Tag Archives: Africa

Around the World

This summer, we have a lot of friends traveling all over the world. My niece and her husband came back last month from Rwanda, our neighbor just returned from a trip to Turkey, another friend is on her way to Australia to finish school, and another niece is set to go as a missionary to Uganda for a year. We also have friends who are long-term missionaries in Paraguay. What amazing adventures! Not only do these trips make the world seem much smaller, but they offer great opportunities for learning!

When someone we know travels to another country, it provides a more personal reason to study that country. We can study the culture, language, people, cities, government, religion, landscape, flora and fauna, and cuisine of a particular nation with our friends and family in mind. We’ll discover what they’ll see and experience while they are there.

But even better, we’ll also be able to learn more than we ever would from books or online. We’ll be able to take what we’ve learned from reading and ask them about it. They’ll be able to give us details that would be hard to find in a typical report. For example, we learned that many Australians are very laid back, and use the phrase “No worries!” quite often, even in situations when the average American would be stressing out.

If you have a friend of family member who will be traveling soon, try creating your own unit study about the country they will be visiting. Start off with basic maps and facts about the country. Then tap into your friend’s experiences. If your friend has  a blog or Facebook page, visit it often with your children to see where he is and what’s he’s doing.  Find the cities where he’s been and have the kids mark them on a map. If he posts photos, include those in their notebooks as well.  If he’s staying a while, have them write letters, and add any they receive in return.

So even if you’re not traveling around the world this summer — no worries! Your children will have a great learning experience anyway!


Photo by xandert

Rice Bowls

This week was an exciting one in our extended family as a new addition finally arrived. My niece and her husband brought their new addition home — all the way from Africa!

While I waited nine months for each of my children to “arrive”, my niece had a much longer wait for her new daughter. As we followed the updates online, the new baby was always in our thoughts. And at the homeschooling convention we attended this spring, I came across a program that helped us do a little more.

The program is Rice Bowls, and it’s so easy. All you have to do is receive a “rice bowl”, a hollow plastic bowl of “rice” with a slit in the top. Then, as you come across extra change, drop it in the bowl. Once the bowl is filled, break it, count the change, and send a check or make a donation online to RiceBowls.org for that amount (one bowl holds about $30 in change). The money you send goes directly to the food budgets of the orphanages partnering with the program, which are located in Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, India, the Philippines, India, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, my new niece’s homeland.

And it really is so easy. The plastic bowls are free — all you have to do is contact the organization and tell them how many you need. You could order just one for your family, or you could order 10, 20, 50, or more so your church or co-op could participate. They also provide downloadable posters and promotional tools online.

And for the homeschooling family, the website offers lessons for elementary and middle school students. Under the tab marked “Resources”, you’ll find lessons in language arts, math, and history.

RiceBowls.org feeds around 1500 orphans, and they’ve created a way of helping them that anyone can do. Even small children can put change in the bowl, and older children have fun breaking it when it’s filled. And in the process, your family will be learning lessons in giving and compassion that will last a lifetime.

A Good Cause

Last week, a friend of mine who heads up a group for field trips and celebrations organized a yard sale for the kids. The children gathered toys, books, household items, and more for the sale. But instead of working the sale for profit, my friend wanted to make it a fundraiser for a worthy cause.

There are so many needs, and so many good causes, but she wanted to find something that would be meaningful to the children and closer to home. I told her about my niece and her husband who are in the process of adopting a baby from Africa, hopefully later this year, and we decided to raise the funds for them. I gave my friend their photo and a letter about their family to post at the sale.

Due to a prior commitment, we weren’t able to be there for most of the sale and could only stop by towards the end. The day was hot, and the crowd was small, but the effort was amazing, as my son would say. Besides gathering items for the sale, families made cupcakes and lemonade and brought bottled water along to sell too. And all this for a family that they didn’t know, all to help bring a little girl to her new home. How neat it was to see the children so excited about doing something totally for the benefit of someone else.

One of the reasons we homeschool is for character education — I want my children to grow up to be honest, compassionate, dependable, generous, responsible adults. Yet often, in the rush of school assignments and activities, it’s easy for me to overlook opportunities for building those character traits. This yard sale was one such opportunity, and, in our busyness, we couldn’t be a part of the actual sale. I thought we’d missed it again.

But as it turned out, my children didn’t miss it after all. As we were driving to the sale, my son asked why their friends would work so hard raising money for their cousin — they didn’t even know her family. We talked about that on the way, and then they saw it for themselves. They saw their friends working; they saw the drinks, the snacks, the items for sale, and the bag of money for their cousin.

They saw love in action — and it was a lesson learned.

Photo by Jane Sawyer


earthe_01After John took his geography test on Monday, he was sure he did very poorly. The test involved naming the countries in northern Africa, and though he did study a little, he quickly realized it wasn’t nearly enough.

A good learning experience, I thought. Next time he’ll be more prepared.

Then John did something that surprised me. On his way home from scouts with his dad Monday night, he told him about the test. He told his dad he had failed, that he probably made a zero on it.  Naturally, my husband expressed his disapproval and was quite frustrated that I wasn’t more concerned. But that got me thinking…

Why would a boy tell his parent about a bad test score, even before he knew just how bad it was? Especially when he knew what the reaction would be? I believe John told his dad because he needed reassurance.

John needed to know that although he did poorly on a test, everything would still be okay. It’s still early in the semester, and there will be opportunities to bring his grade up. He might even ask the teacher if he could do an assignment for extra credit if he was really concerned about it.  He needed a cheering section, and he was hoping that it would be us.

And I’m happy to say, when we understood, we did cheer him on. I told him how this was a good lesson for life, for learning how to organize yourself in such a way that you are able to meet deadlines and come prepared. I told him how some adults forget to pay their electric, telephone, or credit card bills, and how they’re fined because of it. Sometimes people will miss an appointment, too, just because they don’t write it down.  What he’s learning now, then, will only help him when he’s grown.

John went to bed feeling a little better that night, and all this week he’s been studying and studying those African nations. He received the test back today; he didn’t do as badly as he thought, and to his relief, it was actually a quiz, so the grade won’t count as much toward his final grade. Now we have to tell Dad, so he can have some reassurance as well.