Welcome back to another homeschool interview. Today we head over to Gina Munsey’s homeschool where she is teaching Chinese! You can catch Gina over at http://www.oaxacaborn.com.
What are your top 3 reasons for homeschooling?
I was a homeschooled missionary kid back in the 80s and 90s. So homeschooling isn’t a new idea to me, but I never really felt like I belonged in homeschool subculture, either (I still don’t). And I wasn’t necessarily set on the idea of homeschooling my own family, even though my own educational experience was profoundly academic and prepared me well for college.
But after researching public school options, and touring our local Christian school and sitting in on the classes, I realized I could instead take the tuition money and pay for an enormous library of books, specialized classes and outings every week, museum memberships, and other rich educational experiences while continuing to provide a high-quality education at home.
How do you choose curriculum?
The instructional material one selects depends largely on the individual student’s learning style, of course. But there are so many other implications to consider as well. So when I review curriculum, I have a sort of mental checklist —
Does this material assume all girls should grow up to be wives and raise children, or does it empower and inspire girls to follow whatever path God calls them to, recognizing that not all women marry, and some struggle with infertility? Does it highlight women and girls as independent actors? Does it tell stories of women beyond focusing on their roles in a family?
Does the material promote compliance with a set of rules, or does it allow for freedom and grace?
Does this material emphasize outward virtues and traits with the goal to get the child to imitate certain character values, or does it recognize that it’s only through a heart surrendered to Jesus that a person can only be truly transformed?
Does the material oversimplify good and evil and present it as an easy-to-spot either-or choice; or does it teach analytical and critical thinking skills, discernment, and problem-solving?
Does the material only present what to learn and/or believe, or does it also provide context and a “why” behind the belief?
Does the material present history predominately from a Western perspective, or does it also present facts from a non-European point-of-view?
Does the material perpetuate the idea of “otherness” by teaching about non-European cultures using stereotypical depictions, or does it allow for each culture to have its own strong, rich, identity?
Does the material mainly contain books with white main characters, or does it offer books with nuanced, fully-developed, non-stereotypical heroes and heroines of diverse backgrounds?
Does the material teach (implicitly or explicitly) that the “primary” actors in history or literature are white? Who does it teach my child to identify and sympathize with?
Does the material attempt to “Christianize” certain historical events, or does it recognize that every event has more than one side?
Have I truly evaluated the content and worldview of this material, or am I simply choosing this material because it’s popular in homeschooler subculture?
Will this material allow my child to be challenged to the best of his/her God-given ability, or am I simply choosing this material because of its price point / ease-of-use / etc?
Will this material equip my child to follow any number of career paths God might have in store for him/her, or am I choosing this material because I want my child to follow the path I have in mind?
Is this material based on fear and reliance on man’s own goodness to combat what is perceived as evil, or does it promote courage and a reliance on Jesus?
Is this material designed primarily to shelter and insulate my child, or is it designed to inform, equip, and empower?
What are the ages of your kids, and at what age did you start homeschooling?
My daughter is just finishing up kindergarten, and will be in first grade this fall. We started homeschooling at age 3; she’s 5 now, and yes, she’s my only.
What is your biggest homeschooling failure? Success?
Success and failure is very much a matter of perspective, isn’t it? What we view as a challenge, obstacle, or failure can open the door to things we never thought possible. Wendell Berry explains it this way, in his book “Hannah Coulter”,
“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say. ‘It is yet more difficult than you thought.’ This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
What is your philosophy on education?
Education is about equipping, not sheltering. Education should be focused on expanding the horizon of knowledge, not limiting and controlling the flow of information.
In addition to having the responsibility to provide alternate resources for a child who needs to be challenged academically beyond what we have the ability to offer, we also have a responsibility to provide a cultural context for it all. Our lives have to be lived in context of this world, not separated from it. Jesus never told us to detach ourselves from culture. He never taught that days of time gone by are to be preferred to the century in which we find ourselves living and breathing. So education, too, has to have contextual and cultural meaning in the world we’re living in today.
The late Rich Mullins said, “We can’t so much see light as we can see things because of it. So I do not meet God in a vacuum — I meet Him in the world He has provided for me to meet Him in — in a world of events and of places, of history (time and space), in a world of lives of people and their records of their encounters. I meet God in this world — in the world of these things.”
Explain a typical day
While eating breakfast together, we often listen to an audio version of the day’s Bible readings (iPad apps make things like this so easy)! Then, my husband heads off to work and we start the school day with piano and voice practice, going over that week’s home assignments from the Yamaha music school we attend.
We rotate through the subjects. While we have full curricula for math, history, science, reading, phonics/handwriting/spelling, art, Chinese, and Bible, we don’t do every subject every single day. Instead, we rotate through them. This works well for us, and keeps engagement high since each day it has a slightly different schedule and subject order than the the day before.
There are a few constants, though. Every day includes books — books, books, books. In addition to using a lot of literature-based curricula, I have also invested in a tremendous number of books to be read for pleasure — non-fiction titles, full-color science encyclopedias, classics, books covering lesser-known historical figures, and so much more. Plus, we’re at the library almost every week, too. It’s three months into 2016, and my daughter has already read 125 different books from cover to cover (the great majority of these are chapter books, and some of them she’s read more than once, too.) It’s going to be so interesting to see how many she’ll have read by the end of the year! We’re tracking them all over at this bookshelf on Goodreads.
And most days include songs. There are so many resources for learning through song: the delightful Songs for Saplings to teach theological truths, phonics Songs and history memory songs from Veritas Press, Kathy Troxel’s Geography Songs, modern and traditional children’s songs helpful in learning Mandarin Chinese, and Mr. W’s science music videos, just to name a few.
Explain your homeschool adventure in one word.
What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding of homeschooling?
For some reason, many people still seem to think that children need same age peers for proper development. I was at a picnic potluck some time ago, and my very chatty two-year-old was talking up a storm with the adults at our table. One of the women asked if my daughter went to daycare. When I said no, she was genuinely shocked and replied, “Wow! And she has learned all those words?” And she’s not alone in her assumptions. Many people still believe that toddlers are better off modeling behavior and vocabulary learned from fellow toddlers, rather than learning from daily interaction with people of all ages. When a student graduates from college or high school and moves into the workplace, it certainly won’t be at a workplace of only 18-year-olds or only 22-year-olds. Do I interact with only 32-year-olds whose birthdays are after a September cut-off? Definitely not.
What is one tip to avoid burnout?
Don’t do it all yourself! Sometimes burnout happens because of a very real inability to lighten an overly heavy workload — but burnout can also be the result of being unwilling to loosen the tight reins of control. The key to thriving as a homeschooler, I think, is to completely let go of the idea that everything has to be done at home.
Each weekend, we’re at our local Chinese cultural center, where my daughter attends Chinese language and cultural enrichment classes. She’s performed Chinese folk dances with her classmates at local Lunar New Year festivals, and this year a lion dance team has been coming to the campus after school too, to let kids learn this tradition. We actually started taking her to this school when she was three, for once-a-week preschool classes. She was able to take part in all the traditional preschool class activities — circle time, coloring, singing, being read to, learning colors and shapes, doing crafts, reciting nursery rhymes — while also learning Chinese. And for a couple years now, we’ve also been participating in an after-school piano and singing class at our local Yamaha music school. It’s all so much fun, and none of these outside classes are technically “homeschool classes”, either!
Do you have a motto or quote for your homeschool? Why did you choose that one?
I don’t officially, but over and over again in life I find myself coming back to two points. For me personally, I have to keep remembering, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Another concept I keep coming back to time and time again is that I don’t want to shelter my daughter. I want to equip and empower her. Frederick Buechner, theologian and author, said this very wisely: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
Best piece of advice for a new homeschooling parent.
You don’t have to do it all yourself! Lots of cities have tremendous homeschool groups and co-op classes, but don’t be discouraged if what you’re looking for isn’t offered by a homeschool group in your area. Take advantage of community resources such as science museums, history centers, library programs, churches, cultural associations, sports organizations, community centers, and even hybrid/à la carte options at private schools!
About Gina Munsey
A Jesus-lover and a sojourner. A weaver of words, anchored in hope. Gina is a Mexico-born, Eastern Europe-raised missionary kid who ended up being a Californian in Orlando, Florida. She lives her humidity-drenched days full of coffee and adventures while her 5-year-old learns Mandarin Chinese and her artist-husband creates worlds from pixels and light. In addition to being a fourteen-year blogging veteran, she’s also the Senior Editor of Babiekins Magazine, a Branding and PR Consultant for Babiekins Media, and on any given day you can find her in the middle of [home]school surrounded by stacks and stacks of books. You can read Gina’s blog at http://www.oaxacaborn.com, catch her on Instagram @oaxacaborn, or follow her on Facebook at Oaxacaborn.”