Helping our children to understand and appreciate other cultures is a high priority for our family. We were recently invited to join a blog carnival hosted by Olga at The European Mama in which everyone is sharing how they use the media to foster multiculturalism. As I started thinking about what we do to foster multiculturalism in our family, I realized how so much of what we do is completely unrelated to media.
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- We intentionally chose to live in a very multicultural part of the world.
- We choose to immerse our children in as many of those cultures as we can. (Those are my two little ones in the midst of all the Indian beauties above.)
- We try to learn at least a little bit of the languages used in our community and in our extended family. (So far, this includes Mandarin, Malay/Indonesian, Taiwanese, and Tamil. The kids can at least say thank you if not more in each of these languages.)
- We involve them in serving migrant workers and their families in our community.
- We honor the many cultures that make up our family’s heritage by celebrating holidays and listening to stories from older family members.
Books are, of course, a huge part of this endeavor. Bignificent and I made a list of the books she feels have been influential at opening her eyes to other cultures. You can find it over at Desperate Homeschoolers.
Here are five non-book forms of media we are using to aid in giving our children a heart for the world and an understanding of other cultures:
1. Rosetta Stone – Our two oldest are currently working their way through the first level of Mandarin. We’ve only been doing this for a few weeks so the verdict is still out on its effectiveness for our family.
2. Signing Time($) (and Baby Signing Time($)) – This is a wonderful series of DVDs($) that our kids love to watch over and over. I believe it has helped to foster in them a love and sensitivity for children with special needs and especially deaf children. Some friends recently told us they are in the process of adopting a special needs child and one of our kids later commented to me that it would be cool if their new friend was deaf so they could use sign language with them.
3. Master Chef Australia – My husband stumbled across this show on TV here, and our whole family have become huge fans. (We tried the American version but we couldn’t stand it because they were so self-serving and rude to each other!) In the Australian version, they are kind and encouraging and really demonstrate great sportsmanship. They also talk about lots of foods from different cultures, and in the season we just finished, they took a trip to Italy which my children are still talking about! I am amazed how much my children learned from one season about Italian, French, Australian, Moroccan, Indian, and Southeast Asia cultures and food!
4. Watching tennis – I know this is weird, but we have learned so much about the world by watching tennis together. Tennis is an international sport. Tournaments happen in many countries each year and the TV coverage almost always includes interesting footage about those countries and cities. in every match we watch, my kids ask me where the players are from and what languages they speak. We find the countries on the map, and we even talk about why it’s cool to see Serbians with Croatians and Indians with Pakistanis on the same court, treating each other with respect and shaking hands after the match.
5. Cookbooks – OK, so these are books, but I’m including them anyway. Please forgive me! Even though I don’t have the most adventurous eaters in the world, we still try to put lots of different kinds of ethnic foods in front of them on a regular basis. We also do a lot of talking about the cultures that inspire these foods while we’re eating. We love to look through cookbooks together, especially Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook($), which includes lots of stories and cultural tidbits interspersed with the recipes.
As we were brainstorming this list, my three year old was playing on the floor nearby. I didn’t realize she was paying any attention, but as we finished up, she piped in with, “Mom, you forgot the Bible. We learn about a lot of other cultures there and how Jesus loves all of them.” Gulp. From the mouths of babes…
How about you? How do you use the media to increase your children’s understanding and sensitivity toward other cultures?