Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Mama, what's Australia really like?

MissM and her class are studying Australia as part of geography. 

As she's the only Aussie kid in class, she's very excited, and a bit nervous.

What if they expect me to know things about Australia and I don't know the answer?

What if they know more about Australia than me?

What if I don't get all the answers right in the test at the end of the section (referring to the end of the section in their geography text book)

How do I answer her questions and reassure her? As an expat kid, it takes a whole lot of time and energy to assimilate to where you are living, let alone work out where you're from in terms of facts. Also she's only 9, so how much should she know? Even if we were living in Sydney, how much would she know about Australia in general? 

MrsS, you're a primary school teacher in Oz, how much should a 3rd grader know???????

Have we been bad parents for not ensuring she has a working knowledge of where she's from? We spend so much time learning about our new home/s in order to fit in and make the time we have in each place really count, why have we ignored Sydney/Australia?

When we visit, our priority is to family and friends. We don't think about playing tourist beyond the Zoo and a ferry ride (that's over simplifying things, but we certainly don't play tourist as much as we should)

Interestingly, her school offers American Studies to the American kids (most of whom are Embassy kids) while everyone else have Irish lessons. There are very tight rules on dispensation from Irish, so MissM will add a couple of years of Irish to her couple of years of Japanese (which she along with us have all but forgotten). It's all good for her 'ears' LOL. Thank goodness French is her constant language (well, for the past couple of years)

The Dutch kids at our school in Japan participated in a weekly 'Dutch school' as an after school activity. It was partly funded by their government, and partly by the participating families. They followed their curriculum in terms of history, language, culture and politics. Even if they weren't returning home, the kids and families had a strong sense of what their home country was all about.

It was a great idea, and created a sense of community, allowing the kids to speak their mother tongue, and celebrate national holidays.

MissM know's where she's from in terms of Sydney. Like most people she knows all the landmarks (well, the obvious ones),  each visit we have a great day at Taronga Zoo (just this visit she and her cousin J had a 'day with the zoo keepers' working behind the scenes), she's had fish'n'chips on Coogee Beach and feed most of the chips to the seagulls (like Aussie kids do) and then had fun chasing them (like Aussie kids do). I can hear MrsS saying 'only if you live near the beach ms-havachat' - she and her family lived near the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney), and so have a more bush-oriented experience than we do.

She's picnic'd in Centennial Park, and been on a Manly Ferry. She has all of Mem Fox's story books, and enjoys Snugglepot and Cuddliepie. We've every Hi-5 (the original 5) DVD, and from time to time she'll put them (and The Fairies) on to watch. 

We wear the green'n'gold proudly; have watched the Wallabies thrash Ireland at Croke Park; cheered on the Aussies at the recent Summer and Winter Olympics, and all dance around the lounge room to Kylie.

When we were back last week, she relished watching ABCKids and being reminded of The Wiggles, Banana's in PJ's at Nana's.

I don't think G or I have really given the FACTS about Australia much thought as far as MissM's concerned - until now. Have we been remiss, NOT educating her about Australia? When would we fit it in? Saturday afternoons around the kitchen table? To what end? 

MissM's concerned about many States and Territories are there? She said I know Can-ber-ra (spoken with a slightly Irish accent) is the capital, but what's Sydney the capital of? Ah! That's right, New South Wales. Does Grandma and Pa live in NSW? Yes, MissM, about an hour or so south west of Sydney - here's a map.

She did her comprehension homework with ease last night (PHEW) answering questions on Australia from her geography text book, but was anxious this morning to remember everything.

She took in a small soft wombat toy and a book on wombats today.

Tomorrow she's taking in home made ANZAC biscuits (they are in the oven now and smell delicious)

She asked me if I'd go into class and talk about Australia .... with pleasure I said, so long as the kids don't ask me tough questions.

Have we missed an opportunity to help MissM really understand where she's from? Or is this the perfect time to start, as she's learning about it at school, with her peers, and curiosity is high? Does it matter she doesn't know that much about Australia - I'm beginning to think it might, and that's G and my fault.

How much do your kids know about 'home' ?
How do you go about teaching them?
Does it worry you that they might not know so much? If so, why?

I'm a wee bit confused by this, but think it's time MissM knew a bit more than she does about where she was born, 

With friendship


  1. You gave me a bit of a giggle today ms have a chat! If mia was in school, she'd currently be learning about the the first fleet and the early years of settlement. She'd also be learning about our indigenous people, particularly our local tribes.

    Xxx mrs s

    1. So glad you enjoyed it MrsS :)

      AH! The First Fleet ... I remember doing school projects on this topic.
      Learning about indigenous people is long overdue.
      Might invest in a few more books and spend time over summer reading up. x

  2. Another challenging topic Ms Havachat... in our house we don't teach one specific country/culture - Mum is American, Dad is Dutch, kids are born in NZ but are now old enough to have settled into England especially with school. They know the flags, they've been to Holland (more than my home), to America, and of course a bit around England. They can recognise the Statue of Liberty as well as windmills and do the haka too. But their accents are English now.

    Our creche in NZ was very good about learning different cultures, and our school here has just finished up International Week where each class was a country, each child got a 'passport' and visited the other countries. Pretty impressive for a state infant school!

    I think I actually prefer that they learn about more countries, rather than the one they happen to be living in or 'from'. That approach better reflects modern life with its global trade and instant communications. I think it also leads to more well-rounded children. You can still be patriotic (ie, love your country/ies) without being nationalistic (eg, no immigrants thanks, my country is better than yours, etc)

    'From' is a stumbling block for us. Hubby says the kids are Kiwi but I say that's an accident of birthplace - ie, if they had been born in China, they wouldn't be Chinese would they! Being born in a place doesn't make you 'from' there, in my opinion. I am from Washington DC but I was actually born in Pennsylvania. But trust me, I am NOT from there.

    1. Born in China LOL. You are too funny, but of course, it's a perfect example of not being from where you are born. We've friends in Japan, who are 5th generation Japanese, but from Korea - they are Korean in the eyes of the Japanese, and have Korean passports etc despite being born and living in Japan for 5 generations - odd, eh?

      As an expat, I do feel that 'we' have an obligation to be know stuff as we are often asked to talk about where you are from and people kinda expect you to know stuff. For now, MissM would have a hard time doing that - and it's up to G and I to help her get a basic foundation of not everything, but the important bits about Australia.

      Maybe it wasn't as obvious when we were part of an International community in Japan - we all celebrated everything and learnt about everywhere every day by simply hanging out with friends.

      The kids were definitely Global Citizens.

      MissM's accent is totally international, a rolled Irish OR here, a posh English 'pardon me' there, and a lot of Aussie inbetween :)

      Thank you for the simple difference between patriotic and nationalistic too