We just had a Girl's Weekend that included a Jane Brown Playshop.
Our soccer season starts next Sat, so we will not be able to make the FCC Culture Camp this year. Fortunately, this Playshop was timed perfectly for us.
Jane Brown is a mother of 9. Many internationally adopted, & she has some bio children. She is a past elementary school teacher & a psychologist. She travels around the country & has several topics that she can theme her Playshops around. This was her 4th visit to the Jacksonville group & the theme was being Transracially adopted. The kids were divided into 2 groups K-3rd grade / 4th grade & older (most in the 9-10-11 age range).
On Fri night, the kids had childcare & in a Parents Only meeting Jane discussed her background & some of the areas that she would be talking to the kids about on Sat. She threw out a lot of ideas & things to think about. Ways to incorporate more culturally diverse people into your family life / daily routines & the importance of these racially diverse role models for our transracially adopted kids.
On Sat AM was the young kids playshop. The parents did the first activity with the kids & then left to go wait it out. The Playshop was approx 2.5 hrs long, then she came & did a debriefing for the parents (which lasted about 1 hr), while the kids stayed back & played. She talked a lot about what it meant to the kids to be adopted, how this might happen, what the outcomes might be. She gives them thinking steps, but does not plant ideas. They did alot of role playing with dolls & puppets. Each child getting a chance to "act" the part of the story (birth parents, SWI workers, adoptive parents). She also role played with them how to handle bullying or being signaled out for being different, or how to help a friend who was being singled out. She equipped them with some great tools.
With the older girls, parents dropped them off & then went to wait. Their session went a little longer. The best thing about this is that the girls broke into small groups & they had tasks to do & then they shared those things with each other. MY OPINION: I think even if you talk with your kids, you, as their parent, can not get them to be as open & as free in the thought exchange as they can be with their same adoptive background peers.
They shared in small groups such things as if you could ask your birthparents 3 things...what would they be? If you could tell your birth parents 3 things about you, what would that be? Then they dicussed those things within their big group. After their session, she did another debriefing with the parents. As a side note, I think there was only other family besides me, who had children in both age groups, & the discussion was naturally different each time. If the kids go off on a tangent, she lets them. It is THEIR time to share with each other & she is just a director & contributor of ideas, jumping off spots for discussion.
Neither of my girls talks much about their adoptions. I was a little nervous going into this that the Playshop might create angst where there is none. That was not the case. I think both girls came away with more information about their adoptions, with a better sense that there really are other kids just like me, (Unbelievably, with the younger group, JB explained that even though your kids might "know" that the other FCC friends are from China, they may not understand that those kids were also adopted, just like they were). I also think (& it is especially true in our case), that if your child has a visible SN, than that "Trumps" race issues (at least at the elementarty age). They don't necessarily feel different because of their race, they feel different & are much more asked about the difference their classmates & others can see.
However, I had read many positive comments about the Playshops, so we commited ourselves to attending. I'm really glad that we did. It was encouraging to learn of the things that I am doing right, in order to give my kids a healthy environment, as well as learn the areas where I can improve.
While I would not jump on the bandwagon to bring Jane to Gainesville. I don't think there is enough local support to justify the expense. I would whole heartedly encourage families with school aged children to take advantage of her playshops whether they are held in Jacksonville (in 2 more years), in Tampa or Orlando. Overall, very positive & we will go again if the occassion arises.
I thought that going to this with other girl friends was a great way to do it. Our kids already knew at least someone in the playgroup..plus we had the bonus of getting to hang out & visit all weekend long. An unexpected bonus came when we were able to swap kid watching duties throughout the weekend. That was really nice!!
If you have any specific questions, I can try and answer them for you. Maybe I'll have pics`to post shortly.....