Raising Global Citizens


I’m not nostalgic.  Not the least little bit. I grew up in the pre-electronic era – and while computers were more affordable when I was a teen, I still didn’t get to use one until I saved enough from my job to buy a low-end PC.  Today, my phone has more storage space than that PC!

As mentioned ad nauseam, I was homeschooled.  That meant we didn’t have the lovely options like free printables, online courses, and a free-ranging resource-exploring option like Google.  We did curriculum like Saxon math, BJU press, and book lists a mile long.  I found my own escape in reading books about far-away places – and ended up loving Sci-Fi, which is about as far away as you can get.

So now that we’re homeschooling our kids, I love the options that my kids have that I never experienced because it just wasn’t available.  They are exposed to so many different cultures and ideas just by watching YouTube videos.

It’s amazing to me the things that my kids see on a daily basis.  Sure, they go on trips to grocery stores and fire stations, but they also saw (in person!) the Antares rocket head up to the International Space Station.  They watch footage of Antarctica filmed by a drone and (virtually) fly through an iceberg.  They giggle at the antics of a Scottish trials cyclist Danny MacAskill and ooh and ahh over the twirling LED hula hoops in Lisa Lottie’s dance routine.  They watch dancer NONSTOP dubstep on the Great Wall of China and sit spellbound by the Fire Lab in Missoula, Montana.

Before they even understand what speed limits are, they get to see a shipping port in action.  They play in the few feet of snow we get each year and marvel at the snowplow trains used in much snowier areas.  They love playing with LEGOs, and wanted to know how LEGOs were made.  So I found a video put out by LEGO themselves that shows the entire process.  They loved it so much I used LEGO’s download feature and added it to their tablets.

The Engineer wanted to know how bottles were made, so we “visited” a few factories and watched the process.  Then he wanted to see things like how cloth was made, what happens to paper when we recycle it, and what about metal too?

They laugh at the Piano Guys Happy Cello video and are transfixed by Bach’s pipe organ music, especially the dancing legs of the musician.  They even liked bagpipe music , to my surprise.   We watched a spring festival in Shanghai and sat transfixed when Isaac Hou rode his Gyr wheel.   When we did our project on the human body’s muscular system I focused on what muscles can do: we saw Pillar Point’s “Dreamin” video and learned about Foli – the Malinke tribe’s word for rhythm (warning, mild nudity at point 7:10, skip ahead to 7:30.)

There is so much good stuff out there for our kids to absorb and see.  Before my son even enters first grade, he’ll know more about other cultures than I did as a teenager.  He already knows more about manufacturing processes and how things are made than I did as a kid.  When I was his age, if I wanted to know how escalators worked I had to find a book at the library about it.  Books are great – and I’ll never say otherwise – but seeing a picture of an escalator pales in comparison to seeing animations and videos of how it works.

The internet and a whole lot of creativity by people around the world has made our world seem so much smaller.  The Engineer can’t comprehend how far away a trip to Africa is: after watching the Foli video he wanted to do a field trip to West Guinea.  I had to tell him we can’t – not until he’s older.

I’ve taken a while to get to the point of this post, but here it is.  I want my children to grow up as global citizens.

Not just Americans: I’m proud of our country and want them to be too, but I want them to put our country and our way of life into a greater context.  A global context.  I want them to understand that not everyone thinks like us, acts like us, or looks like us, and why that’s a good thing.  There is such richness in learning about other cultures – it deepens and broadens a person in ways that you don’t even realize.

The best way to raise a global citizen is to take your children around the world to experience different cultures, different people, and different ways of thinking.  If that’s not possible, then I have to believe that the next best thing is to watch and learn about those cultures and people.  And that’s what we’re doing.  Bit by bit, video by video, my kids are absorbing life around the world.

We don’t just watch, though, we actively build compassion and understanding.  Every year we pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  OCC is a Christian organization run by Samaritan’s Purse – the same people who brought a doctor and nurse home to Emory University during the last major Ebola outbreak after they contracted Ebola.  Whatever your beliefs or unbelief, it’s important to point out that OCC brings Christmas to thousands of children each year who would otherwise have nothing. Refugees, orphans, kids from war-torn regions who struggle to eat: they are the kids we do this for.

It’s really hard for my kids to pack shoeboxes full of toys for other children.  It takes self-discipline and thinking of others before their own desires.  We make a special shoebox shopping trip each year where we only buy things for the shoebox kids – not for us.  Not even groceries.  The kids pick out new toys that they love to add to “their” box (we do matching age ranges so that each child can pick things they think an OCC child will want) and I help pick out things like washcloths, toothbrushes, and flashlights.  When we get home, we pack each box and talk about the child who might get it.  We talk about kids who have nothing and compare it to the richness of our lives.  The kids are starting to learn compassion and pity in a very real way that videos just don’t allow for.

After we send the boxes on their way, we wait for the email telling us where the boxes went.  One year, our boxes went to Mexico and eastern Europe.  Last year they went to Uganda.  So we learned about Uganda.  We did a project on the people there; and the biomes, the animals, the culture.  It made the process real for the kids, who only understood that we dropped the boxes off at a local church.

OCC is the way we’ve gotten our children involved in being a global citizen.  There are multiple other ways to do so, and they all have one thing in common – action.  Becoming a global citizen requires a global way of thinking.  It’s our world, and it’s our neighbor in need.  Our neighbor across the ocean, sure, but still our neighbor.

It’s never too young to start being compassionate.


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