One of the advantages of homeschooling is the ability to shape our curriculum to reinforce values important to our family. One of these central values is being a world citizen, and it is very important to me that Monkey have an understanding and appreciation for other cultures.
So since we have started our foray into homeschooling, I’ve been experimenting with creating a “world cultures” curriculum, a task I’m excited to continue as he grows. Be sure to check out my review at the end of this post of a wonderful resource I have discovered!
What exactly is a “world cultures” homeschool curriculum? To me, it means trying to view all of our subject matter – from math to literature to science – through the prism of world cultures and global interconnectedness.
On a practical level, this means integrating a global understanding into all facets of our schoolwork. So we pick a country or region — I align mine to the current country in our Around the World in 12 Dishes series — then try to examine it from different angles, as outlined below:
Integrating World Cultures into Different School Subjects (Kindergarten):
- Language Arts: Find story books set in that country as well as non-fiction books with great pictures and graphics. Depending on ability, begin to write about the subject or do copy work of the country name and cities/features. See sample discussion questions and activities I develop for one series of books I particularly loved.
- Social Studies: This is a great time to explore maps! Besides the obvious step of locating the county on the map, you can use this as an opportunity to explore features of maps by looking at different kinds of maps (political vs physical, for example). You can explore how long it would take to travel there from where you live, and what other countries are near by. Also take ample time to explore history and culture, by playing dress up, listening to music, watching videos, and cooking a dish from that country. If possible, make a field trip to a local museum or culture center or to a local ethnic market or restaurant.
- Arts & Crafts: Explore great works of art from the country as well as do your own crafts at home.
- Science: Explore the animals and plants of the region or the geological features, such as volcanoes or earthquakes. You could even look at the weather around the world.
- Math: Ah, math. In my experience so far, it makes more sense to teach the mathematical concept first and then apply it as practice, rather than learning the math directly as part of a world cultures curriculum. In other words, teach addition separately, then as you are studying about other cultures, have your child practice their addition as part of their study. So for example, you could ask, “How many red stripes are on this flag? How many blue stripes? So how many stripes are there altogether?” You can also study about famous mathematicians and where they were from.
- Keep the atlas handy. We pull ours out frequently – when a mention is made of another country in a book, when we meet someone from another country or who has traveled abroad, etc., etc. That repetition will help them learn the countries but more importantly learn to make connections between what they are studying and the world around them (see below).
- Always provide context. Raise your child’s global awareness by always mentioning where a story takes place, or where the fruit at the grocery story comes from. Help them to see that everything is from somewhere or happens somewhere.
- Build connections. When you study a new country, be sure to mention a friend who is from there, or if you have ever visited, or if your family has gone to a restaurant where the cuisine was served. (“Remember your friend Anoosh? His parents are from Iran!”) (“Now we’re going to study about Mexico. Did you know that’s where your favorite food is from??”)
- Make extensive use of your local library. Our public libraries are an amazing resource. They have many books available on other countries. If you can’t find what you’re looking for – ask a librarian! Be aware that often you will be requesting a book from another library within your area and so you need to plan ahead and allow time for the book to arrive.
- Don’t force it. The most important thing is your child’s learning. Don’t sacrifice teaching a concept well just because you’re trying to fit it into a world cultures framework. We end up doing about 60% of our work directly related to the cultures, while the rest of the time we are focused directly on concepts, though I may make tie-ins as appropriate.
- Keep it fun! Build on your child’s interests. If they love dance, look at the dances and famous dancers from each country. If they love to paint, focus on art projects. But also pay attention to your child’s attention span for each particular country. At this age, learning doesn’t need to be as intensive, so don’t worry if you don’t spend very long on each place. You are given them a foundation to build upon in later years, as well as expanding their wonder at the world around them.
For a more in-depth view on creating a global classroom for all ages, be sure to check out The Global Education Toolkit!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary set of Aisha the Indian Princess books; however, all opinions are my own.
Aisha the Indian Princess
I also want to share with you a wonderful resource that is perfect for this age group: the series Aisha the Indian Princess. This is a fabulous series of picture books created by a mother inspired by her children’s curiosity about the world. In this series, Aisha and her younger brother Iggy travel to different countries (so far France, India, and Great Britain – China is coming soon!) and have an adventure as they learn a bit about each place. The illustrations are very engaging, and I love that educational activities are incorporated into the story.
For example, before they set out on each adventure, they are given some money to spend – in this one activity alone, children learn about local currency, practice counting, and learn some of the local language! So in France, for example, they count out Euros (un, deux, trois..) which are later used to buy a pastry and a flag.
My son’s favorite part is the seek-and-find in the middle of every book. This two page scene is packed full of fun images related to the local culture, traditional as well as modern. There are so many details that you and your child can spend a great deal of time enjoying this section alone.
The Aisha series is unique in that it is geared towards young children, aged 2-5. It is rare to encounter a multicultural book for very young children, even more so one that is an engaging story with such a wide range of educational elements for the preschool and kindergarten level. My son asks to read the Aisha books again and again. I highly recommend them for all kids, whether you are homeschooling or reinforcing concepts they learn at school. Truly a great way to explore the world with your child!