This week, my son and I decided to shop at our local Ten Thousand Villages for a birthday present for his friend. For those of you who don’t know Ten Thousand Villages, it’s a company that sells ethical, fair trade and beautiful hand-crafted items from all over the world. I love the place. Rarely is there something I truly need there (food, shelter, company), but when I want to buy something meaningful, it’s one of the first places I stop.
At the front of the table I noticed a display. They are hosting a giving campaign for kids all over the world. You pick up one of their reusable cloth bags, take it home and fill it with school supplies for 4 children (notebooks, pencils etc) and bring it back to them. They then send the supplies to kids overseas that need them.
My first thought was, this is a great project for me and my son to do as a “back to school activity.” I’m always thinking of ways we can be good stewards of the earth and its people. So, I took a list of the items we need. I think it would make a fantastic “back to school” activity for us to do every year.
My second thought was a lot more complicated. What does all this mean to a homeschooling family? What is back to school? And what of supporting kids in traditional classrooms around the world? Does that mean I think “one size fits all” schooling is good enough for them, but not for me? I am sure many homeschoolers have these thoughts at one time or another. I suspect many times along their journey.
After pondering all of this for a few days, here is my take on it.
First, I have to understand that I do come from a place of privilege. I think all Westerners (and all homeschoolers) should. Not only are our children privileged enough to have access to education as a fundamental right, they have myriads of educational options. Homeschooled children have the added advantage of parents that are equipped to oversee their education themselves.
By equipped I mean many things.
I mean, eager and willing. Parents who want to take on this precious responsibility. I mean able. Parents who, one way or another received an education that allowed them to learn, and want to share that process. By able I also mean literate. And financially able. And present. I don’t mean rich. I don’t mean university educated. But I do mean able. Able in a way many (mothers especially) are unable in other parts of the world.
So, if my gift of school supplies is supporting a family in a third world country, a child who has no better way of receiving an education, then I am proud. And I will attempt to explain these complexities to my child as his age allows. We’ll continue to explore these issues together, and refine our opinions on them as the years go by. Because that is what being a citizen of this world is all about. That is what being a thinking person is all about.
And, above all, I want my child to be a thoughtful and compassionate person.
In our family, I have decided to make giving a “back to school activity.” This year, we will be giving school supplies. Next year? We’ll see.
Because I believe in spreading the word about both useful and inspiring resources (it’s the librarian in me), I’m suggesting you check out 365Give. It’s the blog of a fantastic woman and mother who has spent the past year giving every day. If you need an idea for a “give,” I guarantee you will find it here (and much more).
So, happy “back to school” everyone, the world over. Whatever that may mean for you.