“Education begins the moment we see children as innately wise and capable beings. Only then can we play along in their world.” – Vince Gowmon
In a world where many buy into the rhetoric of otherness and extreme nationalist sentiments creep on today’s political scene, raising global children becomes a necessity that cannot be overlooked by parents and educators alike.
Nowadays it is important to embrace the fact that gaining a global mindset should not be conceived as an “either-this or-that” subject. To support globalism doesn’t make us less patriotic. To favour nationalism doesn’t stop us from being globally aware. This otherness idea is pulling our world apart, and our children are the only hope to bring it back together in the future.
How to Bring the Knowledge of Diversity to Your Home?
How to overcome the fear of confusing our children by presenting them with information about different cultures and languages? Living my own family story has taught me that we must trust. As parents, we need to be certain that our kids are capable of learning many things as long as we are there for them, supporting and loving them along the way.
After two moves overseas, reading a bunch of books, attending seminars, and obtaining a college degree, I designed my “ever-changing” way of raising diversity awareness at home. I said “ever-changing” because as our offsprings have grown older, our teaching techniques have needed to be updated and polished to fit their needs.
Prepare Yourself for the Ride
We can’t expect to impart knowledge if we have no idea what we are talking about. You wouldn’t teach a chemistry class without preparing your lessons and activities first. The same thing happens with diversity. You need to start being authentically curious! Fall in love with the process of discovering something new. Learn by yourself first and then along with your child. Show your son or daughter that getting to know the traditions of other countries is fun and as natural as learning addition and subtraction.
Decide and Design Your Own Resources
Nowadays, there is no excuse to be ignorant about other cultures with so much information accessible through the internet, local libraries, and TV broadcasting. The resources are there for you to explore and choose what works best for your family.
I would recommend by starting to review your knowledge about your own culture. Begin from there to elaborate a mind map of topics to be discussed with your children during dinner, family time, or weekends. In addition, design your “lesson plan.” It doesn’t have to be stiff and strict.
Plan According to Your Family’s Needs – Be Consistent and Realistic
Additionally, it is always important to adjust the tools and information to the age and interests of your children. Incorporate diversity into everyday activities. Going to the supermarket can be a fun learning experience if we choose to shop twice a month at our local ethnic store. Bring the children along and invite them to read labels. Choose a treat or two to bring home. Make a traditional recipe. Grocery shopping, cooking, and diversity exposure as part of our weekly routine? Well, yes! Efficiency at its best!
Take the Chance to Redecorate Your House
I took it and loved it!
Children learn through their senses. For this, they need lots of relevant opportunities to explore the objects around them. What better way to understand the abstract idea of countries, geographical distance, and cultural connections than with a world map?
World maps come in every size, color, and texture. Some even include sounds! It doesn’t have to be an expensive map. The key is to acquire a colorful map to attract your child’s attention. Additionally, choose a special place to hang your map. Family rooms are great places to display a map. We spend a huge amount of time in the kitchen so ours is hanging up in there next to our breakfast table.
Once you own a world map, use it! Ask your children to point out where their home country is, and go from there. The possibilities to explore a world map are numerous! Some fun ideas are to work with your kiddos to locate countries where Halloween is celebrated. Or write some sentences about a specific country chosen by your family. You can even make a 60-second presentation of Christmas around the world during snack time. Be creative!
Find Your Family’s Niche and Exploit It
Our family biggest hobby is to travel. So we make a constant effort to learn about our next destination, plan visits to historical places, and try the local food. What is your favorite thing to do as a family?
Maybe you and your children enjoy knitting. Then look for ideas to knit something different! Perhaps it is time to knit a colorful Peruvian scarf or warm socks made of Bolivian alpaca. The possibilities are endless. Look online. Pinterest is a great place to get inspired and find nice ideas to get your artsy and crafty self motivated.
Like I said before, try to incorporate cultural diversity into your day to day routine. If raising cultural awareness at home involves you having to go out of your way constantly, you will quit. Let’s be honest, you will have to get out of your comfort zone to inspire and bring cultural exposure to your house. But it doesn’t have to break your piggy bank or take you to the point of exhaustion.
Use What You Already Have on Hand
Start by exploring local festivals, food, literature, and art. Schedule a few weeks for your family to really experience your own cultural identity. Highlight things that are done at home that is part of your cultural background. Help your kids express who they are, form ideas, and connections. If they are too young to express their interests and opinions through language, encourage them to use art as a form of communication.
Please build a strong cultural foundation for you and your kids. Remember that we can’t appreciate somebody else’s traditions if we don’t know and treasure our own. It is easier to find commonalities when we know our cultural backgrounds and can connect them with those of people distinct from us.
Don’t Just Talk About Culture, Live It
“Invite people into your life who don’t look or act like you. You might find they challenge your assumptions and make you grow.” – Mellody Hobson
Learning about your own traditions is easier if you do it as a whole community. Don’t forget to enroll relatives and friends in this adventure. If you don’t reside in your birth country, connecting with grandparents who can provide a clearer idea of your family’s cultural identity is a must! Your mission is to expose your child to his or her roots. This is something that will benefit all family members and surely increase your cultural intelligence.
Also, find meaningful ways to connect with people from different cultural backgrounds. Volunteering is a great way to support cultural awareness locally and as a family. Moreover, there is always the possibility of traveling, student exchange programs, hosting an au pair or enrolling in a language class. Your children will benefit so much from their connections with people from other places. Exploring both our commonalities and differences is a great way to bring the world closer and teach diversity to our children.
In conclusion, don’t allow your fear of the unknown to stop you from bringing the world to your own home. Your children will thank you for it. Our future depends on it.
Remember that cultural diversity is important now more than ever because our country, workplaces, and schools increasingly consist of various cultural and ethnic groups. We need to teach diversity and awareness to our children. They’ll then be prepared for recognizing the many intangible and material benefits of intercultural interacting which can help them to better function as the workforce of tomorrow.
Cultural awareness begins at home. Explore it. Live it.