Multiculturalism: The Foundation of Our Homeschooling Education.

beeswax 'bandera': the eagle, snake in beak, on the nopal on lake Texcoco

Creative Commons. Image by C Newlin de Rojas

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Homeschool Blogging Carnival hosted by Lisa at The Squishable Baby and Keisha at Unschooling Momma. This month our participants are talking about Multiculturalism.

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I think many homeschoolers will agree with me that learning should be a pervasive part of life and not something that happens between the hours of eight and three. I feel the same way about multiculturalism.

As as a Mexican-Franco-American family living in South East Asia, multiculturalism is not something we have to remember to work into our schooling. It’s woven into every aspect of our life. From the guards the girls greet with Wais every morning to the Amharic they hear when we visit two of their playmates. Expats typically get to meet a fairly diverse group of people if they are open to it —and sometimes even if they aren’t!

That said, living nestled in a multicultural environment can pose its own challenges. For starters, cultural heritage is a wonderful place to begin introducing kids to different cultures. But between our multiple moves and birthplaces, they are a little confused about where they come from. One of my daughters will tell you she is from Singapore. It’s true she was born in Singapore but 18 months was hardly long enough for it to have a huge cultural impact on her. Whereas my 6-year-old, who was born in Brooklyn and lived in Singapore from 2.5 to 4, still sings Oh Singapura and bemoans the loss of chicken-rice hawkers. She would probably happily swap passports if given the chance.

My time with them at home as both their mother and educator also translates into my cultures playing a dominant role. The girls are half Mexican but culturally you wouldn’t know it. Living on the other side of the world where Mexican expats are as rare as helmet-wearing Thai cyclists translates into a lack of opportunities to really embrace their Mexican roots. This would have been a different story had we stayed in Brooklyn. This saddens me but I try to remember that it’s more than just our cultural heritage that’s important.

What we need is a deeper understanding and acceptance of others around the world. That’s the true key to gifting them a ‘rich’ future. Cultural literacy should not just be a nice add-on a couple of times of year. I love that people are embracing world holidays and their favorite cultural snapshots but learning about Mexico or Sweden needs to be more than a lesson about Cinco de Mayo & pickled herring, respectively. Multiculturalism needs to be part of the engine of our children’s education, not just an enjoyable accessory like seat-warmers for those stuck in Nova Scotia!

I was reminded of this last night when a caucasian friend of mine who has adopted a gorgeous brood of ethnically diverse children and lives in the US shared a disheartening story. Today, her six-year-old African-American son was told by his supposed best friend —who is ethnically Chinese— that his mother doesn’t talk to brown people. Her son was understandably deeply upset by this. What’s more astonishing is that these two boys go to a school that is in fact incredibly diverse. There are only 2 white US-born kids in the class and their teacher is African-American. (That’s going to make for an awkward parent-teacher night when it rolls around.)

Sadly prejudice runs deep and is usually the offshoot of ignorance and fear. It’s also still pervasive and can affect kids by osmosis. If we want to change this, we need to expose our children as early as possible. With this in mind, I’ve decided to radically shift our approach and embed multiculturalism at every level. As homeschoolers, we are privileged to have the flexibility to place multiculturalism as a pillar in our children’s educational foundations. Please join me and let us be at the forefront of this movement!

 

p.s. I will be writing a lot more about this and I hope to create a repository for resources. One of the latest things out is The Global Education Toolkit. It looks amazing. I haven’t got my hands on a copy yet but I’ll definitely be reviewing and likely implementing lots of ideas from it. Please share any relevant links and Pinterest boards too!
 

 

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Visit The Squishable Baby to see how you can participate in the next Homeschool Blogging Carnival where we will be talking about Homeschool Mythsconceptions . hmschool blogging button

 

Please take the time to read the submissions by other Carnival participants:

 

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Homeschooling on a budget: Minimum Input, Maximum Benefit

So I am about five months into homeschooling my two little girls: P, now 5.5 and C nearly 3.5. It’s actually been much less since I embrace the international school holidays, of which there are many. In addition, I had a rather stressed and horrid start for a number of reasons I won’t go into now.

Most of the time, I feel I haven’t really started yet. Especially when I am trying to finalise my ‘goals’ for each girl -and here’s a chance to give a shout-out to a most impressive Mama and homeschooler Jody from Mud Hut Mama for providing so much help.

Friends will say I am being too hard on myself. I am sure they are right to an extent. And then maybe not. There are not many days I’ve actually planned stuff ahead. It seems that whenever I do, we go off track. Overall, I’ve just been enjoying time with the girls and often letting them play. But every so often, a little gem presents itself to me. I got lucky today.

If you walk into any toy store or mega market, you will find a number of shape sorting toys. You can opt for cheap and cheerful plastic ones or the posher, tree hugging (that’s usually me) wooden versions. In the end, I’ve noticed it’s almost always the parents guiding the kids. And if feels like a rather futile exercise.

So today, once again I am focusing on life skills (aka fobbing off my homeschooling duties) and by that I mean: help me put away the dishes, brush your hair, your teeth get dressed by yourself, etc., in the hopes we would make it out the door in time for this amazing Friday art class a fellow homeschooler organised at Attic Studios.  Unfortunately the Bangkok protests made it impossible for us to get to the class leaving me with nothing planned as usual.

As I walked back in the house, closing the door covered in Halloween stickers and dropped my bag by the fully decorated Christmas tree, I looked upon the red Chinese Lantern waiting to be hung and realised I could no longer postpone taking down end of 2013 holiday decorations any longer.

While the kids sorted the decorations, It dawned on me that I had a sorting/classification activity before my eyes. There were several groups: salt-dough decorations –from a burst of Pinterest parenting from Christmas 2012, which looked more like the ‘I nailed it’ meme than actual decorations– fragile Mexican figurines, wooden decorations and then the subdividing of my favorites: the traditional swedish straw decorations.

I felt rather chuffed about this and, as I went to take a picture for this post, I noticed that the girls’ morning chore of putting away their clean dishes and my cutlery could also qualify. 

So here you go: a cheap and, in my opinion more important, useful way to teach your kids classifications. Because really, I always try to stick the pentagon in the hexagon slot so why would I expect my 3 year old to get it right.

Image

 

p.s. Notice how I lump shape sorting/grouping/classification all into one group. I figure they are close cousins and must be developing similar cognitive skills, whatever those may be. #whinging it.

p.p.s. I can’t believe I just hash-tagged within a post. It’s official, I have no shame. 

Christmas Craft Fail

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Internet not working on computer so here’s a shot post while the dust bunnies work on the problem.

This is a lesson in why you should always test out crafts ahead of time, preferably while kids unconscious.

Can you guess what I was actually trying to do?

Guest Post: Homeschooling and the World Wide Web

Guest Post by Laurie Rappeport, a freelance writer and online teacher. Laurie has been living in Safed for 28 years and worked in the Tzfat Tourist Information Center for 13 years. She continues to be active in the field of Tzfat tourism, running a website with local updates. She is the single mother of five children, a number of them successfully homeschooled. She is now moving into the world of mother-in-lawhood and grandmotherhood!

Beginning in the late 1990s a new phenomenon developed as online colleges began offering  opportunities for students to learn subjects via the Internet. Online degree programs quickly followed and by the early years of the new millennium high schools, and then elementary schools began to include elearning in their curriculum.

Today online education is a vibrant part of almost all schools. Homeschoolers have also discovered the benefits of elearning which enables them to refine their children’s education, present subject matter in a dynamic and interactive format, encourage independent learning and create engaging opportunities for the children to collaborate with other homeschoolers.

The United States Department of Education released a study, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices of Online Learning which was based on the results of 50 independent research projects. The study concluded that online learning is more effective than traditional face-to-face instruction. Today’s multi-media and Web-based applications have significantly improved the learning environment and scholastic results of students who learn partially or fully online. These opportunities have helped to propel the increase in homeschooling which, statistics show, is now growing at an annual rate of 7% – 15%.

The general view of the homeschooling population regarding online education has changed drastically over the last ten years. In the early years the majority of the discussion about online learning among homeschoolers focused on the drawbacks — undue reliance on technology, reduced ability to interact face-to-face in a homeschool setting, lack of familiarity with traditional book learning, etc. Today the discussion has noticeably shifted from whether to include online learning in the classroom to how to best include online learning in the classroom.

In reviewing some of the benefits of online learning for homeschooling students it’s clear that most students can complete some, or even all, of their coursework online. Whereas early elementary-aged children need more supervision, by the 5th or 6th grade, students can receive asynchronous assignments from their homeschooling educator and complete those assignments either semi-independently or completely independently. Many families have become involved in groups which facilitate collaboration among both parents and students. Such interactions enable the students to collaborate on assignments — sometimes via Skype or another web application — in pairs or in small groups, to expand the scope of a lesson and increase social interaction among participating students.

eGames offer another tool for homeschoolers to support personalized learning. eGames are designed to respond instantly to whatever the player does as they are arranged in series of increasingly difficult challenges which fit the sequencing of the curriculum (i.e. after conquering the fractions level, the student moves up to the algebra level). These games promote independent learning and offer an atmosphere of vibrant information exchange.

eGames Match screenshot

Online education is structured to ensure that students can learn in their own style and at their own pace, each in his or her individual learning style. In addition to egames, other online tools and apps create an invigorating learning environment for homeschoolers which ensure that each student gets the maximum out of his or her coursework.

Online materials and lesson plans help parents identify and implement both core curriculum and extra-curricular learning with their kids. Two of the best known resource sites for homeschooling are the Kahn Academy and the K12 project. The Khan Academy offers content on a wide range of subjects including the sciences, math, social studies, language arts and more. The Academy offers these resources for free and the parent/educator is responsible for creating the assignments for the student which will reinforce the material.

Khan Academy Periodic Table

The K12 program, by far the larger of the two, has a structured learning program which offers over 500 structured learning courses for grades 1-12. Its chairman is known to have made strong statements about the benefits of integrating technology with homeschooling. Many of the programs are free, subsidized by the public school system. They are meant to individualize student learning and match appropriate curriculum  to the needs and abilities of each student.

Homeschoolers are finding that elearning makes it possible for students to approach their studies from various angles. The parent provides the child with assistance as needed, but the ability for the student to proceed independently and explore related subjects easily as they arise offers a tremendous learning advantage for student and parent alike.

Families may be concerned about the costs of elearning, which may also include purchasing a laptop or tablet for each student. Studies have shown that, when all costs are added up, the savings on textbooks can more than make up for the expenditures on digital equipment, not to mention access to an unlimited rich world of online resources both for education and recreation.