Tag Archives: education

Sexual Health

What do you know?

Sex Education

It seems like an ironic juxtaposition of events: As educators, parents and a variety of advocate groups seek to take on the Ontario government to reinstate an updated health curriculum created through consultation with many different individuals and groups, news of sexual indiscretions by Catholic clergy comes to light.  Information and commentary about these two circumstances have been a constant presence on my news feed throughout this summer.  This post highlights initial thoughts about the former situation. A vital thread connecting these two moments in time are the questions: to what extent and at what point should children learn the details about their private parts.

It is interesting that we have no problem singing songs that help teach kids names of parts of the body – head and shoulders, knees and toes, eyes, ears, mouth and nose.  Some, however, get a bit squeamish when it comes to teaching the proper names for private parts and instead use euphemisms.  Doing so, some believe, helps to maintain the innocence of children.

The challenge, however, is that these euphemisms are not universal.  What happens when, following an uncomfortable situation, a child reports that someone wants to play with their ‘dinky’ or take their ‘cookie’?  This language can be easily misinterpreted by other adults leaving the child vulnerable to abuse.

Of course, learning the proper for genitalia is only one part of the solution.  As this article highlights, it is also important to give children agency over their own bodies.  Children need to know that they can set boundaries and that body secrets are not OK. They need to have the tools to say no when they are faced with an uncomfortable situation and know that they won’t get in trouble if they tell a trusted adult about a problematic encounter.

These are conversations that can and should happen at home.  There have been many nights when dinner conversation around our table included frank discussions about sexuality from a very early age.  Having a kid who could read at age 4 and a parent who worked in the sexual health and social justice research lab at the University of Windsor, meant that some questions came up.  As one common story is told, I was asked: “what is a condom?” after my six year old had read the word on some interviews I was reviewing.  I responded in an age appropriate way and have continued to respond to questions ever since.

I am grateful that my kid has felt comfortable asking questions about sexuality and sex.  At times, so much so, that some of the questions actually came from friends.  Having a comprehensive sexual health curriculum can be helpful in ensuring that all children and young people have the tools they need to navigate their own sexual journeys in healthy ways.  This has proved evident in the Netherlands, where such education has contributed to lower rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among teens.

Still, the topic remains controversial.  Thus, we would love to hear your thoughts.  At what point did you learn the proper names for your genitalia?  Do feel that you were adequately educated about sexual health in school and/or at home?  To what extent do you talk about sexual health with your children?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/


Yesterday, today and tomorrow

Back to school…

This morning my timeline was filled with photos of children heading back to school.  I must admit, there was more than one photo that caught me off guard.  Facebook does this because it allows us to connect with friends we don’t necessarily see very often.  As a result, we see photos of children we remember as infants who are now making their way through school. Time flies.  My kid is starting university this week.

On days like this, it is easy to get nostalgic.  We may look back through our mind’s eye to the many first days of school that we have had with our children.  We may think about that first day of kindergarten, dropping our child off in a room filled with toys, books and activities especially well-suited to learning.  We may remember the gentle smile on the face of our child’s first teacher.  There is something about kindergarten teachers.  They have a way of making children and parents feel at ease.

We may also search ourselves for memories from our own school days.  I remember when somebody had given our class an appliance box – I think from a stove.  Our teacher allowed us to decorate it and create a playhouse.  At the time, I was the only one small enough to go inside so I had full reign of what to do there.

A lot has changed since I went to school.  Back then, we walked to and from school with our siblings and friends.  There was no expectation that we would be driven to school – we had two legs, we walked.  Nap time was part of kindergarten.  Most children went home for lunch.  At the time, it was still possible for families to survive on a single income.

Back in my time, there wasn’t a lot of technology in schools.  Teachers wrote on chalkboards and we neatly copied notes and did questions in our lined books. Research was done using encyclopaedias and card catalogues in libraries.  When computers did finally appear in schools, these were used only in computer classes where students learned to program, saving their work onto cassettes.

Students today might find all of this a bit tedious.  Internet search engines like Google are way more efficient than indexes and card catalogues.  In fact, some may already have voice technology at home – meaning they can ask a box a question and get answers for most of their queries.

There are definite advantages to becoming proficient in such resources.  These are important tools not only for education but for life.  Through the Internet, I was able to find out how to install crown molding.  I also use it extensively for research for posts.  Access to and use of these resources by students provides an important foundation on which our children can develop a future that will again be different from what we know today.

Google “children preparing for jobs that don’t exist” and you will find a variety of posts highlighting that upwards of 65% of children in primary school will end up in jobs that don’t already exist.  To prepare, our children need problem-solving skills and proficiency with technology so that what they don’t learn at school can be accessed when needed.  This is the task of the school system today.  The way we educate, needs to shift and change to meet the future needs of the students.  It is not an easy task and, sometimes, it means that parents need to adjust their sense of what learning is in order to better support our children.  Such is the reality of the 21st century.  So, let’s grab our phones, take and post those first day of school photos and then get friendly with google so we are ready when our kids get homework.

Are you ready?  Let us know what you think in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Learning the Basics

The education platform for the Progressive Conservatives included a commitment to “…focus on the fundamentals and that includes proven methods of teaching.” .  This includes the proposed scrapping of ‘discovery math’ as test scores for Ontario have shown a lack of improvement for this area.

What are the fundamentals?

While there are many who would agree that getting back to basics is important, few take the statement one step further and ask what the basics are.  What should students know and be able to do when they graduate from elementary school; from high school?  What steps are needed to achieve these goals?

Arithmetic vs. ‘Discovery Math’

There are generations of students who made it through a school system where arithmetic was taught by route.  Doing worksheet after worksheet of calculations to ensure that students knew how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  These are important skills and continue to be included in the curriculum.  The change is that now students are encouraged to learn through manipulatives which also help to develop problem solving capacities.

Why does it matter?

Learning arithmetic by route may mean that, at least for a time, students are able calculate 12 x 9 without assistance.  In life, however, there are no worksheets asking people to calculate basic questions.  Instead there are problems that we have to solve that may ultimately lead to a calculation.  For example, someone may need to calculate how many tiles are needed for a new 12 foot by 9 foot floor, someone might want to tip 12% or someone may want to calculate how much food is needed for a dinner party with 12 people.  While 12 x 9 can be calculated using calculators, calculator apps or even a cash register for those who are cashiers, people need to have sufficient skills in problem solving to know what to calculate.

Who likes math?

Compounding the issue is that, for some reason, mathematics is one of the few things that people are proud to say that they are not very good at doing.  In fact, math anxiety is widely accepted as a reality for a portion of the population. This includes parents, grandparents, teachers and students impacting confidence levels across generations.

What do you think?

Whether we like math or not doesn’t change its value to the education process.  So, assuming it is necessary, who do you think should decide what aspects of mathematics are foundational skills necessary for learning?  What resources should be used to decide how these skills are taught?  To what extent would you be willing to review these skills in order to assist your children as needed?