Raising Citizens of the World

Raising kids on a small farm has left us without the time or the means to travel. But we want our children to be global citizens. We want them 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. As they got older, we paid close attention to a rich variety of in-depth materials that helped us discover the global fibers that run through history, art, science, literature; really through any field of interest.

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 other topics. 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 elsewhere. Already he’s visited friends made online in the U.S., finding the rapport they developed holds fast in person as well.

Belarus, mapped. (Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the most important connections any of us can make are lasting, caring relationships with people who live far away. For our family, one of the most enduring relationships we made was with an effervescent girl from Belarus named Tatiana. She came as part of 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, we 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 the board games we’d played for years and she’d just learned. Tatiana lived with us for five summers. She became a member of our family, a family which feels to us as if it extends to Belarus.

Each relationship made of understanding and caring warms our planet—but in a good way. Which leads me to recommend two excellent books to help you raise 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 some great ideas from Tavangar’s book.

  • Boost cultural understanding and fun by listening to pop music from around the world.  (I suggest using online translation to figure out the lyrics.)
  • Talk about the origins and trading routes of products used every day in your home. Try tracing back a chocolate bar or T-shirt.
  • 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.

For a vigorous “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 for the real global workplace. That means choices resulting in self-reliant, confident, and bold adults.

Here are five important things you can gain from Frost’s book.

  • Real-life accounts by young people who live and study abroad. Frost calls them “bold statements” and they offer invigorating examples of what travel can provide.
  • Why the Rotary International Youth Exchange program 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.
  • The stage of life between 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.”
  • How to arrange study abroad credits outside of university-affiliated programs for more freedom and frugality.
  • Ways to connect with helpful people in countries around the world.

Want more ideas?

May your children become global learners. May our shared home be one of peace and goodwill.

Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.