Archive for the 'education' Category

deviance & social control: women’s body hair

Hi champs! I know it’s been an age since I published a post, and my last post came with a promise to promptly write the next instalment in the France diaries but, well, if you’ve been following wildecrafted for any length of time you should know not to believe my claims that I’ll post more regularly. Life is just a bit too life-y these days…

One of the most life-y parts is university (I love it!). Anyway, I told a bunch of interested friends that I would share my essay for my Intro to Sociology unit once it had been marked, on the proviso that my tutor didn’t tell me that I’d totally missed the point and royally screwed it up. Well, he didn’t tell me that. He told me nice things about my work and gave me a lovely grade. So, my own blog feels like the best spot to share it, so here’s the essay…


Deviance and Social Control: Women’s Body Hair

By Kimberley Wilde

 

In 2006, fashion blogger Erin McKean wrote:

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

While quoted in countless memes that continue to circulate widely on social media, McKean’s assertion is misguided. Women are, indeed, expected to present themselves according to particular norms that exemplify a socially accepted ideal of feminine beauty (Schur 1983, 66). For example, in Western cultures, women are expected to remove physiologically normal body hair to achieve a feminine aesthetic ideal, and violation of this dominant standard of beauty is considered deviant (Braun, Tricklebank and Clarke 2013; Fahs 2014). This essay will discuss the sociological concepts of deviance and social control using the example of women’s body hair. Beginning with a definition of deviance, before applying Durkheim’s functionalist theory, then contrasting with a conflict theory approach, and finishing with a brief exploration of mechanisms of social control.

Deviance, whether behavioural, physical, intentional or unintentional, is defined as any violation of social norms. Failure to adhere to norms can have significant impacts on the social acceptability of an individual or group. Labelling deviance offers dominant groups the means to define, categorise, discredit, and control others (Schur 1983, 3). Both norms and deviance are social constructs, and therefore changeable. What is perceived to be deviant in one culture, sub-culture or historical period may be the norm in other cultures, sub-cultures or historical periods (van Krieken et al. 2014, 360). For example, in mainstream Western societies women’s body hairlessness is taken for granted, however within both lesbian and feminist sub-cultures women’s body hair is more likely to be accepted as normal (Fahs 2013, 168).

Durkheim viewed deviance as necessary to the maintenance of social order (van Krieken et al. 2014, 364). He theorised that people are born into societies with existing structures and traditions, which he called social facts, and it is social facts that shape the attitudes and behaviours of individuals (van Krieken et al. 2014, 417). Durkheim saw deviance itself as a social fact, and he identified three main functions of deviance. Firstly, deviance demonstrates social boundaries and reinforces cultural values. Secondly, collective reactions to breaches of social norms serve to unify groups of people, and therefore deviance increases social cohesion. Finally, as the deviant behaviours of today become the social norms of tomorrow and vice versa, deviance can be a source of social change (van Krieken et al. 2014, 364).

In April 2015, pop star Miley Cyrus posted a photo of herself with visible armpit hair to social media (London, 2015). Journalists, celebrity commentators, fans, and critics alike shared overwhelmingly negative reactions, unifying in collective disdain for Cyrus’s breach of acceptable feminine grooming standards. This backlash served to remind Cyrus, and women generally, of the expectation that women shall obey beauty norms, or risk ostracism. However, instead of bowing to pressure to conform, Cyrus responded to criticism by dying her deviant armpit hair pink and documenting the whole process with more pictures posted to social media (Waering, 2014). Due to her celebrity status, Cyrus’s actions were performed on a public stage. Van Krieken et al. suggest that celebrities have the power to shape history (2014, 88), and a functionalist perspective would deduce that Cyrus’s recalcitrant attitude to this particular beauty norm might indeed create social change.

In contrast to functionalism, conflict theory views deviance as a means by which dominant social groups can exert power over subordinate social groups. Based on the work of Marx, conflict theory identifies norms as benefitting some at the expense of others (Ritzer and Stepnisky 2013, 273). Marx perceived economics, or class, to be the source of all social conflict. Those who own the means of production have power over the working class, and will use deviance labelling to their advantage. Unlike the functionalist approach that questions why individuals become deviant, conflict theorists question who defines, and who gains from the defining of, deviance (Eitzen 1988, 196). It is in the interests of companies that produce and sell beauty products to perpetuate mainstream beauty norms (Schur 1983, 68). These companies will continue to make significant financial gains as long as women believe they need to perform an endless list of body modifications to achieve unattainable standards of appearance.

Unlike Marx, Weber argued that social stratification is multi-dimensional. A Weberian analysis suggests that society is stratified according to class, status and party (Ritzer and Stepnisky 2014, 127). Weber’s theory of social stratification is more applicable to contemporary Western societies, and particularly to the status of women, than traditional Marxist analysis. Women may belong to different economic classes and political parties, while still sharing the same status of womanhood. In patriarchal societies the status of women is devalued, and therefore women are subservient to the dominance of men (Schur 1983, 7). Beauty norms serve to maintain the powerlessness of women, relative to men. Women cannot refuse to subscribe to dominant beauty norms without facing the negative consequences that will result (Schur 1983, 80).

Whether it is viewed from a functionalist or a conflict theory perspective, deviance is subject to social control. Social control may be internal or external. Internal social control is self-regulation, a result of socialisation. Judith Butler, a postmodern feminist philosopher, draws on Foucault’s theories of power to show that women’s choices regarding their bodies are shaped by regulative gender discourse (Ritzer and Stepnisky 2013, 474-475). Women in Western societies have been socialised to preference removing their body hair, and while many women will claim it is their personal choice, it is a choice informed by the social fact that women’s body hair is stigmatised (Fahs 2013, 170 & 173; Braun, Tricklebank, and Clarke 2013, 478). If socialisation is not enough to control deviance then sanctions, in the form of rewards and punishments, act as external control mechanisms. Fahs’s research into women’s lived experiences with body hair identified several external control mechanisms that were exerted upon women who stopped removing their body hair. These included homophobic and heteronormative comments, and anger and threats from friends, family and sexual partners (2013, 173-175). Conversely, when women conform to the norm of hairlessness they are perceived to be, and therefore treated as though they are, more sociable, intelligent, capable, and sexually attractive (Fahs 2013, 169).

In Western cultures the physiologically normal body hair of mature women is stigmatised, and its removal is normalised. Drawing on this example, this essay has defined the social constructs of deviance and social norms. Durkheim’s primary functions of deviance have been identified and applied. Then, through the lenses of conflict theories as articulated by Marx, Weber and Butler, the role of deviance in maintaining social power imbalances has been highlighted. This essay has identified the significant effects of deviance labelling on individuals and social groups, touching on the development of internal social control through socialisation, as well as introducing the processes of external social control that are commonly exercised upon deviance.

 


Reference List

Braun, Virginia, Gemma Tricklebank, and Victoria Clarke. 2013. “ ‘ It Shouldn’t Stick Out from Your Bikini at the Beach’: Meaning, Gender, and the Hairy/Hairless Body.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 37(4): 478-493.

Eitzen, Stanley D. 1988. “Conflict Theory and Deviance in Sport.” International Review for Sociology in Sport 23(3): 193-204.

Fahs, Breanne. 2014. “Perilous Patches and Pitstaches: Imagined Versus Lived Experiences of Women’s Body Hair Growth.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 38(2): 167-180.

London, Bianca. 2015. Miley Cyrus causes ANOTHER online backlash by revealing her armpit hair in Instagram selfie… but she’s not the only celebrity to ditch the razor. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3046691/Miley-Cyrus-causes-online-backlash-revealing-armpit-hair-Instagram-selfie-s-not-celebrity-ditch-razor.html

McKean, Erin. 2006. You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. http://dressaday.com/2006/10/20/you-dont-have-to-be-pretty/

Ritzer, George, and Jeffrey Stepnisky. 2013. Sociological Theory. 9th ed. New York, USA: McGraw-Hill.

Schur, Edwin. 1983. Labeling Women Deviant: Gender, Stigma, and Social Control. Philadelphia, USA: Random House.

Van Krieken, Robert, Daphne Habibis, Philip Smith, Brett Hutchins, Greg Martin, and Karl Maton. 2014. Sociology. 5th ed. Australia: Pearson.

Wareing, Charlotte. 2014. Miley Cyrus dyes her armpit hair pink and possibly somewhere else in latest bizarre selfie spree. http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/miley-cyrus-dyes-armpit-hair-5636499

posted by wildecrafted in kimba goes to uni and have No Comments

where ya been?!

Bonjour mes amis!

Once again, there’s been what seems a lifetime between posts…

For now, at least for this post, I’m back. Back to tell y’all where I’ve been.

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The time of my hiatus from blogging has been a big one for my small family. Bean and I separated last year and navigating that has been difficult. It’s something I haven’t wished to write about in detail on a public forum because it’s not just my story, it’s Bean’s story too. Since Bean and I are no longer “we” and “us” I don’t believe it’s my right to share our stories in the way I used to on this blog. Our separation and its aftermath consumed my life for quite a time so it seemed easier to stop writing publicly than it did to write about anything and everything but the changing landscape of my family. Oh but now there is so much to write about! There are so many things to share that I think it will take a good many posts to bring y’all up to speed…

I’ll go with the “in a (very big) nutshell” approach for now so as to cover as much ground as possible in one post.

Last year I began a degree at university. I’m enrolled in a double major in community development and social + developmental psychology. I love it, it’s so many shades of awesome. After 6 years of stay at home parenting it was so refreshing to spend time talking to other adults about things that weren’t my children. I started uni a week after Bean moved out of my home, it was an intense time, but I’m proud to say I nailed it and I got consistently great marks.

The sprogs and I now live in the inner city of Perth which has been a huge change from living in Albany and Geraldton! We moved here, with Bean, in December of 2012. I’ve been in this house now for longer than I’ve been in most of my other adulthood homes. I love this house so, so much. My landlords are fantastic and I have relished the chance to care for this beautiful, old house. I had permission to paint inside recently, it’s an ongoing project as funds permit but I absolutely will be sharing a ridiculous number of photos of this house here on the blog. I’ll also be able to start telling tales of some adventures in the garden now the weather has cooled enough for plants to have a chance at establishing before being burnt to a crisp by the hot Perth Summer sun. I’ve already begun to potter around out there and I love the way it feeds my soul.

The lifestyle here is lovely. The CBD is a short walk or bicycle ride away and I have some wonderful local friends. The sprogs are both at the local state school, and while it’s not my ideal to have them at school at all (my ideal is unschooling/natural learning/life learning), it is a really lovely little school and they are both delighted with their teachers. It’s working well enough for our family right now.

I really, really miss living near big trees and breathtakingly beautiful, secluded beaches, but we live near a gorgeous big park with Morten Bay Figs and two large lakes that are habitat for turtles and birdlife. I also do get the chance to recharge in the bush every school holidays when the sprogs and I go on Interactive Adventures Camps.

It was October of 2012 when I started back as a volunteer at “camp” after taking a 5.5 year break to have the sproggets. Camp has been a huge part of my life for half of my life, and I am massively grateful to be able to share it with my sproggets now. I will be writing about camp a lot, although words really can’t express what camp is and what it means to us. Many of my very favourite people are friends I’ve met at camp. We are going on camp next week and we are all very excited. In the interests of the nutshell, and in doing justice to camp, I will stop writing about it for now but do stay tuned for more about camp in future posts…

My dear kombi Brigit is currently mid way through a restoration of sorts. She’s in a workshop now awaiting a fresh paint job after having extensive rust repair work done. I miss her pretty hard and I think my first drive in her after I get her back will be one of the sweetest experiences I’ll ever have. I am so looking forward to it.

Perhaps the biggest news, and certainly for me the happiest news, that I have to share is the introduction of a new character to my blog. It is with great pleasure I introduce to you, “Monsieur Lapin Blanc”.

 

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This man is utterly delightful and all three of us Wilde Things love him almost to the point of chest explosion.

His blog moniker is French because, no prizes for guessing, he is French. I’ve been half arsedly learning French for about 7-8 years now but this man, this white rabbit, well he’s a pretty good incentive to try a bit harder.

Monsieur Lapin Blanc has come into our family with an open heart and enriched our lives in many beautiful ways. He is so wonderful to us and we are blessed to have him. In choosing to be with me he has also chosen to give his time, his energy and his love to helping me raise the sproggets. I believe he is an excellent role model for them and he is a complete dag, which means he fits in perfectly here. We relish the time he is with us and when he is not with us I miss him like an idiot misses the point.

So there, dear readers, is as concise an update as I am able to give. We are happy, we are well, and I am back!

posted by wildecrafted in education,journal and have Comments (7)

not school camp

One morning earlier this month Bean called me from work to tell me he was not supposed to be at work because his 5 day break was scheduled to start that day and they’d just forgotten to tell him!

I was irritated by the news because had we known earlier we could have gone to the WA Natural Learning Network camp that was due to begin the following day. Bean suggested we still go.

The camp was at Donnelly River, 720km from Geraldton.

“Yeah!” we thought, we can totally pack and drive there in one day. And you know what? We did it!

It was so very, very worth it. We made the decision at noon, by 3pm we’d eaten a decent lunch, packed the kombi and were driving toward Perth. We got to my Mum’s place in Perth at around 8.45pm and we stopped for the night. We left for Donnelly River the next morning and we got there around 1pm, a couple of hours before the rest of our group started arriving. We drove in rain the whole way from Geraldton to Perth and then from Perth to Donnelly River, but the rain stopped when we arrived at Donnelly and didn’t start again until we were leaving a couple of days later. Perfect!

As soon as we arrived we were mobbed by very friendly kangaroos and emus, all wanting to know if we had anything edible in our pockets.

After some time spent patting kangaroos & being gawked at by much more cautious emus we managed to get up the stairs and away from the wildlife, drop our stuff inside our cottage and go for a walk around the village.

Most of the rest of the group arrived that afternoon and evening, with a few arriving the following day too.

That night we had a shared meal at the old mill worker’s club which was fun, chaotic, LOUD and very fulfilling for the sprogs.

After dinner we visited our old friend who is the relief manager for the village and drank cups of tea around his fire while the sprogs played with his drum kit and drew pictures at the table. Quite late at night we trotted back to our cottage for a very, very cold night’s sleep.

The next day our group hired the flying fox for a few hours and the children all ran in and out of each other’s cottages, rode bikes along the street, fed the animals from brown paper bags full of food from the general store and bottle fed some orphaned lambs.

That second evening, which was to be our last, we asked the managers if they had a heater we could use in our cottage because our fire was not heating the space. The cottage next door, which our friends were staying in, was very warm where ours was cold and our fire had been going all day while they’d lit theirs just an hour or so before. The managers couldn’t find a heater and offered to move us to a different cottage as well as reimbursing us for the night and giving us two bottles of wine.

We accepted their offer to move, and gave the wine to our friends who had been sharing their wine and beer with Bean and sharing their warm loungeroom with all of us for the evening.

That night we all slept so well in our new cottage that we decided to request an extra night rather than a reimbursement for the previous night. Our request was granted so we spent the day hanging out with the group rather than packing and heading home.

The next day rain was forecast so we decided to pack early and head off once the rain set in.

The drive back to Perth was pretty scary. A storm had hit and trees were being uprooted in the paddocks next to the road, trees had fallen over the road, large road signs were ripped out with footings still intact and we passed a caravan that had been blown on its side while being towed in the other direction. We made it back to Perth in one piece though, where we had dinner with some old friends before heading back to my Mum’s place for the night.

For the return trip to Geraldton we took the new Indian Ocean Drive, a much nicer drive than the inland roads. The sprogs were so tired after the weekend they were happy to stop infrequently and Van Halen (the white kombi) didn’t miss a beat, sitting comfortably at 60mph on the open roads, so we made it home in good time.

It took me over a week to get to the bottom of mount washmore once we were home, but luckily the post camp high lasted just as long.

A brilliant spontaneous weekend. We’re looking forward to the next camp.

 

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Thank you all for your kind comments for my last post both on the blog and via email. I tried to respond to you all, however some of the emails were eaten in cyberspace as both I and my computer got used to the new mobile phone internet connection.

This camp came just after I wrote that post and vastly improved my state of mind.

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (2)

unschool monday – withdrawal

It’s been a few weeks now since Lauren has put an end to the Unschool Monday meme she hosted at Owlet, but I’m going to write one last Unschool Monday post simply because I’ve got something to say about unschooling and it happens to be Monday!

Seven months ago I wrote about my decision to return to formal study. I planned to “upgrade” my herbal medicine qualification to a naturopathy qualification and it was only going to take me around 12-18 months. I’ve recently decided to withdraw from the course and I made that official today.

There are so many reasons, but it all really comes down to the rather simple fact that I don’t really want to be a naturopath. I’m heading in a different direction and so I’m happy with the herbal medicine qualification I currently have. Currently I’m able to help my family and my friends with the knowledge I’ve already gained from 10 years of formal and informal study and that’s really all I want out of natural medicine so there’s little point in continuing just to finish the naturopathy degree.

The primary difference between the qualification I have and the qualification I was working toward is homoeopathy. I don’t want to practice homoeopathy. I’m very skeptical of homoeopathy and it just doesn’t have a place in my life. I’ve tried to include it, but my passionate belief lies with herbs and nutritional therapies.

The last 7 months haven’t been wasted though, it’s been great to revisit this study because I’d be forever wondering if I should return to it had I not given it another go. Now I am certain I don’t want to work as a natural therapist in a clinic situation and I’m really excited to close the book on that chapter of my life and move forward to the next adventure.

posted by wildecrafted in education and have Comments (5)

playing with dolls

When I was a child I had an impressively large collection of Barbie dolls. Many of them were hand-me-downs from my older sister who had lovingly cared for her dolls and was utterly dismayed when I got my claws into them… I thought I could improve on Barbie’s face with a little biro (ok, a lot of biro!). Our younger sister was worse still, she pulled their heads off so often that they became loose and would fall off during play. When that happened she would always say, in character,

“Oh no! My head fell off, just wait while I pick it up.”

She also cut their hair, very short. She cut it when the head was attached to the body, and when the head was separated from the body. She wasn’t fussy, if it had hair, she’d cut it.

Fast forward a couple of years and I began buying Barbies of my own with my pocket money. I lovingly cared for them, just like my older sister had cared for hers. I adored my Barbies, they were my favourite toys to play with. They had managed to keep me captivated all through my childhood. They were a toy that evolved with me, from the basic doll play of a young child to more elaborate character play spanning several “episodes” where I created personalities for my favourite dolls and used them to act out long and involved plots. I played with Barbies a lot, I even played with them when I was in high school. I had two friends, one from primary school and one I’d met at high school, who also played with Barbies still. I’m certain there were more of us, but it wasn’t cool to admit it so we pretended to everyone else we knew that we didn’t play Barbies when we visited each other. No, we “hung out” (playing Barbies!).

As a young teenager my Barbie play moved from character play to character and scene creation. I created a character in my mind, gave her a name and made her clothes out of old socks and fabric from my Mum’s stash. I then built her an environment that expressed her personality. I’d make dioramas out of cardboard boxes, poster paint, fabric and craft glue. I never really played anything out once I’d created a character and an environment. I just posed the doll in there for a little while until I felt inspired to develop a new character.

One sunny day I was in the backyard hand sewing some clothes for a Barbie when a friend of my Mum’s (who I didn’t like then, and who I still find incredibly irritating all these years later) came out and teased me for playing with Barbies. She shamed me, told me I was “too old”, and asked me when I was going to grow up like everyone else in high school.

After that I decided it was time to pass my entire collection on to my younger sister who wasn’t particularly interested. It wasn’t long before we were packing the dolls, their horses, their cars, their accessories (I told you I had an impressively large collection!) into big boxes and giving them to the little girls who lived across the road.

I was really sad to see my Barbies go. I hadn’t wanted to stop playing with them.

Now we’ll fast forward a few more years. I’d finished high school, long since forgotten about the Barbies. I was at uni and I met a fella who sparked my interest in feminism. Here’s a funny fact for you… most women I know remove their body hair for men, but for this particular man I stopped removing my body hair. He told me he’d never been with a woman who shaved her arm pits, and being eager to please that particular man I stopped shaving mine, realised how much easier life became and in the 8 years since I’ve not looked back. I’ll have to remember to thank him next time I see him! Anyhow, I digress…

So, back to the Barbies, my young hairy self began to critique fashion dolls. They’re a cog in the huge machine of patriarchal oppression. They create unrealistic “beauty” ideals for young girls. They perpetuate intolerance. They represent a narrow expression of femaleness. Etcetera…

I decided then that no child of mine would ever play with fashion dolls! It’s so easy to idealise the way we’ll parent when we’re not yet parents, isn’t it?! So, I the hairy, feminist, idealistic parent of as-yet not conceived children would not set my child up to idolise a symbol of opression. When my daughter was born I adhered to it too. I ranted to my family, I gave strict instructions to them all to never, never, never buy my daughter a Barbie doll, and they’ve been obeyed for 4.5yrs (those strict instructions still stand, in case you were wondering). I had my older sister on my team also. We were the anti-Barbie brigade and you should have seen us go!

Let’s fast forward again shall we, because this story is already getting ridiculously long… We’ll fast forward to last week. Boxing Day to be exact. The day I, the hairy anti-Barbie feminist Mama, bought THREE fashion dolls. One for Sprout. One for Moe. One for me!

I know, I know. Those who know me in real life can pick your jaws of the floor now and allow me to explain myself.

Back in October 2010 I wrote this post about toy weapons and my (then) feelings toward them. The first comment, from Kestrel, on that post is one that introduced a whole new perspective to me. Here is the first part of Kestrel’s comment, for those who don’t want to click the link.

There is an essay in Katrina Kennison’s “Mitten Strings For God” which you may find helpful. She has tow sons and one has never shown any interest in things that (to quote from memory) slice, swat, explode, shoot but her other son has always been fascinated by pirates, swords and guns. Because of her own attitudes towards weapons that son began to name himself “bad”.

I began to wonder if it was ok to impose my own value judgements on my children and the things they expressed interest in. I know I hate it when someone poo-poos something I’m interested in. I know I hated it when my Mum’s friend did it to me as a young teenager. What happened to me then, being shamed into giving up something I really enjoyed, could very well be what I would end up doing to my own children. The thought that I could say or do something that would lead my children to believe that they were bad because I didn’t approve of their interest was really upsetting. After lots of discussion with myself, with Bean and with other parents, I resolved to be a bit less black and white about everything my children showed an interest in. Sure, I can discuss issues with my children, I can explain why guns are harmful, why Barbies are harmful etc. but at the end of the day, I’m not interested in creating a forbidden fruit or creating a situation where my children believe there’s something wrong with them because they like something I don’t approve of.

For the record, Sprout is really fascinated with killing monsters at the moment. She’s hugely into guns, though she hasn’t got any toy weapons she still uses sticks to pretend. I’ve been told it’s very normal for 4 year old children to be into weapons and fighting games. I view it as an opportunity to discuss violence with her. She’s reminded regularly to play carefully with her”guns”. She knows (though sometimes needs reminding) that if someone says or otherwise indicates that they don’t want to play that game that she’s expected to respect that and stop the game. She knows she’s not bad for playing at killing monsters. She knows she’s not bad for telling someone she just killed them. We’ve been able to give boundaries, while not stifling the phase she’s in right now.

So, how does that tangent relate to me, anti-Barbie me, buying fashion dolls for my children?!

I’ve taken Sprout into toy stores a few times, and every time since around the time she turned four she’s asked me about the fashion dolls. I’ve dismissed it, told her they’re just toys, told her they’re for doll’s houses, told her all sorts of things without trying to put (too much of) my own value judgement on it. She was never going to get one, right? So what did it matter? Wrong. She kept saying things like,

“Oh I really wish I could have one of them.”

And I would reply,

“Why? What makes you want one?”

She could never give me an answer beyond saying that she just wanted one.

I remembered how much I had loved playing with my Barbies, and felt like a bit of an arsehole for telling her she couldn’t have one. I still couldn’t get past the Barbie thing though. All the bloody make up. Ewww. I started doing some research on Barbie-sized dolls that weren’t Barbie. I was looking for something my daughter could relate to a little more. I found a few, but the ones that stuck out at me were the Liv Dolls. They were inexpensive, unlike the Japanese dolls I’d found that were a bit more realistic. The Liv Dolls don’t tick all my boxes. In fact, they tick few. They still have skinny bodies, disproportionately big heads (reminding me somewhat of starved catwalk models) and flawless skin/make up.

What they did offer, aside from a price tag that make them attainable, was more realistic eyes, an articulated body, flat feet that can wear normal shoes and hair that can be replaced with a new wig so hair cutting wouldn’t be such a big deal.

I decided to buy a doll for each of the sproggets, and one for me, so there’d be enough for us to play with all together. If I’d just got one for Sprout then Moe may have decided to wreck the game since he couldn’t play. I also wanted to play with my daughter, so that’s where my doll comes in to the equation.

While I was reading about dolls I came across a few tutorials for how to remove the stock face paint on dolls and how to repaint faces and seal them so they could be played with without rubbing the paint off. I also found some inspiration for handmade doll’s clothes, which I thought couldn’t possibly be too hard… I was slightly wrong there! Sewing anything in miniature is an exercise in frustration. Aaaaanyway…

I decided that for the cost of these dolls I could wipe one of the faces, and try my hand at customising. At the very worst we’d just have a doll with unpainted features, it’d have to be better than the stock make up look, surely?

So I got the materials I needed (acetone based nail polish remover, acrylic paints, matte varnish, gloss varnish) and had a go.

Before
After wiping stock paint off and before painting
After face repaint.

Turns out I’m not so bad at painting doll’s faces. After I did the first one Sprout asked me to do hers, she wanted freckles on her doll too. I got a wig for Sprout’s doll that is closer to her hair colour so her doll shares her eye and hair colour. She has named her doll “Annie” and Annie comes to a lot of places with us. Annie originally had inserted eyelashes like the others I’ve done, but Sprout wanted yellow eyelashes and on learning that I can’t buy yellow eyelashes she decided she’d rather Annie have no eyelashes than brown ones!

Annie, dressed as a pumpkin!

I’ve made 3 or 4 t-shirts for Annie (and friends), a couple of skirts, a couple of dresses, some overalls and a pair of pants.

I have since wiped the paint off my doll, but left Moe’s for now since Moe broke the leg on his doll and has shown that he’s still too young to be interested in dressing dolls.

My doll

I have also spent this week customising dolls for my niece and nephew. The children of aforementioned older sister, who is also anti-Barbie! With my sister’s permission I’ll be giving my 9 year old niece and 5 year old nephew their first fashion dolls. A cowgirl and a farmer…

So, it’s not a perfect solution. There is still something anti-feminist about them, but it’s been a good compromise for our family, and at the end of the day I have to acknowledge that despite my obsession with fashion dolls as a child and young teenager (and even now, as an adult I suppose), I’m still hairy and damned happy about it!

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the first meeting of denmark natural learners

Yesterday we got together with some natural learning families at the home of a lovely family who are testing the waters after their eldest child expressed a desire to homeschool. Some of the families live here already, and some are moving here in the coming months. It was such a lovely gathering that we’ve decided to get together again next week while most of us are still around. One of the families will have to return to Perth befoe then which is unfortunate, but the rest of us are able to come along. Each family had both Mum and Dad there, since it’s holiday time, and it was really lovely to connect with other natural learning families in a group situation.

The sprogs had a great time, and Sprout has told us how much she’s looking forward to the next gathering. I am too, and I’m also really looking forward to it being a regular occurence when we’re all living in Denmark.

After the gathering we went back to the home of one of the families and had some lunch together. Our children play well together and we really enjoy spending time with them all so it was a nice segway from larger group gathering to smaller group to just our family group again this evening.

I borrowed a book about pagan celebrations from them after a bit of a chat about our desire to bring more seasonal celebration into our lives. My sister owns the book, but I’ve only quickly flicked through it before. It was nice to talk about the nature of celebration with other people, especially these people because they’re just so open.

I really enjoy spending time with other natural learning families, I come away feeling energised and inspired.

 

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unschool monday – lunchbox apple

When I was at school my Mum packed an apple in my lunchbox every day, and every day that uneaten apple would go home again. It wasn’t that I didn’t like apples. I just didn’t like lunchbox apples.

Lunchbox apple bounced around in my lunchbox, in my backpack, on the walk to school every morning. Lunchbox apple got bruised by all that bouncing, and lunchbox apple squashed my sandwich too.

By the time lunch break rolled around the bruises on lunchbox apple were an unappealing shade of brown and my squashed sandwich looked much less appealing than the gloriously presented sandwiches my Mum made for us at the weekend.

I’m so glad I don’t have any pressure to pack a perfect (or even merely adequate) school lunch each day. I don’t have to worry about having lunch (and breakfast) made at sparrow fart five days a week, I don’t have to worry about my sprogs having the latest lunchbox fad foods, and I don’t have to worry about how I’d pack the lunches we do have into a small box.

Yesterday for morning tea we shared a platter with cut apple & ABC* paste, carrot sticks, cut orange, cashew nuts, goji berries, date & coconut rolls**, honey-cinnamon pop corn***, and a cup of rooibos tea with honey and raw cow milk. For lunch we had cous cous with tuna & salad vegetables, it took a couple of minutes to make and tasted great. I’d be hard pressed to have both of those meals presented nicely in a lunchbox before the school day began. I’m very pleased there’s no pressure to do it every day, it makes those days when we have to pack a lunch feel like a novelty, not a chore.

 

*almond, Brazil nut & cashew – we use it as a dip for cut apple

**blended dates rolled into logs and coated with desicated coconut

***melt 2Tbs butter & 2 Tbs honey with 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon on the stove, then pour over freshly popped popcorn

 

Unschool Monday is inspired by Owlet.

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unschooling is not exclusive

A lot of my unschooling posts could very easily be labelled “parenting”, “things my kids do”, “kids”, “learning in general”, “journal”, “day in the life”… you get the idea.

That’s because natural learning isn’t exclusive to unschoolers. Everyone learns naturally, whether they’re 8 months old, 8 years old, 18 years old, 80 years old (again, you get the idea). Everyone learns naturally, whether they’re full time unschoolers, full time schoolers, full time workers, part time workers, part time schoolers, you know? Learning is one of those things we can’t escape, even if we wanted to!

I don’t mean to come off as exclusive when I write unschooling posts, and I certainly hope that I don’t. My aims in writing posts about unschooling are to explore (and record the development of) my own unschooling philosophy, and to share with my readers how boringly normal unschooling can be. Facilitating our children’s natural learning is not rocket science, it’s just parenting* really.

Obviously, my children are still quite young. If we were sending them to school Sprout would only be in kindy this year, and Moe wouldn’t be going for another couple of years, so while they’re not officially “school age” there’s probably going to be a lot of similarities between many of my unschooling posts & many other “Mummy blogger” posts. The posts where I discuss the evolution of our unschooling philosophies will be more typical of an unschooler’s blog, but those posts that describe how our days go, those “unschool Monday” posts where I waffle about painting, playdough, craft, story time at the library… well they’re just not exclusive – all Mummy blogs have those posts.

*Some days I do wonder whether rocket science is actually harder than parenting…

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unschool monday – self directed

This morning I was granted a little sleep in.

Bean goes to Tafe Mondays, so he doesn’t have to be out the door quite as early as other weekdays. Bean got up with the sproggets today & while I lay in bed dozing, he put some Cat Stevens on the stereo, changed Moe’s nappy & dressed him, left Sprout in her pyjamas at her request*, made them all some porridge for breakfast & then cleaned up. He let me know when he was almost ready to go so I could get up & do my morning ritual without any interruption because I was not the only parent at home & the sproggets had been catered for already, amazing!

Once Bean left I made a smoothie for myself & the sproggets. We sat together & drank our smoothies then the sproggets each did their own thing while I cleaned up the blender & glasses. Yes, you read that right… the sproggets each did their own thing.

Not only that though, they continued to do their own thing for quite some time after I’d finished cleaning the smoothie dishes. In that time of quiet, self directed play, I was able to do some study(!). I read (& understood) 3 pages of a chapter on the endocrine system without interruption(!!) & they were still playing when I finished.

In the end, I actually asked them to play with me. I was energised & in the mood for meaningful interaction, I was feeling able to make ammends for the times I’ve said,

“Not right now, I don’t want to/I can’t be bothered/I’m too tired/I’m too busy.”

I asked Sprout what she wanted to do & she told me she’d like to play with the playdough.

“Yes!” I said, “And we can do better than just playdough… we can do playdough & coloured pop-sticks & pipe cleaners & GOOGLY EYES!”

We played playdough together, on & off, all day. Interspersed with lots of scrummy snacks & more self-directed play. I’m amazed at the complete lack of input required from me today. I’m amazed at the relative harmony between Moe & Sprout, so few disagreements, so much co-operation. I’m amazed at how nicely the day flowed, both sproggets freely entertaining themselves for a whole gloriously easy day, with me even being able to get a bit of stress free reading done for college!

 

*Sprout stayed in her pyjamas all day, until we all went for a quick walk with Dave when Bean came home at 4pm. That’s the beauty of Mondays, our only full weekday at home, we can sloth about in our jarmies all day long & still learn heaps, laugh heaps & love heaps!

 

Unschool Monday is inspired by Owlet.

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unschool monday – let them grow

We found this sign when we went for a bushwalk yesterday. It was a quiet opportunity for more discussion about where this unschooling path is taking us.

One night last week the sproggets weren’t going to sleep. Bean was getting irritated, he didn’t want to devote several hours to getting the sprogs to sleep. It had been a long day at work for him, he’d been digging trenches through rock all day. We had a lot to do around the house before we could go to bed. Dishes to wash, laundry to fold, floors to vacuum & mop. If we spent time trying to get the sproggets to sleep before we started on those jobs we’d be very late to bed ourselves.

I was feeling surprisingly zen about the whole sproggets awake at 10pm thing. I put some relaxing oils in the oil vapouriser & played some of Sprout’s “sleeping music” and I just got on with doing the dishes. I stopped a few times to breastfeed Moe. I massaged some calming oil into Sprout’s feet at her request. I asked her if she’d like to get up. No, she was happy where she was.

Bean was still irritated. He was tired, and he had a lot to do. I told him to just do it. The world wouldn’t end if the sprogs were awake while he got on with his jobs. The world wouldn’t end if we told the sprogs we couldn’t spend hours laying with them as they grew tired enough to sleep. The world wouldn’t end if we just waited until they were tired enough to sleep. Ironically, in the past it’s been him who is quick to remind me of this.

We have spent far too much time & energy getting stressed out about our children’s bedtime. Too many tears (from us!). Too much frustration (from them!). That old saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, came up in my mind. No matter what we do, if the sprogs aren’t tired, they’ll not sleep. And no matter what we do, if the sprogs are tired, they’ll sleep!

We’ve been talking about it on & off ever since, & when we were walking yesterday we talked about it a bit more, this whole unschooling thing. The trust required from us. Trust for the process. Trust for each other. Trust for the sproggets.

We’re feeling more trusting of unschooling, the further into it we get. We’re more aware now of the self-regulation the sproggets have been displaying all along. When I make pikelets Sprout tells me every time when she has reached her limit, it’s always something like,

“I’m going to have just one more, otherwise I’ll feel sick.”

Recently, when Sprout had a chest cold she told me she couldn’t drink milk because it made her throat “thick” & caused her to cough.

They know their bodies better than anyone. They know if they’re tired enough to sleep, or hungry enough to eat. I can see outward signs that they’re tired – glazed eyes, yawning, sudden ratty moods – and I can ask them if they’d like to rest, but I can’t make them sleep.

I can help them wind down, with the aromatherapy & the relaxing music Sprout so loves to hear, but I can’t shut their eyes for them!

I can provide regular meals, but that doesn’t mean they will feel hungry when a meal is set in front of them, or that they won’t feel hungry in between meals.

We have a wide range of fabulous food in our fridge & pantry, which recently Sprout has begun helping herself to, or at least being quite specific when she asks me to get her some food. Moe is also being specific, and he’s is just 20 months. He can’t reach the handle to the pantry door, but he can get up to the sink by using a chair so he climbed up this morning to grab a spoon then tapped on the pantry door. I opened the door & asked him to point to what he wanted. A spoonful of honey… No problem!

We’ve decided to be a bit more free, a bit less authoritarian, we’re loosening our grip on unearned control and following their cues with regard to food & sleep. They’ll rest when they’re tired & eat when they’re hungry.

We’re not at that point with screen time (yet?). We don’t have a television anyway, & don’t want to bring one in to our home. We have 2 laptops, Bean takes his to work each day & I have my own. Neither of us want to give our laptops over for the sproggets to have free reign with them. We don’t force them to share their toys, nor do we force ourselves to share ours! The sprogs do watch some programs on ABC iView, either alone while I do some housework or study during the day (Playschool) or with us of an evening (Spicks & Specks or similar), but they certainly don’t have unlimited access to screens – mainly because we don’t have unlimited screens, & a little bit because we don’t see screen time as a need, like hunger or food, so it’s a little harder to self-regulate. We’re observing screen addiction in ourselves & not liking the affects so we’re not going to open that can of worms up for the sprogs just yet. Baby steps… food & sleep for now.

Unschool Monday inspired by Owlet.

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