A Conversation About MLK

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

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I was driving in the car to Lego Homeschool Engineering class with my 5yo, when he asked, “Mom, when is our next holiday to celebrate?”

“Martin Luther King, Jr Day is next. Do you know who that is?”

“No. Who is that?”

“Martin Luther King is a hero. He was a warrior for peace and making sure everyone is treated with equality.”

My son mulled this over a bit, and asked, “Why does the King need to fight ejally?”

I thought about how to explain this without getting too far into the civil rights movement. It’s a subject I’m passionate about, but want to allow my son to approach gently and at his own pace. I thought about equality and realized that he is all about being treated fairly right now. And felt this would be a good entry into our readings and discussions this week.

I said, “Equality means everyone is treated fairly. Martin Luther King believed so strongly in peace and in treating everyone fairly that the whole world listened to him. That is why we have a holiday for him. To celebrate peace and fairness and a person who fought for peace and fairness.”

My son asked, “Can we see him on the holiday?”

I replied, “He is not alive anymore. We can remember him by watching videos of him talking, looking at pictures of him, and reading books about him. We can remember that peace and being fair are as powerful as love.”

My son said, “Kind of like how I remember Grandpa. He’s dead, but I still talk to him all the time. Do you talk to Grandpa?”

“I remember Grandpa. I remember how much I enjoy hearing his stories and hearing his laugh. So, yes, it is like talking to him. I’m sad because I don’t get to see him anymore, but I remember him.”

“How did Martin Luther King die?”

I replied, “Someone shot him and he died.”

My son asked, “Why did they do that?”

“A person who didn’t agree that everyone should be treated fairly wanted Martin Luther King to stop trying to change things. So, he shot Martin Luther King.”

My son said, “That person was crazy.

“That person believed in hatred and violence so much that he killed Martin Luther King. But, Martin Luther King believed that love, peace, and treating everyone fairly are more powerful than hate and violence. And he was right. Love and peace were more powerful than hate and violence. Most people in the world believe in what Martin Luther King said so much that they changed the laws to make sure everyone is treated fairly. That is why we have a holiday to celebrate and remember him. We can remember to love and treat everyone fairly.”

My son said, “Let me think about that for a moment. So, even when someone is dead we can talk to them. And we can talk to our family about them, too. And we don’t have to remember people who hate other people at all. We can just love everybody, right?”


How do you talk with your kids about the ideas of peace, love and equality? How do you answer questions about hatred, violence, and death? I would love to hear your experiences or ideas.

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6 thoughts on “A Conversation About MLK

  1. I allow conversations to happen naturally in our home, and then answer the questions as honestly and openly as is appropriate for my girls’ ages when they ask. I also love to use picture books for whenever a subject is difficult. I am sharing some books with my 5th grade students Tuesday because this IS a bit of a difficult topic.

  2. I’m so glad you had the wherewithall to re-create this conversation here. I often wonder how I”ll explain things to Melody. And sometimes I’m so impressed with someting I come up with (often in the car).
    THis is beautiful and I really love the way you describe MLK and this story. You don’t leave out the hard parts, but also don’t make it too difficult for a child.
    It’s a balance I want to emulate.

    • Thank you, Teresa. Yes! I find it enojoyable when others share their special conversations. I remember thinking at the time how I wanted to remember as best I could because it felt really special to me. I left a little more personal stuff about his Grandpa out, but the rest is as best I can remember.

      I suppose this would be a plus to being on a reality show (the only positive I could see to being on one, actually)–that you don’t lose a word or a moment. You can go back and watch it exactly as it happened. That would be amazing!

  3. I am just in awe – he stopped to think about it, and then beautifully summarized the whole conversation for you? I have never seen a child in a school do anything of the sort! Beautiful!

      • well, it it were on a reality show, they’d edit it for effect and it would probably be something awful. I have thought about having the house wired “as if”… Same thing your thinking, I think.
        Is there a place for a reality show about gentle and conscious parenting, jsut as is.
        Maybe on Oprah’s new network!! Should we work up a treatment?

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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