As I begin this series of posts on “overprotecting” our children, I want to clarify that this is more of an ongoing conversation and clearly seen through my lens as the mother of a 5-year-old living rurally in the State of Maine. I recognize that some of the topics I will discuss are not culturally comprehensive and, plainly put, I feel privileged to be able to have some of these choices to make at all. That said, let’s start this analysis in the world of readily available literature in the United States.
The sheer amount of accessible literature here in the U.S. is reason as a parent to rejoice, but also perhaps cringe a bit at the decision-making process of what to bring into the lives of our children. We are presented with older classics that perpetuate stereotypes of women and men, often vilify people of color and present heterosexuality as the only option, but often acutely address misfortune, fear, death, jealousy, anxiety, despair and sacrifice amongst others, versus newer materials that are much more inclusive and less xenophobic, but often relate a sugarcoated reality and don’t help our children work through their emotions, achieve true empathy or bolster coping skills. As I recently read in Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk, Diane Baker and Anne Hill, “Somewhere between the pitfalls of ignorance and appropriate lies the path of cultural education.”
I have an overabundance of children’s fiction and nonfiction from the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, as my own library has been supplemented with hundreds of books from Scholastic and Rigby, for which my mother was a sales representative and accumulated quite a selection. What I am finding as a homeschooling family is that these resources are wonderful, but also deficient and in need of current supplemental materials. They often omit historical facts, are extremely stereotypical in gender roles, mistreat people of color and use terminology that is now outdated. That said, I see them as extremely valuable and use them in what is often referred to as “teachable moments.” I explain why a word is no longer acceptable or how history has proven a theory or policy incorrect or misguided. Many people choose to completely disregard such literature, but I find that to be a disservice to our children. If we brush our historical and societal mistakes under the rug than where is the progress shown? I have found that, even at a young age, my daughter gains deeper appreciation and insight when she recognizes my fallibility as a mother and the same can be said about society as a whole. We are ever-evolving and our progress can only be shown through recognition of our errors and making the choice to do better.
This leads me to questions for anyone reading this. What are some of the past and current books you enjoy with your children? Do you avoid hard topics? Do you use older literature and use the “teachable moments?” Do you strictly stick to new literature? As I said in the beginning of this post, this is mainly a discussion and I would love your input. Please feel free to share in the comments here or at any of my social media outlets. Looking forward to hearing from you.