The Giant Egg and a Science Lesson

Yesterday I found the biggest egg I have ever seen, in one of the nest boxes of our backyard chicken coop.  I was planning to make eggs for lunch today, so I called the boys to see when I cracked the egg because I was sure it would have 2 yolks.  And it did, but it must have been inside the hen too long because there was opaque white material in the egg as well. It really did look like two eggs seamlessly fused together, from the outside.  And when I first cracked it, there were two yolks, but one was fragile and broke before I could take a picture of it.  We didn’t use the egg, it  just looked too strange so I was afraid it might be spoiled.  Anyhow, my 7 1/2 year old started asking questions about chickens laying eggs, and then about how babies grow and how they get out of their mother’s body.

I’m not very proficient with unschooling, I’m more of a fan of curriculum and workbooks, but this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try, so I went with it.  I found a copy of Hello Baby! that my mother gave him when his little brother was born.  The book explains, among other things,  the basics of how the baby develops with diagrams and some short descriptions.  We looked at his old ultrasound pictures. We looked at pictures from my baby shower so he could see my belly when I was pregnant with him.  I showed him this animation which shows simulations of how the baby develops, and I showed him this medical animation of childbirth to answer the “how does the baby get out” question.  We talked about the uterus, the placenta, the amniotic sac, the umbilical cord, and the birth canal.

My son wanted to know about what happens to the umbilical cord and I explained, even found a photograph of a baby with a cord clamp still in place, but I haven’t yet been able to find a video of the pulsating umbilical cord or a cord being clamped and cut.  It do want him to know that the cord should not be cut until it stops pulsating, even though many medical professionals clamp the cord immediately after birth.  A friend on FB shared a link to her blog, which shows a beautiful video of a home waterbirth.  The video is made with a collection of still photographs.  It is rather discreet as far as birth videos go, as the water blurs the images slightly when the baby emerges.  I feel comfortable allowing my son to view this, it is really well done.  There are even pictures of the new baby’s siblings admiring the newborn boy as well as pictures of the family together after the birth.

But back to what started our discussion, we also looked at photographs of developing chick embryos. We discussed how developing mammals are different from developing birds, and how they are similar.  I explained how the yolk sac functions much like the placenta, to nourish the growing chick.  I told him that the chick has tiny blood vessels that travel from its body to the inside surface of the shell to provide oxygen, something that we noticed when one of our own backyard flock hatched out some chicks last summer.  For a good explanation of how the eggs are formed inside a female chicken, we found factsheets on the anatomy and physiology of the reproductive tract of a female chicken.  I highly recommend this source, as there are some great photographs of the ovaries with developing eggs and also a the oviduct and vent.  These are from dissection, and they are well labeled.

I was very pleased with our first experience using an unschooling approach.  I’m impressed with the resources that are available on the internet.  Only one site that I used to teach today was completely new to me, but I was grateful that I was able to pull together the resources needed for our study very quickly.  Including items that we had around the house such as the photographs, book, and ultrasound pictures, worked very well for us too.  My son was very interested and asking well thought out questions.  I highly recommend trying out this approach, even if you are a curriculum lover like I am.

Here are two photos of our June backyard hatching, the youngest members of our flock.  They are now 7 months old and laying their own eggs.  Enjoy!

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Discussing Autism Prevention: Where to Begin?

As I have recently announced, my blog has a new focus, preventing autism.  This is such a broad topic and I am struggling with where to begin.  My initial thought was to follow Gloria Lemay’s 7 Steps For Scramblng the Brain of a Baby.  I could go through each item and discuss how it may have played a role in causing my sons autism.  But I would really feel like I was riding her coattails if I were to take that approach.  I thought, maybe I could just tell the story of my pregnancy with my first child, and what I personally feel may have lead to his Asperger Syndrome.  Not sure what the reader reactions would be on that one.  Would they be judgmental, patronizing, or argumentative?  My desire is to invite neither criticism nor debate,  but to encourage my readers to consider carefully each decision they make while they grow their families.  Not to simply take the word of your doctor, your mother, or your friend as factual but to research and to own each choice that you make along the way.

Technology can be useful, even life saving.  But it is generally not the best approach, in my experience, when it comes to promoting wellness.  Health begins with nutrition, but the industrialization of farming has robbed us of what we really need to build healthy families.  To make matters worse, our busy lifestyles often coerce us to make poor choices about food.

When I discussed my plans to start a family with my obstetrician, he never asked me a thing about my diet.  When I became pregnant with my first child, the only information I received on nutrition was a list of foods not to eat, and a prescription for prenatal vitamins.  At no other point during the pregnancy did my doctor discuss what I was eating.  But technology was a prominent feature in my routine, low risk prenatal care and in the birth of my children.  It is our responsibility as parents, or prospective parents, to learn which foods to eat to build health (and where to buy them), and about the risks and benefits of each test and intervention that our health care provider recommends.

So that is my short introduction.  In addition to my new focus, I also plan to move all autism prevention and related blogs to a new platform, which is now located here.  If I continue with this platform as well, the topic here will be more focused on homeschooling and parenting special needs children. Stay tuned!

Back to Blogging

I have been away from blogging for quite some time.  Much of my time is spent homeschooling my two boys, who are in Kindergarten and 2nd grade.  My 2nd grader, who has Asperger Syndrome, presents mainly behavioral challenges while he generally excels in academics.  My kindergartner seems to be a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to academic skills, but he is making very good progress at his own pace.  This is my third year homeschooling with my oldest, but this has been my first year homeschooling both the boys.

Lately I have developed an interest in Twitter, which I have found to be a great way to connect with other moms with common interests.  Many of the moms that I follow on Twitter have blogs which they update frequently.  I have wanted to start blogging again, but felt that I lacked a specific focus.  Until I read this blog, originally titled “7 Step Recipe for Creating an Autistic Child.”  Many of the ingredients in this “recipe” are derived from choices that mothers make during pregnancy, birth, and the care of their infants, many of which are endorsed heartily by the vast majority of health care providers.   On the surface, the list of “ingredients” seems harsh and judgmental, but truly this is a challenge,  a call to action.

This is the direction that I needed, a topic that I feel quite passionate about and one that has directly impacted our family on a personal  level.  Autism is preventable.  For all the research that has been done looking for an “autism gene,” genetics only accounts for a tiny percentage of what now affects at least 1 child in a hundred.  Since our firstborn son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at age 5, it has haunted me.  Was it the tuna I ate when I was pregnant with him?  Something in the water or the air?  Was it vaccines?  Refinishing a piece of baby furniture?  Was he injured during birth?  In all likelihood, it was a combination of many factors along with some type of genetic susceptibility.  I will never know and I can’t go back and change them.  But I can research, I can learn, and I can share what I discover.  This is the new focus of my blog, and I hope that I can use it to make a difference for others.