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.