“We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” ~Maria Montessori
Montessori is a lot of practical life skills and sandpaper letters and bead bars and all the rest of it, but it’s also about cultivating kindness and respect for differences. Sometimes that means reading books with a diverse cast of characters, learning about other religions, having kind words for everyone, helping out after natural disasters, or donating to a cause you’re passionate about. You can even go a tiny step further by visiting a community you are not a part of and asking what they need that you could provide.
There is so much fear in the world right now. Fear of people who are different, which you can avoid by learning about those who are different than you — DON’T LET YOUR CHILDREN GROW UP TO BE AFRAID OF PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT. And the people who are different are also living in fear — the fear of how you will respond to and treat them. Little eyes are always watching. What will you show them?
“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.” ~Maria Montessori
Racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of prejudice/discrimination develop because of a fear of the unknown. In our house, there will be no unknown. We will learn everything we can about people who are different than us, so we can build bridges instead of walls. We will be the good we wish to see in the world, so that our children grow up with peace and love in their hearts. We will raise world changers.
You don’t have to wait until your child reaches a certain age or level of ability — you can start right now. Here are 15 things you can do to raise your children to change the world:
1. Talk about the hard stuff.
I know it’s tempting to try to protect your child by sheltering her from the evils of the world, but that is the last thing you should be doing if you are trying to raise an empathetic child who recognizes her own power to effect change in the world. Talk about it: racism, sexism, poverty, war, human rights, difficult moments in history, difficult moments in the current times. You can frame things in ways that your child can understand, but you need to start now. The longer you let her believe the lies of the world, the more difficult it will be for her when she finds out the truth later. A great way to do this is through children’s books — just make sure you have read them first so you can be prepared for any questions your child may have.
2. Learn about the whole world — not just where you live.
It is so easy to not care about other people when everyone you know is just like you. But there’s a whole world out there! People do things differently all over the world — and there is a reason behind why they do things differently than the ways you do them. Learn about all of that! Study the world with your child — you will be surprised at how much you will learn yourself!
3. Explore as many different religious communities as you can find.
Contact local churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and any other religious communities near you to find out if they hold open houses for members of the public. Take your child to their open houses, or visit their worship services one weekend.
4. Volunteer somewhere that needs help.
Think about the people and organizations in your community that might be having a difficult time, and find out how you and your child can volunteer to serve them in some way. This might mean baking cookies, serving in a food kitchen, cleaning group spaces, washing dishes, or even just being good company — all things that young children can do with you.
5. Raise money for causes that are near and dear to your heart.
Since you are now learning about people all over the world and talking about the hard stuff, you will probably identify some particular causes that you really want to be a part of. Collect money for a certain amount of time [even if it’s just by allowing your child to raid your pocket change stash], and then donate it somewhere that matters to you. Need some inspiration? Check out these organizations: Kiva, Heifer International, the Malala fund.
6. Deliver homemade treats to community helpers, neighbors, or friends.
Changing the world often starts right in your own community. Bake treats with your child or cook a whole meal together and then deliver it to someone who makes a difference in your community or your personal life.
7. Paint and hide kindness rocks to brighten strangers’ days.
Collect some rocks and paint them bright colors with your child. Think about some inspirational sayings or simple messages that would make you happy to find, and write them on the rocks — when you allow your child to help, you might come up with some amazing messages. Then hide your kindness rocks throughout your community for passersby to find.
8. Host a Friendsgiving Party.
We give thanks at Thanksgiving once a year — but this is an event that could happen every other month or so! Go through your gently-used clothes or toys with your child, choose some things to donate, and then get together with your friends and their families to give to those in need together.
9. Put together some simple flower arrangements to brighten someone’s desk.
Go out to your garden together or pick up some bouquets at the grocery store, then help your child to cut and arrange the flowers into several smaller bunches to distribute. Take some to the library, school, the doctor’s office, your neighbors — anyone who might appreciate a fresh flower bouquet arranged with love.
10. Shop for canned goods for a local food pantry.
Go on a special shopping trip to your grocery store and allow your child to pick out some non-perishable food items to donate to families who need it. Let your child pick out some of her favorites, and then drop them off at the food pantry together.
11. Plant a community garden.
Find an empty plot of land in your neighborhood or talk to community leaders about where you might be able to plant a garden to brighten up your community. Ask for donations from local garden centers and members of the community, then work together to make your town beautiful.
12. Write letters to your representatives in government.
Sit down with your child and ask her what she would like “the people who make the rules” to be working on. Write a letter with your child, then help her mail it to your government representatives.
13. Think about how your family can help with disaster relief.
Natural disasters are often unexpected and very sudden. When one occurs, talk with your child about what has happened and discuss what immediate needs families in those areas might have. Come up with a list of ways you can help [if it is local to you] or items you can donate [if it is across the country], and complete it together.
14. Go on a litter walk around your neighborhood.
Get some child-sized gardening gloves or rubber gloves, then go for a walk around your neighborhood to pick up trash and recyclables. Talk about what litter does to the earth and what steps you can take to help keep it clean.
Take your child with you when you go to vote — and make sure you go for every election. Even the “little” ones. Teach your child how to have her voice heard through the election process, and discuss your personal voting choices with her while still allowing her to form her own opinions about how she might vote herself.
I know, this list might seem daunting at first. But when you make a commitment to raise good humans, you need to take some action steps. These 15 ways to raise world changers will take some extra effort on your part, but they are absolutely achievable with children of all ages — and the younger you start, the better.