As a parent, sometimes, I have high ideals of what I want my kids to be. Some days, I just want them to not be jerks. But most days, the bar is much higher. I want them to be kind, thoughtful, and useful members of society. I want them to go out and make the world a better place.
But if I want that to happen, I have to parent for it. So, I am trying to teach my kids about social justice.
What is social justice?
Basically, social justice is about wanting the world to be fair and equal for everyone. Those who work for social justice want everyone to have enough to eat, access to quality education, fair opportunities, and living wages. Social justice also includes being dealt with fairly by those in power and the law.
If your child is small, you may be wondering how you teach such a big concept. For small children, I believe in doing small things. Explain to your child that not everyone has enough to eat, and have them help take food to your local food bank. Ask them to join you in raking leaves for an elderly neighbor. Create a birthday bag full of all things you would need for a birthday party, and deliver it to a homeless shelter. Explain to your child that sometimes children have birthdays, even without having a home. Talk to your child about how not everyone looks the same on the outside, but we are the same inside. Read books about children who look different than your child does.
Each little conversation lays the groundwork for the bigger ideas you’ll share with your child as they get older. But starting with these small, simple actions and discussions, you set an example and expectation for how to be a kind, thoughtful, and useful member of our society.
To help you with this conversation, we have changed which sample lessons are now available as free downloads from our curriculums. Wonderful World, Foundations & Fundamentals, and American History: Indigenous People of North America and Hawai‘i all have lessons you can download that will help you with teaching social justice. These lessons were in these programs all along. However, we’ve realized the need to share these lessons, instead of the ones we previously offered.
For Wonderful World, we will now offer our lesson on Buses. The lesson is based on reading the book The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. The book has won several awards including being a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. The illustrations by Christian Robinson are also award-winning and helpful for young children who need to see what is going on in the story. The book loans itself to several discussions you may want to have with your child and features an African American child and his grandmother.
Choosing the lesson to offer from Foundations & Fundamentals was hardest for me. Foundations & Fundamentals has many lessons featuring people of different abilities, ages, genders, skin tones, and backgrounds. In the end, we decided that Foundations & Fundamentals will now offer our lesson on T and F, which is based around the picture book Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert. This book is a story inside a story. A Chinese grandfather tells his grandchild a story about two mythical creatures playing a game together. The game gets out of hand, and the two friends have to figure out how to stop the violence.
For our American History curriculum, we will offer our lesson on the Hidatsa tribe, which is based on the book Buffalo Bird Girl by S.D. Nelson. This book is based on a first-hand account, and relates not only what life was like among the Hidatsa in the 1800s, but includes the changes that took place when the U.S. government forced them on to a reservation.
Continuing the Discussion
Learning about social justice, and working towards a more just world, is a continuing effort. The work is never completely done and I am learning more and more every day. I have worked hard to keep values of social justice and inclusivity into all our programs. I promise that I will continue to learn and work on including books in our programs that give us ways to have these difficult conversations and help our children learn, grow, and live a more conscientious life.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.