READER QUESTION: Although we do want to live as the people around us (to a certain extent), we want our children to have a broader worldview than our little African courtyard. Their roots are American, their extended family is American. They will spend furloughs in America, Lord willing, and there they will learn a lot. But my question is: What do others do to broaden their children's world view while on the field? Books...but we can't just run to the library. Online resources...but ...well, it's not the healthiest thing to depend on and some of us prefer to have our homes less techy rather than more. Pictures and videos from the folks at home, doing their normal life the American way....and I do like that idea, as it not only shows the American life style, but keeps a connection with dear family at home. Any other ideas? What do others do?

 

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Let's share ideas and experiences. Do you have any favorite books that help broaden your children's worldview? What else do you do?

 

 

Meet Geraldine, a sweet older friend of mine from Europe. She and her husband moved to West Africa with older children, and have been there for nine years. I asked her what homeschooling advice she has for mothers on the mission field. Here is what she shared with me.

 

 

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Eleven years ago I found myself in Ohio after my husband accepted a job there. We had come from a country in Europe where school is fully organized, overemphasized, and where a diploma is absolutely necessary to get even a simple job. Homeschooling was forbidden there, and we wanted to start homeschooling five of our seven children, ranging from grades one to eleven.

 

I felt like I had lost all my security and balance for our children and their educational future. I could not believe that stepping away from the school system and making Mama their teacher could ever work out well. What I did see was the benefits of not being in a system where God is not recognized and honored, and of keeping the children away from a lot of wickedness; but how to make it work without a school environment was one big question mark for me.

 

At that time I did not know that God was preparing me to be a homeschool mother in a remote village in Africa, where we could not depend on others and with no homeschool groups or homeschool families close by. Without these two years in America I don't think I would have made it!

 

Our main desire for our children was that they would get a good education in a godly environment with the opportunity to learn more skills than only educational. Everybody likes their children to be able to fit in society, but living overseas makes our children very different. They are not aware of new gadgets, fashions and ways of living in the western world. We saw how difficult it was for most of them to go on furlough and to fit in with the group they suddenly were dropped into. The most normal life activities were not normal for them.

 

In most cases we can't solve that problem for them on the field. We only can assure them that it is OK if they don't know everything, and mention that they know a lot that their Western friends and relatives don't. We admit that we as adults feel dumb when we have to ask how to do something normal. They need to realize that they are not less than others who know exactly how to behave, just different.

 

In other cases we need to protect them from difficulties. Our children are as important as the people we are reaching out to on the field. Maybe even more important. God entrusted them to our care to raise them for His glory. We have to make sure that we do everything to make it easier for them to become a stable, hardworking, and responsible person that by the time they make the decision to follow the Lord they don't stumble due to a bad work attitude or behaviour.

 

It is very easy to become too relaxed concerning school when you are overseas, to think that it is only for a certain amount of time and later you will pick it all up again. But even one or two years will influence your children. School is more than education. It is learning to be responsible, to work even when you don't feel too good about it, to go through discouragement and learn to be persistent.

 

Something we learned by experience is that our children benefit a lot by having a strict schedule. Even with many interruptions we always went back to our schedule. We have an appointed time to eat breakfast, do chores and start school. I always made sure that every child had a work schedule with what needs to be done that day and also that all their work is corrected before the next day, so that they could see that I am interested in their work and their progress even in the midst of the many other challenges we face on the field.

 

Living overseas can make us mothers very busy. I as a nurse could easily have filled my days. With a purpose, I stayed away from being distracted from the family. We have to treasure those years with our children and use the time to interact with them as much as possible.

 

I had to learn to be more flexible but I think that is similar to living in a Western country. We planned vacation breaks but often they shifted around and changed several times a year. A sudden visit from one of the other missionaries is special and school had to postponed.

 

In some areas I know that my children are lacking information or tools, but in other areas I see how much they learned to be inventive by not having tools and information. They had to find solutions for their problems. This is a skill that is very valuable also in the rest of their lives.

 

We really benefited from being enrolled in a homeshool organisation that keeps records of all the children. It helped us to stay on track and we saw a big change in motivation in the children after we enrolled them. They get their scores with the progress they make and they see more what is going on. For me as the teacher I felt that somebody else was carrying the burden with me! Nine years ago we had no internet access or phone connection. Now we can send the results by email, ask questions and get information any moment we need it. All the children worked toward an academic school diploma and finished grade 12.

 

In the nine years that we were on the mission field we saw six of our children leave home. Two had already finished high school in Europe, and four were able to finish homeschooling in West Africa. They were able to write their ACT in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and obtained an accredited high school diploma. Our last child hopes to finish high school next year.

 

We are very thankful for a mission board that allowed us to take our children with us to Africa, and see it as a great blessing to have been able to teach them and have them serve with us.

 

To God be the glory!

I think the hardest thing about living overseas was the distance from family. I had nephews and a niece that I had never met and who were growing up without knowing their cousins. My boys never had the opportunity to sit on Grandma's lap for a story, or go for a ride with Grandpa. The distance felt bigger and bigger the longer we were overseas and the older our children got.

So how do you bridge that gap? How do you stay connected with family far away? Here are a couple things we did . . . but this list is very short and small. Please add your ideas in the comments below!

1) Skype or other form of video call. Maybe this one seems obvious, but make sure you use it! Although my boys couldn't cuddle with Grandma, they always looked forward to seeing her "on the video". They would show their newest Duplo creations, talk about what they've been doing, even sing songs and read stories together over the video. We also did things like set the laptop down on the floor so they could watch the baby crawl. If your little ones aren't used to interacting over the computer, it might take a couple times to get used to it. But if you do it regularly, they'll soon look forward to it!

2) Picture book of family. My mom made a cute pocket-size photo album of with pictures of each family member, with words that could be read to the boys as a story. "My name is David. This is my Mommy. This is my Daddy. We are a family." It had pictures of each family member holding David as a baby, pictures of the whole family together, and so on. It was one of his favorite books for a LOOONG time - and even when it got knocked off the favorites list, we continued to bring it out at key times when we wanted to talk about our family in America.

3) Videos of everything. You can't be on Skype all the time, so I'm glad we have video on our cameras and on our phones. Baby's first steps, the children playing in the rain, a two-year-old explaining how something works - videos record those moments that family can't be there for. You can also record yourself singing Happy Birthday to a family member, or giving a special message. There are apps - like WhatsApp - that are great for quickly sending pictures, voice recordings and videos from your phone. Or you can upload to a shared folder in Dropbox or GoogleDrive or something like that.

4) Lists of favorites, sizes, special treats, etc. As your children grow and change, it's hard for those far away to keep up with everything. What is their favorite color? What animals are they fascinated by? What size clothing do they wear now? If you send a list of favorites, treats that would be special, toys that you would like them to have, etc, it really helps loved ones to know what kind of gifts to send. How well I remember the disappointment of receiving a special package (which cost so much shipping in the States AND so much customs in Ghana!) only to find that it contained three kinds of candy that none of us like. We tried to eat it out of obligation, and ended up throwing it away. :-( How much better to give your loved ones a list to work from, so that they can be confident you will appreciate the things they're sending.

 

Now it's your turn - how do you stay connected with your loved ones?

 

 

 

I shall do a mock interview with this little midget, and you can take it as truth or fiction, however you like. Fact is, if I were to ask her these questions, she would probably look at me and say, “Huhn.”, which means sit down, and pat the couch beside her. If I didn’t comply, she very well might follow me around saying, “Mama, mama!”, and waving her little patty to tell me to come. SO. I’m not going to really ask her these questions. For one thing, her language is very limited and for another, she’s in bed right now.

Serenity, what do you do all day?

“Well, I get up somewhere between 6 and 6:30 and then I whine and follow mama around because my tummy is so hungry and if I get up at 6:00 I have to wait a half an hour for food. And then I feed myself breakfast and have to be washed up (and my tray, too, but Davina’s learning how to do that job) because if there’s anything smeary, I like to smear it. And we often have smeary things like oatmeal and cream of wheat or greasy eggs (that’s usually when David makes breakfast, though—mama doesn’t like to use so much oil).

“Maybe I should hurry up in my telling or I’ll never get this done. I don’t have any chores like David and Davina, but mama has to get me dressed and combed after breakfast and Bible Time. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you about Bible Time. I’m learning to sit still but I mostly have trouble almost every morning ‘cause I don’t really get that much out of the Bible yet and sitting there sucking my thumb gets boring. But I know what to do when Daddy says it’s time to pray and I fold my little pats together quite saintly. Mama still tells me I’m so CUTE, whatever that means.

“After that David and Davina have lots of chores and I just play and stuff. I’m pretty tired by the time they start school, so I sit in my high chair ‘till it’s time for me to sleep and watch them work. They do fun things like writing and coloring and stuff and mama usually gives me something to write. She never lets me use the funnest things, though, like the markers. One time when she did I wrote all over my tray—I think that’s why. Then I get to have my nap—but usually the electricity is off right then, so I get all sweaty from 9:00 to 10:00 when it goes back on. But I’m usually asleep so I don’t notice. Mama says that while I’m sleeping is the best time to get school done. When I get up I often have to be on the mat for a while and play with Play-dough or Little People or something. I like my Little People a lot—I call them “baby” ‘cause one of them is a little baby and that’s my favorite.

“Auntie fixes lunch for us and sometimes it’s so spicy I have to drink lots of water. We always have rice at lunchtime because that’s the way it’s done here. On Saturday when mama fixes lunch it’s usually not rice, though—she made samosas last time. That’s all we had: just samosas and ketchup and water, and it took mama more than an hour to make it. But it was good, I’m not complaining. Davina washed dishes after lunch and David usually plays quietly and since I’m full, I usually find something to do by myself. I like to play dolly so much that sometimes I do that.

“After the children are done with their chores we get to play together. I don’t know what we do—lots of things. David and Davina usually play with me and they like to play games like building houses with cushions and chairs or chasing each other around the house. The other day I didn’t know what to do and I stuck my finger in the fan. Mama told me not to and Davina did, too, but I learned the hard way. I got to have a bandaid, but I only left it on for half an hour or so. It bothered me. Sometimes David and Davina go outside and I feel left out because mama won’t let me go out with them. Then I howl in the garage and sometimes I get shlake and sometimes I get to go out in the stroller. It’s naptime after that… again. Sometimes in the afternoons I can’t sleep and then I keep Davina up, too. Mama says something has to change… hey, maybe I’ll get to just sleep one nap now! But I’d still have to go in my bed in the mornings anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

“Well, this day is getting long. In the evening we do different things—about once a week we go marketing, other times we play together and Daddy and Mama play with us, too. Occasionally we go to the Park and sometimes something else is happening. I don’t go out of the house very much, but the other day mama needed something in town so I got to go with Daddy all by myself. That was the first time I got to do that. I could barely see over the edge of the scooter, but I held on tight. It’s really not dangerous because Daddy is a good driver and careful. One time when we were all in town together at the shop where we buy office things someone came by really fast and knocked the scooter over and bent the hand brake. I’m glad we weren’t all on the scooter when that happened.

“I almost always have a bath in the evening. I’m learning to take a shower. I love water, so baths are always a treat. I have a problem behind my ear and I sometimes have heat rash so I usually get all powdered and creamed up before I go to bed. That’s usually at 7 or 7:30, and I don’t know what happens after that.”

Serenity, do you like India?

“Yes, but I didn’t like all the people at first. Everyone pinches my cheeks and goos at me and they often give me candy. But really, it’s not that different than USA because Daddy and Mama and David and Davina are here. I got to see Grandpa and Grandma on Skype the other day and I just chattered all the words I knew how to say because I was so glad to see them. Even after I was done talking to them I kept checking to see if they were there by shouting “PAWPAW” every few minutes. I miss them and I talk about A. Bepah sometimes, too, and I know everyone’s names because I see them in the photo album mama made.”


Okay, that’s the end of the interview. Serenity got up from her nap and got hungry and I keep getting interrupted. =)