Today's world is smaller than ever - far more connected than anyone could have imagined it would be when we were kids. That is why one of the best things you can do to prepare your kids for the future is to raise them as citizens of the world.
You don't have to travel the globe to give your children a broad perspective of other cultures and world affairs. There are so many things that you can do right at home to encourage their curiosity about, and understanding of, the world.
The first step is to be curious about the world yourself; your kids will pick up on it. Here are some other ways that you can start to bring various cultures into the lives of your children.
Invite the world into your home by hosting an exchange student.
There are few things that can broaden a child's world view like getting to know someone from another country. Hosting a high school international exchange student goes beyond a brief meeting and forges a lifelong bond between your children and students from abroad. The opportunities for interaction are almost endless, and it's a chance to not only bring the world into your home, but to share the best of America with someone from another country.
Laurie Scott of Nevada has hosted a number of exchange students. "What these kids share with us is enormous," she says. "We have learned as much from them as they have learned from us ... this is more than just a 'neat' program; it really does positively impact global attitudes and increases understanding among families, schools and communities." Families that want to host a student can contact EF Foundation for Foreign Study, which brings more students to the United States than any other exchange program, at www.effoundation.org.
Explore other cultures right in your own backyard.
In America's melting pot, there are almost endless options for getting a taste of other cultures. Take a trip to a museum where you can find out about other countries and cultures. Art museums are often a great way to learn about cultures from around the globe, through artworks and crafts that have specific uses and meanings.
Sample cuisine from other countries.
Take the family out for a meal at a restaurant that serves food from different countries or consider preparing world cuisine recipes together at home. Visit ethnic food blogs written by cooks around the globe, or search recipe databases, to find something that you can make in your own kitchen. Whether it's Indian, Mexican, Japanese or German, you can learn a lot about a country from its food.
Learn another language as a family.
There are a lot of cultural subtleties hidden in foreign languages, and learning to speak one (or more) is a great way to connect with people from around the world. Consider learning a language as a family through a community education course or a local cultural organization - you can even download language instruction podcasts or mp3s from iTunes and other places on the Web.
Make the most of media.
There are endless opportunities to learn about the
world, right at your fingertips. Using the media to gain perspective about the world can take many forms -- from reading a blog written by someone living in another country to signing up at an e-mail pen pal exchange site.
Look for movies that are set in other countries and can provide insight about what has happened or is currently happening there. Search your TV listings for travel programs or history shows that are valuable learning tools, then watch and discuss them as a family. And of course, the simple, transporting experience of reading books about far-off places will always be a great way to learn more about the world.
Learning about the cultures and people of the world really does begin at home. If you host an international exchange student, consider sharing the experience with people that you know - and maybe those who you don't know - by creating a shared blog that includes entries from your family and the student you host. It's a fun way to help others gain global perspective, too. Whether you talk to your kids about current world events or pique their interest through photos of places you've traveled to, by helping them develop a broad worldview, you're giving them a world of possibilities.