There are so many ways to bring multiculturalism into homeschooling and more generally, our family culture. Some flow more freely and others require a specific effort in our Euro-Latin-Australian family of five. I will share with you multicultural music and media resources that have worked so far, understanding that our oldest is only seven and we still have many more years of multilingual upbringing ahead. We split our lives between cruising the Seven Seas on our sailing boat, aka the Sailing Yoga Family, and currently building an off-grid 7-star sustainable home in an eco-village an hour north of Sydney, Australia.
When it comes to multilingualism, there is probably no better way than improving the vocabulary than finding new favourite songs. We mostly use the seemingly inexhaustible pool of Apple Music for which we pay just over 11.99 A$/month. A well worth investment for us, as I also use it for my yoga classes – and any other musical accompaniment, mood and need I’m in. I hear Spotify works just as well. Youtube can also be a great resource to find age- and theme-specific songs in any given language.
Moreover, our ‘abuelos’ regularly send old-style CDs (and workbooks) from Argentina to help the kids with their Spanish. Maria Elena Walsh has been one of their favourites for a while, but I reckon my pandering on Luis Miguel while cooking dinner will sooner or later also leave a trace. And so will my husband’s passion for the Redondos. These a not only an expansion of language but also of musical culture, background and heritage to fill the sponges of those curious, rapidly expanding young brains. I guess, the point I’m making is that it’s not only about more or less forcefully finding kids songs in the second language, but making it part of your family’s way and joys.
We also include music from all styles and backgrounds into our (mummy-taught) piano- and guitar lessons. And on this note, I have to mention one of our favourite media resources for the piano which is Mr. Hoffman’s Youtube channel, ‘Hoffman Academy’. Just like the kids’ occasional online yoga treat, ‘Cosmic Kids’, we don’t get any commission, but couldn’t recommend more heartily these authentic, fun, highly engaging and, for us, invaluable media-tools in our education journey.
Audio Short Stories
From the above-mentioned resources, we also like listening to short stories in the car. Currently, Pinoccho is the hit. Usually the first few times we listen to a new story, there will be complaints, “No, in English please Mum!!!” But rather sooner than later they start not only loving but even asking for it. Like with so many things for littles, repetition seems to be key. And then, of course, there’s the culture-specific stories which we are just getting into. Myths, anecdotes, indigenous stories, old-fashioned movies. We are a screen-limited family (no TV, very little computer time etc), we turn more towards books, arts, worksheets, games, and stories, but at times online resources can greatly enhance the multicultural experience.
It’s also interesting to discuss with our kids the subtle differences in universally known stories, songs, sayings, and myths. For example, while Australian kids expect the tooth fairy to leave a present under their pillow when she comes to take a freshly fallen milk-tooth, in Argentina ‘Raton Perez’ sneaks along. And then there’s mum’s childhood stories of snowmen and white Christmases, while for dad this has always been a mid-summer event. Nowadays, it’s the hopping kangaroos pulling Santa’s slay. Why he still is covered from head to two in the scorching Australian sun remains a mystery yet to be solved.
When it comes to educational videos, I try and alternate languages. MinutoDeLaTierra is one of our favourite Spanish speaking Youtube channels at the moment, favourites tend to shift every month as the kids grow and develop so quickly. MDLT are short videos on many things from bird migration, to ‘Do fetus poop in the belly’ to the biggest organisms in the world. Since we moved back down under for a while, aware of how little our kids knew the ‘Aussie’ culture when we first returned, we have also turned to things like ‘Bushwacked’ on ABCme.
Sometimes we head to the Brave Wilderness channel – always well balanced with ‘real’ bushwalks. We also take visits to the Australian Reptile Park around the corner from our eco-village and plenty of mud and dirt play outside! We are yet to find an Argentinean/South American equivalent to that – open to any comments and suggestions, dear readers, please!
There is so much in language that is cultural, that in any song, video or story, it’s not only a different language that is spoken. They hold a different way of relating, interacting with the world and others, different myths as bases and different commonalities. Children, although not always obvious at first, pick up on all these subtleties. My kids, for example, have asked more than once why in Spanish videos people talk so much faster than in South American ones. Explain that!?!
Online Maths and Language programs
In the literal and mathematical branch of our world-schooling journey, we use resources like ABC Reading Eggs, Mathletics, ArbolABC and Rockalingua. Some of these sites request a small fee for most of their resources. Again, we try and mix it up between Spanish and English, as well as hard copy and online. When my five-year-old has a spurt of reading readiness, he gets to alternate between Spanish and English on a daily basis. Although one language will always be dominant, there is a lot of research suggesting great benefits in teaching them writing and reading in both languages around the same time. It seems it is just a tiny little extra effort now – whereas I know if we waited till later in life, it would be heaps more than that.
As such, whenever we go to our local library, I make sure that at least a few Spanish books make their way into our bag as well. But just as life is not only about books and online learning, neither is home-schooling and even less so world-schooling. Since we moved out of the city, we have been coming together with a group of other home-schoolers interested in expanding their multi-cultural experiences. Once a month, we take turns in hosting a two-hour session during which each family picks a country to discover and explore. We use all shapes and forms of media and resources, ranging from life and recorded music and dance, over videos and photos, to worksheets, arts, games, and play. If you have a community around you interested in the world, I strongly recommend organising these low-prep, high-fun, purposeful gatherings.
In summary, the extent of multi-cultural music and media resources available is flabbergasting. It often is not a matter of not finding enough, but rather of overwhelm as to what resources are authentic, not (only) out for the big bugs and work. In this search, personal recommendations are often a great way to guide the search, bearing in mind the different needs and requirements of each family. I hope having shared some of the resources which work for us, I can make a positive contribution to your journey too. I would love to hear from you here, or on our blog, SailingYogaFamily.com, or our Facebook page – and if you are keen to share what media, music, resources, and approaches work for you to create multi-cultural world citizens, then please don’t hold back in sharing them!
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