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!



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:


Bindis and Buddhists: How my girls see the world.

When I first had Pea, I really wanted to move out of the city (i.e. New York City). I was lucky enough to be working for an extraordinary organization (PopTech) in their Brooklyn office but the company is originally based out of Camden, Maine. If you haven’t been to Camden you are missing out on possibly the most picturesque town in the United States if not the world, and that is only one of its many qualities.


I’d been there plenty of times but never with my eyes open to what it would be like to live there. After spending a little over a week with my husband, we both felt the town was, well…I guess at the risk of sounding un-P.C. I’d say it was simply too white for us. Having grown up in New York City, surrounded by every ethnicity under the sun, I felt odd not having more diversity around me. I was so fortunate to have grown up in somewhere where I was regularly exposed to most cultures under the sun and I wanted this for my daughter too. The decision broke my heart as I desperately desired to live in this wonderful, kind, smart, and creative community.

Fast forward a few years and a lingering economic crisis drove us to South East Asia. Our first stop was in Singapore, a city-state renown for its diversity with four official languages (Mandarin, Tamil, Malay and English) and three official ethnicities, discounting the large number of other immigrants bringing a whole host of cultures and languages to the country.

I’ll remember the first time Pea noticed a Bindi on a woman chatting with two Muslim friends wearing headscarves. Given the muslim population, Pea was used to the scarves but had never seen a bindi before. I was picking her up from her local nursery and she was quite tired and grumpy as we sat on the bus in traffic on the way home. The woman with the bindi not only offered her a sweetie (a way too common occurrence in Asia and it’s rude to refuse) but the whole pack. Pea, absolutely thrilled with her generosity, started paying close attention to her and turned to me to enquire about the red dot on her forehead. Taken off guard, I am not sure what I replied but I am guessing it was something along the lines of it is part of her culture or religion. I don’t know if I mentioned India. I think I didn’t which leads me to wonder if she posed the question to someone else as, a couple of weeks ago, she kept sticking these small little heart stickers on my forehead and saying: “ok Maman, now you are Indian.” And of course Bindis are increasingly common and are no longer restricted to Hinduism which leads me to my next point.

With young kids, it can be difficult to explain things, especially if you are a stickler for accuracy. Often, it can end up requiring too much information not to mention the awful realisation of how much I know or am even quite sure about. For example: when I started writing this article, I thought only Hindus used Bindis. I now know otherwise –I am including a couple of links here and here on the subject– but as a researcher and someone suffering from rigouritis, my toddler’s incessant stream of questions frequently comes close to making my head explode as I try to fully acquire all the necessary knowledge to answer. G-d I can’t wait until she can read and I can simply point her in the right direction.

I know I’ll have plenty of time and opportunities to add in layers of complexity and, to date, I haven’t specifically tried to knowingly expose Pea to different cultures since she is bathing in them all the time. Instead I find myself trying to reinforce her heritage cultures. I do look forward to being able to travel more to expose her and her sister first hand as well as continue to mine all the wonderful resources from other multicultural parent bloggers such as the ones taking part in this wonderful new monthly cultural blogging carnival which is due out on around the 10th at Vibrant Wanderings.

Personally, I am still getting to grips with all the different Asian cultures and holidays. We’ve been living in Thailand now for nearly a year and I still find it magical to pass the orange clad monks making the morning alms rounds as I cycle little Plum to her nursery.

Monk Alms via Flickr CC by Denis'Life

I also still long for certain types of diversity missing here. I’ve nearly got myself into some awkward situations as I couldn’t help but break out into a massive grin and stare at the few Black men I’ve encountered who thought I was flirting with them when really I was just so grateful to see someone neither White nor Asian.

Readers, please note that I stalk Latinos too, another rare sight where I am and am persuaded there is some Facebook group somewhere posting warnings about this crazy Farang (term used here to describe foreigners usually of European descent) lady following with eager eyes and a stupid grin plastered across her face.

And I must remember to check the mirror before I leave the house. I now understand why people were staring at me for our 30 minute walk through our neighborhood to the music/ballet school, market run and journey home. I wonder what they thought about my puffy rainbow heart bindi!