Author Archives: Tibby

How #MeToo Is About Power, Not Just Sex. At Sacramento Country Day School

Or How Apologies Can Turn into Fertile Grounds for Perpetuating Misogyny. This happened at SACRAMENTO COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL. Update 6/26/2018: I’m naming names after hearing about some shit that’s going down there now. 

I think at this point we’re all aware of the #metoo movement of 2017, but what I haven’t seen discussed is how sexual harassment isn’t necessarily about sex but about sexism and most particularly about power and how women fit into power dynamics (or don’t as the case may be). I recently read this article by Katherine Cross and she points out that “…this moment points to larger, more systemic issues of men in power silencing and marginalizing those they dominate — whether or not they use sex to do so.”  I would highly recommend you go read it too as it really helps frame what I am going to be talking about with the incident I experienced. Thank you to the author, Katherine Cross, a woman who has far bigger issues than I in regards to gender, power, sexism, and trolls. I appreciate how it helped articulate feelings I had about my own particular incident. 

I have blogged over the past about an incident that happened with my daughter, a school, and ultimately me. I am well aware of the jeopardy this places my husband in, but I feel very strongly that the behavior I encountered needs to be named. If you read on, I address this concept further. I am not sure, at six months out, if this blog is being monitored for either damage control or simply control, or even morbid curiosity, but to be honest I am hoping it is. What happened was not okay and the underpinnings of sexism will continue to influence the culture in that place.

I was asked to remove the posts that discussed the incident from this blog and, if I would not, I needed to tone down my language. Either way they were ready to get their lawyer involved. What you need to know about this conversation is that it took place between a wealthy, white, cishet, male in a position of ultimate power and a middle-class, white, cishet, woman not in power. I suppose fortunately this was merely about my gender. I suppose. Let’s be very clear, though, this was about power and exerting that power over a woman. Cross’ article hits eerily close to home when she talks about some of her own run-ins with men. “None of this behavior was sexual…But these people abuse their power in the same way; certain white people and men try to control the narrative in public, while cribbing you in private, making sure you can’t say what happened there. The consequences will be yours to reap, after all. You’ll be unprofessional if you come forward. You’ll get sued.” 

The words “I’m sorry” and “I regret” were used a fair number of times, but only as a way to manipulate and bully me into taking the last post down. In fact they were almost an afterthought to trying to salvage the school’s reputation. If you use those words in that way, no matter how sincere you believe they are, no matter how many levels you think there can be to an apology (yes, I was told there were levels to this apology), they have zero value. Zero. Value. Any thinly veiled threat that comes after them negates it all. I understand that our experience made the school look bad. But let’s be very clear, I did not make the school look bad. The school made the school look bad through their actions not through any fault of mine. I merely shared it out of anger and frustration. Out of a complete lack of being heard by anyone that stood to recognize my daughter’s humanity and my own and atone for stripping us of it.

Apologies sound like this: I’m sorry. I screwed up and/or hurt you and someone dear to you. I recognize how I played into the issue (i.e. racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc. or any combination of these). I will learn and do better. Period. You then go on and do better, do what you can to right the wrong, and, most importantly, do no more harm. Apologies are never qualified, otherwise you are simply victim blaming.

In asking me to self-censor with the threat of legal action if I didn’t, the school showed that they were and continue to be only concerned with their reputation and not at all interested in making things right, learning from their mistakes, or building and maintaining the human relationships that sustain a small business like that. They hid behind people unrelated to the incidents feeling offended by my language, because to them these people’s offense was more important than how my daughter and I had been treated by the school. I’ll say it again, even those people mattered more than me and my daughter. She and I have no humanity in their eyes. The woman who did the testing made sure to remove it. The school never restored it.

The post itself was found by another employee who claimed to be my friend and felt comfortable enough talking to me about abortion, but apparently didn’t feel like she could even mention this to me. Her first instinct was to report it to a man in power. There was a woman in power that she could have gone to, but she chose to jump over her and go straight to a man in power. You can be complicit in your own oppression. This person was another woman and often they are some of the most vehement, and yet unknowing, supporters of patriarchy and woman-bashing. Had that person reached out to me personally I may have been inclined to update or even rewrite the post. At this point it’s hard for me to say how I would have handled it. 

The phrase “you are emotional” was also used in this conversation. No matter if it was intended to or not, this tapped into a deep history of misogyny with those words. A history which has denigrated women and been used to take their power, undermine them, remove their humanity, and subjugate them. In worst cases, it has been used to institutionalize them at the whim of men. He wasn’t wrong, I am and was emotional. My daughter was terrorized, traumatized, and treated like garbage. I was was treated condescendingly, had my judgement as a parent called into question over something as personal as the choice to have one child and to stay home with that child, and then I was dismissed by the school for my concerns over our treatment. And yet, to use that phrase in that way was not intended to acknowledge my very valid emotion over the whole situation. It was a weapon to try to bully me into submission much like the “apology” given to me.

In addition, the fact the school was happy to apologize to my husband and merely regretted not reaching out to me was more evidence of the underlying misogyny in the whole situation. It was implied further that I should have come to the head earlier, as if it was my job to come looking for an apology for the insulting behavior we endured and the school’s inappropriate response. Furthermore, I was told that the language in that post made me look bad. This continued to tap into the desire to tone police women. If any language dares belie the underlying emotion a woman feels, it become dangerous and in tone policing me, and women generally, men seek to keep us in a place of submission and repression. It is used to put the person with privilege and power (in this case the man and the institution) back into control of the conversation by ignoring the message and focusing solely on the emotionality. Please go read this comic to understand tone policing and emotion as a silencing tactic. Whether or not he set out to tap into that institutional misogyny, he did, and that is how it works to maintains its power. It’s always lurking under the surface and intent does not matter. That is why I still feel, after all this time, it is important I put this out there.    

I refuse to allow myself to be devalued and, more importantly, dehumanized like that. I am extremely fortunate to be in a place of privilege that allowed me to protect myself and stand up for my humanity. Many people in worse situations don’t have that privilege. I recognize that. It is something I need to work towards fixing as a person with privilege. But I have inherent value as a person simply for being a person and it is sad to me that an institution that is educating our next generation cannot see that and does not practice it.

More generally this makes me sad that there is so much work to be done until the world is equitable for women. It’s the world I am now raising two girls in and if misogyny runs this deeply it’s going to be very difficult to root it out. Until then I need to stand up for myself and I need to teach my daughters to do that too. 

Blog Reboot

I know earlier last year I said I wasn’t going to be posting here very often, but I’ve changed my mind. There are a few reasons for this, the first of which is, I’ve missed it! I don’t write this blog for anyone but me and I love having the space to put my thoughts out there. If people (parents who want to homeschool or parents who like alternative educational philosophies) come across my blog and want to stick around or find a few things that are useful, then that’s fantastic. If no one but my best friend reads this (hi, Alexis! *waves*), then that’s fantastic too. But really, I enjoy writing this content. 

We “officially” started homeschooling this past Fall since my daughter reached the mandatory age for school entry. It’s been a bit rocky figuring out what she says she wants to do, what she is actually willing to do, and what I can sanely manage. So I want to write to encourage myself to try activities and methods out. I want to write about makerspaces and makerspace philosophy here as it fits well with unschooling. I want to write about books and some of the really specific reasons we have chosen to homeschool. 

I also decided that I want to share a lot more around promoting diverse books for parents. I still have my library blog where I review books, but I want to share more of what to do with books and promote diverse books to parents and homeschoolers. We’re going to be embarking on some set discussions around picture books this coming year and I want to talk about them for white parents who also want to start these conversations. To be clear, diverse books does not necessarily mean Issue Books With Big Themes, although I will be reading some of those with my white daughter to ensure she is getting an education grounded in identifying her privilege. Mostly I mean ensuring that the books I promote and read and suggest don’t feature all white people or, worse yet, racially coded animals, and tap into the self- and small-press publishing industries where we’re really seeing the gaps in representation addressed. 

I guess the other thing to share is that we decided to have another baby. We were surprised that we wanted another kid and are a little nervous having no experience with siblings ourselves (and having seen the mess of sibling relationships our parents have). The new baby is due in mid-March so I can’t be certain what my posting schedule will look like this year. I may very well be overwhelmed and find I only post once in a blue moon. Bear with me as I figure out this new adventure. 

To these ends here are the new series you will see coming across the blog with little descriptions of what they’ll be:

Friday Five: This theme is an old one I’m bringing back and will be using to promote diverse books. The post is just a booklist of five titles around a theme, nothing fancy, but we read around themes and it could be helpful for other homeschoolers, parents, or teachers. 

Story/Circle Time: You’ll find these in a slightly different format on my library blog, too, but here I’m tweaking them to fit well with circle time. If you need something to fill 20-30 minutes during the week this is something that might work.

Each storytime is centered around a theme and includes songs, finger plays, flannel boards, and wiggle time. They were piloted with preschool aged kids, but there isn’t any reason you couldn’t use them with Kindergarten- and first-grade aged kids. And it may be obvious, but don’t feel like you have to use them exactly as they are written. For example, if you don’t have a flannel board, feel free to use puppets or simply read the story. Each storytime is followed by a page of extras which give you either additional material if you have a longer block of time to fill or books and songs that can be swapped in if you need to improvise.

Chances are good you won’t own every book listed in these storytimes. Even I don’t and I have a very large collection. I would encourage you to tap your local public library. Even if your branch doesn’t have a title there is a good chance they can get it for you from another library branch or system (Interlibrary Loan for the win!). Don’t be afraid to ask your librarian.  

Parenting for Social Justice: One of the major reasons I want to homeschool is a lack of attention to and awareness of social justice in schools, especially in their curriculum. Everything from erasure of certain groups of people, to heteronormative values, to fear of ruffling feathers, to use of punitive punishment instead of restorative justice methods. In this series I will offer up ways you can bring social justice into your child’s education, whether you homeschool or not. It can be hard to know where to start and what to say to your kids even if you want to get involved with social justice. I struggle with that, but am learning and want to share ideas you can use as jumping off points either for reflection, education or action. Please be aware that I am new to this. I will make mistakes and I am learning. If you notice things aren’t right please email me and I will fix it and make a note of what has been changed and why.   

Book Club: takes a book and gives your before and after discussion questions as well as an activity or craft to go along with it

Personal Essay/Reflection:  I’ve done these before, but I want to keep them up. I have one thing I need to get off my chest in the New Year that is incredibly personal but also taps into a social justice issue. You’ll probably see that essay first. 

The Diverse Bookshelf: I read a lot of books to keep up on the children’s publishing industry (and I love picture books) so I’ll be reviewing a few of them here that I think are particularly worthwhile. This is another place you’ll see me promoting diverse books. 

Homeschool Update: While you will be seeing a number of things I am doing in our homeschooling this will be an occasional post that explicitly talks about things we’re doing that may have not been covered in the other posts or looks at them with more of an evaluative lens as opposed to a presentation lens. 

If something seems interesting to you, check back. Each series should be going up on the same day each month. (update 6/6/18: With a new baby at home this isn’t happening, it’s going to be as I have time and energy.) I am also going to use this as a sort of landing page for the series, too. If you click on the series title above it will take you to a search for that tag. Of course life will get in the way. I have a lot animals to care for and Cam. I also have another big project on the horizon that I can’t talk about just yet, but it’s going to start taking up some of my time. I’m looking forward to getting back into blogging and showing up here to share ideas. 

I’m Over the Play Teepee Trend

To be honest I was never comfortable with it, so to say I’m over it is a misrepresentation, but they’ve become ubiquitous. You can’t look through Pinterest or your Facebook feed without seeing a clean modern children’s play area set up with one: a play teepee. Meant to be twee little nests for children to hide away in, the reality of what they represent is quite insidious. When I look at them I see the worst of cultural appropriation, hurtful cultural stereotyping, Native erasure, and fetishizing.

Teepees, or tipis, are a real cultural object used as dwellings by several Native Nations, including the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota. They were and are real homes for real people and continue to be used ceremonially by many of these tribes too as they hold onto their traditional ways that have been forcibly erased. In reducing something that was integral to the cultures of these Nations to adorn your living room, we erase its cultural significance and history. These play teepees are generic, where the originals would not have been. Even the word itself “teepee” is a generic, Anglicization of the real term used for these dwellings, which comes to English from a Lakota word. Parents aren’t using these play tents as a way to talk to their children about the history or culture of the people they come from. We’re appropriating them as something cutesy for our playrooms.

Which leads to another piece of this trend, native erasure. The teepee is so often used as a generic symbol of all North American indigenous people. Except they were used by some Native Nations, not all. Moreover, teepees as a generic dwelling, have been used by other indigenous people in other places around the world. In pairing them with broader stereotyped depictions of “Indians” seen in popular culture and ignoring their cultural and historical importance, we reinforce those hurtful stereotypes that have allowed these people to be colonized and erased. It also reduces the cultures and people in the eyes of our children to something they can take from to make their homes and spaces more on trend and ultimately discard when no longer fashionable.  

I also fear that this will encourage a resurgence in children “playing Indian”. The idea is still out there, even though I think most people see it as something kids did in the 50s and 60s. I see it depicted again and again in new children’s books and even in magazines and certainly at Halloween time. “Playing Indian” either includes fighting and villainizing the “Indians” or fetishizing them as the gentle, nature loving Native Americans. It’s all more stereotyping. But a stereotype of people who were exterminated by white settlers and government and continue to be marginalized.  Again neither villainizing nor fetishizing gets at the history of colonization of Native Nations, nor does it show our children that their cultures are not there for our taking. 

Now I’m sure there are some people who want to argue that these play teepees honor the cultures they come from and I want to directly address that. You would only be honoring the culture if you were talking about their cultural and historical importance and, considering how generic the play teepees look, you aren’t. Just having it in your house does not impart the significance of the object if you do not give it the proper context. More importantly a big, non-Native company has taken this culturally significant object and turned it into something generic that they are now marketing and making money off of. None of those sales are going to benefit the Native Nations the object has come from (not that that would indicate any form of reverence, anyway). They have appropriated the teepee to make it into something they can sell stylish parents and make a quick buck. In no way does any of that honor a living culture. 

If you have a teepee please consider opening a conversation with your child about what it is and remove it from your living room too. If you are considering buying one, don’t. Click through to the links below (also found in the links in the paragraph above) if you need more convincing. They are articles written by people more knowledgable than me as they are members of Native Nations. I will be writing letters to companies that sell them. A drop in the ocean to these companies, but if you agree and would like to join me, maybe we can make a difference. 

Repost: Step away from the “Indian” costume! by Dr. Adrienne Keane, Cherokee, from her blog Native Appropriations

When Media Promotes Offensive Indian Stereotypes by Sarah Sunshine Manning from Indian Country Today

Lane Smith’s new picture book: There Is a TRIBE of KIDS (plus a response to Rosanne Parry) by Dr. Debbie Reese, Nambe Owingeh, from her blog American Indians in Children’s Literature

Why We’re Homeschooling. All the reasons.

Update 6/26/2018: After being threatened in private by the head of Sacramento Country Day School (you can read more about this in another post) I changed this post. I am restoring it today after finding out about some other things going on there. THIS STUFF HAPPENED TO ME AND MY CHILD AND THESE ARE MY VERY VALID FEELINGS ABOUT BOTH HOW WE WERE TREATED AND THE ADMINISTRATIONS RESPONSE TO HOW WE WERE TREATED. THIS NOW SPANS TWO ADMINISTRATIONS. 

This coming school year we’ll need to fill out our affidavit that basically says we’re homeschooling. After lots of reflection, thought, research, hemming and hawing, and more thought, we’re doing it. Here’s why:

1. Our abysmal experience applying to the school my husband and I work at (and are alumni of). Never did get an apology or any acknowledgement that what happened was not okay.* So I definitely won’t be giving them my money. The admissions office didn’t even ask us this year if we’d be applying. I don’t know if they thought they were snubbing us for being royally pissed last year or if they just don’t give a crap. Either way, that looks really bad if you can’t even treat your alumni and employees properly. I also happen to know from a friend who is currently applying that they are struggling to get the time of day and considerate treatment from the admissions office too. 

1a. Private school is expensive and not only would it make things tight, it would rule out another baby and would ensure that I need to go back to work so I could get medical benefits. Because tuition is the same price as what we pay for our medical insurance. Plus, at this point I wouldn’t consider it money well spent considering our options. 

2. Our local public school is full this year. I considered them for two reasons. We have an incredibly diverse population at the school (that draws primarily from our neighborhood) and I want Cam to meet and make friends with diverse people, not just the rich white kids that go to private school. We don’t have to go to our public school to do that (all she has to do is walk outside our house because our neighborhood is very diverse), but it was an appealing part of the idea of the school. Also, they have a half-day kindergarten program. Unfortunately, next school year they would push her into first grade because of her age and she is too young. It’s that cut-off date quandary again without the options. 

3. They don’t teach what needs to be taught in any school I’ve encountered. Even with alternative methods they still skirt around the content/skills that needs to be taught. We’re going to focus a lot on anti-bias and social justice in our family for the next four years and beyond and I have not found a school that will do that. But more than that, I haven’t found a school close enough and good enough that steers away from traditional philosophy. Many schools claim to base their education on non-traditional models, but they still maintain that kind of thinking and never get far enough away from it for my preferences. 

From here on out, I probably won’t be posting here very often. I’m working on reviewing diverse books for my library book blog. I haven’t quite figured out what it is I want to do here, although I do really like popping in to talk about books and what is going on in our house. But after the election that all feels very hollow. I am going to try and share booklists and resources you can use in homeschooling that work towards the goal of anti-bias education and fighting racism, sexism and xenophobia. I would point you toward my library blog, but that isn’t really geared for parents. I can tweak content I post there or create new content that speaks to how parents can use resources and I will do that as the mood strikes me. 

*I realized I never did share what the aftermath was beyond saying the admissions department wanted to do some role playing. That never happened and they pretty quickly went into damage-control mode and played the blame game. They took zero responsibility for what had happened and never admitted to being sorry. It was a lot of covering their asses and making it out that we would just have to suck it up and deal with shit behavior from the screener if we wanted Cam going to the school. I have two words for that: fuck you. Also since that experience and telling people Cam won’t be going to the school we’ve had people in the administration tell us they think it looks bad that she won’t be. I have the same two words for them: fuck you. That is not my problem and maybe you should consider fixing the admissions office and experience instead of trying to convince me I should pay for shit service and treatment. What happened was not okay. At all and I’m certainly not going to sacrifice my principles and money so the school can look good. 

Learning to Read

We’re all very excited around here because Cam is learning to read. She really started to show some interest a few months ago when she began memorizing the names of the letters and identifying them when she saw them. 

This is most exciting for me because I have plenty of experience with abilities later in the process. All my years working in lower school, and particularly in second grade, I have seen fluency really come together and skills strengthen. But I haven’t seen the start of the process and quite frankly it’s amazing. 

Some resources 

I’ve been looking for resources to help support her and here are some things I’ve discovered. I tend not to like worksheets and things like that, but she’s motivated and interested so I’ve been using them.

First, she needs lots of practice working out the sounds each letter makes. I downloaded a bunch of printables that have her practice letter sounds both by themselves and as initial sounds. Scour Pinterest for these free resources. Here’s a link to a Pinterest search for some of those activities and printables.

Next, she needs to be able to identify the upper and lower case letter as the books she reads in have different cases and different fonts. I bought this game on Amazon that is a memory-style game. It’s nice and she likes Memory so I figured she would be willing to play. Also, here is a search on Pinterest for matching upper and lower case letter games

Then we needed some little books for her to read. Costco has a four or five BOB book collections for $11. I just bought all of them. Many of them are way above her ability right now. One set is called the Pre-Reader Collection and it goes through some skills readers need (like pattern recognition) and also all the letters of the alphabet with their sounds. I find the BOB books totally boring, but Cam likes them a lot. She is also able to read the first few in the first collection. Which brings me to my next point. 

Let’s talk about easy readers

There are a lot of really great easy readers out there. You know them. They have a smaller trim size than picture books, but are bigger than an actual chapter book. They’re kind of short and have large print with spaced out lines on each page. They’re books like Frog and Toad and Little Bear and Cat in the Hat. The thing is, even the easiest ones require a fair amount of skill and ability to read. The vast majority do not use simple short vowel patterns and CVC word patterns (consonant-vowel-consonant). Add to this the fact that a bunch of companies publish them and their reading levels are not consistent across brands. Kids learning to read do quickly put spelling patterns together in their minds and memorize sight words (words you know on sight without having to sound out or look more closely), but it takes some time and practice. They do eventually get to a place where they can really read those types of books, but where Cam is now she needs super basic readers. That’s where the BOB books seem to have the market cornered. 

Waiting until the time is right

So one thing I am trying very hard to balance is pushing her to practice and actually read with not killing the interest she has. I know the more she practices the better she’ll get and the easier it will become. But right now it’s hard and laborious and fatiguing. I’m glad I allowed her to pick the time she actually began to work through it. It’s coming quickly and she’s incredibly motivated. Hopefully she can sustain that interest while her skills catch up. 

A final thought. I know the concept of your child learning to read can be incredibly stressful (as is nearly everything with parenting). Will they ever learn? Will they want to? Will they struggle? What if it happens later than all the other kids? The thing about reading is that by fifth grade, it’s all a wash. With very, very, very few exceptions teachers in the upper grades do not know who read first, second or last. (Well, maybe last. There are children with learning disabilities that continue to struggle.) But those super star readers in kindergarten and first grade? They are not always on top and frequently become totally indistinguishable from their peers. Repeat after me: it all becomes a wash. What does that mean for you right now, with a young child? Enjoy them as they are. They will get there. They do all learn to read. It’s an amazing thing to watch as this whole new word opens up to your child (remember how the world opened up when they learned to talk and to walk? it’s like that all over again, but with a more cognizant person). Enjoy that and don’t worry so much. 

Parenting for Social Justice: Popcorn by Frank Asch

popcornDo you know this story? It’s an old one. And it is incredibly funny. But what do you see when you look at the cover of this book? When I bought the book a few years back nothing about it seemed amiss, but now that I’ve started learning about diversity and whiteness and cultural appropriation, the “Indian” headband jumped out at me. 

Here’s the thing, I really like the story and I decided to keep it. But I have to be able to talk to Cam about why his costume is not okay. So we read it together and the first thing I told her was that I did not like Sam’s costume. She asked why and we talked about how he’s supposedly dressed as a Native American and that the costume is both wrong and a stereotype. It doesn’t give any hint about what nation it was taken from and even if it did, it was taken from someone’s culture. 

These conversations are hard because I’m not used to having them. They can also be hard to gauge both what level to have them on and what Cam is getting out of them. I hope we reach the point where she can roll her eyes at me because she knows what I’m going to say when I see something like this (let’s face it the eye rolling is bound to happen in the adolescent years). Or even better points it out.

Here are some resources about costumes and why cultural dress is not okay to use as a Halloween (or any holiday) costume: We’re a Culture Not a Costume

Here is some information on the controversy over the Disney Moana movie and some of the dress-up merchandise they were selling: Moana Costume Controversy on LATimes

And finally here’s an excellent article on this particular book: Popcorn on American Indians In Children’s Literature

In Praise of the Friend Without Kids

We all have mommy friends. Either ones we’ve known pre-children and have stayed friends with or ones we’ve met because we have kids. But today I am grateful for the friends we have that do not have children. 

As a parent it can be really difficult to separate your own emotions from your kid. So when they go through a phase or have some sort of issue it can be hard to remain objective and understand what is going on and what to do. I have a stellar mom’s group I can turn to and they often have superb advice. But they draw on their own experience with their kids. That isn’t always a problem, but I find that my friend without kids doesn’t have the same type of emotional attachment to parenting and sometimes you just need that. They can give you that hard, objective perspective. 

It helps that my friend without kids does have experience with kids. It also helps that she’s a level-headed sort of person and generally has good ideas and advice no matter the situation. I’ve watched her draw on her own childhood experience (something I also like to do). So it’s not like she’s coming from left field when she talks about kids and kid issues.

She’s had good advice for me when Cam struggled with preschool and with the admissions process for the school we originally considered. Even naps! She’s had good advice about naps. Sometimes she just affirms what I already know, but other times she pushes me a step further or makes me look at a situation from a different perspective. And that’s really refreshing and often the best advice I get. 

So to my friend without kids, you know who you are, thank you for all your thoughts and advice over the past few years. Outwardly you may not seem like the first choice for parenting advice, but you are. Also, get ready for the teenage years. I’m going to need all the help I can get. :)  

Science Weekly: Yeast Experiment

I was recently making soft pretzels at home and realized I have a huge tub of yeast. Since the dough was rising while Cam was asleep I thought she might get a kick out of experimenting with the yeast by itself.

Our question was, what are the best conditions to get yeast to activate? I set out a number of bowls and put yeast in each of them. I also set out some salt and some sugar. Cam added salt and sugar and nothing to the yeast in the bowls. Then we poured in hot, cold and warm water. Technically you don’t need to have sugar in the water, but without adding anything else the yeast never activated. 

It took a good five to ten minutes to really start seeing results, but once it got going, it got going. She had lots of questions about what was going on and wanted to start mixing sugar, salt, and yeast to the bowls and doing a little experimenting of her own. She realized the more sugar you add, the quicker you see results and the more foam you get. 

I think the most interesting take away from this was an interest in our own digestive system. Cam asked where the gas from the bubbles was coming from and I explained that the yeast was eating the sugar and producing gas. That was funny to her because it’s basically a fart. :) But it lead to A LOT of questions about how our bodies work to process food. I explained a little and then got out our Eye Wonder Human Body book to read more. 

Parenting for Social Justice: Baby Dolls

So after several years of learning about diversity in this country and the problems around it (i.e. racism, Islamaphobia, police violence, etc.) I’ve started to learn about how to talk about it with Cam. In case it wasn’t obvious from my picture or from the fact that I’m blogging and other indicators, I’m white. As a White person I’ve been blind to a lot of these issues. Now that I know, it’s incredibly important that I talk to Cam about it, point it out, and name it. And for those of you that are unconvinced that knowing requires action, research points to the importance of talking to children as young as possible in age appropriate ways about these issues.

I am using diversity here as short hand for about 12 major categories including race, religion, SES and orientation to name a few. While it is imperative I talk to her about diversity and name it and make sure she isn’t internalizing the wrong messages about it (those tacit ones we’re fed by American culture, politics, media, white privilege and other avenues), I won’t be getting it perfect or even right. But I’m trying and I want to encourage you to as well. We need to get it wrong to get it right and we need to listen to people who tell us when we get it wrong.

My daughter has one completely white friend. Admittedly she doesn’t have the widest of social circles and she’s not in school, but out of the ten or so kids she interacts and plays with on a regular basis only one is white. I think that’s wonderful and am relieved that it happened organically. We would be having a very different conversation, probably about moving neighborhoods, if this wasn’t the case.

The other day her one white friend brought over a new doll she had gotten. A doll with a purple outfit. Cam totally wanted that purple outfit, so she asked me if we could get another, new doll. I’ve looked recently at her dolls and she has several dolls with darker brown skin, but there are several clearly white dolls. (If you aren’t familiar with the doll experiment look it up. It’s incredibly disheartening and eye-opening.) So when faced with buying her another doll I decided to talk to her about the color of her dolls.

I pointed out that she has a fair number of dolls with skin that looks like ours and only a couple with light or dark brown skin. She agreed. Next I told her to think about her friends and named several of them. I asked her what color skin they had. She, correctly, answered that they had various shades of brown skin. Then I explained to her that I wanted her doll collection to reflect her friends and her world. I told her I would be happy to look for either 

Sadly, Target didn’t have either a purple outfit or any color doll with a purple outfit. Damn. They also changed their dolls a bit so they have these much bigger eyes and less realistic faces. Cam wasn’t much of a fan of those either. She had her heart set on a new doll and after crying over not liking the new look of the dolls she cried over not getting any doll. *Sigh* Being five is tough. 

In the end what did she take away from this? Well, she did finagle my mom into buying her a doll with a play potty (using the potty is a BIG deal for her). Unfortunately it came with a white doll, but in their defense my mom didn’t know about the conversation we had had nor was there an option for any other color of doll in the store. This is another issue for another day. I’m not really sure how much she took away from this one conversation, but we are continuing to have many more so we’ll see what the cumulative effect will be. Ultimately it will be positive. I know that, but it’s hard when your kid is sobbing in Target over all her non-options. I am worried that experience will be what sticks out to her, so I need to be sure we have lots of positive conversations. 

I will say Target seems to be introducing other dolls into their store brand line which is a good thing. There is one listed as Latina and one listed as Asian. They do all have different skin tones and facial features, but with those big googly eyes they still bear a striking resemblance to one another. However, none of the dolls besides the white ones and a tiny handful of the black ones are available in the stores. Many aren’t even available yet online. Do better Target. Get those dolls out there. 

Friday Five: Families

I’ve talked before about how different our family structure looks when you take in all the grandparents. Even though divorce seems to be fairly common it isn’t the majority of families and I think this generation of children is seeing it in the grandparent generation more than, say, my generation did. That being said, there are all kinds of family structures out there when it comes to parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. Today I’m going to feature five books (plus a bonus book) that reflect different family structures. Be sure to share these with kids who have a “traditional” family structure, too. Even if their home doesn’t look like these, their friends’ homes might and we need to build awareness, empathy, and competency around that for those kids.  In other words, don’t hesitate to read this even if you have a “traditional” family. 

families-families-families1. Families, Families, Families written and illustrated by Suzanne and Max Lang

We got this one out of the library and it was a hit. Instead of using people the book uses animals to reflect all kinds of families- step, adoptive, “traditional”, same sex, single parent, grandparent, lots of kids, only children, etc. Each family is shown in some kind of portrait or snapshot that is framed on a mantel or wall and it’s fun to pay attention to the decor in each house you glimpse. After seeing all the different families the point is made that it’s love that binds families together, not what they look like. As much as I hate the idea that animals can count as diversity, I think it’s handled well here and I know for my animal-loving, people-shy kid this book hit home more than any other. 

 

two-is-enough2. Two is Enough written by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning

As you might guess from the cover and title this book features families that have only two people. I actually bought this one for my library and haven’t spent a lot of time with it. As you can see there is racial diversity in the families as well as gender. Some are single dads and some are single moms. What I don’t remember is if this book implies that any of the single parent families are single because of divorce. Either way I think a child living with one parent at a time would also find themselves in the pages of this book. 

 

 

one-family3. One Family written by George Shannon, illustrated by Blanca Gomez

This is an interesting take on the counting concept book. Instead of a simple 1-2-3 counting pattern One Family counts parts of a whole. Everything is always one family, but then it counts up to ten looking at things like cookies shared in a family. While kindergarten and younger children will enjoy the predictability of the pattern of the text, older kids (up into first grade) will enjoy the peek into such a range of families. My daughter enjoyed finding all the animals and pets in the pictures, but she also really enjoyed “checking” the math and counting the objects shown in the illustrations. I find the sharp digital illustrations really modern and appealing, too. 

 

 

stella4. Stella Brings the Family written by Miriam B. Schiffer, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Stella’s first grade class is going to have a Mother’s Day celebration, but Stella doesn’t have a mother in the traditional sense. She thinks a lot about what she’s going to do about the party. In the end she brings all the people who “mother” her and it ends up being the whole family. I particularly like the message that we needn’t be so rigid in how we view parental roles. A mother is someone specific, but mothering people can be done by many people in our families. And I think Stella’s dilemma will familiar to single parent families and families where it isn’t a mother or father who cares for the children (like a grandparent or aunt/uncle family). Be sure to notice the little boy thinking of his two moms on one of the last pages when the kids take home an invitation to a Father’s Day celebration.

 

home-at-last5. Home At Last written by Vera B. Williams, illustrated by Chris Raschka

This one just released a week or so ago and I haven’t had a chance to read it, but it’s about a little boy adopted by two dads. It unabashedly shows the little boy crawling into bed with them when he’s scared at night, just like any child with a mom and a dad would. The little boy, Lester, is scared at night and needs help feeling secure. Despite all his dads’ efforts to make him comfortable and secure it’s the dog who solves the problem. Nighttime uncertainty and fear are not reserved for adopted children and while the story may have special significance for two-dad families and adoptive families, I think plenty of kids will know how Lester feels. 

 

 

After creating this list I realized I have two books with two dads and no books with two moms. (I was going for adoption with Home At Last.) in-our-mothers-houseNecessary Bonus Book: In Our Mothers’ House written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco.

I have not read this one, but I do know Polacco’s work. She often writes books that are a bit longer and deeper than picture books traditionally are. That being said I don’t think there is any reason you can’t share this will young children. I think it really means that it will have appeal much further up the age range. Here the children of two moms are challenged by a lack of acceptance in their neighborhood. They need to rely on the love their family has built to help them feel confident and secure. As I haven’t read it, I can’t be sure, but knowing Polacco I suspect this is a lot more about the love and fun in the house than it is about the negative attitudes of the neighbors.

 

misadventures-of-the-family-fletcherBonus chapter book: If you’re looking for a read aloud that is funny and sweet be sure to check out The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher. It features two dads and their adopted kids. It follows them through all kinds of hilarious and eye-opening situations during the course of a school year. It’s what you would expect from a funny family book, but just happens to feature a two-dad family. It’s well worth reading.