Why Homeschoolers Should Encourage Multi-Cultural Appreciation: Lisa’s Story

race

Lisa is a homeschool graduate currently attending Patrick Henry College.

I was homeschooled my entire life. I’m the oldest in a large family. I’m also a second-generation immigrant kid. My parents are both immigrants from India.

Indian homeschoolers are very rare, and in 15 years of being homeschooled, I’ve only met about 3 other Indian homeschooled families. I must say that I have never been discriminated against because of my race. However, in my experience, the general attitude of the homeschool community towards non-white cultures leaves much to be desired.

Fitting into American society as a first or second-generation immigrant presents its own dilemmas. In my experience, not many in the homeschool community seem interested in understanding these challenges. When explaining this to a friend, she began to complain about (in her words) “hyphenated Americans.” Indian-American, African-American, and Japanese-American were terms that bothered her. She asked, “Why the prefix? Why can’t they just be Americans?” When I wondered whether I could wear a sari for a formal school even, someone said, “But you’re American, right?”

It doesn’t help that the majority of homeschooling material seems to bear a “West is best” mentality.

It often feels as if only exports from Europe and America merit careful study. My parents did a great job teaching us about our own culture, but there was a time when I accepted the idea that America must be inherently better than any other place in the world. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to live in India that I truly appreciated my heritage. My brother takes online video classes from a prominent homeschool curriculum provider. In his World History and Geography class, the teacher wrote three things about India on the whiteboard: Hinduism, socialism, caste system. (None of those things are necessarily false, but if that’s all you can teach about one of the world’s oldest civilizations, something’s wrong.) The subsequent teaching made it obvious the only positive things about India are the Western missionaries that came there.

It would be unfair to act as though these experiences completely defined my experienced as a non-white homeschooler. For example, I only considered wearing the sari because another homeschooled friend suggested it. At Patrick Henry College, I wear Indian outfits on occasion and no one seems to mind. The history professor who teaches Western Civilization talks to me about Indian politics and his love of South Indian food. Throughout my homeschool experience and even more so at college, I have met many homeschoolers who are genuinely interested in learning about other cultures. At the same time, I have heard many fellow students wholeheartedly defend Western colonization and dismiss accusations of imperialism as part of a liberal, anti-Western agenda.

While I’m certainly not asking that every homeschooler be an expert in non-Western cultures, some respect, appreciation, and understanding would be welcomed. I think that this is even more vital as society becomes increasingly globalized. This does require exposure, for how can you appreciate something that you’ve never experienced? Non-Western cultures have history, music, art, and literature as rich as any European country and equally worth studying. Today, this is as easy as a library run, a Google search, or a field trip. If it considered important, Tagore and Japanese haikus can easily fit in a homeschooled lesson plan alongside Wordsworth and Austen.

I think that fostering multi-cultural appreciation can, and should be, encouraged in the homeschool community.

In my personal experience, it has not been a priority for homeschoolers in general. If it were, homeschooling would be more attractive to an increasingly diverse range of people. Kids, parents, and the movement as a whole would only benefit.

5 comments

  • Oh my goodness. Someone else is Indian and homeschooled AND the oldest of a large family!! This is fabulous!! 🙂 And yes I definitely got the point, from my western civ class, that West is best.. :/

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Coming from a state with a de facto state religion (among others) of Multicultural Diversity Uber Alles, MultiCulti alone has a serious dark side. With an Idealist Generation such as Baby Boomers looking at everything through Utopian-colored glasses, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” all too often gets followed a gen later by “But How Was I To Know?”

    A better analogy would be striking a balance between Core Culture and Multi Culture (with a lot of give-and-take arguing about just where to place that balance point). Because Core Culture without Multi Culture gives you the New Soviet Man or Pleasantville; Multi Culture without Core Culture gives you what used to be Yugoslavia.

    • This is pretty smart (I lived in eastern Europe for about 18 months). If I had to choose extremes, I’d rather live in a place that’s proud of itself and not afraid to exhibit the pride. (Rather than a country that attempts to force whatever the current leaders think multiculturalism is.) How about we all just be ourselves and be glad about it?

      (And obviously we’d pick South Indian cuisine over McDonald’s any day, right?)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    When I wondered whether I could wear a sari for a formal school even, someone said, “But you’re American, right?”

    I’d go with the sari. It’s an exotic-yet-graceful style of clothing, and (as long as you don’t become a cartoon of yourself) it’s part of Who You Are.

  • This is a fascinating series, and I have learned quite a bit about the way that racism can infect education, or how education reflect racism. I think that we have to be very careful in how we portray our community to children, as it shapes their sense of self. My school education in the 1970s was deficient in that area, but my parents were able to supplement it at home.

    I think that with this series you should be aware that the internet is global in scope; people from all over the world can read what’s on a website. I am in the UK, in the M25 area around London. 60% of the Christians in London and the South East are black, brown or yellow. There are 161 nationalities in our area. I am a Black British woman, married to a blue-eyed man, in a church led by New Zealanders, living next door to Nigerians.

    Every time I go to a home education event, especially a Christian one, there is a range of nationalities. The experiences in this HA series, which I found on Google, are perhaps typical of home education in the US, where schooling in general is very segregated.

    The painful and frankly strange experiences described in this blog series are interesting for me to read as a window into a very particular American issue. We do have concerns and debates in the UK about race, but I would hate anyone to think that it’s home education that creates or fosters racism. It seems that dominionist/Manifest destiny nonsense is perpetrated by some parents and teachers in and out of school. It is a good thing that you are exposing this ideology. It would also be good to acknowledge that there are parents of *every race* who are trying to find a better way to educate our children. Some are choosing private school, some using Saturday schools, some are home educating. Some people are doing this to *escape* racism, rather than to encourage it.

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