Our world is big. As adults we gain many benefits when we explore this world. Traveling to new places and seeing new things adds dimensions to our lives that we could not have imagined before. Children also benefit from exposure to the beauty and complexity of the world. Traveling in order to educate a child can add benefits to his or her life that will last for the rest of the child’s life.
I remember clearly the summer when my parents took us to Memphis, Tennessee for a long weekend. Education has always been important to my family and my parents were determined that my sister and I would learn during our trip. We visited the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed. Looking through the window of the hotel and seeing it preserved made a huge impressions on me. I had always known of the Civil Rights Movement. My parents remember what it was like to have to go through the back door of restaurants if they wanted to eat. Hearing the stories did not impress me as much as seeing the Martin Luther King Museum and the hotel where he died. For the first time in my young life, I began to understand what others had gone through so that I could have the freedoms I had. At the tender age of nine, I began to understand that inequality and injustice was never right. I date my activism against inequality from that trip to Memphis.
Allowing your child to experience a world that they may only ever see on TV is priceless. Instead of just watching National Geographic’s programs about African animals, take your child to Africa on a safari that will allow your child to see the animals in their natural habitat. While you are in Africa, eat the local cuisine, talk with the locals, and learn about the history and culture. Your child will learn that there is more to cultures and places than what is shown on TV
Visit the Hindu temples of India with your child. Ask the priest of the temple to answer some questions for your child. Your child will begin to learn that there are other religious beliefs in the world than the one he or she is a part of. Learning these things at an early age will promote tolerance and acceptance in your child early in life. When this acceptance is a part of your child, he or she will be able to embrace people of many different backgrounds in their lives.
Spend time on a Native American reservation. Your child will learn about the original Americans and how their lives and culture still affect our lives. Allow your child to learn some American Indian dances. Let them make a pottery bowl under the instruction of a pottery master. These lessons will allow them to appreciate the lives of the Native Americans.
Exposure to the world is important if we want our children to grow to be loving, tolerant, accepting human beings. Traveling with them, whether this be from state to state or country to country, opens their eyes like nothing else can. It is easy to get caught up in day to day living and forget that the years we have with our children are the ones that are going to shape them forever. Take a little time to educate your children by allowing them to experience the world. You will be glad that you did.