Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Which Path Will You Choose?

      Many of you have no idea what it means to have a special needs child that has been vaccine injured, and the difficult decisions that come with this special package. What I would give to go back in time to get back the child that I once knew..... but I can't. What I can do, is make future decisions about the rest of the children, but that too comes at a cost.

      Imagine if one day, an old man came up to you and said, "Tomorrow your child has a well child check up, and is due for some shots. Your child has developed beautifully so far! He is friendly, sweet, social, sensitive and incredibly loving.... however that may all stop. You have two choices. You can follow through with the shots, and never get the child that you once knew back. He will never again talk. There will be endless sleepless nights, you will need to quit your job so you can stay up all night with him. He will always need help in the bathroom, well into adulthood. There will be tantrums and screaming that will bring you both to your knees in tears. You will need to add numerous locks in your house to keep the child safe, some of which Child Protective Services will sight you for. There will be times that he will refuse to wear clothes because the fabric feels like pins and needles on his skin, but if you don't succumb to the screaming and force him to wear his clothes, the neighbors will (once again) call Child Protective Services. He will avoid most food so you will be on your toes supplementing with essential vitamins and minerals to keep him healthy, but if the child can detect even a hint of supplements in his food, he will reject it, causing even more challenges in his development and behavior. When he is in pain and upset, but can't tell you because he has lost the ability to communicate, he will begin to throw everything and anything he can get his hands on. You may find your personal belongings have been thrown out the window, precious items have been broken, Bar Mitzvah gifts of the other children are no longer usable. There will be tears, many tears. Your once private, peaceful and calm home will become an open house to many, many therapists, and if after many years, should you need a break and want to limit or stop them from coming because the intense therapies and complete lack of privacy have brought you to tears, you will be questioned and accused. But you should know that through all of this you are protecting all other children, both in your community and around the world from certain illnesses, so this is all for a greater cause. Or....

      You may choose to not follow through with the shots tomorrow, and you can keep your beautiful healthy child that you now know, but this comes at a cost as well. The cost is that you will constantly be bullied by the medical profession, neighbors and friends who you once thought you trusted and knew as friends will call and report you for child neglect, child abuse, demand that your kids be taken away and you thrown in jail. Verbal abuse and accusations from friends will become the norm. Family will question you, challenge you and in some cases, may even want to have nothing to do with you.

      The only thing I can promise you is, that no matter which path you choose, you will be blessed with an inner strength known to few people. Whichever path you choose, G-d will be right there, holding your hand, loving you and guiding you, walking with you every step of the way.

Now tell me, which path will you choose?

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Colorful Mess

Have you ever vacuumed with the vacume bag ripped?  Or use the shop vac with it somehow spewing dust and other matter out of the back? (Both have actually happened to me.) If not, imagine, slowly pushing the vacume forward while your busy toddler quietly follows you and throws flower, spices, toys and whatever else he or she may have up their sleeve or behind their back all over the floor behind you. This is what it is like cleaning with toddlers. Sometimes you wonder why you bother cleaning at all, but I have figured out a very sensible reason for this seemingly not so sensible action..... Because you don't want a mess on top of a mess!!! Picturing this is giving me chest pain....

As we all know, life can become quite stressful and intense. Ever since my early teenage years, one of the ways I leaned to cope with being able to handle the curve-balls that would come my way, was to try to make sure that at least my physical surroundings were orderly and neat. Life might sometimes seem like a mess, but at least it was an organized mess! (Regular exercise,  music, dance, outdoors and health food are also highly recommended.) A since of humor helps too! 

I remember one evening,  when I was going through the dating scene, I had retreated after a rather long day, into my bedroom. As I was tidying up my already Martha Stewart picture perfect , slightly OCD room, my mother poked her head into my room to wish me a good night, but sopped suddenly as she looked at what I was doing. I was on my hands and knees, combing the fringes of my carpet out with my fingers, so that none of the fringes were touching, and all of them were relatively straight. 

My mother looked at me, let out a soft, gentle gasp and said, "Tana! You can't expect to do that when you have kids!"

Still a teenager at 19, I responded, "I know!!! And I am not going to have fringes on my carpet when I have kids!!!!" It took me 1.2 seconds to figure that out. 

It wasn't exactly something I regularly thought about, but I wanted to take advantage of the time of neatness while I could. Little did I know just how messy busy toddlers and kids with special needs can make your world, but in the meantime I continued to live in a world of bliss (or was it slight oblivion), and fix those fringes,  hang my clothing in height order and according to weekday and every day, make sure to dust and keep the books in height order..... yes, [sigh] there was more but I will stop here.... but that was one of the ways I felt in control of that time period in my life, a time that was full of introspection,  nervousness and, well, at that point I was still working on my sense of humor......

So does our house get messy? Yes! Does it feel like I might loose my mind? Well, only when the mess looks like it is something out of Calvin and Hobbes, slowly morphing and coming to devour me alive. I remember seeing those scenes in Calvin and Hobbs and thinking,  wow, that kid has some imagination!..... well I am not so sure it's an imagination. ... and no one ever told me that laundry can multiply faster then fruit flies ( yes, I have learned rather quickly not to keep bananas out in the summer. And I had no idea fruit flies like lemons!!!) And how on earth is there so much laundry when it seems like half the kids prefer to be in the nude?? But is it all worth it? At the end of the day, when I have cleaned up, rearranged, wiped, sprayed and organized for the trillionth time (literally), is it all worth it? I will give you a resounding Yes! And i thank G-d for a beautiful and colorful mess full of colorful and suspiciously sticky fingers and little bodies. (In my teenage years, if G-d would have shown me a glimps of our future mess, I probably would have fainted on the spot.) Am I brave enough to show you pictures of our beautifully messy house with the kids in action before mommy digs real deep for that last little bit of mental energy to clean up again? (forget physical energy,  that was lost a long time ago). Uh, no, definitely not brave enough.  Anyway, the pictures of our toddler and one year old covered in chick pea flower (thanks to our toddler who was filling an awesome sensory need), she was not exactly dressed appropriately, if you can even call it that, so I will leave that up to your imagination.
Ps. The carpet does not have fringes. :) 

Our son with Autism actually got past the child lock to this spice cabinet a while back, dumped the cayenne pepper down the air conditioning vent just as the A.C. kicked in..... it was painful.
This time I decided that since it was too cold to go outside, I would let her amuse herself with unpacking and rearranging her surroundings.  I figured, at least it wasn't a sticky activity and who knows, maybe one day she will actually start organizing like her Mamma..... but don't tell her about the carpet with fringes,  I don't want her getting any ideas.....

The carpet.
I found a picture with the chick pea flower! (Her sister, wanting the full sensory experience,  was not exactly dressed appropriately.) This took 4 baths to get it all out of her sister's hair.....
How long do you think this lasted? :) Well at least it was long enough for me to take a picture on Instagram...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ah yes. The three weeks.

      Every year I hold my breath when we get to the three weeks. One year, on the Shabbos before the ninth of Av (so what on earth was I thinking taking my kids to the park that morning????) My son fell off the zip line and broke his humerus. He needed 3 pins to hold the bones in place. Another year ( this was just as we were entering the 9 days), we were driving home, and on the on ramp, our youngest daughter began a 20 minute complex seizure. Needless to say that was the first time I have ever driven backwards on an on ramp... so yes, when the three weeks approach I tend to get a little nervous.  Last week, one of little ones spiked a high fever with a 24 hour virus. Watching her, I knew that if the baby would get it, there was a good chance of a fiberal seizure..... now if I was a betting woman.....!

        last night, I carried up a very tired little one off to bed. We curled up together under the covers and she began to nurse. After a few seconds somethings didn't feel right. She was still sucking, but even in the dark I could see her eyes open really wide and she gave a fixed stare looking up and to the right. Those wide eyes scared me. I had seen that stare before. Her neck stiffened a bit. I called her name, stroked her head and adjusted her position. With her eyes open wide, she continued to stare. As soon as her neck started twitching I knew something was wrong. Watching the clock, I yelled for my husband. We took her temperature and sure enough she had a fever. It wasn't so high, but a fever nonetheless. Her hands twitched a little, but that stare,  that stare was really all it took for me to know. We rushed her downtrairs. I stroked her, called her, I felt myself getting a little chocked up. We were 5 min in and her lips were blue. By the time the parametrics came, just a few minutes later, it was over. We called her pediatrician and asked him what to do. This may sound funny or obvious to you, but having gone through our share of seizures,  once this was over it almost seemed like a walk in the park. I felt like, "oh! It's over! Few! Thank G-d (a million times over)! And just a fiberal seizure, nothing fancy like our other child." (She pulled so much shtick and needed to spice things up with her seizures, as if life wasn't exciting enough.) Needles to say, our wise Dr said it most likely is just a fiberal seizure caused by a virus,  bit they don't like diagnosing those things over the phone, especially since hers was about 6 min long. So off we went with the EMT. As expected,  she was still quite out of it, but I was relieved to have an additional set of watchful eyes, keeping a close eye on her.

      It was almost 4 am. My husband woke up Yehuda, one of my brothers, to come over and watch the kids while he went to pick us up. As my brother walked over in the dark in his pj's, slippers and button down shirt, and approached our house, he heard some crying. Yes, our toddler had gotten up and needed her passionate and intense toddler world to calm down.  As much as I dream of living on a farm, I know we would kill the roosters with insomnia. Perhaps my son's idea of getting a chinchilla isn't such a bad idea after all.....   

      Well, all's well that ends well, thank G-d. I should add here that this was the second time we called emergency this week, but the first time was much less eventful,  except for the fact that when the paramedics asked me for the name and birthday of our toddler, of course I panicked and completely blanked.  Our toddler just gave me quite a scare, enough for me to be in tears and call 911, my entire being and all of my brain cells are focused on her well being, and your going to throw the name and date thing at me? With a panicked and probably a bit of a sorrowful look on my face, I turned to my husband for help, who thankfully came to my rescue.  Flawlessly I might add.

      I thanked my brother for coming over in the wee hours of the morning at such short notice.  I was so grateful he came with his usual layed back happy self, despite being suddenly woken up. In no way did he make me feel like we had inconvenienced him at all. Smiling, he looked up at me and said, "It seems you have very religious kids who hold the Jewish calendar close to their heart."

Thank G-d for the little things.

                                                                                                     Photos by Mendel B

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Climbing your Mountain

      I remember looking at you for the first time. I remember the overwhelming feeling of intense emotions that rushed through me. I was filled with wonder at the beautiful miracle that was just placed upon my chest. You were beautiful! 

      Exhausted from the long labor and with my eyes closed, I tenderly placed my hand over yours, hoping that everything was ok. I carefully felt your delicate little fingers. You were quiet, but breathing. I gently placed my hand on your side and held you close. You were quiet, but listening. I opened my eyes to look into yours. You were tired as well. I slowly brought my other hand over you. It's ok little one, you can rest now. Your body rose with the rise of my chest, and with each breath you seemed to relax a bit more. I felt shy and was humbled to meet such a perfect human being. Who am I, to raise such a beautiful soul? Was G-d certain He knew what he was doing by entrusting me with such an awesome being? You were quiet but filled with life, and you had an endurance that would later inspire us both, for you had a mountain to climb.

      You had difficulty nursing. You struggled to get nourishment. It was too exhausting for your little tired body. We both cried as you would strain to get milk from me, and then fall asleep to conserve your energy. I so badly wanted to connect with you in this unique way, but I began to realize that your week little body simply needed nourishment more then I needed to bond with you in this special way.  I would cradle you close to my heart as you would eat from a medicine dropper, whispering gently words of encouragement for you to take just one more swallow. Just one more swallow, and again, just one more. Little by little you began to get stronger. Each feeding would consume every ounce of your energy, but you were determined to begin the long assent of your mountain. 

      Every mile stone took great effort on your part. It was amazing to watch your persistence and patience. There were many times I felt tears welling up inside me as I watched you struggle, but then I would recognize your determination and courage. You have strength I could only wish for but G-d has blessed you with a great gift, because your mountain is an awesome one. Climb your mountain, little one, but please, may I be so humble as to ask for you to take me with you. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cloth Diapers

      Never in a million years would I have thought I would be doing cloth diapers, let alone loving it, but we are. Devorah, a friend of mine, reintroduced me to the idea, so I guess you could say she is the one who put the bug into my head. Over the next few months I asked her many questions until I felt confident enough to jump into it. I must have asked her over 100 questions....
How do you handle messy diapers?
How do you get all of the poop off?
How do you change a cloth diaper when out in public?
What do you do with the dirty diaper when out in public or at a play date?
Can you bleach them?
What if the baby has a yeast infection?
Umm, diaper creams, lotions? Can I use them with cloth diapers?
How do you wash them, on what temperature and how often?
Do you put them in the dryer?
How many do I need?
How do you get stains out?
What name brands do you like? (My head was spinning with the choices.)

      My parents did cloth diapers, using a local diaper service for many years, so the concept was not foreign to me, however I still never thought of cloth diapering as something I would do. My parents, having been cloth diaper pros, gave me some great tips and pointers which were very helpful. So after a few months of reading, asking questions and reading some more I was finally ready to start. I would like to share with you how we do it, all the way from the liquid laundry soap that we use, to handling those messy diapers on the go.

Our Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap

      There are many recipes online for homemade liquid laundry soap, all similar to one another and very cost effective. Does it work? Well I think our sparkling white, clean cloth diapers, which have seen there share of the messy end of things speaks for itself. We pretty much used this recipe from Wellness Mama, the only difference is that instead of using just one bar of soap we use two.

What you need:

Washing Soda,
2 Bars of soap (We use Ivory.)
5 Gallon bucket

How it's Done:

1) Grate two bars of soap.

2) Add the shredded bars of soap to a pot filled with two quarts of hot water. Gently boil until completely dissolved. Set aside.

3) Fill your 5 gallon bucket with 4.5 Gallons of hot tap water.

4) Pour in 1 Cup of Borax and 1 Cup of Washing Soda. Mix well until dissolved.

5) Now add your dissolved soap mixture that you had set aside to the 4.5 gallons of water. (Now you have 5 gallons of liquid laundry soap.) MIX WELL!

6) Cover and let sit overnight.

7) Shake or stir, then pour into smaller containers so you can give it a quick shake before each use.

We use one cup per load. Enjoy!

      I would like to add that on occasion I do add white vinegar and a scoop of Oxiclean. I understand that vinegar is not the greatest on the PUL fabric or the diaper covers, but we have been doing this for the past two years and the diapers seem none the worse for wear. One thing we do not do, is put the diaper covers in the dryer on high heat! Hang dry them to lengthen the life you get out of them.

      We switched our diaper stash a couple of times before I found a brand which I love. We now use mostly Rumparooz diaper covers with the Osocozy pre-fold cloth diapers. The cloth diapers go into the dryer, but again, the diaper covers I always hang dry. I have found that putting PUL in the dryer,  especially on high heat, dramatically shortens the life span of the diaper cover. In the winter they still dry pretty quickly in our chilly basement.

How do we handle the poop factor?

      This tip came from my parents. Many parents today choose to set aside the messy diapers in a dry / wet bag for a day or two until they are ready to wash. While this is what I typically do, I do things a little differently if the diapers are particularly soiled, or if there is a stomach bug going through the house. When my parents did cloth diapering, the soiled diapers were put into a bucket filled with cold water and some borax. (Of course you need to make sure this bucket is out of reach from little explorers. You don't want anyone going in head first! We keep ours behind the basement door.) This functions as a pre-wash so when you are ready to wash your diapers they wash out beautifully. Occasionally I will also add some oxiclean and baking soda. In the past I have added tea tree essential oil and/or oregano essential oil if I suspected a yeast related rash. The essential oils help kill bacteria and any residual odor. Although the oregano is more potent and is said to kill any bacteria a bit more efficiently, I prefer the tea tree oil because it's not as pungent of a smell. Again, I don't typically add the essential oils because after a while it can cause build up in the diapers.
From Left to Right: Alva, Bumgenius 4.0 and Grovia Hybrid

I have since sold most of our Grovia and Bumgenius stash because I have found double gusset diapers to work much better for us, so these are pictures of our old stash. (In the pictures they are about one year old.)
                             From Left to Right: Alva, Grovia and Bumgenius all nice and white.

Cloth Diapering on the Go...and which diapers we use.
These are the items I bring when we are out and about:

1) Clean, ready to use cloth diapers.

     We have tried quite a few different brands of cloth diapers. I have learned that what works best for our babies and toddlers, are diapers with a double gussets. They seem to do a much better job at catching everything. We started out with BumGenius and Grovia Hybrid. I loved that they were so easy to use, as pre-folds and flat diapers seemed so daunting in the beginning. I have since sold and replaced them, and we now use diaper covers with double gussets from Rumparooz and Thirsties, with pre-fold cloth diapers from OsoCozy (I have a few flat diapers). We also have a few diapers and training pants form Best Bottom. In the beginning I thought there was no way I was going to do pre-fold diapers. It just seemed way too complicated, however I have fallen in love with them. They are by far the most cost effective way of diapering and are really not so complicated after all. The diaper covers are also quite fitted, so I can get away without using any diaper pins or snappies. You do need to follow the pre washing instructions for the OsoCozy cloth diapers because it does help to ensure maximum absorbency.
2) A wet / dry bag to place any wet or soiled diapers into while on the go. (Yes, it's as simple as that!)


       I like to add a few sprays of our homemade diaper spray into the wet bag. It has tea tree essential oil and lavender essential oil which helps enormously with any smelly diapers as well as with bacteria. Tea Tree oil also has strong antiseptic and germicidal properties. (I don't think your average person will even get so much as a hint of any smell from a messy diaper on the go.)

      As soon as we get home I scrape off what I can into the toilet and then transfer them to our larger wet-bag until ready to wash. If they are particularly soiled I let the diapers sit in a bucket of cold water and borax, baking soda and our homemade laundry soap. Again, this acts as a pre-soak and makes washing the diapers a dream. Our homemade liquid washing soap is also very effective in its cleaning ability and minimizes, if not eliminates the common cleaning problems that many moms face, like staining and residual smell when using the laundry soap on the market specifically for cloth diapers. Most of the time I really don't need the soak bucket, but one of our babies had particularly loose stool (until I figured out that gluten was the culprit), so those diapers typically soaked in a bucket for a day or two days until I was ready to wash them.

3) A spray bottle filled with our homemade diaper wipe spray.
4) Pre-cut paper towels (I use this instead of baby wipes), or cloth wipes.

       A couple of months ago I was brave enough to switch to cloth wipes, but if you choose paper towels I want to clarify here that in order to make the paper towel soft against the baby's skin, I would first spray the paper towel with a generous amount of liquid and then wipe the baby's bottom with the moist paper towel which is now not abrasive anymore. It is so much easier to clean the baby's skin this way then with traditional disposable wipes. For a really messy diaper I find I don't need more then 4 small (half cut) pieces of paper towels or 2 cloth wipes. The homemade baby wipe spray also really cleans! I never smell any lingering evidence on the baby's skin of what the previous diaper was cooking.

5) A small tupperware or mason jar container filled with organic coconut oil or french green clay that I use as a diaper cream. Two of our children had very sensitive skin and were constantly getting all kinds of diaper rashes despite allergy testing, steroid prescription creams, eliminating wheat, soy, dairy and nuts, you name it we did it and nothing seemed to work, until my sister-in-law introduced me to french green clay. I found there is a little science behind using it.

Diaper Rash

      In the event of a diaper rash, I like to air out their bum with one or two cotton training pants. This is the equivalent of wearing cotton diapers without the diaper cover so their skin can really breath. An hour at a time is what I can do since I need to be on the look out for little puddles to wipe up. Preferably two times a day but even if I only do this once a day and the rest of the day use cloth diapers, the rash goes away much quicker then with disposables. My favorite "creams" to use are coconut oil and french green clay, which I will tell you in a moment how we make it. We do experience dramatically less rashes in general with the cloth diapers then with disposables and since I have zeroed in on different food allergies and a little trick with the clay, thank G-d we have been rash free for quite some time now. If at any time I do notice a little bit of redness on the baby's bum, I immediately use the clay and by the next couple of diaper changes, the redness is typically gone.

The Science behind using French Green Clay

      One of my babies had such sensitive skin, despite cutting out dairy, gluten, nuts, soy and corn products. For a while we were doing organic disposable diapers and while that definitely made a positive difference,  she would still, on occasion, wind up with a rash that left her skin with open wounds. Sometime after switching to cloth diapers I discovered the art behind using french green clay, and the result was a very happy toddler, or shall I say bottom....

      So here is what we do. I put a few cups of distilled or reverse osmosis water into a container. I slowly keep adding tablespoons of the powdered clay as I use the immersion hand blender, until I get a nice smooth clay consistency. But here is the clincher. As you are slowly adding the clay you must also add melted Shea butter. (I choose to add a few tablespoons of our homemade body lotion (show below next to the ready to use French Green Clay), but in the event that I run out, I just use Shea butter.) So the end result is a smooth green clay with a healing moisturizer carefully blended in. Why is this part so important?  I found that when I would just use the French Green Clay without adding the shea butter, the skin which is trying to heal would stick to the clay and would slow down the healing as well as cause the wounded area to be quite uncomfortable. The Shea butter acts as a barrier and moisturizer so the clay can do its magical healing. (Make sure the clay is not too thick, but rather It should be nice and smooth.)

      My friend Devorah explained to me that there are certain ingredients that should not be used with cloth diapers when using diaper rash creams or barriers for extra sensitive skin. It's a good thing she told me that because it didn't even dawn on me that some ingredients would pose a problem. I also found more information on

Drying the Diapers

      I always line dry. Many mothers have found sun drying them to help with any stubborn stains, but depending on where you live that may not always be an option. I would love to sun them, but often times the weather doesn't permit that, so instead they get the glorious view of our basement.

Let me know if I can answer any more questions!
- Matana
                                                                                                                     Photos below by Mendel B


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tell Me That You Love Me

      "A rock you, mommy," my toddler said, as she lifted her tired arms up towards me. My heart always melts when she does this. My spirited child, so passionate about life, was ready to rest in my arms. Sometimes I wonder who needs who more? I reached down and hugged her tightly against my chest. She snuggled deeply into my arms and relaxed as I wrapped my arms around her. She didn't necessarily physically relax, because her muscles were still tense, but I could sense her energy, her emotions and her aura relax. I like to call her my spirited one, so deeply passionate about everything she does, including the act of a simple embrace. Perhaps it wasn't so simple? What was she telling me in this deep embrace? What, in return, was I saying to her? 

      I sat down on the rocking chair and began to rock her as she snuggled, yet deeper into my arms. She took shelter in my embrace and I in hers. She curled up her little body so tightly, until she could no longer bring her legs in any closer, her arms any tighter and her back any deeper into my chest. She nestled her head against my heart and slowly found a position, one of comfort, content and satisfaction. I slowly began to feel her muscles relax. Every now and then she would shift her position and press her body once more deep into my arms as if to make sure this moment would last forever. 

      Each of our children have taught me so much and continue to teach me with such ease and simplicity, yet with immense wisdom and depth. It amazes me how they don't need words to say they have been hurt, rather a look into their eyes is all it takes to understand. To become a parent, is to become vulnerable to your own mistakes, to accept your weaknesses and imperfections and to learn to love again and again. I never go through a day without wishing I had said or done something differently. Perhaps with more warmth, more enthusiasm or even with more love. Rest little one, rest in our embrace and know that my love is unconditional no matter where our paths may take us. Yes, this was a deep embrace, and it was ours.

Photo by Mendel B

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Curriculum Review! Chumash

        My mother has a innate gift for finding wholesome and inspiring new books. Last year my mother introduced me to a beautiful and masterful find, "The Guide to Loshon Hakodesh - Mastering the Basics" by Nachman Marcuson. As a student,  I often felt as if the rules and methods by which to understand and translate the Chumash seemed to be forever changing and never ending. I have never felt as though all teachers throughout every grade were teaching in a uniform and systematic fashion, or if such a concept was even at all possible.

       I am excited to say that this is exactly what I am now using for my 3rd, 6th and 7th graders! Nachman Marcuson has truly created a masterpiece for all ages! The first book (the brown one), is broken down into 16 lessons. Each lesson has a small list of vocabulary words to master and a few new rules to learn about how Lashon Hakodesh functions. At the end of each lesson there is a review based on the new vocabulary and rules provided in that lesson. Nachman Marcuson based his writings on the teachings of Rabbi Freilich, who discovered that by learning 230 key words, you will understand 93% of the words that appear in the Chumash! He heavily encourages complete mastery of the new words listed at the beginning of each lesson before moving onto the next lesson. Because it is definitely possible to use the same books for every child, especially since the author discourages writing in the books, I have found that when the children each have their own copy, it encourages them to truly "own" their learning.