Laurie A. Couture on Attachment Parenting, Unschooling, Social Justice and The Planet

The Gender Politics of Toys, Part II: Shunning Boys and Turning Lego Pink

06 January 2014 Categories: Blog, Boys and Girls

In Part I of this post, I discussed that the toy company, GoldieBlox recently made the disappointing marketing move of reacting to pink saturation and gender polarization in the toy market by producing yet another pink and pastel toy specifically for girls. They further added insult to injury by producing a viral ad that not only plagiarized a song by The Beastie Boys, but the ad incited separatist, anti-boy attitudes and inflammatory lyrics claiming falsely that “everything else” in the toy stores (except pink princess accessories and dolls) “is for boys.” Part II will focus on the contrast between the toy marketing of the 1970′s and 1980′s, which was more gender inclusive than previous decades, and the cultural shift of the 1990′s and 2000′s which led toy companies to disassociate from boys and “pink saturate” their products, causing a regression back to gender polarization.

The 1970′s and 1980′s: When the toy companies embraced gender inclusiveness

When I was a child in the mid-70′s and 80′s, there was less gender polarization in children’s toys than there is today. I enjoyed playing with a diversity of toys and cared little about whether they were marketed to a specific age-group or to one sex or the other- My goal was simply to have fun and to augment my imagination with props!

Girls were being empowered in the 1970′s and 1980′s to do and become anything they chose. Girls were proudly working to their potential alongside their male peers, with both sexes rightfully being seen as valuable and capable. However, fast forward to the new Millennium, and gender polarization and stereotyping has become almost more extreme than in the 1950′s! [...]

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The Gender Politics of Toys, Part I: GoldieBlox and the Gender Polarized Ad

23 November 2013 Categories: Blog, Boys and Girls

The makers of GoldieBlox building toys for girls seem to have forgotten the 1980′s, when pink wasn’t popular and girls were encouraged to play with any toys that they pleased, including building toys such as Lego, Tinker Toy, K’Nex, Capsellas, Erector Sets, MegaBlox, Lincoln Logs and others. I saw through the fact that GoldieBlox has simply produced yet another pink, gender polarized toy for girls by financially exploiting the already excessive “Girl Power” climate and I am bewildered why most parents and the media are heralding the ad as “awesome”. With more than 6 million hits, GoldieBlox’s video ad of three little girls shunning pink princess toys in order to build a Rube Goldberg machine- using the pink and pastel GoldieBlox products- seems to have seduced parents into believing that before now, girls never had the opportunity to build!

The beginning of the commercial looked promising to me: Three creatively-dressed young girls stare with lament and boredom at a TV screen advertising pink-saturated princess props. The girls then start up an old modified Fisher-Price record player which plays the tinny melody of The Beastie Boys’ song, Girls. Starting the record player sets in motion a massive house and yard-wide Rube Goldberg machine that we are led to believe the children built using rejected pink accessories and GoldieBlox parts, which look very familiar… (Think Tinker Toys and K’Nex). However, the ad’s playful charm ended for me when I realized that the new lyrics that the girls were singing were as sexist as the original party lyrics written by The Beastie Boys… and the ad had a clear political agenda. [...]

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NOT-Back-To-School: Unschooling is Nature’s “Curriculum”

27 August 2012 Categories: unschooling

Back-To-School? Or Nature’s Intent for Learning?
(Laurie’s son, Brycen, joyfully exploring the wonders of nature)

I revel in the embrace of summer, when children are again a part of the community and a part of the natural landscape! It brings me such joy to see children jumping in the waves at the ocean, running through a wooded trail, exploring plant and animal life, digging in the sand, climbing trees, creating artistically in the community or leaping from boulders into a rocky basin gorge. I reflect with warmth and love at how September for my unschooled son has always been a relaxing and relieving time- yet another month to extend the joys of summer; the beginning of another cycle of him living and learning in freedom.

However, for the majority of the children in society, the “Back-To-School” nightmare seems to get an earlier start every year. Many schools are forcing children to return to school in late August, two weeks earlier than when I was a child. In mid-July, advertisements on TV, the radio, online, in stores and in junk mail flyers begin threatening children a month too soon about the impending dread of school. It strikes me as very passive aggressive that our culture takes a condition that most children find so distressing- being confined against their will for nine months of the year- and throws it in their face relentlessly during the second half of their summer time. [...]

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Liberals, DO Homeschool Your Kids!

21 February 2012 Categories: public school

Laurie’s son, Brycen, involved in social justice work

Why allowing children to live and learn freely nurtures progressive values

The institution of forced school is in panic mode right now. More and more parents are taking action to protect their children from a largely unaccountable environment that is responsible for inflicting intensifying distress upon young lives. Increasing numbers of parents are opting for arts-based charter schools, child-centered private schools, democratic schools, homeschooling and the most natural choice, unschooling. The institution of public schooling has been responsible for child abuse, human rights violations, epidemic psychiatric drugging, health risks, violence, enforcing increasingly stressful time expectations, developmentally inappropriate curriculum, lack of play and physical activity, destroying creativity and dulling children’s interest in learning. The Slate article, Liberals, Don’t Homeschool Your Kids by Dana Goldstein seems to minimize many of these human rights concerns and instead begs progressive parents to do what is in the best interest of the public schools. As a progressive parent who is unschooling a happy, socially conscious, community-involved, socially adept and creative teen son, I am asking you to instead consider what is best for your children and what is in the best interests of children’s rights in our society. Does public school nurture or violate progressive values? [...]

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Announcing My Second Book, Nurturing and Empowering Our Sons

23 January 2012 Categories: Attachment parenting, unschooling

It all started back in 1979, when I was around five years old. My next door neighbor, Toby, was my best friend at the time, and I recall a conversation he and I had on the long staircase leading up to his kitchen sliding glass door. We were having a serious discourse that both boys and girls could do and be whatever they wanted to be. We were trying to come up with some things that could disprove our theory, but we were coming up short. Suddenly, as he bit into his snack, Toby piped up, [...]

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You Can’t Reform An Education System Built on Oppression

16 November 2011 Categories: public school

Laurie’s son displays his Occupy Education post

Talk of “education reform” is viral all over the internet. Despite multiple failed attempts at “reform” over the past decades, society refuses to think outside the “box” of schooling and consider a radical return to how children learned for millennia- By playing, living and doing! Teachers and others in the field of education continue to propose that the oppressive, prison-like institution where children are forced to stay seated in a building all day pumping out paperwork can and should be reformed! When democratic schooling, homeschooling and unschooling advocates attempt to join the conversation and offer models that are successful and truly radical, they are often met by educators and their supporters who dismiss these models as idealistic and not “realistic” for “everyone”. Additionally, people seem not to be aware of the fact that despite talks of reform, the needs, voices and leadership of the people who are the most adversely affected by public schooling- youth- are left out of the conversation. [...]

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Bring Back Playgrounds for Children of All Ages

28 October 2011 Categories: Uncategorized

Laurie's teen son, Brycen on one of the few recent playgrounds that offer a challenge

The rich, vibrant primary colors and the allure of the tube slides make today’s playgrounds appear at first glance like jungle gym paradises. But run over to one, climb aboard via one of the two or three meager challenges, drop through the tube slide and you’ve virtually exhausted the potential of the entire structure! Although attractive, today’s playground structures are becoming less and less challenging and are catering to younger and younger children. [...]

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What Children Really Want to Tell Teachers

01 October 2011 Categories: public school, unschooling

Laurie’s son, Brycen R. R. Couture, 17 year old unschooler and musician

I am sharing the words of my 17 year old son in response to Ron Clark’s article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents. Brycen is an unschooler and the vocalist and songwriter for his Glam Metal band project, Serenade II Darkness.

What Children Really Want to Tell Teachers

by Brycen R. R. Couture

This is my second response to Ron Clark’s article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents. My Mom, Laurie A. Couture, also wrote a response to his article, What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers. This is what I say from a child’s perspective to Ron Clark and to teachers like him. [...]

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What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers: What You Do Hurts Our Children

12 September 2011 Categories: children's rights, public school

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs (Image by Factoryjoe)

Many parents are shaking their heads at the audacity and insolence of the CNN article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents by Disney-and-Oprah-endorsed teacher, Ron Clark. His article is dangerous because it represents how the majority of traditional school teachers view children, parents and teachers’ roles as authorities over children’s lives. In my post, What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents, I challenge Ron Clark to consider the dehumanization of children and the undermining of the parent-child bond in the institution he represents.

Most parents in industrialized societies are conditioned by their own schooling to be obedient and unquestioning of their children’s schools and the so-called authorities therein. A frightening majority of parents are unaware that most everything that traditional school teachers do is developmentally inappropriate and even harmful for youth of all ages. However, a growing movement of parents are parenting through awareness, consciousness and connection to their children’s needs. Many of these parents are opting out of public and traditional schools are are seeking refuge for their children in child-centered and democratic schools or through homeschooling and unschooling. As a mother of an unschooling teen son, and based on the years of complaints I have heard from parents and their children about traditional schools, I have compiled a list of  concerns and presented them to teachers in the context of their own education: [...]

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What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents

08 September 2011 Categories: public school

Sometimes school propaganda comes out that is so obviously, shockingly dehumanizing to children and undermining of the parent-child relationship that it amazes me that anyone dared print it. The viral CNN article, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents by Disney-and-Oprah-endorsed Ron Clark, epitomizes the word “propaganda” and gets a gold star for its audacity in dehumanizing children and undermining the parent-child relationship. Homeschooling author, Linda Dobson, immediately tackled the article with a blog post that paragraph by paragraph exposed the hypocrisy and callousness of teachers’ attitudes towards children and parents.

Public schools are government institutions that have literally taken control of  much of the global population and most world cultures. By holding all children under 18 as hostages, against their wills, this infectious institution forces the population to deny the self, homogenize, obey and consume. By choking down an irrelevant, carefully engineered “education” in a factory-like environment,  children are conditioned to ignore their bodies, emotions, passions, interests, questions, ideas, creative impulses, purposes and needs. In the US, this multi-billion dollar social conditioning machine trains children to take their place  assisting the United States in remaining the World power through economic and political globalization. This control of the population was the intent of public schooling when it was made into law in 1852. [...]

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Recess Isn’t Enough: Active Play Should Be All Day

21 August 2011 Categories: public school, unschooling

Laurie's 17 year old unschooling son active at play

A post on Care2 states that the demise of school recess hurts student learning. It advocates that children should have “even 15 minutes” to “run around”. I believe that this article misses a major point- A few-minute gesture of respite or “recess” from hours of mindless busywork is not “recess” at all. The value of outdoor play is in realizing that children’s natural state of being is play and movement. Reversing the ratio of active playing vs. sitting down would be a wonderful start for schools: Freedom to play and move should consume the child’s day and “15 minutes” to sit in discussion (if children so choose) would be more in line with a child’s natural development. [...]

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(Putting Joy Back Into) A Day in the Life of an Industrialized Child

08 January 2011 Categories: Attachment parenting, Blog, Natural family living, unschooling

In the womb, babies are blanketed in a blissful neurological expectation that when they finally are born into the world, their needs in every manner will be responded to lovingly and met immediately. There is an inborn agreement with nature that because nature intended it to be so, it will be. In many peaceful indigenous tribal societies, this will be the life for most babies that come into the tribe: Love, affection, joy, play, freedom and happiness.

In our industrialized, disconnected culture, we are born into something very different. We are born into a world-view in which nature’s agreement has expired, is disrespected and long forgotten by the majority of the culture. We are born into the firmly established expectations of wounded parents and families who survived their own malnourished childhoods, and of a society that has one motivation in mind: Money. Despite all of the carefree childhood myths, before we even scream our first screams into the world of being born, our entire childhood has been decided for us- It is a preparation for “success”: Productivity, the workforce, a money-making machine. [...]

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Public Schools that Cut Recess and Play Need a Lesson in Child Development

12 October 2010 Categories: Blog, public school

The national trend of eliminating play-based learning, unstructured play and frequent physical activity for youth at all grade levels in public schools defies all of the research on learning theory, child development and the study of childhood in indigenous cultures.

As someone who has worked with children of all ages for over 18 years in the roles of counselor, social worker, educator, child care provider and mentor, I am intimately aware of the negative effects on children and adolescents who are confined to chairs and forced to labor over paperwork for 6-9 hours per day. Epidemic numbers of American school children are presenting with profound distress signals in reaction to the developmentally inappropriate environments of public schools. These distress signals, including hyperactivity, distraction, aggression, poor school performance and school refusal are mislabeled as “ADHD”, learning “disabilities” or mental “illness” in such children and the knee-jerk reaction has been to chemically control these children with powerful, dangerous psychiatric drugs.

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Back to School Signals the End of Childhood Joy and Freedom

15 August 2010 Categories: homeschooling

This past weekend my 16 year old son and I went camping with some friends of ours. While kayaking alongside my son and our friends during our trip, I marveled at the vivid beauty before me: Mount Chocorua gracing proudly and breathtakingly in the distance, accented by New England White Pines, peaceful Lilly-padded lake and the salve of nature’s sounds.

I had to take a breath of sheer awe at the perfect beauty when my son and his friend in their boat rowed by with playful boyish charm across this backdrop as I sat and watched in my kayak. I regretted that I had not wrapped my camera in a plastic bag and brought it along to capture this moment. My mind immediatly soared back to the days of Native America, when joy was the purpose of childhood, when Native American children would have paddled their canoes across this very backdrop, laughing, racing and splashing just like my son and his friend, while loving parents in their canoes smiled serenely and with perfect love and gratitude for the children, the mountain, the lake, the trees, the lilly pads, animals… and the freedom. [...]

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Schools Banning Silly Bandz: More Important than Banning School Abuse of Children?

03 August 2010 Categories: Uncategorized

TIME magazine recently reported that public schools are finding yet another excuse to curtail children’s freedom of expression: An obsession with Silly Bandz (Banning the Bandz, June 14, 2010)!

I am convinced that public school administrators and many teachers  invest  energy in seeking out and extinguishing nearly any semblance of fun, enjoyment, comfort and pleasure that children are able to sneak into the monotonous and joyless school day. If the children are becoming lively, excited and interested in something or otherwise distracted from the tedium of the school day, you can be sure that if the school didn’t sanction it, it’ll be found out and prohibited. Rather than abolish practices that are actually harmful and traumatizing to children, such as corporal punishment, standardized testing, psychiatric drugging, developmentally inappropriate teaching methods and the practices of rationing toilet use and restricting physical activity and play, public schools would rather ban harmless novelties…  such as rubber bracelets…

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