It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.
– Maya Angelou
I love how Maya Angelou speaks from the heart and calls on us parents to lead our children to embrace our rich heritage as members of one human race. Findings from a recent research study support her sage advice. The University of Toronto study showed that early elementary age children are very influenced by what adults teach them about other groups of people.
The study showed that first graders who had been told that another group is mean will believe it – even when real life experience differs. So we can fill up our kids with an us-them attitude that can subtly or overtly train our tender saplings to view the other as not to be trusted or loved. Or we can teach them acceptance, compassion, and the interconnectedness that is our reality.
As parents, we have a wonderful opportunity to help shape our little one’s view of the world. When we raise our children to be world citizens, we’re not only preparing them to compete in the global marketplace, be better problem solvers, managers, and more. We are giving them the gift of knowing their human family and being a part of it. As global citizens, our children can shape the world in positive ways for all their human family members.
Our family is blessed to participate in a monthly homeschool cooperative, Culture Club, which coordinates a schedule of countries to “visit” in our studies each academic year based on participants’ votes the year before. Each family studies whatever they wish about that country, each student focuses on his or her own areas of interest, and then the children share their work at our monthly gathering via a presentation, a play, a craft to prepare for everyone to make, a demonstration, etc. Following presentations and crafts and games, everyone enjoys a potluck lunch featuring recipes from that culture. Yum!
With a background in international education and an intense love of the world and its peoples, I had already exposed our first child to more than two years of global education programs for preschoolers offered by our children’s museum when we joined Culture Club. Nearly four years later, it’s a highlight of our homeschooling for all three boys. If you mention the name of a country we’ve studied in the last several months, our two-year-old will run to get the globe and try to find it. Our six-year-old is excited to try new foods and crafts each month. And our nine year old is surprisingly world-literate given that he’s been raised in a city of 40,000 most of his life. Plus, we parents are constantly engaged in learning in the process, discovering new windows to our world each month, such as the fascinating book about King Peggy of Ghana and her reflections on how our clothing can give us spiritual strength.
But our world “travels” have given us much more than just knowledge and exposure.
Our family’s monthly exploration of another country is like a family reunion.
Each month we discover new things about another part of our human family and their ancestral home on the planet. We fall in love with amazing people, foods, customs, and feats. We marvel at the geography, the history, and accomplishments of a branch of our family tree. Ideally, we meet and interact with some of those people and in the dream world we would actually travel there. Who knows, maybe we do travel there in our unrecalled dreams?
Our hearts feel fulfilled as we discover who we are as a human family. We are left with what is hopefully a lifelong craving to continue exploring each country we’ve studied. Plus, we are excited to meet and celebrate the next country each month.
So welcome to Tender Sapling Travelers, where we hope to share a little sampling of our explorations with you. Perhaps it’ll just be a tale or a recipe. (Or possibly even a story of how our cross-cultural exposure went awry.) However simple our sharing, maybe it will help satisfy your cultural craving a bit or tempt you to explore further on your own. Either way, we hope it will help knit our human family’s hearts closer, paving the way for a more peaceful tomorrow.
First stop: Norway!
In the meantime, please help us shape this series. What would you like to see shared – recipes, picture book recommendations, fun facts, video of the kids telling/performing folktales? Thanks!