As someone who has visited multiple countries and deeply appreciates the culture, foods, and traditions of the beautiful people around the world, it’s important for me to give my children a global perspective. I want them to know about the world outside of the United States and be exposed to the beauty found in different cultures around the world. Most of all, I want them to have God’s heart for the world.
Wouldn’t it be nice to load up your entire family on an airplane and go on an around the world adventure so that they could taste and see the wonders of various cultures? Obviously, that is not possible for the majority of families. But that doesn’t mean you can’t “see the world” together. Instead of traveling the world to learn, what about bringing the world into your home?
In our home, we took a full homeschool year to really dive deep and focus on countries and cultures. Every couple of weeks we “traveled” from country to country, pretending to visit and explore. I set up chairs in the living room as an "airplane" and gave the kids printed boarding passes with their destination written on them. Each child had a passport and U.S. cash. I played the pilot, and once we “landed” I became an airport employee, ready to stamp their passport with a sticker and convert their U.S. currency for (paper-printed) money for each country we visited.
During this time, we would spend a week or so learning about the food, language, traditions, belief systems, and heroes of the faith who served in that region of the world. We enjoyed the region’s art, music, and history. At the end of each country’s visit we celebrated with a feast, complete with music and homemade food from each culture. We enjoyed Mexico’s tamales and tres leche cake, Germany’s schnitzel and bratwurst, and Kenya’s ugali and mandaza.
Some of these resources and ideas I gathered on my own, but most of it came from the core curriculum we used last year, Exploring Countries and Cultures.
You don’t, however, need a full school year focused on culture study to incorporate it in your home education. Just sprinkle it here and there throughout the year. Here are some ideas of how to easily include a study of countries and cultures in your homeschool.
Explore the world through stories
One of the simplest ways to organically introduce children to countries and cultures is through picture books. Try to find high-quality living books that feature different countries, foods, languages, and cultures. Keep a large world map and globe around for quick reference when you come across an unfamiliar country. Help your child locate the country. Talk about the continent it’s in and get familiar with neighboring countries and bodies of water.
One of my favorite resources for books that feature other cultures is Stories of Color. It’s an unbelievably large database of living books and is is searchable by region of the world.
Here are more of my favorites:
Window on the World by Molly Wall is a prayer resource that develops cultural, political, and geographical awareness through a Christian lens. It surveys different countries throughout the world with facts and true stories, showcasing how children live in different places.
What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio began as a study to understand how food traditions are rapidly changing across the world. The authors visited families in different cultures and observed what they ate over the course of a week, including shopping, preparing food and feasting. They track differences and similarities in food habits around the world.
Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel is another project that showcases how families live in 30 different countries. This book looks at the complex issues of population, environment, social justice, and consumption while capturing the essence of family life in different countries.
This is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe is a children's picture book that offers a window into how children in other countries live and play. It offers perspective on what children in different countries have in common and how they may be different.
The Children Just Like Me series from DK explores cultures all over the world with rich photography of children's families, foods, homes, games, and other aspects of daily life.
Explore the world through poetry, music, and art
As you expose your children to great poets and artists, make sure to include a quick study of where they are from in the world. We do this weekly as we use Treehouse Nature Study and Rooted Family Bible Curriculum. As we enjoy a selection of poetry or art and learn about the poet or artist, we find their country of origin on a world map or globe. Get a free blank world map here. If the children are really interested, we may look up other pieces from the country to see how they compare in style. We also enjoy music from other cultures by researching popular music genres, instruments, and bands from the country we are studying. We also listen to the music or watch a live performance on YouTube.
Explore the world through heroes and missionaries
We love rich stories of inventors, missionaries, and heroes of all kinds. As we dive deep into their life work, we take a moment to learn about the culture of the country they are from or served in. Some of my favorite books for this are:
Christian Heroes: Then and Now is an expansive biography series from Janet Benge and Geoff Benge that shows how the lives of ordinary men and women made major accomplishments for God and His kingdom. I especially love how these books provide positive role models for children.
Trailblazer Books series are historical fiction books for children that introduce Christian heroes in different time periods and cultures. Each book focuses on the ministry of a hero or heroine at a young age.
Explore the world through food
As you study different countries, research traditional foods and source authentic recipes to cook and bake together with your family. Talk about the differences and similarities in food preparation and family gatherings. Smell and taste the unique traditions of other cultures that have been passed down through food.
We do this in A Connected Christmas: Around the World as we study how Christmas holidays are celebrated in 15 different countries around the globe. Each week of this study includes coordinating traditional holiday recipes that you can prepare and enjoy with your children.
Explore the world with friends
One year we hosted an International Fair within our homeschool community group. Each family chose a country to research and created a display board with facts to share, along with food, trinkets, and activities that represented the country. It was a great way to bring different countries to life present it to our friends and family.
Explore the world through traditions and holidays
Another way to dive into the rich traditions of cultures around the world is to explore the traditions and holiday celebrations of different countries. This is a focal point of A Connected Christmas: Around the World as we study how the Christmas season is celebrated across the globe in different climates, cultures, and languages alongside the Biblical nativity story. Each lesson of this three-week study includes an informational summary of a different country and what the holidays looks like in that culture.
In A Connected Christmas: Around the World, not only will you learn facts and traditions of different countries, but you will have the opportunity to see the similarities and differences between your own culture and others.
Free Download: A Connected Christmas: Around the World Booklist
World geography resources I love
Here are some items I've added to my homeschool over the years to enhance our cultural and geography studies:
- Chalk Full of Design World Map Erasable Chalkboard
- Interactive Globe
- Simple School Room Globe
- Laminated World and U.S. Maps
- Blank World Map [Free Download]
- Map Foam Puzzles
- Maps Book
Free blank world map download
How do you include cultural studies in your homeschool? Share your tips and favorite memories in the comments below!