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ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION by April Scott-Clarke

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REGUL ARS

OUR TEAM Meet the writers that make this magazine awesome PAGE 4

UP FRONT Learning styles and lunches for learning PAGE 6

PRODUCTS Fill your kids’ backpacks with these Earth-friendly products PAGE 10

COLUMNS

MIND The Love of Mindful Mates PAGE 12

BODY Dear Mom and Dad... PAGE 14

SPIRIT Surrogacy Revisited PAGE 16

THE HOLISTIC MOM Breastfeeding Sucks PAGE 30

FEATURES

SEX IN SCHOOLS BY KELLY MCDONNELL-ARNOLD

An education on Ontario’s ‘Sex Ed’ curriculum PAGE 22

A MINDFUL EDUCATION BY SHEENA BOUNSANGA

Integrating a mindful practice for students PAGE 25

ON THE COVER The cover shoot was a family affair for our design team, Made By Emblem. Modeled by production manager Sally’s son Jacen, the image was shot by 15-year-old Astrid (daughter of creative director, Erik Mohr).

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CHILD’S PLAY BY DENISE COLEMAN

How parents build the base for learning PAGE 28

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UP FRONT | OUR TEAM

CONTRIBUTORS

SHEENA BOUNSANGA Mindfulness Coach | ECE Sheena is a mindfulness coach and early childhood educator (sheenabounsanga.com). She’s worked with hundreds of kids, parents and teachers both privately and within schools helping kids find their calm. Her mindfulness workshops can be found across North America. Read Sheena’s article Mindfulness in Schools on PAGE 26.

Volume 02, Issue 03 | Summer 2016

PUBLISHER | EDITOR Elaine Kapogines elaine@wiltshiremedia.ca ART DIRECTION

www.madebyemblem.com

DENISE COLEMAN RECE | Child-care Expert Denise is co-owner of The Birthing Space (thebirthingspace.ca) in Uptown Waterloo, where she works with families daily. She is a registered early childhood educator, certified postpartum doula and breastfeeding counsellor. She also has three children of her own that she enjoys exploring and learning with. Read Denise’s piece Child’s Play on PAGE 28.

Erik Mohr (Creative Director) Ian Sullivan Cant (Graphic Designer) Sally Tan Soriano (Production) ADVERTISING DESIGNER

Elizabeth Wise FEATURE WRITER

April Scott-Clarke CONTRIBUTORS

KELLY MCDONNELL-ARNOLD Therapist | Clinical Sexologist Kelly McDonnell-Arnold, MA, MBA, RSW, is a therapist and clinical sexologist with a master’s degree in forensic sexology. She is the founder of Bliss Individual and Relationship Therapy, a boutique private practice in Uptown Waterloo with a specialization in providing tailored counselling and psychological services (bliss-therapy.org). She’s passionate about sexual health and being a resource to assist KW community members in creating their most fulfilling lives and relationships possible. Read Kelly’s article Sex in Schools on PAGE 22.

Sheena Bounsanga, Denise Coleman, Kelly McDonnell-Arnold, Astrid Mohr, Veronica Qubrossi, Nicole Schiener, Amanda Schnarr, Dr. Shannon Viana, Sandra Wilson WEB EDITOR

Laura McDonald WEB CONTRIBUTORS

Melissa Baer, Dr. Sarah Connors, Dr. Isabel Griffith, Krista Harrison, Tania Heinemann, Tracy Poizner, Nicole Schiener, Dr. Shannon Viana

PUBLISHED BY

VERONICA QUBROSSI Holistic Nutritionist | Managing Director Veronica is a holistic nutritionist, culinary nutrition expert, and aspiring childbirth educator. She’s also mama to the most remarkable three-year-old daughter there ever was. She loves writing and educating others about nutrition, natural childbirth and breastfeeding. Veronica is managing director of Healthoholics, and soon you can catch up with her on her own website at veronicaqubrossi.com. Check out her piece Brain Food on PAGE 6.

SANDRA WILSON Educator | Business Owner Sandra is a writer, educator and the director of the Wilson Education Resource Centre in Kitchener (werconline.ca). She has over 20 years of homeschooling, tutoring and teaching. Her passion is to help people learn, laugh and be inspired. Read Sandra’s article Learning Styles on PAGE 8.

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THE HOLISTIC PARENT Summer 2016

www.wiltshiremedia.ca The Holistic Parent magazine is published three times per year. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher © 2016 Single copy price is free to all patrons of the Growing Up Healthy Show and is available through our over 50 community partners in Waterloo Region and surrounding areas. Visit theholisticparent.ca for a list of distributors. ISSN 2368-6790 Publications Mail Agreement No. 42845523

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ADVERT ORI AL

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A SurrogAte’S Journey -

By Valencia Parker Aside from becoming a mother myself, I have never experienced such an amazing and rewarding experience until I gave the gift of life — I became a surrogate. While I was pregnant, people would ask about my pregnancy and offer their congratulations, and although I politely thanked them, I would inform them that the baby wasn’t actually biologically mine and that I was a surrogate. Almost every person I’ve told would reply, “That’s truly amazing of you. I could never do it!” My reply was always, “That is why there are only so many of us, but yet it is such an exigency.” The funny thing is that I thought the same thing and questioned how I would react to the journey — especially in the end — but to my own surprise, it was even easier than I had prepared myself for mentally. Surrogacy is, and should never be, something to be taken (or done) light-heartedly, but when you do, it’s the best feeling in the world! Imagine after years of trying to get pregnant, you walk into the fertility clinic once again to hear, “I am so sorry...” All that goes through your head are those feelings of failure, guilt and maybe even shame — the one thing I should be able to do, I can’t. Just a few hours after giving birth to my daughter, I decided that I wanted to give back to someone who was faced with such a painful obstruction on the road to parenthood, because I was lucky enough to have that ability. And becoming a surrogate was how I was going to do it. After exploring different consultancies, I felt best fitted with ANU Fertility Consultants, and after viewing a few profiles, I had a gut feeling about one couple in particular — I was just drawn

in by everything about them. There was a good fit between us, and I was beyond thrilled. Despite minor complications in labour, they remained supportive and were the shoulders to cry on when I needed it. I had never been so connected to people whom I had so recently called strangers. The strength, support and love I felt in the delivery room as I birthed their baby was empowering — it was revitalizing. When the baby arrived, my body and soul flooded with pride and accomplishment as I looked at their faces while they fell in love with her. A blind date turned true love! Becoming a surrogate was one of the best decisions I’ve made because it taught me a new side of love. It also reminded me not everything in life is easy but when faced with challenges you can overcome them with the help of others. Not only was the couple I was helping amazing, I had an amazing journey and feel like a new person because I’m able to stand taller than I had before knowing that I helped complete a family. I know that their smiles as proud parents are because I reached out and took the chance to try something new. And I would gladly do it again. It’s beautiful — surrogacy is beautiful!

To complete an intake form or for more information, visit surrogacyincanada.com info@anufertility.com | 604.799.1484 or 587.436.5520


UP FRONT | LUNCHES

BRAIN FOOD SUPER LUNCHES FOR YOUR SUPER LEARNERS by VERONICA QUBROSSI

Zucchini “sushi”, hardboiled egg, three bean salad*, balsamic dressing*, cinnamon sunbutter dip*, sliced apple

Roasted garlic brussel sprouts, steamed beets and carrots, sunflower seeds, coconut pancakes*, Artisana chocolate spread**, pineapple and blueberries

Cherries, roasted paprika cauliflower*, banana and pumpkin seed butter “sandwiches”, mixed green salad with balsamic dressing, meatballs and tomato sauce

PROTEIN is digested slowly and will help keep your

HERBS AND SPICES, like vegetables, often aren’t

child feeling fuller for longer. I recommend including two protein sources. May include meats, eggs, seeds (most schools are nut-free) or beans.

given enough attention. They are low calorie, but as a group, offer huge amounts of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients. Sweet spices like cinnamon or ginger, or savory spices like paprika, garlic FAT is the preferred source of fuel for our brains; we need and chilli are all options. Herbs like parsley, basil or dill lots while learning new things. May include coconut oil, are important as well. avocado, high-quality oil in a dressing, meats or eggs. COLOUR: Not only will lots of colour make food look FIBRE is indigestible, but assists in keeping our chilmore intriguing for your child, but different colours dren’s digestive systems healthy. It also helps ensure indicate different nutrients, and consuming a variety of blood sugar levels stay stable. May include flax seeds, nutrients every day is vital. We’ve all heard the saying chia, coconut flour, berries, beans or leafy greens. eat a rainbow! VEGGIES are severely underutilized in North American meals. Adding two to three servings of veggies to your children’s lunch will get them well on their way to their daily requirement. The list of possible options is nearly endless!

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THE HOLISTIC PARENT Summer 2016

WATER: Staying hydrated is just as important as

staying well-fed. Pack a reusable water bottle in your child’s lunch box and encourage your child to refill it throughout the day. theholisticparent.ca

*RECIPE AVAILABLE AT VERONICAQUBROSSI.COM

Cucumber slices, grape halves, steamed asparagus, tuna salad*, pickles, chickpea chapatis*

** ARTISANA CHOCOLATE SPREAD AVAILABLE AT SHOP.HEALTHOHOLICS.COM

Sending a healthy lunch to school with your child is critical not only for their overall wellness, but also their success at school. A well-fuelled child will listen more attentively, retain more information, and have more stable emotions throughout the day.


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UP FRONT | LEARNING

WHAT’S YOUR CHILD’S LEARNING STYLE? Ask your little learner the following questions and tell them to choose the first answer that comes to mind.

By SANDRA WILSON

Help determine your child’s learning style and how to adapt their learning experience TACTILE/KINESTHETIC LEARNERS • Enjoy hands-on activities, learning while moving • Often fidget while sitting still — tapping, shuffling feet, etc. • Need movement and constant breaks in order to maintain focus • Enjoy drawing and art • May be quite athletic

learning environment (now windows to gaze out of, away from places where people are busy moving around, like kitchen at dinner prep time); offer them colours to draw and write with; give pictures to explain or describe what you are teaching; ask questions like “do you see what I mean?” and “can you picture it?”

Help a tactile learner by giving them space to learn; allowing them to move around while reading, spelling etc.; allow for breaks so they can get up and move or allow them fidget tools to play with while sitting and focusing — offer them objects to touch to enhance learning (actual objects you are teaching about).

AUDITORY LEARNERS • Learn best with sound — music, rhymes, auditory lectures • Frequently read out loud • Participate in discussions or debates • Not big readers — prefers books on tape • May be able to define distinct sounds (music notes, voices, etc.)

VISUAL LEARNERS • Enjoy reading, have good imaginations, focus on colours • Prefer pictures, charts, graphs and maps • Use bullets or stars • Take notes or doodles during lessons/seminars

Help an auditory learner by allowing them to sing the words they are reading or spelling; allow music to be played in the background (it can help them focus); create rhymes to help them remember; get them involved in music lessons (it can also help develop math and reading); ask questions like “do you hear what I am saying?” and “does that sound right?”

Help a visual learner by eliminating distractions in their 8

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2. Which of these do you do when you listen to music? a) daydream (see things that go with the music) b) hum along c) move with the music, tap your foot, etc. 3. When you work at solving a problem do you: a) make a list, organize the steps, and check them off as they are done b) make a few phone calls and talk to friends or experts c) make a model of the problem or walk through all the steps in your mind 4. To learn how a computer works, would you rather a) watch a movie about it b) listen to someone explain it c) take the computer apart and try to figure it out for yourself

5. You have just entered a science museum, what will you do first? a) look around and find a map showing the locations of the various exhibits b) talk to a museum guide and ask about exhibits c) Go into the first exhibit that looks interesting, and read directions later 6. What kind of restaurant would you rather not go to? a) one with the lights too bright b) one with the music too loud c) one with uncomfortable chairs 7. Which are you most likely to do when you are happy? a) grin b) shout with joy c) jump for joy 8. When you see the word “d -o-g”, what do you do first? a) think of a picture of a particular dog b) say the word “dog” to yourself silently c) sense the feeling of being with a dog (petting it, running with it) 9. What are you most likely to do when you are angry? a) scowl b) shout or “blow up” c) stomp off and slam doors

IF YOU ANSWER MOSTLY A – YOU ARE VISUAL IF YOU ANSWER MOSTLY B – YOU ARE AUDITORY IF YOU ANSWER MOSTLY C – YOU ARE KINETIC YOU CAN ALSO HAVE A MIXTURE TOO LIKE AUDIO-VISUAL LEARNER, WHICH MEANS YOU NEED A MIXTURE OF BOTH TO LEARN.

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ADAPTED FROM WWW.SCHOOLONWHEELS.ORG/PDFS/3121/LEARNING-STYLES.PDF

LEARNING STYLES FOR LITTLE LEARNERS

1. When you study for a test, would you rather: a) read notes, read headings in a book, and look at diagrams and illustrations. b) have someone ask you questions, or repeat facts silently to yourself. c) write things out on index cards and make models or diagrams.


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UP FRONT | PRODUCTS

FILL YOUR BACKPACK

Earth-friendly products for back-to-school CRITICAL INFO Allergy Labels by Oliver’s Labels boldly announce critical information to teachers, caregivers, fellow parents and anyone that sees it. You have space to write details about their allergies to certain foods, animals, bugs or drugs. Or anything else your child suffers from like asthma or lactose intolerance. It’s also the perfect label for describing special needs that you may want people to be aware of when interacting with your child. These super-durable name labels are completely waterproof so go ahead and stick them on items that go in the dishwasher, microwave, freezer or outdoors. $9.99 (pack of 9 personalized labels) | oliverslabels.com

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UP FRONT | PRODUCTS

LUNCHBOX 2.0 The Bentology Bento Box Set is a versatile lunch container with removable inserts. It lets you organize your food beautifully and in proper portions. It’s the perfect container for kids and adults alike. $27.97 | fenigo.com

FANCY BAGGIES Planet Wise has a food storage line you’re sure to love! The reusable and washable bags are a perfect alternative to plastic baggies, making your lunch waste-free. Made with FDA food safe materials and a patent-pending no leak design, these snack and sandwich bags are dishwasher safe. $5.95 | planetwise.com FRUIT SAVER Save your fruits from being squished or bruised on your way to work, school or hike with the Froot Guard. This made-inCanada fruit protector is ideal for oranges, passionfruit, apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, tomatoes and more. $4.97 | fenigo.com

SUN SAFE The Green Beaver Company’s hypoallergenic sunscreen is the perfect chemical-free solution to sun protection for children. Light and fragrance-free, it’s gentle on the skin but fierce in its protection. With gluten-free and organic-certified ingredients, it’ll leave your little girl or boy with skin that is soft, safe and healthy too. Buy it locally at S&H, Goodness Me!, Good Health Mart and Fiddleheads or at well.ca.

CHEWLERY The Night Owls Crochet and Crafts’ line of kid-friendly accessories was born of a mother’s need for fun, yet functional, sensory necklaces for her daughter. Many children have sensory- or anxiety-driven behaviours (nail biting, hair or pencil chewing), while others struggle with concentrating or fidgeting in school. A sensory or fidget necklace can provide a safe alternative. Choose from a wide variety of pre-made necklaces, or contact the shop to create a unique custom order.

$21.99 | greenbeaver.com

$14-$34 | etsy.com/ca/shop/TheNightOwlsCrafts

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MIND | MINDFUL MAMA

THE LOVE OF MINDFUL MATES Turning towards our partners to create peace and balance Story by NICOLE SCHIENER

N

ot everyone reading this is with their children’s father. Did you know research shows practicing mindful self-compassion and sending loving kindness to our ex-partners (as hard as that might feel) actually helps the separation process? Most people find themselves recoupling at some point. Reflecting on past relationships with an attitude of gentleness and curiosity can help prevent getting stuck in similar unhelpful patterns. In the worst of times, navigating the transition from partners to parents can feel like being tossed about in a raging storm. Even in the best of times, couples can feel like they are stumbling in the dark of uncharted territory. With our child(ren)’s constant demands it can be easy to lose sight of our relationship and feel like connection and intimacy is at the bottom of the priority list. For a lot of women, sex often becomes the “last chore of the day” that we sometimes feel we have no energy left over for. But it doesn’t have to be this way. World renowned relationship expert, John Gottman has mapped out what “expert” couples use to protect themselves from drowning in a sea of reactivity and distance. “Small things often” is the motto of his “Bringing Baby Home” program for couples that I was trained in after the birth of my son. This simple adage complements my own marriage vow to never take each other

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take away ...

A quiet mind paves the way for a grateful heart. Creating a culture of appreciation is the best insurance for your relationship.

for granted. At the heart of this wisdom I believe is an attitude of mindfulness, and I am grateful for how my own practice of mindful self-compassion has indeed enhanced my ability to whole heartedly be present with my partner. Mindfulness helps us as Dr. Gottman emphasizes to “turn towards” our partners and show a genuine interest in their inner world. A quiet mind paves the way for a grateful heart. Creating a culture of appreciation is the best insurance for your relationship. It is also powerful modeling for children and buffers against a sense of entitlement. As oxytocin and dopamine are released both in the giving and receiving of thanks, it can be a potent elixir from the inevitable stress of balancing family life. Jon Kabat-Zinn emphasizes “doing no harm” as paramount to mindfulness. Indeed, what I have discovered is that rather than living in a battle zone, a formal mindfulness practice helps buy me time by inviting the bigger picture into awareness, thus reducing defensiveness and blame. By getting curious rather than critical and asking for what we need while being open to the needs and feelings of our partner, we are more likely to come to common understandings and get our needs met, without resentment or guilt. When we tune in to full awareness in the present moment, we can seize opportunities for connection and showing love such as stepping away from a task to take a picture of our husbands playing with the kids and commenting on what a great dad he is. Our foundation is strengthened when we sense distance growing between us and thus share a lingering hug, snuggle up on the couch or get playful with an impromptu dance. All of these practices contribute to an affirmative answer to what relationship expert, Susan Johnson states determines a couple’s health, “are you there for me?” When we consistently turn towards our partners with a mindful heart, this sense of peace and safety helps to cushion the inevitable blows of the adult world and provides a beautiful model for our children as they navigate relationships. The key is to practice daily and seek help if old wounds are making you feel unsafe in your practice. NICOLE SCHIENER M.Ed, RP, CCC blends professional

counselling and public speaking experience with personal insights from raising two passionate little people. Follow her on Facebook at “Peace and Possibility”.

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BODY | STRETCH FOR SUCCESS

DEAR MOM AND DAD… Please cut my screen time! Story by DR. SHANNON VIANA

F

ive years ago, I had my first young patient in the office with poor posture. The child was six years old, played video games every minute they weren’t in school and hadn’t slept in three days from constant neck pain and headaches. After three visits and educating both mom and child on the effects of overuse of technology the symptoms were gone and they haven’t returned. At the time it seemed like an isolated case but since that time the cases have increased in number each year and the children have gotten younger and younger. Screen use in young children has increased from 2.5 hours in the mid-1990s to a whopping average of 6.5 hours in the early-2000s! Local health professionals are seeing the effects on young children with corresponding increases in headaches, neck and back pain, eye strain, obesity and diabetes. Research shows that children who are taught in elementary school the effects of technology their bodies and educated on how to stretch and exercise to reverse the effects have significant decreases in symptoms and they take the knowledge with them as adults. The problem? No one in Ontario is addressing the problem in the schools, and technology use is only increasing. Currently, the average elementary child spends approximately 27 percent of their day on screens and only 2 percent exercising! Technology isn’t going away, and our children must understand how to function in a tech-heavy society. And we need to educate them on what they’re doing to their muscles, bones and ligaments. They also need the tools to change it. We are only now beginning to understand and see the long-term effects of children using technology from a young age. Research shows that higher screen times are related to higher rates of loneliness, anxiety, concentration problems, less reading time and lower academic

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take away ...

Screen use in young children has increased from 2.5 hours in the mid-1990s to a whopping average of 6.5 hours in the early-2000s!

achievement and higher rates of obesity in adolescents. I had the opportunity to speak with Waterloo Region optometrist Dr. Sarah Hagedorn about the effect of screens on children. “There are currently no scientific studies to confirm that technology use has a detrimental effect on children’s eyes or visual development. However, what we are seeing is a dramatic increase in the number of nearsighted children. What is known is that lots of outdoor activity delays or even prevents the development of myopia or nearsightedness. Also, blue light emitted from electronic screens inhibits the release of the sleep hormone melatonin from the brain. This makes it difficult to fall asleep.” Two years ago in an introductory meeting at Wilfred Laurier University I brought up this observation with Dr. Ginette Lafreniere at the Faculty of Social Work. We discussed the need for a solution within the classroom setting and began working with local health professionals on a real solution. Two years later, Stretch For Success was launched. Stretch For Success is a web-based program that provides teachers with an easy-to-use resource in their classrooms. In addition to providing exercise videos, it provides teachers and families with activities, fact sheets and quick five-minute stretch breaks. Earlier this year, it was launched in the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, and other school boards are joining this fall. So Mom and Dad, I ask you — on behalf of your children — to take the technology challenge: this week, track how much time your little ones spend on screens each day, observe their posture, then check in with them to see if they have headaches, neck or back pain. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends elementary students limit their screen time to two hours per day. See what you can do as a family to cut back on their screen time, and check out stretchforsuccess.ca to find out what you can do at home to help! DR. SHANNON VIANA , DC, is a chiropractor and owner of Inspire Health & Wellness in Kitchener. Beyond the traditional chiropractic care, she also employs the use of ultrasound, electrotherapies and orthotics in the care of her patients. www.inspirehealthandwellness.ca

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SECTION | NAME

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SPIRIT | SURROGACY

SURROGACY REVISITED The twists and turns of the twins’ delivery Story by AMANDA SCHNARR

“I

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take away ...

After nine long months, I just wanted to see their faces as they met their children for the first time.

While I didn’t really have another choice at this point, I asked the doctor to leave so that I could discuss this unexpected news with my birth team: my doulas, my midwife and my wonderful nurse. I sobbed uncontrollably for what seemed like an eternity, while they each offered tissues, hugs and words of encouragement. My doulas cried with me. We talked things through, until finally, I took a deep breath, and said, “I’m ready.” The C-section prep was underway in a flash, and the medical team started rolling in. As each person introduced themselves to me, I recall feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience. I had an amazing nurse who stood by my side and kept me calm. My midwife was also there and offered a hand to hold when I needed her. Once the epidural was placed and I was lying on the table, a kind, gentle face met my gaze. He introduced himself as the anesthetist, assured me that everything would be OK, and informed me that he was making an exception today and would be welcoming both of my intended parents into the operating room. I was beyond thrilled! After nine long months, I just wanted to see their faces as they met their children for the first time. The surgery went well, and before we knew it, their daddy was shouting out “It’s a boy! It’s two boys!”, and just like that, my fear and anger melted away, and I was grateful for a safe delivery and a happy family. As my intended mother sobbed and rejoiced over her new sons, my intended father brought a baby to my face for me to kiss and with tears rolling down his cheeks, he whispered in my ear, “You did this. You made me a father. I can never thank you enough.” And, in that moment, I knew it was all worth it. AMANDA SCHNARR’S story first appeared in the cover of the Winter 2016 issue of The Holistic Parent prior to the delivery of the twins. To see the full story, visit theholisticparent.ca.

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PHOTO: VINTAGE BUTTON PHOTOGRAPHY

t’s just not going to happen.” I will never forget those words ringing through my ears, as tears streamed down my face and my heart raced with fear. After carrying two healthy babies for 37 weeks and three days, advocating for the most natural and non-invasive care possible for this twin pregnancy, and planning a beautiful, vaginal birth, it was “just not going to happen.” To say I was devastated would be an understatement. The evening before the birth, my intended parents came into town and treated me and my doulas to a celebratory dinner. After many hours of acupuncture, chiropractic care, moxibustion and hanging upside down off of my couch, breech Baby A had finally flipped! Everything was lined up for an induction, and vaginal birth. We all decided to camp out at a hotel near the hospital since we were all coming from different places. We were quite the sight! A birth ball, a cord blood collection kit, bags of breastmilk that we asked the hotel staff to store in a freezer, and a very pregnant woman breathing heavily through contractions. Let’s just say, we did not have to wait in any line ups. We spent the night chatting and making our last guesses on the sex and weights of the babies. However, after being admitted to the hospital for induction, and receiving a cervical exam from the obstetrician, it was discovered that Baby A was presenting a nuchal arm, and it would not be safe to start the induction or have a vaginal delivery. Suddenly, we were facing a C-section.


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COVER STORY | ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLING

BEYOND THE CLASSROOM: A journey into alternative schooling Story by APRIL SCOTT-CLARKE

I

n Ontario, children must attend school when they reach the age of six. By that time though, most children have already done at least one year of kindergarten. Formal education, taught in a classroom, for about six hours a day is what approximately 1.3 million elementary school children and 643,000 high schoolers fill their days with in this province. But sometimes that structure doesn’t appeal to or work for families, and homeschooling begins to enter the conversation. The most recent data made available by the province reveals that in 2012 there were 4,948 children in a homeschool program — that’s a 38 percent increase from just five years earlier. However, due to the nature of homeschooling and no reporting systems, these numbers are likely underreported. Still, homeschool is slow-growing trend. Research from the Fraser Institute has found that when homeschooling approaches are motivated by academics and use a structured approach, academic outcomes are often higher than with other forms of education. The same study also indicates that the “motivations for homeschooling are increasingly blurring and appear to be less radical and more practical,” as was the case for Lisa Ann Torti and her husband when they chose to homeschool their two children, ages five and seven. “It’s hard to really narrow down one reason that we decided to homeschool,” she explained. “When we first starting thinking about it, it was just because the idea was presented to us and we thought it would be a great idea. After that, we started researching home-learning and decided it would be a great fit for our family. The idea that we could take our kids on a different journey than we took, take our time with things, and just be together, was very appealing.” Each province has their own rules around homeschooling. In Ontario if your child has been enrolled in a public or private school but will continue as a homeschooler, it is suggested that parents inform their school board in writing of their intention. A sample letter can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website (edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/131.html). If your child has never been enrolled in a school program, no letter or notification is required Homeschoolers have complete autonomy over what and how their child or children are taught, however, according to the Ministry of Education, if the school board has reasonable grounds to believe that instruction isn’t happening, or that it’s not “satisfactory,” they could pose an investigation. “WE COULD There are several routes you can take to get PLAN A LESSON AND END UP started in homeschooling and different philosophies SCRAPPING or structures you can follow, but often times THE PLAN homeschoolers don’t stick to one method. AND HAVING WHAT I CALL A ‘LEARNING OUT-IN-THE18 THE HOLISTIC PARENT Summer 2016 WORLD-DAY’”

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COVER STORY | ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLING

SCHOOL-AT-HOME

UNSCHOOLING

RELAXED/ECLECTIC

This is the easiest to understand, but can be the most difficult to execute, and it’s one of the most expensive methods. The idea here is to replicate the lessons that a child would be getting in a traditional school. Families that use this method typically purchase boxed curriculum that comes with textbooks, study guides and schedules. The advantage here is that you know what to teach and when, however, there is more prep work involved on the parent-teacher side.

This is child-inspired, or interest-led learning, where children learn from everyday experiences. Instead of planned out lessons, learning is done on the fly and follows the child’s interests and desires. One day it might be a history lesson that takes place during a visit to a museum, another day it might be an astrology lesson during an evening walk.

Essentially, this is a combination of schoolat-home and unschooling. It’s exactly as the name sounds — some learning time takes a structured approach while other times it is interest-based. This allows the parent-teacher to really customize the teaching style and subject matter to the child’s interest and needs. One subject or topic might be taught entirely child-led, while another may use provincial standard curriculum guides.

No matter the style that you choose (or naturally develops), homeschooling proponents insist that you do not need to be a teacher to homeschool your children. Before Torti started homeschooling, she says that she didn’t have any formal teacher training, although her husband has some experience as an early childhood educator. However, both are now self-employed, and they equally share the role of teacher. Torti says the biggest challenge for them is following through with pre-planned lessons, which is why unschooling works best for them. “We could plan a lesson and end up scrapping the plan and having what I call a ‘learning out-in-the-world-day’ — just taking a walk and talking about plants, bugs and animals,” she explained. The cost of homeschooling will vary from family to family and the methods you use to teach. The cost of field trips, craft supplies, textbooks and other learning tools can start to add up, but there are many ways to minimize costs. There are lots of free online education materials, pre-packaged curriculum can be purchased second hand, and seeking out field-trip venues that offer free admission or days where admission is discounted are all simple ways to keep your costs down. Parents who are homeschooling their child can also get free curriculum support material from the Ministry of Education and have access to courses in the Independent Learning Center, although an administrative fee is applied to courses taken. When it comes to educating your child in Ontario, there are more options than the government-funded school system. Sidestepping the conventional system will mean an investment of more than just money for parents, but it can result in an experience for everyone that is worth double.

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RESOURCES

Here’s a list of provincial and local homeschooling resources: • H omeschool.com (homeschool.com) • O ntario Federation of Teaching Parents (ontariohomeschool.org/ontariogroups) •G  uelph Homeschool Group (guelphhomeschoolgroup.com) • C ambridge Area Home Learners: For general enquiries and activities for children age 10 and up contact Brenda, 519-620-1016,stryboschxnine@ yahoo.ca; or Jen for activities for younger children, jvasey@20golden.net • Kitchener Waterloo Secular Community & Home Oriented Learners Activities, Recreation, & Support (KW SCHOL ARS) (groups.yahoo.com/group/ kwscholars): Erica Shelly, 519-342-1014, kphaley@ yahoo.com • H ome schooling Kitchener Waterloo (facebook.com/HealthySchoolsHealthyCommunities) • Cambridge, Ontario Homeschoolers (facebook.com/groups/252367641629929/?ref=br_tf) • H omeschooling/Unschooling (facebook.com/homeschoolingunschooling) • Free Homeschooling 101 (facebook.com/FreeHomeschooling101)

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COVER STORY | ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLING

EVEN MORE OPTIONS… If you’re looking for alternative options somewhere between traditional public school and homeschooling, there is an array of private schools in the Waterloo Region with varied teaching philosophies and learning environments.* WALDORF SCHOOL These non-sectarian and non-denominational schools embrace the education philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt that heavily integrates art and music into all academic disciplines. Waldorf teachers typically stay with the same class for five to eight years, as a means of relationship building. Students can be enrolled in Waldorf schools from preschool until the end of high school. WHERE TO GO: Trillium Waldorf School (Guelph) WHAT IT IS:

FOREST SCHOOL These programs have children outside for the majority to all of the day in local woodlands and green spaces. Program type and length can vary with some offering classes one half-day per week to five full days a week. Forest School Canada explains that despite variations, all Forest and Nature School programs adhere to the following: regular and repeated access to the same natural space, as well as emergent, experiential, inquiry-based, play-based and place-based learning. WHERE TO GO: Polliwog Forest School (Kitchener); Wildflowers Forest School (Waterloo); Maplewood Forest School (Guelph); The Guelph Outdoor School; Emmanuel at Brighton Child Care Centre (Waterloo) WHAT IT IS:

MONTESSORI SCHOOL This is a student-centered approach that encourages creativity

WHAT IT IS:

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and curiosity, and leads children to ask questions, explore, investigate and think for themselves as they acquire skills. A Montessori environment focuses more on a student’s learning than on a teacher’s teaching. Children learn in multi-aged and multi-graded groupings, for instance 18 months to 3 years. Students can stay in Montessori until age 14. WHERE TO GO: The K-W Montessori School (Waterloo and Kitchener); Sunshine Montessori School (Kitchener); Morningside Montessori (Cambridge); Montessori School of Cambridge; Montessori School of Wellington (Guelph) (Note: the above mentioned schools are accredited members of the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators)

CO-OPERATIVE PRESCHOOL Program offerings and teaching methods vary, but the premise of a cooperative preschool is generally the same in that there is a trained teacher (or teachers) but parents take turns helping out in the classroom on a rotating basis. These schools are governed by a volunteer board made up of parents, which usually sets tuition rates, is in charge of hiring staff and other administrative duties like maintaining the budget. Cooperative preschools tend to be play-based but some may focus on academics. Children from 18 months up to age 5 can attend preschool, although entrance ages are defined by each school. WHERE TO GO: Waterloo Cooperative Preschool; North Dumfries Preschool Cooperative (Ayr); New Hamburg and Area WHAT IT IS:

Co-operative Preschool; Campus Child Care Co-operative of Guelph; Lakeshore Cooperative Nursey School (Waterloo); Little Mountain Parent Participating Preschool (Waterloo); Moppet Parent Participating Preschool (Kitchener); Stanley Park Rosemont Preschool (Kitchener); Bright Stars Co-operative Early Learning Centre (Waterloo)

OTHER PRIVATE SCHOOL OPTIONS Waterloo Region also offers a variety of private schools, which operate as a business or not-for-profit independently from the Ministry of Education and in accordance with the Education Act. In our region private school options include denominational-based schools, languagebased schools, non-accredited Montessori schools and a variety of others. WHERE TO GO: Carmel New Church School (Kitchener); The Kitchener-Waterloo Bilingual School (Waterloo); St. John’sKilmarnock School (Breslau); Scholars’ Hall (Kitchener); Little Country School (Puslinch); Branson Academy Montessori School (Cambridge) (Note: this is only a sample, not a complete list) WHAT IT IS:

*The “Where To Go” sections may not be complete lists of the schools available in our area, and no school or individual paid to have their name included on this list. This information was gathered independently by staff of The Holistic Parent. We did our very best to ensure that the information we are providing is accurate and up-to-date, however, we are human.

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COVER STORY | ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLING

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

A few things to do with your homeschoolers in our region: WATERLOO REGION MUSEUM HOME SCHOOL DAYS WHAT: Home School Day programs provide the opportunity to learn about their world and experience life outside of the home school room. Children will touch, hold, see, taste and live what they are learning. WHEN: Various dates throughout the school year COST: $5.50 per student (free admission for teaching parent) WEBSITE: waterlooregionmuseum.com

CAMBRIDGE BUTTERFLY CONSERVATORY HOMESCHOOL PROGRAM WHAT: Designed for families with children ages 3-12, each month focuses on a different theme. Children will experience learning in their classrooms, conservatory and insect galleries. WHEN: One Wednesday every month (Sept. to Apr.), 1-3pm COST: $8.50 per student (free admission for one adult per family) WEBSITE: cambridgebutterfly.com

REVOLUTION GYMNASTICS & SPORTS CENTRE HOME SCHOOL PROGRAMS WHAT: By improving strength, coordination, flexibility and balance, children will develop a great base to help them in all other physical activities. Revolution’s co-ed home school classes are perfect for adding physical fitness to your home school curriculum. For ages 6+. WHEN: Tuesdays, 11:30-1pm COST: please contact WEBSITE: revolutiongym.ca

CHRYSALIDES HOUSE DAYTIME CLASSES WHAT: Children’s weekly fine art classes are available for kids from ages 4 and up. Daytime classes are offered for home/unschoolers. Various styles and genres of art are explored with the flexibility of catering to each students’ interests and abilities. WHEN: various days, 1-3pm (flexible) COST: $25/class (discount available for 8 and 10 class packages) WEBSITE: chrysalideshouse.ca

CAROUSEL DANCE CENTRE DAYTIME DANCE PROGRAM WHAT: Carousel offers a daytime dance program geared for home-schooled children. The 2016/2017 program includes creative dance for ages 3-5 and 6-8, as well as ballet and modern classes for ages 9-12. WHEN: Friday afternoons, varying times COST: please contact WEBSITE: carouseldancecentre.ca

WILSON EDUCATION RESOURCE CENTRE VARIOUS PROGRAMS WHAT: The WERC offers course, programs and camps geared towards homeschoolers. It also has activity rooms, a lending library and a staff of voluneers who are experts in their field. WHEN: various COST: please contact WEBSITE: werconline.ca

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STECKLE HERITAGE FARM HOMESCHOOL PROGRAMS WHAT: Steckle Heritage Farm is happy to work with your homeschool group to help create a program that suits your needs and meets your educational goals. They also offer their popular Little Farmers program for kids 2-5 years. WHEN: various COST: please contact WEBSITE: stecklehomestead.ca

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FEATURE | SEX ED

Story By KELLY MCDONNELL-ARNOLD

M

any people — thanks to the conflicting media and cultural messages about sexuality — do not realize that sexual health and well-being is vital to living a full life. Mass media targets young people with explicit, unrealistic and often undignified sexual images and messages, yet the same old cultural beliefs that sex is shameful, embarrassing and not to be talked about persist. No wonder people are confused! That’s why teaching sexual health education is so important. It brings a wider understanding to young people while also dispelling some of the myths that still persist no matter how “modern” we think we are. Teaching sexuality encourages students to develop a coherent set of personal values based upon respecting themselves and others. Students who understand and value themselves and others are better equipped to develop meaningful and respectful relationships, take a positive approach to managing their lives, and develop the necessary skills to prepare for current and future life challenges. It’s critical to reject the common misconception that “sex education” should be relegated to the annals of reproduction,

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sexually transmitted infections and contraception. When we abandon the standard views of what sexual education has to be, we then can openly communicate about relationships and sexuality in a more honest and informative manner. There are a wealth of topics that are crucial to developing a healthy sex-positive attitude: safety, love, empathy, consent, sexual assertiveness, diversity and preferences, self-image, gender stereotypes, respect for all, boundaries, healthy relationships and trust. In order to be successful, a sexual education program must address diversity including sexual orientation, gender, culture, religion and disability. In 2015, Ontario launched a new sex ed curriculum in grades 1-12. Instead of just regulating sex ed to a few grades in gym or biology classes, Ontario decided to start early and build on knowledge over the years. Beginning education about sex and sexuality early on and continuing to do so as students grow and evolve is the best sexual education strategy. Here is a general breakdown of some of the material covered grade by grade:

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FEATURE | SEX ED

TEACHING SEXUALITY ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO DEVELOP A COHERENT SET OF PERSONAL VALUES BASED UPON RESPECTING THEMSELVES AND OTHERS. GRADE 1 Students will be taught to identify body parts, including genitalia, using their correct terms (penis, testicles, vagina, vulva) and to recognize exploitative behaviours such as inappropriate touching. GRADE 2 Students learn basic stages of human development and identify related bodily changes. The concept of “consent” will be introduced very broadly as the right to say “no” in threatening situations. Students learn the importance of standing up for themselves, how to relate positively to others and identify behaviours that can be harmful in relating to others, including both online and face-to-face name-calling. GRADE 3 Students will be taught to respect people’s differences. They will be introduced to the concepts of gender identity and sexual orientation. They will identify the characteristics of healthy relationships, including those with friends, siblings and parents. They describe how visible differences, such as skin colour, and invisible differences, including gender identity and sexual orientation, make each person unique. They learn ways of showing respect for differences in others and develop safety guidelines for internet use.

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GRADE 4 Students learn about different types of bullying that take place online and in person (including homophobia), as well as descriptions of the physical changes accompanying puberty. They describe the physical changes that occur at puberty, as well as the emotional and social impacts and demonstrate an understanding of personal hygienic practices associated with the onset of puberty. They also identify risks associated with communications technology and describe how to use them safely. GRADE 5 Students learn to identify parts of the reproductive system and describe the processes of menstruation and spermatogenesis. They describe stresses related to puberty and identify strategies to manage them. Students also learn how a person’s actions, either in person or online, can affect people’s feelings and reputation, including making sexual comments and sharing sexual pictures. GRADE 6 Students will discuss negative gender stereotypes and masturbation. They identify factors that affect a person’s “self-concept,” such as stereotypes, gender identity and body image. They learn how to lay a foundation for healthy relationships by understanding changes that occur during adolescence. GRADE 7 Students learn risks of early pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and the concept of consent. They identify common sexually transmitted infections and describe their symptoms, while also identifying ways to prevent STIs and unintended pregnancy. They also discuss the impact of different types of bullying or harassment, including sexting. GRADE 8 Students learn about contraception, sexual intimacy and decisions about sexual activity. They also identify and explain factors that affect decisions about sexual activity and demonstrate an understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation. They analyze the benefits and risks of relationships involving different degrees of sexual intimacy. GRADE 9 Students demonstrate an understanding of the benefits and risks of using

communication technologies. They describe the relative effectiveness of methods to prevent unintended pregnancy or STIs and demonstrate an understanding of factors influencing a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation. They also apply their knowledge of sexual health and safety to the concept of consent. GRADE 10 Students show an understanding of factors that enhance mental health. They describe factors that influence sexual decision making and explain how some common misconceptions about sexuality in our culture harm people. They also explain how being in an exclusive relationship affects themselves and relationships with others. GRADE 11 Students demonstrate an understanding of a variety of mental illnesses and addictions. They describe how proactive health measures and supports, for example breast and testicular examinations, can be applied to avoid or minimize illness. GRADE 12 Students demonstrate an understanding of the effects and legal implications of different types of harassment, violence and abuse in different relationships and settings while describing ways of responding to and preventing them. They demonstrate an understanding of how relationships develop and how to maintain a healthy relationship.

As you can see from the grade-by-grade curriculum guidelines, the new Ontario Healthy Living sex ed program is more about teaching safety, respect and anti-bullying than trying to “corrupt” or indoctrinate children to a certain way of life or lifestyle — as has been a focus of those objecting to the changes. Raising self-aware and respectful children should be the goal of everyone. TO GET MORE ACCURATE INFORMATION ABOUT THE TOPICS AND CONCEPTS STUDENTS LEARN IN SCHOOL BY GRADE LEVEL CHECK OUT: ONTARIO.CA/PAGE/ SEX-EDUCATION-ONTARIO.

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FEATURE | MINDFULNESS IN SCHOOL

A MINDFUL EDUCATION Integrating a mindful practice for students Story by SHEENA BOUNSANGA

As an early childhood educator (ECE) and expert in mindfulness and meditation for children, I am seeing an increase in the number of children suffering with anxiety. It’s no secret that children are over-scheduled and the stress they feel is often the result of feeling pressured to perform at top levels. This anxiety can manifest in behavioural issues, physical ailments and emotional problems, both at home and at school. Informed parents work hard to make sure their children are well-rounded, happy and healthy kids. However, a hectic, over-scheduled life can often leave children (and parents) feeling overwhelmed and emotional. According to the Children’s Mental Health Ontario, the most common type of mental health problem in children is anxiety disorders. This disorder is present in 6-18 percent of the child population, and hectic, over-scheduled lives leave children with little time to relax and simply be in the moment. When their stress and anxiety is ignored, children find themselves unable to cope with daily challenges as they get older. And the results can be devastating. theholisticparent.ca

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FEATURE | MINDFULNESS IN SCHOOL

THEN AND NOW We can often be found comparing our childhood to that of our children’s, and there are some very obvious differences. These days most kids are plugged into ipods, ipads, cellphones and laptops 24 hours a day, impacting their ability to relax because they are always wired in. Overstimulation and overwhelm can quickly set in resulting in sleep issues, mood swings and lack of appetite. It’s clear that technology is here to stay, so what we need to do as parents is to set guidelines, model accordingly, and give our kids the tools to self-regulate.

SELF-REGULATION AND MINDFULNESS Mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.” I often ask my “little clients” if anyone has ever asked them to pay attention, and this question always comes with lots of nods and “yes!” and “all the time!” But silence occurs once my follow up question is asked: “But has anyone ever taught you how to pay attention?” As parents and educators, we are constantly asking and reminding kids to focus and pay attention, but rarely are we equipping them with the tools to teach them how to pay attention. The practice of mindfulness takes us from a place of reaction to a place of response. Simply put, mindfulness inserts a quiet pause in our life, so that we can then breathe and respond to life, rather than always being in a tense position which forces us to react to life (and the people in it). The ability to slow, pause and respond is the ability to self-regulate.

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IN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM According to the UN World Labor Report, “stress has become one of the most serious health issues of the 20th century, and a worldwide epidemic.” And the federal government’s The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada reported in 2006 that 69 percent of mental health problems and illnesses have their onset under age 15. And it’s for this very reason that we need to shift focus within our education system. Aristotle once said “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” We are our mental health and that starts at birth, and there is so much that we can integrate into our whole spectrum of education, and it’s not just about the ABCs and 123s anymore. Education in the past has done well at engaging our brain, but there’s a real lack of how our emotional minds work, especially when it comes to feelings, and in order to effective expand our curriculum we only have to add one simple component: mindfulness. Mindfulness equips students with skills to reduce anger, anxiety and other strong emotions, as well as improving focus and clarity of mind.

BREATHING IS FREE! Mindfulness seems to be the buzz word these days — it’s trending! And there’s a reason — anyone can do it…any age, anywhere. Oh, and the best part is, it’s free! Breathing is simple and effective. Research shows that mindfulness reduces stress, increases focus and concentration, and improves overall well-being. Mindfulness brings us back to our most basic function of our body, and that’s our breath. Now there are loads of different breathing techniques (a quick Google search will keep you busy for hours), but personally, I think it’s best not to overcomplicate things. Mindful breathing is the very simple technique that when you are breathing in, you are focusing on breathing in, and when you are breathing out, you are focusing on breathing out. Breathe, focus, repeat. When your mind wanders (which it will), just refocus — breathe, focus, repeat. The breath creates the pause, and the pause creates the space that we need to respond.

CREATE A SHIFT Simply put, mindfulness of breath and the basic practice of mindfulness can absolutely shift school environments, because if we can shift student’s behaviours and give them ways to deal with stress and give them ways to feel empowered, it can change the whole culture of the class, the school, the community.

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FEATURE | FIRST TEACHER

CHILD’S PLAY How parents build the base for learning Story by DENISE COLEMAN

I

n the current culture of parenting, it can feel like if we aren’t focusing on “school readiness” that we are somehow failing our children. I speak with many families who worry about academic skills in their three and four year olds. These are intelligent and loving parents who want to do the “right” things to help their children learn and find them the “right” teachers for the job. I see more and more focus on explicit teaching of academics to younger and younger children. We often define success in our young child by how many ABCs/123s/ colours/shapes they can recognize. Do we ever want our kids to stop learning? Are we aiming to raise productive, fulfilled people in society? Or are we aiming to raise good students? Looking at education as only academics does a disservice to all the other ways and opportunities for learning that happen every day. These “school” skills are fun for preschoolers, but they are by no means the only measure of growth. It’s actually so much simpler than that.  Wherever your child is at in their learning, from the moment they are born, they are eager to learn and explore. Once they can start moving their little bodies around, they are off! The world as they see it expands hugely and that’s where learning begins. What if I said that there really is an age-appropriate “curriculum” for even the youngest infants? Here’s a hint, it isn’t counting and ABCs. It’s all self-care — assisting with resting and eating and toileting/diapering. Future education is built on these moments. Who is it that first goes through these precious and sometimes rocky transitions with babies? Parents.

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Parents are helping their child from day one classroom RECE (registered early childhood understand and explore their environment. educator) what skills a child needs in a classroom setting. It’s the same answer as You’ve already met your child’s first asking any families with three- to sixteacher! Parents are the first teachers. We year-olds what skills they are helping their become teachers in our child’s world whether child with the most at home. Excepting it is a role we accept actively or one that that there are some cultural difference, happens to us (and our child) passively. most of us working on the same skill sets: Often, we are learning as much as they are when we actively engage in learning together. self-care; autonomy; putting clothes on independently; toileting independently. Two Trusting in us as they explore builds a child’s different forums for learning but learning base for future education. It is that base of opportunities exist in both! The emphasis trust that opens up a child’s potential and is on these things because they all grows the base for life-long learning. contribute to the child’s ability to be As the most trusted adult in their them self — to be autonomous. world, our role is to keep them safe As with many other things from harm and to be present as in our lives as parents, we are their guide. The more we talk often feel we are expected to with them, the more they “Do not keep choose sides. Home school or learn about language and children to classroom? This can be the communication. Learning their studies by beginning of “them or us” with your child is as simple compulsion thinking. While it is important as those genuine moments in but by play.” to be decisive in many areas your lives together. Learning is Plato of life, in education the choice best when it’s fun. They begin isn’t really “home or school”. to learn that their ideas are Learning happens all the time, important and they have value! in all environments. The choice we These are huge building blocks in make as parents is whether to be passive their wide foundation for any future teachers in our child’s world or to be active school, growth, abilities and skills.  teachers in our child’s world. When it comes Whether or not your child is going to to education, our children need many attend a full-day JK program or stay at teachers. Parents, as first teachers, can open home, they will still be learning. Whether early doors in learning by engaging the or not they enjoy those giant colourful preschool workbooks, ever, they will still be whole child early and often.  Learning is all about opportunities. learning. Our children have been learning at You are that opportunity. Play is that an incredible rate since they were born.  opportunity. It’s as simple as that. “Sure,” you say, “but what about real education? When does education begin?” Ask any kindergarten teacher or

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BACK PAGE | ATTACHED

BREASTFEEDING SUCKS Story by ELAINE KAPOGINES

“I

t can’t be as bad as last time.” With a bit of a nervous chuckle, those were my exact words when my midwife asked about nursing baby number two. I (barely) survived those first six weeks with baby number one, so by comparison, number two should have been a piece of cake. I allowed myself to envision latching my new baby mere minutes after her beautiful birth. After all, I was a breastfeeding pro! I knew all the holds. I knew what I good latch looked like. I could still hear those satisfied gulps, see the unmistakable eye rolls, and feel the dead-weight of a milk-drunk infant in my arms. When it was finally time to nurse my wriggly, wrinkly new girl, I confidently wrapped my right arm around her back, supported her (not so) tiny head with my hand and expertly guided her lips to my nipple. My hope for a perfect moment was instantly shattered by a very familiar scream. It was the scream of a newborn that had no intention on latching for a very long time. My first thought, minus a very specific expletive, was “here we go again!” The first time I went through it, it didn’t really faze me that much. I had no real expectation on what nursing would look like, so the fact that it was hard was just a fact of life with a newborn in my eyes. The second time around, the emotional toll was much different. I wasn’t just struggling with the physical aspect of nursing, I was consumed with feelings of shame, failure and — most surprisingly — embarrassment. How could this happen again? I’m supposed to know what I’m doing. And then it was at about week five that I began to believe that I couldn’t do it. It was the weight of expectation that was crushing me. It seems lately there’s been a barage of breastfeeding images, especially on social media. I can’t go more than a few days without seeing an image that has gone viral under the hashtag “normalize breastfeeding.” While it makes my heart so happy to see these images and to think that every one of them is helping to break down the social stigma of breastfeeding, these images haunted me. At 3am, after my new baby had yet another bottle and I was pumping yet again, I couldn’t help but think that I wasn’t normal. In our current attempt to “normalize” breastfeeding is the pendulum potentially swinging a bit too far in the other direction — are we heading away from villainizing breastfeeding to idealizing it? Are these #normalizebreastfeeding images really normal? Are we now creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure because some women will never be able to nurse their baby through a fence or on Santa’s lap or look like Blake Lively in a bikini? However inspiring these images are — and I do believe they’re bred from a genuine desire to promote acceptance — to truly normalize breastfeeding, where are the normal moms?? You know what my normal looks like: unwashed hair, dirty

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THE HOLISTIC PARENT Summer 2016

sweatpants, milk-stained t-shirts, nipple shields, breast pumps, visible exhaustion. Why aren’t we talking about the fact that nursing a newborn can be terrible? It’s painful. It’s frustrating. It’s boring. And it’s not pretty. It absolutely sucks sometimes. And that’s when things are going well. Add in any problem to the mix — thrush, mastitis, nursing aversion, teething, biting, etc. etc. etc. — and you can throw a big old f-bomb into that statement. What message are new moms receiving when they see these images? That breastfeeding is easy? Of course it can be — and with time and patience it can be the easiest thing about having a baby (hungry, tired, cold, lonely, hurt, growing, teething, sick: boob that baby). But for the majority of women, at some point in their journey, it is really, really hard. When new moms are internalizing these images of what I call “extreme breastfeeding” under the heading of “normal” how are they to reconcile that fact that their “normal” is nowhere near the Facebook/Twitter’s version of normal? My hope is that breastfeeding will soon be as normal as a woman wearing pants — yup, stay with me here. Less than 100 years ago, a woman wearing pants was scandalous. If Twitter had been around, #normalizepants would have been trending for most of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. People would be posting selfies of their pants-wearing ventures: “@badasspantswearer feeling hotsy-totsy in my new trousers #seemyankles #downwithskirts #totallymisbehavin’” And I’m sure there would also be a fair amount of “pants-shaming” as well: “@skirtlover saw another bearcat at the market wearing britches #keepitinyourskirt #myhusbandmightsee #disgusting”. Yet, now pants are so normal that it’s hard to fathom a time when they were actually pretty controversial. Maybe in 10, 20, 50, 100 years from now someone will utter the words, “breastfeeding is so normal that it’s hard to fathom a time when it was actually pretty controversial.” That will be a time when breastfeeding is normalized. Breastfeeding hashtags won’t even exist because they will literally hold no conversational value — #normalizebreastfeeding will be as socially irrelevant as #normalizepants. I remember the exact words that changed it all for me. At my lowest low about five week postpartum, I told my husband that I didn’t think I could nurse my baby any more. His stonefaced response: “Oh, you’re fine.” It was those words that snapped me away from other people’s normal and refocused on my normal. My normal sucks. It sucked on and off for nearly two years with my first; and eight months in with my second, it still kind of sucks. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. ELAINE KAPOGINES is a full-time mommy and the publisher of this magazine. She loves breastfeeding even though both her girls were kinda crappy at it. Visit theholisticparent.ca for additional content and digital copies of past issues.

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The Holistic Parent - Summer 2016  

Natural health and wellness magazine for families in the Waterloo Region and surrounding areas.

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