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Including diverse voices in our home and homeschool


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I was so lucky about 20 years ago when I first started homeschooling. My sister-in-law is a professor and I had her read the first edition of TWTM when she was visiting one Christmas. 
 

She said it was great except for the lack of diversity, so she took on that challenge of supplementing with books and other resources for the kids as they were growing up. 
 

So my advice would be to delegate the job to someone who is really knowledgeable and has an investment in your kids’ educations. 
 

Worked for me. LOL! 

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We are doing a lot of reading and documentary viewing. We follow a lot of IG accounts that we didn’t before (two in particular are & campaign and immigration coalition). Learning, learning, evaluating and reshaping old thought patterns as our errors come to light. 
 

As things begin to open up, we are considering which groups (church, volunteer opportunities) will provide the ability to engage across boundaries. Kind of in the reconnaissance stages of that. Downside of covid, we can’t do it quickly. Upside of covid, we have plenty of time to think and learn. 

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I think I have an obligation to not shove this responsibility off to another. I need to own my part in the process. First, I am white, but not everyone in my family is. Second, the girls were in a very diverse public school prior to the covid shut down, and in our neighborhood we are the only American-born family....so lack of access to a variety of voices in the community isn’t one of our particular issues. We are the minority, and have been so in the last few moves. Third, while I can really only be an expert in my own life and set of experiences, I have some coursework in my degrees areas behind me on this one—no need to farm it out.

I am bringing this up in part because, generally speaking, we are a group of white Christian women. Our homeschool materials have generally been written by white Christian men (sometimes women). We’re not the poster children for inclusivity. 

One of the things I have been trying to address over the last few years is having our bookshelves reflect the community we live in—more BIPOC voices. But, embracing the beauty of diversity isn’t just owning books with people with brown or black skin.

So, back to my original question....

 

 

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Well firstly, read and recommend BIPOC authors because they are well-written and/or entertaining. Don't shove them off into the diversity box 'instructive'. There's a subtle form of racism in a po-faced urge to diversify ones bookshelves for the greater good. Unless, of course, that's how you choose white authors (for their moral teachings and instructions), in which case you are probs missing out on some of the best books! Definitely when it comes to fiction. 

Secondly, other people and their cultures aren't our (white, Christian(?!)) moral  collectables. We don't go out and 'grab' some diversity for ourselves/our families/our homeschool communities. 

Thirdly, extension of one's world should always be a goal of education. How prescriptive it needs to be ie extend in this direction but not that is up to you. 

Personally, I was barely prescriptive at all, feeling that to do so with mixed kids was again, a subtle form of bigotry. I made diverse resources available ( even though, frankly, their non-white father saw this as meddling white lady stuff). Diversity covered race, class, sex and religion. We also chose to live in a place that was class and racially diverse. Not everyone can do that. And it was less to satisfy my moral conscience and more so the kids saw and interacted with kids like them, who weren't all Anglo. 

Beyond that? Best quality/fit. Sometimes that was a resource that wasn't 'white', sometimes it was. Sometimes it was an orthodox resource, sometimes heterodox.

 

 

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33 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

I am bringing this up in part because, generally speaking, we are a group of white Christian women. Our homeschool materials have generally been written by white Christian men (sometimes women). We’re not the poster children for inclusivity. 

 

I am from a South Asian community,  I long to speak my language and not English constantly so I tend to gravitate to those who speak that and that is not particularly inclusive so I too am part of not being the poster child for inclusivity.

It takes effort. We made a conscious decision to buy a house in a diverse neighborhood in a diverse city. It was a new build and it had families who were starting out like us and had young kids. It has paid off in spades because our son's best friend is Hispanic and lives right across the street.  That friendship since the time they were little kids has translated into both our families forming friendships which otherwise might not have happened. It has made us learn our languages, cook food from our cultures and learn about each other in a way it would not have happened without this neighborhood I do not think. 

I also think food plays an important part. I can close my eyes and cook the cuisine of my native country. But I believe in the world in a plate so we cook and eat out often in restaurants from around the world as much as we can. It is hard to hate a country or other someone if you love the food of that country is my mantra.

Books. Not all of us can travel or even as much as we can. So I place a huge value in books. Long before I had any hope of travel, I learned about the world through books, so when I did go to places I never imagined I would, it was familiar and not strange. I am talking about travel books.

Reading diverse books. Read translations and books from around the world especially poetry. English is one of the most translated languages of books from other languages and so read diverse books to get other's perspectives.

Movies. If we can overcome the barrier of subtitles, a whole world of movies and series opens up. We are living in fortunate times because it is available through Netflix and Amazon and if you know English it gives access to a whole lot of content.

Music. I think there is value is listening to music in languages you do not understand for it is universal. I became interested in Kpop because of K-Drama (korean series). Never was interested in learning the language, but you do pick it up and side effect is my 4 year old loved Korean and is learning it. 

Be multi-lingual. I think there is value is being multi-lingual. I see a lot of people push in the US which I have not seen in other countries to learn another language.

Edited by Dreamergal
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Start very early.  If it’s your religious belief, present it as part of that.  If you do dolls, have a variety of ethnic types.  

Early books that actively teach inclusivity:

The Sneetches And Other Stories

All of the Colors of the Earth

The Braids Girl

All the way through, when you’re looking for living books, make sure that your choices include a variety of heros of different genders, races, and ethnicities.  Biographies are particularly helpful—IIRC they are in the 920 section of nonfiction at the library.  Be careful with some older classics—there might be ones you want to avoid or at least discuss.  The original version of Dr. Doolittle, for instance, was chock full of the ‘white mans’ burden’.  The older Bobbsey Twins books are very racist, in an assumed normal kind of way.  

Read books on these issues yourself, both history and good historical fiction, so that you have the background to discuss them or bring in some facts that are needed in discussion.  Have you read The Warmth of Other Suns?  Hawaii?  The Source?    Light in the Dark Belt?  The Small Woman?  Etc.

Show who you are by how you treat people.  Honestly, I think it can be strained to force diverse relationships, but you can choose to be notably equal and kind to everyone, and to form associations with folks in your neighborhood, church, etc. who are not of your own ethnicity.  This needs to be normalized for kids.  

Don’t allow stereotypes to go by in conversation with others in front of your kids.  

 

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I've been happy to see more books written by autistic authors and bought one, a coming of age novel, for dd13 for Christmas. I also bought her a book by a Deaf author we've bought art from before, but had to give it to her early because her father had also bought it (he'd done classes with the author, Asphyxia, back in the day) and isn't shy about slipping spoilers. That was a kind of fun reading frenzy, lol. I also introduced dd to Teresa Scovil, who does autism and introvert flavoured comic strips. Dd laughed herself silly over them. In return, she introduced me to the Wikilanguages Youtube channel.

Every now and then I used to go through the Islamic and Jewish book shops to find supplements for SOTW.

Dd's bestie is Malaysian. We go there for dinner once a fortnight and Bestie's mum is on a mission to Asianise us because we are wimpy white girls who don't eat enough chilli.

My brother does his best to keep us up to date on Indigenous hip hop and LGBTQ+ issues.

We have a subject called "Bitchery" which introduces a lot of diverse experiences. We relate to some, and are glad for what we don't relate to.

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Actually talk about this stuff with your kids. A lot of white parents like to just say vague platitudes like "Everyone is equal" but they aren't willing to do the nitty-gritty of talking about how, socially, we're not all treated equally even though we should be, and that's why some people are a bajillion times more likely to be the victims of police brutality (on a per capita basis) than others (to pick a random example).

That's the single most important thing you can do.

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4 hours ago, prairiewindmomma said:

embracing the beauty of diversity isn’t just owning books with people with brown or black skin.

I think this is an important point. 
 

I am not sure how to create the solution. I grew up in very diverse schools and neighborhoods. My older kids grew up in very white neighborhoods, so I was very thankful for my sister-in-laws books and stories and conversations over the years that helped my older kids become more aware that they were living in just a tiny slice of what the world has to offer. 
 

My younger kids are growing up in a city that was the “most racially/ethnically diverse city in the United States in 2015”. Their reality is so different. 
 

They are the only white kids in Sunday school. When we go to parties, we are the only white family there. Their friend groups are 100% black and brown. Their swim team hosted a diversity camp and my then 13 year old wrote to the people putting it on. She said that she didn’t meet any of the criteria, but she wanted permission to attend and learn how to be a better ally. 
 

I feel like their friendships teach them so much more than just books ever could, but I also see how many people don’t have that luxury. Sometimes the jobs a family needs are in an area that isn’t diverse at all. Books are better than nothing in that situation. But I think Carol is right about setting the example. That something we can all do, no matter where we live. 

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Learn other languages, not to just understand a "foreign" culture and words, but to understand how other cultures view themselves, what do they value, how do they see the world. 

Don't teach American glorioso(IOW, America the greatest country ever!) history and don't just teach American history. I TA for an American history college course and most students are shocked at some of the events not covered in secondary education. It is a balance, though, because some of the topics are challenging to discuss with younger students. When you really study beyond American history, you understand that conflicts and oppression exist throughout history. 

Books like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, helped me as a child in a very WASPy suburb understand racial and educational inequality. I read it to my son when he was in elementary school. Witch of Blackbird Pond helped me understand how group fear of the other - for lack of a better term - could lead to ostracism and even violence. 

Listen to voices from the perspectives of people who identify with that voice, not just from an opposing viewpoint. This is important with religions as well. Books like All-of-A-Kind Family helped me see how an early 20th century urban Jewish family might live and practice their religion - again as a child, it seems books really helped when I didn't have opportunities in real life. 

I also like watching international TV shows and movies, don't have any real child-friendly recommendations though. 

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I have not seen Woke Homeschooling talked about on this board much. And unfortunately the authors took down the book lists, but from everything I've seen, it's very well put together and worth using if this is a goal. If nothing else, the book lists were good and I've heard a lot of people talk very positively about the materials. They have several levels.

 

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9 hours ago, Melissa Louise said:

Well firstly, read and recommend BIPOC authors because they are well-written and/or entertaining. Don't shove them off into the diversity box 'instructive'. There's a subtle form of racism in a po-faced urge to diversify ones bookshelves for the greater good. Unless, of course, that's how you choose white authors (for their moral teachings and instructions), in which case you are probs missing out on some of the best books! Definitely when it comes to fiction. 

 

Well, you aren't going to know that they're well-written or entertaining until you give them a try. Particularly for adults who grew up when there wasn't a lot of diverse representation in the literary world, and who perhaps used libraries that didn't even maximize what there was, choosing books that you know are very likely to be enjoyable often means choosing books written by white authors, because that is what you know (and also what is most common, so sheer randomness doesn't support a diverse writing community). While there's no reason to pat yourself on the back for it, I see nothing wrong with some deliberate diversification of one's bookshelves. The publishing world is hella white, so thoughtful literary diversity usually does require a deliberate effort. 

8 hours ago, Dreamergal said:

 food  

Books. 

diverse books 

Movies 

Music  

Be multi-lingual

All good stuff. 

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This is a good discussion. I appreciate all the comments. Our fam is definitely a work in progress on this issue, too. We happen to live in a relatively diverse neighborhood, but we didn't choose it for that reason. Still, we have been immeasurably blessed by having relationships with people of different races, religions, etc. I think that is how I'm able to avoid the "just owning books" thing. Because of where we live, my daughter's best friend is Colombian. When that family moved, a black family moved in. We've had some frank conversations such as why he (dad) won't/feels like he can't come into our fenced backyard to retrieve a ball his littles threw over the fence...so I appreciate that about him. We have neighbors from all over the world actually, so several different races, nationalities, religions. I mean I'm not bffs with all of them, but I will be if they give me the opportunity. 🙂

It's not just about hearing diverse voices speaking into our lives, it's relationships. My best friend in elementary school was Indian (not native American). We lived in a very racist small town, and that family had experienced a lot of hate from the community. The father was the only pediatrician in town. He was a good doctor. His wife was a pathologist. Not long after they moved in to town, this friend's father was severely beaten by one of the contractors who built his house. A hate crime pure and simple. I can remember my mother trying to explain it to me, and I just couldn't wrap my mind around how something like that could ever happen. It happened because that Indian doctor wasn't seen as human. If you refuse to have personal relationships with those who are different--whether is is a disability, race, religion-- it is much easier to dehumanize them. If you are lucky enough to get to know someone who is different, it is impossible to dehumanize them. I mean...unless you are a psychopath.

I guess to answer more succinctly, invite them into your home.

 

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It's very, very easy to google these things, read reviews and articles online, ask for recommendations...

Just don't present them to kids like they are part of a Sunday school lesson! "Now children, here is our BIPOC book of the week to help us learn diversity."

Find a good book by a BIPOC or other class/sex/ethnicity/religious/viewpointdiverse author if you want, draw the kids in and say 'I found this awesome book for us, let's read!'

And then let the child make their own connections to the text. 

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Just now, Melissa Louise said:

It's very, very easy to google these things, read reviews and articles online, ask for recommendations...

Just don't present them to kids like they are part of a Sunday school lesson! "Now children, here is our BIPOC book of the week to help us learn diversity."

Find a good book by a BIPOC or other class/sex/ethnicity/religious/viewpointdiverse author if you want, draw the kids in and say 'I found this awesome book for us, let's read!'

And then let the child make their own connections to the text. 

This is true up to a point, but sometimes they really don’t understand what is going on unless you explain it explicitly.

When DD was about 4 or 5 and we talked about Dr. ML King, she had trouble figuring out who was meant by ‘black people’.  Which by her lights made sense.  No one was actually black in color, and when we tried to give her examples it got very confusing.  We had not really referred to people by ethnicity or race before, and she just didn’t have the context for it.  It made me realize how much of a construct the whole thing is.  One of her best friends at the time was biracial, with a white mother and a fairly light African American father.  It was hard to explain that she would be considered black, but the very dark child in their class whose parents were from India were not.  But we had to go the distance and make it more clear.

Also, kids hear things that you have to explicitly question.  Or they do things that seem funny or silly to them but are inadvertently very offensive, and that needs to be pointed out.  You have to get in there and lead, as a parent, especially in complex or sensitive matters.

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We started out with a lot of Zinn and Zinn-like books to fold into our programs.  As the kids have gotten older, it’s also gotten easier to find novels written by diverse authors whether explicitly set in other cultures or just happen to be about characters who aren’t white/Christian/male/etc. For the teens, we have a good collection of the latest (and some older) books on race, gender, and class.

We’ve also sought out cartoons, movies, and shows that aren’t all white, white, white.

As the older kids got older, the younger kids have benefited from being around in depth conversations I wouldn’t necessarily think to delve into with youngers, and now I wish I had trusted the big kids’ abilities to tackle the more nuanced concepts when they were younger.  They don’t have the same degree of baggage to unpack that we do, and I do feel like we can prevent them from acquiring some of it by not dancing around the things our parents didn’t really discuss with us. (Or, well, me.)

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12 hours ago, Carol in Cal. said:

This is true up to a point, but sometimes they really don’t understand what is going on unless you explain it explicitly.

When DD was about 4 or 5 and we talked about Dr. ML King, she had trouble figuring out who was meant by ‘black people’.  Which by her lights made sense.  No one was actually black in color, and when we tried to give her examples it got very confusing.  We had not really referred to people by ethnicity or race before, and she just didn’t have the context for it.  It made me realize how much of a construct the whole thing is.  One of her best friends at the time was biracial, with a white mother and a fairly light African American father.  It was hard to explain that she would be considered black, but the very dark child in their class whose parents were from India were not.  But we had to go the distance and make it more clear.

Also, kids hear things that you have to explicitly question.  Or they do things that seem funny or silly to them but are inadvertently very offensive, and that needs to be pointed out.  You have to get in there and lead, as a parent, especially in complex or sensitive matters.

Yeah, this is not familiar to me; honestly can't imagine having to explain 'black' or parse offensive slurs. 

I guess our environment was just very different. Maybe if I was the Mom of white kids? Idk.

I do know that many authors/artists who are not white loathe being used as education when their white peers are read as art. 

If you (general homeschooler) are using a white author to teach style, but black authors to teach theme, you are engaging in the white = art/black= moral learning tool dichotomy. 

White art can tell us important things about the world. Black art can be high art, interested in technique/craft/beauty. 

I mean really, homeschoolers should just avoid pigeon-holing any individual or individual work/text on the basis of race (or other class group), and that includes 'benign' stereotyping of BIPOC art and resources as being primarily tools we use to teach diversity. 

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