One of the greatest joys of our lives is to have hosted foreign exchange students from all over the world. Two boys in particular have become like sons to us. In fact, when folks ask how many children I have, I say I have five boys including two French sons. You see, for us France is more than just a spot on a map, more than just landscapes and landmarks. It is two very special people.
Recently Francois returned to the US for a three week visit. We laughed as we relived the great times we had during his year with us. We cried when he left. But we carry a bit of France in our hearts knowing he is there thinking of his American family. The time with him and our other exchange students is very special to my boys. When newsworthy events happen in these countries, they immediately connect to those who have shared our home. As we study geography, we have real faces and real relationships. A human equation.
We don't have to host foreign exchange students, however, to experience this human equation. Living books about the people and cultures of those countries can help us build personal relationships with others around the world. The golden age of children's literature is replete with gems to introduce us to the world. Below are just a few of my favorites.
If you would like to begin your world tour at home, Lois Lenski wrote an extensive collection of regional stories such as Judy's Journey. Some of these treasures have been reprinted!
One of my favorites series and that of my patrons is the Twins books by Lucy Fitch Perkins. Lucy wrote many titles of a set of twins in many cultures. The Dutch Twins, The Chinese Twins and The French Twins are just a few of the books in this endearing series. Some of these have been reprinted as well.
In the 1930's Madeline Brandeis traveled the world with her daughter and her camera. She photographed the people and places, weaving stories around them. Filled with photographs and cultural facts woven in story, these books are a fascinating look at the world. Some titles in this series are Little Philippe of Belgium, Little Anne of Canada, and Little Tom of England. When my French sons were here, I read Little Jeanne of France. The boys were continually pointing out the landmarks that they pass by everyday. It didn't hurt that they could help me pronounce the French words. :)
Charlotte Mason used living books to introduce her students to many cultures. When I Was a Boy in Japan by Sakae Shioya was one of her choices.
Simply Charlotte Mason has published a geography curriculum that combines living books, map work and cultures by introducing us to families in various countries around the world. Their Visits to... Series is a good choice if you would like more guidance.
It is a small world after all. When we reach across political and social boundaries, we may learn that people are not so different. Reach out and develop a relationship. You may change a life...even your own.