Friday Five: Lighthouses

Maybe it’s the cheerful colors of lighthouses or the fact that they’re so iconic of costal places, but they signify summer time to me. In honor of July here’s a Friday Five dedicated to lighthouses.  

Hello LighthouseHello Lighthouse written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Watch the days and seasons pass as the wind blows, the fog rolls in, and icebergs drift by. Outside, there is water all around. Inside, the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his family unfolds as the keeper boils water for tea, lights the lamp’s wick, and writes every detail in his logbook.

We recently bought this one and love it. I have mixed feelings about Blackall since the fiasco with A Fine Dessert, but this one is a winner. It’s got intricate, beautiful illustrations and the story is fun too. The form factor of the book is especially neat- long and tall like a lighthouse itself and many of the illustrations contain circles and circle motifs echoing the rooms of the lighthouse.

 

Keep the Lights BurningKeep the Lights Burning, Abbie written by Peter and Connie Roop, illustrated by Peter E. Hanson

In the winter of 1856, a storm delays the lighthouse keeper’s return to an island off the coast of Maine, and his daughter Abbie must keep the lights burning by herself.

I remember reading this book in either first or second grade. I loved it then because it was such an exciting story and I was so struck by how brave and tenacious Abbie was. Even better, the story is based on a real storm and a real girl- the end has a note about the true events. Cam and I pulled out our copy of this after we stayed in a lighthouse keeper’s quarters back in February of this year. Keep the Lights Burning is actually an easy reader, which might make it good for emerging readers to partner up with a parent or older sibling to read through. But even if your child isn’t reading yet, give it a try. 

 

Little Red LighthouseThe Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge written by Hildegard H. Swift, illustrated by Lynd Ward

If you like sentimental, classic stories this is one to try. A little red lighthouse happily keeps watch over the mouth of the river in New York City until one day a large gray bridge it built, towering over the little lighthouse. The new bridge also has a bright light on the top of one of its towers. Feeling forgotten and replaced the lighthouse believes it is no longer needed until a storm blows in a familiar tug boat wrecks on the rocks. The bridge calls out to the lighthouse telling it the light on the tower is for planes and that the lighthouse is still needed. The lighthouse keeper also appears and is grumbling about his keys being hidden by some naughty boys. The lighthouse beams out once more and finds its purpose again. The full sentiment of the story may be lost on most children, but I don’t think that will take the enjoyment out of the story. To me it’s reminiscent of Virginia Lee Burton’s books and it is from the same era so it isn’t surprising that it does bring those to mind. I love that the book is a small nearly square rectangle much like the little lighthouse squatting on the edge of the river. 

 

The Abandoned LighthouseThe Abandoned Lighthouse written by Albert Lamb, illustrated by David McPhail

This was such an interesting book. It felt a little existential, a little dreamy, and a little magical. Definitely give it a read if you like gentle, but exciting stories. Also, strangely, most of the lighthouse books I have read feature girls (not complaining) or animals. This book has a little boy (and a bear) as the protagonist. The two are brought together by a row boat and an empty lighthouse for a quick overnight adventure.

 

 

 

Gracie the Lighthouse CatGracie, the Lighthouse Cat written and illustrated by Ruth Brown

Gracie is a great study in how illustrations can convey an entire story not written in the text. This is even more interesting as that second story shown in the pictures is a true story of a ship wreck and a lighthouse keeper and his daughter rescuing the stranded survivors. The text in this book is short and simple, but also very dramatic. Be aware that the kitten is swept out in the storm and the mother looks frantically for it. But all is well in the end, for both the cats and the people. 

Unschool Update: I Walk the Line

Money MaterialsFor anyone that knows about unschooling or practices it with their children, they are probably also aware of how different it is from the traditional model of schooling. I know for me, the traditional model of school (think desks in rows or pods, teacher at the front, set curriculum, benchmarks, etc.) is both what I went through for my education and was also the setting I taught in when I was in the classroom. Unschooling is much freer, following the child’s interests, introducing skills when they are useful to the child, and trusting the child to know what they need when they need it. I’ll be the first to admit it’s been incredibly difficult to break away from that traditional style of instruction when working with Cam over the past school year. 

It’s a fine line to walk, at least in our home, between offering Object Boxesdirect skills instruction to Cam while also following her lead. This year has been the year she has been both ready and willing to start the process of learning to read. I know from experience that she’s a decoder by nature. Basically she relies on phonics to read. She breaks words up into phonemes and is very focused on letter sounds and combinations. This makes for a slow progress and also does require some hands-on and planned instruction by me. It will ultimately make her a stronger reader over the next few years as grows into more and more complex books, but in the meantime it could really feel like we had veered off into a more traditional model of schooling. That was really a sign to me to back off. Reassess. Check in with Cam and stop anything that wasn’t working for her. Did I manage unschooling perfectly this year? Absolutely not. I’m unlearning how I was taught and also trying to find the best way to use the knowledge I have to help Cam master skills and learn things that she wants. But it wasn’t a complete failure either. 

Hundreds BoardSome other things we worked on or studied this year, prompted by Cam’s expressed interest, were taking nature classes at our local nature center, learning about pregnancy and birth as she watched my belly grow and then saw the birth of her sister, and a little bit of numeracy (counting up to 100 and learning about money). 

This year also saw the addition of Cam’s sister. That basically tanked the last couple months, which was fine. A new baby and being a big sister is a learning experience in and of itself. Cam has grown incredibly over the past three months and I couldn’t be more proud of that emotional and developmental growth. It’s far more important than any academic skill she might work on or any subject she might study. 

Pregnancy MaterialsThis coming year I want to work in some social-emotional learning and mindfulness practices to our daily schedule. I know, though, that this is going to be another area where she needs the skills (we’re working on taming anxiety in her that has reared its head), but I don’t want to push too far or become the driving force behind offering them to her. I am new to these practices too, so maybe that will mitigate some of that. I can frame it as we’re learning together and instead of planning ahead we can plan together. That’s the line I’ll try to walk next year. 

Confessions from a picky eater

My husband and I have this running joke. We’re both finicky eaters and always have been, but we’re not picky about the same things. Our joke is that, if push comes to shove, I’m the kind of picky eater that will starve before eating something I don’t like. Of course this stems from never having been truly hungry in my life, but when we go to places and the only option is a cold sandwich (or a hot one for that matter) he will eat it and dislike it. I will go without lunch. 

My poor, long suffering parents. They didn’t exactly cater to my every whim, but I was seriously limited in what I would eat and try and they still fed me with little coercion. My mom never ceased to be amazed that my strict grandmother would make me different foods to be sure I ate when we went to her house. That was not the norm when my mom was growing up. Bless my parents for letting me give up meat for Lent one year. I am still not sure how I didn’t starve or get some deficiency-related illness. I still remember being forced to eat mayo covered bologna in preschool. To this day I can remember the taste and texture in my mouth and it makes me want to hurl. 

The funny thing was I loved thinking about eating a variety of foods. Pretend kitchen play was one of my favorite things as a kid. When my grandmother taught me to cook, I loved planning meals and cooking a lot of the foods. But beware the advice that getting kids involved will make them more adventurous eaters, to this day I will gladly cook things that I would never let cross my lips. I still refuse to taste things before I completely cook them. I can’t even bring myself to think about trying foods mid-cook. 

I had to laugh when a close friend of mine told me she was pregnant and began texting me about the food aversions she was experiencing in her first trimester. Nearly all the things she described were things I experience on any given weeknight making dinner. Some things sound good, what I had planned doesn’t, and just thinking about certain foods makes me gag. Sometimes nothing sounds good and I wait too long to eat and then feel nauseous. I make our menu out a week in advance and frequently I ask myself what I was thinking about planning a certain food or ingredient. I have a fairly short list of things to choose from to begin with and I have to coordinate it with my husband’s food preferences. At least once a week we give up and go out.  

I wanted to promise you, your picky eater isn’t (usually) doing it to spite you or make your life more difficult. This from the perspective of a person who was very picky as a child and is still discerning. As an adult I have figured out what makes me picky or turn a food down. Usually it’s a texture, either confirmed or suspected. Sometimes it is strong smells or tastes. I still despise cold food. Sandwiches are the perfect storm of disgusting foods for me, hence I will go hungry. If you have a picky eater I highly recommend helping them figure out what it is that is turning them off to various foods. My palette has also changed over the years and gotten better about allowing me to eat and try foods. So know that this too shall pass or at least they move out and have to cook for themselves. 

Both my parents and in-laws were hoping our daughter would be a picky eater. Just for karma’s sake. She isn’t. She is one of the more adventurous eaters I know, actually. But even she has her limits and times when certain foods she usually likes don’t sound good to her. She’ll even go through phases of disliking foods that she normally loves. I don’t push it when that happens, because I know what it’s like to be willing to starve before eating something that you don’t like.  

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.