There are many up’s and down’s in the life of “third culture children” (TCK) – a term commonly used to refer to children who spend a significant part of their childhood living outside of their parents’ home country/countries and culture(s).
While many TCKs grow up to become global-minded citizens since they have learned to adapt to change and new cultures for as long as they can remember, there are challenges as well. Some might have a hard time finding a place or a country in which they feel truly at home; just ask any TCK where they are from or where their home is and you will most likely receive blank stares or long answers (“well, I am from country X but I’ve lived in countries Y and Z …”).
As a (TCK) parent raising two TCKs, it has been especially important for our family to help our children build not only roots to our home countries (in our case a bit more complicated with two countries and languages) but to also develop an understanding of our countries’ cultures, customs, and histories.
As a parent raising TCKs, we often have to go out of our way to teach our kids about customs, holidays, and aspects of American (and German) life they don’t learn at school in Mongolia or wherever we happen to live. For example, last year, we organised a Veterans Day event to not only celebrate veterans in our community but to also use that opportunity for our kids to learn about the various aspects of the military.
It sometimes takes a lot of effort to bring those aspects of “typical American (and German) life” into our everyday crazy life here. Our kids learn so much at school about global issues and Mongolian culture and history but U.S. history is lacking – it’s not a subject at their school here nor is it at many other international schools around the world. However, when we move back to the U.S., our kids will enrol in local schools and will be expected to know the American history they should have learned the years they were abroad.
To bridge this learning gap, I am very grateful to Leah Evans, the founder of the American History in a Box for expats. A former history teacher turned trailing spouse created this business to provide TCK and expat kids with grade-specific boxes full of American history books, games, and activities in line with the Common Core curriculum.
We have been receiving a box every year since arriving in Mongolia and the kids literally counted down the days to receive their third box which arrived just a few days ago. New this year are “add-on” options that allow kids to dive deeper into themes such as women in history and science (our two choices).
As soon as we opened our last box, the kids sorted through all the goodies and sat and read and played new games for hours.
Over the past few years, I’ve kept all books and activities in decorative boxes in our living room and these books continue to be read over and over again. We also consult them when we talk about upcoming holidays or political events or just pick up a book to start a conversation about its themes or important figures.
And as an extra bonus, learning their “home” country’s history while living abroad enriches their learning and understanding of their global life as well.
And, did I mention this sparks just more creativity? Our most recent box focuses on the U.S. Civil War (a topic Luca knew very little about before) – after reading a few books and talking about them with us, we found Luca in his room using Lego blocks to re-build a battle scene he read about.
And in other news…. yes, we have an onward assignment for when we (sadly) leave Mongolia next summer. It looks like we’ll be in need of brushing up on Chinese history as well. Yes, we’re heading to China! But no before stopping back in the U.S. for some time. Luca already inquired if we could tour some of the Civil War sights in the Washington DC area…. another vote for bringing history closer!