By Rebecca Lomax, Ph.D.
Sharon Manson is a woman of many talents, one
of which is the ability and willingness to share with us a frank
and honest story of growing up the hard way. She’s a Kiwi,
born in the most beautiful seaside town I’ve ever visited,
Napier. But she didn’t stay there long because her father was
moved around a lot in his job as a manager with Woolworth’s.
She can count 13 or 14 New Zealand cities as “home”. She
discovered her love of singing very early, sometimes in
religious music but also in Broadway tunes. At the age of
twelve, she was the scarecrow in a local production of the
“Wizard of Oz”. But then she became an adolescent, and her
life became difficult and confused. She turned away from the
Christian faith in which she had been raised, and she turned
towards the most destructive choice of all – drugs. She
didn’t come back for a long time, but, when she did, she came
back strong and found her faith again.
Today, she’s living proof that people can
and do turn their lives around. She’s a loving wife and a
trained teacher who is home-schooling the family’s three
gifted sons. She’s a talented singer who is often featured in
the performances of the Chiang Mai Choral Society International
as well as other groups. And she’s spreading the word of her
faith as a volunteer here in Chiang Mai. Paradise lost has
become Paradise regained.
I have always been fascinated by the concept
of home schooling. My father and his siblings attended school in
a one-room schoolhouse where the teacher taught many grade
levels at one time. I treasure a copy of his English literature
book. So I’ve always thought that home schooling a few
children would be somewhat like that, with the teacher busily
going from one academic subject and level to the other all day.
The picture that Sharon paints isn’t at all what I had
envisioned. She’s working hard, but she’s also having fun.
Her boys are working hard, too, but talk to them and you’ll
know they’re having fun.
Sharon trained as a teacher in New Zealand
with the idea in mind of one day home-schooling her own
children. She worked for three years as a teacher in public
schools, and the experience reinforced her decision. She said it
doesn’t matter where her family lives, she will still home
school. She doesn’t do it because of religious reasons, not
wanting her children to associate with those of different
beliefs, or any of the other reasons you may hear. She does it
because she doesn’t have confidence in school systems, a
feeling that is obviously shared by many parents around the
world. Just a cursory glance at the internet resources for home
schooling reveals a lot. Support groups, sample lesson plans,
ideas for testing and evaluation abound. And universities are
taking notice. Home-schooled kids do quite well.
Home schooling is a big commitment for the
whole family. If the mother is the primary teacher, then the
father must be the primary breadwinner. For a family that is
accustomed to two incomes, this can be quite expensive. But
it’s more than just a financial commitment. It’s a life
style. The teacher in the family has very little personal time
or time alone; he or she is literally tied to the home and kids.
Socialization for the teacher is important.
Socialization for home-schooled children is important, too. And
that’s where home school co-ops help out. Locally, the Chiang
Mai Home School Educators meet one day a week to share
resources, and provide a sounding board for each other.
A typical home school day, Sharon says, is
filled with both academic subjects and a lot of fun. Field trip
opportunities abound in this country. Sometimes she uses a field
trip to teach more than one skill. Recently she has encouraged
her oldest son to take red buses to get around town, teaching
independent living skills. And now that all of the boys read,
the internet also offers coursework for them. Any subject can
become a research topic, and Sharon concedes that she has to be
very accurate in her answers to their questions. They can always
double check Mom via the web.
Does she separate the roles of mom and
teacher? Never. Teacher is her career choice within the context
of being a wife and mom. She loves it.
We move to a far different subject, our
mutual love of music and particularly of singing. Sharon says
she doesn’t read music, but, oh, she can sing it! She first
joined the Choral Society in 2004, having learned about it from
a write up in Chiangmai Mail. She was a little shy at first
because she says she speaks Kiwi. Well, she’s shy no longer
and we love her Kiwi. Her voice is a rich alto with a wide
range, and she’s becoming known around town for solo
performances. Who could ever forget her as one of the Andrews
Sisters or singing the 1932 hit, “Yours”, as a solo to her
smiling husband at the “Hats Off” performance last fall? But
her performance in both English and the Maori language of “Now
Is the Hour” was a showstopper.
As we discussed the Broadway music that the
Choral Society will present June 3, she made an imaginative
comment: “Wouldn’t the world be awesome if it were like a
musical?” She says that singing is something she does for
herself to enrich her life, to associate with people from all
over the world who love to sing. When she’s practicing or
performing, she can lose herself in the music. For a little
while, she’s not a wife or mom or teacher. She’s “just
Sharon”. “Just Sharon” is constantly learning and growing.
It will be interesting to see her move to the next stage of her
life as her sons grow up. You can bet she won’t spend it
rocking on her front porch.