November 19th, 2012
Trends indicate more families are choosing to experience long-term travel than ever before. As conditions in the economy change, many families find long-term travel more affordable than the traditional family vacation which is usually expensive relative to the duration of time. Additionally, this may be the first time in a long time the adults find they have time off together. Surprisingly many families discover that traveling for a longer durations actually costs less than their current monthly combined expenses living a stationary life. On the road, most families can reduce their monthly cost of living by half and even more! With this information, what family cannot afford to experience long-term travel?
There are endless options for planning your long-term family travel, from driving across the United States in a motor home, to backpacking & camping through South America, from circumventing the globe with a RTW (round the world) airline ticket, to slow traveling through South East Asia. The options are as infinite as the imagination can dream and any itinerary can be designed for any budget or lifestyle preference. One thing is for certain though, the more exposure you children have to world cultures, the greater they will thrive in their lives.
There are many terms used to describe the long-term traveler: digital nomad, location independent, lifestyle design, round-the-world explorers, vagabonds, perpetual travelers, mini-retirement, sabbatical travelers, permanent vacation, gap year, etc. Independent of the term used, the idea is the same, families traveling long-term are planning on traveling long-term with children, you will need to decide how you will approach your child’s education before you leave.
“I never let schooling get in the way of my education” Mark Twain
The most organic choice for the family long term traveler is child-led education, also known as “unschooling”.
The philosophy behind unschooling is that children learn what they need to know when they are ready and want to learn it. This flows through every other aspect of life and experienced as a family. At the core of unschooling, it is believed that empowered children learn based on their interests and have an inherent thirst to learn more.
Trust in your child will initiate what he or she is ready to learn and empower them to pursue more. In other words, unschooling does not begin with a parent’s notion of what is important to learn and then turn the choices of how to learn the content over to a child. Rather, it begins with the child’s natural curiosity and expands from there.
There is no one way to unschool.
Unschooling is primarily about process not content. The process of learning, the process of knowing yourself, openness, confidence, self-determination, independent thinking, critical thinking….none of which one gets when following other people’s agenda. Making one’s own agenda is what it is all about. This is done not in isolation but in the context of ones family and community.
In general, unschooling is not “instruction free” learning. If a child wants to learn to read, an unschooling parent may offer instruction by providing help with decoding, reading to the child, and giving the child ample opportunity to encounter words. Likewise, if the child is uninterested in these supports, the parent needs to back off until the child asks for help.
The most important thing about the unschooling process is that the child is in charge of the learning, not the adult. Unschoolers do no traditional school work, yet they do learn traditional subject matter. They learn it as a natural extension of exploring their own personal interests and by virtue of being in the world.
“I recognize June by the flowers, now. I used to know it by review tests, and restlessness.”
~Lisa Asher, unschooled teen
Unschooling and long-term travel seem to compliment each other perfectly.
Worldschooling — This is a new term coined by Eli Gerzon that is essentially a more descriptive and positive version of unschooling that can apply to anyone even those beyond school age. Gerzon defines it by saying, “It’s when the whole world is your school, instead school being your whole world.” Eli Gerzon has “unschooled through college” mainly by learning from his international travels but the term does not require you to travel the world, just as unschooling doesn’t forbid making use of school resources. Instead, it’s when one actively experiences and learns from the world around one: the home, family, friends, strangers of all backgrounds, libraries, parks, sports, forests, schools, towns, and of course the world and the world wide web. It also emphasizes that there is always more to learn from this wonderful, complex world regardless of whether one has a high school degree, is a doctor, or is solely self-educated.
There’s no denying that travel presents conditions ripe for learning.
The journey, itself, becomes the teacher.
Traveling presents the surrounding world as an organic learning environment. Within the context of travel, one cannot help but to absorb and learn, providing countless opportunities stationary families will not encounter. Children are exposed to infinite occasions to observe. The more adventurous will participate in new cultures, customs and traditions, expanding their scope of experiences. Often times, new locations inspire interest in site specific history, art, geography, politics, science, religion, geology and world economy. But that is not all. The curious mind will explore deeper based on whatever inspires your child. For example, a visit to Panama may inspire an interest in pirates. A visit to Greece may inspire a deeper interest in mythology. A visit to Costa Rica may inspire the pursuit of eco-conscious issues and conservation. And a visit to Spain can peak an interest in the Dark Ages.
Experiencing history in a place of historical significance somehow removes the abstractness or separateness from the learning and the learner. There is no arguing, experiential learning has a far greater impact on a child than if they were to memorize facts and dates in a classroom.
“Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge. They need adults to trust in the inevitability of this very natural process, and to offer what assistance they can.” ~ Earl Stevens
“My job is not to teach at all, but to find the opportunities for my kids to learn. NOT knowing something can be an advantage, as it reminds me of the wealth of resources out there in the community and world, if only we are willing to go look for them.” ~ David Albert
As a parent your role in the unschooling process is vital. As a parent, you are not responsible for providing structured curriculum based on what you think your child should be learning. On other hand, your role as a parent in the unschooling process is to provide support to help your child learn about whatever he or she is interested in. This involves listening to your child, recognizing the clues, and being sensitive enough not to push, rather allow things to unfold based on your child’s timing, not your own.
If you child shows interest in a topic, then by all means encourage your child to discover more on that topic. If you child asks for assistance, then of course, provide whatever support you can. Sometimes the most supportive role a parent can play, is the role of the co-observer. Reflecting back to your child what they are experiencing is a wonderful way to create discussion and inspire greater insight. If the interest is piqued, pursue it together. If the child is no longer interested, let it go.
Having global experiences is one of the best ways to educate and prepare a child for the 21st century. Our world is changing and exposure to global issues is the most valuable education you can provide.
Travel can’t help but to enrich and educate, and having the freedom to choose interests to pursue based on your child’s interests creates an empowered adult who thinks as a global citizen.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and through long-term travel and unschooling you are offering your children the chance to be just that.
Lainie and her son Miro are living a location independent lifestyle, slow traveling around the globe and living in the present moment. Lainie writes about staying inspired, participating as a global citizen, volunteering, unschooling & natural learning. Lainie and Miro are both following their interests on the road, as the planet has been transformed into their classroom. Often you will hear Lainie say “we are blessed to be accidental world schoolers” and has become and an advocate for “life learning” at any age. Lainie & Miro have taken this philosophy to heart and are producing a series of family & teen oriented retreats in called Project World School.
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