Since my foray into travel writing I’ve discovered a new concept of “worldschooling”. Sure, I was always aware (as I am sure you are) of families who decide to take the plunge and travel full-time with their kids. I knew they somehow managed to keep up with their studies through homeschooling. I had no idea that this was known as world-schooling but of course it makes perfect sense. Now, while I don’t see us jacking it all in any time soon, it made me a bit sad to think our kids wouldn’t get this experience of world-schooling. But being expats and travelling on a VERY regular basis, I remembered why all trips are amazing educational adventures!
What Is World Schooling?
This isn’t going to be a post about the pros and cons of travel for Things and families (I’ve got a whole other post lined up for that). It’s more a stern chat to myself. Just because we aren’t doing the “normal” thing and educating our kids in our home country (wherever that is) or doing the out there crazy thing and travelling for 9 years and counting with the Things, doesn’t mean we aren’t giving them completely enriching experiences. We are giving them amazing educational adventures!
If you want to know more about world schooling, World Travel Family does it and their blog has a great description of all the things that it is and isn’t. It’s definitely not for everyone and I’m not sure I would be the right sort of parent to do it myself. (I’m thinking no patience, high-level procrastinator, disorganised haha). I’m pretty inspired by the people who can and do do it though.
I liked the concept of travelschooling from World Travel Family’s post. Now don’t get me wrong, I DO think you can take the whole learning thing to an extreme. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going on holiday as a family and just relaxing and enjoying yourselves. Bonding as a family will surely have as an important an impact on emotional development as on increased knowledge and intelligence.
BUT… why does it always have to be one thing or the other? Why do we have to fit neatly into boxes with labels of “worldschoolers” or “expats” or “normal”? Just as in our everyday life as parents we seize opportunities to teach our kids little things about the world, we can do this while travelling. Here are some ideas of things you can (or are probably already doing) while on holiday.
Lets start with the non-academic things they learn like planning and prioritising (we have one day left, do you want to go to the water park or to the beach? We have 1 hour left at DisneyLand, what rides do you want to do?). Time-keeping and organisation is another one – catching trains, plans busses and boats means the whole family being on-board (no pun intended) with getting out and where they need to be by the right time. I loved this article on Huffington Post about the additional things your Things learn on a trip.
A bit of an obvious one from someone who speaks 4 languages. We go to lots of places where we don’t speak the native language. It’s unrealistic to think we can be fluent when we visit a country but that doesn’t mean you can’t all learn as few phrases while you are there. It was super cute in Bali to hear the Things say “terima kasih” (thank you) in shops or restaurants, seeing the smile and the sing song “sama sama” (you’re welcome) in return.
There are so many opportunities to practice English on holiday!
You can bring stories about travel or about the country that you are travelling to, read a guide book or do research together on the internet. If your Things are into writing, you can write postcards home or keep a holiday journal either individually or as a family.
My favourite way to use maths is with currency. My Things are too little to really understand about currency conversions but I know older Things can get lightening quick at doing it in their heads (no need for xe.com!). Counting out the right money for a bus ticket or calculating how much change you will get at the supermarket are all great ways to get them thinking. If they are old enough you can include them in budgeting for activities, food and travel on your trip.
It doesn’t have to stop there. Even for little ones just day to day activities can incorporate a little bit of maths. Figuring out how much everyone gets if there’s 4 of you and only 3 pains au chocolat(answer is the Things get 1 each and we are left to split the difference). Or if we have 10 pieces of baklava and daddy takes 3, how many are left?
I mean travel IS geography isn’t it?! From taking public transport to using and reading maps, I think travel was designed for this subject.
You can even use it as a learning point before you leave by looking at a world map at where you are going and how you will get there. You can discuss neighbouring countries, different continents or the seas you will cross to get somewhere.
I simply love going to historical places of interest but I am all too aware that when I was a Thing, it was such a boring thing to do! Traipsing around old stately homes or Roman baths or staring at Stonehenge just did nothing for me. It was only after I got older that I was more able to appreciate the significance of what I was looking at.
Thankfully the tourism world has evolved significantly since then! There are Thing-friendly books that you can read before you travel to contextualise the experience. When you are there, audio guides and Thing-orientated activity sheets or scavenger hunts provide a distraction and a focus for a trip. Family friendly tours such as Europe 4 Kids Tours can offer Thing-focussed commentary and alternative city transport.
I’m thinking everything from anthropology to home economics here. Observing other cultures can, of course, extend to Theology and Religious Education (see below) but it can be much simpler than that. You can often observe local rituals in their day to day lives. It could be putting out flower offerings in Bali or offering things with both hands in parts of Asia.
Taking your Things to a cooking class or even just trying out the local cuisine is another wonderful way to expose them to new ideas and cultures. Watching mummy and daddy eat new foods shows them how to be adventurous. We now have a rule, for example, that they can order what they want but that they have to try something from our plates.
You can make it fun too – for example in Thailand and Bail we called chicken satay chicken lollipops and it got us almost the whole way through the holiday before the novelty factor wore off.
Theology / RE
“What’s a church mummy?”
“Well darling, it’s a bit like a mosque only it is for Christians instead of Muslims.”
I mean only an expat Thing would have that conversation!
From the Ayia Sofia in Istanbul to a local church in Putney to the Grand Mosque in Muscat to hearing the bells ring in a church at the top of Bellaggio on Lake Como, our Things have seen a few religious buildings in their short years. It’s such a good opportunity to talk about different religions and belief systems in an informative way.
Soooo many ways to involve your Things with their arty sides. Obviously visiting art galleries is one way but I reckon you’ll have a mutiny if you try to go to too many!
Try looking for art in more day-to-day life. Is this a place (such as in Sorrento) where they make gorgeous lemon-themed ceramics. Or can you observe mosaic tiled floors in restaurants in Italy, geometric designs in the Middle East or look at stunning historical architecture in London?
If you want a more interactive activity get your Things involved in taking photographs of the places you go. Or ask them to draw pictures of whatever you have done that day.
Music and Dance
At the tender ages of 3 and 5, my Things are already a bit self-conscious when it comes to dancing in front of other people (notably us). But music runs on both our sides and there is no denying that they both love a good tune. Since the rise of Despacito in mainstream pop, they are now open to listening to lots of new Latin songs! And if I catch them unawares or shake off my own inhibitions a bit of dancing in a new environment will always fly!
I’d like to think we are a pretty active family and this section is no different! From riding their bikes in the road in our expat compound to swimming lessons year round at school, our Things definitely prefer the active side of life. Never sure if this is nature or nurture since I’m the least crafty sort of mummy there is!
Since we started travelling with them we have enjoyed a range of activities including:
- Snorkelling (Maldives)
- Bike riding (Bali)
- Swimming (almost everywhere)
- Pool / table football (anywhere where we stayed in a resort)
- Kayaking (Maldives)
- Hiking (LA and Bali and a bit of city walking in Italy)
- Surfing (Bali)
We are already planning a ski trip next year and as soon as they are old enough and strong enough we want to do other things like paddle boarding and scuba diving. I’m pretty sure we have the PE aspect covered haha.
Amazing Educational Adventures
So there you have it. Some easy ways to keep your holiday interesting and fun but a little bit educational at the same time. It pays dividends, it really does. I know for a fact that our Things still remember lessons from holidays long after we have forgotten giving them.