I want to provide my kids with a decent sex education. Where do I start?
Jaclyn Friedman replies:I’ve been homeschooling my children for 4 years now. While we’ve previously talked about puberty, sex, relationships, etc., I’ve never taught a formal class about the subject. The only discussion I ever had with my own mother on the subject was when I got my period. Basically she tossed a pad at me, wouldn’t talk about what was going on, and then treated me like I was diseased. To say it was a bad experience would be mild. I’ve had discussions on and off with my kids since 5th grade, they’re 12 and 14 now. We’ve covered basics of sex, puberty, bodies, contraception, and relationships. Heck, we even had a spirited discussion about abortion laws. I want them to feel comfortable with their bodies and asking questions. That said, although I want to give them a complete education in all areas, I’m overwhelmed with the amount of info to cover. I’ve looked for books and guides but they’re woefully outdated. Abstinence only classes are just ridiculous and nothing even mentions LGBTQ. Any advice on where to start? I feel like I’m facing a sexual health mountain, armed with only my toothbrush.
You sound like such a thoughtful parent AND educator. I’m so glad you wrote in! I’ve got lots of practical advice for you, but before I get to it, I hope you’ll have patience while I talk a bit about a couple of crucial ideas embedded in your question.
First, thank you for knowing that EVERYONE needs and deserves queer sex ed, regardless of what we or they may think their sexual identity is. Queer-affirming sex ed undermines dangerous gender stereotypes, and even more importantly, illuminates a more expansive way of understanding our sexuality, one that will help your kids grow up both freer and safer, no matter who they love or are attracted to.
Second, thank you for recognizing that sex ed is a real and complex area of study that deserves to be taught well and completely! Too often, parents and schools alike think that sex and relationships are a subject that anyone can teach. This is how we get untrained gym teachers assigned to the task at school and parents who think whatever their version of “the talk” is is all their kids need, and so oppose the teaching of sex and relationships education in schools. (By the way, if you’re in the United States and want to make sure those parents don’t control what gets taught in your school district, sign up for our Sex Ed Voter Pledge . We’ll be sure to tell you when your school board elections are, how to vote in them and how to know who to vote for.)
On to the practical stuff! I definitely recommend connecting with Sex Positive Families. They have online workshops you can do with your kiddos, books and other resources, and I think they would be a great starting place for you. But since their focus is on helping parents have more informal sex education talks with their kids, not on teaching a full sex ed curriculum as a homeschool instructor, I also encourage you to check out Our Whole Lives, a fantastic curriculum created by the Unitarian Universalist Church. You can buy fully secular versions of it to teach at home, and in many places, they have classes that are open to non-church members as well, so you could also find your local UU church and see what they might have to offer your family. If you’re looking for a completely free, modular K-12 curriculum, I also recommend the one produced by Advocates for Youth, called 3Rs.
And of course, you can also supplement your lessons with great books written by Scarleteen founder Heather Corinna and Scarleteen fave Cory Silverberg! You’ll find titles from both of them for a range of ages that are really inclusive, accessible, affirming, accurate and even entertaining. Sometimes books are just the right thing when a young person wants to do some learning on their own, without the awkwardness of talking with your parent about it.
You’ve already got the most important thing – an open, grounded approach and a curiosity about the things you don’t know. You’ve got this!
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