Teaching My Son About Racism

It seems that a day can't go by where we're not reminded that racism is as strong as ever. Just a few days ago, a group of boys from a Catholic school in Kentucky were wearing racist gear, shouting racist things. But's not just the asshat teenagers from Kentucky. It's the white old man at the grocery store, shaking is head in disgust that someone of another race dares to shop for groceries in his vicinity. It's effing everywhere.

While I love the Cleveland suburb I live in, it's undeniably... white. The Trump yard signs in 2016 were a dead giveaway. I didn't feel like I belonged here. But, housing is affordable and schools are great, so here we are still.

As a mother of three children in a 90% white Cleveland suburb, how the hell do I make sure my kids aren't one of those teenage racist asshats in 5 years? I didn't have a clue.

Fortunately, as part of my son's reading requirement, he needs to read a variety of books this year, including historical fiction, autobiographies, informational, etc. I was looking for some of these books when I stumbled across Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Elspeth Leacock, Susan Buckley, and Lynda Blackmon Lowery.

Reading your child this book, my friends, is how you talk with your young boys and girls about racism. My oldest is in 4th grade, which seems like a good time for us to address this topic. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom is appropriate for any age, in terms of language (none), sexuality (none), however the content is tough to grasp for some. The events described in the book are very real. She talks about being beaten, about people she knew being killed. While it's not done in a "vulgar" way, it is made real by her testimony.

It also opened the door to further discussions. It opened the door to talk about people I knew who were racist. People in the family tree who were racist. I explained that racism wasn't an "other people" thing. It was a "people close to you thing".

We did the math, and were able to deduct which people we knew who likely had separate drinking fountains, different Dairy Queens, and so much more. We talked about people who didn't care what color their friends were.

We were able to discuss how disenfranchisement is still happening. We talked about how some people are still not able to vote, due to voting laws made to restrict them from voting.

We discussed that while voting laws have changed a while ago, people who run for, and become elected officials, (until very recently), tended to still reflect the original voter base of white men. And, while there is nothing wrong with being a white man, the United States is certainly made up of a much greater variety of people than just them.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom opened up a wealth of discussions, and I'm so glad my son and I were able to talk about this topic in a very real way. This is one of those stories that every parent needs to read to their children. But, it's not just for children. I recommend it for anyone who is unfamiliar with the events surrounding the voting rights march in Selma, Alabama.

For what it's worth, there's nothing like the feeling of your son telling you, with passion in his voice, that he would have been marching right along with them in Selma.

Weekly Poster Design Challenge

Recently, I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The book was amazing, and one thing it encourages you to do is to take a quarterly personal offsite to look at your life. Where you were, where you're headed, and where you want to be.

In my recent personal offsite, I selected 3 things I wanted to accomplish in the next 3 months. One of those things was to do a design challenge. Inspired by Japan's 72 microseasons, I decided to design a poster series, creating one poster a week, inspired by the weather and my personal mindset and thoughts about that week.

I'll be showcasing my work on this blog post, to keep everything together.

Week 39

Thank you so much for stopping by. Feel free to leave a comment below. As always, I read and respond to each and every one. 

Ranger High Tech Academy - STEM School - A Parent's Perspective

The Application Process

On Jan 29, 2018, I filled out an application for my 1st grade and 3rd grade student to attend a new public STEM school in North Ridgeville, aptly named the Ranger High Tech Academy, or RHTA, as they call it for short. I'm not sure how they chose who got in. Application questions were pretty basic, and answered by the kids. What do you want to be when you grow up? What are your hobbies? That sort of thing.

I didn't know a lot about the school, as it had only been in operation for about 5 months at that point. The next step was an informational visit the school. Parents listened to a presentation given by the principal as the “learners” went to a classroom-style evaluation, where they would participate in a RHTA activity, to see if that type of environment would be a good fit for them.

Both of my kids were put in peer groups, and were given an experiment to do… I believe they had to make a rip-cord style device, with the goal of being the fastest. My son was very excited that his group was the fastest on their first try. My daughter was thrilled with the entire process. If it was fuzzy before, this day made it clear that both of my children wanted to attend this new STEM school.

The Selection Process
To be honest, I had a feeling my son would get in, but not sure about my daughter. She is notoriously reserved in group settings, and on her application, I think she said she wanted to be a ballerina. Not quite the STEM-based career I thought they'd be looking for. So, imagine my elation when I found out in the beginning of April, that both of my children had been accepted! Not only would they be going to this awesome new school, they do be doing it together! (In North Ridgeville, some grades are in entirely different buildings, and my children had never went to the same school at the same time before.)

For those interested, its it's worth noting that the RHTA is the only open enrollment school in our district. I suspect they may get more funding for the school this way, but I'm not sure.

This project is an example of the daily outside-of-the-box
learning that takes place at Ranger High Tech Academy. 
Learner Life At Ranger High Tech Academy
A day or two before school started, there was an open house. And, it turns out that you're supposed to go for the entire time, not stumble in late because your kids took too long to eat dinner. Whoops. Previously, North Ridgeville open houses had always been drop-in style, so that threw me. The teachers seemed very nice, and genuinely thrilled to be teaching there.

It's a very relaxed school. My 4th grader thought it was cool they didn't have assigned seats and didn't have to walk in straight lines everywhere. My 2nd grader was excited to make new friends. And, while it's still early in the year, they both love their new school.

  • They both are learning Spanish, which I believe isn't offered at the other schools in our district until 8th grade. 
  • They don't have typical homework assignments, but rather can pick from a chart of things they would like to do to keep their brains sharp (solve a real-life math problem, build something with Legos, etc.)
  • They are encouraged to read every day. My 4th grader has a goal to read 40 books this year. My 2nd grader sets her own goal of how many minutes she wants to read each month.
  • It's noisy! Unlike traditional schools, where teachers talk and students listen, there is a buzz of cooperation and teamwork when it comes to learning. 
  • My son created (or helped create) a bookmark with his name & a famous quote etched onto it. I'm not sure, but this may have been done with one of the 12 or so 3D printers at the school. 
Quotes From My RHTA Learners
“The only thing we don't do is take timed tests.”
“Before teachers used to tell us to do something, and that was it. Teachers here tell us WHY we need to do it.”

Overall, I LOVE Ranger High Tech Academy so far. I'm so thankful my children are fortunate to be a part of this exciting, new learning experience. :)

I'd love to hear your thoughts about Ranger High Tech Academy. Leave a comment below!

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