When we first started homeschooling, the most compelling reason was because we wanted to individualize our children’s education. As a former classroom teacher, I also wanted to shield them from the pressure of and emphasis on standardized testing. As they grew older and their interests diverged, we came to realize that the freedom to travel is now what we value most about homeschooling.
Worldschooling – One Country at a Time
In the spring of 2011, when the kids were 9 and 6 years old, we took a leap of faith and traveled abroad for the first time as a family. We chose Scandinavia as our destination as it had always been our dream to visit our ancestral homeland and it proved to be magical – not just because we were able to immerse ourselves in the culture and connect with our extended family – but because it opened the doors to future travel experiences. We had discovered the joy of travel and now consider ourselves to be worldschoolers.
Traveling has provided us with opportunity to explore the world in meaningful ways, enabling us to experience the cultures we have read about in our history and geography texts. We have marveled at the engineering feats of the native cultures like Macchu Picchu as well as modern-day marvels like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. We have photographed architecture that has spoken to us and tasted the foods that are cultivated locally.
The Language Barrier Myth
Our children have been learning Mandarin since they were each five years old. It was thereby important to us that they had the opportunity to experience the culture of their target language and be inspired to continue on their journey to fluency. It comes as no surprise that China was our second destination abroad.
In Beijing, we took the city bus to a remote area of the city to take in a traditional shadow puppet show. We nearly got lost but the memory of this day is one of our most cherished memories. The people we encountered and from whom we asked for directions were eager to help us. They were delighted that we were eager to learn and willing to make mistakes and learn from them in an effort to experience their culture.
Through this experience and their continued language studies, my daughter is insistent that she will study abroad as part of her university studies. Inspired by the sky rises in Shanghai and Hong Kong, she desires to pursue a degree in environmental engineering.
Immerse Yourself in the Culture
The best thing to do when traveling to another country is to immerse yourself in the culture. Often tourists tend to stick to a predetermined path. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. You’ll find the experiences richer and often less expensive.
In Italy, for example, the restaurants surroundings the popular piazzas were generally twice the price as those located a few blocks away. To truly experience how the residents lived on a daily basis we needed to venture away from the tourist destinations.
By far my favorite part of traveling to foreign countries is getting thrown entirely out of my comfort zone. From the language barrier to navigating around, to ordering food and exploring markets where everyone points at you, the foreigner.
Whether you travel abroad or in country, encourage your children to get involved in not only planning the excursions and sites you visit, but also to help navigate when you are there. Teach them how to read a subway map or learn together as we have. Teach them how to purchase train fare or a bus pass. These experiences will ensure confidence when they are older and must rely on their own navigational skills.