Summer Reading Review 2011

In addition to being welcomed home with wide open arms, hugs, kisses and tears, we also had boxes and packages galore awaiting us!  We had done some online reading about child-rearing philosophies and approaches earlier this year, before our summer leave, but didn’t have local access to books on the topic here in Oman.  So, we just made a mental note of the titles we wanted to read and ordered them in time for our summer vacation.  These are some of the books that kept us spell bound this summer.

The Vaccine Guide by Randall Neustaedter

In our last mention of vaccinations, we told you that Lil’ Z has not been vaccinated yet.  Yes, we know that there are a gazillion diseases in the world but even IF there is a real threat to a potentially dangerous disease, we believe that injecting vaccines into an immature system can be equally threatening too.  Yes, millions of children are vaccinated with no apparent untoward effects but there are children who severely suffer in the short-term and long-term period following vaccinations.  It may sound conspiratorial but there is a lot of many being made from childhood vaccines and the list of vaccines seems to keep growing longer and longer and includes a number of diseases that we personally don’t feel are anything to be alarmed about. 

The online herbalism course I took definitely helped us to understand how to prevent many childhood diseases and how to treat them naturally and effectively.  The Vaccine Guide is written in the same vein.  To call it unbiased is inaccurate but it was very informative.  Dr. Neustaedter cites the numerous examples of adverse vaccine reactions, both long-term and short-term,  but another thought-provoking insight is how frequently disease epidemics occur in majority vaccinated populations or in populations equally affected whether the children are vaccinated or not.  Oman is often highlighted as such an example because of a polio outbreak in the 80’s that occurred following a vigorous polio vaccine campaign.  We consulted with a wholistic pediatrician who advised us to do some further research with more updated, recent data but his overall commitment is to help us make an informed choice that agrees with our values, concerns, and potential risks.  Until we come to a final decision, our strategy so far has been to keep Lil’ Z tanked up on breastmilk for as long as possible, strengthen her little budding immune system with adequate rest, good nutrition, and plenty of sunshine, and limit her contact with other little children, particularly the runny-nose, sniffly ones.  😉

The Vaccine Guide also gives practical steps and advices on disease risk factors, recommended vaccine strategies, and vaccine alternatives.  This book is probably most appropriate for those already oscillating between selective vaccines and no vaccines at all.  The information is also considered “outdated”, so our pediatrician recommends The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears.

Teach Your Baby to Sign by Monica Beyer

If you ever considered teaching your baby sign language, this book has a very simple, easy-to-read introduction to baby sign, its benefits, responses to criticisms and suggested instruction approaches.  Most of the sign illustrations are drawn, with some signs demonstrated by cutelings.  Thankfully, she writes a description of the sign, because the signs of cute, chubby little hands all start to look the same after awhile (at least to the novice).  It’s really a reference guide with a comprehensive list of common signs that are useful for everyday practice.  There are also activity and introduction tips with anecdotes sprinkled throughout.  Lil’ Z’s first sign, thanks to this book, was “milk”- a big part of her life, obviously!  Now, her latest sign is “read” and that she loves.  I think we have a budding bibliophile on our hands- a girl after her father’s own heart!  The only thing that would make the book even better would be to include a DVD but otherwise, it has been helpful in teaches us signs and introducing them to Lil’ Z.

How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin

This handy book is visually delicious and simply instructive, without being too dogmatic.  It really shows the practical aspects of Montessori education for little ones, with so many practical examples for you to practice at home without feeling guilty for not spending your life’s savings on handcrafted Montessori props.  Lil’ Z enjoyed reading this book with me too because the selection of pictures is really beautiful and inspiring.  It would’ve been nice to see more children of color and various ethnicities in the book but I really have no complaints about this one.

Montessori from the Start, The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen

This book gets more into the “nitty-gritty” of Montessori philosophy and how to apply it.  Urbndervish and I already assessed some of the Montessori ideals to be exactly that- ideals.  However, his mantra has been “let’s understand the principles and freak it!” i.e. see what applies to us and do it in our DIY, nomadic, minimalist kinda way. 

Montessori from the Start is packed with a lot of useful brain/sensory development information which helps you to understand the child’s developmental needs and abilities accordingly.  This foundation really does help you to look at your baby and attempt to understand how to maximize the relevant “window” or learning opportunity they face and respond to it appropriately.  Some of the ideas seemed…hmmm…cold, rigid, and strict?  Maybe we’ve been bitten too hard by the Attachment Parenting bug on some aspects or are too biased by our own experiences.  Nonetheless, the book is informative and helpful.  If you thought of taking a Montessori Assistant to Infancy course, I would recommend reading this book first.  It may give you a solid foundation because a lot of the “work” of parenting is your own presence, observation, and intuition as you move through the process.

Heaven on Earth:  A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer

Heaven on Earth is essentially a how-to book on Waldorf pedagogy.  It presents some beautiful ideas that initially made me feel inadequate that we’re not in a position to provide the kind of environment that the Waldorf world offers.  Then I realized that the Waldorf philosophy is based on a rural Americana experience that neither Urbndervish nor I ever had.  I’m sure such a context provides rich learning experiences,  but we concluded that we just have to take the best of what our circumstances have to offer and create opportunities where possible.  Reading about such utopic learning contexts is a great motivator, as long as you don’t use it as the barometer.  My favorite chapter is the last one entitled “Creating your Family Culture”.  After Sharifa beautifully paints that Waldorf world of play, rhythm, art, faires and other woodling creatures, she passes the baton and invites you to do the work of creating the world you want for your children.  She uses the model of a five-pointed star (how apropos) to help you explore what the arms, legs, and head of your own family life will be.  She offers excellent practical tips, recipes, and how-to’s throughout the book and offers some great insights to positive discipline or “behavior management”.  Before we go branding ourselves with names and philosophies of foreign origin, we need to ask ourselves about the culture we’re creating for our children and think through it thoroughly.  Ultimately, we want our children to feel loved and love the life they’re living. Therefore, it helps to translate our values and ideals into concrete, tangible principles, routines, and fixtures in a family life.  She highlights the importance of whole family living- whole food cooking, quality family time- both in work and play, and balancing freedom and responsibility.  The other aspects of the book I’ll save on deck for a day we find ourselves living in rural Americana in an enchanted forest!  😉

These books were additional great companions on our summer journey.  Next book on the reading list: 

Birth Matters:  A Midwife’s Manifesto by Ina May Gaskin.  No, we’re not pregnant again, nor am I secretly training to be a midwife- this is a book I won through a giveaway at Hakima Midwifery’s blogAlhamdulillah (Praise be to God!).  I think it’s additionally cool that the foreword is written by Ani DiFranco.  In college, I was a huge Ani fan- I even attended two of her concerts!  Ani is a gifted musician and a fascinating personality.  Watching her life and musical journey unfold really shows how potent and powerful change and evolution can be.  Here’s a link of her describing her birthing experience:  Mindful Mama Interview with Ani DiFranco

Birth Matters will likely be our next book, in addition to The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears.


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