the network for radical unschooling families
As we prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day, it's also important to realize that about 80% of all chocolate we consume is being made by child laborers, many of whom are taken from their homes, in Africa. This is a perfect time to teach our children--and learn ourselves--about "Fair-Trade" products. When something is fair-trade certified, it means that those who make the products are fairly compensated, and that their children are not working to produce these products. Our family makes a great deal of effort to ensure our pleasure--we love chocolate and coffee--are not bought at the expense of others' families. Despite having a very limited income, we work very hard to eat and consume justly.
Here are two suggestions to integrate into your unschooling lives:
1) Read this very informative article on the issue (I've used in my ethics courses and students have found it very powerful) http://www.johnrobbins.info/blog/is-there-slavery-in-your-chocolate/
2) If you'd like tips on places to "fair-trade" products just send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 3) For those interested in informing your children about fair-trade issues around chocolate production see the curriculum: "Setting a Higher Bar: Global Exchange's Fair Trade Cocoa Unit for Kids." http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/fairtrade/cocoa/ChocolateCu... (If you like, we would be happy to email you the document directly.) Both our son Julian, 6, and Charlotte, 7, have become very involved in such moral issues. They now help adults such as their mom and dad (us : ) remember that we should be thinking of not only our personal desires and wellbeing, but also those who help make the products we consume.
Jeff and April Nall
This is a perfect time to teach our children--and learn ourselves--about "Fair-Trade" products.
I use a number of Fair Trade products year round, as well as local and organics, and now and then will comment to my kids about that - generally at the grocery store or when I'm working out some budgetary issue or other. Since Fair Trade and organic products cost more, and generally aren't covered by food stamps (which has been an issue for us in the past) whether or not to purchase them is an ongoing source of consideration in our home. That doesn't mean we have a rule though ;) Its more a principle of people supporting people - which includes all the people in the world we can't see as well as the people in our lives that we see every day.
I've found being gentle and thoughtful to my kids about their desires in the moment pays off in terms of their desire to be kind and supportive of other people - not just in the longer run (although it has, for sure) but even in day to day things. The more I can extend kindness and generosity toward my kids the more they can extend those things to me and to the rest of the world.
Oh, an odd little twist of my own has to do with supporting local small businesses, which I do by Working for them. That's something that at-home parents looking for part-time work can look into - that's how I started, although nowadays I work full time. Anyway, one of those is a little food buying club that buys bulk foods, organics, and -yes!- Fair Trade products whenever possible. And the place is very kid-friendly, so both my kids value the Products - they associate those "good foods" with warmth and kindness, playing in the woods and being allowed to help on their own terms. It's been a great experience for all of us ;)
Meredith, I love your response! I also love how you model your values for your kids and then reflect that in such a gracious way for us.
Supporting fair trade (and organic and local and seasonal and blah blah blah) is a passion of mine and if I am the one making a choice where I have received no other input, these are the products I will choose. So far we haven't had much of an opening for discussing chocolate yet that wouldn't have been some passive aggressive way to foist my belief upon my child. For the most part, I choose not to eat almost ANY commercially produced chocolate because I'm allergic to ingredients in most of them--and my 5 yr old knows that. Though she will offer me some of her chocolate, will preface her offer with 'I know you can't eat it because you're allergic but would you like some anyway...or...I wish you could have some of mine...' For me to add in 'and it makes my stomach turn to think about eating something which has been produced in an unethical manner' wouldn't be very kind. My child has developed a love for a particular candy which I would not choose to buy for myself for ethical reasons, but I'm trying to be really careful about how I react to that. I know I have so much power in this situation and she is very perceptive AND impressionable--if I throw any guilt her way she would feel TERRIBLE. She does seem to have an understanding about social justice issues to a point and I have a feeling that one day, she may just choose to not buy that candy herself. But I'm wondering how to toe that line--if/when she becomes aware of those issues (preferably not while she's got a bite of that candy in her mouth) will she feel disgusted that I let her continue to support such a company? Or will she be kinder to herself as I try to be with my personal growth (when I knew better, I did better...)?
But I'm wondering how to toe that line--if/when she becomes aware of those issues (preferably not while she's got a bite of that candy in her mouth) will she feel disgusted that I let her continue to support such a company?
I'm finding one of the benefits of not holding my kids and myself to rules and rigid standards is that they're very accepting of my humanity. They may not be thrilled when I mess up, but they "get" that I'm a person, too, and will fall on my nose sometimes. Its most striking with Ray who's 17 - teens are so often intolerant of adult foibles because they're starting to be excruciatingly aware of all the ways adults haven't lived up to their tin-god personas. But since I haven't set myself up as the arbiter of justice and righteousness (at least not for a loooong time) there isn't anything for Ray to throw up in my face and say "you're not as good as you think you are" - I've been able to be honest about my own failings and it has actually helped his estimation of me.