Children are a heritage of the Lord,,
children a reward from him (Psalms 127:3).
My husband and I raised four Third Culture Kids (TCKs); that is, we raised our children in a country other than their passport country. We lived almost 15 years in The Netherlands. We sent our children to Dutch schools. We always spoke Dutch outside our home and at home, unless we had Dutch guests, we spoke English. Even though we parents spoke English, our children answered us in Dutch. They spoke English only when we had English speaking company who could not speak Dutch. At those times our children would acquiesce and speak English. They actually spoke English quite well. One of our children could speak with an American as well as with a British accent – whatever the occasion called for.
So many people worried about our children because they were not getting an American education. Our friends worried that our children wouldn't be able to read English. I ordered a number of American children's books out of a catalogue. When the kids were around, I would open up a book, read silently for about 5 minutes, laugh or smile about something I read, lay the book on a chair and leave the room or I would begin reading a story out loud and would have to suddenly do something else and leave the book at its most exciting point. Curiosity won out! All my children learned to read English on their own quite well. We also heard many stories about how our children would grow up not knowing how to spell. Well, for years, their spelling was atrocious. They spelled English words according to Dutch grammar rules. But one day, spelling words in English clicked in and all the dooms-day stories didn’t pan out. I've since decided that learning how to spell is a gift.
Upon our return to the states we discovered that our children were academically about two or three years ahead of their peers. My children can read and speak in three and four languages (English, Dutch, German and French). When our oldest daughter left us to return to the states for her senior year of high school, the school only offered one foreign language course. I called her on the phone and asked her why she had not enrolled in that class. It turned out that she was not allowed to take the class as my daughter spoke and read better German than the teacher. In her fourth year of high school, she had read 14 novels in German and the same number of books in Dutch, English and French. (By the way, high school begins about the time American kids enter 7th grade. Our daughter attended a five year high school. High schools in Holland are 4 year, 5 year and 6 years in length. Children who attend the 6 year high schools have an opportunity, if they make the cut, to attend university.)
There are a lot of advantages of growing up overseas. Ruth Hill Useem, Ph.D. and Ann Baker Cottrell, Ph.D. found that “Only 21 percent of the American population (24 percent of men and 18 percent of women) have graduated from a four-year college. In sharp contrast, 81 percent of the adult TCKs have earned at least a bachelor's degree (87 percent of the men, 76 percent of the women). Half of this number has gone on to earn master's degrees and doctorates.
Some other positive things about being reared in a country other than your passport are:
Adult TCKs (ATCKs) continue their international involvement.
ATCKs are adaptable and relate easily to a diversity of people.
ATCKs are helpers and problem solvers.
ATCKs feel different but not isolated.
ATCKs often exhibit creativity and risk-taking behavior.
Over 75% actively participate in their local community.
92% have at least yearly contact with people from other countries.
These statistics fit my kids, as well. Living overseas may have its disadvantages. Most TCKs believe there are more advantages than disadvantages. I concur!