Monday, January 21, 2013

Explaining Martin Luther King, Jr to Children

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Once again, my four year old has asked some questions that I was not ready to answer.  I guess I assume that my kids are going to have a foundation of personal experience when they come up to me with questions about why things are the way they are.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr day and there is no school.  Obviously, that requires some explanation, because they love school and they need to know why the schedule is being disrupted.  Silly me.

So, last night, when an explanation was demanded, I told Princess that today was MLK day and that usually means that kids have the day off of school to remind them of something important that happened in our history.

Not good enough.

What happened?  Where were we when this happened?  What was important?  Why is he important?  Why do we have to stay home from school to remember? It went on and on.

I don't want to approach racism with her.  I don't want to highlight the inequality.  She's not ready for those concepts yet.   So how do you explain Civil Rights, segregation, protest and the like?

I told her that things were different when her grandparents were growing up (she likes a frame of reference when time is involved) and that Martin Luther King, Jr. worked really hard so that people would see that everyone was equal.  Not how we are different but how we are the same.  Differences are important and make us unique, but they shouldn't make us not like someone.

She accepted that momentarily, but as I was leaving the room (this was at bed time, lights off, saying good night...) there were more questions.

I told her we would look it up on the computer today. And that's what I have been doing.  I'm not sure I want to expand on any of it any more than what I have already told her.  Maybe when I get home tonight, we will look at some pictures together and I will try to show her who he was without talking about the hard stuff.  In a few years, she will, unfortunately, have an idea about inequality and our "differences."  Until then, I'm leaving it alone. 

What have you told your children about today?  Have you had to talk about it yet?

Some Resources if you are interested:

Explaining MLK Day to Your Kids -The Stir
A Parent's Guide to Explaining Martin Luther King, Jr. Day -The Chicago Tribune
Martin Luther King, Jr.: 5 Websites with facts for Kids - Parent Dish
Learning About Martin Luther King, Jr. in Preschool - Teach Preschool
Living Montessori: Inspiration for Martin Luther King day- Living Montessori Now

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