contributed by: Meghan VanLente
Recently, my 6th grade social studies class and I were exploring the time period of the European Renaissance and the changes in thinking from Medieval times. One of the boys stood up and spun around saying, “We’re the center of the world!” And someone else replied, “No, actually, the sun is!” We all laughed at that misconception, but also agreed that, though the people in the Renaissance realized the earth revolved around the sun, they didn’t really change in their thinking that much – because every new land they found, the explorers claimed it for Europe and proceeded to take slaves and riches from the native people. The students (who are the 6th grade Spanish immersion students at our school) were really quick to point out the continual assumption that power meant acting like a toddler who thinks she is the center of the world.
I think as parents, we do treat our kids as the center of the world at times (and who wouldn’t when they’re so cute all dressed up?). Kids come into the world rearranging our schedule and our focus – and when they become school age, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can best provide the next level of support. As I had the conversation with my class about the Renaissance and people realizing that they weren’t the center of the world, it made me wonder if I needed that sort of a moment about my own kids.
Looking back to when my oldest son was beginning preschool, I chose Spanish immersion because I wanted the best for my kids – to give them something that has huge benefits in terms of brain development, language development, and cross cultural experiences. These are all of things that I value, highly, for my children. The idea that there would be challenge along the way seemed worth the long-term benefits that my boys would gain through the experience. But in light of my recent discussion, I found myself asking the question – why? Why did I want my child to have this unique education? For what purpose?
If it’s for my child to have the BEST, the most chance for success, the opportunity to become the center of the world – is that a good reason? I know, I know – you’ll begin protesting that of course we want the best for our kids. And I do too. But what I really want is to teach my children that their primary goal is to lay down their lives for others, to sacrifice for others, to love sincerely and fully, to recognize completely that they AREN’T the center of the world, but a part of a greater system to which they can contribute. I know that spending time every day with teachers who have culturally different perspectives, and who grew up in different places, and think about the world differently, and whose comfort language is different than theirs, will ultimately help my kids be more thoughtful, more open, more loving.
Hopefully someday – and I see it already happening with my sixth grade students – my children will use their voice – in two languages – to speak up for those who need refuge, who need care, who need laying down our own needs and rights for, because we have a great calling to serve, and to love, and to bring hope in a hurting world. Immersion education is another opportunity to help my kids become productive citizens not just of the USA, but also of a spiritual kingdom that looks at the world for what we can give, not just what we can get, for what we can share, not just what we can protect.