It’s time for our “trip” to Southeast Asia, but first, please accept my sincere apologies for how long it has been since I have posted an update on our studies of Children Around the World! We have kept studying but I’ve gotten behind in posting so I have a bunch of posts to get up in the next few weeks! My goal is to get them all posted before we start our next school year, so definitely stay on the lookout over the new few weeks as I have lots to share!
Next up in this series was our week studying Southeast Asia, the place we call home. I wasn’t sure how to approach this week as both Winter Promise and Sonlight treat Southeast Asia as a far-off exotic place (which for most of their students, it probably is), but it’s pretty much all my kids know so it’s their normal. (We haven’t been back to the U.S. for almost five years now!)
It ended up working out just fine, especially since the week we studied it just happened to coincide with Songkran, the Thai New Year’s festival, which is enthusiastically celebrated in our neighborhood here in Malaysia.
The Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions, but for my kids in the years we’ve lived here, it has pretty much just meant a couple days of ridiculously bad traffic so I decided it was high time we learned a little about what it meant! The holiday is best known for its water festival which is mostly celebrated by young people. In Thailand, major streets are closed for traffic and are used for water fights, but here in our neighborhood in Malaysia, the water fights are contained to the beach. We knew about the water fights (and we actually avoid the beach on these days because it can be scary for little ones), but we didn’t know that younger people often gently pour water over the palms of their elders’ hands as a way to show respect.
We learned from our Winter Promise books and from Wikipedia that traditional parades are held in various Thai cities, and in some venues, a “Miss Songkran” is crowned. We didn’t know much at all about this holiday’s religious significance, but we learned that visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks is commonly practiced during this holiday. Also, pouring water on Buddha statues is considered an iconic ritual for this holiday as it represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck. Paying reverence to ancestors is also an important part of Songkran tradition.
Learning about this holiday presents a great opportunity for parents to explain our own beliefs about how our sins can be washed away and how we can become pure! We talked about this, spent time praising Jesus for his work on our behalf, and prayed for the Thai people to learn that their sins have already been paid for and their sins can be washed away forever!
Books for Learning about Southeast Asia
I have included Amazon affiliate links for your convenience.
- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai – This New York Times bestseller, Newbery Honor Book, and winner of the National Book Award was inspired by the author’s own childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama. Interesting, it is told in verse. “Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope—toward America.” This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing adjusting from life in Southeast Asia seems like it might become a favorite of my girls as we head back to the U.S. for a while later this year.
- Listen, Slowly also by Thanhhà Lai is about the reverse kind of culture adjustment as its main character is a Vietnamese American who ends up spending time in Vietnam against her will. I love this description of this book: “an irresistibly charming and emotionally poignant tale about a girl who discovers that home and culture, family and friends, can all mean different things.”
- The White Elephant by Sid Fleischman
- Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris
- The Land I Lost by Huynh Quang Nhuong is a collection of short stories by someone who used to live in Vietnam. My 11-year old enjoyed them, especially the ones about Tank, the water buffalo.
- The Gods Must Be Angry by Sheila Miller and Ian Murray is about a boy in Thailand who accidentally knocks down an idol from his family’s idol shelf and how this leads them to eventually follow Jesus.
- New Toes for Tia by Larry Dinkins is about a girl in Thailand who burnt her toes and how her father takes her to a mission hospital for a skin graft. While there, they come to know Jesus.
- Silk Umbrellas by Carolyn Marsden
As with every place we’ve studied, there is so much more we could have learned, but for some reason, I felt it more this week – maybe because we live here and the resources are right at hand and I hated to leave anything undone. I tried hard not to overwhelm the kids though, and I think we did all right. I did use this week as an excuse to eat out more than usual – to experience local cuisine, of course! 🙂
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about our studies of Southeast Asia! Next up – Australia and New Zealand!