Genevieve Schaefer is a homebirth midwife practicing in central Texas. She finds great pleasure and honor in lovingly helping babies to be born into the arms of their parents in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. Her primary focus is assisting the women she serves in having an informed, supported and empowered childbearing year that includes shared decision-making, emotional support, fitness, nutritional counseling and community.
A fourth-generation Texan and mother of four, Genevieve grew up with the influence of a large extended family in the Texas hill country. While raising her children homeschooling became an option for their family and she and her husband enjoyed watching their children explore and blossom. Genevieve is a graduate of the Association of Texas Midwives Midwifery Training program where she completed both didactic and apprenticeship programs in preparation to become a Certified Professional Midwife. She has been a steadily working midwife, attending 2-4 births a month as a primary midwife and in collaboration with other midwives and students.
An active member in the midwifery community, Genevieve is affiliated with the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NARM), and the Association of Texas Midwives (ATM). She attends continuing education seminars, trainings and peer reviews.
Genevieve lives with her husband, two middle sons and her daughter in Driftwood, Texas. Her oldest son lives in San Marcos where he is completing his culinary degree. She loves to knit while waiting for babies and can sometimes be heard playing the piano.
Becoming a parent is perhaps the most transformative step that an individual may take in his or her lifetime. It is an honor to work with families as they grow through the profound experiences of pregnancy, birth and newborn care. The midwife’s role through pregnancy is to assess, inform and support her client in the process of becoming a parent to a new child. I achieve this in my practice through partnership with my clients.
My philosophy of care honors the whole person.
Raising four children and maintaining a fulfilling marriage has impressed upon me the importance of respecting the communication styles and personal needs of each individual. Pregnancy and birth are life events that enhance the mind-body connection, making holistic care modalities especially potent.
Continuity of care is an important component of my practice.
Seeing your personal midwife at each appointment, knowing she will honor and respect your needs and wishes, deepens the relationship between the midwife and client, increasing trust and aiding in individualizing care.
Individualized care is another pillar of my practice.
I embrace the individuality of each woman and her family, encouraging her to determine the path of care she needs or desires. To support her I have protocols and utilize my skills to maintain a nurturing environment and evidence-based practice.
Health and well-being are emphasized to assist the woman in having an optimal pregnancy, birth and postpartum period.
Nutritional counseling is a cornerstone of a healthy pregnancy, and I assist the mother in finding whole food diet sources. I have been studying nutrition and eating a whole foods diet myself for twenty years, and have come to understand the great potential for healing through nutrition.
Similarly, exercise is essential to maternal well being, and thus, her child’s. Her emotional state is uplifted through exercise and superb nutrition.
I use non-invasive skills to assist a woman’s birth.
I rely upon other skills, such as abdominal palpation, fetoscope, rebozo, acupressure, homeopathy, herbs, and guided imagery when invasive procedures can be avoided. Many women don’t want to give birth on their back, have vaginal exams every hour, or experience the pain of an invasive manual procedure without consent. I respect these women’s choices and strive to support them in having the birth experience they want.
Natural remedies are employed in my practice to improve systemic health.
I provide my clients with natural remedies for common discomforts of pregnancy, birth and postpartum care. Many of these I’ve learned through the years, but I continue to educate myself about homeopathy, herbs and other natural health care modalities.
Collaboration and referral are another important characteristic of competent midwifery care.
It is the responsibility of the midwife to refer clients to other health care professionals when appropriate. This may mean collaborating care with a licensed acupuncturist, chiropractor, massage therapist, naturopath, psychotherapist or physician. At times, care for a client can be co-managed with an obstetrician, and some women will need to be under the primary care of a physician if complications arise during her pregnancy or birth. The safety and well being of clients, mothers and their babies, is my primary goal.
The Birthing from Within (1998) philosophy of England and Horowitz resonates with me, as do the theories of Dr. Michael Odent and Ina May Gaskin.
The benefits of yoga in pregnancy are many. Breathing and relaxation exercises relieve stress and assist with natural childbirth. Yoga improves flexibility and circulation while providing relief from common discomforts of pregnancy. Regular yoga practice promotes a positive mood and attitude, friendship and social support.
The midwife and clients meet weekly to walk a 3 mile loop around Town Lake. Both prenatal and postpartum clients, along with past clients attend. Ask Genevieve for the current schedule and meeting location.
The midwife and clients meet weekly to swim at a public pool in Austin. Ask Genevieve for the current schedule and location.
Childbirth classes are an excellent way to access accurate information about labor, birth, post-partum and newborn care. They provide an opportunity for parents to focus on the pregnancy together while making connections to other expectant families. My classes are fun and interactive. They include hands-on activities, films, and discussions. Guidelines for homebirth preparation are provided. Care of the mother and newborn include an emphasis on breastfeeding.
Assigned Reading: Birthing from Within by Pam England and Ron Horowitz
Class 1: Getting Ready: how to prepare for labor, birth and recovery with appropriate exercise, nutrition and rest
Class 2: Preparing for Birth: how to prepare for the birth; the partner’s role; coping with labor; stages and phases of labor and mechanics of birthing; birthing your way
Class 3: After the Birth: bonding and attachment; postpartum recovery; newborn care; breast feeding
Eating healthy can be a challenge for busy families, but the pleasure of a healthy home cooked meal is always worth extra time and effort. Genevieve offers cooking classes to assist clients in attaining a whole foods diet. In these classes, you will cook a meal with other expectant families while learning about eating in harmony with the earth, the seasons, and your body. You will be asked to contribute ingredients. Foods are collectively prepared in a client’s home or Genevieve’soffice kitchen. If you’d like to offer your home for a class, please let Genevieve know of your interest.
Seasonal recipes can be found on the Sisters Midwfery Blog!
Genevieve may provide you with nutritional herbs during your pregnancy. Genevieve’s herbs are wild crafted by local herbalist, Ginger Webb from Texas Medicinals . Your herbal formula is tailored to your nutritional needs and should be taken as an infusion. Boil 1 quart of water. Scoop 1 cup of well-mixed herbs into a glass quart-sized jar. Pour water to top and cover with lid. Let herbs brew overnight. Strain with a cheese cloth or fine strainer. Drink hot, at room temperature or over ice. Feel free to sweeten with agave nectar, local honey or organic juice. Drink within 3 days of brewing. Herbal infusions contain protein, vitamins and minerals. Enjoy drinking you healthy infusion – plant food for your body.
Bundle of Joy Postpartum: Wendy Redding CPD (DONA, Maternity Wise) Doula – Postpartum care – non-medical physical and emotional support, breastfeeding assistance and household organization during the postnatal period.
The Business of Being Born – A new film that interlaces intimate birth stories with surprising historical, political and scientific insights and shocking statistics about the current maternity care system.
TexasMedicinals.com – Exceptionally high quality herbs and herbal products for family health, including a fabulous line of pregnancy teas and body products.
Mothers Naturally – A public education program from the Midwives Alliance of North America. The goal of Mothers Naturally is to increase the number of safe and positive births by educating and informing the public about natural birth options and empowering women to make pregnancy and birth choices appropriate for their lives.
The Coalition for Improving Materinity Services – Established in 1996, the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) is a collaborative effort of numerous individuals and more than 50 organizations representing over 90,000 members. Their mission is to promote a wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs.
Central Texas Birth Network – The CTBN is a member-supported organization of childbirth professionals, healthcare providers, and other businesses that serve expecting mothers and families.
Support women, babies, families, midwives and the
midwifery model of care by becoming a member of Citizens for Midwifery
and Texans for Midwifery-Austin
Protect women’s rights to birth as they choose!
I’ve put together below some articles about different home birth and natural parenting topics that my clients might find helpful or interesting. Please let me know if you have any questions about the information there! I’m always happy to chat more about these subjects.
Midwifery Model of Care – What women should know about the differences between obstetrics care by physicians and holistic care by midwives.
History of Midwifery – Many people think a midwife is an archaic thing of the distant past. Here are the basics of our history-from biblical times to present.
Sensitive Parenting – When raising healthy whole children is the goal: how parenting affects the social development of the child.
Living with Children: The Daily Challenges and Rewards of Homeschooling – About the process of becoming a homeschool family – more than a clean kitchen table is required.
What is it About Homeschooling? – A brief introduction to the homeschooling movement: its varied expressions and allures.
The midwifery model of care differs from the medical model in terms of responsibility of care, perspective of pregnancy, definitions of care and the sources of therapies.
One primary difference between the two models of maternity care involves the person responsible for the pregnancy. In the medical model, the physician is of primary responsibility. The midwifery model, however, views the mother as the primary responsible party for her own well-being and the well-being of her fetus.
While pregnancy is understood as a pathological state in obstetrics, midwives view pregnancy as a healthy natural state. Allopathic medicine views the mother’s body as a separate entity from her fetus. Midwives view the two as one during pregnancy. This perspective of pregnancy, in turn, influences therapeutic approaches and parameters
The midwife utilizes natural care remedies, focusing primarily on preventive diet, social support and exercise. When greater interventions are appropriate, holistic approaches are employed, including herbs, homeopathy, and body work.
A medical doctor depends largely on testing, pharmaceutical drugs, and preemptive technological interventions. The physician’s parameters of care do not usually include social support or intense counseling of nutrition and exercise.
The differences between the two models reflect, in part, variations in training and expertise. A midwife is well suited to support healthy pregnancy and delivery. Meanwhile, a physician is primarily trained for pathology. Both are necessary for excellent maternity care in any community.
Illysa Foster, M.Ed.
The art of midwifery has been in existence since the beginning of civilization, as women came to the aid of one another at births. Evidence of midwifery in the ancient world is apparent in myths, texts and oral traditions from many cultures and geographic areas. Until the Renaissance, there is no evidence of formal training in the field. One can argue that the art has been practiced continuously through human times, and that until the recent development of the obstetric model, birth assistance had changed little over the course of many millennia. Despite numerous pressures to end the practice of midwifery in the West, midwives have continued to practice, and we are currently witnessing a growing revival of homebirths and midwifery.
In the ancient world around the Mediterranean Sea, midwives were highly regarded in their communities. The Hebrew Bible contains a passage that confirms a high status of midwives during the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Jewish midwives protected the sons of Jews that had been given a death warrant, yet there is no record of their punishment for disobeying the laws of Pharaoh. These brave women were known as Shifra and Puah (Exodus). Ancient Greek midwives include the mother of Socrates, Phaenarete, and Agnodike, who disguised her sex to train in obstetrics in Egypt (Rooks, 1997).
Artifacts provide us with insights into the nature of birth in the ancient world. The work of midwives is recorded on vessels found in the tombs of ancient Egyptian aristocrats in the form of hierarchical drawings (Ashford). Genesis 30:3 describes women giving birth while kneeling or on an assistant’s lap. There is abundant evidence to suggest that this technique was used for thousands of years, along with early birth stools made from roughly shaped rocks among Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and Celts from 1400 BCE to 100 CE. The remnants of birthing stools suggest their use in ancient Asia, Africa, Middle East, South Pacific, and the Americas. These suggest that midwives assisted nature in birth, and that intervention was rare (Banks, 1999).
The Middle Ages saw a persecution of midwives that has been unparalleled in recorded history. The Holy Roman Empire sought to control midwives practices in Europe through rules and regulations that carried the most severe of penalties, death. Midwives were charged with the practice of witch craft for disobeying the Catholic Church doctrines. Often, midwives had to choose between their own lives or those of their clients in witch hunts that served to control the sexuality of women. As midwives cared for the dead and dying, they were often charged with murder or demonic possession when a death was not clearly explained otherwise. The vast majority of victims of the witch burnings were women, and of these many were practicing midwives (Rooks, 1997).
During the time of the Renaissance, midwives served both royalty and the impoverished. Paris became the center of birth assistance training. (Rooks, 1997). In The Rhetoric of Midwifery: Gender, Knowledge and Power (2000), Mary Lay describes the battle between British physicians and midwives over professional territory. Wise women in Britain began to write about their techniques in an effort to educate practitioners and protect their profession from regulation. In 1671, Jane Sharpe wrote the first known text written by a midwife, The Midwives Book. The text included anatomy, diagnostic tests, and herbal treatments. She argued for women’s expertise in birth and advised against intervention except in extreme cases. Elizabeth Cellier proposed formal education for midwives in 1687, an expansion of their professionalism, but an end to autonomy. Sarah Stone published an instruction guide for difficult cases: Complete Practice of Midwifery. In 1760, Elizabeth Nihell argued against the instruments of interventions widely used by male practitioners (Lay, 2000).
European-trained midwives carried a tradition of woman-centered birth to the New World. Bridget Lee Fuller was a British midwife on the Mayflower who settled in Plymouth. The apprenticeship model was sole educational model at this time. Some New England midwives were executed as a result of Puritan witch hunts. In Colonial America, midwives practiced with little restrictions until the late eighteenth century (Wertz & Wertz, 1989).
The most poignant illustration of a practicing midwife in Colonial America exists in the diary of New England midwife, Martha Ballard. Ms. Ballard recorded her midwifery duties alongside her daily chores, family budgets, and child-rearing notes. An active and highly regarded citizen, Ms. Ballard was called to testify in court on a number of civil and criminal cases. Her records of vital statistics of her area are the most comprehensive of her time. She assisted at births, deaths and burials, and was treated as a peer by physicians who often consulted with her. Her midwife practice shows a large proportion of fetal demise, such as in the exerpt below:
“January 3, 1796
Rainly afternoon. I returnd from Capt Springers. Left her about house. Shee make me a present of 1/2 lb. Souchong Tea. I Came home at 11 hour. Bakt and Cleand my hous and did other matters. Was Calld at 7 hour Evening to see the wife of Eliab Shaw who was very ill when I arivd and was Delivered at 9 of a dead son. It appeared to have been dead for some tiem. The skin allmost all Came off. The mother is as Comfortable as Can be Expected. (Ulrich, 1990, p. 204).”
The invention of the forceps and other intervention tools by the Chamberlains in 1598 changed birth assistance forever. In order to preserve their place alongside the Royals as they gave birth, the Chamberlains kept secret their invention for many decades. When word of the interventions spread across Europe in the 18th century, the forceps continued to develop as male midwives usurped the business of female midwives along the upper echelon of society. Males continued to bar females from developing expertise in the techniques of obstetrics through sexual discrimination tactics at medical schools and in the field. Men who had never attended births, and did not know the process of childbirth or the art of birth assistance intervened inappropriately in labor, often causing death to mother and/or baby. By the nineteenth century, the modern obstetrics model planted itself firmly in the west as wealthier women sought the expertise of physicians over the traditional midwife (Lay, 2000; Rooks, 1997; Midwifery Info.com).
The construct of birth shifted from a natural, community-oriented to a medicalized and individualized (Lay, 2000. In this country there was nothing less than a sinister plot to undermine the integrity and reputation of midwives in order to improve the status of obstetricians in the medical field. The American Medical Association, following the leadership of Doctors Joseph DeLey and J. Whitridge Williams, systematically stripped the midwives of the U.S. of their right to practice, effectively denying American women the right to woman-centered homebirth (Rooks, 1997).
The battle over birth assistance was played out differently in Europe than in the States. British advocates for midwifery dedicated themselves to protecting the practice of midwives through licensure and regulation, as well as delineating roles to both midwives and obstetricians in the field of maternity care (Rooks, 1997).
As more and more midwives from Europe immigrated into the U.S. at the turn of the early twentieth century, a new model of nurse midwifery was crusaded by Mary Brekenridge in the Appalachian region of the South. The nurse-midwife field developed in Europe at the close of the nineteenth century, and was eventually brought to the Western Hemisphere in the early twentieth century in an effort to aid poor rural women in maternity care (Rooks, 1997). “…Mary Breckenridge founded the Frontier Nursing Service in Kentucky in 1925 amidst a long, successful medical campaign to defame and eliminate midwives” (Rooks, 1998, p.40). In 1955, the Association of Certified Nurse Midwives was founded in 1955 to add professionalism and credibility to midwifery (Davis-Floyd, 1998).
Legislation on midwifery practices and licensure varied greatly from state to state in the U.S. while traditional midwives continued to practice, many of whom originated from the African slave communities. Granny midwives continued to serve poor population in the South regardless of the legal status of midwifery. One such practitioner was Onnie Lee, the descendant of a slave who practiced in rural Alabama for over fifty years. Her services often included meal preparations, house work, and social work. She delivered babies to the disenfranchised citizens of her community with dedication, with little or no compensation. The state government revoked her license despite the necessity of her services for the poor population. As obstetricians organized to take over the practices of midwives, indigent hospitals set up maternity wards, sometimes bringing patients in by force. Without regard for patients’ consent or quality of care, obstetricians practiced numerous interventions on poor women (Logan, 1989).
Traditional birth assistance was maintained in the Southwest and in Central America. Spiritual birthing-assistance techniques, such as the Mayan Abdominal Massage, and Spiritual Bathing, have been preserved in the rural areas of Central America for hundreds of years (Arvigo, 2005). Doña Irene Sotelo demonstrated a few of these at the MANA 2005 convention. By use of a rebozo, or hand-woven scarf, midwives effectively improve fetal positions in second and third trimesters. The rebozo is also used to aid in placental delivery. Likewise, in Northern Mexico and (currently) the southwestern United States, traditional healers specializing in birth, curanderas-parteras, maintain a long tradition of spiritual healing during birth assistance. By use of herbs, prayer, massage, incense, and talk-therapy, these traditional midwives have assisted thousands of births in these regions in recent history. Some states, such as New Mexico, began licensing traditional midwives (Ortiz, 2005).
Since the middle of the twentieth century, the vast majority of women give birth in hospitals with obstetricians in attendance, yet a revival of the old midwifery model was stirring in the hearts of intellectual women of the 1950s and 1960s that spurred the development of the modern homebirth movement in the U.S. “In the 1960s and 1970s many in the midwifery community thought we didn’t need or want regulation,” writes Barnes, a direct-entry and certified nurse-midwife (1998, p. 14).
Ina May Gaskin recorded her training and birth stories from her clients in her well-known book, Spiritual Midwifery (1973), which became a model for many pioneering midwives of the 1970s and 1980s. Accounting a piecemeal education in childbirth assistance, the author reveals a daring attempt to return the business of childbirth to women. Briefly trained on a bus outside of a university auditorium by a youthful obstetrician, Ms. Gaskin’s saturation in mostly healthy birth experiences in her school bus caravan across the U.S., provided her with trust in the birth process. Her bold publication of reproductive physiology, paired with numerous accounts of successful births with minimal assistance in her community was a milestone for the modern homebirth movement. It became a source for defining the midwifery model of care (Rothman, 1998).
In recent decades, a trend of organization and licensure is apparent in the field of midwifery in the U.S. By the 1980s, direct-entry midwives had joined with nurse-midwives to form the Midwives Association of North America in 1982 (MANA). The term Midwifery Model of Care was used for the first time to describe the nature of midwives’ work in homebirth. This term helped to define homebirth midwifery practice for its own philosophies and practices, rather than defining it in opposition to obstetrics (Rothman, 1998).
Arvigo, R. (2005). Mayan Spiritual Healing. Presented at MANA 2005 convention: Boulder, CO.
Ashford, J.I. (date unknown). Mothers & Midwives: A History of Traditional Childbirth. www.geocities.com/Wellesley/atrium/5148/hisory.html.
Banks, A.C. (1999). Birth Chairs, Midwives, and Medicine. University Press of Mississippi.
Barnes, D. (1998). Choosing Your Route. In Paths to Becoming a Midwife: Getting an Education. Midwifery Today, Inc.: Eugene, OR.
Davis-Floyd, R. (1998). The Ups, Downs and Interlinkages of Nurse-and Direct-Entry Midwifery: Status, Practice and Education. In Paths to Becoming a Midwife: Getting an Education. Midwifery Today, Inc.: Eugene, OR.
Davis-Floyd, R. (2005). Renegade Midwife: Asset or Liability? Presented at MANA 2005 convention: Boulder, CO.
Exodus 1:15 – 1:20. In The Hebrew Bible.
Genesis 30:3. In The Hebrew Bible.
Logan, O.L. (1989). Motherwit: An Alabama Midwife’s Story as told to Katherine Clark. Dutton: New York, NY.
MidwiferyInfo.com (date unknown). A Short History of Midwifery. www.midwifeinfo.com/history
Ortiz, F. (2005). History of Curandera-Parteras in Northern New Mexico. Presented at MANA 2005 convention: Boulder, CO.
Rooks, J.P. (1999). Midwifery & Childbirth in America.
Rooks, J. (1998). Undecided?: Become a CNM!. In Paths to Becoming a Midwife: Getting an Education. Midwifery Today, Inc.: Eugene, OR.
Sotelo, D.I. (2005) Rebozo: Using Traditional Techniques from Mexico to Assist Babies into Optimal Position for Birth. Presented at MANA 2005 convention: Boulder, C.O.
Ulrich, L.T. (1990). The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary 1785-1812. Vintage Books: New York, NY.
Wertz, R. & Wertz, D.C. (1989). Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America. Yale University Press: New Haven.
Living with Children: The Daily Challenges and Rewards of Homeschooling
An Austin Homeschooling experience, by Illysa Foster, M.Ed.
Families come to the decision to homeschool through many paths. Some are aware of their desire to keep their kids nearby before a transition to preschool or kindergarten. Many come by way of disappointment in the schools. Quite a significant portion of us choose to create a family-centered lifestyle.
All of these paths eventually lead to an organic process of homeschooling. Education at home is organic because it cannot be forced, and it must be constantly altered to meet the needs of an evolving family. I find the need to “rebirth” my instruction and schedule every semester. Unschoolers alter their routines constantly, if a routine is in existence at all. The design of the homeschool day cannot be forced by a school-driven culture, because life at home inevitably involves the daily, grounded work and demands of running a household. Hence, many families that try to set up “school at home” become frustrated or exhausted. Homeschooling has its own home-driven structure that cannot be removed.
We learn through our experiences at home with our children of their needs and our resources. From these we mix a combination of lessons and exposures that facilitates a life of learning for the entire family. A homeschool teacher discovers the hitch in the teacher myth: teachers don’t know everything. Growing up in schools, we were taught of the omnipotence of our teachers: flawless, precise and unquestionable. Although teachers’ knowledge is limited, they possess something much more valuable: research skills, resources, and instruction skills. These qualities exist in teachers to a variable extent per individual. Homeschool teachers develop these qualities in their journey and put them to work in curriculum and instruction design.
As parents, we have a connection to our children that is stronger and more enduring than most teachers have with their students. Once we can free ourselves from the culture of school and the teacher myth, this connection will serve us in guiding our direction. Because our children are each unique, with special needs and abilities, their curriculum and instruction is designed individually. Families have values and priorities that is the framework of the homeschool curriculum, but the child’s needs and interests create a structure within that framework
Although I had explored homeschooling when my oldest daughter was in early childhood, I reserved homeschooling for when a need appeared, I expected, around early adolescence. So, my eldest proceeded to attend a neighborhood public school that fit our needs at the time. With a new infant in the home, kindergarten provided my five-year-old with daily exposure to peers, and a busy day of activity that I felt less capable of providing in the home. Fortunately, she had a very nurturing teacher. This was a requirement for my child. I wanted someone with a gentle tone and affectionate manner to teach her. If it hadn’t been for her sweet teacher, my child’s school attendance would have halted abruptly. Comforted, she slowly adapted to a five-day school week, often visiting the counselor for support in missing me. Her class was mixed-aged, so she continued with a teacher and group of students for two years. When a class promotion occurred in second grade, however, things had changed in the school. A new principle was hired to implement a test-curriculum into a progressive, grade-fee, ‘avante guard’ school. With these changes, came a lesson for me. The school district had no intention of serving my child’s needs, and I owe my knowledge of this to her second-grade teacher. She informed me that my child’s math skills would not be challenged that year due to the limitations of the test curriculum. Coupled with incessant behavioral problems in the classroom, abrasive cafeteria “patrol officers,” an easily observable wasting of time, and a dull enrichment program, this realization allowed me to make a momentous decision to take over the education of my child.
For the first six months, the curriculum was piecemeal. I had committed to running a part-time preschool program in my home in order to afford to stay home with my infant. My energies to homeschool were limited. But my daughter took to reading with a fervor, and spent her time wisely with workbooks when she was uninterested in our preschool activities. She began to find her usefulness in the home, too. To this day, my eldest has never been “bored.” I attribute this, in part, to our choice to live free of television.
As my child progressed through third and fourth grades, we used a core-curriculum guide and library resources to build a curriculum that would keep her up with her school peers, but we quickly discovered that in a day, we could go beyond the normal expectations. A curriculum-based day need only last a couple of hours to accomplish the expectations set in schools, and my daughter’s interests in art and music flourished in the afternoons. We became involved in various lessons and cooperatives to meet her interests and social needs.
When we finally purchased a curriculum, we knew what we were looking for. As my youngest developed, I found the need for more structure paramount. I could depend on a curriculum to have lesson plans designed to progress through a subject area within which I felt overburdened. So, I began to focus more of my time on instruction and specific lesson plans for coop classes that I offered.
My girls blossomed, and continue to be challenged. I, myself, feel challenged in my role, as well. I find myself to be a guide and facilitator to learning, rather than a didactic “all knowing” teacher. Other parents may discover their own teaching style to be more traditional or radical, but they will find a niche that serves their family, whatever it may be. Eventually, the demands of the situation will change, and with it, a teaching style may erode or adapt. Flexibility is an asset that continues to serve our species.
Through our experiences, somehow we choose to homeschool. But this decision sounds outrageous to most family members and other parents. What makes us so different from them in our views? Why are we willing to step outside of cultural norms to this extent?
Certainly not for the money! There are no monetary rewards for homeschooling. Most homeschool families pay public school taxes, yet, our children are not directly served by the schools. Curriculum materials are expensive, and although a good library can provide complete resources for an impressive education, most families purchase curriculum. Lessons and coops all have their fees. But the most expensive aspect of homeschooling is in a potential wage earner’s lost salary.
This requires a shift from cultural standards. Obviously, upper-class families have a monetary advantage in making this decision. Yet, affluent families face challenges to this decision. Changing from a dual-income family to a single one involves sacrifices. One may sacrifice their career dreams, or their luxury automobile, or their social status to stay at home. Middle and low income families have to face creative challenges to make ends meet when one parent is at home. Single parents may decide to live a life of poverty at home with their kids rather than a nine-to-five job with benefits and after-school care for the kids. A decision that is this paramount in scope and commitment must be made thoughtfully, and individually.
Somehow, in balancing the needs of a family, a parent may come to the decision that he or she can serve the family best by remaining at home.
This transition requires patience on the part of all family members. Questions will be asked from suspicious relations who desire a more “sure-footed” path to graduation, college and a job. The physical space of the home will suffer alterations as on-going projects, library books and art supplies move out of closets and into the family room. Children who are accustomed to the routine of schooling may initially slip into the mindset of “the endless weekend”. A new homeschool parent may have to “restart” lessons to find a method of instruction that works. Social support, educational philosophies, materials and routine will all need time and nurturance to grow. Regardless of affiliation, nearly all homeschool families agree, that the first year is a major transition that requires an abundance of patience and levity.
Other homeschool families are your best resources. When beginning a journey, it is helpful to speak with those who are further along, to find out more about the obstacles and vantage points along the way. Established cooperatives, network groups and organized gatherings will provide a bridge to ties with other homeschoolers. Your children, too, will benefit from this contact, as they find peers and interest groups that can smooth their transition. Informed parents can recommend books and materials to help you get started. A diversity of homeschool methods and philosophies can be learned from talking with a heterogeneous assembly of homeschoolers. This exposure can bring you closer to finding your unique educational philosophy. Finally, other parents provide support for you because they are deeply devoted to homeschooling themselves, and understand the challenges of living outside of the traditional educational system.
Although we were pretty isolated during our first year, the few connections that we had served our needs and opened up our opportunities within the community. Once a week, we attended a soccer game where numerous homeschoolers gathered to play, talk and relax outdoors. Here, I made important connections in the community that proved helpful later on, when we became interested in building more relationships and joining an active cooperative. Our city has a great theater where homeschool classes are held during the school day. My eldest daughter began to develop her interest theater while working cooperatively with other children on play productions. Eventually, we met some families that have been our “core support system” for years. It takes effort to meet with other homeschool families, who often reside many miles apart, but the rewards can be great.
After eight years of homeschool, my eldest chose to attend a fine arts academy in the public school system. Her motivation to learn, nurtured at home, has continued to serve her, now in terms of academic success as well as ‘learning for the sake of learning’. My youngest, now ten years of age, continues to school at home, and although she misses her big sister, the time that we spend alone together has deepened our connection. Her interests have taken the lead in guiding our schedule. Yet, she accompanies my husband to work, and enjoys meeting my clients when they come to the house. These experiences enrich her understanding of the importance of work, and how to balance it with familial responsibilities and personal needs. Someday she may choose to attend school away from her parents, and I will embrace her choice and support her journey. The time we spent at home will always be cherished.
For more information about homeschooling around the Austin area, check out the AAH newsletter.
By Illysa Foster, M.Ed
As parents, we have a unique opportunity to enhance our children’s social development. Our children look to us in so many ways to learn about themselves and others. We teach our children about themselves in our interactions with them and we teach them about others through our actions and words.
When you first hold your tiny infant, or meet your adopted child, the feelings of responsibility may seem overwhelming. These initial senses are accurate. As parents, our role in the development of our children cannot be overestimated. We are our children’s mirrors of themselves.
Our children will form their beliefs about themselves in accordance with the messages people send them about their self-worth. Since we are the central relationship in their lives for the first ten or twelve years, it is our messages that are heard the loudest. What are the messages that your children are hearing?
If you are responsive to your children’s expressions, then your children are probably hearing messages of positive self-worth. If you ignore your children’s signals , then your child may be feeling helpless and devalued. The feelings that your children extract from your relationships with them can carry over into other areas of their lives. Children whose expressions are received and validated feel a sense of general confidence. These children are more likely to attempt new challenges, make friends easier, and adapt well to both positive and negative transitions. Children who have learned that their actions are inconsequential will avoid taking chances because they believe that their attempts will likely fail or go unrewarded.
Researchers have been able to distinguish sensitively responsive interactions between parents and their children from early infancy. T. Berry Brazelton, a well known pediatrician and researcher, identified mothers who were sensitive to their infants cues as having longer and smoother interactions with their babies. By letting their infants direct and avert their attention, these mothers helped their infants to feel safe and effective. Researchers who study attachment, such as Mary Ainsworth, have begun to label mother- infant relationships according to the quality of this bond. Babies who are securely attached with their mothers find security in their mothers” presence; as toddlers, they have better problem solving skills and are more compliant with maternal requests. Babies who lack secure attachment may be easily distressed and/or have difficulty regaining security in the mothers” presence. A secure attachment relationship serves infants by providing a secure base from which they may freely explore their environment and learn. What can we do to foster secure attachment in our infants? We must begin by recognizing our infants as whole individuals with intelligence, a developing personality and needs. Then we must tune in to their cues and interpret them to the best of our ability and respond appropriately.
My own two daughters are were very different in temperament. My oldest was easily calmed with physical contact and soft comforting words. In contrast, as an infant, my youngest daughter preferred movement. My partner and I adjusted our responses to meet our new babies unique needs.
We must evaluate our interactions and alter our behaviors as necessary to meet the infants” needs. Our responses should be as consistent as possible so that the infants” can begin to develop a sense of predictability from their actions. This encourages a sense of positive self-awareness and a safe view of the world. Interactions like this flow intuitively by nature, but often parents are advised to act against their intuitions by physicians or other well meaning people who believe in externally scheduled feeding and sleep times.
When parents tune in and respond to their infants’ own internal feelings of hunger or sleepiness, the infants learn to trust their own senses and know that their actions can produce desired effects. As our reciprocal relationships with our infants develop, so does secure attachment.
Through toddler hood and early childhood, we must continue to listen to and value our children’s expressions. As toddlers become mobile and vocal, they struggle to meet their desire for independence and need for dependence. As parents of toddlers, we want to encourage independence by allowing our children to explore their abilities while maintaining attentive emotional support. It is the nature of a toddler to test limits and assert herself. Acknowledgement of increased independence enhances self-worth.
For two years I worked with toddlers and preschoolers on a daily basis, observing their strides toward autonomy. It was essential that I design my classroom to facilitate their success with independent work. The shelves were low so all of the materials were at their fingertips. Each child was responsible for clean-up. They were permitted the use of tools such as mini-hammers, brooms, and spray bottles. Yet, the kids never ceased to surprise me with requests to do “grown up” jobs, like cooking, washing dishes, and gardening. I felt it was my role as teacher to show them what they could accomplish. Of course, it is usually necessary for safety and sanity to set certain limits. Choose limits selectively and enforce them with much consistency.
Remember that some flexibility also aids the child in understanding the fluid nature of social interaction. In early childhood, the focus of development continues to be towards independence. Stable, supportive parental relationships enhance growth through this stage.
As children develop other relationships, they can be seen imitating behaviors which they have observed in the home. We should be aware of the children and modify our own behaviors if we feel that they are inappropriate for our children. What are the ways in which we directly affect their behavior and what messages are they hearing by these direct tactics? Parents who are high on control and low on warmth are called authoritarian. The children of these parents are given little power in family and personal decisions. As a result, they may feel powerless and this may manifest into withdrawal and feelings of resentment and anger. As adolescents, these children may also be very rebellious.
On the other hand, parents who are low on control and high on warmth have been termed permissive indulgent. The children of these parents have been found to be highly creative, yet low on impulse control. Permissive indifferent parents are low on both warmth and control. Their children have a high incidence of delinquency and may feel self
In contrast to the authoritarian and permissive styles, authoritative parents are high on both control and warmth. The predictions for these children are the best. They have more self acceptance as well as individual and social competence. They also exercise more give-and-take and have good self-control.
It is important to recognize that while these findings can be generalized, there are exceptions. Some children thrive with very little adult control, while others seem to need more. Likewise, some ethnic groups tend to value a particular childrearing style. Generally, when parents are warm and accepting, their adolescents are more likely to feel more confident in their own beliefs. This helps them to develop their own values.
When parents allow adolescents some control in their own lives, odds are they’ll feel more competent in the world. They have a better shot at making a smooth transition towards independence. It’s easier for these adolescents to develop their own identity. Research on restrictiveness is mixed. Some restrictions are beneficial to development while too many can hamper. Grussek and Lytton describe three punishment tactics that parent use.
Spankings and timeouts are called power assertion techniques because they communicate the message, ” I am bigger than you and can make you do what I want”. Children usually do not internalize values when expressed through power because they do not understand the reasoning as to what they have done wrong and they do not get an opportunity to experience the natural consequences of their actions.
Love withdrawal is a less extreme version of power assertion that produces immediate compliance, but it seems cruel and counter intuitive. This type of technique may undermine adolescents feelings of security and acceptance.
Positive reinforcement has been shown to effectively increase desired behaviors from children when the rewards are in the form of praise and recognition. However, these rewards are external and may fail to change underlying beliefs.
Induction involves talking and reasoning with children and adolescents. If your choose this method, be sure to tie your reasoning to specific experiences so that the child can fully understand their meaning and incorporate them into their lives.
It’s important to encourage increased independence as adolescents develop their own identities. From infancy through adolescence, the messages we want to send our children are the same: you are a special, important person and I will support you at all times. These messages will enhance your child’s social development.
– By Illysa Foster, M.Ed.
The allure of homeschooling is pretty strong in these parts, as each new school year more families are deciding to take their child’s education into their own hands. But to many who are not in the movement, the appeal of homeschooling may seem mysterious. After all, school is a convenience, allowing parents to work and pursue their interests while promoting cognitive and social growth in the children. To top off matters, public schools offer this valuable service for free. So why do so many families sacrifice the convenience of conventional schooling? Homeschooling is a dynamic growing movement because it has a lot to offer.
Homeschooling is a natural extension of a simple lifestyle. Free from the demands of daily 7:30 drives to the elementary schools, parents have more quality moments with their children at the start of the day. School ‘work’ is accomplished during the schooling periods, and homework doesn’t consume family time. The weekends and weekdays flow together and a more regular daily rhythm is possible. These are cherished advantages of the homeschool.
Parents and children become partners in education, each learning from the other and developing relationships among family members. The family remains the focus of social development for the child for an extended time. Although strong peer relationships develop, it is not at the exclusion of family.
In Texas, there are few curriculum requirements for homeschoolers. Families choose an approach fitting their needs. Within families, different approaches can be found for individual children. The approach is often flexible, with regular maintenance and fine-tuning. One year, an organized approach may work perfectly, and then the family decides to depart from the routine to travel or grow in a different direction. For some, this flexibility is the main reason to homeschool.
The two contrasting philosophical poles, unschooling and curriculum-driven pedagogy, contrast quite a bit more than mainstream public and private schools. The unschooling movement, originating with John Holt, espouses a family-centered approach to learning. Children spend time with family and friends, doing the things that occur naturally. Some unschooled children are highly driven in academics, and others may have only one special interest they choose to pursue. The children are self-taught, or parents follow their lead in designing instruction. Many other families choose to do more traditional schooling at home, consisting of purchased or created curriculums, typically with a great emphasis on enrichment areas. Those who homeschool for religious purposes often use religious-based materials.
Homeschooling families network to serve the growing population of homeschoolers. Levels of involvement in the local organizations vary tremendously from family to family. Some parents engineer meetings, classes and events. Many children are involved in three or more organized homeschool activities per week. Other families attend special events only. There are numerous local organizations serving the population, some with specific religious philosophies or geographical boundaries.
Despite these meaningful rewards, most people who turn to homeschooling do so for other reasons, and discover the true gifts of their decision only after some time has passed. Many parents today choose to homeschool because they are, quite frankly, disgusted with the system. Public and/or private schools have turned them off. Infamous reasons for homeschooling include: TAAS-driven curriculums and exhaustive testing routines, the competitive atmosphere of performance-based evaluations, poor teachers, lack of individualized attention, inappropriate amounts of time spent on specific content areas and disciplinary procedures, developmentally inappropriate pedagogy (sitting still for hours on end, no play time or shortened recess for grade school children). The list goes on. Every homeschooling parent who has had a child in school can share a nightmarish story from the dregs.
Clearly, homeschooling isn’t for every family. Many families love the schools and have positive experiences in their formal educational settings. Homeschooling requires parents to work less, often sacrificing social class status. Further, homeschooling requires patience and a desire to be with children a whole lot. Some parents who deeply embrace parenting prefer to have regular reprieves.
Those with the desire and focus who are afraid to take the leap into the great unknown may want to begin exploring the possibility of homeschooling by educating themselves about the movement. Attend meetings, talk to parents, and check out books about homeschooling from the public library. When and if you become convinced that homeschooling is right for you and your child, you have to take the plunge. A perfect time will never present itself, but you can create a homeschooling lifestyle from the one you have. Split-shifts is a possibility for two-parent households: one parent may work days and the other evenings. Reevaluating priorities and personal goals may be necessary to realize the homeschool dream. Often families downsize their possessions, buy a cheaper home and live without some of the luxuries of a middle-class lifestyle. Single parents can join support groups and co-ops to facilitate occupation and educational needs. Your imagination becomes your greatest possession when taking this journey.
Homeschooling is a dynamic growing movement because it effectively meets individuals’ needs. In Austin, we are blessed with a large and diverse homeschooling population. To learn more about local organizations, ask your local librarian for the Austin Area Homeschoolers Newcomers Guide.
Illysa Foster is a homeschooling Austin advocate. She has successfully home schooled her two daughters for many years and now is a practicing midwife in Austin, Texas.
Contact Genevieve Schaefer, midwife Austin, Texas for more information about midwifery services in Austin, Texas. Genevieve is a practicing midwife in the Austin area and has been serving women and their babies in private practice since 2011. The home birth experience is a natural and safe method of welcoming your new baby into this world. It promotes quick bonding with parents and child. Additional benefits include quick establishment of successful nursing and quicker healing for mother.
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