Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Raising Children Overseas (TCK's)

Have you heard of the term TCK? TCK stands for Third Culture Kid, but what exactly is a TCK? The definition, taken from the book of the same title, is as follows:
"A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her life outside of their parents' culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background."

I wanted to encourage you who are raising your children overseas by the following survey results. The survey was carried out by MK CART/CORE. A group of 10 sending agencies (Mission agencies) surveyed 608 ATCK's (adult third culture kids) and it is obvious they do well academically.

*30% of the respondents graduated from High School with Honors

*27% were elected to National Honor Society
*73% graduated from university
*25% graduated from university with honors
*3% were Phi Beta Kappas
*11% were listed in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.

Another survey revealed that a high percentage of TCK's go on to post secondary school education. And yet another survey, done in 1993, showed that while 21% of the American population as a whole had graduated from a 4 year college or university, 81% of TCK's had earned at least a bachelor's degree. Half of them went on to earn master's or doctorate degrees.

This was written by an Australian ATCK who grew up in India. "Uniquely Me" by Alex Graham James.
I am a confusion of cultures. Uniquely me.I think this is good because I can understand the traveler, sojourner, foreigner, the homesickness that comes. I think this is also bad because I can not be understood by the person who has sown and grown in one place. They know not the real meaning of homesickness that hits me now and then. Sometimes I despair of understanding them. I am an island and a United Nations. Who can recognize either in me but God?

What is interesting, is that I find reading the above to be quite melancholic, but my children seem to find comfort in it. They are glad to see that others feel as they do. A separate group of TCK's that somehow belong together, whether they were raised in Asia, Africa, Europe...matters not. They belong to each other. They do not call any certain place home, for them, home is a group of people like themselves, other TCK's who have experienced the same type of background.

TIME magazine ran a cover story last year on the skills and abilities that American students will need in a globalized world. They said that the American student needs to develop certain skills in order to compete globally.

1.Global-trade literate

2.Sensitive to foreign cultures
3.Conversant in different languages

I couldn't help but think,"Hey, Mk's(missionary kid) and TCK's(third culture kid) have a great head start! I have watched my children communicate cross-culturally with great ease. I am often amazed how my children can Instant Message with several people in different languages at the same time, while listening to an Italian opera! Gives me a headache, but they are often unaware that they are going back and forth between languages.

Mk's (TCK's) are able to think out side of the box. Actually they can't stand to be put in a box at all! They are able to think creatively because often growing up in different cultures, they had to, in order to survive being the minority. They are able to accept that another culture may have a better way. They are often able to see how two distinct perspectives can be combined to produce an even better method.

For you parents raising Mk's (TCK's), don't feel discouraged about the education you may think your children are being deprived of by not living state side. You are actually preparing them for a bright, fruitful future. God needs followers who are not afraid to go beyond the narrow mental and cultural borders so many of us occupy.

Pictured here are our family's TCK's in the jungle, Christmas 1999. All have been home schooled.(My children and my nieces and nephews, all grew up in Venezuela.)

These are the same children, plus the youngest, Christmas 2007 in the US.
( My daughter Jackie is substituted by my daughter in law, Naomy)
Three have married and they and their spouses are in college. Two will start next year. One plans on joining the USMC.

We are proud of them all!

You know you're a TCK when:

- "Where are you from?" has more than one reasonable answer.
- You've said that you're from foreign country X, and your audience has asked you which US state X is in.
- You flew before you could walk.
- You speak two languages, but can’t spell in either.
- You feel odd being in the ethnic majority.
- You have three passports.
- You have a passport but no driver's license.
- You go into culture shock upon returning to your "home" country.
- Your life story uses the phrase "Then we moved to..." three (or four, or five...) times.
- You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.
- You don't know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof.
- The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language.
- You get confused because US money isn't color-coded.
- You think VISA is a document that's stamped in your passport, not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.
- You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that a transformer isn't always enough to make your appliances work.
- You fried a number of appliances during the learning process.
- You think the Pledge of Allegiance might possibly begin with "Four-score and seven years ago...."
- Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you.
- You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.
- You consider a city 500 miles away "very close."
- You get homesick reading National Geographic.
- You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that can support foreign alphabets.
- You think in the metric system and Celsius.
- You may have learned to think in feet and miles as well, after a few years of living (and driving) in the US. (But not Fahrenheit. You will *never* learn to think in Fahrenheit).
- You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.
- Your minor is a foreign language you already speak.
- When asked a question in a certain language, you've absentmindedly respond in a different one.
- You miss the subtitles when you see the latest movie.
- You've gotten out of school because of monsoons, bomb threats, and/or popular demonstrations.
- You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel.
- You have frequent flyer accounts on multiple airlines.
- You constantly want to use said frequent flyer accounts to travel to new places.
- You know how to pack.
- You have the urge to move to a new country every couple of years.
- The thought of sending your (hypothetical) kids to public school scares you, while the thought of letting them fly alone doesn't at all.
- You think that high school reunions are all but impossible.
- You have friends from 29 different countries.
- You sort your friends by continent.
- You have a time zone map next to your telephone.
- You realize what a small world it is, after all.

I know I have a lot of ex-pat readers and even several Adult Third Culture Kids, as well as younger MK's, what would you add to the above list? Was your experience as a TCK positive or negative?


Findalis said...

Some of these can go for Military Spouses too. We have a tendency to want to pack up and move every couple of years.

Betty said...

...when you feel "home" in more country´s than one.
....when your sentences are mixed with three languages.
Very nice post Rita! I could go along with almost all of your list. :)

Brenda said...

My daughter went to the zoo recently (yes, she still loves the zoo at 24)with friends. At one cage of an unusual bird, she said, "those bite hard"! :)

You know you are a TCK when you know what the "bite" of an exotic animal feels like!

Soul Skittles said...

:D :D MK's and TCK's rock!!

Jackie said...

Positive. Very, very positive. Was it hard sometimes? Yes, of course. But looking back, I wouldn't change a thing. Being a TCK taught me the importance of family (so what if you don't have friends or peers? You have siblings and/or parents, right?) It taught me that people are DIFFERENT and that is OK. It taught me that the world is a big place yet small at the same time. It taught us to work hard, be aware of our surroundings and reach out to people. Before I got married, Brian was thinking about pastoring in Maine, USA. It was VERY HARD for me to think that my children would miss out on so much by not being TCK's. Being a TCK is the best of both (or three, or four) worlds. It rocks.

Liz said...

My own experience, living overseas when I was younger, tells me that the broader your horizons, the better!

Learning other languages, sharing with different cultures has to be good!!!

Linds said...

Hugely positive - living in foreign countries has meant my kids have a global perspective of the world, and all that goes on in it. They also know where all the countries are in the world, which is a major plus. Your list is perfect.

Anonymous said...

Funny text. I would say in general traveling and living in different places can help opening horizons, although not always. I know quite some people who have never left Venezuela and speak only Spanish and who are nevertheless - in my eyes - more open than several people I know who have lived in three different continents and can converse in several languages. But in general, yes, it helps and it is an enriching possibility.

I could smile with several points. I got my driving licence very late, although my dad taught me to assemble car engines early on. My parents applied for my passport as soon as I was born (also for a resident visa, we arrived in the US when I was 2 months old).
I did not have a credit card for a long time (in Europe it is rather easy to get along with
a normal bank card, although it was a pain before the euro). I once went to the US
and I was going to pay a hotel.
The bloke was amazed when I took out cash and traveler's cheques. I think there was a wee commotion at the reception.
He had to call his boss to check out if he could accept cash (I also had a Maestro, cheques, but not credit card). I decided at that time to apply for a credit card as I knew I had to go to North America more often in the future.

I can say yes to most of the points in the list but for the public school. It depends on the country. If it is in Flanders, public schools are in general very good, way better than in Germany, Britain or France. They are much better than in the South of the country or the capital, Brussels, where they are not good if public. A public one in Flanders would often be way better than a private one in Brussels.

If we go somewhere else, things can change. And that is the thing: I am not sure where we will be in 5 years. Well, nobody but God knows, but we know we don't know and it is fine, the point is to make the best and as at best one can.

I remember when I was a child I went back to the US alone with my dad: he needed to be a couple of weeks there for some research for university and he thought it could be cool for me to go back. My mom was busy, my brother and sisters were in school, I was just in kindergarten or first year of primary school. So I accompanied my dad across US campuses. He asked me if I was not missing too much the rest of the family. I said that no, I knew they were very close, that under the water in the Caribbean there was land connecting us to Venezuela. "I would be rather nervous if we were in Mars! There would be no Earth connecting us!"
(as you can see, I was, like many children, thinking of rockets and trips to other planets and how it would feel like)

Brooke said...

Cool post!

MightyMom said...

JM, Elizabeth over at Conservative Outrage (you know who) has said that the mullahs are the same as Bill O'Reily............

I'm speechless....are you??

Jungle Mom said...

Kepler, I think the public school is referring to the US where there is a major difference from public schools.
Thanks for the comment and your insights.

Charles said...

Moving around like we did as MK's ( Military Kid in my case )caused us to become very well adjusted ( yikes ) and self reliant unlike so many young people I meet now. Sure we missed a few things, like dangling participles , but we made up for that by being in places that amazed and energized our hearts minds.

TCK's rule

Anonymous said...

Isn't public school also different from state to states in the USA?
I know in Germany we would roll our eyes when hearing someone at the university had gone to high school in Hessen whereas Saxony and Bavaria had excellent reputation, we would start explaining things very slowly for the people from Hessen or the like. I believe education in the States is like in Germany, dependent on the region.
Aren't there bright spots on public schools anywhere? It is a huge country!


firepig said...

Jungle Mom, I grew up in Chevy Chase DC where at that time, being a US American was in the minority.As I was a straight A student and did not have to attend class, my job was to teach foreigners how to speak English.I read Babar books to children in both French and English.We even sang the French national anthem every morning before class, and still today I know it better than I know the Star Spangled Banner.We sang songs from all over the world: from the old Formosa, to India, to Argentina.

My best friends, were French,Formosan, Indian, Dutch, and English,as well as US American.
So even though I spent most of my time inside of the US, I was living in a multicultural environment.

We traveled to places like Belarus, Germany, and Italy but I never lived outside the US for a long period of time until I moved to Venezuela where I lived more years than I lived in the US.

Still I think my greatest international experience came from within the US.

An open mind can be obtained through proper education, but living in many places I am sure can certainly help.

firepig said...

Kepler, There are wonderful public schools in the US,but usually they are in wealthier neighborhoods.This is the pity of our system.

Jungle Mom said...

Kepler, I did not write the list. It is from a list out of the book, TCK's, and was compiled from entries by TCK's them selves.
There are good Public Schools. My husband went through the system. I think this 'fear' is more likely about the exposure to drugs and the more recent rash of violence at many schools. Suburbs and even rural schools are usually better than inner city school, both academically and for security.
Much of the results of the academic quality of a Public School education would be in direct proportion to parental influence and the individual teachers.
I have several family members involved in Public Education and they do an amazing job, often under difficult situations.

Anonymous said...

Oh...so, Firepig, you are not pleading for a better distribution of wealth and higher taxes to the rich, are you?

says Kepler, who quickly runs for cover as he knows arms sales have dramatically increased in the States in the last few months


firepig said...

I don't know JM, Here in NC there is a direct correlation between tax payer dollars and quality of curriculum.You also have to factor in teaching to the minorities which is killing the system.I see public schools in good neighborhoods teaching college level course to high school students and in other minority neighborhoods I see levels that are way under age appropriatness.When I first returned here I was lead teacher for Hispanic after school programs and witnessed first hand the poor levels of teaching and curriculum in these public schools in my county( admitting that it is a poor county).
The black and Hispanic neighborhood schools in general , at least where I am, are way under par.Remember tax dollars and PC.We are not allowed to expect high levels from these groups.
The upper middle class and wealthy neighborhoods have excellent schools, way and above anything I ever saw in private schools in Venezuela.

Jungle Mom said...

I agree with all that! It's complicated because you can't segregated minorities, you cant promote competition, and you have teachers that are under paid.
I think parental involvement will help any student perform at a higher level, and again the minorities often have parents who can not help them in English or are not available.
I always attended private schools, so my personal knowledge is limited to what my family tells me. They all work in a W.Va.,very rural and a poor county as well. But I have seen their kids graduate and excel in college.
The infrastructures are excellent, it's the academics that can get lost. PC ,though well meaning, gets in the way of honest evaluation.
(In my very humble opinion, admitting I have lived overseas so long I am out of touch with our school system.)

Beverly said...

I love your blog and this post. I taught MK's in Haiti back in the 70's and am still very connected to many of them. Well-adjusted? You bet. Productive citizens wherever they are? Yes, yes, yes.

I love the data you report and also the list "You know..."

Anonymous said...

My wife was a missionary kid, raised in Niger and Nigeria. But to this day, she remembers how out of place she felt at the University of Southern Mississippi when she came back to go to college. I guess there are good and bad things about it. She had some unique experiences.

Humble wife said...

Great post. I love the photo of before and all grown up!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Rita- and all of your Jungle Hut gang

From the Double Nickel Gang..
1, 2, 3, and 4!!!

Deanna said...

I am thankful for the experiences that I lived growing up as a TCK. I have good, very good memories. Even of the hard times! They were good, growing memories. I have to say that now, after having lived in 4 different countries and having to attempt to adjust to each, I have become even more open-minded and accepting of others. I have seen so many good and bad things from people and cultures everywhere and realized how similar everyone really is! I wish that everyone had the experience of living in another country, because it allows you to see people in a whole different light. It allows you to be proud of your roots and country, but not look down on others and their way of life just because it's different than yours. Sometimes I think of how neat it must be to have grown up in one place your whole life with family and the same friends living all around you for years. Stability would really be nice! But I also would have missed out on sooo much! I think there are good and bad things about growing up oversees as well as living in one place your whole life. But I am thankful for the life the Lord has given me!