fit me perfectly-meanwhile, the one I made her is too big. Yes, I have been outperformed by an eight year old, and yes, I am proud (and only a tiny bit miffed, promise). I really, really need another sewing machine, because I often have to wait to use mine. Bags, skirts, shoes, doll clothes, gauntlets-you name it, they’ll hack up some fabric and have a bash at making it completely from their heads-and it usually works. 
   They take it in turns to cook independently, with most recipes coming from their heads. There’s been some interesting food made, but they seem to have the basics of cooking nailed down now, and can turn out cakes, biscuits and breads of acceptable quality. I really like this one, because them cooking saves me some cooking. And what is a more important skill than cooking? Except maybe gardening, which has been mostly abandoned to the husband now the cold weather has hit, although Lols (his mini-him) still gets out there with him.
  The boys are about equal ability at the moment, and I think Frosty may have overtaken Shorty in the academic stakes in the last month or so. I treat them both as three, and forget that Shorty is actually six and ‘should’ be reading. Ha! Good luck with that! They do lots of drawing, tracing and colouring, as well as many hours of wrestling and whacking stuff with sticks. Whoever said boys and girls are the same had never actually exposed themselves to children.
  Finally, the natural world remains a constant interest, with more Attenborough documentaries, some snake handling and a wildlife show complete with wombat fondling recently. Jackie French’s kangaroo and wombat books are on the library shelf right now.
The kids still don’t use the computer, we still don’t have a television, so we’re still Amish sympathisers-but looking at all the above, who has time for that junk? I stand firm on my low-tech stance, figuring there’s far more worthy and interesting (and real) things to do, and they’ll pick it up easily and quickly when it’s time-just like we did. And yes, I apply the same rules to myself too! Internet once a week works just fine for me-I prioritise the most useful parts and ignore the rest.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fevered crafty post

  I have blogged nothing i’ve made since I got to the last house, in a different state, last February! And it feels like i’ll i’ve done is makemakemake. So here’s what was clean for this photo session, and I may get to the rest another day.

P7112011Hoodie for Lols-to Imke in Sewing Clothes Kids Love, with pixie hood. Most complimented item, hands-down.


P7112015 Hoodie for Sparkles-also to Imke

P7111996 Not bad for my first t-shirt-with Imke, again, but needs to be narrowed substantially.

P7111998 Twirly skirt for Oods-my pattern. I’ll get around to finishing the 20 i’ve half-made to sell one day

P7112000 Sparkles

P7112001 Lols-love her taste in fabrics

P7112003 Pants for Frosty, green of course, to some vintage pattern. Yes, they’re well worn!

P7112005 Shorty’s version

P7112006 Chenille pants for Shorty too-they make him look like a teddy bear

P7112007 Pants for Lols, to a Burda pattern

P7112009 Sparkles’ version

P7112010   The Fred Bare rip-off kaftan in a fabric I couldn’t resist


Library bags for my independent reading girls-Sparkles


And Lols

A little bit of frivolity from me-crochet hook wallet from Sew Darn Cute (much better than the rubber band method)



And vinyl/felt needle book (much better than the loose in drawer method).



And the only pic of anything crochet i’ve done (mostly beanies for all the kids and a handful of dishcloths, plus gauntlets for me).


Ponytail beanie for Sparkles.

  Now i’m back to full-time study, i’ve managed to knit half a dishcloth and mend a sleeping bag in the last six weeks after moving interstate. As well as build fences, chicken and sheep wrangle and dig an extraordinary amount, but that’s all for another post (or not, knowing me).