Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of VitaFamiliae
In a time where the world seems to be shrinking smaller, it’s important that we encourage global awareness and compassion in our children.
Kids need to be familiar not just with their own backyard, but the people and the cultures that exist all over the globe.
So how do we do this when, most days, we may not exit the front door?
Integrate geography into your home
Global awareness begins with an understanding of geography.
Using maps as decoration is all the rage on Pinterest these days and homeschoolers everywhere can rejoice. Not only is it now socially acceptable to decorate our walls with maps, it’s actually cool! The key to making maps both beautiful and useful is to display them in high traffic areas in the house.
We put a world map and any maps we need for our current studies in the dining room, right where we eat every meal. Before the children can be excused from the table, they need to find a spot of my choosing on the map.
For the older children, they find the country and the capital. For the younger kids, we learn continents and oceans first. The kids think it’s fun to quiz each other and they especially delight in trying to “stump” Mommy.
We also have a corner in our living room we call the “peaceful corner.” It has one chair, a lamp, and a small table. I keep a globe and some “peaceful” books for the kids to look at (and for me) when they get overwhelmed.
There’s another map on the wall nearby for them to study if the mood strikes. We encourage our kids to use the Peaceful Corner to think of others.
Which brings me to my next point…
Fill your home with resources
We have two books we keep out all of the time to help us think about our world not just in terms of location, but in terms of People. Operation World and the children’s version, Window on the World, describe countries and the people who live there. They include population, physical struggles, cultural issues, and information about the religious landscape.
If you are a praying family, there are also included ways you can pray for the people and the missionaries who serve them. The countries are arranged in alphabetical order, but they are also set up as a 365-day calendar so that you can study and pray for the entire world in one year.
Window on the World is a simplified version of this, covering only some of the countries in Operation World. It has bright pictures and stories about children in countries, not just “populations.” It’s much more relational for small people.
For my youngest children, we keep a board book copy of Prayer For A Child by Rachel Field on the small table next to the globe.
Lead by example
There are dozens of sponsor programs to choose from. Each of our older children sponsors a child their age and they exchange letters. This helps put names and faces to the places on our map and the real needs we can help meet globally.
One of our sponsored children lives in Haiti and knowing that “our” child lived there put the earthquake in perspective for our children much faster than any news program or book could.
Include your kids in the purchase of gifts or the giving of birthday and Christmas money to the sponsored child and talk about what these important days look like for other children. This helps them remember that the days they look forward to in their own lives are meaningful but very different for children in different cultures.
Don’t stay home
Homeschoolers usually have far more flexibility to travel and see the world. Take advantage of this at every opportunity. Whether your trip is for sight-seeing or aid-related, your children will gain new understanding about their world.
And even if you just tag along on a parent’s business trips, don’t worry about bringing your workbooks. Remember that every moment is “school” and the lessons your children learn as they experience new places and cultures are intensely valuable.
Educating our children and encouraging compassion for others is part of our legacy… to our children and to the world. How do YOU build global awareness in your kids?