How do Montessori families approach sex ed? I would say that we use correct terms, we are honest, factual and accurate. We give correct, clear and age-appropriate answers. From birth we use the correct terms for anatomy, we teach consent and we are respectful of our and our children's bodies, this includes using respectful language.
Why is sex ed important? Sex ed is more than about sex, it's about humanity, respect, physical and mental health, and relationships. It is important to start young and be open to questions from our children. It's also not something that we can leave up to schools, education starts in the home.
Today I'm sharing some sex ed books that we have found useful. These can be read to the child, with the child and for older children, perhaps they would like to read them independently.
- It's Not the Stork: A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends - for ages 4 years+. Includes topics like anatomy - how boys and girls are different physically, conception, pregnancy, babies, families including adoption, keeping safe, and growing up. I have read this with my seven-year-old.
- It's So Amazing: A book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies and Families - for ages 7 years+. Overall in more detail than It's Not the Stork. Includes topics like reproduction, different bodies - mainly the physical differences between the male and female body, conception, pregnancy, birth - including vaginal and c-section, feeding including breast and bottle, chromosomes and genes, families including adoption, keeping safe. My ten (almost eleven) year old has read this.
- It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health - for ages 10 years+. Much like It's So Amazing but in a lot more detail, it has a lot more text. Includes chapters like What is Sex, Our Bodies, Puberty, Families and Babies, Staying Healthy. It includes lots of topics including menstruation, STDs, contraception. I will keep this nearby to help me answer difficult questions and for my children to potentially read in the future. This is very thorough and I would suggest for most families this book is best suited to teens.
Pros: Factual and use correct anatomical terms. The tone is respectful, non-emotive. Open and non-judgemental. I didn't find any gender stereotypes. Most of the illustrations are detailed and accurate. The books are approachable and positive. Can be used by parents as a guide on words to use or how to address specific topics, even if you aren't ready for your child to read the book or the entire book. The books have a strong focus on diversity and inclusion. No matter the age of your children I would recommend having these books on hand, I had no idea how to approach sex education and these books have given me a lot of guidance. These are also particularly helpful if you are welcoming a new sibling (or are pregnant) and need guidance on introducing this to a young child.
Cons: Some pictures are comical in nature, in some pictures the sperm and eggs have faces which isn't necessary. The book features a bird and bee that talk to each other, also not necessary but it perhaps adds a narrative and a bit of light-hearted comedy? The books are very liberal which isn't a negative but use the age range as a guide only, just because the book says from 10+ years doesn't mean you or your ten-year-old are ready. I am fairly liberal but was still a little surprised with the content and how openly some of the more 'tricky' topics are discussed. I would recommend all three of these books but read them first before presenting them to your children. If you have strong conservative or religious views these books may not be right for you.
There are a couple of other books that we have also found useful for younger children including Amazing You!: Getting Smart About Your Private Parts and C is for Consent. C is for Consent is a board book and can be read to babies from birth. Amazing You is good for all ages too, perhaps most suited to preschoolers? I can't stress how important it is to teach and use correct anatomical terms, although it's not something that comes naturally to me.
I have not read these but In the Womb: Witness the Journey from Conception to Birth through Astonishing 3D Images and The Pregnant Body Book: The Complete Illustrated Guide from Conception to Birth have been recommended to me. Although not written for children, they may be worth having in your home library, especially if you are expecting.
If you are a teacher or parent please feel free to provide advice or share any sex ed resources/sources, I'd love to hear your views!