Author Archives: stpauls

Education Changes and the Family

Petitions have already begun to pop up in protest of the proposed changes to the Ontario education system.  These changes are significant and will save money – primarily through reduced teacher costs.  But education is not solely about money.  Thus it is important to consider the wider impacts of any changes to the education system.  Here are my thoughts based in my experience as a secondary school teacher (note: I left the profession nearly 20 years ago) and hubby’s ongoing experience as grade 8 teacher.

Increase in class sizes

  • During my time teaching, I had classes with up to 36 students.  In some cases, these were computer classes where (when all computers were working) we had 30 computers.  This meant that 1/3 of the students were sharing computers every class.
  • Non-academic classes were generally smaller.  In several cases, I had 30 students in what was called general level math.  One third of those students (10) were identified as having learning disabilities and needing extra help.  Thus, over a 75 minute period, I was responsible for teaching a lesson and then spending one on one time with students who struggled to understand the lesson.  If I taught only 15 minutes (and everything started and ended on time and there were no distractions), that would give me 2 minutes for each student.  How much math can you explain to a teenager in 2 minutes? 
  • And then there are distractions – the more teenagers there are in a room, the harder it is to keep track of what everyone is doing.  There’s a ban on cell phone use?  How are teachers going to police that while checking homework, helping those who struggle, teaching a lesson, dealing with mental health issues (yes, teachers have seen suicide notes from students), addressing bullying, responding to concerns about life (I can guarantee there were multiple classes throughout the province who discussed the terrorist attacks at the Mosques in New Zealand these last couple of days) and more?

Mandatory e-courses

  • Who is going to provide these?  What accreditation will be required?  How will they be evaluated (both in terms of the quality of the course and student evaluation)? 
  • What will happen to students who have one less class to attend during school time?  Who will supervise students during their e-course time?
  • What efforts will be made to ensure that students have access to the resources necessary to do e-courses?  Can we really assume that all students have computers and sufficient Internet access?  What if they don’t?
  • What assistance will be provided for those students who don’t do well in independent learning?  What about those who struggle with the content?  How will students receive the one on one attention that is often essential for course completion?

Tuition for low-income families

  • Post-secondary students are gathering today to protest the cuts to OSAP that will make college and university education unaffordable for students across the province.
  • While the overall cut to the cost of tuition seems like a good thing – it primarily benefits those who could already afford to pursue post-secondary education AND forces the institutions to figure out how to pay for that cut.

Back to families

In the end, it comes back to families.  If classes are too big to allow teachers to regularly provide students with the one on one help they need, that will be downloaded to families.  Students taking e-courses will likely do so at home – meaning that families will need to provide the resources and support necessary for their completion.  When students can’t pay for post-secondary education, the consequences play out for the family.

Every student is, first and foremost, a member of a family who provides the foundation for their journey through the education system.  Cost-saving measures must be balanced out somehow.  Recognising that every family’s situation is different – every parent’s ability to help their child with homework, pay for technology and support post-secondary education is different – is it realistic, fair or even helpful to download so much onto the family?

What do you think?  Are you concerned about the proposed education changes?  What concerns you?  Why?  We would love to hear from you.

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at

Exam Survival Kits

Exam Survival Kits

Sometimes the simplest of things can be vital tools for calming our anxiety.  For participants in our Jan. 20th Thrive! Dinner, exam survival kits contained helpful tools for dealing with stress:

Werther’s hard candies

These caramel candies can actually help to calm the butterflies in an anxious stomach.  Trying to eat the candy slowly, can also help change our focus enabling us to slow down and breathe.

Hersey’s Kisses

In the midst of stress, we need to be reminded of the love and care of others.  Chocolate can be a delicious way to relax and know that we are not alone.

Sour Candies

Did you know that an anxiety attack can be calmed by something sour?  Sour candies and even the taste of lemon, can provide a distraction triggering your brain to deal with the sourness in your mouth and letting go of whatever might have trigged the anxiety attack.  A similar effect happens with holding an ice cube.

Life Savers

Because who doesn’t need a bit of life-saving sometimes?

Chewing gum

The act of chewing requires our brains to focus differently, helping to slow us down a bit.  This makes chewing gum a helpful tool for those stressful exams.

Colouring pages

When people become overwhelmed with so much to do, any tool that refocuses our thoughts and actions and slows us down can be meaningful.  There are many adult colouring books now available that can be helpful during those times when we are feeling particularly overwhelmed.


A playful eraser was included as a reminder that our mistakes can, to some extent, be erased.


To help practice deep breathing and let your worries fly away when you let the balloon full of air go.  It can also be a healthy distraction to play keep it off the ground.

Words of encouragement

We all need to be reminded that, despite the chaos around us, like does go on.  Words of encouragement help us to better appreciate the possibilities, acknowledge the gifts we have and help us to accept that challenges happen but this is not the end.

Our package included scrolls with words of encouragement, scrolls with a Bible verse: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7), a bookmark/bow reminding participants to “trust their gifts” because “you’ve got this”, and a special, hand painted rock with words of encouragement.

The Bags

All of this was contained in a special bag made of bubble wrap and colourful duct tape.  Who doesn’t enjoy popping bubble wrap?  It is a great stress relief!

What else?

What would you include in a stress survival kit?  What have you found helpful for those difficult moments?  We would love to hear from you.

Click here for more information about the activities we did as we gathered for food, fellowship and fun to help us de-stress.

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at


De-Stress Dinner

Tips for dealing with stress

Jan. 20th our Thrive! Dinner used food, fellowship and fun to explore ways in which we can deal with stress.  We started by making nachos.  The young participants had fun spreading the ingredients and getting creative.  As the nachos cooked, adult colouring pages were made available.  Colouring has a wonderful calming effect, enabling us to focus on something other than what might be overwhelming us in the moment.

Cellphone scavenger hunt

After dinner, participant were challenged to use their phones to take as many photos of nature as they could find.  Given how cold it was, they were very creative taking photos of calendar pictures, photos in books, each other, flowers throughout the hall, poinsettias and holly from the Christmas play, a “Maple Leaf” (i.e. from a hockey jersey), hair (it was rainbow coloured) and even a (Swedish) berry.  Some braved the cold and snapped some lovely photos of dusk around the church.  Hundreds of photos were snapped in 15 minutes!

Nature can have a wonderful calming effect.  Even if it is too cold to go outside, we can watch through a window or close our eyes and imagine our favourite places.  Beaches, gardens, mountains, clouds floating through the sky, sunset and sunrise, meandering streams, Northern lights and more can quiet and inspire awakening our senses to something beyond the pressures of school and work.


There is something fun about gathering in a kitchen.  It can be the hub of a home.  Working together, we prepared dozens of cookies for the oven and we shared stories, continuing our conversations about nature and our favourite places.

As the cookies baked, a small jar with water and glitter was shaken.  The glitter swirled reminding us of how chaotic our thoughts can be when we are overwhelmed with so much to do.  Allowing the jar to sit and be quiet for a minute reminds us that we too can be calmed with stillness.

With that ideal in mind we discussed mindful eating.  What are the 5 senses?  How can we use those senses to explore the cookies, hot from the oven?  Will we feel their warmth on our hands?  What do they smell like?  What do they sound like as we break them apart?  Can we see the ooey gooey goodness of the chocolate?  What do they taste like?  We took our time with the first cookie but then started to gobble them up!

Deep Breathing

When we are overwhelmed it can be very calming to stop and take deep breaths.  Beginning in our stomachs, moving to our ribs into our chests we gulped in the air.  To test our ability to breathe deeply we tried to blow up balloons with one breath.  It is not as easy as you think.  But after several tries, everyone had at least a small balloon.

Getting quiet

Settling down for a moment.  Participants were invited to get comfortable and close their eyes.  Counting backwards from 10 to 1, they were encouraged to focus only on their breathing and counting.  Every time a different thought came into their heads they were challenged to take a small bead and mark the distraction before beginning again.

It can be difficult to relax and let go of the whirling thoughts of the day.  Practicing in this way gives us permission to allow distractions to float away like bubbles that pop and free us from the stress that these might bring.


Coming back together into a circle we played a simple game.  One person begins by saying “ha”, each successive person adds a “ha” without actually laughing.  If laughter happens, we start again.

Laughter, as they say, really is the best medicine.  In fact, laughter yoga has become a source of mind, body and spiritual health.  We can fake laughter for a time, but then it becomes genuine, releasing wonderful feel-good chemicals throughout our body.

We spent some time talking about what makes us laugh.  And accepted that a good cry can also be cleansing.  In the process we shared stories from the silly to the wondrous.

Coming to a close

As we finished the evening, all participants were given an exam survival kit.  Click here to see what it contained and why.  Prayer was offered for all those in stressful situations – those struggling with health issues, work-related and family-related stress and for students who are dealing with the pressures of school, projects and exams.  Armed with resources, we hope that all will benefit from the lessons of this time together.

What about you?

What tricks do you use to deal with stress?  We would love to hear from you!

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at


Re-branding Santa

Santa Claus, as we know him today, is based on a fourth century Christian bishop, now known as Saint Nicholas, who was legendary for his generosity.  The most famous legend is that Nicholas heard about a family who was so poor, they considered selling their three daughters.  To save the girls from a life of prostitution, Nicholas tossed three bags of gold onto the family doorstep, thus providing dowries that would enable the girls to marry.

Saint Nicholas is thus considered a protector of children.  To celebrate this, a tradition emerged where children received special gifts on his feast day.  When this custom was brought to America, it became associated with Christmas and the name of the giver changed to Santa Claus.

Branding Santa

According to Wikipedia, the first appearances of Santa Claus wearing what we recognise today as the Santa suit, were drawn by Thomas Nast and appeared in Harper’s Weekly in the mid to late 1800s.  Fast forward to 1931, Haddon Sundblom portrayed Santa in the red suit as part of an advertising campaign for Coca-Cola.  It was this work that standardised the way in which Santa was portrayed from this point forward.

What next?

This year, Graphic Springs, a logo design company, invited suggestions on modernising Santa from 400 respondents from the UK and US.  A selection of these suggestions were then voted upon by over 4000 people from the UK and US.  The most popular suggestions were included in a graphic re-branding of the holiday hero.

Controversy erupts

Interestingly, media didn’t mind the thought of Santa going on a diet, using Amazon Prime, wearing skinny jeans and trainers, riding a hoverboard or in a flying car, or having tattoos and an iPhone.  Google “Rebranding Santa” and the one point most articles picked up on was that some 27% voted in favour of making Santa female or gender neutral. See this post and this post as examples.

As the comments on this brief statement suggest there are plenty of people who are offended by the possibility that Santa could be portrayed as anything other than male.  Some defend this with reminders of the ancient connection to Saint Nicholas.

It’s already been done…

In Santa Baby (2006) and Santa Baby 2 (2009), the Claus’ daughter, Mary, is called upon to save Christmas after her father takes ill and, in the sequel, wants to retire.  I suspect there may be other movies among the plethora of Christmas tales in which Mrs. Claus or another female plays the leading role.

What do you think?

Should consideration be given to re-branding Santa for the new millennia?  If so, what would you change?  Are there aspects of our understanding of Santa that must remain consistent (like gender)?  Why or why not?  We would love to hear from you.

Want to see more Holiday Posts?

Check these out: Elf on the ShelfRudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Baby it’s Cold Outside.

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at



Elf on the Shelf

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not shout I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.

The song was first sung on a radio show in November of 1934.  According to Wikipedia  it became an instant hit with orders for 500,000 copies of sheet music and more than 30,000 records sold within 24 hours.  Since then, this song has become a staple of Christmas music with recordings by over 200 artists.

He sees you when you’re sleeping…

The lyrics of this song provide a warning for children – Santa Claus has a naughty and nice list and is watching.  This becomes an interesting opportunity for parents to challenge their children to behave or face the possibility of getting coal in their stockings.

Enter Elf on the Shelf

Fast forward to 2005 and The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition hits bookstores explaining how Santa watches, through the presence elves who visit children from (American) Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve when they return to the North Pole until the next holiday season.  The book includes a small scout elf which is expected to be found in a new location every morning.

Creativity abounds

Thanks to social media, the world can look in on the antics of the scout elves as families share photos and videos revealing where these are found each morning.  There are websites devoted to highlighting “Funny Elf on the Shelf Ideas” and a quick search on Twitter gives examples like:

The controversy

Of course, not everyone is a fan of Elf on the Shelf.  Some find it overdone.  Others believe that teaching children that good behaviour is rewarded with gifts sends the wrong message.  There is also a plethora of adult humour that is mixed in with social media illustrations of Elf on the Shelf creating the potential for questions if children search #elfontheshelf.

What do you think?

Do you have an Elf on the Shelf at home?  Has become a tradition for your family?  Or do think this is seriously overdone and/or problematic?  We would love to hear from you.

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at


Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer

It is a classic Christmas movie based on a Christmas song which was based on a Christmas poem: Rudolf the Red nosed reindeer has been playing on television sets since 1964.  Some 54 years after the movie debut, #RudolfTheRedNosedReindeer has become a popular hashtag on Twitter, not because it is a charming classic, but rather because people are looking at the movie from a new lens and finding its content problematic.

What’s wrong with Rudolf?

One of the primary issues identified is that bullying in the first part of the movie is rampant.  Rudolf’s own father tries to hide his uniqueness.  When the other young reindeer make fun of Rudolf, the coach encourages them to shun him.  Even Santa suggests that Rudolf should be excluded, much like the ‘misfit toys’ who are sent away to an exile because they don’t ‘fit’ within the expectations of the Christmas Eve delivery.  Likewise, Hermey the Elf is berated and ostracised because he does not ‘fit’ with the expectations of elves.  As a result, Rudolf and Hermey find solace together as outsiders in the Christmas story.


In the last two decades, a lot of energy and resources have gone into educating students on the realities of bullying.  In fact, we now have an anti-bullying day  and a variety of charities devoted to anti-bullying including Bullying Canada.  School boards use various programs that emphasise how to recognise and address bullying amongst their peers.  One could argue that the criticism of this movie highlights the success of these programs, demonstrating the extent to which a new generation recognises the ways in which behaviours demean and undermine the self-worth of those who are bullied.

“Political Correctness”

For some, however, criticising a beloved Christmas classic feels like political correctness gone awry.  It would seem challenging people to see the story as more than a playful Christmas tale takes the fun out of it.  As one Twitter user explained:


Opportunity for Conversation

What would happen if, instead of polarising the conversation, we could see it as an opportunity to further explore themes?  Teaching media literacy in schools educates students to recognise those spaces in which the media we consume can and should be critiqued.  A student who can recognise bullying in Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, might also be able to recognise the difference between “fake news” and the truth.  In what ways might this Twitter trend thus become an opportunity to explore how we can continue to critique the media we consume, so that we can be better informed as we participate in the wider world?

What do you think?

Has ‘political correctness’ ruined a Christmas classic or can the critiques become a springboard from which we can explore deeper themes through which we can better critique media in general?  We would love to hear from you!

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at


Baby It’s Cold Outside

I really can’t stay (Baby it’s cold outside)

I gotta go away (Baby it’s cold outside)

This evening has been (Been hoping that you’d dropped in)

So very nice (I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice)

According to Wikipedia this song was written by Frank Loessor in 1944 to be performed by him and his wife, Lynn Garland, at Hollywood parties.  It was the norm at that time, that talented guests perform and, for a time, this became a popular final song indicating it was time to go home.

The lyrics

This duet is designed to be heard as a conversation between two people, identified as “Mouse” (usually female) and “Wolf” (usually male) on the printed score.  They are at the wolf’s home and the mouse decides it is time to leave, but the wolf flirtatiously invites the mouse to stay because it is cold outside.

The controversy

It began with a radio station in Cleveland deciding to pull the song from its Christmas rotation in response to phone calls, emails and a poll which all suggested listeners found the lyrics of this song problematic in an age of #MeToo.  Other stations in the US and Canada followed suit.  In effect, some argue that the call and response highlight aspects of rape culture:

“Even if the intentions aren’t sinister, it’s simply exhausting to be a woman in that situation,” wrote USA TODAY’s Mary Nahorniak. “In the original score, the male part is written as a ‘wolf’ and the woman as a ‘mouse’ – that speaks volumes about male predatory behavior. Many women know what it’s like to feel trapped by a man, whether emotionally or physically. In those situations, it doesn’t matter how it began or why she wants to leave, it only matters that she wants to go, now.” 

Others argue that the song should be considered from the historical context in which it was written:

“Women deserve better than lazy, intentionally uncharitable readings of half-a-century-old songs for their feminist causes. People, romance and sexuality are complex, so taking a catchy tune and highlighting the portions that sound most suspicious in 2018 is not just a stretch — it’s dishonest.”

Opportunity for conversation

Perhaps one of the advantages of this controversy is that it creates space for conversation.  What would it look like to explore the dynamics of this duet from the perspective of consent?  Is there a point at which ‘the wolf’ crosses the line?  If so, how do we know what that point is?  Who gets to decide?

When it comes to relationships there is much that is nuance.  In an era of #MeToo we are challenged to explore those nuances more deeply in order to identify the ways in which privilege and power undermine the relationship to the point in which one person becomes not a partner but a victim.  There is much that we still need to learn in this regard.  So then, how do we engage in that conversation?  We want to hear from you.

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at


Some form of the meme keeps popping up on my timeline: “Share if you think schools should teach children to write in cursive”.  Every time I see this I want to ask why?  Why do children need to learn cursive?

“Share if you think schools should teach children to write in cursive”

Why is cursive important?

There is no doubt that cursive allows for us to write more quickly when taking notes.  It is an efficient form of communication for those contexts in which writing is used.  As a result, generations of students have been taught cursive writing to enable communication through this means.  Through cursive writing, we also develop our signatures which provide an important way of identifying ourselves for legal purposes – like when we sign contracts and make purchases with credit cards.

Communication in 2018

The fact is, however, communication is undergoing a significant transformation.  There are few places now where paper is the primary means of communication.  Instead, messages are sent via e-mail, text, messenger, and face to face communication.  Students have access to computers to take notes and information is available online through educational software to promote computerisation of education.  Purchases now happen through pin numbers and tap reducing the need for signatures.  Few need cheques given the ability to use paypal, e-transfers or credit/debit cards.  Even contracts are being modernised through docusign technology where electronic signatures are created and used.

Lessons take time

Recognising the shift in how we communicate, educators need to allocate class time to those topics which are important for students to learn.  Each choice fills in a block of time, limiting what else can be taught.  So then, what will not be taught if educators choose to continue to teach cursive?  Is this a sufficient priority to take up time in the education process?

But what about talking with grandparents?

One of the reasons I have heard to support cursive is that it allows children to communicate with their grandparents.  I am all for communication across generations and can understand how frustrating it might be to realise that grandchildren might not be able to read the birthday card sent to them by grandma and grandpa because they do not know cursive.  Is this a sufficient reason to include cursive in the classroom perhaps at the expense of other communication tools?  Or is it possible that grandparents could utilise other communication techniques, say printing which continues to be taught in schools, when they send those birthday cards?

What do you think?

When faced with those memes, how do you respond?  Do you like and share – promoting the teaching of cursive in schools?  Or do you think that it is time to accept that cursive is no longer as useful as it once was and that perhaps it is more important to spend time teaching other means of communication – like keyboarding skills?  We would love to hear from you.

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at


Coat Ban

Did you know Canada Goose winter coats have been banned at a school in the U.K?  Moncler and Pyrenex coats have also been banned at Woodchurch High School in Wirral, England.  According to this article: “It is not because kids are stupid, lose things or steal off each other…Rather it is because of inequality.”

Canada Goose Jackets

Checking Prices

The Canada Goose website advertises youth parkas starting from $350 up to $750.  Moncler has coats for teen boys (12-14) that are upwards of $1000. Pyrenex jackets are the cheapest of the three ranging from $200-350 for children’s jackets.

What is the priority?

When I have looked for a winter jacket for myself or for my kid – I go with one priority, to find something that will provide warmth for our winters without breaking the bank.  Canada Goose, Moncler and Pyrenex may be wonderfully warm coats, but there are other, cheaper brands that are also sufficiently warm by my experience.  Thus, I struggle to understand why anyone would spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a single item of clothing especially for a child who would outgrow that item even if they don’t wear it out, lose it or otherwise wreck it?

Does name brand matter?

Over the years there are many brands that have held the spot light and thus been in high demand: Nike, Polo, Levi, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger, Sketchers, Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch and so on.  For some, sporting these names helps to establish the individual as someone who is ‘cool’.  The problem is that the popularity of a brand can influence the price tag making it harder for everyone to afford and thus reinforcing the difference between those who have and those who don’t.

“Poverty Shaming”

In a time when wealth provides a sense of status and entitlement and when people are famous essentially because they have money, those who are unable to ‘keep up with the Jones’ (or perhaps the Kardashians) are looked down upon and can thus become targets of bullying.  In essence, while status is associated with wearing the ‘right’ brands, stigma is associated with the absence of such brands.  The assumption is that if you don’t have those brands it is because your family is poor and can’t afford them.

“Wealth Shaming”

One Facebook post complained that banning expensive, name brand coats is the equivalent of ‘wealth shaming’ – making people feel bad because they have money and can buy (really) nice things.  All of this, however, depends upon seeing the brands you wear as a means to define who you are.  Is this really the ideal we should teach in a school?

What do you think?

How important is what a student wears?  Should schools ignore those ways in which students  define one another based on clothing?  Or should the classroom and playground stress character and other qualities allowing young people to define themselves beyond what they wear?  Is limiting the brands students can wear a way to achieve this ideal? We want to hear from you.

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at


Gender Norms

Recently I visited the Caldwell First Nations’ Cultural Centre in Leamington.  The woman showing us around proudly highlighted a series of pictures showing children doing various activities.  She noted that there are an equal number of boys and girls, even if we didn’t recognise them as such.  It is interesting that she had to clarify this for us.  I wonder how many people had passed through previously who had required clarification.  What does this say about our assumptions and expectations?

Gender Identity

According to Wikipedia: “Gender identity is the personal sense of one’s own gender.  Gender identity can correlate with assigned sex at birth, or can differ from it.  All societies have a set of gender categories that can serve as the basis of the formation of a person’s social identity in relation to other members of society.  In most societies, there is a basic division between gender attributes assigned to males and females, a gender binary to which most people adhere and which includes expectations of masculinity and femininity in all aspects of sex and gender”

When did girls start wearing pink?

This article  from highlights the evolution of our understanding of masculinity and femininity based on fashion.  In fact, the idea that girls wear pink and boys blue has only been in practice since the 1940s.  Prior to that there was a time when boys and girls wore dresses until they were 6 or 7.  It would seem that as our society changes and evolves, so does our understanding of gender and its associated assumptions and expectations.

Policy Resolution R4

Last week the Ontario Progressive Conservative party passed a resolution that states that gender identity theory is a liberal ideology that is controversial and unscientific and thus must be removed from Ontario schools and its curriculum.

Given the extent to which gender identity is influenced by culture, I find myself wondering what exactly this motion will seek to remove from schools.  I suspect the goal is to reinforce a particular understanding of masculinity and femininity while undermining any efforts to accept non-conformity.  The questions then become:

  1. Who gets to decide what version of masculinity and femininity is considered the norm?
  2. What, then, happens to those who would challenge these norms? Is it OK to have a ‘tom boy’ or effeminate man?
  3. How far are we expected to take this normalisation of gender as a binary? Do they also expect families to reinforce conformity to avoid further controversy?

Who gets to decide?

Life is a journey in which we have choices to make which influence who we become and how those around us see us.  One of my kid’s teachers once asked me what I thought about her having a ‘spa day’ for the girls in the class where they could learn about how to do their nails and put on makeup while the boys played soccer.  My only response was: what if not all of the girls liked that kind of thing?

Who gets to decide what we like and what we don’t like?  Isn’t part of the reason we need specialised STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs for girls BECAUSE for too long society has said these are not ‘feminine’ activities?  What about paternity leave, the opportunity for FATHERS to spend time with their newborn children – a very recent addition to employment rights because care-giving has long been assumed to be a mother’s job? How can we reach the ideal of gender equality if we promote policies that continue to narrowly define who we are based on socially constructed norms about gender?

What do you think?

Is it OK for anyone to choose not to conform to social norms about gender?  What risks are there to allowing space for fluidity?  What risks are there to reinforcing conformity?  We would love to hear from you.

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 for more information or visit our Facebook page at