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.

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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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.

Pinning My Linguistic Hopes on More Travel.

This post was written for June’s Raising Multilingual Children Carnival hosted this month by All Done Monkey. This month’s theme is Multilingualism and Travel. If you would like to participate, host or simply learn more about the carnival, please visit Piri -Piri Lexicon’s Carnival Page.

By i.g.granados & pinched from fab site haven’t been home in two years. Wait, that’s wrong. I haven’t been home in three years but I am not sure anymore what home really is. I haven’t seen my parents in two years. The last time we saw each other, they flew from New York, the city where I was born and raised, to meet us in France, where I grew up spending my summers. Two years ago, they met our second daughter for the first time. She was 10 months old.

Prior to the trip, I was brimming with anticipation as I was sure, once immersed in the language, that my daughter Pea would flick a switch and start speaking French fluently. I felt like I’d read about this a thousand times, children who understood a language simply needing some time in the country to make the linguistic leap to actually speaking.

I was so very disappointed when it didn’t happen. Truth is we weren’t there long enough. We were also surrounded by people who understood and could speak English and who were all too keen to do so despite my begging them not to. I was reminded once again that there are no quick fixes when it comes to multilingualism. I did console myself with the idea that she had been immersed in lots of lovely French culture and, in a bid to try and view the glass half full, wrote a post on the topic here.

One of the reasons we chose to move to the other side of the world was the idea that we could afford to send our kids to a French school. I knew from friends’ experiences that spots in French/English immersion programs at public schools in New York were nearly impossible to come by, and private schools in the US are utterly unaffordable for us mere mortals. At the time, my daughter was attending a local Singaporean school but, after that trip, I was more determined than ever to get both our girls into French or bilingual schools and our upcoming move from Singapore to Bangkok was going to make that a reality with a more affordable French Lycée and an amazing little French/English bilingual nursery called Acacia conveniently near our new digs.

The first year was pretty much everything that I’d hoped for despite some major bumps in the road that caused me no end of neuroses -oh how I need to learn to think long term and not panic at every short term setback. But I digress… English is still the dominant language in our house but the girls’ French is fluent and I know progress has been made when, despite being an ‘English day’ at school, Pea comes home and choses to speak to me in French. My wee one, little plum already happily switches back and forth. They both love their schools and it’s all been a great success.

So why am I pulling them out?

A year in and I’ve realized the choice is really between private schools or tickets home to see family so in the end, I am opting for the latter. I’ve often preached about sticking to your heritage languages but what exactly is the point of my kids speaking French and Spanish if they then can’t go see their Mexican and French extended family? And really, since el Jeffe works all the time and all our funds go to the French school, Spanish is barely hanging on in our household.

What I will lose in giving up their formal French education I hope to gain with the ability to take more trips to France and Mexico in order to deepen their cultural connection and truly live their languages. Right now the girls don’t really get why Spanish is important but I know once they spend a few months with Abuelita and meet their cousins, they will want to actively add this language to their linguistic arsenal, as will I.

And let’s face it, I really miss good tortillas and ceviche.


Swimming Against the Tide: Why I am homeschooling.

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 introducing their homeschools and styles.


It seems like only yesterday I was pondering whether or not to homeschool my kids: what would it mean for us? Would I be patient enough? Could I, a non qualified teacher, teach them? Did we have a big enough support network? Would I ever get to pee alone again?

Wait, it was only yesterday and I am petrified.

My little family currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand. I am franco-american and lived in the UK for many years. My husband, aka el jeffe is Mexican and we have two daughters: Sweet Pea just five and little Plum, who will be three on September 1st.

I’ve just received the emails from the kindergarten and Pre-K schools confirming I’ve officially withdrawn my children. It felt so final that I broke into a cold sweat and nearly fainted. I wish I were exaggerating.

There are many reasons why I am choosing to homeschool but they aren’t the two main ones I typically read about. Most of the time you either hear about families for whom it is a faith-based decision or kids not thriving in school. I want a secular education for my kids – and that for me means they learn about all the major global religions. My two girls overall both love school and this is probably the hardest thing about pulling them out. It would be so much easier if, like me, they were hating the experience.

So why am I doing it? The main reason is totally selfish. I am suddenly incredibly aware of my mortality and I know my kids will only worship the ground I walk on for a few more years so I’d like to spend as much of that time as possible with them, harnessing that adoration, instead of only getting the rushing on either side of school. Traffic in Bangkok means I have to get them up at 6am and they are gone by 6.55.  By the time they get back in the afternoon, we have time for a tiny bit of tired play and the whole dinner, bath, book routine.  During these windows, I frequently feel like I am tap dancing in a minefield as their exhaustion makes them emotional explosive time bombs. Ultimately, I get the two slices of bread and none of the delicious filling.

bangkok traffic via

Another factor is the a question of value for money. Living in Bangkok, my only option is to send my kids to private school. These schools are extremely expensive catering generally to an élite expat crowd, bankrolled by their companies and the schools take full advantage of this including outrageous sign-up fees leaving us mere working mortals struggling to educate our children. Maybe if we were a monolingual family, I would have considered local Thai school but my kids are already growing up with English, French and Spanish and it just didn’t make sense to add Thai to that. Also the Thai educational approach is far from what I want for my kids.

Freeing up these financial resources allows me to organize a whole host of educational trips and activities including extended stays with Abuela in Mexico and their Papoo and Yaya in France and the US. It kills me that my mother in law hasn’t seen my eldest since she was 8 months old and has never met our second girl.

As far as approaches – well it is a little too early to say what we will end up doing but my plan at this point is loosely following a waldorf-based curriculum called Oak Meadow but without signing up for the teacher support at this stage. To this, I’d like to incorporate aspects of the Well Trained Mind approach. I am big on the classics and laying foundations. As far as maths go, I am hesitating between Singapore math and Montessori math. I am in Asia and hear so many good things about the former but from what I can tell so far SM and MM are actually very similar in their approaches so it may just be a case of which materials are easier for me to source. Of course all of these are ideas and only time will tell what ends up working for us.

Jumping into the deep end.

I mentioned earlier, I am petrified but ready to jump into the deep end. The courage I’ve found has come less from within but in the knowledge of the incredible support group I’ve been able to find here in Bangkok. Homeschooling is not common here but I’ve been fortunate to find a small group of families with kids of similar ages who are already homeschoolers or starting out like me.

And as I sat there, nauseous and nervous, having just read the withdrawal emails, my daughter, unbeknownst to her, shared an experience that sealed the deal. She was a little upset, wanting to draw a fish but insisting she didn’t know how. When I tried to encourage her, she explained to me that a teacher had told her that she hadn’t drawn her fish right.

Who tells a 4-year-old that their fish isn’t right? Apart from the millions of different types of fish and sea creatures I am pretty sure the teacher isn’t familiar with, WHO tells a FOUR-year-old  their fish ISN’T RIGHT?

Talk about killing creativity and sowing the seeds of insecurity and doubt. No way, you are not getting my money or more importantly, my child.


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