Blog

fireladder

Honoring Native American Heritage Month

At last week’s Community Meeting, I shared a short video The Real Story of Thanksgiving and encouraged families to consider our practices and conversations with our children surrounding Thanksgiving.

That prompted us to have a brief conversation related to colonization and racism. We mentioned the importance of appreciating the culture of native people (and arguably all people targeted by oppression) rather than merely focusing on the ways indigenous people have been and continue to be hurt by oppression. Here are a few ways to connect with native people and/or native practices:

  • Multnomah County Library is hosting some events in honor of Native American Heritage Month, including “Connecting Cultures: Native American Children’s Songs” on Sat, Nov 16th and Sat, Nov. 23rd. 
  • First Laugh Welcome Baby by Rose Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood. This children’s picture book is currently on our classroom shelves as part of our focus on babies and midwives. It follows a Navajo family as they each try and make their baby laugh given the Navajo first laugh belief and celebration. Read more here 
  • Salmon Festival (2nd weekend in Oct at Oxbow Park). Salmon Homecoming Video at Oxbow. O’s family attended and loved the festival this year. Maybe next year a few HFP families could meet up!

Further Reading

“We Sang You Home” illustration by Julie Flett

fireladder

Real Witches Aren’t Really Scary

Given our commitment to anti-bias education, we consider the messages young children receive from media, images and stories. We think about which ones affirm our full humanity and which ones oppress us. Halloween is a time for many to play and pretend about what is scary. During this time, we encounter the cartoonish stereotype of witches as dangerous, evil, green-skinned, warty spinsters. In an effort to combat that stereotype, and to encourage a message of female empowerment along with the transformative power of being in tune with our sacred Earth, I invited HFP alumni parent, Hailey, and her friend Sunshine–both self-identified witches– to join us for circle.
 
It was a pleasant and fabulous opportunity to begin to flip the patriarchal script on the traditional ideology that witches are inherently ‘bad, green skinned spell casters, ‘interrupting a common and oppressive association of thought on women as a whole. With special focus on honoring the Earth through pictures, the beauty of music, stones, and plant medicines the children were invited to explore different ideas of what a witch can be, we begin to redirect ideas of the ‘evil witch’ to that of compassionate and thoughtful earth protectors and healers..”- Kimberley, HFP’s Teaching Assistant
  
  
                                                                                                         *Passing around herbs, salves, candles and stones.
 
We read a beautifully illustrated board book and echoed the statements on each page:
“Hello sacred earth. Hello sacred water. Hello sacred moon…” 
 
And we sang Bonnie Lockheart’s song revering witches as knowledgeable, powerful healers and caregivers who suffered misunderstandings, targeting and oppression. Click title below to hear the song. 
 

Who Were the Witches by Bonnie Lockheart

(Unfortunately, this video lacks representation beyond white females).

Lyrics:
Who were the witches? Where did they come from?
Maybe your great, great grandmother was one.
Witches were wise, wise women they say.
There’s a little witch in everybody today. 
 
Witches knew all about flowers and weeds,
How to use all their roots and their leaves and their seeds.
When people grew weary from hard-workin’ days,
They made ’em feel better in so many ways.
 
When women had babies, the witches were there
To hold them and help them and give them some care.
Witches knew stories of how life began.
Don’t you wish you could be one?
Well, maybe you can.
 
Some people thought that the witches were bad.
Some people were scared of the power they had.
The power to heal and to help and to care–
Isn’t something to fear; it’s a treasure to share.

 

What Have We Learned?

Our next class period, we talk briefly about the difference between real and pretend things that might be scary. I remind the group of Hailey and Sunshine’s visit and reiterate what they shared: “Witches love and protect the Earth.”

As we prepare to sing the chorus of “Who Were the Witches,” I ask children a series of questions and am met with a chorus of “No’s!” 
Do witches really have green skin?  Children: “No!”
Do witches really cast evil spells? Children: “No!”
Are real witches like Hailey and Sunshine scary?  Children: ” No!”
Yep. Real witches aren’t really scary. 
fireladder

Children’s Books About Babies

     “Seeing yourself is almost like a message saying, ‘You matter. You are visible. And you are valuable. “

-Christian Robinson, children’s picture book illustrator

Children love books and learn from them. They take in messages conveyed in picture books about who is valued and important. The repetition of stories from a single or limited perspective inadvertently reinforces biases and stereotypes. That’s why it’s essential that we prioritize diversifying our children’s libraries–an essential component of an anti-bias education.

This is particularly important in programs like HFP in which the majority of enrolled families are white, native English speakers, two parent hetero families who are reflected in dominant culture. As we de-center whiteness,  and we make a point of sharing the stories and experiences of children and families that are too often marginalized and dismissed, we’re helping raise our white children with a clearer sense of their place in the world. Not the “norm,” not the “standard,” not “better than,” but rather a valued part of the human family– as should every human being be.

As we have been learning about and delighting in babies, we’re reaching for inclusive language and sharing a broad range of stories of how babies are welcomed into a range of loving families.

Here are a few of our favorite books about babies:

        

 

Recommended Websites:

Books for Diversity

Books for Littles

The Conscious Kid

Embrace Race

Lee and Low Books

Teaching for Change:Building Social Justice in the Classroom

fireladder

Midwife Visits, Deepening Our Appreciation of Babies

A few of our students have recently become, or will soon become, older siblings. To celebrate their growing families we invited our friend/HFP alumni parent and midwife, Maura, to share about babies and the birthing process. Maura brought some of the tools she uses in her work: scales, fetal dopplers, and a baby doll in a bag of water with detachable umbilical cord. Children loved listening to their own heart with the doppler and stethoscope, and getting to play with the baby doll. 

   

Maura: “I love talking to young children about babies and birth. They are not that far removed from the experience that I think they can still really relate to the fact that they were once inside the uterus. I find the real connection is made through the belly button (that original point of real connection!) When you tell a child that they used to be attached by an umbilical cord, and now that’s their belly button, many of them are more than ready to raise their shirts and show you theirs. And of course they want to see mine. I’m happy to share. It’s a place we can all connect. 

I also love using accurate terms for things, and for kids to know there are many ways to make a family and different ways for babies to be born. I think it’s never too early for young children to hear the words uterus, vagina, penis, sperm, egg, umbilical cord, cesarean section, sperm donor, etc. The minds of children are like sponges, and most do not yet feel shy or shameful about their bodies. I hope to pass on positive messages that all of our bodies and all parts of our bodies are beautiful. “
 

 

In our Monday class a mom with a newborn joined us, and the children got to see her feed and weigh her real life baby. In our Tuesday class, children were enamored with A’s baby sister, Amaia. During circle time an expecting mother of one of our students, visited and Maura was able to show the children how to use her tools, like the doppler on a real pregnant belly. 

 

It was wonderful to see the change in the children as they became quieter and calm with curiosity as the midwife did her work. 

Late last week our expecting mother who came during circle time gave birth to a happy healthy baby. We are so happy for H’s whole family. 

*Thanks to Maura Jansen for generously sharing her time, tender attention and expertise with our classes. Thanks to Mandy for sharing her enthusiasm, body and time and for letting us listen to her baby’s heartbeat!

fireladder

A Surprise Visitor

                                       

                                   

I set out a forest floor puzzle as provocation to continue talking about the animals we love, and to consider how we can protect their natural habitats. Piecing together deer, raccoon and rabbits would provide an opportunity to continue sharing stories of the NW wildlife we love and to consider what they need to thrive. To my surprise, a real NW critter had slithered into our classroom. A slug meandered across the rug adjacent to the boxed puzzle– almost as it if it had come to life!  Delighted, I added a  message to our dry erase board welcoming children: Come meet a surprise guest– a NW critter  that slithered into our room!

We set out magnifying glasses and invited those interested to take a closer look! Some children gently helped our slug friend back during it’s repeated attempted escapes. After a few more minutes of investigation, we returned the slug to the grassy patch just outside our classroom window.