Monday, July 23, 2012

Learn More About Waldorf Schools!

Why are so many people hesitant to learn more about Waldorf Schools? Years ago this educational philosophy was completely new to me too. It was. But somewhere along the way I didn't think it was entirely "out" or "other," nor did I lump it in with other educational philosophies as if it was simply a copycat. I gave it a look. Six years later my oldest son is about to be a 3rd Grader, my baby is about to start her first year in the 3 & 4 year-old Nursery class and I couldn't be more grateful for this wonderful school.

The mythology surrounding Waldorf schools continues to surprise me. It seems that in this time of internet research, there should be very few urban legends surrounding Waldorf education. In fact, with books like A Whole New Mind and Creating Innovators, I am more surprised we don't hear more about Waldorf schools. This article was great, but it is almost a year old. So, I'm feeling like Snopes-Meets-Waldorf and want to share what I know.

First, I have to share a couple of videos here that the new-to-Waldorf parents might like to see:

Then also, if you want to know what I think about not introducing the alphabet in Kindergarten, please read my earlier post. Here are two pages of my son's 2nd grade writing work:

Any other questions? Please ask and I will answer in the comments. Please note these questions will be answered specific to the Charlottesville Waldorf School in mind. It is the only Waldorf school I know well. 

If you would like to learn more about American Waldorf Schools, I highly recommend going to the AWSNA site and even reading The Story of Waldorf Education in the United States. It will debunk quite a bit of things you might be too shy to ask me. Even easier than reading that book is to read this interview with the author and Waldorf alumnus, Stephen Sagarin.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Show Me The Placenta!

Tonight I got the chance to talk to high school and college students about birth activism. But of course it was more than just about pregnancy, labor and was about looking at our culture critically. I have to share what I have learned about reaching this demographic!

What I heard:
"What is a midwife?"
"Why DO we give birth on our backs?"
"You can be in labor for over a day?"
"You can eat in labor?"
"Can you really have an orgasm in labor?"
"Squat bar?"

And also...the questions I asked:
"Does she know why she's getting induced?"
"How did she decide to have a homebirth?"
"Do you know your birth story?"
"What images come to mind when I talk about having a baby?"
"Have you seen The Business of Being Born?"

My biggest joy was how much these young people wanted to see placenta pictures! They were fascinated! "What is a placenta?" led to so many other topics. About rushing things, nutrition, breastfeeding, the "mess" of childbirth.... Who knew that would be such a hit? I had only the last minute instinct to bring pictures from my births...I almost didn't! Now I know...and you do too.

So. Let's put ourselves out there a little more in honor of all those placentas...most are never shared with the world or even noticed by their hosts. Meanwhile, teenagers are so curious about them! "How big is this?" "How much did it weigh?" "That's IN you!!??" Am I alone when I see a disconnect? Why not push yourself to overshare when something inside you tells you to take a chance? I am so happy I did. You never know what questions you'll be asked next. Imagine what you might be privileged to answer!

Each person that saw my pictures (yes! so graphic!) or talked to me for a few minutes think differently about childbearing already. A few admitted "oh, we'll be talking about THIS on the way home..." can I feel this way every day?!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reading at Our Waldorf School

It seems that reading education is one of the most misunderstood areas of Waldorf education. I have only my first child's experience at the Charlottesville Waldorf School to go by but, having attending a talk led by a teacher in the middle school, I feel fairly safe about talking about it here.

Waldorf loves books and words and letters. CWS just had a gorgeous library donated to our school. Your child can want to learn to read and still thrive in a Waldorf environment! No administrator has ever ever said "do not read to your child" or "keep books away." (Perhaps some of the early literature about introducing reading said something like this? I have no idea, I am not a Steiner scholar). I do know this--if your child already knows how to read when he or she begins first grade, aren't you grateful that the curriculum focuses other areas besides (actually in addition to) "reading?" How bored would your child be if reading is coming naturally and that is all the teacher was focusing on hour after hour...

Now, again, this is my personal experience and my son is one of those self-taught children. I am writing this to parents who are worried that their children love books and don't understand why this isn't embraced by Waldorf. "But what if my child is READY? Is Waldorf holding her back?" Well, it is fine if she is ready! If she is ready, she will be already be learning how to read! At least this is how I saw it and how I feel the CWS community supports its earlier readers. I don't know a single family that doesn't read to their preschool-aged kids. It just wasn't the be all end all in what makes a child ready for kindergarten, first grade, or second. My son learned to read, after years of being read to by his parents, on his own and in his own time. The "H" for "hospital" off of our local bypass was my first signal that some form of "reading" was going on--that letters and signs were of use to those of us out here in the adult world. He began asking me what things said. There was no big deal about it, either from my own point of view or from the perspective of "Waldorf parent" (I may not have even been one yet). He asked a question, I answered it.

Now in his second half of first grade I am so thrilled with how reading and the other subjects are handled. Some children are still learning to decode in first grade and beyond. What I learned from the talk by the middle school teacher is that children in other schools are also learning to decode in first grade as well. It was nice to see the Waldorf parents who work for the public school nodding their heads and affirming so much of what she was telling us. Not for me so much as for me to relay to you right now... "Reading," as I had understood it, included "comprehension." I learned that many of us consider "decoding" to be "reading". I loved reading the book Raising Readers so much when my first born was a baby that I had long since forgotten the bits and pieces of "reading." As long as we all know what we are talking about, we're fine, but it seems like we are very worried that the Waldorf way to [comprehension + decoding =] reading puts one's child at risk for being illiterate at 4th grade. I am not witnessing this.

The Waldorf way is to keep letters out of Early Childhood. My house is full of books and the world is full of letters and words. I sort of liked the idea of having this one last space completely open to the child's imagination. Sort of a break from the busyness of our adult world. Usually children want to write their name on their artwork. The teachers will show them what their name looks like, let them copy it and usually, that is quite enough for that age group. Meanwhile the teachers are great storytellers and the children are allowed to hear a story repeated over and over. This allows them to build a vocabulary that may include words that you might not expect small children to understand. (This will help them read real stories later.)

Then...what if..what if your child has learned to read and the first grade teacher is only now introducing the alphabet. Now, is your child too advanced? Is he bored? Will he be a troublemaker?

My son has never complained of being bored. I think he is fairly well-behaved in class. He has plenty of other things to work on to even notice if he is that much ahead of his peers. The letters and sentences are taught through storytelling, handwriting, shapes and lines. This allows the child who perhaps knows how to read already an "a-ha" moment or two along the way when it comes to letter formation or some tricks to remember some quirks to letters in the English language ("c" says "s" and "k"! etc.). Our middle school teacher said that the teachers use aspects of what might be considered both "whole language" and "phonics", just like other school teachers. They aren't so worried about classifying which style they use when, they just present the best way of introducing a word for the children who are learning it. This speaker used the example "sure". This is not a word you teach using a phonetic approach. But meanwhile, you will also see "word families" listed on the side of the chalkboard. Honestly, that part of it didn't seem that different to me than what I felt like I would've been doing reading-wise as a first grader. All the other stuff--the artistry and the storytelling...that seems different, and my son loves it.

My first grader just filled out his lunch form today where he had to read the menu, decide what he wanted, add up the cost of each meal plus drink and total it at the end of the row. Not all first graders should be expected to know how to do this and I was pretty wowed that he sat down and did it. What amazes me is how quickly he "5,10,15"'ed and then "1, 2,3"ed and then 15 + 3 is "18" which he wrote down very carefully on the line. Sometimes I chuckle wondering why more families don't ask "why aren't my children learning how to multiply in first grade like they do at the Waldorf school?" Witnessing how seamless it has been to introduce all four math operations in first grade has me in great awe of the idea that loving math might be just as common as loving to read. I did like math as a child, but I don't remember math without a worksheet or flash cards. My son counts by 2's, 3's, and 5's and he can do this while bouncing a ball from hand to hand. Pretty cool, and I am grateful my family got to witness this last November at Friends and Family Day.

I'm throwing this online quickly because I would like to invite other Waldorf families to comment here about how a Waldorf education produced their own literate children. Race to Nowhere has recently hit Charlottesville and, having seen it, I feel like I must share what I see at the Charlottesville Waldorf School. Waldorf is working and working well for my family.


11/7/11 Please listen to this lecture by the 8th Grade Charlottesville Waldorf School teacher about how Waldorf Schools teach reading.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why Charlottesville Waldorf School

I have just got to get the word out about our local Waldorf school. We have had a great experience in the last three years with this school and are thrilled to begin 1st grade ("the grades") this year. I want to share our very positive experience while addressing some of the mythology surrounding this school. I hope more parents that think it *might* be a good choice for their child will go the added distance to visit and then hopefully enroll.

A couple of disclosures: I know my experience is unique to me and my children. I do not speak for the administration, the board, or the college of teachers at our school. I'd love to hear your feedback/comments.

On with my testimonial....

1. The Waldorf approach to literacy fits my style of parenting very well. Here is a FAQ page that addresses why Waldorf schools wait to introduce reading until first grade. But quickly...of course Waldorf schools "believe in reading". They believe in it so much that they do not want to risk making children anything but thrilled to learn to read. Teachers instill a child's love of language and narrative with countless stories told and enacted (love watching the kids-as-animals pull up that turnip!) in the Kindergarten classroom. They make sure a child is developmentally ready to read. This allows a child who is not quite showing signs of readiness the time to grow and read in her own time. I have not experienced any teacher telling me I should not have books in my home or not read to my child. Our Kindergarten teacher welcomed me at pickup one afternoon to tell me how my son had read some words recently on street signs during a walk last year. We were so excited to see how it was all falling into place. He never felt pressure to read, it just came. Please read Raising Readers if you would like a non-Waldorf approach to this style of literacy education. (Reading this book way before I scouted out a preschools was a great gift, thank you my dear brother for sending it my way!)

2. I love how children play with toys in a Waldorf Kindergarten. [Side Note: "Kindergarten" here is what most people might think of as "preschool". It is officially Kindergarten but a child can be in the same K classroom for 3 years--almost-4 year olds through just-turned-6 year olds are all together. The teachers (amazingly) alter the curriculum to each child's development so it isn't the same thing for 3 years, don't worry about that at all!] Toys are mixed up and used creatively and then put away at the end of the play session. It is true that it can look chaotic and be a bit wild for an indoor space, especially if you are used to children playing with one toy at a time. But it is all fine. It is under control. Blocks can mix with the kitchen area and the doll house can have the logging truck visit with some dolls. The children know where everything lives at pick-up time and it works. I think this style of play has led some parents to think that Waldorf has fewer "rules." Waldorf has plenty of rules, they are in the form of high expectations and a very structured rhythm to the day. "Manners" also come to mind when parents worry about "rules" and the children are most certainly expected to treat each other and the rest of the school community with kindness and respect--with all the social phrases used in any other setting. Don't worry, your child will not be allowed to "get away with" anything at a Waldorf school.

3. I believe Waldorf teachers have high but attainable expectations for my children without asking them to grow up too fast. Children in the Kindergarten (again, ages 4-6) are definitely not expected to sit quietly for very long. But when they do sit quietly, the teachers patiently instruct the children to do so. I have witnessed great calm follow-through with children challenging their teachers' rules. In the grade school the expectations for study are certainly high. While reading is expected of children a year or two later than in traditional American schools, mathematics is ahead of the public school curriculum...along with foreign language, music and history. The 2-hour main lesson in the grade school is a big deal, but I understand it to be developmentally appropriate--plenty of movement in the younger grades and lots of time to focus for the older children. I can write about that in a year or two. What really spoke to me was the June 1st cutoff for all children, not just boys. In Raising Cain, the authors describe behavior for young children and how many discipline issues that schools face could be resolved if (correct me if I'm wrong) 2nd grade boys were in classes with Kindergarten girls. At Waldorf, even high energy girls are considered normal and given the extra time to enjoy their Kindergarten years.

4. I appreciate the support to limit my child's media time. At the same time, I do not feel judged that we do let our children watch movies and use computers. It is true that we have had Kim John Payne come to speak and he is very inspirational. It is true that, on our school application, you are asked for how much media time your child is used to in a week. That said, every person I have met at our school is totally in touch with the real world and knows that life is about balance and trade-offs. Some families are more strict in this area than others. But really folks, that goes for the differences between families attending just about any Charlottesville-area school. I have non-Waldorf friends who have no tv and we have Waldorf families whose life is based in the film industry. My husband is a software developer. Our lifestyle is technology driven. We loved movies growing up and still do. There is no "they" that I have met (yet?) to tell me how I have to parent my child in order to be a part of this community. There is no Big Brother, there are no surprise visits to see if you child is glued to video games. The point is that you are aware of the use of media in your home and how it affects your child and the school. If you child has a cartoon hero, it is likely many of his friends at school will not know who this character is. Then again, it is also likely many of his friends will.

5. We have all read the Gandhi quote, "Be the change you want to see in the world". I hope to see children (and adults) thinking outside the box more. I didn't see the shades of grey in life until adulthood (thankfully, young adulthood). I am now very conscious of my default, multiple-choice mentality when it comes to complex decisions. Now I often choose "none of the above" when I used to want, yes! to prefer! the safe, road-more-traveled choice already presented before me. How many people are stuck in this mindset for a lifetime? I hope to see young adults not worried so much about how to get in the best schools to get the best jobs to make the most money as much as they can make an effort on being active in their communities. They will still go to school and get jobs of course, but the focus would be about adding and sharing...not taking and comparing.

I worry that we adults don't know what providing our children "a good education" really means anymore. Diane Ravitch addresses this in The Death and Life of the Great American School System. The way our children are "educated" these days is being confused with how well we teach them to take tests. I just finished Ravitch's book and realized that I didn't think much about the word "curriculum" until now. Or I had misunderstood the word. Now I think about it all the time. What do we really believe is the needed education to prepare young adults for the modern adult world? A world we adults don't even know how to predict very well it seems. We adults are winging it ourselves, this isn't what our teachers/parents made adulthood look like 20 years ago! Teaching our youth to embrace change and to think creatively will be more important than ever. One book to mention in this vein: A Whole New Mind. How are you nurturing your own right brain? Your child's? ....but that is another post.

I sat on this post for the summer. I felt like I had so much more to add/edit and I just needed more time! But, as I remind myself about blogging, it is ok to just add more later--in another blog. I will try to do that. And just maaaybeeee not have a year between entries. Wish me luck there.

More than ever do I hope people come visit our school this fall. We have new buildings opening soon and they are gorgeous. I'd love for you to witness the fall energy of the kids...they are loving school, the games, the art... Maybe this is a mom-of-a-first-grader talking but it sure is exciting to be a part of the Charlottesville Waldorf community right now.

I just returned from a CWS committee meeting where I sat in the 7th grade classroom. I am inspired. I had trailed off above with thoughts towards the need for quality curricula in our schools. Well, the 7th grade classroom is just a gorgeous display of the possibilities a quality curriculum could include. The chalkboards were just covered with amazing things. There were the students' sketches of a single hand (his/her own?) hung individually on the lower left board. There were two huge Chinese characters on a separate board above the hands and then also, many smaller characters on the main board in the upper right corner. Then over there to the very right... "The Raven" and other poetry homework, and some German homework assignments. Then math problems on the main board, right in the middle of it all. It is only the first week of October and what a span of topic matter must be swirling in these kids's heads. If you do get a chance to go to an Observation morning soon, don't miss the mosaics that these 7th graders did that are currently hanging above the chalkboard. Wow.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Your Fourth?? some cultural musings...

This was first drafted in May and I haven't touched it. Any day I will meet my 4th child so it is time to wrap this up and post it....

I have to admit, I have a little game I'm playing with the world right now. A little anthro project... on how we Americans view "large" families.

When I am out and about, usually I am with all three of my boys ages: 6 , 4 and 2. Sometimes I am out with only my 2 year old and sometimes (rarely) I am out with no children at all. But I am always watching and enjoying the little study I am doing. I take a very active interest in how other people look at me and my children because I realize every day how more and more I defy cultural norms.

Sometimes I think 4+ children is "the new only-child" the way I often hear that "three is the new two." I am sure parents with only-children have a ready answer of why they have only one child. But I wonder if they don't have to use it as often as I feel I have to justify being pregnant again. Women in America are willing to start families later in life. Fertility problems, post-partum depression, frozen eggs, PCOS, adoption, population growth, the economy...all are commonly found in the news today. Maybe the only-child moms have a growing community that make their choices more understood by our culture as a whole.

But those of us who dare go past the "new two"...what are we? First of all, before I even start laying out details about my life I want to make clear that I am not bashing other choices. I am just making it clear who I am. Really, I want this piece to simply alert us to the tiny stereotypes we carry with us every day. The big ones get plenty of attention, but I think we often allow less-discussed stereotypes to creep into our brains and don't give them credit as such and then they quickly pass away as we get on with our lives.

Some people when they meet me for the first time and find out that this pregnancy is my fourth are left speechless. Often I wonder if their minds are racing with one or more of the following questions:
1. Does she believe in birth control?
2. Does she know how to use birth control?
3. Is she pro-life (or anti-choice)?
4. Is she Catholic? (red hair + many children? = Irish CATHOLIC! fun combo but sorry...neither)
5. Is her husband oppressive?
6. What is wrong with her?????? Doesn't she have a life of her own?

Why do I think they have these thoughts? Well, first off people (usually men) will ask things like those above in jest when they do not know what to say ("congratulations" works, for those still unsure). I also heard this kind of talk from both sexes before I became a mother. I can even imagine my brain going through "the logical reasons" a woman would do this to herself if I could have seen me plus 3 young boys (running into and wrestling with each other, being slow, being fast, climbing things, being loud, you have a visual) 10 years ago. That is why I started opening my eyes a little more to how I look to others lately. Now I want to get more people expanding their list of "reasons" for any family situation. This includes the people who see the benefits of having 4 (or more) children, and that to be the main reason, plain and simple.

So that is some background on me, but it is true, I am no mind reader--most of the above is speculation that experiences of years past were swirling around in the minds of people today. Here IS what I have experienced over the last few months:

When I am out with all of my boys people cannot resist asking (now that I am quite obviously pregnant), "do you know what you're having?" Especially in larger cities I have noticed people will ask me before even saying anything to get my attention first.

Now, for the record, ALL pregnant women get asked this question and I won't get into my feelings about this being the knee-jerk response to the "I'm pregnant!" announcement. However, it is different when you are pregnant with other children. You don't get the "congratulations!" or "aren't you glowing..." before the question gets asked. And when you have many boys with you, the question is asked with a sort of twinge of expectation that makes me very uncomfortable.

I do know that some people to try to conceive a certain sex child or hope for one of the other. I am not sure we should assume everybody is this way and I, for one, am not "trying for a girl." It bothers me that there is some universal hope that this baby might be a girl when I will be perfectly thrilled with a 4th boy. And it is this, besides having a stock answer for (yes) planning a fourth pregnancy, is another thing I find myself saying again and again. "No, we are planning on another boy" and if I have to go further "it feels the same and I make great boys" or something like that. I try to spice it up but usually I just want to let the interrogator simmer on what "planning" might mean in that sentence. No, I don't really know and yes, we do like to be surprised. But it is funny how many people have heard word of mouth that I am "having another boy". I never said that...officially.

There is another group of women who ask about my fourth and it is such a pleasure to talk to this group. Often, women in this group will ask "but, do you mind, may I ask how old you are?" They don't really even need to know because they usually follow this with "I would've had more too if I had been younger..." This group makes me feel sane and supported and that our American culture does support larger families. I also feel like these women have buried something that they don't tell many people but it makes me feel like I am supporting them too--that thinking of having "many" children as a nice thing doesn't make you nuts at all. I usually find that yes, I am fairly young to be on my 4th child. This group tends to make me feel like I am very wise for my years. Thanks to you ladies for being out there. Like encouraging women to breastfeed in simple ways, I plan to say positive things to women on their 3rd and beyond pregnancies in a similar way.

And because I am ready to post this and have this baby I am not going to try to remember anymore musings that I had 4 months ago. When I first drafted this I had more to say but had to leave it. What I really feel now is the need to put even these few thoughts out there, see if any moms have felt the same way and then give a shout to my wonderful village.

Thank you to everyone who does know me well--who has seen me on grumpy days and on days I feel glorious. For letting me be a listener to you and for sitting there as I rant away on the same handful of topics. Keeping me close to your lives affirms that you still want to be in mine, despite distance, family struggles, illnesses or simply different nap/bedtime schedules. My beautiful friends, I feel so lucky to have you. You provide more support to me than you know. I had no idea how much I would need you as I began my motherhood journey and, if anything, that is what being pregnant a 4th time has really driven home. You really have to have your girls by then and keep your world connected to theirs. How grateful I am for all the technology at my fingertips, how in the world could I have done this 50 years ago? Ah but that was a different time too.....another day, another post.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Connecting the Mothers to the Childless

One of the huge hurdles I see women facing today is relating across the parenthood line. When I was pregnant for the first time I had no peers who were first time mothers with me. I swore I wouldn't change, I could be a mother and hang out with my girlfriends and life didn't have to change *that much*. Well, I kept part of the promise and I do try to always conjure up the smell of being childless. I need it especially when I read certain articles (such as the article I read last night in Marie Claire about a woman being revoked godmother status) or talk on the phone with a long lost childless friend. But as time passes, it is harder and harder to remember. I don't want to stop reading certain magazines when I realize I can barely empathize with a writer, nor do I want to take breaks from friends when I sense they don't "get" me anymore.

Lately a few things have happened that make me feel the need to write about this and open up a discussion of the language barrier between those with and without children dominating their lives.

One very wonderful thing is that a close friend just had her first baby. She is a child expert, a step-mother and a teacher. Yet she said to me with such deep mixed emotion the other day "I just didn't understand how hard it was." I hugged her and I said, "you aren't supposed to, nobody ever does." I got thinking why IS this the case? Why does our culture not get it? I know she wanted to understand, just as I did too during my first pregnancy. Is it simply that we do not have words in our language that describe the changes that happen to you simultaneously when you have a newborn? Do we not do a good job mentoring women? At Birth Circle I feel like there is such a spirit of understanding, even between the first-time and third-time pregnant women. But is there ever a circle that includes the women who don't think about being pregnant or becoming mothers and what it all means to the feminist movement? I want to find this...or create this.

So that is one thing to muse on. Really it is how to get the childless women interested in this sort of thing when becoming a parent is a distant point in the future. It just doesn't seem real enough to care about until you are pregnant. But by then the learning curve is so steep, much steeper than it needs to be.

Another thing that happened is I read this post on the newly formed collaborative blog to discuss modern feminism. I am so grateful that I have friends who "speak" Feminism better than I do to help us start some good discussions. When I think about what we teach childless women, younger and older, about how to balance family with work, something truly does get lost in translation. I do think a lot has to do with how we use the word "career" and luckily, I read a review of a new book that encourages people (ok, women specifically) to rethink their "career" as a series of waves instead of as a ladder. I don't think we make clear that a "career" doesn't stop or start but is always morphing as your passions and commitments change. And this is a good thing.

While kids are happily playing I want to wrap this up and get talking about it more. The last thing I wanted to bring up are the actual phrases women use after they become mothers that I don't hear childless women using. I recently used "it is just too much" in an email to two very dear girlfriends as they/we attempted to plan a get-together. I have been wondering, did they both understand what I meant? One friend is a working mother with two children, the other is childless and in a long-term relationship. Did I ever say "it is just too much" in my childless life? I don't think I did. And if I heard it, and I do think I did, I thought "what is too much? just get a babysitter!" or "it is too much to prioritize your friends?" or a myriad of other things.

I may have to title a blog "It is Just Too Much" to really elaborate on all the things that includes. But now I have a crying child and I'd love to know any initial thoughts you have out there!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

HPV, Gardasil & the Immature Cervix

I am very happy that modern medicine is moving in the direction where research funding is put towards women's health issues, such as cervical cancer.  I am very happy that we have learned that HPV is the main culprit.  But what we do with this information, I believe, is up for debate.

First of all, please see this and this about the side effects some young women are having from Gardasil.  While these stories are not conclusive enough for the medical community, I think they are pretty frightening.  

I don't want to rewrite those blogs. I wanted to add a couple of things to think about when you and I contemplate this vaccine for our children.  

First is what I learned last year while attending Miriam Grossman's talk at UVA.  She discussed (Cavalier Daily Article summary) how the immature cervix is more likely to contract HPV than the mature cervix.  The immature cervix has fewer cell layers and HPV isn't as happy to settle in when the cervix is thicker.  So that is one little piece of science.

The other thing that I hadn't realized is that if the world gets the HPV vaccine, then the need for pap-smears goes way down since virtually all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. This is of interest to me because I wonder who this benefits.  If all young women are given this vaccine, will insurance companies pay for pap smears anymore?  Especially if they are shelling out reimbursements to have every young girl in the country vaccinated?  

To truly eradicate cervical cancer, one thing that I hope evolves from medical research is a vaccine or cure that prevents men from transmitting it.  And I am a mother of boys so this comes from a personal place where I expect them to be accountable for their actions and certainly never on some receiving end of a phone call that says "I have HPV, did I get it from you?"  I have heard this is a "challenge" for medical science and they have tried.  Hmmm.  I hope they keep trying. 

I admit that I do not trust insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies with the health of my children.  I did just watch SiCKO and encourage others to check it out sometime.  As far as the personal, my insurance company paid much more for my hospital birth where I received no interventions than my homebirth which had a much lower price tag.  I, you or somebody somewhere essentially paid for drugs that I did not use.  These drugs, had I used them without needing them, would certainly not be in the best interest of my baby's health.  Epidural anesthesia, pitocin...all part of a hospital birth package deal are part of some bigger financial picture between big pharma, insurance companies, hospital revenues, AMA, ACOG and who knows who and what else.  My point is, I do not feel that pharmaceutical companies are not in it to make some money--after all, they did spend tons on research.  The faster they get any treatment, including this vaccine, out into the public, the better for them.

So, apologies for jumping around.  I hope to bring it all together.  HPV likes the young cervix.  So we want to vaccinate before the woman begins being sexually active at all because the younger she is when she starts, the higher risk she is for contracting HPV.  At the same time, if the cervix is so young and needs maturing, giving some vaccine to toughen it up (or whatever the vaccine does) before puberty even is fully on does seem to lead me to think it could cause some other problems later in life.  Sure, maybe not HPV and cervical cancer...but gosh, I have had three babies and I am pretty darn happy my cervix was good and normal for those experiences.  I can see why people might worry if it could affect fertility and so on.

So as Nature's Child discussed, parents really need the full info about this vaccine and make a choice that makes sense for their situation.  If you know your 9 and 10 year old daughter is not even close to being sexually active, then why not wait?  Let her cervix age a bit along the way.  Why is The Establishment trying to push this vaccine so early?  And then I think again to the politics of things, all of our children can have access to health if they are in the public schools.  That means there is funding to push it on children right as they get all those other shots for school.  The older the child gets, the less likely the child will be injected with the vaccine.  For one, she goes to the doctor less, I know I did.  So there is more money to do it younger.  Ideally less cervical cancer too, but you cannot ignore the economics.  

Meanwhile will the pap smear become less routine over the next 20 years?  Might some women slip through the cracks?  And meanwhile, what about the men?  What sort of HPV testing will our country encourage for young men?  It seems like the men should have to know if they are spreading a disease that causes cervical cancer.  Would our government be inclined to fund a mandatory vaccine for young boys?  Especially if it had any scary reproductive side effect at all?  I wonder...

So all of this is to suggest the government and medical community back off on this one.  Give parents and their daughters the current information and let them make an informed decision.  I know we cannot count on all parents to be as involved with their daughters with topics such as this...but that goes into another post about how our country has such a messed up relationship with sex.  What is missing right now is the discussion about the side-effects and just how HPV works.  You don't get it from toilets, people.  It is from having sex.  Can we not educate our daughters about their bodies a little more?  I am not talking about abstinence education.  I am talking about "if you start having sex, I want you to know these things..." kind of talk.  The kind that leads women to Planned Parenthood, to Student Health, to a clinic when they cannot talk about things with other people in their lives.

Many parents of teens I know are not bloggers and are too busy to watch the evening news.  They count on getting the full story from their doctors.  Are they?