Five Easy Ways to Do Cultural Learning At Home

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If you’ve ever been to our home, you’ll see how it reflects our family’s love of other cultures. While we don’t have much square footage—we’re currently have only 900 feet of it for our family of four—we have made a point of decorating our family’s living space with objects that represent the places (and people) that we love.

Ever since my husband and I married ten years ago, we have made it a point to collect art from all of the places that we’ve traveled to. Paintings from Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico adorn our walls and we have a number of textiles and llama statues from Peru scattered around our few rooms. And the books—well, the many books that we’ve collected on our travels have been wedged into as many bookshelves, baskets, and Tupperware containers as I could fit in this small space.

As our children have gotten older, these small items have become great conversation pieces. Our older son loves to talk about the Brazilian paintings that hang behind our dining room table, and those discussions have allowed me to share about my time in Brazil and been a great motivation for our Portuguese practice. I like to think that whenever we talk about these paintings, his world expands just a little bit more beyond our home and the playground.

If your children are studying a language, they are likely already interested in the world outside the four walls of your home—and if you want to stregthen that interest and expand their horizons (which is actually critical to language learning), here are a few suggestions:

1.) Use read-alouds to explore the world together. Oftentimes, cultural learning is as easy as a visit to the library—but it’s helpful to know what books to choose! One resource that I love is Give Your Child the World by Jaime Martin of Simple Homeschool. It includes rich, age-sensitive reading lists that represent all areas of the globe, as well as a reading list specifically for multicultural children. With these books, you can go on a family adventure to India, Latin America, or the Polar regions—or any other corner of the globe you desire. And by the way, the Kindle version of Jaime’s book is on sale for only $2.99 until the end of November—so don’t miss it!

2.) Consider a subscription box for fun activities that don’t require planning. For cultural learning, the Little Passports World Edition offers a global experience for elementary-aged children. Each month, Little Passports will send a box to your child highlighting a new country with teaching tools, activity sheets, and fun souvenirs. For young children studying Spanish or French, another great option is a box by One Third Stories, which will send you children’s books that start in English and gradually add more and more foreign language vocabulary until they end in the target language. And it’s not just reading practice—One Third Stories always includes an audiobook with each box, so that your children can practice their listening skills and pronunciation by repeating after the narration as well! Though they are based in the UK, One Third Stories does ship to the US.

3.) Try “themed” dinnertime music. We always listen to music over dinner, and a few months ago, I got a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited so that we could broaden our choices without having to buy a ton of new music. Per my son’s request, our dinnertime soundtrack lately has included a lot of Bossa Nova. I don’t know that much about the history of Bossa Nova, but luckily, the internet DOES, so I’ve used Wikipedia to help explain it to him. I’m learning right alongside him, and that’s the best part of homeschooling, isn’t it? There are so many directions that you could go with this: Celtic music, Gregorian chant (for the Latin learners), K-Pop, Flamenco, Bollywood soundtracks….really, there’s something for every interest.

4.) Try your hand at creating some multicultural art. Kinderart is a high quality, completely free resource that parents can use to find age-appropriate, engaging crafts and art projects that represent many different traditions from around the globe. Their lesson plans are varied and fascinating. A younger Spanish leaner could build his own set of panpipes, for example, while an older child could try drawing a Mesoamerican Codex Book (how’s that for a history tie-in?). If you can’t find what you like there, you might have some luck with Global Art, a book that is popular with many homeschool families. 

5.) Take a “field trip” to an ethnic grocery store. Growing up right outside of New York City, my hometown was surrounded by speciality stores—from a Korean produce market (which always stocked the most beautiful fresh flowers) to a huge shopping complex that was a hub of Indian grocery stores, sari shops, and bakeries. I always loved visiting these places and finding new things to try—and if you have any ethnic groceries stores in your town, you can have this experience too! Take your time looking at the different products and ask the shop manager to explain anything that you are unfamiliar with—you’re sure to learn something new alongside your child!

How does your family do cultural learning at home? Please share your ideas in the comments--I'd love to know!