Sunday, February 17, 2008

Elusive diversity

One of the constant issues on my mind as a mother who is trying to provide a rich learning environment for her kids is, what about diversity?? It is easy for me to find resources for my kids. We enjoy mseum memberships and we live within easy walking distance to our incredible library. We have homeschool friends and athletic activities. We have a reliable vehicle that can take us wherever we want to go. We lead a pretty full life. Except...we do not have much contact with people of color or different ethnicities. We live in a very homogenous town in a very homogenous part of the state, in a very homogenous part of our country. I try to put concerted effort into geting my kids out of our town and to places where not everyone looks like them. I want them to hear different languages, see different clothing, and to develop at least an awareness of how big the world is outside of our white town. Moving to a more diverse town is not economically feasible for us right now, and a move to a city would not suit me.

Unschooling does give us the freedom to get out of our town more often and to explore the different nooks and crannies beyond the familiar. I see my kids notice yalmulkes and burkhas and saris. I watch them try platanos, pho, and curried rice. We listen to samplings of different music. When it is better weather, we are more apt to use the subway or the commuter train to get into and to move around the city. During our outings and after we return home, I try to encourage conversations about all that we've seen. Much of what they notice goes far beyond the walls of any museum.

I am hoping that they will feel comfortable moving around in the larger world when they get older. I am hoping that they will feel able to relate to people who are different from them. I am hoping they will develop awareness and compassion for those who are less fortunate. I hope that the freedom of unschooling allows me to show them a bigger world beyond the segregated society we live in here. Exposing them to math, science, history...all the traditional school subjetcs..that's easy. Those concepts and opportunities are everywhere. Helping them to become citizens of the world is perhaps a more daunting issue for me.

Opportunities for friendships with children from different racial or ethnic backgrounds are extremely limited. A few of their friends are adoptees from foreign countries, and those adoptive families do discuss and incorporate the culture of their child's birth country into family life. Sometimes we attend organized trip for homeschoolers outside of our area, but even these groups are not racially or culturally diverse. As my kids grow, I hope to continue finding opportunities for us to enrich our lives with people and places that are more reflective of the world.


m~ said...

The fact that you care about cultural diversity tells me that your children will grow to be loving, understanding and caring of others.
Maybe you can look in to some sort of homeschool on-line class room with other families in different countries. Does anything like that even exist?

piscesgrrl said...

I agree with what m~ said - however, I'm in a similar situation as you... and really, talking about it does not equal knowing how to navigate it. i'm reminded of this when *I* go to big inner cities and sense my own insecurities about navigating different cultures. It's not so much being insensitive or unaware as it is being inexperienced. Now that i've spent most of my life in a rural area, I feel less and less adept at navigating a variety of social situations. But it's simply lack of experience, not unwillingness or intolerance.

Clear as mud?