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Raising Tri-Cultural Kids

I get the question a lot whether or not I home school or if my kids go to an American school or if they teach in English at their school. I thought it would be a fun and interesting post to explain our situation.

Tri cultural family

My kids go to French school. Just the regular French public school system. My six-year-old is bilingual. I honestly don’t say this in a bragging way because obviously he wouldn’t be if we didn’t live here. And it’s not that he’s super extra smart. I mean, he’s smart, but he’s not a genius or anything. Gosh, that sounds really bad, but you get it, right? He’s a normal 6-year-old kid. No special language learning abilities.

I am emphasizing his ‘normalness’ because of what I’ve learned over the years. Kids are so resilient! It’s truly incredible. To think we spend most our lives as parents sheltering and protecting our kids from what we think is gonna screw them up and a lot of times it what will teach them and grow them more.

For example, growing up I lived in two houses I can remember. My parents are still living in (and probably will be for a while) the last house I lived throughout high school. I grew up in the same city and went to the same school K-12th grade. My dad had the same job from start to finish (a fireman) and we didn’t have too many things ‘rock the boat’ if you will. My parents protected me and as a result I was pretty naive. I don’t say this as a bad thing, not at all. My parents were excellent parents and love the heck out of them to this day. My momma is my best friend and I’m still a daddy’s girl.

So when I married this Bahamian dude and he moved us to France for his job I thought for sure I was going to screw my kids up. I thought for sure the fact that he’s been in a different house every year of his life and been in a different school each year for as long as he’s been to school would mess him up entirely.

But here’s what I learned. Kids are exceptional. They can do things that adults would never dream of trying. Kids bend and adjust and adapt in ways we didn’t even know were possible. My kids are continuously showing this to me.

In fact, we don’t have any American friends where we live. I am the only American around, unless you count my kids, but I’d hardly consider them American. It’s only what their passports read. The friends here they see the most are Swedish and the kids only speak Swedish. Instead of trying to speak English to them, Tae asks the mom how to say things in Swedish so he can communicate with the kids. He’s getting to understand that there are complete worlds out there that he doesn’t even know about. There’s more to life than his little world.

Religiously too, I think it’s fantastic. Although I miss the closeness of church and Christian friends and that community, I think it’s neat to not be in a Christian bubble. I think it’s neat to have conversations with my kids about how some people don’t believe the same things we do, and that’s okay.  We need to be loving and accepting to everyone and still have confidence in what you chose to believe. I also want my kids to choose Christ because they want to. Not because it’s all they’ve know for all their life. I want them to understand from an early age that it is their choice.

I am writing this post not to say how cool and unique my kids are because like I said, if we weren’t living here, their experiences would be quite different and they most certainly wouldn’t be speaking another language or have friends from all over the world. I guess I’m just in awe of little people’s minds. They grasp so much more than we give them credit for. All these things that I thought were screwing my kids up are really growing him in ways I can’t even understand. Hopefully, he will have a much broader view of the world through his experiences.

I only wish I could have had the same experiences my kids are getting. To effortlessly learn to speak another language? How fantastic! To not have an accent in that language at all? Awesome! For me it is very different! I don’t speak nearly as effortlessly and most definitely have an accent.

In fact, it’s giving me a much broader view of the world. It’s opening my eyes to new things all around. Even just living in France has changed my perspective on so many things! I love America, but it’s so neat to see how the rest of the world does things.

All this to explain a little of our life situation, why we do what we do with our kids, and how it works for us. And really, bottom line, I think that if are showing your child love at home, if they have the security that you are there for them as a family, as a mom, dad, whatever, if they know you have their back, it doesn’t matter how many times you move.

Home truly is where the heart is!

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20 Responses to Raising Tri-Cultural Kids

  1. Chrissy November 12, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    You know that I ca absolutely relate to this. People always asked us if Leonie was going to German school during our time in Chicago. They didn’t understand how and why it works the way it does. It is so fascinating how resilient. Now that we are moving back to the States – finally – I keep having these thoughts about how Leonie will get along with yet another move, another change, new people, a new school, a new neighborhood etc. and then I talk to her about it and after hearing her responses, I am always stoked about how unconcerned she seems to be about everything. Just today she said to me “Mama, I will be fine, I’ve went through it all before, I’m sure I can handle it again.”
    Our children are truly a blessing!
    Hugs xxx

    • Natalia November 13, 2013 at 5:08 am #

      So neat that you are getting to move back! And really so neat for your daughter. It might be hard on some points, no life is perfect, but so neat to truly experience two different cultures. I think it prepares them for the world, you know? That is so neat that she said that to you too. My kids have never expressed it, they’ve just adjusted where we live and it always amazes me. Good luck on your move!

  2. Dovalyn November 12, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    I found your blog from a hair tutorial on pinterest. Now I read your posts first thing in the morning. You’re like a friend I’ve yet to meet.
    I’m excited for your kids. Having grown up as a military brat, I can speak from first hand experience that your kids are better for all the travel. Granted, they will never know what it’s like to have a tree house or marks on the wall charting their growth, but what they will gain in exchange is acceptance, understanding, and tolerance. They will become a good judge of character and will learn early on what a true friendships are and to not waste precious time with those that are not really friends. They will likely develop a confidence that others can’t figure out and poise beyond their years in challenging situations. All this will magically happen when you have a loving stable family at home and lots of new experiences.
    Congratulations to you and your husband for being brave enough to travel for work and embrace these experiences. You will change too, the constant moving will challenge you in other areas, and you may not notice all that has changed until you get back to the states for a time. You will probably start unconsciously seeking out friends that have travelled as well.
    As an adult I’ve settled in DC…not for the politics, but for the variety of nationalities that live here and for the amount of people here that have seen other parts of the world and our great country. For the ability to walk down the street and hear seven different languages. To get a different perspective. DC is the epitome of the “melting pot.” Not to mention, with travel being in my DNA, this is an easy place to travel to and from.
    All this to say, “Way to go!” This is a great opportunity that most don’t get a chance to take, or if they do, they are too fearful/comfortable to go for it. Enjoy it! And in the end, you’ll enjoy coming home too.
    When I finally get to France, (this will tkae a few more years) maybe you’ll still be there and we can sit in a cafe and practice our french and I can say thanks in person for helping me dress with a little more class and giving me better ideas that an ponytail for my hair. 🙂
    Bon apres-midi!

    • Natalia November 13, 2013 at 5:40 am #

      Oh my goodness, Dovalyn, thank you! you have me sitting here almost in tears! You really don’t know what this comment means to me. You put all these things into words that I couldn’t even do myself. I really really appreciate you taking the time to comment and sharing a little of your story with me. It’s so nice to hear other’s experiences. I pray my kids end up like you’re talking about, I want it so bad for them. To be confident and understanding and be secure in their beliefs but also understanding of others. There’s really too much hate in this world to add to it!

      Anyway, Thank you again, really this comment made my day! And if you’re ever in Paris/France let me know because I would love to sit and have a cafe with you!

  3. Gina_AcuteDesigns November 12, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    I love that you’re embracing the culture and letting your kids just LIVE in it. I know I said this to you on IG when you posted your son speaking French, but they really are SO lucky to have such a unique upbringing! The differences they are seeing and experiencing will only help them grow and make them better people :).

    • Natalia November 13, 2013 at 5:07 am #

      Oh I know, I really do know! I mean, I am so thankful for it. And I know they don’t fully appreciate it, but I hope they will at some point. We have this picture on the wall that has a bunch of cities on it and we were counting how many we’ve been to on there. I’ve been to 5 and my husband 6 and Tae had only been to one! He’s traveled a lot just not those places. And he was so disappointed!! So funny!

  4. Lisa November 12, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    You are absolutely right, how is where the heart is…I’ve moved all over the US and learned that while friends are important, it is the family relationships that last and are most important of all…

    How cool that your kids are learning so many languages. I mean my daughter takes Spanish at school, but it is the immersion in the culture that probably brings the most learning.

    • Natalia November 13, 2013 at 5:06 am #

      So true! We tell our boys, mainly to the older one when his younger brother gets annoying, he is your BROTHER, friends might come and go, but he will always be there. So be patient and love him! THey do alright most of the time.

      I think it’s so neat too, I am so thankful for these opportunities! There really isn’t anything like immersion, but even taking it is important! Because if she were to ever go to Mexico or Spain or even start learning another language, it would be so helpful! I think we should teach more foreign language in America!

  5. Autumn November 12, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Your last paragraph there says it all. Your boys have the security of Mom and Dad’s love, so they are more than able to handle the changing circumstances around them. Great job!

    P.S. I went to the same school K-12 as well. AND, my Daddy was a fireman for 20 years. 🙂

    • Natalia November 13, 2013 at 5:04 am #

      Thank you! And so cool that your dad’s a fireman too! I’ve always loved that he was. He retires at the end of this year after 33 years of service!

  6. Tricia @ The Domestic Fringe November 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    I think that’s really cool. You’re kids are going to have such great memories and experiences. Although we’ve never left the country, we moved from Maine to Florida to New York. I grew up in NY, but my kids were both born in Maine. They’ve lived in very different places and cultures within the US. I always thought that would really screw them up, but now my son says he’s glad. He’s had so many more opportunities and experiences than the other kids in his class and it’s not because we’re special in any way. We’ve just lived in different places. You’re totally right, kids are wonderfully adaptable. They just adjust. We’re usually the ones with the hang-ups.

    • Natalia November 13, 2013 at 2:29 am #

      And that is the amazing thing about America – you can move just a couple states away and it is a different culture entirely! I think it is an amazing experience, although of course you don’t have to move around to be cultured, but at least we know that we’re not screwing them up! In that way at least, I’m sure I’m managing in many other ways…

  7. jalbe November 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    🙂 I thought the post title read “raising tri-colored kids.” Well, that would’ve been different, haha!
    Love that your son is bilingual, what great cultural experiences for the whole family. Love your travel posts!!

    • Natalia November 13, 2013 at 2:28 am #

      So funny! Nope, just two colors here! That makes it interesting enough! It is so fun to have my kids learning two languages. I only wish I had the same opportunities when I was young! Hopefully they thank us later 🙂

  8. Sheila November 13, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    It’s a great big world out there & life is so short – as a family; embrace every opportunity & savor every experience…before you know it your boys will be young men & their maturity & worldliness will be thanks to you!

    • Natalia November 13, 2013 at 7:02 am #

      I know! Crazy how time flies!! But I love it as they get older, each stage is so fun an exciting. I do try to embrace the moment!

  9. Sarah S. November 14, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    I love your perspective on this! I grew up in a very similar situation to you (and my dad is a firefighter even!) but I fell in love with traveling and experiencing other cultures at a young age. My mom has always said that she is sure I will marry a “foreigner” and move away to come other country.

    Having lived in France for short spurts and now having a serious relationship with a French man, I am looking forward to having a family like yours that sort of melds between cultures. Kids are amazing, and I think it is great for them to be exposed to different parts and people of the world. You children have an amazing life for many reasons and it is admirable that you are able to help them navigate all of these changes. I’m sure they will look back someday and be very grateful, especially in this increasingly “globalized” world. Bouncing between the US/France/Bahamas will be an asset to them as children and adults someday.

    • Natalia November 17, 2013 at 4:55 am #

      Wow, so neat! I really love hearing other people’s stories. I think the world continues to turn into one big melting pot – it’s beautiful! So fun that you get to travel & also experience France. I absolutely love it here, it’s such a huge difference from America, but in so many ways it’s a good difference! American, as much as I love it there too, could take some lessons from Europeans. They’ve gotten quite a few things right in my opinion!

  10. Nathalia November 28, 2013 at 1:42 am #

    I think being raised in different cultures is a great asset to ones personality. Did you know that children with that experience even have a name? It’s called third-culture-kids, because they do not grow up completely in one or the other culture, they sort of develop a cultural understanding and identity that apparantly has more in common with other third-culture-kids, no matter where they lived, than with regular kids. I think that is also why you start searching for people like yourself or places with many cultures, as Dovalyn mentioned.
    I myself grew up in India from the age of ten to 16 and we moved 4 times and travelled a lot. We did not bounce back to Austria (where I am from according to my passport, and where I live now), so it became sort of a mythological place for me and I got culture-shock when I moved back here. I would never think about my experiences, being bilingual and even having that sort of dissatisfaction when people have a very small worldview as negative trait. But I think it is difficult for other people to relate at times, since one of their first questions is: “Where are you from?”, but I really cannot answer that. I have started naming the city I lived longest in, and that usually satisfies them. Pigeonholing does make life easier, does it not?

    • Natalia December 2, 2013 at 3:49 am #

      That is so neat, I love hearing other people’s stories. I think it’s an excellent thing for my kids and for myself too. I grew up a rather sheltered American, not my parents fault or anything, it was just life. But I had a desire for different inside me, my older brother and I always knew there was more out there. And by marrying a Bahamian and living outside of either of our countries I’d say I found it! It is hard when people have such a small worldview and where I come from originally most people do, but I have to learn to be understanding of it. I think it’s amazing that my kids will speak two languages and the ease of how they learned it is beyond me. I’m still struggling through it!! Thanks for your input, I love hearing about this stuff!

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