We live in small-town Mississippi so one of the things I have to be intentional about is helping expand my children’s worldview. It’s easy to forget the big, wide world is out there and tempting to think it’s pretty much the same as here (or worse, to think it should be).
So, with our homeschool curriculum and with other parts of our lives, we try to make sure they have a larger picture of the world we live in. Here are 10 ways we do that, and you can, too!
- Make friends with missionaries.
When I first made this list, I wrote, “Meet Missionaries,” but there’s much more to it than that. Yes, go and hear missionaries speak, but after that, invite them into your home and actually get to know them. Put their photos on your fridge and get on their email list. Talk about them around the table and pray for them together. And, don’t be shy about letting them pray for you, too. Friendship works both ways, you know.
Knowing people around the world is much different than knowing of people around the world. It’s the fastest way to become interested in current events and get a grip on geography. Maps just mean more to you when they represent people not just places.
2. Eat ethnic.
Becoming familiar with foods that are foreign to you is a first step to knowing another culture. Food is not just about taste. Sometimes you can smell a culture the moment you walk into an ethnic restaurant. You’ll likely hear the language and often music of the culture, too. Then there are the different customs of the cuisine to consider. Chopsticks or forks? Do you eat it with your hands? A table is a terrific learning tool.
You should have seen the first time my kids tasted injera or the time I TRIED to make samosas for them. Kids may be picky eaters, but I find that they are curious enough about other cultures to try a taste of things they wouldn’t normally eat. For instance, my oldest will eat bowlfuls of sukuma wiki, which is Kenya’s version of collard greens. If I placed a plate of Southern collards in front of her? Not gonna happen. My kids’ favorite breakfast treat? Maandazis. Granted, they’re really just a sort of beignet, and what kid wouldn’t love fried dough dipped in powdered sugar. BUT, the fact they know maandazis go with chai makes my heart smile.
Obviously, one of the fastest ways to widen your worldview is to see more of the world. It can be hard (and very expensive) to do with a family, but what a treasure of knowledge your family will take away! One thing that I would encourage you do as you travel is get off the tourist track from time to time. See how locals actually live. Remember those missionaries you made friends with? Chances are they make great tour guides, too. Visit them and let them show you the world as they know it.
One of my favorite things to do is actually rent a house or apartment in a new place, rather than stay at a hotel. One reason is really practical: our family is large, and we just don’t fit in a hotel room anymore. Another reason is it’s relaxing to have a place you can cook. Visit the local markets and then make dinner from what you find. You may even meet local friends who’d be willing to help you prepare the local cuisine.
4. Sponsor kids around the world.
If you can manage it financially, consider sponsoring a child somewhere around the world. Usually, you’ll receive letters and updates from the child and the organization, helping you get to know the kid and his culture. My kids get excited every time they see a letter from our Compassion kid, and they want to know more about where she lives. There are different organizations who work with kids in this way. I can personally recommend Compassion International and this ministry in the Philippines (Natalie and Daniel are our friends…See #1…though we knew them long before they were missionaries.)
5. Learn languages.
This used to be more difficult, but with computers, tablets and the internet, learning a new language is an opportunity any one has. If there’s a particular culture you’re interested in, find out what language the people speak and see if you can’t learn it online. Or better yet, find a tutor. (We’ll talk about looking for locals in #9.) Then, if you ever do the chance to travel to that particular country, your experience will be much richer because your understanding of the culture will be increased by your understanding of the language.
6. Follow blogs.
I admit it. I’m a blog stalker. If you’ve got a blog about living in Kenya (especially Nairobi), I hope I come across it. And, I will read it. Faithfully. For years. Until you move away. It’s happened several times. Sad.
But it’s also been a way of forming friendships. I read Trena’s blog for a year or so before I traveled back to Kenya. She probably thought I was crazy when I emailed her and explained that I (a complete stranger) wanted to meet her and visit her home and ministry, but I’m so thankful she welcomed me and my friend. We never miss an opportunity to visit her when we go to Kenya.
Even if you have no plans to pretty much force your friendship upon some unknowing blogger, reading about others’ experiences in another culture give you a glimpse into life abroad you won’t get any other way without moving there yourself. It’s enlightening. And I love it.
7. Pray for people groups.
If you want to expand your worldview and that of your family, find a people group and pray for them. The more you do, the more you’ll want to learn about the country and culture in which they live. As you pray for them, God will likely even give you opportunities to get to know some of them, too…right where you are. You’d be amazed how many times I’ve heard of that happening. I’ve even met a few of the people groups I’ve prayed for through the years right here in Tiny Town, MS.
One of my favorite resources for praying for people groups is Window on the World: When We Pray God Works (affiliate link). We’ve used it in our homeschool curriculum for the past year and a half and have learned so much about different people around the world. My kids also love looking at the pictures of different peoples and places.
8. Cook cultural.
Now, this one may come a bit more naturally to me because I grew up in a family that celebrate the very American holiday of Thanksgiving with Lebanese food. (Yes, we still had turkey and dressing, but it was just served along side stuffed kibbie and tabouleh.) I love food from around the world, but I don’t always like ALL of it. Sometimes, I have to try things a couple of times before getting used to the taste or texture or finding a dish that I particularly like. Don’t give up if you don’t like the first taste. I hate Indian food until I realized that what I really didn’t like was a lot of cloves so after I found items that had less clove flavor, I was hooked.
One of the best ways to get to know a cuisine is to cook it. Try something at a restaurant, and when you find a food you really like, find a recipe for it and give it a try. Chicken Tikka Masala is an easy entry into Indian cuisine. We eat Kenyan stew and chapatis because the stew is pretty much the same as what’s served in the U.S., but chapatis (flat bread like really thick tortillas) make it a special meal. Take Mexican past tacos and explore it a little. The smell of the spices in your home will transport you to another place, and the taste? Worth all the work.
9. Look for locals.
The truth is you don’t have to travel around the world to find friends from other cultures. Even our small town has people from all over the world these days. Treat them just like the missionaries in #1. Make friends with them. The best way to widen your worldview is relationships. If you haven’t noticed, it’s a recurring theme in the other items on this list. Want to learn to cook Indian food? Find a friend from India. Need to practice Spanish? There are plenty of people to converse with. Just take the first step out of your comfort zone and try to find them.
10. Journey with geography.
The world is wide, and the U.S. only represents a fraction of it. There are easy ways to expand your knowledge of world geography. When you see news headlines that interest you, look up the locations on a map. Learn what countries border others. My kids love fun apps like Stack the States or Stack the Countries. We also use Seterra, which is made up of free geography quizzes. The kids love to see if they can remember all the countries or capitals. And, recognizing countries’ flags is really helpful when the Olympics roll around.
Studying geography is actually a great place to start when you’re wanting to widen your worldview. Start learning where countries are, and chances are you’ll find a country that interests you. From there, you can go with any of the other ideas on this list.
So, how do you widen your worldview? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!
Also, if you’d like a little something to help you remember this list, here’s a handy dandy little graphic just for you! Feel free to pin and share!