Do you and your family do enough to learn about the world…?

My name is Jay Sand and I’m dad of three very active girls (now 10, 7 and 5). Eons ago, in my life before the family  (I’m told it existed. Photographic evidence is convincing) — I was also very active, a world traveler, the kind who would hop on a plane (or train, or boat, or, depending on where I was in the world, a donkey/elephant/camel) on a moment’s notice and disappear into some distant part of the globe for as many months as I could. Sometimes I was “working” — doing research for a freelance article or some convoluted project — but mainly I was just exploring, always wanting to know what excitement would greet me down the road, around the bend or in the next town. The tools of my trade? A backpack, a camera, a guitar. Insufficient elementary school Spanish. Inept elementary school French. A smile. Every so often, luck.

Out in the world like that I was so glad to know how to sing a few songs. I made many friends with my guitar. Everywhere I went people whose spoken language befuddled me would hear me singing and, in whatever English they could muster, implore me to, “Play American music! Play the Beatles! Bob Marley!” (I know, I know. I didn’t correct them).  After singing to my new friends for a while, ultimately I’d encourage them to sing songs that were important to them. Very quickly we would transition from singing to each other to singing with each other.

Even with these experiences, I didn’t automatically find global music; I didn’t really begin to explore the musical world until I was in my twenties. When my first-in-line daughter was three years old I realized she was as curious about the different songs people around the world sang to express themselves as I was. Together we invented what we came to call “The Map Game.” Every so often we would take out big map of the world and she would point randomly to a country. Then I would take to the trusty computer, do a quick Wikipedia search on the most popular musicians from that country, switch to YouTube and plug in some names in the search bar, adding “+live.” We’d then watch live performances of musicians from that country until we ran out of favorites, or felt inspired to move on, or just quit and wanted a snack.

Not an earth-shattering, life-altering thing to try.  Nothing autocratic or didactic. Whether or not this one game in and of itself had any real lasting effect on my daughter, I don’t know — do we ever?  But for me, it mattered.  Playing “The Map Game” inspired me to learn more than just American music, and quickly I realized I wanted to share it with my daughters and their friends. When I saw how much they enjoyed singling so many different songs, and how little they worried that the words weren’t in English, that the melodies were different and the rhythms often not what they were were used to, I dove in deep and developed a music program for little kids and their families called All Around This World. Today All Around This World’s global music and world cultures curriculum for infants through elementary school children consists of over three hundred songs from a hundred different countries. I’ve since taught over a thousand parent/child classes, developed global music and world cultures kits for elementary schools, and am about to launch an online global learning curriculum for families and schools everywhere — especially homeschooling families and self-directed learners of all-ages! — called “Explore Everywhere.” I’m launching the program with a pledge campaign, which started May 1st and ideally will ending with success on June 21st, in time for International Make Your Own Instrument Day, with the goal of inspiring 1000 families to pledge just $25 each to enable me to give year-long subscriptions to Explore Everywhere to 1000 School Classrooms or Homeschooling Groups worldwide.

As a traveler, parent and now as educator of many kids, I understand the power of the little steps that ultimately enable us take a long journey. Bringing out the map and pointing to a country, opting to try to cook with spice we never had in the cupboard, checking out a library book that we’ve never read just because it has someone who looks different than us on the cover, listening to a piece of music just because the title “sounds weird…” These are little steps my family and I started taking. For my daughters, I hope the steps lead somewhere fabulously fantastic. For me, the steps turned into a mad dash to help kids meet the world through songs.

All Around This World: A Global Music and World Cultures Experience for Kids and their Families
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Learn about the world through music everyday, wherever you are. Subscribe to Explore Everywhere!

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