Parenting through Disability, Art and Feminism

Tag: parenting

Raising My Kids to be Allies

Raising my kids to be better

I want my kids to be respectful, tolerant and an ally. I am a feminist, a disability activist and an equal rights campaigner. I live my life based on the truth in my heart that every person on this planet is worth of love, acceptance and integration. I truly believe that everyone’s unique differences are their strengths. But I am also aware of my privileges. I am a white person living in a predominantly white area of the UK. At the moment my I just do not know enough about race inequality to be as active an ally as I would like … and that means I also know I am not yet doing everything I can to ensure my children grow up as allies. So, I decided to use this quarantine time to do a little digging and a little teaching. Having a structure for our homeschool provided the perfect basis to begin this work. (You can see what else we have been up to here and here)

Why I was tailing to raise my kids to be allies

How I was going about allyship all wrong

So first up, I was shocked to discover that raising ‘colourblind’ children was not the way to go. It could, in fact, be causing harm. I know, there’s my privilege at work. So, what do I do? Thankfully, I stumbled across Rebekah Gienapp’s excellent blog which gave me a start in my thinking.

Next, I had to think about the ways my kids learn. So, I know my boys respond well to stories. Therefore, I needed to be more proactive in promoting those books that touch on race and other social justice themes. Unfortunately, a couple of my favourites (like Julian is a Mermaid) have been quarantined along with my mum about 15 miles away. A quick googling brought me a few others but I don’t want this to turn into a shopping list. Check out this blog, and this one, to find my inspirations.

How do you start to raise your kids to be allies?

Okay, okay. Books are a good start. BUT studies show that reading alone isn’t enough. We need to actively discuss differences to raise your kids to be allies. So, where to begin?

We started with Aesop’s Fables – the story of the Lion and the Mouse. I found a simple version of the story that was about three paragraphs long. I edited it to make it a little more child friendly. In order to help 6er better engage, I was inspired by the storytelling style used in Godly Play. Godly Play utilises images, objects and other devices to help children engage with the story. I made a few simple devices to help them visualise the story. I used images of a lion, a mouse and a few strips of paper for the net.

I would recommend you read the story out loud at least once to get used to speaking aloud. In the version below, you will also find instructions for moving the pieces in italics. Have a little go moving the pieces around as you speak to see what works best for your technique. I also urge you to really get into character, roaring and squeaking. Sometimes storytelling feels a bit silly, but I usually find thats when it is most engaging for the small ones.

When we reached the end of the story, 6er had great fun helping the mouse remove the net.

Using Aesop's Fable The Lion and The Mouse to raise my children to be allies
The Lion and the Mouse – Aesop’s Fables: An image of a mouse

Once we had finished the story, I used the lion and mouse pictures and the word cut outs. I asked 6er to place the words beneath the animal he felt they applied to – strong under the lion, quiet under the mouse etc. We had a brief discussion about the fact that it was not the appearance of the lion and the mouse looked that helped them in this story. I asked 6er to tell me some things that did help the mouse and lion in the end. He came up with lots of ideas including kindness, ingenuity, compassion etc.

The Family Connection

I didn’t want to just leave it there though. I then placed out some family photos. Unfortunately, there was more than one person in each photo, so I had to tell him which family member to focus on in each photo. I’d recommend using singular portraits. Then I pointed to all the words and said that they could be applied to different members of our family. I asked him to put a word under the member of the family he thought it best described. I then lead 6er in a discussion about what each of the characteristics might be an advantage. For instance, being physically weak meant that other people did jobs so Grandma was always available for hugs and chats. Although, my favourite response was

“Uncle Ben is big so he can hide his sweets where people can’t reach”.

6er

A Confession

Now, I’m going to get real with you. I’ve found this really hard to write. Talking about difference hasn’t come naturally to me. However, I also recognise how important it is for me to become more comfortable. When 6er was a baby, I read the NSPCC guidance on teaching the scientific names for body parts. BUT, like many people I was uncomfortable with lots of those words. I didn’t want my little to pick up on my discomfort. Genitals are not dirty words. To become comfortable with saying ‘vulva’, I said it to out loud every day until it didn’t feel weird.

Race and allyship are obviously more complex than becoming comfortable with the word ‘vulva’. It requires much more self reflection and work, in order to raise my children to be allies. But I also know that my children will pick up on my attitudes as I discuss these things with them. I feel I gained a lot of positives from this session but I know we have a long way to go. I intend to continue working through Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, alongside our lessons.

Resources

Below you will find the FREE resources I created for this session. There are images for storytelling, alongside a quick version of The Lion and the Mouse. I wrote the version of The Lion and the Mouse, so you can all finally benefit from my professional skills. If you’ve learned from my struggles, or would like to come on this journey of allyship alongside us, please sign up to the mailing list.

When Teaching is a Disaster

I ruined my kid’s joy of learning

An image just before I failed my kid and his journey for learning japanese
Moments before the disastrous learning – feeling over confident

Teaching and learning when you’re not qualified. I’ve been scratching my head for the last week or so. I knew I wanted to talk to you all about growth mindset. I want to encourage you all to pick yourselves up again. Thankfully, because parenting is one endless learning experience, it hasn’t taken long for me to live a growth moment. As you may remember, in my inaugural blog post I talked about how successful my first teaching Japanese session with my 6er went. If you didn’t catch it, its here. I think I maybe even detect a hint of gloating in the post – I jest of course, but I finished our first lesson on a complete high.

And then …

The wind was knocked out of my sails. The rains rolled in. So I had this amazing idea that we would learn lots of Japanese through the medium of Pokemon … and so we started with a session all about Pokemon. Second session, I decided learning some words for clothes would be useful, and also easy to reinforce during the course of an average day.

Rain batters down on a rainbow coloured umbrella. The words read “What to do when the fail rolls in”

“I know!” said my quarantined brain. “Why don’t we design a Pokemon trainer who can represent us as we continue our language learning journey?”

So, we sit down. I have a paper doll template that I have created for the session (which you can receive amongst all my other paper blanks if you sign up for my email list). Now, the Japanese colours rap was a big hit and so I thought, “Easy! We’ll just roughly follow the format of the last session, bob’s your uncle”…. Can you see where I’m going with this?

I could NOT find a blooming Japanese clothing song anywhere. But I did find a compelling young woman talking through some of the clothes, and it was late the night before I knew we would be doing some Japanese and I thought – what the hey!?

My Big Mistake

When I played the video, 6er immediately panicked. They could’t understand anything she was saying, and in their panic, their higher brain function switched off so even with guidance they weren’t able to glean meaning from the video. From that point on, the lesson was doomed. Although we continued with a few activities and built our paper dolls, every time I tried to say any Japanese words about what we were doing they would whine.

Sh*$%@!!!!!!!!

We instantly went from them begging me for more Japanese every hour of the day, to putting away all of their Pokemon things, and them walking away from me if I tried to broach the subject.

Double SH!$%£!!!!!!!!!!

Image of a mum having failed. I like to think it's because she wasn't helping her child learn Japanese

How do I fix this hole I’ve made for myself?

So what’s a homeschooling during quarantine Momma to do? I regrouped. I put on the breaks and took the pressure off. We went back to Spanish, and were able to video chat abuelo and show off our new skills to him. For me, it is more important to encourage my children to find joy in learning and acquiring new skills.

And so, I began to think about the games we used to play when we went to Lingotots. I tried to remember which ones really engaged him. I wondered whether I could utilise one of those games, to reengage 6er in the Japanese learning journey. Enter the parachute (like this one but 6ft). I figured, family of four? Easy we can play together…. Except I didn’t factor in that two legged parent having an off day and not being able to help. I didn’t think about 4er being “too tired” to jiggle a parachute for more than three seconds at a time.

Palm hits face.

But, 3 minutes of jiggling a pair of trousers on a parachute while chanting “zubon, zubon, zubon” did engage sixer.

Huuuuuuuzah!!!!!

So, I’ve got him back onboard with Team Japanese Learning, but how do I teach the new vocabulary? Luckily for me, something, I’m not quite sure what, triggered a memory of my high school maths classes (I know, weird, right?). Bear with me. So, at my first secondary school, we had a maths teacher who was nerdy but excellent. So each lesson we would have a powerpoint presentation on contemporary pop culture – Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter etc. And the presentation was basically an extended maths game. It was so fun because you just answer and click. Then there’s has enough immersion to make you feel like an active participant in an adventure.

An example of a slide from our Learning Japanese session
A slide from our Pokemon Catching Presentation Game

Making a Presentation Software Game For Learning Japanese

So that’s what I made. I gave 6er the opportunity to ‘play’ as a new Pokemon trainer, getting ready for his first catch. I framed the Japanese learning this way in order to reintroduce some of the old vocabulary whilst introducing new vocabulary. And because the vocabulary was integrated into the storytelling, they were forced to engage with the meaning. So, hopefully, the words are retained better. Wahey!

I used to be very tech-literate but in the past few years, I haven’t really had the time for anything more than basic. I mention this because what I’m doing is kind of basic programming. It uses the logic skills of coding to make it work. And if I can do it, I’m certain anyone can. For those not familiar with presentation software, this process involves using the “link to slide” feature. I used Keynote this time round, but I have done it with Powerpoint in the past. Now, because all you can do is a click feature, not dragging and dropping, you need to keep the adventure to multiple choice questions.

Before I talk us all around in circles I think perhaps an example is necessary here.

So, I want 6er to learn the word for ‘trousers’ and ‘shorts’ (zubon and hanzubon respectively). I create a slide that contains an image of both, labelled with the romaji Japanese word and a question. I wanted to 6er to feel like they were making active decisions that affected the outcome of the game. So on the slide I asked them to pick trousers or shorts, with the guidance that it was ‘cold outside’.

A chart that shows the way that the slides were developed when learning Japanese
A visualisation of where slide links take you in the game

So, you then create two further slides. One congratulates the player on making the right decision, and the other asks them to try again. Then it’s a case of linking each image to the relevant slide, and linking those slides back or onwards. Are you following? I hope you are, but if you aren’t get in touch and we can have a more in depth explanation, or you can even sign up to my email list to hear when my presentation skills are up for purchase.

The Final Verdict on Learning Japanese This Way

I thought I’d finish this blog with a review from the source, 6er. Their response when I asked how they liked their Japanese Learning this week.

“It was good. I really enjoyed being able to go to different places but next time? Can we go to an electric factory, a volcano, and the ocean for my second catch. Coz we’ve already got a grass type, haven’t we?”

6er

It is at this point I am going to stop scribing what they say because it turned into a very long conversation. But, they are, clearly, very impressed.

Have you ever felt you’ve ruined something your child loves? Were you able to take a deep breath, forgive yourself and then carry on? It’s tough and I see you. If you want access to some of the resources I mention in these posts, sign up for my mailing list. You’ll get a free paper games resource, including the paper doll sheet.