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Family Travel Can Eliminate Distinctions

Family travel and education in Portugal. Child horseback riding.
The family travels with their daughter who rides on a horse in Portugal.

Currently my daughter is 3-years-old. She is a quirky, funny, strong-willed child with an insatiable appetite for learning. “What’s this mommy? Where’s this come from?” she remarks while eating her sandwich or walking through the wheat fields. Indeed, of late our days as a family have been consumed with teaching her about the world she lives in and it is a true joy to know that she is hungry for this information. I guess you could say that we are more than happy with the levels of happiness and inquisitiveness she displays and, even more contented that up until this point, it’s been mostly our doing.

In modern life many of us forget that as parents we have the ability (and mostly, the right) to teach our own children, instead of merely sending them off to school without a thought that there might be another way. However, being a mother who loves to indulge in longer-term travel experiences, for all the family, home education — or rather, on-the-road education — has always been a seed in the back of my mind.

Prior to my daughter’s birth, I must admit harboring some pretty naïve — but fairly common — opinions on home education. But having been fortunate to meet many such families during our travels, I discovered that far from the unsocialized and sheltered children I expected to find, I was instead left inspired and energized by happy, confident, educated youngsters thriving in these alternative environments.

Now I’m not suggesting that traditional schooling should be out for good, but if travel is on your agenda, then it could be out for summer — an extended one that is!

Home Education and Travel

I read in a newspaper recently that the actress, Emma Thompson, is planning to take her 10-year-old daughter out of school for a year of active travel and education. Although fairly big news due to her celebrity status, these family gap years — and numerous variations — are happening the world over in families from all walks of life. In fact, many parents value travel and life experience as an essential part of learning, and recognize that sometimes the young mind needs more than a textbook to alight passion. Think history lessons on location at the Roman Coliseum, languages practiced with locals in backstreet cafes, or embracing your child’s love of animals by volunteering on a farm in New Zealand. These are all realistic options.

But How Will the Children Socialize?

Before I had my daughter this was my standard response when people mentioned home education. Now that it is something I might consider. I have heard it ten-fold and it does tickle me somewhat now that I know a lot more about the subject. The home-educated children I have met have often been mixing with people of all ages and from all walks of life, which when you really think about it, provides a much truer representation of life in the real world. In fact, when else in life are we forced to mix with 30 other classmates all of the same age? As far as socializing goes, as long as you intend to expose your children to varied environments, I think they will enjoy rich experiences and create lasting bonds. I think that we may also forget that children are far more adaptable than we give them credit for. Take them to a local park or beach and, in most cases, they will make friends quickly — despite language and age barriers.

If your plan is to remain in the same place for a length of time then I would recommend you tap into local homeschooling networks — of which there are plenty. On our travels we have found that there are always families spread around doing something similar. In fact, the network group in my current hometown is a thriving environment complete with ballet, karate, and gymnastic lessons… and even a late night walk last week with bat and moth specialists. Rest assured, your children will not be alone.

But It’s Not the Real World!

Some argue that by taking children out of a traditional school environment we are failing to set them up for real life, but in my opinion what can be more real than connecting them to the countries they study on world maps and to the people whose cultures they read about in confined classrooms. The world holds so much more for young minds when experienced first-hand. As long as you encourage plenty of activities with others while continuing with standard education basics such as reading and writing, you are unlikely to do your children any harm.

But Can I Do It?

Doubting our own abilities to teach our children is understandable when we consider how engrained in us sending them to school is, but once you start your research I am sure you will realize how many lessons you are conducting yourself anyway, as I have. From Romans to organic farming, geography to food studies and art, I’ve done them all, and my daughter is only three. I’m surprising myself every day at my own ability to teach her the things I previously thought were sacred to school.

How Do I Approach Home Education?

Some people freeschool, allowing subject matters to flow naturally from children’s interests, some follow the curriculum as they would if they were at school and some seek out curriculums more suited to their own ideals. Either way, once you start looking into it you will find a whole host of options available, as well as amazing online networks of home schooling families swapping tips, information and resources.

There is a big world out there and I think it seems a little wasteful for it to be kept only for school holidays or post graduation, when it could be explored together, as a family.

Useful Website To Get You Started

  • HSLDA — Advocates for Homeschooling. Home Education support and resources (U.S.).

Alice Griffin is a mother, wife, writer, traveler and daydreamer. She is also the author of “Tales from a Travelling Mum,” which documents the travels she embarked on with her young family during the first two years of her daughter’s life. She lives in England on a boat and travels further afield whenever she gets the chance!  

More by Alice Griffin
Sharing a Passion for Travel with Our Children
Volunteering as a Family on Farms Abroad
Family Narrow Boat Holidays in the UK
Related Topics
Family Travel
Family Tour Operators and Volunteering

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