Back to School

Episode Overview

On this episode, Amber explored the emotional landscape of mothers sending their children off to school with mom and educational researcher, Ashley May. The two discussed the feelings of both loss and pride that can be hard to place and the evolving definition of the role of Mom.
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Topics Covered

First day: Amber and Ashley talk about what it’s like to let go of children for the first time. While some mothers decide it’s time, there are others who don’t have a choice. From sending them off to daycare or their first day of kindergarten, letting go can be challenging for moms, many of whom struggle in isolation. Ashley has witnessed “first days” in different ways: first, as a researcher, then, as a mother and again as the founder of The Grassroots Morning Garden, a community-based mother + child educational group.

Culture shock: Sometimes the biggest challenge for a mother is how her child reacts. In  Ashley’s case, it was her youngest son who needed the most help adjusting to his first days in kindergarten — where he struggled to find himself in a space that was not designed from his perspective. After spending formative years participating in The Grassroots Morning Garden with Ashley, navigating an environment that did not include brown and black mothers or any of the tenants and traditions of Islam he so loved, was new territory. From the backseat of the car after pickup, her son asks sadly, “But why do all the mothers go away?” Ashley tells the story of how culture shock impacted them both.

Considering the layers: Ashley speaks about how she and her husband made the decision to put their children in a school that doesn’t include their culture (because many educational institutions still follow a Christian model). She cites how more schools could benefit from using their student’s families as a resource when it comes to understanding different cultures and creating a more inclusive environment. In the meantime, Ashley and her husband focus on teaching their sons how to maintain their identity as they enter into a world that doesn’t always reflect who they are.

Intersectionality at home and school: As an educational researcher and a mother, Ashley emphasizes howschools and administrators must demonstrate a deeper level of commitment when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Doing so takes thorough and thoughtful work, including listening to the community and learning from various perspectives. Ashley points out how parents can, and should be, doing the same thing.

Ashley May

Ashley May- Independent Educational Researcher & Founder of The Grassroots Morning Garden

Ashley lives in Southern California with her husband and two small boys. She has over 15 years of experience working in educational research, planning, and program evaluation, specializing in equity, emotion, and cognition.

Through her work on the ground with The Grassroots Morning Garden Project, Ashley organizes community-based mother & child groups grounded in critical pedagogy and feminist epistemology and inspired by the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf) and the amazing ways of the Forest School Movement.

Additionally, she offers parent education and consults on a selected number of preschool program improvement projects.


Afterword by: Mhakea LaMotte

Produced by: Kai-Saun Anderson

Music by: Podington Bear - Soft Driver and Rope Swing

Photo by: David Yarrow

About the host

Amber Anderson

Co-Founder + Head of Strategy
Amber Anderson is the co-founder of T+P where she specializes in strategy, marketing and product management.

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