My Mixed Life: Leanna, Homeschooling Mom, Blogger, and Founder of Multicultural Kid Blogs
Talking Louis: Who are you?
Leanna: My name is Leanna, and I am a homeschooling mom and blogger. I blog about homeschooling, diverse books, and global education at AllDoneMonkey.com. I am also the founder of Multicultural Kid Blogs, a supportive community for parents, caregivers, educators, and community members looking to raise little world citizens.
TL: What does your mixed experience look like?
L: I am white, from the US, and my husband is from Costa Rica. We are working to raise our children to appreciate both sides of their heritage, and to be world citizens.
TL: You are the founder of Multicultural Kid Blogs and the owner and blogger at All Done Monkey. What do these various roles entail and what are your goals with them?
L: All Done Monkey is my personal blog, where I share resources, such as books, music, and curricula, that we enjoy and use. On social media, I also share about the everyday activities we are up to, such as our efforts to connect our kids to the outdoors.
My goal is to provide support to other parents who are trying to raise their children to be anti-racists, to be world citizens, and to have fun and grow together as a family. So many of us want to raise our children to be better, to build a different society, but what does that actually look like? I try to provide a look at how we're trying to do it, and to let people know that you may not always get it right, but the important thing is to keep trying!
Multicultural Kid Blogs consists of 100+ bloggers, with many of these actively involved in the running of the group. I am still very hands-on with the group, helping on social media and the Editorial Board for our blog. I also serve on MKB's Board, helping with any issues that may arise as well as helping with the overall vision for the group.
The goal of MKB is similar to my goal with ADM: to provide support for families and communities seeking to raise world citizens. There are so many different aspects to this, and different ways to do it, that we wanted to provide resources for others on the same journey. We have some bloggers that are experts in raising multilingual children, others with insight on living abroad or traveling as a family, others that have insight about raising kids to be anti-racists, and so on. Together we are creating a vision for a better world for all our children.
TL: You and your husband are raising multicultural children in California and teaching them to be bilingual, bicultural, but more importantly, to be “world citizens.” What does being a world citizen look like to you?
L: As a Baha'i, I'm inspired by the quotation from Baha'u'llah that the "earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." To me this means a recognition that what we do in our little corner of the world affects and is affected by the rest of the world. There is a growing recognition - especially in light of the pandemic - of how closely interconnected our lives are. We are one human family, so when one part of that family is suffering, it affects all of us. As a result, we should be concerned about what is happening in the world, be humble and sincere in our interactions with others, and fearless in championing the causes of justice.
I love Homa Sabet Tavangar's idea of raising children that are "at home in the world." To me it implies a respectful curiosity about the world. "Citizenship" to me also means that you take an active role in building up that global community, whether it's picking up trash at the park, or speaking up about racial inequalities.
TL: You are working hard to raise bilingual kids who speak Spanish and English. How has this experience been as a non-native speaker? What are some of the ways you incorporate learning both languages into your home?
L: It is definitely challenging! One of the main difficulties is I tend to speak to the kids in English, because it's so much easier for me and because I just forget!
There are three main ways we are trying to encourage them to speak Spanish: 1) Exposure - my husband speaks to the kids mostly in Spanish, and I try to speak to them more in Spanish as well. I would love to say that I always speak to them in Spanish, but in reality I'm aiming for about 50% of the time, and hopefully increasing that over time. We also have a lot of Spanish media in the house and talk often to our relatives in Costa Rica.
2) Active teaching - I've also included Spanish instruction in our homeschool, to consciously teach them grammar and vocabulary.
3) Create a need - One thing I've learned from the multilingual experts in our MKB group is that for children to really learn a language, there has to be a need for it. That is, to put kids in a situation where they have to speak Spanish. Otherwise, you end up with what we mostly have, which is "passive" Spanish speakers. In other words, my kids understand most of what they hear in Spanish, but they almost always reply in English. This has been the area we've struggled with the most, but we try to keep on speaking to them in Spanish and to connect with our Costa Rican family, especially through travel when we can.
TL: How are you laying the groundwork to help your children understand the various cultures they are a part of? How do you go about incorporating these cultures into your everyday life, as well as during the holidays?
L: My husband and I have tried to look at our traditions growing up and preserve those parts that were most important for us. We also focus on creating new family traditions that we all love. In addition, I run a World Explorers Club with some homeschooling friends, and every year we have a "Holidays Around the World" party where we get to explore how Christmas and other holidays are celebrated in different countries.
TL: What expectations did you have for your intercultural marriage? How have your expectations been met or not met?
L: We went into it knowing how important communication would be, and that has proven to be very true. Because we are aware of coming from different cultures, we are more deliberate in talking about expectations. One thing that is different than I expected is that we always planned to live in Costa Rica but instead have stayed here in the US.
At first it was just the delaying of our decision in order to finish school, but once we had kids it was because of issues of healthcare and jobs. I miss that dream that we had, but at the same time I still feel like we made the best decision for our family.
TL: How does your intercultural relationship influence the way you and your husband decide to raise your children?
L: To be totally honest, it is the area in which we are most in agreement and yet have the most conflict. By that I mean, we are in total agreement about prioritizing our family, yet often differ in what that means in practical terms. Is more or less screen time better for the kids? How do we handle their arguments among themselves? What helps, though, is recognizing that we both want what's best for them, and maintaining that respect when we have differing opinions.
TL: You’re raising your kids in a fun, spiritual, and loving environment at home. You mention you draw inspiration from the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith. What does this faith mean to you and your family, and how does it impact your day to day life?
L: The Bahá'í Faith in the foundation for our family culture and influences our orientation towards the world. To me it is encapsulated in the concept of being a world citizenship - the idea that we are all one human family, children of the same God; that we have a duty to take care of each other; and that we have to tend to our own souls through prayer and service to others.
On a day to day basis, it means that we pray together in the mornings and evenings, that we participate in the activities of our local Baha'i community, including attending classes for children, that we try to think of how we can help others, that we strive to follow the principles of unity, justice, and equality, and that when we have big questions, we look to our scriptures to discover answers.
TL: Because we’re a small press, we have to ask: What’s the one book you always recommend to people?
L: I love Growing Up Global by Homa Sabet Tavangar. She has great practical ideas for raising kids to be world citizens.
Thanks, Leanna, for sharing your mixed experience with us!