March 25, 2013 | plushkies.com
Welcome to Day 1 of our blog post series “Raising Global Children: 10 Multicultural Blogger Moms Show Us How It’s Done”.
The purpose of the series is to learn with these 10 multicultural moms who are raising children to be global citizens and to connect to the broader worldwide community of parents and educators who care about this same thing.
Today, as the first day of the series, we are interviewing Stephanie Meade who is the Founder & Editor in Chief of “InCultureParent”, an online magazine for parents raising little global citizens. Stephanie, born in the US, and her husband, who is from Morocco, are raising their two bicultural daughters to be bilingual in English and Arabic, and have introduced some Spanish and French to them as well
1. What inspired you to start InCultureParent? How do you come up with content for the site?
It hit me one night after having my second daughter that the types of things I was googling (“are bilingual children late speakers,” “celebrating two religions in your home”) probably weren’t unique to my Moroccan-American, bilingual household. Multicultural families are found all over the world and our numbers are growing. I realized there was no parenting website at that time that brought together different cultural perspectives on raising children, provided resources for raising bilingual kids as well as explored topics of faith (all different faiths, not solely Judaism and Christianity which you find in many American websites), and also offered multicultural book reviews, recipes, crafts and more. I wanted a really comprehensive parenting website that would have everything you needed to raise a little global citizen, and above all represent the diversity in parenting styles around the world.
As far as content, there are many writers from around the globe who write for the site. And we are always on the lookout for new perspectives. It probably also helps that I have lived in many different countries and have friends all over the world, many of whom have contributed content to InCultureParent!
2. Why do you think it is important for parents to raise global citizens?
We live in a world that is globalized where everything we do has a global footprint, from the very basic—like the things we wear to the food we eat, to the more experiential—the people we meet and the activities we engage in. So to me, it’s not so much that raising a global citizen is important, I see it is the only way forward for our children if we want them to understand the world they are growing up in. Being able to understand other cultures and different perspectives, or at least be open to learning if a culture is new and different to them, is a critical part of this. Another key part is being able to speak multiple languages. I was raised monolingual but learned three languages as an adult (French, Spanish and Portuguese). I see how each of these languages has both given me a new way to think and allowed me to travel and make friends in so many places in the world. But I want my kids to benefit from learning a language from the time they are young. That to me is one of the most amazing gifts I can give my kids.
3. Having a bicultural family of your own, can you give us some insight on your family dynamic?
It was only this year that we realized my children thought everyone celebrated both Ramadan and Christmas! Although cute, as it reflects what we do in our family, it was a chance to talk about the many other holidays people celebrate. I think having two different cultures, religions and languages represented in our home, and that both my husband and I have lived outside our home countries, makes us more sensitive to educating our children about the world around us. As far as language goes, my husband only speaks in Arabic with the kids and I speak English. More and more I have been trying to speak some Spanish with them (I learned Spanish while living in Ecuador), as they now take Spanish in afterschool time, but my four-year-old especially resists my trying to change languages. We are trying to raise them in an atmosphere where being exposed to different cultures and languages is the norm, a daily part of life, not just an occasional experience.
We intentionally chose to live in a diverse place to raise our kids (Berkeley, CA), where there are many families from different backgrounds. My kids also celebrate holidays beyond just our own, thanks to the friends we have, which has been great. I remember coming to work one morning last year and mentioned to a colleague that we were at a Rosh Hashanah dinner until late. He took a moment to process it, as a month or so before we had been celebrating Ramadan. He asked jokingly, “Aren’t those kids of yours going to be confused?” On the contrary, we think they’ll be forever enriched.
4. Are bicultural families growing? Are there any challenges? Any advice for those raising bicultural families of their own?
I think there have always been loads of bicultural families across the world, they are just not very prevalent in mainstream media. I have interviewed many families from different generations across the world as part of my series on Real Intercultural Families. I think it’s important to give more visibility to these types of families as we are so infrequently seen in media, but we are everywhere! And our numbers are also growing. Intercultural marriage is on the rise, as are mixed race children. And as far as language, just in the U.S., one in five children now speak a language other than English at home—it’s very exciting!
I think one of the challenges can be learning to accept and incorporate all aspects (not just the ones you like) of your partner’s culture into your home—this includes your in-laws, who in many cases may have very different beliefs about raising children. Having two religions in the house can be an additional challenge, especially in the case where a parent might be less flexible about compromising on a child’s religious upbringing. Talking through a lot of this stuff before having kids is really key. But sometimes parents’ ideas about faith can grow stronger and change after having kids. Luckily for my husband and I, we are both very flexible and talked extensively about our differences in culture and religion before raising kids. For us personally, this has not been a challenge.
As far as advice goes, well, what works for one family may not work for another as everyone has their own beliefs and ideas. But something that I think is helpful is to learn about, embrace and respect each other’s cultures. In my case, that has meant not only welcoming and taking pride in Moroccan culture, but also Islam.
5. Our main audience is teachers with international students. Do you have any tips for teachers on incorporating culture and diversity into their classrooms?
There are so many fun ways to incorporate culture and diversity into the classroom! The simplest way is through multicultural books that explore the world. If you want some great suggestions, you can check out our multicultural book reviews (http://www.incultureparent.com/category/reviews/).
Another idea is to “travel” to a country through the five senses. My husband and I presented a lesson on Morocco to my daughter’s preschool class last year through the five senses. We used Moroccan tea as the main attraction, as Moroccan tea is plenty sweet so kids love it, and built the lesson around it. It is also fun for kids to watch how the tea is poured and to drink out of small, glass cups. Here are the fun ways we used all the senses in a lesson:
Smell: Before it was made, the kids can smell the ingredients and guess which herb is used. For Moroccan tea, it’s mint.
While the tea was cooking, we had some time to talk a little about Morocco.
Site: We located Morocco on a map and told the kids five fun facts about Morocco using pictures.
Sound: They also learned how to say, “Hello” in Arabic. And we played some Moroccan music.
Touch: We had the ingredients to make an easy treat from dates and almonds that all the kids helped to create. Alternatively, you could have the kids make a craft to celebrate an upcoming holiday or any aspect of a culture. We have tons of ideas in our crafts section (http://www.incultureparent.com/category/crafts), which I know teachers have used so have a look!
Taste: Once the tea and sweets were ready, everyone was able to eat and drink together communally, a big part of Moroccan culture, with the music on in the background.