By Joyce Rodgers, VaHomeschoolers Conference Speaker
Recently a friend asked me to share my experience with Model United Nations with the homeschooling community. I have begun to write this so many times and constantly find myself at a loss, unable to encapsulate it all in a few paragraphs. As a high schooler Model United Nations (MUN) wasn’t available at my school until we moved my senior year, but I eagerly joined the team that fall. It is not an overstatement to say it changed my life. In the midst of a battle with clinical depression in college, Model United Nations was an activity I opted for despite my inability to do little else. So, when my middle school son was yearning for something to be a part of … something that was bigger than himself … I offered a Model United Nations class to him and his friends. There were five of us that first year. Six years later there are about 20 middle and high school students participating. While my oldest has gone on to college to study international relations and education, two of my younger children have since also become Model United Nations enthusiasts, or as I call them MUNsters. Model United Nations continues to impact my world, and has greatly enriched the lives of my children and students as well.
As homeschoolers, we are blessed with a plethora of opportunities for our students. Academic oriented clubs and teams abound. Model United Nations is one of these fabulous choices. While it is impossible for me to label the “one thing” I love about Model United Nations for students, I can say that something that amazes me each year is how it seems to be able to meet so many students where they are and take them further than they knew they could go. MUN offers a unique combination of communication/language, social studies/geography and interpersonal skills. Students will sign up feeling confident in their ability to research or their geography skills, but nervous and uncertain about writing or speaking. Sometimes we have students join who are academic whiz-kids who struggle to speak or lack confidence socially. We’ve had athletes, dancers, “bookworms”, musicians, rebels, missionary kids, prodigies, struggling learners, spectrum kids, lonely kids, loud kids – we’ve had so many kids walk in the door. All of them arrived feeling “different”, but at the end of the year they were a part of the team in every way any member of any team would be. They leave feeling validated in their strengths and more confident in their previous weaknesses.
No matter where the kids begin, by the end of their first year they have had their eyes opened and become substantially aware of the world around them. Many of the students have studied world cultures and religions. They often can run off a list identifying government types, continents, and international capitals. However, it isn’t until they participate in an activity like MUN that they have an understanding of the complex issues facing the world – facing kids their age in other countries. Through participation in a program like MUN, students truly become global citizens and find it hard to ignore life beyond the walls of the US. Many, if not all, of the kids who have come through Model United Nations have considered or are pursuing international studies/missions or travel as a result of their experiences. The added bonus is that parents by connection gain a new awareness and knowledge of the world.
In addition to all of the impressive transcript ready skills they gain in writing, speaking, world cultures and current affairs, kids learn skills that they can use wherever they end up in life. They will gain the ability to understand the needs and hopes of others they work with, and how they can work cooperatively to best meet their own goals as well as those of others. That is a skill that will make them a better neighbor, friend, spouse, employee/employer – or diplomat.
Model United Nations isn’t the right option for every kids, but it is a good fit for more kids than most realize. It fuels my passion to see kids laugh, bond and build lasting friendships while arguing opposing views on topics that curl the hair of most adults.