Weekly Local Biography

  Sharon Manson

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.