Posted on February 9, 2015
Encouraging Our Children to be Outward Looking
What I mean here by encouraging our children to be ‘outward looking’ is looking outside myself, my wants, my interests, my enjoyment, my fun and even my education/ career, to others. This doesn’t mean that we don’t teach our children how to take care of themselves, but just that in our society there is an overwhelming emphasis on satisfying self, so we want to encourage them to be first of all, focused on God who created us, then on others and what we can be doing to help them. Recent research has even found that people who volunteer to help others are happier and may live longer.
We don’t want to raise children who are ungrateful for the huge opportunities and comparative wealth we have here in the UK, (even though some here would consider us to be towards the lower end of the income scale), or to have no idea of the huge difference that there are in cultures around the world.
Here are 6 ways we encourage our children to be outward looking:
- Praying for Different People Groups and Countries in Our Daily Bible Time
Before breakfast my husband reads the family a passage of Scripture, but after breakfast and chores, and before the children begin their written schoolwork, I have a Bible and prayer time with the children, using some sort of devotional aimed specifically at children (for example, we currently print off Postal Bible School lessons, or for a shorter devotion, read Tony Hutter’s book ‘The Milk’s Been Stolen Again: 52 Spurgeon Stories for Children’), followed by a time of prayer for family, friends, current items in the news, and a specific country or people group.
The children take turns choosing the country we pray for. For example, on Thursdays, it is our youngest daughter’s turn to choose, so in the past we have asked her to pick a country on the globe (yes, slipping some geography learning in there!), then I would read out a bit about that country from Operation World, and a few appropriate prayer points.
Currently, we use the Children’s World Watch List Atlas poster (a list of the 50 worst countries in the world for persecution of Christians) from Open Doors UK, and when she has chosen the country, I will read out the section on that country from this year’s World Watch List booklet before we pray.
2. Material World book, by Peter Menzel
This is a coffee-table-style book with lots of large photographs, which pictures people in different countries around the world, outside their homes, with all their possessions. It includes details about each family’s daily life and general facts about each country. It also has special throughout, such as food around the world and toilets around the world.
Although slightly dated (it was published in 2000), we have found this book to be helpful in showing our children how priviledged they are in many ways, and also just how other cultures do some things differently. (There is one photograph of African women dancing which contains top half nudity, in case your family would avoid this book or censor it for that reason).
There are some more books of this type that are on my ‘Wish List’ at Amazon, that I may consider buying in future:
What the World Eats, by the same author, Peter Menzel.
If the World Were a Village, by David J. Smith
3. Watching Selected News Clips
If my husband and I see a news clip online which we think would be suitable for the children to see, for example this one about children in Malawi recovering from flooding, we will bookmark it for the next time we are all using the laptop together. Obviously, this will often lead to further discussion, and maybe finding out more about what we watched from other sources. We also watch documentaries, for example on BBC iPlayer, from time to time, which look at other cultures. The BBC’s ‘Wild China’ programme last year was a good example of this.
4. Reading Widely
Another way to encourage our children to think more outwardly is simply by providing them with a wide range of quality books for personal reading. As I have mentioned already, we are a family of bookworms, so this is not too hard, but we also have a family read aloud time after Bible time each morning, and I try to pick a variety of books from different time periods/ cultures/ social settings for us to read.
Patricia St. John’s books are particularly good at giving the children an idea of what a different culture is like, for example in North Africa or the Middle East (particularly in Star of Light and The Secret of the Fourth Candle). We have also read about, amongst many others, Slovenia and Yugoslavia during WWII and the Communist period in Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy, by Maria Chapian, (although I had to heavily edit this as I read for graphic descriptions).
5. Lapbooks and Special Projects
We have found that a good time to learn about other countries is when doing a special project or making a lapbook for schoolwork. You can find lots more information about making lapbooks here.
For example, for the 2010 Football World Cup (or soccer, if you prefer!), the children made lapbooks and included information about some of the different countries that were taking part. We also did this for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. This is also a time when we might look at the art or music of a particular culture, or try examples of their food.
I couldn’t find a photo of our cross-cultural lapbooks because of our move, but here are a few of the lapbooks we made during our Highland Clearances topic last year:
6. Fundraising and Giving
By fundraising and giving to a worthy cause, our children get personally involved, and want to know more about where the money is going. We started this by filling shoe boxes for the Blythswood Care Christmas appeal, (similar to Operation Christmas Child, run by Samaritan’s Purse each year), first through our church, and later together with our homeschooling group. The children enjoyed choosing items to give to the recipient of their box.
Later we used a Push the Pedal fundraising pack from Gospel for Asia UK to organise a sponsored cycle. This raised enough money to buy several bikes for national pastors in Asia, and the pack included activities that the children used to learn more about why this was needed.
Our two eldest children went on to organise their own baking and table-top sales, as they now had more understanding of the great need there is for us to be willing to share what we have. At the moment we keep a glass jar in the kitchen for Barnabus Fund’s ‘Children of Courage’ campaign, so that any of us can add to it throughout the year. We have cashed-n our coins to the bank 2 or 3 times so far, and with the size of jar we have, managed between £30 and £40 each time.
Several times over the last year we have used Open Doors UK’s photocopiable template for making cards to send to Syrian children. You can see on our template below (unfortunately I had just sent off the most recent cards our children have made before I thought of taking photos), that there is a space for the name of the child writing the card, and a message in both English and Arabic.
Finally, we also made homemade Christmas cards in November to send to British Armed Forces personnel who are serving abroad, through Support Our Soldiers, and they kindly sent us a certificate afterwards, and said that our cards had been included with parcels sent out to Afghanistan. No matter what my opinion is of the politics of the situation, I think it is important for us to show our appreciation to those in the Forces, and again it gives the children another opportunity to have an outward focus.
How do you encourage your children to be outward looking? Kind comments are welcomed below!
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