Author Archives: Tibby

Montessori Infant: 3 months

Octahedron MobileA number of years ago I created a scope and sequence of sorts of Montessori materials, games, and concepts. I did one for infants and one for toddlers up through about age 6. You can find those here. Since we decided to have another baby I dug out the infant chart and have been using it to select materials to have out for the baby.

In the newborn stage you don’t need much. A topponcino, a place to change diapers, a mirror, a floor bed (or in our case a handmade side car crib). Around two months you can introduce black and white pictures, fabrics, and patterns. This is also the time to hang up the Munari Mobile.

3 Month BasketI have three areas set up in the house: one in the girls’ room, one in the classroom and one in the living room. Each features a pad or blanket for her to lay on and a few materials (right now, black and white art cards and pictures of baby and kid faces). Some of the materials are divided up and others move around with us because she likes them so much. This book is a particular favorite: My Face Book.

Malin turned three months on Friday and I thought I would post some pictures of the things we have out for her that align with Montessori principles and materials. I have a small basket with a small rainbow grasping toy, a wooden grasping ring with ribbons, and a small frog lovey (pictured to the right). The frog was originally Camille’s and lived on her changing table where we used it to distract her if necessary. We called it Changing Frog. It’s soft and large enough for a young infant to practice grabbing at so I included it this month in her materials. The rainbow grasping toy is similar to the Montessori grasping beads, which are in a line instead of a ring. The wooden ring is probably still a little heavy for Malin’s tiny hands to grab onto, but I like the ribbons attached to it. She can gum the ring and touch the ribbons until she’s strong enough to really get ahold of it. Also, I’ll be honest, the Montessori grasping beads freak me out. While I know they technically should be strong enough not to break off their string, they still seem like a choking hazard. More so than the two grasping rings I have put out. That’s just my comfort level, though. 

Room Set Up at One MonthThe last two months we’ve had up the Munari, or black and white, Mobile and it’s been a favorite of Malin’s. You can see it hanging over her in the picture to the left and see her fixating on it even at five weeks. I have now changed it out for the Octahedron Mobile (which makes me kind of sad that she’s already out grown something, but also excited to try out new materials; see it in the picture at the top of the post). I made both mobiles while I was pregnant. It was a fairly simple project. I found a pattern and instructions on Etsy for the Munari and I think I found the Octahedron for free online.

 So that’s a peek at what I have out for the baby right now.

 

Van Life: New Adventures

Van Life Banner

So, about two weeks before the end of 2017 we bought a Eurovan. Our big plan, that we’ve been talking about for nearly a year now, is to take off all of July and head up California, Oregon, Washington and into Canada with the two kids, the two of us, and the two dogs. Ultimately we’d love to do this every year and get out to explore the U.S., Canada, and maybe ultimately Mexico (although we’re hoping to head north to cooler climates when it’s blazing hot down south). I’m not sure we’d ever be the family that sells our house and lives full time in our van while traveling, but a change of pace for one month a year sounds about right for now.

We took our first trip on the last two days of the year and headed down to Yosemite. It was my first time in the Park and it was really lovely, if a wee bit chilly. Also, camping while seven months pregnant was little challenging. I wish our campsite had been closer to the bathroom. We plan on taking a lot of overnight and weekend trips in the van as well since there’s plenty to see within a few hours of where we live. And because my husband runs on a school schedule he gets dedicated winter and spring breaks plus a handful of three day weekends that will allow us to go out on longer trips.

I am really new to the whole camping thing (I did go to summer camp a few times, but it was all tent cabins and mess halls, no tents or camp stoves or even really campfires) so I am learning as we go along. In fact the last, and maybe only time, I went camping was nearly 30 years ago. I would like to post about van life, camping with kids, and traveling/camping with dogs. Tips, tricks, thoughts, etc in case anyone else wants ideas or inspiration. If you’ve done the math, our July trip will involve a three month old baby. It could be the world’s best idea of the world’s worst idea. We’ll find out. I think we’re going into this with an open mind and a sense of adventure that will hopefully allow us to take everything in stride.

Decolonize Your Bookshelf: Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO by Tamara Pizzoli

 

Decolonize Your Bookshelf

The Diverse Bookshelf is a series that shares a book we are enjoying at home. Some of the content may be from my library blog At Home Librarian. 

TallulahTalullah the Tooth Fairy CEO written by Tamara Pizzloi, illustrated by Federico Fabiani

From Goodreads: Tallulah the Tooth Fairy is not only the founder and CEO of the largest teeth collecting organization on the planet, Teeth Titans, Incorporated, she’s a clever and wildly successful business woman with an affinity for all things dental. A natural innovator and problem solver, Tallulah finds herself unexpectedly stumped when six year-old Ballard Burchell leaves a note instead of his tooth under his pillow. What’s a Tooth Fairy to do when there’s no tooth to take?

This book is amazing! It’s got great illustrations, excellent text, tons of humor that will appeal to both kids and the adults reading it to them, wonderful vocabulary and lots of details relating to teeth that are fun to spot, not to mention a good story.

I bought the book for Cam when she was intrigued by mythical people like Santa and the Easter Bunny. We don’t actually use any of those conventions, but for whatever reason she keeps hoping we will. I wanted to get it because, well, look at her! Tallulah is amazing with her Afro and huge sunglasses and she’s a CEO! Cam got her first loose tooth a few months ago and has since lost four more. Every time she has a new tooth to tuck under her pillow she’s got her fingers crossed that Tallulah will pay her a visit.

I absolutely love that the story challenges the usual idea and imagery of the tooth fairy that shows her as white, blonde, and medieval. In fact, the story tackles that head on. In the note written by Ballard, he has drawn the tooth fairy in that way despite being black himself. Tallulah reads the note and the first comment she makes is “that looks nothing like me”. She does comment in the next sentence that she isn’t that small, but between those lines is the unspoken fact that she is also clearly not white.

The text is longer, so unless you think your child or younger audience is motivated to listen, or is good at listening, I would recommend it for 1st through 3rd grade (my third grade class last year had a superb sense of humor and would have LOVED this book) which are prime tooth-losing years. The vocabulary is pretty sophisticated too. The vast majority of it makes perfect sense in context and shouldn’t cause a problem. It very much brought to mind William Steig, particularly Dr. DeSoto and Shrek and how he uses language.

The language also ties into the humor of the story. There are plenty of funny asides for parents and kids and the twist at the end is both a great message and satisfying. Do not miss the boardroom scene wherein Tallulah asks for advice about what to do with Ballard’s note. Her board is made up of all black women, except for one white dude, who is complaining about the lack of diversity and wearing an All Fairies Matter shirt. Hilarious nod to current events and again a subtle nod to defaulting the Tooth Fairy to white.

The illustrations appealed to me because of their clean modernity which made Tallulah seem all the more cool. The colors are bright without being garish or saccharine. The art appealed to my daughter because each picture has lots of tiny tooth details and invite long looks (I highly recommend flipping through the pictures before reading it through the first time because they are so captivating).

If you are looking for general books to add to your collection this is well worth it. Move it to the top of your list or gift it the next time a tooth falls out.

*I edited this review from what ran on my library blog.

Parenting for Revolution: Stories We Aren’t Waiting On

Parenting for Revolution

Or How I’m Not Allowing White Privilege to Shield My Daughter

In my last post I talked about how powerful stories can be (in books and movies) and how I feel strongly that there are some I want my daughter to be exposed to when she is ready. A big part of my point about not encouraging my daughter to watch Jurassic Park at six years old is that it’s a story that tackles some incredibly deep questions about humanity and our role in life. Today I wanted to address the idea that there are difficult ideas that I am not holding back on with her and how I determine, rightly or wrongly, which ones those will be. 

The short answer to what hard topics and questions do I choose discuss openly with her is, if someone’s safety and/or humanity is impacted by the answers to those questions right now in the real world, then it is imperative we talk about it. This includes things like overt racism, systemic racism and sexism, police violence, Islamophobia, violence against trans and queer people. I have opened conversations about all of these topics with her. 

We talk about stories about how people have been and continue to be excluded, persecuted, and discriminated against. We talk openly about skin color, race, gender, sex, religion, disability, body type, immigration, and socio-economic status. None of these things are shameful. They are part of people’s identities and unless my daughter can talk about them without shame or without hatred or a feeling of superiority (i.e. white supremacy) then she can’t fight for equity. We read stories about current events and historical events. We have talked about people crossing the Mediterranean and the desperation that must drive them to take such risks. We have talked about rape and rape culture and the #metoo movement. We have talked about redlining. We have talked about slavery and Jim Crow laws and segregation here in California, which impacted Latinx people. Of course these topics are tackled in an age appropriate way, but we don’t shy away from them and I give her honest answers to any and all questions she asks, even if the answers are hard and scary. She knows about Stephon Clark who was killed here in Sacramento a few months ago and she knows about the Black Lives Matter movement. We often first approach these stories through stories. Through picture books that bring up the topics and give us an opening to think and discuss more deeply and I think that is a very powerful and impactful approach to getting at real world problems. 

I know many white parents want to avoid talking about these things. They’re uncomfortable and awkward and difficult and we’re afraid of making mistakes. But that’s our privilege allowing us to not to talk about them and I don’t want to be party to that. That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes and know all the answers to the tough questions we come up with, but I am trying. 

Waiting on Stories

I have had a running joke with my daughter for some time now where, when she asks what movie we should watch, I tell her that we should watch Jurassic Park because it’s a great movie about dinosaurs. By now I’ve leveled with her that it’s a potentially scary, definitely suspenseful movie. She now often beats me to the punch with the joke. But this took an interesting turn the other day when I learned one of my good friends has let her four year old watch the movie (actually it might have been her husband who put it on, I’m not sure). 

To be clear, I’m not throwing shade at her. Her daughter seems to be into in and not at all bothered by it (this would absolutely not be the case for my kid). I told Cam, though, that her friend had seen it and I could see her processing the fact that this girl is younger than her and weighing whether or not she wanted to muscle up and ask to watch it.

Then she started reasoning through it out loud and I was both impressed and proud of her self reflection. She asked me what I thought would make the movie scary to her. I explained that the dinosaurs were very realistic and the storyline itself was written to be suspenseful. She asked if the dinosaurs were green screened (apparently she knows what this is) and I explained that, no the technology wasn’t as good back then and the movie makers had chosen to use robotic dinosaurs instead. She asked how big they were and I explained many were person-sized, but many, particularly the t-rex were quite large. She asked which kinds were in it (no, idea, I am not into dinosaurs like that). Eventually she decided that it would frighten her too much and give her nightmares. I agreed that it was possible and told her the movie freaked me out when I saw it at 10 years old. I was impressed that she was self aware enough to know it wasn’t going to work for her on that level. 

But our real conversation came when I began explaining the story. I think we really came to an understanding about why movies, and stories more generally, get lines drawn around them by me. I summarized it for her so she would know what it was actually about beyond just dinosaurs. I told her that it was based on a book that both her father and I had really enjoyed and that the movie, while different, did a very good job adapting the story and telling it visually. And it’s true. It’s one reason why we love the movie.

But, I explained, the story isn’t just a complicated narrative that a six year old would have some difficulty following. That would be the case and she may not enjoy it for that simple reason. It might also lead her to focus on the suspense and fear factor in it instead of how the story arcs. Even more than that, though, the story grapples with some really deep existential questions: should humans create life in a lab? should humans play god? what about the ethics of bringing life into being and then leaving it on the island? what about the profitability of the park as a driving factor in this creation? 

Yes, I enumerated all these questions out loud for her. I know she doesn’t know how to even begin to think around them (the power of a story like Jurassic Park is that it gives you thought exercises to wrap your mind around). I also know she would not be able to tease out these deep issues in the story and I told her that. I pointed out that a big part of this particular film and movie and others written and produced for adults is that they bring up these kinds of questions and push us to probe our feelings and ideas around them and sometimes change our beliefs. It is another layer to these types of stories and, unless she can appreciate it for that, I think she would not get nearly as much enjoyment out of it. That isn’t to say if in two years, at eight years old, when she is still not ready to grapple with such existential ideas, she can’t watch and enjoy the movie on some level. But to me I would love for her to come to these stories at the right time when she can really start to appreciate them and then return to them again and again to continue to evolve her thinking around them. It brings to mind several books that I have read over the years that are frequently assigned in high school English classes that, for whatever reason, we never got to or weren’t assigned. I read many of them a few years or even a decade later and know I would have hated them as a teenager, but absolutely loved them as an adult with more perspective. The Joy Luck Club. Things Fall Apart. The Giver. All excellent literature that would have been so far over my head at 15, 16 and 17. I am so grateful I came to them later because they were all incredibly impactful stories for me. 

Again this isn’t to shame my friend that showed the movie to her younger daughter. It’s fine. I just know as something I love, I would really like my own daughter to come to it when she is really ready to see Jurassic Park and other stories like it as the reflections of our world that they are and help her form a deeper understanding of the complexity of being human. 

There is a flip side to holding back on stories that is directly related to our white privilege and I plan on addressing that in my next blog post. Because there are hard stories with deep existential, identity-laden issues that she needs to begin to address now. I will post a link to that once it’s up. 

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 Revolution: 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. 

Decolonize Your 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.