Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's A Small World

...Teaching children to think - to live - globally, and to be missions minded.  

"... and where did you learn that?"  I ask the boy who tells me, giggling, about the South Sandwich Islands.  (Apparently he finds it funny to talk about the South Sandwich Islands).
His brother chimes in before I hear an answer, "And did you know that there is an Easter Island AND a Christmas Island?"

Finally, the answer.

"We learned it in the bathroom", they answer nonchalantly.  Then they move on.  On to tales of natives and pirates in the Pacific Islands long ago, tales of missionaries and their adventures as they attempted to deliver the gospel to the lost.

I suppose, before writing further, I should explain how the children are learning of remote islands while in the bathroom....

When we moved to our now not-so-new home last year we were looking for a place for our large laminated world map.  Dan thought the living room was not the best place, and there wasn't enough wall space elsewhere, at least at child-height, so it took up residence in the main bathroom.

It has proven the best spot - I highly recommend it!  I do believe our children have learned more geography in the bathroom this year than I've taught them, even with our main focus of study being world geography this year as we work through our "My Father's World" Curriculum- Exploring Countries and Cultures.

I heard recently that a local public school doesn't teach geography until seventh grade.  How can children be expected to make connections when they don't have an understanding of the world around them?  When children can picture where a place in the world is, it's position from the equator and therefore the weather, the wildlife, the customs of the people in a given place, they can better grasp additional information that comes their way.

We enjoyed this past Sunday afternoon at my parents house.  My Dad took a recent trip to Guatemala to assist in building a school for an impoverished village, and we had the privilege of hearing of his travels.  
The boys were especially eager to hear from Grandpa the details of his experience. The boys compared and contrasted Dan's experiences serving in the Dominican Republic with Grandpa's tales of Guatemala and learned that cement is mixed in Guatemala very similarly to how it is done in the Dominican Republic.

They know that toilet paper cannot be flushed in either country and they are now especially grateful to be grandsons and nephews of plumbers!  They heard stories of orphaned children and of children who roamed the fiery dump, risking burns for scraps of food.
Their "three bite rule" (the required amount they must eat of what is put before them before they are excused to make their own peanut butter sandwich) suddenly doesn't sound quite so torturous...

The experiences shared with these boys of the reality of the world, together with the books they read have helped to open their eyes to see beyond their own little corner to the vast world that lies beyond.

Opportunities abound for further study if you are aware.

We recently finished reading a biography of Nate Saint, a pilot and missionary who was martyred alongside Jim Eliot and several other men as they attempted to reach the Aucas in Ecuador.

Just on the heels of the completion of this book, our pastor shared of his contact with a radio station in Quito.  He very graciously shared with the boys his hobby - ham radio.  The boys saw how it worked and further study revealed that Nate Saint's wife, ten years after Nate's death, married the president of HCJB (the Quito radio station with which our pastor had contact).  Our pastor did not know of our study of Ecuador, nor would it really have struck our fancy had we not had a point of reference with which to associate the information.  The boys (and I) also had a geography quiz as we tried to locate on the map all the countries from where our pastor had received QSL cards.

These connections help our children to understand, to make further connections, and to appreciate the things that are often taken for granted.  It keeps perspective to be reminded often of the ways of the rest of the world.
According to the World Health Organization, only 83% of the world has clean drinking water.  That leaves over 1 billion people with unsafe drinking water.
According to Wycliffe there are about 2100 languages without a Bible translation in their language.
Over one billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
One quarter of humanity lives without electricity.
And consider this - Global Priorities in spending in 1998 show that 8 million USD were spent on cosmetics in the US, while an additional 9 million USD was needed for water and sanitation for all!
If you need still more perspective, check out

“One of these grand defects, as I humbly conceive, is this, that children are habituated to learning without understanding.” 
― Jonathan Edwards

Sadly, I know more geography now than I did before teaching third grade to my son(s).  I must add that even for myself, having a greater knowledge of the world- of it's places and customs- fosters a greater concern for those who live in it.  I pray that my children will not only learn, but will understand... that they'll learn to understand.

Will our children be missionaries?  If God so leads them, yes.  If not, they will at least have a heart for missions, an understanding of the vast world in which they live, perspective enough to appreciate their blessings and realization for the need to look, to think, and to give, beyond themselves.

*Photos - Bathroom wall map
                - Making a continent and oceans cake with Grandma early in the school year


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