I’ve gotta be honest. One reason we started this website about traveling with kids is because neither of us is doing it as much as we’d like to. We’re pretty firmly established here in our neighborhoods, the kids are doing sports and theater and swim team and, by the way, it’s kind of expensive to travel with 4 or 5 people. So we save up for our trips a couple of times a year and we do our best to foster a love of learning and languages and travel in our kids while we’re at home.
I’ll tell you a little bit about how we do it, and I’d love to hear from you about how you do it, wherever you are.
We’re pretty lucky in this area, because being the center of U.S. government means that DC is home to embassies and foreign missions galore. And these folks just love to show off their culture with exhibits, film festivals, wine tastings and visiting artists. This year we’ve learned to play angklung at the Indonesian Embassy (even setting a world record for largest angklung ensemble at the Washington Monument!), we saw a movie at the Italian Embassy, Vero acted in a play at the Alliance Française, Paige played in the Fête de la Musique at the French Embassy as part of an afro-Brazilian samba-reggae percussion band.
We are also active hosts for couchsurfing families. There’s a group on CouchSurfing that is just for families, and we’ve found it a great way to get to know people around the world. When we were finally able to host an Australian woman and her daughter this year, they seemed like old friends from the time we met. We toured the city with them, they made us scones, and showed us pictures of kookaburras and kangaroos near their home. If I could point to one thing that has really made my kids interested in traveling, it was this experience. They can’t wait to get to Australia now!
Vero is bilingual (French/English), and her parents were both translators, and Paige started college as a linguistics major, so we definitely have a love for languages. We were amazed to find that our local public school system has quite a few options for language learning. We both put our children in a partial Spanish-immersion school, where the kids learn math and science in Spanish, and all the other subjects in English. It was a little rough at first, but soon the kids were correcting our pronunciation of their homework assignments. And even though they may not be fluent yet, it still gives them a great head start when they start language classes in high school. And it gave Vero’s son a jump on learning French when he went to visit relatives in Belgium this year.
Even if your local school system doesn’t offer this, you might be surprised what is available all around you. We found that the National Gallery of Art in Washington offers many tours in other languages. There’s a local Spanish-language theater where they often present plays for children in English and Spanish.
We can get cable channels in Spanish and quite a few other languages for just a few more dollars per month. The Simpsons en español? Si! MHz Networks, based outside of Washington, offers international programming, including English-language newscasts from around the world, and for adults, a great international mystery series. If your public television station or cable provider doesn’t show it, you can access their programming online as well. Eurochannel, available on Dish Network, provides European programming with English subtitles. Music, travel, and dramatic series make up the schedule.
I will be willing to bet that there are few places in the U.S. where you are out of range of a Spanish-language radio station. Many have chatty hosts at least part of the day, and it can be fun to listen with your little language-learners to try to pick out a few words here and there. Vero and her family try to count the number of times they hear the words “corazon” or “amor” in a song.
These are a few of the things we do when we’re stuck at home to try to foster a love of learning and travel as we’re raising global kids. How about you?