Many of us have a circle of friends and family that generally look, think, and act like we do, whether we intend to create a personal island or not.
In many cases this is helpful. As homeschoolers, the support we receive can help us answer the naysayers and can help us keep our heritage alive by connecting us with others who have a similar background to our own. There’s a time and place to connect with those similar to ourselves, but if we keep within our own bubble, it can also skew our view of other people, places, and cultures.
Many of us aim to teach our children a foreign language , and the reasons for doing so are many. Knowing a foreign language opens the doors of opportunity, travel, and more.
Along with learning a new language , many times we’ll also learn about the typical food or dress of a given area, but how often do we dig deeper? Diving deeper into cultural customs and exploring the why behind them is far more important than a passing awareness of a special food or dress. This brings us to an even deeper level of understanding.
When my first daughter was born, I lived with an extended family. One family member was from El Salvador. When I brought my new baby home in her infant car seat, I set the car seat on the dining room table for a moment. My El Salvadorian family member gasped with horror and grabbed the car seat to put it on the floor. Apparently in El Salvador it is custom to place the deceased on the table for a funeral or wake, and placing a living child there was considered very bad luck.
If you are fortunate enough to live in a diverse area, you have many opportunities to ask those in your community to tell you more about where they came from, and about their cultures of life, death, marriage, social gatherings, and the reasoning behind such customs. It’s absolutely fascinating to learn how people live around the world!
If knocking on your neighbor’s door is outside of your comfort zone, schedule a visit at a local cultural center. If you’re too far to visit in person, ask if you can have a Skype call with someone at the cultural center to see how they serve their community, and what special considerations they cater to.
Another fun way to immerse yourself in another culture is to watch TV shows or movies from that area. Understand that such media isn’t a direct representation of how normal people live (just like Hollywood movies are no real indication of how you or I live), but it’s interesting to see all the same.
For small children, food, drink, and dress is a great first step to realizing that there is a big wide world out there, but as kids get older, make sure to introduce them to the idea that there are many ways people go about their lives. There may come discussions about what we believe is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, but that is not the purpose of the exploration.
People around the world live happily under many different cultural constructs, and sometimes we may find that introducing foreign customs into our own lives can be valuable, too.
Shannen Espelien is a lifelong learner and is passionate about homeschooling. You can find her sharing her homeschooling journey on middlewaymom.com, and when she's not homeschooling, you can find her reading, knitting, quilting, or otherwise generally avoiding housework.