Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Sex Ed Book

I picked this book up at the most recent library fundraising book sale. This book covers much more about the entire process than the other sexual education books I reviewed. Those were obviously meant for younger kids, lower elementary and kindergarten. This book provides information that is geared to much older kids. The content could easily sway it from upper elementary to upper middle school. For many people, I believe this book would be considered inappropriate because of the topics is covers.

This book is written in a comic book style. The drawings are cartoon-ish without being ugly. There are two main characters that are supposed to be like the kids that are reading the book. When a new subject is discussed, these characters may state some of the same misconceptions that some kids may hold. The characters also share feeling about being uncomfortable talking about the topics and model some acceptance verbiage after the subject is introduced.

This book does not fool around with plants or animals. It starts with some original ideas of where babies come from--like the falling from the sky with the rain and the stork. It moves right onto sperm and egg. The differences between boys and girls and how they change as they grow up. They include drawings of the internal parts as well as the external parts.

The next topic covered the egg and sperm where they do their jobs. First is getting the egg out of the ovary and what happens if it doesn't get fertilized (period)--a wild ride. The period is explained, including pads and tampons. The sperm have a roller coaster ride. Spontaneous erections, wet dreams, and ejaculation are all discussed. They emphasize frequently that it only takes one sperm to create a pregnancy.

The next subject is sex. For everything that the book goes into after this, the chapter on sex is brief and none of the drawings are explicit as the one from True Story of How Babies are Made. It shows two people kissing under covers. It talks about sex in the context of love but it doesn't belabor the point. It points out that kids are much too young to have sex or a baby.

The next few chapters cover love, fertilizing the egg, and incubation. The book defines homosexuality and talks about it as another way of showing love. and then has diagrams of loving couples of men and women, women and women, and men and men. Then the sperm race to meet the egg with only one lucky winner. The new zygote starts dividing and then implants onto the wall of the uterus. The talks about alternate methods of conception include injecting sperm in the vagina and allowing the egg to be fertilized outside of the body and placing the fertilized egg in the womb. The book also talks about how to prevent pregnancy by using birth control The birth control mentioned includes the pill, condoms, and abstinence (the only sure way). In its biggest failing, it talks about condoms also helping to prevent "infections like HIV--the infection that causes AIDS" and that's that. No additional explanation, no nothing. That seems like a big bomb to drop without any other context. Once the egg is implanted, it graduates to a pregnancy with an embryo (though the book does mention that "Some people call the fetus 'a growing baby.'" which seems remarkably pedantic though I need to remember that the book includes readership that may not be as happy about having 'a growing baby' as I have been). The book then states how pregnancies can end--through miscarriage, abortion, or adoption. The abortion statement talks about it as a procedure a woman may choose that ends a pregnancy and that most women can have normal pregnancies afterward. Diagrams of the fetus at different ages are then shown, most are shown actual size--cool, with the expected development, like beating heart or beginning the formation of fingers, or eyebrows and eyelashes.

The next few chapters cover womb activity: growing, nourishing, somersaults, etc. There is a chapter on multiples and many of them at that. Another chapter is dedicated to getting the baby out. Vaginal delivery is covered through diagrams and it also talks about cutting the cord afterward. And since this is a very complete book, it also covers surgical deliveries--even talking about cutting the mothers skin and sewing it back up with special thread. The only diagram for that one is the doctor behind a screen (whew). Premature babies live in incubators for a while, some babies breast feed and others have formula--and here I will compliment the authors on not worrying kids about the correctness of one over the other.

The book continues by presenting what makes a family. The start with the genetics of the baby, properly pointing out that no one is defined by their genetics alone and that their experiences help form who they are as a person (I personally would not leave out their own decisions on the person they choose to become). Families include adoptive parents, single parents, grandparents, divorced parents, gay parents, stepparents, and foster parents. Adoptions are discussed in more depth.

The final chapters: "Keeping Safe--Okay Touches--Not Okay Touches", "Talking About It--HIV and AIDS", "Gurgles and Drool--Feelings about Babies--Fun with Babies", and "Let's Celebrate--Happy Birth Day! Happy Adoption Day!" The chapter on safety talks about defining genitals as private parts and doctors occasionally need to check privates. The book talks about the pleasurable feelings from masturbation and that some people do it and others don't. That families may have different rules some of which could be religious based, but that most doctors agree that it's healthy and normal and won't hurt you or your body. The book is adamant that sexual abuse is never OK and that someone trustworthy (and the book gives suggestions of people to tell outside of the family, like a clergy member or school nurse). In reading the HIV chapter, it seems to deal with a possible HIV infection of other kids more than of getting HIV during sex. The book properly states that one can do everything with a person who has HIV as with a person who doesn't. The only disingenuous thing is that they don't direct the kids to stay away from that person's blood should they get injured doing all of those fun things together. It was interesting to hear about my private school's blood-born contagion safety training for teachers--they are instructed to put on gloves prior to dealing with even children's blood. In talking about babies, the various feelings a child can have toward a sibling are quickly laid out and there is a small amount of advice on how to play with a baby. The final chapter talks about various customs around the world for celebrating a newly arrived family member.

The book is, in the hippie-sense, HEAVY. It has a huge amount of information. I like the general factual approach but wish it had limited it's scope more. I think it covers too much making the book seem disjointed. The drawings seem geared toward middle school and yet presents all of everything related to almost every conceivable living, birthing, conceiving, family arrangement imaginable. I appreciate the author's effort to normalize (speaking in the statistical 'normal,' not the disapproving of anything else way) unusual relationships and everything else that could be unusual, but it is a lot to take in all at once. I do not mind talking about sex, birth control, or even abortion. Thanks to another homeschooler that subject has already been broached--being pro-freedom and pro-individual rights, I am pro-choice and another homeschooled girl told my daughter that our current president 'let s mommies kill their babies.' I do feel that there was a specific effort to be very liberal toward sexuality and all of its various faces. Which, again, agrees with my own personal views--it was just really obvious so I wanted to point that out in the review. For some people that would be a good thing!

I think that if kids were reading this on their own they would either start to glaze over or perhaps read a page or chapter once a month to allow plenty of time for the information to settle in.


Karen said...

I love this book. I got it several years ago - I'd guess my kids were probably 8 and 11. I read it and was comfortable with it, so after we looked through it together, it stayed out on the shelf. It was a free range reading choice for quite a while.

We also have the companion book about growing up, It's Perfectly Normal. I did the same thing there.The kids enjoyed reading both of them, with me and on their own.

Thanks for this review. I went to check for the title of the second book and found there's a third, It's Not the Stork. Apparently the new one is aimed at young kids, while It's Perfectly Normal is aimed at middle schoolers and It's So Amazing in between.

Kim said...

Thanks for letting me know about the age range. I felt that it was written in simple enough language and, with the style of the drawings, it could have been targeted to a younger age group. The topics really through me off though.

Thanks for letting me know about the other books.

christinemm said...

Kim thank you for the details as I only skimmed the book before deciding it was too much information for my kid's questions.

As I think I said when we spoke at the homeschool park day I heard of this as recommended by a HS parent to kids in elementary grades as a great book. I feel it is too much information.

I feel as do many psychologist experts, that parents should answer their kids questions plus tell them direct information so they learn correct facts, it is a combination of telling them stuff and answering their questions. But also at the right time. Pushing too much info on them at too young of an age is not good for kids IMO. If they are ready to hear the answers, then fine, but they should be asking as an indicator of what they want to hear.

The problem with a book for kids is it doesn't answer their questions but is telling them all info in order to be thorough in the author's mind of "what is everything a child would want to know" as well as "what SHOULD a child be told so they know it"?

In our family I've stuck with "answer what is being asked". As I told the story to you at the park, (which is too personal for me to blog), one child has more questions than the other, so interesting when the younger is more curious at a certain age than the older one was then, or is still now. LOL.

Abortion is very tricky to me. I read a great memoir of an abortion doctor after hearing her speak on BookTV and I wanted to understand her perspective and hear more of her story. I finally got my answer in the pages of the book that the woman who first entered the field as a lay midwife wanting to give only natural home births in an empowered setting without medidcal intervention, how she wound up being a full time abortion doctor (OB/GYN doctor). And how she felt about abortion and ending life. The answer was she does not feel an unborn child is a life, not a person yet, so ending that life is not murder, although she personally came up with a week number in which it crosses from a fetus/non-person to a live baby and she refuses to abort past that week (a week number in 2nd trimester, I forget what week, my memory says week 18-20-ish). That whole thing could be debated...

Abortion is so talked about today. I didn't even know it existed until I was a teenager, maybe 15, long after I knew about sex. It is hard to keep abortion away from our kids especially if they overhear radio or TV news or if they are homeschooled kids who are around their parent(s) a lot and the parent(s) discuss it. Sometimes the kids overhear and other times the parent just speaks of it in their presence.

I was surprised when a pro-life Catholic gave her sons a book of cartoon by a pro-life Catholic where the character is an unborn fetus talking like a kid and sometimes like an adult. The boys were only 6 and 9 years old and I was told it was the 9 year old's favorite cartoon "for years" having had read it in a Catholic newsletter, he was said to have begged to buy the comic in book format. At that age I'd not even told my kids about abortion yet. The boy was showing my boys the comic book and asking if they thought it was funny. Since my kids didn't get it, and they didn't ask, I didn't tell them about abortion back then.

Some CT homeschoolers I know have taken their kids to pro-life rallies, holding signs, etc.

We are a diverse community of CT homeschoolers, are we not?