what does unschooling look like?

Hey there.  Did you ask what does unschooling look like?  Well, that’s a very good question.  One that I am pretty much constantly asking myself and answering for myself as well, I guess.  To me, unschooling is pretty much just stepping outside of the standard education box and doing it your own way.  (The ultimate DIY?)  So, it can probably look very very different depending on the family.  I don’t necessarily think that unschooling has to mean totally devoid of any kind of structure.  On the contrary, though we often spend our days in pajamas until noon or later, our life is pretty simple and routine.  Not that we do the same things in the same order every day by any means.  Just that our life is based on a structure of values.  One of those being real-time simplicity at this point.  That means that I’m not rushing here and there to take my kids all over town but that the kids can count on our days being comprised of any combination of a short list of activities.

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Such as visiting their grandparents.  We usually get over to their grandparents house once a week at least and spend an evening playing, eating and watching hockey.  Hockey night in Canada, any one? Eh?  (Or is it “ey”?   I dunno).  We also have a few friends and cousins that we see on a semi regular basis.  We either meet these people at a park or have them to our house.  No fancy rendezvous for us, thanks:)

039Being outside.  This picture was taken pretty recently and yes, that’s my baby barefoot outside in the middle of January.  What?  It was unseasonably warm!  I usually try to either take the kids around the block with their bikes, get to a park, walk in our local natural area, something, once per day.  This doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes it feels like going outside in any form must be some kind of cruel and unusual torture for the kids.  Yet, other times, like yesterday for instance, they were so enthralled with playing in the neighbor’s yard that they threw off their coats and wouldn’t come inside for hours.  My conclusion?  Neighbors are the secret ingredient to cold weather play.  If you don’t have any, get some.  If there are none in your neighborhood, move:)

108Free time.  Oh yes.  Lots of this.  To me, free time (also known to some as boredom) is the secret to a rich life of imagination and creativity).  It seems like many people are afraid of their kids getting bored.  I say, bring it on!  Children are nothing if not perpetually curious, playful and resourceful.  I’m just letting them utilize these inherent talents while I attend to more important things (such as laundry and dinner and maybe the occasional blog post, winky, winky).  By the way, don’t think that my kids are always playing together this cooperatively or idyllically in the background.  This shot is RARE.  They are often fighting or bickering and are usually quite unruly and mostly plain and simply LOUD.  Just early social navigation in my opinion.  Perfectly healthy if not always pretty.

106Then there’s this: just the hint of adult-led things like art projects to beautify our home, perhaps a modest circle time of some stories and songs, stuff like that.  (I’m sorry, did that say “ADULT-led”?  “Attn: would the real adult parent please stand up?  Repeat: would the real adult parent please stand up?  We’re gonna have a problem here.”  (Slim Shady, anyone?  no?  K’ guess it’s just me:))  This would be the Waldorf-inspired part of our homeschooling.

What about structure, you might be asking.  Or anything resembling school?  Well, there’s this, which is really just dabbling in teaching letters and reading the Waldorf way.

107I really would like Ruth to come to reading on her own terms because the last thing I want to do is make it unpleasant or something she dreads.  I thought I would try a few things and see if anything piqued her interest.  This is the way they teach reading in Waldorf schools, by turning each letter into a picture of something and having the kids write before they can read.  Ruth has a special book that she uses to copy these into, though often she doesn’t seem super into it, gets bored and doesn’t finish.  So….

The truth is, I’m really in no rush for her to read.  I am also not concerned about it.  I have confidence that she will read when she is ready.  I love reading.  The kids love being read to.  We read together every day.  Enjoying time spent reading is more of a priority for us than learning to read by any set time or age.  (Did that sound defensive?  I just re-read it and it did seem a little defensive.  That might be one of the biggest struggles of homeschooling: to not always be or seem to be on the defense.  This might just be part of the package any time you step outside the box, especially as a new homeschooler.  Shrug.  I guess confidence will come with time.  Or it might always be something I struggle with, I’m not sure.  As I said, I’ve never done this before).

So, that’s a little taste, a little sampler of our life as unschoolers.  There’s more to the story, many more nitty gritty details, but that’s a short overview for now anyways.

I also feel that, because we homeschool, we have the ability to change things up whenever we feel like it and to let the structure evolve as the kids grow.  So, unschooling will not only look different from family to family but also from year to year in the same family.  It’s exciting to think of the things we can do!  It sounds cliché but the possibilities really are endless!  I’m really looking forward to seeing where this path leads us and hope you’ll come along on the journey.

What does homeschooling/unschooling look like in your family?

Living the 1980’s Sitcom Life

Hi, I’m in my thirties.  Which means I was born and basically grew up in the eighties and early nineties.  Anyone else born and raised at that time knows that, during those years, sitcoms were king.  Before the days of massive cable and then digital TV overload, pre-youtube and online show-viewing, American families gathered together night after night  to watch sitcom families act out our real life problems for us in neon-colored and stone washed eighties clothes and perfectly teased and crimped big eighties-style hair.  I know I’m  not alone in feeling almost a familial affinity for these actors.  They were surely a part of our home life.  They felt part of our family.  Sure, things always had a way of working out and looking so much brighter on these shows than in my real life sometimes, but still.  These people got me.  I got these people.

Life was much simpler back then.  At least it seemed so to me as a young child and this view was backed up by the always goofy, never super-serious way that problems were handled on these shows.   Ah, life in the eighties.  There was no recent economic depression, people hadn’t really started to freak out yet about the environment, the cancer rate.  We didn’t yet realize all of the stuff we were eating and living amongst was slowly poisoning us all.  Parenting kids was just something you did with the least amount of effort possible.  People still had the idea that kids were resilient, you couldn’t mess them up too bad no matter what you did.  Everyone had yet to be really aware of the massive social issue that is now known as “mental health”.  The mommy wars hadn’t really started in earnest yet.  Neither, it seems, were people too fussed about the state of the school system like they are today.  Before the dawn of the digital age.  Life was just peachy.

These were the days when my brothers and mom and dad and I would sit guffawing at the screen, each with our own predetermined “spot” on the living room furniture, eating snacks and nicely contented in our own tiny suburban world.  Video games hadn’t even really come onto the scene in any real way yet.  How innocent and naïve we all seem looking back on those days.  We didn’t know our entire world was about to be kicked into overdrive and split wide open.  The earliest dawning of the global age.

Life now seems to move at a much more harried pace.  I, along with everyone else, have been kicked out of my bubble and have been forced to see a much broader view of the life I lead.  This is a good thing, mostly.  Progress, right?  Still, call me sentimental or behind the times, but I can’t shake the urge to get back to that slower pace, that more locally and real-time based existence we all led back then.  I am always looking for ways to cut out excess chaos and clutter and noise in my kids lives.  I’ve ditched my cell phone.  We don’t have a TV.  We have fires, with real wood, and sit around them in the evenings, just talking.  We read the “Little House” series instead of play video games.  Mostly, the only “entertainment” my kids have is what they can create in their own minds.   And I can’t lie, part of the reason I want to homeschool is to keep my kids away from the consumerist culture as much as possible, though good luck with that.

Imagine my delight, then, in something that has taken place all on its own in my very own neighborhood. ( Side track: that word, neighborhood, used to mean something.  Now people are more and more isolated in their own homes, it seems, and scarcely even know their neighbors.  When I was a kid, if my mom didn’t want to run up the phone bill, the neighbors were the cheapest way to get something off your chest and commiserate on life’s trials and tribulations.  They were also the most interesting things around to watch, as daytime TV sucked).  About a year and a half back we got new next door neighbors, three young girls, one just two years older than Ruth.  At first, we didn’t see much of them but then something happened.

The weather warmed up last spring and Ruth and Joel wanted to go outside in our yard.  I wasn’t going many places (and still don’t, really) because  Miles was a baby and I now had three kids and no way was I breaking my back to leave the house with them.  The girls were out in their yard.  Their family only has one car which their dad uses for work so they are pretty much homebound.  Little by little, over the summer, the kids, and especially Ruth, started spending more and more time outside with the neighbors.  It finally got to a point where she would be gone from about noon, the time when the girls would come outside for the day, until dark every day.  Instead of worrying that she wasn’t getting enough socialization, I found myself worried that she was spending too much, all of her time, socializing.  I felt like I barely saw my own daughter any more.

The summer passed, as summers do, the weather turned colder and the girls went back to school.  Our life has moved mostly indoors these days and Ruth and Joel now play mostly with each other again with Miles toddling along after.  But this is an old suburb and the houses are mere feet away from each other.  It just so happens that the neighbor girls’ bedroom window is right across from our living room window, and only about ten feet apart.  So, if you tap on our living room window, the girls next door can hear it from their room.  And vice versa.

I guess that’s how this new phase of winter playing got started.  At certain points on the weekends or after the girls are home from school, one of them will come to the window and Ruth will see them from our window and immediately start pulling on her boots and coat and asking if she can go outside and talk with the neighbors.  I am usually more than glad to break up the winter monotony that has settled among my home and readily agree.  At first she would just pull a chair over to the window which is about 4-5 feet off the ground and talk while the girls stayed in their room.  It wasn’t long, however, before I looked out to check on her and saw her dangling half into their room and half out.  Then the next time I looked, she was all the way in, sitting on the window ledge with just an arm sticking out.  Then she was all the way inside playing with the girls in their room.  I feel ok about it because I talked with their mom on the phone and she’s ok with it and if I want to check on Ruth, I just knock on our window and she hears it from their room and comes to the window to smile and wave.

I have to say: after all of the fretting I did trying to get Ruth to participate in kid activities when she was younger and to befriend the kids of my friends and all the worry and wondering, I am just tickled pink that here, on her very own, she has found her own friends.  Eighties style.  The kids next door.  And, like something out of Full House she climbs into her best friends’ window to play.

The term free range childhood comes to mind.  Also the word quaint.  Just living in our own personal sitcom.  Tune in next week, kids:)

“what do you do?”

a friend recently asked me that.  a kid-less friend.  a middle aged friend.  a person, in my mind, as free and unencumbered as they come.  her question was innocent enough, yet I felt myself unconsciously bristle in defense when she asked it.  because she honestly had no idea what living with three young kids is like, what staying home looks like, what I filled our time with.  I stuttered for a moment, embarrassed because, well, the answer is…not much.

anyone who had small kids, or had them at some point would know that someone like me is purely in survival mode most days.  someone who never had small kids would not know this.

why do I automatically feel like people are insinuating that I should be doing more than I do if they ask this question?  I guess it hits a nerve, a deep insecurity, a lot of assumptions that I as a stay at home parent and homeschooler to boot have been faced with since I began this journey 6 years ago.

that I need to account for my time.  that I should have something to show for all of these hours at home.  that I should have a spotless immaculate home, that I should have fresh baked bread and homemade stews wafting pleasant aromas through the house all day, that I should be on top of and in control of my kids behavior and appearance and their schooling too.

the truth is my house is often difficult to cut a path through with all of the toys, clothes and books strewn about.  you are more likely to detect the faint odor of urine-soaked furniture and the stale food crusting on the dishes in the sink than anything freshly baked or boiled as you walk in the door.  my kids are often unkempt and seem to attract dirt with magnetic abilities.  and they run somewhat wild, coming and going, yelling, fighting, immersed in imaginative play almost constantly.

I have felt the pressure to have home and hearth neatly under my thumb for years now.  as she sat, probably wondering at my sudden awkward defensive stiffness, waiting for an answer, I touched on all of this in my head, these assumptions of the general public toward me, stay at home mother and my family.  but, as I said before, her question instantly made me jump into all of that, but I didn’t actually feel any of this from her.  that’s all my own baggage.  it’s good to recognize baggage when we can so we don’t have to carry it around all the time.

I then started looking for a way to describe what I actually do with the kids around here.  I guess it’s been a while since anyone sincerely asked me that question to my face.  “well,” I said, “not much.”  and it’s true.  I’m more likely to spend an entire day wrestling with the kids over food, messes and their fights than anything that looks like an activity to record in a log book.  add in diaper changes and you’ve got a pretty full day already.  I held the truth in my mind and it didn’t look pretty.  the truth is that I am pretty much just scraping by on a daily basis.  just getting through the days with everyone somewhat clean, somewhat well-fed and somewhat attended to.  if I can get the dishes done in the sink, a load of laundry into the washer (not necessarily the dryer) and make it through the day without having a knock down drag out with one of the kids (mostly ruth) I consider the day a marvelous success.  I guess my standards are low.

but I looked at my friend and I felt her ignorance of the situation and I felt that, though she wanted the truth, that she, perhaps, couldn’t quite handle it.  so I listed a few things that we do and things I hope to do more of in the future.  we read a lot of books, I said.  very true.  the kids play make-believe a lot of the day.  also true.  we go to the park a lot.  somewhat a lot.  I try to meet up with friends on a semi-regular basis.  very semi.  I hope to join more homeschooling groups and clubs in the future.  maybe.  and I feel like the kids are so young they don’t have a ton of interests yet but when they do….then the homeschooling part of life will really take off.  or so I insinuated.

ah, just another awkward conversation navigated successfully by moi.  I’m just an articulate genius when it comes to informing the ignorant public on the ways of stay home parents and homeschoolers.  wow.

more on unschooling and the essence of humanity

the post I  just wrote about “whole life unschooling” was actually a quick re-write of a more thoughtful and well-constructed longer post that I accidentally deleted.  or, my computer is an outdated piece of garbage, take your pick.  in any case, there were a couple of things more that I wanted to say and then I wanted to touch on the topic of newborns.

about my homeschooling philosophy, if I can be so bold as to call it such, as I said has more to do with the tone of my home and the amount of freedom I want the kids to have verses an emphasis on teaching them any particular skill set or subject.  the rest should flow pretty naturally, by my calculations (check back here in about five years or so to see if I’m still singing the same or similar tune).

freedom, confidence and support.  those are my main areas of focus and my biggest challenges.  in my opinion, and if my experience with parenting thus far is an indication, these are the hard parts, the real nitty gritty relationship every day struggles between a parent and child.  the pursuit of interests should be the easy part, or as I said, an after thought to the real meat and potatoes of what makes a person a self-directed lifelong learner, or rather, keeps people as such.

now what I didn’t say in my other post is that there is much self-doubt that goes into stepping outside of the box, if you will, in regards to “educating” ones kidzos.  it can be hard when you yourself were raised in the standard modern fashion and its all you know and most of the other people you meet with and interact with are also subscribing to that style of school.  believe me, it can start to feel like a rat race that you are dead last in real fast when it seems everyone is chomping at the bit to get some credentials under their kids belts asap.  the talk at the playground is all: whose kid can read and whose kid is in dance and signed up for astronomy summer camp and all that.  and though there are many articles I’ve seen recently written touting the underrated importance of a structure free childhood, all of those ideals seem to pale in comparison to real life competition when the rubber meets the road.

every once in a while, when the outside world comes knocking, when people like the person who was asking greg about homeschooling that originally prompted this blog post, but before that an intense discussion betwixt greg and I, begin raising eyebrows, it can make your resolve waver a bit to say the least.  it can be hard to stay the course, to even remember what your ideals were that led you down this rabbit hole in the first place, and leave you doubting everything.

besides the relationship part of all of this, what will probably be the hardest part of homeschooling/unschooling is the self doubt and the worry that come from taking a giant step outside of the box.

yet, if we don’t live by our ideals, there is much to lose now and regret later and life is too short to simply go with the flow all of the time, especially when it comes to something as important as shaping the next generation and the relationship with a person’s family, which some could argue is our only real legacy.

now, on to newborns, or as in the title, “the essence of humanity”.  what I mean is that I love newborns.  and not just because they are so small and cute and helpless and because of hormones and that insatiable desire to mother and care for children that seems to intensify with every passing year.  when I see/hold a newborn, I can’t help but feel that I am witnessing something so primal and pure and even sort of glimpsing back into the very beginnings of humanity.

some people say that newborns are basically very little physical and almost all spirit.  I might be inclined to agree or disagree but that’s not what I’m talking about.  what I mean is that a baby, a human baby, would be pretty much unaltered from the very beginnings of homo sapiens tens of thousands of years ago.  the way they move, the sounds they make, and their impulses would not have changed since the beginnings of man.  it really lets you get a glimpse of human nature at its most raw, completely untouched by culture.

and in a species so influenced by culture, it can be quite insightful to the real nature of humankind.  what does a baby want?  it wants to be held, above all else.  it wants to be in physical contact pretty much at all times with its mother.  it wants to be held tightly, rocked and shook and jiggled.  it wants milk, nourishment.  it wants to be comfortable, kept clean and dry and warm.  if it gets all of these things, it will never cry.

I think its worth thinking about this and what is our essence as humans.  what do we long for in our lives?  what makes us happy or unhappy?  where does all of the turmoil of life come from?  is there a clue there as to how we might create a more happy, peaceful and harmonious society in the future?

if so, doesn’t it need to start with our very beginnings?  with each of our births and before?  doesn’t it make sense that if a baby’s every need is met, that they will grow up in happiness and peace, confident that the world is a safe and secure place?  that they will become happy and peaceful adults?

you might think I am oversimplifying humanity.  life is complicated.  people are complicated.  but its worth a thought.  do we have an innate nature?  if not, why are all baby’s needs the same?  culture is a powerful force.  it can lead us in any direction.  why not towards peace and harmony?

the unschooling unpost

just joking.  it is a post.  i was just copying the title of the book i read that turned me on to the idea of unschooling in the first place, the “unschooling unmanual”.

nobody really asks me what the hell unschooling is.  they probably would if i talked more about it but as it stands, i usually just say that i homeschool, which can already be a lot for people to wrap their heads around so i don’t want to overtax and ask them to not only envision a kid out of school but one that doesn’t even do anything resembling school work.  i think people would just write me off completely.

if they did ask, it would be hard to describe exactly what the hell i’m doing here.  to myself, i say i’m doing “nothing” but again, i think that would scare people.  i might do better to give an example.

yesterday was a pretty typical day.  the kids woke up in their staggered fashion.  after everyone was up, i sat on the couch with them reading a few books.  this is often the way we start a day.  joel might be perfectly content to jump right into playing but ruth wakes up in a bad mood seemingly every day and needs to be eased back into life.  after a bit of that, i’ll usually make breakfast.  we have no place to be so each day i feel free to take my time preparing gourmet breakfasts of pancakes, oatmeal, eggs, and toast.  i let the kids decide what they like.  sometimes they help.  other times they stay playing in the living room while i cook.  they eat (sometimes), i feed miles and myself and then clean up a bit.

yesterday i decided that we should go for a walk down the block after breakfast but they are doing construction (which joel LOVES to watch) so we had to turn around and go back the other way and decided: why not go to the park?  so, we walked to the park and the kids played “chipmunks” where they pretend they are chipmunks and the playground structure is their nest.  being a wednesday mid day, we had the park all to ourselves.  while ruth and joel played, miles dug deeply into the pea gravel with his hands.  he was practically bathing in it and spent a bit of time in a  swing.  after a little while (i dunno how long exactly because i don’t wear a watch or carry a cell phone, but i would guess about an hour) i decided we should get back as my tummy started rumbling.

we walked back, holding our own little conversation looking all around and enjoying being out in the neighborhood.  i heated up leftovers for lunch, miles took a nap and then the kids went outside in the back yard with doofy, our dog.  i feel ok letting them go out alone as long as they are in the back yard with the dog and the gate is shut.  with the windows cracked open, i can keep track of their voices.  i stayed inside and did some dishes and cleaned up a bit.  there is always sweeping that needs done and things to tidy up.

miles woke up i changed his diaper and took him out and he, joel, and i spent some time playing with all of the dandelions that have sprouted up in our front yard and the neighbor’s.  the game was: joel would run and get a dandelion seed head and bring it back and i would blow it for them.  this game was really absorbing to them for some reason.  in the meantime, ruth was talking with the girls who live next door through their open bedroom window.

i should side note that we have recently struck gold in terms of the neighbor lottery.  a family with three young girls moved in next door to us and have been ruth’s playmates nearly every day for the past two months!  it’s been everything i have complained doesn’t exist any more.  kids!  neighborhood kids!  a tribe to run rampant with!  and do they ever run rampant.  up and down the block with bikes, climbing trees, running and talking, pushing each other to ridiculous heights on our rope swing.  it’s been great.

the girls are school aged (7, 9 and 12, i think) so they are gone all day until around 4 pm  or so but from that time on, unless it’s raining, the girls are all outside playing until time for bed.

i gave the kids a quick bath, then made dinner before greg got home from work.  after that, joel took a belated nap on the couch and greg and i just chatted with miles crawling around until it was time for ruth to come in.  we read some bedtime stories and then all went to bed together.

that is a typical day in the life of this unschooling family.  no phonics workbooks, no practicing letters, just living life and being free.

 

my style of kid-tivity

activities.  extra-curriculars.  play dates.  field trips.  parents do a lot to expand their kids social lives and to give them enriching activities to fill up their time outside of school.  being a homeschooler, our entire existence pretty much falls into this category.  that’s all we do is “extra-curriculars”.  it’s up to me to fill up our time and not get bored and not wreck the house and i have to say that when it comes to non-wrecking-house activities, you simply can’t beat the park.

it’s free.  this is the first thing and one of the largest benefits.  i mean, you could literally bankrupt yourself in weeks flat taking your kids to indoor play spaces and signing them up for clubs and lessons.  but, besides taxes of course, the park is FREE, as in, no cost.  so when weighing the costs and benefits, you’re guaranteed to tip the scales against something that’s FREE.  me, being a tight wad anyways and rejecting all things consumerist, the park is the perfect price.

i’m finding that more and more places “for kids” are becoming less kid centric and more parent centric.  what i mean by this is that even in places deemed “for kids” adults are making the rules.  kids activities are becoming so structured with rules and subtle pressures from nearby parents that it’s impossible for kids to really let loose and have a good time.  what kids really want to do while they’re playing is get dirty, be rowdy and loud, and use equipment and anything nearby in any way they can that’s NOT the way it’s usually intended to be used.  think lord of the flies stuff, here.  at the park, it’s nice to be courteous of other kids and take turns and not hit and all that stuff, but otherwise, and if you go like i do during the week (hehehe, sneaky, sneaky) then you can feel free pretty much giving the kids free reign of the place to do as they will.  climb up the monkey bars and screech like a howler monkey, take off their shoes and wade into muck up to mid calf, or wash their hair with wood chip shampoo, whatever.  move over, chucky cheeses, because the park is really where a kid can be a kid.

we can eat any time and any place we want.  we don’t have to lug our picnic bag to the designated picnic area.  we can just plop our blanket down and chow down wherever.  or just snack right out of the bag on the go.  and with no snack area, my kids are not tempted by overpriced and under nutritious foods, so they have no choice but to eat the food that i brought (mwahahaha, more evil laughter).

there are all different types of people that come and go.  going during the week does cut down on the traffic, but there are still a number of people that we usually run into.  a lot of grandparents watching grandchildren and younger kids too young for school yet.  but still, i am usually never at a loss for people to make conversation with and the kids likewise usually find some other kids to play with or observe.

it’s big and we can move around.  there are trees, fields, pavement and parks.  so you can take your pick.  one park i frequent has four different play structure areas and a track that goes all the way around it so sometimes i bring the kids scooters and we just travel from one play structure to the next until our tour is complete.  and, being homeschoolers, we are just simply in no hurry to get anywhere fast except home to make dinner at around 4 or so, which is just fine because that’s around the time when the school kids start showing up.

if it’s a nice day, i will literally just pack the car and stay the whole damn day.  why not?  one last perk: while we’re out of the house, no one is home making messes for me to clean up later (except the dog and cat but they usually sleep all day, i think while we’re gone, taking advantage of the rare quiet).

the park.  vastly under rated in my book.

 

viva la revolucion

does this translate into “live the revolution”?  in many ways, I feel like that’s what I’m doing or trying to do on a daily basis.  actually, I think it’s a reference to the Mexican revolution, but hey.  I think it applies to my life.

how do you start a revolution?  it’s pretty easy, actually.  it starts by getting rid of your tv (after all, the revolution will NOT be televised.  or so I’ve heard).  the endless stream of subliminal messages aimed into our brains via electromagnetic waves.  if you feel like taking it a step further, then hey, why not throw out your radio too?  after all, with lyrics like, “boys like a little more booty to hold at night”, who needs to actually SEE the images of naked women plastered all over a screen to get the message that, “women are mere bodies to be consumed by men”.  I know I don’t. I know my daughter doesn’t.

you might think that books are a safe way to go.  not so.  the cultural norms of our society pervade even children’s literature, something you might assume would be totally “safe” to expose your children to.  however, it doesn’t take long for the usual themes to surface.  men are strong and powerful and assertive and HATE all things “girl”.  women like pretty things and are nurturing and submissive.  women need to defer to men’s judgments and authority and the default pronoun is always “he”.

much can be done to reverse these ideas but it takes constant vigilance as these ideas creep in in many pervasive ways and sometimes we don’t notice.

in my own home, I try to use “she” just as much as “he” when I’m assigning an identity to a bug or something.  when I’m talking about a job traditionally held by men, such as a construction worker, I also try to use the word “she” to talk about these people as much as “he”.

I try not to emphasize boys or girls clothes and instead get the kids both as much neutral-colored clothing as I can and focus on the comfort and utility of the clothes.  dolls are for boys as much as girls as well as cars and trucks and hockey sticks.  joel wears nail polish and hand-me-downs from his sister.  it’s especially important that I avoid language that degrades one gender for another in order to get my kids to wear “gender appropriate” things (example: “you don’t want to wear that GIRL shirt, do you?  you don’t want people to think you’re a GIRL, do you??”  I hear stuff like this A LOT and am appalled by people’s lack of foresight).

I do a lot of editing of song lyrics and books also.  for instance, things as simple as singing “tall and tan and young and lovely the BOY from ipanema goes walking and when HE passes, each one HE passes goes, ‘ooooohhhh!’  when HE walks HE’S like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle that when HE passes, each one HE passes goes, ‘ahhhhh!'”  not that I think that the objectification of either gender is okay in songs or other cultural mechanisms, but at least then it’s not ALL about sheer women’s bodies and looks.

two exmples of books that I actively edit are Angelina Ballerina and Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.  i’ll give you a short summary.  during Angelina Ballerina, the mom is nauseatingly traditionally feminine, always rushing around in an apron, serving people and fretting over Angelina’s constant dancing.  the dad is more often seen with his feet up, BEING served, smoking a pipe and is the one to come up with the BRILLIANT BRAIN CHILD, as only a male character COULD, that they should sign up Angelina for dance LESSONS.  I mean: barf.  a little mixing and matching pronouns fixes this one right up.  no problem.  I simply do a little “rewrite” where it’s actually Angelina’s DAD who is constantly calling her down to breakfast or to get ready for school, the DAD’s sewing box that she sticks her foot into and the DAD who makes cheddar cheese pies.  then I do a little switcho-change-o so that it’s the MOM who comes up with the idea for dance lessons.  presto change-o.  new, less offensive version.  now, the pink tutu I can’t help.  unless….where did I put my black sharpie???  hehehehe.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site is one of those nauseatingly “boys only” type of books that was actually given to me at the birth of my son.  you know.  so I would have something to read to him besides all of the kiddy “chick lit” lying around the home.  double barf.  anyways, this one is even EASIER to change over to gender neutral because EVERY construction vehicle in the book is labeled male.  so I simply change them all over to female.  done.

these things, though, again, take constant vigilance and all said and done, are really just a tiny band aid on the giant, infected, weeping, puss-filled, gangrenous wound of gender inequality and patriarchy that my kids have been born into and are just my small but valiant attempt at reversing SOME of the stereotypes and insidious gender prescriptions that creep their way into our every day interactions and activities.  if I can do it, you can too.  don’t be shy.  viva la revolucion!