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Home – schooling lesson about racism

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Racism homeschooling lesson

My nine year old daughter and I spent yesterday afternoon exploring racism as part of her homeschooling.  My mum is from Jamaica, my dad is from England and racism is an area that I have spoken about informally with my daughter a few times over the years.  We have talked about how things have evolved over time through sharing stories such as Rosa Parks and her role in ending segregation on public transport in America.  We have talked about the tragic case of George Floyd and how this is another example that has shone a torch on the fact that there is still much that we need to do to rid of racism in society today.  Yesterday we really delved in and explored this area in some depth.  We did a fair bit of research, had lots of discussions, and I thought that I would share our main findings in case they are of help to anyone else looking to explore this area with their children too.  Here’s what we discovered…

What is race?
Firstly, before looking at what racism is, I wanted us to understand what race is.  In short, this is ever so complex.  A race can be seen as the idea that the human species is divided into different groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioural differences (e.g. the African race, the European race and the Asian race).  Race is therefore often seen as something that is inherent in our biology, and is therefore inherited across generations through the genes.  However, modern scientific studies have shown that human physical variations tend to overlap between different racial groups and that genes cannot be used to identify distinct racial groups. In fact, DNA tests have shown that all humans have much more in common, genetically, than they have differences.

Many modern scientists argue that race is actually a social construct that is used to categorise and characterise seemingly distinct and different populations.  But the reality is far more complex than this.  Africa, for example, has been shown to be the most diverse continent on Earth.  As a further example, in America, people identified as African Americans do not share one common set of physical characteristics. Instead they have a great range of skin colours, hair colours and textures, facial features, body sizes, and other physical traits.

As one scientist argues, human genetic variation is real.  However, we would be best placed to continue to study human genetic variation free of the constraining idea of race.  This is because genetic variation is an incredibly complex result of evolution which should not be reduced to race.  Similarly, he argues, race is real, it just isn’t genetic. It is a culturally created phenomenon. Because of the inability of scientists to group people into different racial packages, many modern researchers have concluded that the concept of race has no biological validity.

The study of race is of course worthy of a book, rather than the short few paragraphs here.  Although hopefully these short few paragraphs offer lots of food for thought.

What is racism?
Next we explored what racism means.  After our research, here’s the definition that we both came up with… “Racism is where someone thinks that they are better than people of a different ‘race’ (e.g. a white person thinking that they are better than a black person).  Racism is not good and it should 100% be stopped.”

What is ethnicity?
Next I thought, OK, now we know what race and racism is, but what is ethnicity and where does this fit in?  Again, this is another hugely complex area, but after our research, here’s a starting point definition that we came up with… “Ethnicity often refers to the way in which someone identifies with learned aspects of themselves (e.g. nationality, language and culture).”  As with race, ethnicity is also said to be socially constructed.  It is also something that can change over time in the course of one’s life.

The impact of race and ethnicity
While modern scientists argue that race and ethnicity have no genetic basis, the social concept of both of these can still have a significant impact on shaping human experiences.  Racial bias can fuel social exclusion, discrimination and even violence against people from certain social groups.  There are many historical examples of this such as the Apartheid in South Africa where people were forced to live separately based on race and their skin colour; and segregation in America where people were also segregated because of race and skin colour.  In both cases, black people were seen to be inferior.  The tragic recent killing of George Floyd highlights the very important ongoing need to tackle racism in society still today.

Another historical example of racism, where race was used to create political power and dominance, is the Holocaust.  Germany’s Nazi party was led by a man named Adolf Hitler and he wanted to create what he thought was ‘the best and strongest’ race.  To the Nazi party this meant getting rid of many different groups of people – most notably the Jews, but also other groups such as Gypsies, gay people, black people and those with physical disabilities.  Millions were killed during the Holocaust in the most horrific way.

Every year on 27th January, it is Holocaust Memorial Day.  This event is an important reminder of how important it is to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and differences and not to exclude people or spread hate within society.

What is white privilege?
Something else I wanted to explore with my daughter is what we mean by the sometimes confusing term, white privilege.  I found a good quote about what white privilege is by JT Flowers who is a 26 year old American rapper, student and activist living in the UK.  He feels that some people get defensive about this term because it is misunderstood and people can think of it as a term implying that people have basic rights and benefits simply because they are white.  This is what he had to say… “You might be a white person and still be poor with a lack of access to education or face a language barrier in the workplace.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be disadvantaged in other ways.  It just means that with respect to that one particular thing – your race and skin colour – you do have the luxury of not being able to think about it.  It means having the luxury of being able to step outside without fearing that you’re going to be discriminated against or oppressed in any way because of the colour of your skin.”

We then went on to discuss a personal experience to explore this further.  The other day, on Instagram, I saw an image of a little black girl aged about eight holding a poster which said… “We said that black lives matter.  We never said that ONLY black lives matter.  We know that ALL lives matter.  We just need YOUR HELP with #BlackLivesMatter for black lives are in danger.”

A white person commented on this post saying “Shouldn’t this girl be out playing with her princess dolls?  Why is she being dragged into this debate?”  I thought ‘Wow’ on so many different levels when I read this comment.  I thought about whether to reply.  Then I decided that I must, as uncomfortable as it might be.

I replied saying:  “When I was this girls age I was the only non-white person in my year at school and I was bullied by a minority of children in my class because of the colour of my skin (I won’t include some of the words here as they are pretty offensive to repeat).  When I was a bit older, about 12, I remember walking in my local very white high street with two of my 12 year old white friends, and a grown man shouted out to me… ‘Go back to Brixton where you come from you black *#+*.’  Whether I liked it or not, racism was something very real when I was the same age as the girl in the photo because it was a part of my life.  Just as it is probably a part of the girl’s life that is holding up the poster in the image.  Please think carefully before you write such comments.”  I checked back the next day and, interestingly, her comment had disappeared.

I had never shared these experiences with my daughter before yesterday (it is not something I tend to talk about very often generally really) and she was pretty wide eyed.  This led us to the final part of our learning lesson where we explored what people can do to help stop racism.

What can we do to help stop racism?
We started off this section by looking at the following quote by Edmund Burke…

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We used this quote, the personal experience I shared above, and also some examples of heroic figures involved in the fight against racism over the years to help us to think through what things we could all do to help stamp it out.  Here’s the list we came up with…

1 Don’t accept abuse.

2 Stand up for others being abused.

3 Ask a grown up for help.

4 Read, learn and take the time to properly understand racism.

5 Be kind.

I would like to finish off by sharing two quotes by Martin Luther King.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and I really hope that there is some useful material in here that can form part of your conversations with your children about racism.

Colour Activity

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homeschool craft ideas

My daughter and I had a lot of fun with a creative art project that I would love to share in case you fancy having a go.  There is ample opportunity for learning too and it makes a great homeschooling project.   The idea started by accident really.  We were doing some gardening.  We were about to put all the leaves we had cut into the garden bin, when I suddenly thought, hold on, we could make something fun with these beautiful big leaves.  We settled on the idea of making a colour garden by painting all of the leaves and creating a collage.

You just need the following items:

–        some leaves;
–        paint (acrylic paint works well);
–        water;
–        double sided sticky tape (or a normal tape which can be folded);
–        a large sheet of paper or card; and
–        a mix of different things to paint the leaves with (e.g. paint brushes, kitchen roll, a section of a scouring pad and whatever else you can think of).

In short, we collected some leaves, had lots of fun painting the leaves with lots of different tools and methods, and then created a collage on a large sheet of paper (we cut off a sheet of wrapping paper so we could get a nice size sheet).

home education activity idea

We had tubes of acrylic paint in the primary colours (blue, red and yellow) plus a tube of black and one of white.  We made good use of these colours and we mixed lots of colours too (for example, we made purple by mixing blue and red, lilac by mixing blue, red and white and orange by mixing red and yellow).

homeschooling art and craft ideas

As well as exploring different colour mixes, we experimented with textures by painting the leaves with different tools and methods in addition to using different paintbrushes.  For example, we screwed up a piece of kitchen roll into a ball, dunked this into some paint and then dabbed this onto the leaves.  We also cut off a piece of a scouring pad and dabbed the paint on the leaves with this too.  A really fun additional method we used (thanks to my mum for this suggestion) was to mix the acrylic paints with some water to make the paint much wetter.  We then applied this to the leaves and hung them up to dry on the washing line.  This created all sorts of fun patterns on the leaves as the paint travelled freely over the leaves.  We had a hunt around the garden to see what else we could use and a stem from the Christmas tree in the garden worked a treat too.

home education art and craft activities early years

homeschool and home education art and craft activities

Once all of the leaves were dry, we then cut out a large piece of wrapping paper and had fun attaching all of the different leaves (some painted and some left natural) to the paper to create the colour garden.  We applied the leaves to the paper with double sided tape.

As there are lots of different stages to this project, it’s a nice one to run over a couple of days.  We started off doing some gardening and collecting the leaves one afternoon; the next afternoon we painted the leaves and left them out to dry; and the final afternoon we painted a few more and assembled all of the leaves to create the garden collage.

homeschool and home education craft activity ideas

To add a further learning angle to his project, here are some fun facts you can share with wise little ones about colours…

 

Fun facts about colours

Visible light is made of seven wavelength groups. These are the colours you see in a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

Primary colours are blue, red and yellow. Primary colours cannot be made from other colours.

Secondary colours are made by mixing two primary colours. For example: If you mix red and yellow you get orange; if you mix blue and yellow you get green; and if you mix blue and red you get purple.

Colours like red, yellow and orange are considered warm colours and can make you feel calm and cosy. It is also believed that red causes people to feel angry.

Cool colours like blue, green and purple are also thought to make people feel calm and relaxed.  In addition, blue is believed to make people feel sad (hence the term ‘feeling blue’).

Yellow is believed to make you hungry. This is why you will often see a lot of yellow in restaurant signs!

Some people are born without the ability to see all colours and are colour blind.   They may be unable to tell the difference between certain colours like red and green, or they may not be able to see blue, for example.

Women can identify more shades of red than a man can.

The most popular colour in the world is blue!

Rainbows

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Rainbow science for kids

There is so much to learn about the beautiful rainbow.  At the end of this blog you will find lots of rainbow fun facts all about these beauties.  Firstly, we’re going to take a look at how you can create your very own rainbow.  Not only that, but we’re also going to look at how you can make light bend (when you have a read through the fun facts you’ll discover why bending light is an important part of the formation of a rainbow).

How to make a rainbow

All you need is a garden hose, a sunny day and permission to head outside.  You need to stand in a position where the sun is behind you.  Next, you need to turn the hose on and put your thumb over the nozzle where the water comes out so that it comes out as a spray (or you might have one of those hoses where you can set it to the spray setting).  Hold the hose out in front of you and spray the water out.  You should start to see a rainbow forming.  If this doesn’t work, you could try moving the hose up or down a bit.  If it still isn’t working, you might need to wait until the sun is shining a bit more brightly as you need plenty of light for this experiment.

Watch light bend

As you’ll discover in the rainbow fun facts below, bending light is key to the formation of a rainbow.  You can carry out your own experiment so that you can watch light bend.  All you need is a table, a glass of water and a pencil.

Placed the glass of water on the table and put the pencil inside with part of it peeking out the top of the water.  Firstly look at the pencil through the side of the glass.  Then at the top of the glass.  Then take the pencil back out of the water and look at it again.  What difference did you notice?  Did you notice that when you looked at the pencil through the side of the glass it looked bent?  This happened because when light passes through the glass and water it hits your eye from different angles than it normally would and makes the pencil look bent.

Try also holding the pencil right up against the side of the glass that is nearest to you and then slowly move it to the other side of the glass.  Can you notice any difference?  The pencil should look bigger and bigger as it moves further away.  This is because the more water there is between you and the pencil, the bigger the pencil will look!

Now let’s look at some fun facts about rainbows…

Rainbow fun facts

The rainbow is a multi-coloured arc appearing in the sky.

Rainbows are formed when light shines through water (e.g. like when the sun shines through the rain). This light is bent and reflected, like a reflection in a mirror, and this creates all of the colours that you see in a rainbow.

While rainbows normally appear from the rain, they can actually happen wherever light is being bent inside of water droplets (e.g. in mist, fog, spray, and dew).

Most of the time light looks white, but it is actually made up of seven colours.  These are the colours that you see in the rainbow in the following order – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet (ROY G BIV is a great way to remember these colours and their order).  Issac Newton was an English physicist and mathematician. He identified the 7 colours of the visible spectrum that together make up white light.

Sometimes we are lucky enough to see a double rainbow (and very rarely a third and fourth).  A “double rainbow” is caused by the light reflecting twice inside the water droplets.

I hope you enjoyed this fun learning topic about rainbows.