Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children

Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When our first child was born, we lived in a wonderfully diverse and liberal area. He was born to a plethora of self-proclaimed uncles and aunties from all over the globe, of all different religions, races, languages, and experiences. What they had in common was a thirst for knowledge and open-mindedness. I knew that when we had friends over or when we visited with friends, my child would hear multiple languages, be exposed to a great understanding of diversity, and see that his skin was just one hue of many. Race didn’t matter. Everyone was equal.

Then we moved here. Suddenly, race did matter. For, as much as people may tell you that racism doesn’t exist in the Mid-West, it most assuredly does. (The truth is, it exists, at least in pockets, throughout the United States, a country forged through the discrimination and abuse of non-Caucasians.) Sometimes it is blatant. Sometimes it is subtle, but there is always an undercurrent. From extended relatives who mention the nice black lady who cut their hair, as though a person’s skin color has something to do with either their hair-cutting skills or how nice they are, to the people who blatantly deny that racial discrimination exists to the face of a woman who has just shared that her family has been racially profiled when out driving because they are an inter-racial family. It is there. It is there in the neighborhoods where people tend to stick with people of similar ethnicity because they know they won’t be discriminated against by others like them or whose socio-economic status, stagnant by discrimination, keeps them in neighborhoods which they would rather move from. Here, race matters.

Sure, race matters to the bigots who think the color of their skin makes them better than others, but race also matters to those of us who think it shouldn’t have to. We should never forget the atrocities in our history, held at the hands of those who claimed to be doing what was best for another group: the discrimination, the prejudice, the hatred. It matters because it still exists, and it matters because we can do something about it.

My children, despite their freckled whiteness, know something about discrimination. That happens when you are a non-Christian family in an area where the majority are, or at least identify with, Christians. To be fair, it is my husband and I who made the decision. We encourage our children to learn about different beliefs and decide for themselves what they believe, knowing that they may not have that maturity or may change their minds numerous times as they grow older. My children have seen the hatred expressed at women as they simply nurture their children by breastfeeding. They have heard the hatred of non -“white Christian males” during elections. They have experienced the ageism from others that we have all experienced as children.

We talk about prejudice and discrimination. We talk about the fear and hatred behind it. We talk about history, read books about it, and watch movies and documentaries. We talk…a lot, and we stand up to those who would put others down. We talk about the privileges of being in a majority, even though it definitely doesn’t win a popularity contest. We have been verbally attacked for our beliefs of equality. That won’t stop us.

We are raising the next generation with our children. Children who will grow up to fight for others, because they believe it is the right thing to do. Children who will grow up to make a difference. It isn’t minorities alone who make changes, otherwise the majority would continue to oppress. There would never be change. It takes people, banding together in what they know is right, to make real change, and I want my family to be a part of that. When we are all equal, we can look to the past and vow never to let that happen again. Until then, we will continue to make a difference.

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter’s life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
  • The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
  • Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
  • Differencessustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
  • Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about “semi immersion” language learning.
  • Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
  • Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
  • People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn’t seem to them to be disrespectful.
  • Just Call me Clarice Thomas — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
  • Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
  • Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
  • Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
  • The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
  • Children’s black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
  • Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
  • Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid’s art!
  • Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
  • The Difference is Me – Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
  • My daughter will never know same-sex marriage is not normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
  • Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
  • EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
  • Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
  • Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
  • 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family’s place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
  • Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
  • 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
  • Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn’t do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it’s more about the little things.
  • Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Love matters.
  • The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless reponse to her son’s apparent prejudice.

Family Tornado Preparedness

I was watching a movie with my children when the subject of tornadoes came up. Answering their questions, I realized I was a bit rusty on my knowledge of everything concerning tornadoes, so we decided to do a little research to help us better prepare in the case of a tornado.

What exactly is a tornado? A tornado is made of wind. In a tornado, the wind is rotating in a vortex or column. This can uproot trees, sweep up houses, and cause a great deal of destruction. Similar to tornadoes are straight line winds. Straight line winds have the fast speeds of tornadoes without the rotations. They can be just as deadly.

Most tornadoes are very short-lived and cause only weak damage with winds under 110 mph. Strong tornadoes last more than 20 minutes with wind speeds up to 200 mph. Only a small number of tornadoes are considered violent tornadoes, lasting up to an hour with wind speeds greater than 300 mph.

What is a Tornado Watch? If a tornado watch is called in your area, it means that conditions may cause tornadoes to form but no tornadoes have been spotted. Keep an eye on the weather and listen for any further reports.

What is a Tornado Warning? A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted. You should take cover immediately.

Tornadoes can strike quickly, giving very little warning. Being prepared and going over emergency procedures can help children feel more secure.

Preparing for a Tornado

Make a plan:

  • Speak with all family members and plan where you will go in the event of a tornado. You should choose the safest location in your home. This is generally the lower level of your home, away from windows and doors. Choose an interior room or wall and take shelter under heavy furniture when possible. If you are in your vehicle, leave the vehicle and lay flat in a lower area such as a ditch. In the event of a tornado, do not open windows or doors, as this can allow debris and wind to sweep into the home.
  • Discuss ways that family members can prepare and reach the emergency location quickly.

Put together an emergency kit. This should include:

  • Non-perishable food. Pack enough non-perishable food for everyone in your household for three days. Stay away from salty foods and anything which increases thirst. If you pack canned goods, don’t forget to include a can opener.
  • Water. Have enough drinking water for everyone in your household for 3 days. You may want to include extra for sanitation. Consider one gallon per person per day as your starting point.
  • Light. In the event of a power outage, you may be without light. Pack candles and/or a flashlight or lantern. remember to include a way to light the candles or extra batteries.
  • Weather radio. Pick up an inexpensive battery operated or hand-crank weather radio to keep update on emergency weather conditions.
  • First aid kit. Have a first aid kit easily accessible in the event that someone is hurt.
  • Help signal. Include some way to signal others in the event that your home is destroyed. A signal whistle, horn, or flare gun may help alert others to your location.
  • Disposable wipes. Disposable wipes can be used for sanitation if you are confined to your location while waiting for help.
  • Duct tape. You never know when you may need duct tape.
  • Emergency information. Check out this handy information page that you can print out.
  • Pet supplies. If you have pets, pack some non-perishable pet food and possibly an emergency leash. Poo bags may also come in handy.
  • Trash bags. These can be used as makeshift toilets.
  • Entertainment. Consider packing some books, paper, crayons, or other items to help take children’s minds off of the storm.
Other items to consider:
  • Blankets or pillows to keep warm and sleep.
  • Any medications required by family members.
  • Extra eye glasses or other health care items.
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Diapers.
  • Extra clothes
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Rope
  • Important documents
  • Road maps
Here is a printable checklist to help your family gather supplies for your kit.

Practice for a tornado:

Most cities where tornadoes are likely to occur test their sirens monthly. If you children are anything like mine, they will have asked about the sirens. While these tests are to make certain that the sirens are working correctly, this is a fantastic opportunity to practice in case of a real tornado. Explain to your children that the sirens are just being tested, but that you want to practice what to do in case of a real tornado. Go through your tornado drill. If there is ever a time when your family needs to

Check out Tornadoes AHEAD: Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book. This is a free printable coloring book with facts and other information regarding tornadoes.

Looking for books to read with your children? Try requesting some of these at your local library:

Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today?: All About Weather

 

Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today?: All About Weather

The Cat in the Hat and various other Seuss characters are travelling in a hot air balloon where they encounter many types of weather.

 

 

Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll

 

Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll

Make storms a little less scary by reading about what causes them.

 

 

Eye Wonder: Weather

 

Eye Wonder: Weather

DK provides a valuable reference for children with their book on weather. Beautiful color photgraphy combined with clear information help demystify weather for families.

 

DK Eyewitness Books: Weather

 

For the slightly older child, check out DK Eyewitness Books: Weather This book covers the same topics with more depth.

 

 

 

photo credit: Florencia Guedes via photopin cc

Strong Female Characters – Not Just for Girls

Tome Reader

Photo by QQ Li

Children’s  literature abounds with books full of strong males, so much so that I actually get excited when a new book comes out showcasing a strong female just for the fact that there s a strong female in the book. It shouldn’t be that way. Our species has a general 1:1 gender ratio, changing a bit through various ages. In the old adage that art imitates life (or life imitates art), we should see a much larger number of female characters in books. We don’t. Of those female characters we do meet, most are secondary at best or portrayed as a weak character.

The idea of reading books with our daughters that showcase some of the stronger female characters isn’t new. I’m happy to say that most of the parents I know seek out books with strong female leads to share with their daughters. It’s an exciting thing to share good literature with someone you love, and while I would love to cheer this fact on, I’m left with an incomplete feeling: Why are they only sharing these books with their daughters?

Reality shows me that those parents of daughters looking for strong female leads for their daughters aren’t looking for those same books for their sons. The parents of only sons or of children whose daughters aren’t old enough for the more involved chapter books aren’t even looking (generalization, yes, but you see my point). There is a giant disparity here.

Books with strong female characters are not just for our daughters; they are also for our sons. Good books are good books, and given the opportunity, our sons enjoy books with strong female leads just as much as our daughters. Some of my ten year old son’s favorite books have strong female characters and female leads. A good book is a good book.

So why do parents search out to equalize the characters in books for their daughters but not their sons?  Those books with strong female characters show strength for our daughters but seem to be lacking for our sons. In other words, it is fine for girls to identify with male characters, but female characters are lacking when it comes to boys. It’s sexism in literature, and the majority of parents are unintentionally  perpetuating this concept with their children.

What can be done about it? Share good books, including those with strong female leads with your children, regardless of gender. Discuss books with your kids. Point out disparities, listen to their ideas, share your thoughts, and make a difference.

5 Ways to Kill Your Child’s Love of Reading

Please note that this public service announcement is brought to you by Bibliophilic Satire.

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Who Needs Books?

Photo by Nate Bolt

I’d like to take a moment to discuss an issue that is pertinent to every parent out there. Children and books. There. I said it. I know. We try to avoid such topics, but the fact of the matter is that every child is born with an inherent love of stories and books. Without proper intervention, you may find yourself in the position of a parent who has a child who…..reads. Yes. The big elephant in the room is out there for all to see. However, I’m here to tell you that there are ways to put a stop to this habit before it really takes a hold. Here are a few suggestions to save your child from a life time of reading:

 

 

  1. You may decide to go with the method that “gets  it out of their system.” If this is your preferred strategy, force your child to read in a controlled setting. If they are going to be reading, make certain they are reading on your terms. Take away their choices.
  2. Make them read what you choose. Sure, they are going to hear about books from someone, but if you can make it seem like books aren’t enjoyable, you lessen the likelihood that they will become readers. As part of this method, you may find it beneficial to pick out the most boring books you can find. If your child begs and pleads not to read them because because he “doesn’t like those books,” stick with them. If there happens to be someone nearby (such as…..another mother) who is in the vicinity when you force your child to read the really boring book, it’s okay. Any adult should be willing  to make the sacrifice to listen to a horribly written book read haltingly by a child in tears. After all, we’re here for the kids. This public display will also help re-enforce the lesson to any other children in the area that reading should, under no circumstances, be enjoyed.
  3. Negative re-enforcement. When you catch your child in the act of reading, do something negative. You want them to associate the very act of reading with an unpleasant experience. Tell them they aren’t doing it correctly. Ridicule them. Yell. Make other loud sounds such as monster noises or sound like an alien laser. Whatever you do, do not let them enjoy the experience.
  4. Time limits. Whether you are trying to gently wean your child off of this habit by placing arbitrarily short maximum time limits on enjoyable reading sources or placing large time limit minimums on the boring pieces (see above reference), you should control the amount of time your child is exposed to such potentially harmful substances.
  5. When it comes down to it, you need to do what you have to in order to prevent this habit from escalating. Threaten to take away something your child loves if she doesn’t follow your strict guidelines. Already at gymnastics but she isn’t reading your prescribed reading material? Threaten to take away her gymnastics class. Sure, you’ve paid for the gas to get there. You will be paying for the class whether she participates or not. Gymnastics has nothing to do with reading, but it strikes deep. It shows your child that you are serious about not letting her waste her life away in a book.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Board books lead to picture books, which lead to chapter books. If you don’t do something about your child’s love of books right away, you may be facing a child who is carrying around a 3 inch thick book, laughing and giggling, and enjoying herself to no end. Books are dangerous. They lead to information, independent thinking, creativity, and even worse….knowledge and wisdom.

 

Pumpkin Pie Play Dough

October, and now November, have been pumpkin filled months for our family. Pumpkin hunting and then pumpkin baking and freezing have filled our home with a delicious aroma. Wanting some afternoon fun for my children, I made up a big batch of pumpkin pie play dough. It’s easy to make and smells divine…so much so that I keep finding myself sniffing it and playing with it. Homemade play dough is much more elastic and accommodating than store bought varieties. Inexpensive to make, you’ll probably find the ingredients around your home. No toxic chemicals and if your child does decide to try eating it, you won’t have to worry about ingredients or dealing with neon green poo later on.

Pumpkin Pie Play Dough

(one batch makes a nice amount for one child – multiply as needed!)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 T. cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 T. canola oil (or your choice of oil)
  • 1 t. ground cinnamom
  • freshly grated nutmeg to your preference
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • food coloring as desired (I used some old Wilton paste copper color)
Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar, water, and oil over medium heat, stirring to mix. Next add your cinnamon and nutmeg. As your dough begins to solidify add in the vanilla extract and any food coloring.
Remove from heat and let sit long enough that you can use your hands. It doesn’t take long. Knead until it is completely mixed.
That’s it. You now have delicious smelling (but not tasting….it will taste like salt) pumpkin pie play dough. Hand it to your kids and let them play away. Store in an air tight container so that it doesn’t dry out.

Voting with Kids

I Voted!Later today, I will be headed to the polls…with four kids in tow. Some may think I’m crazy. The line to vote may be long. There are never any other children there. Yet, every single election, I head down the street with my children. Sometimes, like tomorrow, my husband joins us and we go as a family. Other times, when our schedules aren’t as easily aligned, I head with just my kids. And yet, I take them.

I’m setting a precedence with my kids. Voting matters. Certainly, they still have quite some time before they can vote themselves, but the outcomes of the decisions being made affect everyone, including them.

Politics are not something for adults at our house. We talk about politics. We watched the debates together. We asked our children what they thought about the issues, the politicians, and the political campaigns.  Rights are for everyone, and if someone isn’t afforded rights, it’s our duty to do something about it. Just as our own rights were fought for by others, we owe it to ourselves and to others to stand up for everyone. Am I often disgruntled with government and politicians? Yes. That doesn’t mean I should become apathetic. It means I should work toward doing something about it.

My kids go with me to vote because it’s important to me that they know how important it is to have your voice heard. My children’s voices are heard at home, but that isn’t the case for every child or even most children. It often isn’t the case for many minorities, even those who have legal rights. I’m not throwing away my right to vote. I want them to know about my mother, their grandmother, and how she refused to tell anyone for whom she voted. She remembered a time when women were allowed to vote…for the person they were told to vote for by their husbands.

I want my children to understand that having a voice is a human right that should be afforded everyone. I want them to use that voice and to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. I want them to use their voices to make a better world. So later today, I’ll head to the polls with my children. I will use my voice and show them that they can also use theirs.

Day of the Dead: Sugar Skulls

These are sugar skulls that we made when we attended a Day of the Dead class. My children really enjoyed making these. Earlier this week, when we came across the exact same mold on clearance, they were thrilled, as we can make these at home again next year!