Homeschool parent reflects on Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools connections

By Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools
May 19, 2016

Marcy Mitchell is a homeschool parent. 

She has matched with Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) through the Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools (WWS) program several times to support the learning of her homeschooled children. She believes the connections have had a positive impact on her children, so we reached out to her to find out more:

Why did you decide to participate in the program as a homeschool parent?

I am always searching for unique experiences for my kids. I discovered it over 10 years ago.  I homeschooled my daughter, Kayla, and we were matched when she was 10 years old – she is now 22.  I am now homeschooling my 9-year-old son (and I have another son in the public school system), and they were just recently matched with a Volunteer as well. WWS gives children the opportunity to learn about real volunteers and how volunteering impacts people all over the world.  It is also such an invaluable opportunity for character building in their educational career.

How many PCVs have you connected with over the years, and from what countries? Tell us more about your continued relationship.

Jennifer Farwell is the wonderful Volunteer we matched with via Correspondence Match over a decade ago. She served in Niger. Jennifer and Kayla have stayed in contact.  As a mother, it has been wonderful to watch Jennifer grow and move on to other successful adventures in her life.  Jennifer has given more than she realizes by being Kayla's match, and we will forever be grateful for her service and friendship through WWS.  We hope to meet her in person one day. We are looking forward to getting to know the Volunteers my sons have been matched with who are serving in Senegal.

What activities did you do with your WWS PCV? 

Jennifer wrote about her experiences, and about the people and culture of Niger. We integrated her country of service into our studies, in all subjects. For arts and music, we would listen and learn about different drums, and we found a cultural festival and attended. For language arts and literature, we would find stories and folktales to read and study, as well as learning a little of the local language. In geography, we studied maps and researched facts. We even researched recipes and made African dishes then invited Kayla's friends over to our “Taste of Africa” dinners. We researched games, and found mancala to be one of our favorites.

What was most effective in building your children’s cross-cultural understanding? 

Learning directly from Jennifer while she was immersed in the culture was extremely effective.  Jennifer’s stories were inspiring – so many people in her village overcame obstacles in life through their perseverance.  We learned our communities have a great deal in common, and we embraced those differences to promote diversity. Also, Jennifer sent Kayla items from Niger. Kayla was so intrigued by the tangible gifts she held in her hand that actually came directly from friends of Jennifer in the village. That truly made an impact. We didn't expect it, but Jennifer went above and beyond!

How did your WWS connection impact your children?

Kayla has now traveled with three different organizations to volunteer in Israel, Cambodia, and China.  I believe the connection to Jennifer through WWS has made a direct impact on Kayla by broadening her perspectives and increasing her cultural awareness. The experience has also shaped Kayla's understanding of global issues and how she can make a difference in the lives of so many – just as Jennifer did.  Kayla’s major is International Studies and her goal is to join Peace Corps after graduating.

What skills did your children learn?

Adaptability.  They learned to adapt to different cultures, living situations, and food most Americans are not accustomed to.  For example, Jennifer explained how she lived in a hut with no running water, yet was content.  In Cambodia, Kayla stayed in a barn like structure and slept on a mat on the ground in a net (with her friend the gecko).  She adapted to her surroundings without complaint, something she learned from Jennifer.

What tips or advice would you give other homeschool parents who are interested in participating in WWS?

Volunteering teaches fairness, responsibility, honesty, trustworthiness, respect, empathy, and citizenship. I highly recommend the incredible experience through WWS, and for students to be matched with a Peace Corps Volunteer because the lessons learned while participating can not only be implemented in an educational sense, but in a character building sense as well.

How can they get the most out of the program?

Utilize the resources now available online and take advantage of the Lesson Plans section of the WWS website.  In order to instill a commitment to service – like found in PCVs – find community service projects in need of volunteers, and start children at a young age so they become committed to service early.

Homeschoolers or other non-traditional educators are welcome to connect with Peace Corps Volunteers via the Correspondence Match program. Simply complete this enrollment form, and WWS will match you with a Volunteer. WWS also is launching a pilot program this spring, and it is open to homeschool educators. The Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools program connects Peace Corps Volunteers and returned Volunteers to classrooms in the United States, and provides a variety of resources to help educators integrate global issues and cultural awareness into the classroom.

Jessica Lloyd is a dual German/American citizen studying Anthropology and Sociology at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. She is an intern in the Office of the Third Goal, which houses the World Wise Schools program.