Starting in September 2015, Ontario’s schools are working with a new updated sex education curriculum. I am happy to hear that the new Ontario school sex education curriculum will include topics such as transgendered people, homosexuality, sexting and consent. This conversation inside a school might make kids a bit squeamish while sitting through it, but it’s important for life.
One morning before school this month, my daughter and I had an open conversation about transgendered people. She legitimately wanted to know something about someone she met while travelling one weekend to Mont Tremblant, Quebec, where we learned to ski.
“Mom,” she asked, “was that a boy or a girl in the airport?” She gave me an opening and I took it. I started to tell her about transgendered people in relatively simple and age appropriate terms. These are the conversations we have, often in the morning before school. They infuriate my husband sometimes, because he thinks they do this on purpose to stall getting out the door and going to school. But I see it differently. Late slips don’t matter as much as building informed, smart, tolerant and compassionate children. I don’t ever mind an opening for a real conversation. When they throw a thread out there, I grab it and try to knit an answer together that leads to an educational exchange that also hopefully strengthens the fabric of our relationship long term.
Starting in September 2015, Ontario’s schools will be working with a new updated sex education curriculum. Transgendered people, homosexuality, sexting and consent will all be added to the lessons. This conversation inside a school might make kids a bit squeamish, but it’s important. Make no mistake, kids are young when they start to be sexually active and they are coming of age in a digital culture that is quite unlike the one I grew up in. The new Ontario sex education curriculum supports my approach to parenting and it will hopefully help build informed, smart, tolerant and compassionate children in Ontario.
Ontario’s Sex Education Curriculum is Revamped but is it Enough?
Did you know, Ontario’s sex education curriculum was the oldest in Canada and hadn’t been revised for 20 years? It was almost revised in 2010, but religious groups spoke out against the changes and Ontario’s government backed down. This time Education Minister Liz Sandals, has said nobody is backing down because it’s time for the updates. I agree wholeheartedly and I hope too that this conversation happening inside a school will help to give kids the proper terms and the mentality for sex education and differences.
Why We Need a Revamped Sex Education Curriculum in Ontario
My kids know I answer their questions. Not every child in Ontario has that opportunity, or even has a parent around to help frame the conversation about healthy relationships, sexual education, healthy living, tolerance for others and human reproduction. Some parents might be uncomfortable talking about sex, sexting and transgendered people. Some might convey negative comments about homosexuality, or transgendered people. Believe me, I’d like to think we are all comfortable with everyone just being at home in their own skin, but I know from experience that parents and kids are NOT there yet.
This year both of my kids have been asked at various points by bullies – “Are you gay? If you’re not gay how come you play with Jane so much?” By adding more information at the school level, all kids should at least have some common knowledge about consent, sexuality, gender differences and anatomy.
Ontario has implemented some bold and smart family friendly policies that I support. A few years ago they began implementing adoption subsidy to help more children get out of care and into a forever family. It was a start. Full day Junior kindergarten, although not without issues, has helped many working parents. Last year, the Liberal government pledged $50 million to support funding for IVF (in vitro fertilization) for people struggling with infertility. That was a progressive policy that groups such as Conceivable Dreams applauded. Conceivable Dreams is hopeful and confident that the new policy will be sustainable and ready to access soon.
The changing conversation in Ontario’s schools has been a long work in progress, but it is almost ready to implement. I support a more open dialogue in school about sex education. I am raising girls and I want them to know about consent and sexting and transgendered people and homosexuality. In fact, I hope that this conversation occurs alongside talk of cyber bullying and bullying. I am confident my children’s teachers will find the right ways to teach the language that helps kids understand – eventually – what is appropriate and inappropriate. This curriculum has solid support from smart paediatricians and child development experts. Talking about sex doesn’t make youth suddenly decide to have sex. It simply gives them more information about the facts.
I support this new curriculum and I know many Moms and many members of groups such as Conceivable Dreams applaud education and family friendly policy. But, part of me wishes that Ontario’s curriculum had added more. When it comes to the topic of sexting and social media use I don’t think we are doing enough in schools. When I check my daughter’s school acquaintances Facebook status and I see some odd grade eights posting that they got drunk, it worries me (for several reasons). Social media and digital footprints follow you throughout life, just as sexting does. There is no such thing as being too cautious on social media when you are a kid. And I think we should also be building in more education about fertility and infertility facts. If you asked most adults, they would be at a loss to tell you the age at which fertility rates begin to decline. And, if you asked most adults how many people struggle with infertility I think that number would also be grossly underestimated. Ask the average adult what basic lifestyle habits impact male fertility and infertility, and I am pretty sure they would miss several of them. That’s a shame.
In Denmark, a country with several smart policies including public funding for IVF, the sex education curriculum in schools was recently revamped too. However, Denmark included information about infertility and fertility. Their approach to building healthy families helps in three ways: the school curriculum helps build infertility and fertility knowledge before people are actively ready to reproduce; then the policy of funding IVF helps to build families when there is an infertility diagnosis; and finally the combination of the two addresses declining fertility rates in the country in a more holistic manner. Ask any individual, or couple, in Ontario, Alberta, BC, currently struggling with infertility and you will often hear the same statement: nobody ever thinks they will have trouble having a baby until they are suddenly unable to have a baby. Unless you are currently an infertility patient, very few people know that fertility starts to decline at 28. Very few know what to do or where to go if they have a fertility concern. Very few realize that male factor and female factor infertility occur at almost identical rates – 40 % for each gender.
When I went to school, the sex education and health education curriculum was basic. We were told about menstruation and back in those days the boys even went to a different room to learn about whatever it was that they learned about. We spent a lot of time being indoctrinated about not getting pregnant and I think obviously as a Mom of two girls there is a place for that. But there’s also a place for understanding how fertility and infertility works and occurs and what to do if, or when that happens.
The topic of Transgendered people is not really an easy one to explain, but I think my daughter understood what I was telling her. Life isn’t always black and white and you can sometimes look one way and be another. In one way, that’s not unlike infertility. You can look like a healthy couple with a great home, stable marriage, and rewarding careers and you can do everything right and yet you still end up unable to conceive.
Conceivable Dreams supports the new Ontario sex education curriculum, but we hope next time it’s revised that infertility and fertility facts are included as well.
You can also follow our conversation on Twitter where we often tweet with these hashtags #ivf4on #onpoli.
Read what Gingermommy has to say about the new Ontario sex ed curriculum here.
And you can see what Margarita has to say about talking about sex ed with your kids here too.
I am Conceivable Dreams community manager and as such I am compensated. My opinion is all my own.