I read the article below in the Post today. I know some people like that paper, but it's not my favourite (I'm sorry). It just irritates me some days. Like today.
The story below was on the front cover. I read it a couple of times because I couldn't figure out exactly what was annoying me.
But wait, it's the first sentence "The serene stay-at-home mother who teaches her children as she cleans and cooks all day remains the main focus of modern literacy advice to families, ignoring the reality of the modern, dual-income working families"
Okay - so I understand that this is a researcher who is saying that (see below) but I also understand that they picked out a very specific phrase that just perpetrates this whole working vs. stay at home argument to use as the lead paragraph.
In my opinion they did this to raise the ire of some people. Like me.
It frustrates me to no end that they that they automatically assume the mom at home is calm and serene while the mom who works is frazzled.
Okay, I am a little frazzled, but in relation to my year of being at home not so much!
Really, meet some Stay at Home Moms. Unless you have a live in nanny or something to help you out you are generally not all that serene. I don't mean that to be offensive. It's the toughest job in the world, I believe.
I think the point that should be made here is that most literacy training materials are directed toward stay at home parents.
Point taken. How does the fact that they use shopping trips and laundry to teach reading cause SAHM's to be more serene?
I don't see this researcher saying that. What I think she is saying is that literacy material is more focused at SAHM's.
Well, that makes sense.
I'm not offended or annoyed by that part. I am still taking issue with the word serene.
Truthfully, when it comes to literacy, I don't worry that much about it. Why? Becuase he is in daycare, and one of the advantages of daycare is that is something that they work on. I get report cards and daily information from them. I do care, don't get me wrong. I love reading and I think it is crucial to my son's development. But, he's reciting his ABC's, Counting (in English and Spanish, thanks Dora!) and knows his colours.
Why? Well, I attribute that to the daycare he is in.
My sister stays at home with her kids. And, yes, they seem equally bright.
But, she does use those tactics to teach. Why? Because she is home with them all day, so instead of throwing laundry in at night she uses stuff like that as a learning session. This is normal. She also does stuff like that with the dishes and cleaning up.
She does not always do this in a serene fashion.
She doesn't own a dishwasher - how can she be serene about doing dishes? And, what does it matter in the scheme of literacy?
Really, this story is not front page news unless you want to piss people off. I really don't believe that literacy materials encouraging families to use grocery shopping as a learning experience is only focused on SAHM's. It is just more geared towards them. They know their audience - parents who are home with their kids. And, why not use laundry, cooking and cleaning as learning lessons. Yes, that is how parents did it a hundred years ago. And it worked.
And at the same time, hello, many of us working parents still grocery shop, wash our clothes and bake and cook, and we really do use these times as learning lessons.
Whatever, it's a good point, and something to look more into. Maybe there should be some literature on using the commute to daycare to teach my child counting (one bus, two bus) good hygiene (don't put your hand in your mouth after touching the subway seat, use more Purell) and even grammar (find the spelling mistake in that billboard).
But, please, let's not bring up the argument about how serene parents are.
P.S. This article is really interesting - you just have to get over the first paragraph.
In a week-long series from the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, the National Post showcases some of the most interesting research being undertaken in Canada.
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The serene stay-at-home mother who teaches her children as she cleans and cooks all day remains the main focus of modern literacy advice to families, ignoring the reality of the modern, dual-income working families, a Canadian researcher has concluded.
When parents are instructed to encourage their children's literacy, there is a subversive undercurrent that often favours this old-fashioned image of motherhood as primary agent for children's reading, says Suzanne Smythe, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia.
"The advice embeds literacy in domestic work traditionally performed by women," Ms. Smythe says. As in, "Bake cookies with your children," "Let your children help with the shopping list," and "Doing laundry is a good time to teach colours and sizes."
Often billed as based on the latest science in children's reading, she says much of the advice about encouraging children to read remains unchanged from what women have been told for the past hundred years. Even though lives have changed dramatically, with more women working and more families with time-strapped, double-income couples, much of the advice aimed at helping kids read is still rooted in very traditional notions of family life and in a mythical mother who teaches as she goes about her busy day.
"Literacy advice is often less about promoting reading and writing than about regulating mothering practices and children's reading choices," argues Ms. Smythe, who presented her findings at a conference in Toronto yesterday in a paper called, "Ideal Families, Ideal Literacies."
For her doctoral thesis, she examined child-raising manuals, parenting magazines and family literacy promotional materials from the 19th century to the present day. What she found was "a remarkable continuity" in the content of advice to mothers.
She says even though school boards often say broad-based statements such as, "Parents are their children's first and foremost educators," what is hidden in that statement are gendered assumptions about mothers' roles and primary responsibility for literacy development.
Much of the home instruction on literacy ignores the possible roles of fathers, siblings and other community members, and also fails to recognize children's own literacy interests independent of their parents, she says.
She says it is more subversive than the 19th century literature, where at least literacy was overtly expressed as the mother's domain. Now, the political correctness of language suggests that all of this is parents' work, not mothers', and yet the reality and the expectation are largely unchanged.
She says she began the research when her own children were small and she realized that even in her equal-responsibility home, where both parents read to the children, the responsibility for homework, for school assignments, for communication between home and school, fell to her.
"Is children's success in literacy and in schooling dependent on the work of the 'ideal' mother," she asks in her paper. She says the question is more than rhetorical and is particularly relevant today, when cash-strapped schools are increasingly relying on mothers not only as teachers in the home, but as advocates for school conditions and fundraisers for the school.