When a young adult travels internationally it’s “An adventure.” When older adults travel internationally it’s “Living life.” So why does it scare the crap out of people when a family travels internationally?
Since we first decided to take a couple of years off and travel the world as a family we have had the oddest thing happen when we tell people about it. It usually goes something like this:
Us: “We’re going to take 2 years off and travel around the world”
Them: “Wow that sounds awesome. I would love to do something like that.”
After a brief moment the big smile on their face turns to a look of concern and then they ask: “But… what about your daughter?”
What about our daughter? Are we supposed to leave her with the grandparents while Kerri and I travel around the world without her? Do they fear for her safety, education, or something else? When I was a kid I dreamt of traveling the world. I would spend hours designing plans to turn my bicycle into a flying machine, single person submarine, or a pedal powered boat so I go to a tropical island paradise. I read the stories about the ancient world and imagined how exciting it would be to visit those places where history was made; Egypt, Europe, and Asia. Our daughter does not have to dream about how great it would be to visit these places someday; she will be there to experience it first hand in the next couple of years. Something most people only dream about.
One of the concerns about traveling with a child long term is the continuation of their education once plucked from the safe embrace and formal education of the institutionalized school system. We have looked at the various homeschool curriculums and talked to other traveling parents about what they used and found that there is no preferred system or method. Many of the all-inclusive homeschool curriculums require that you send in tests and get constant feedback from them. With us traveling non-stop, this is not an option and we need to be self-sufficient. The other issue is why we feel that we must conform to a single education curriculum. I feel that modern society has made us so dependent on learning institutions that we feel we can no longer properly teach our children the basics of 2nd and 3rd grade reading, writing, and arithmetic? Kerri and I both have college degrees and help Sydney with her homework every night. How hard could it be to teach her the basics? Our current thinking is that we will pick up the recommended books, What Your Second Grader Needs to Know and What Your Third Grader Needs to Know to be guides on what learning benchmarks she needs to be at, and also purchase the appropriate writing and math workbooks. When she finishes a workbook we can pick up a new one or even make up our own problems for her to work on. Since she is already reading chapter books all by herself (not bad for a first grader) we can pick up books for her to read along the way and help her with some of the bigger words. Besides the writing, reading, and arithmetic she will also get history, geography, art, architecture, foreign language, and a political education as we travel. I have a feeling that she just might skip a grade when we are finished with our two years of traveling.
There is nothing we want more than to keep our daughter safe. Many people feel that it is unsafe to leave the United States and to do so with a child is foolhardy. Yet, there are many people that live outside the United States who think it is dangerous to visit here. I feel that most people simply fear the unknown and are easily swayed by the media. You see a news story about a conflict in a distant country or even something bad happening on the other side of your own town and immediately the thought of that place being dangerous is planted in your mind. All you need to do is open your local newspaper and you will never want to leave your house again. The media loves to report on bad things. But the reality is that there are real dangers everywhere and we must be prepared. The same “don’t talk to strangers” and “look both ways before crossing the street” goes for everywhere in the world. Common sense is the best thing you can have to keep your child safe.
If anyone would like to offer us tips on homeschooling on the road or kid safety while traveling, we would love to hear them.