Since we live on a small farm we don’t have the time or the means to travel. But we have always wanted our children to be global citizens—to truly understand how fully they are linked to their fellow beings on this beautiful blue green planet.
When they were small we read the stories, ate the foods, played the games, and celebrated the festivals of far-off lands. We took the opportunity to offer friendship to foreign visitors through National Council for International Visitors and we connected with elders who shared the cultural richness of their immigrant past.
As our children got older we enjoyed a variety of materials that helped us discover the global fibers that run through history, art, science, literature, really through any field of interest. Here are a few:
Cartoon Guides by Larry Gonick
Dropping Knowledge links people globally who ask questions, exchange ideas, and start initiatives related to pressing issues of our time.
How to Build Your Own Country by Valerie Wyatt
If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith
Material World series by Peter Menzel
Pulse of the Planet expands understanding of nature and culture through sound portraits.
Quantum Shift TV is a video network with user-generated content focused on positive global solutions.
Survival International is dedicated to self-determination for First Nation peoples. It offers information and videos related to this advocacy work.
United Nations Cyber School Bus provides lively opportunities to learn about people and issues around the world.
More than any materials we introduce, the connections my kids find most pivotal are those they make on their own, person-to-person across any distance. For example, one of my musician sons got interested in acoustics. He joined special interest forums to talk with fellow aficionados around the world about the technical details of repairing historic microphones, the artistic nuances of found sound recordings, and the newest information about sound engineering. Friendships developed. Now they converse about everything from politics to movies. Some day when he travels overseas he plans to take them up on their offers to stay in New Zealand, Finland, Brazil, and Germany. Already he’s visited friends made online in the U.S., finding the rapport they developed online holds fast in person too.
Perhaps the most important connections any of us can make are lasting, caring relationships with people who live far away. Most often these happen via social media.
For our family, one of the most enduring relationships we made was in person with an effervescent girl from Belarus named Tatiana. We hosted her through the medical program Children of Chernobyl. Even in her first week here, the strength of her personality more than made up for the few words of English she knew and our poor pronunciation of Russian words we thought we knew. Tatiana was horrified by my vegetarian meals, refused to participate in the activities my outdoor-loving children preferred, and let us know that she hadn’t traveled so far to live like a peasant. She wanted to be entertained! Like anthropologists to our own culture we explored shopping malls and tourist sites, bought kids’ fast food meals for the prizes, and went to amusement parks rather than wilderness areas. Tatiana displayed her brilliance in many ways, typically beating any of us at board games we’d played for years and she’d just learned. Tatiana stayed with us for five summers, from the years she was eight to 13. She became a member of our family, a family that now feels as if it extends to Belarus.
Each connection of understanding and caring warms our planet–but in a good not-climate-changing way. Which leads me to recommend two wonderful books about raising global citizens.
Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World by Homa Sabet Tavangar is packed with enrichment ideas, games, service activities, and resources to help raise children with the world in mind. Here are five great ideas from Tavangar’s book:
~Talk about the origins and trading routes of products used every day in your home. Try tracing back a chocolate bar, t-shirt, or toy.
~Discover what foods are said to heal common health conditions. Lime juice in armpits is recommended in Paraguay to solve odor, ginger and green onion tea is recommended in China to cure a cold.
~Learn about practices for welcoming newborn babies into the family and community. Consider adapting customs to commemorate a new arrival in your family.
~Make humanitarian work a family affair. It’s possible to extend benevolent choices even to the search engine you use. Try www.ripple.org where 100% of search revenues help alleviate urgent global issues.
~Boost cultural understanding and fun by listening to pop music from around the world. (I suggest using online translation to figure out the lyrics.)
And for an inspiring “go there” perspective, read The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education by Maya Frost. A cure for any but the worst helicopter parents, Frost shows how learning in other countries best prepares today’s teens to become self-reliant, confident, and bold adults. Here are five great reasons to read Frost’s book:
~Between the ages of 15 and 20, when pivotal life skills are being developed, the reach of our young people tends to be limited. As Frost writes, “They zero in on the fit of their jeans rather than on the fit of a cultural identity within a larger population, and they devote hours to enhancing the clarity of their skin instead of the clarity of their thinking. They are digging into a plate of pettiness because that is precisely what we’ve served them. They deserve-and are ready for-so much more.”
~Get the inside scoop from young people who live and study abroad. Frost calls these snapshots “bold statements” and they provide invigorating examples of what travel can provide.
~Why Rotary International Youth Exchange program www.rotary.org offers the best exchange programs. Frost says it has to do with the network of volunteers around the globe providing support to families and students, the affordable price, and the commitment to humanitarian work.
~How to find helpful people in countries around the world.
~How to arrange study abroad credits outside of university affiliated programs to save money as well as have more choices.
We’re all global citizens, whether we realize it or not. Our children’s arms are not too small to embrace their citizenry.