Travel Supports Natural Learning
As an unschooling parent, my role in Miro’s education is that as the supporter and the facilitator. Although he learns through me as an example, I am not his formal “teacher”. Miro has empowered himself to take responsibility for his own education, which is consistent with the principles of unschooling. But another important contributor to Miro’s education has become our chosen lifestyle. Travel has become the silent partner in Miro’s learning, and each day in the world our lives present unique opportunities to learn naturally. This article is written in acknowledgement that the world that has become our classroom.
(For more about Miro’s self-directed pursuits, please take a look at his column here, called “Miro Unedited”.)
As a result of Miro’s questioning the food chain as we shop in a farmers markets throught Latin Ameirca, he began to ask questions.
“Are the people selling the food the farmers? Are their farms close? How do they grow so many different kinds of vegetables?”
Through his questioning, we sought out the opportunity to visit a local community farm and talk with the caretakers. Afterwards, Miro learned to harvest seeds and plant his own garden.
Miro has become fluent in Spanish without ever taking a class. Natural learning is at play, but picking up a language does require an element of involvement. (I’m still impressed, as I practice daily rolling my tongue and learning new vocabulary with much struggle.)
We’ve traversed over 20 separate ruins, explored over 30 ancient cultures, and studied the history of each of the countries we’ve traveled to. Not because anyone told us to do so, but because it was interesting and knowing these things helped us with our cultural sensitivity and understanding. And because it’s fascinating! (Read about my adult unschooling through archeology.)
Each culture has it’s own set of beliefs. We’ve been to fire ceremonies in Tikal, blessings for Pacha Mamma (mother earth) in Peru, visited Maximón, the smoking and drinking saint of the town of Santiago on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. We’ve experienced colorful processions for Semana Santa, stood in reverence of the statue of the Black Christ and danced in the jungle. We’ve participated in guided meditations, witnessed sacred plants, and practiced healing with curanderas. We’ve laughed together in an Osho meditation, witnessed a reenactment of Inca ceremony and explored ideas together that include other worldly possibilities (Momma’s obsession with “aliens”). Through all of it, Miro has remained open and has experienced more first hand and has expanded his relationship to his own spirituality.
Learning through traveling, Miro has learned world geography. It’s experiential learning, that does not come through studying, rather through experience. Miro knows where countries, capitals and cities are because we’ve been there. He also knows much more about countries he’d like to visit, because he’s taken it upon himself to research what could be next.
History comes alive, when you are standing in a remarkable place, different than your own world. As a child, history was taught to me out of a book and my teachers had the highest hopes that this information would stick. But it didn’t and as a child, I had no interest in anything other than my small world and had no idea how I related to the things around me.
But through our travels, Miro has a totally different relationship to history. He is living history, experiencing places, stories and meeting people “history” effects.
One hot November afternoon, we walked through a Nicaraguan cemetery with a friend who came from a long line of Sandinistas and seeing the graves of her relatives. Yeah, it relates to us deeply, and we become part of the same human story. And with that, there are so many more examples over the last three years, too numerous to count.
For us, Latin America came alive through exploring history and politics. Miro is forever asking “why?”
“Why did that happen?”
“Why did they do that?”
From the American involvement, to the political coups, from imperialism and to people’s uprising. From social movements, to oppression. We’ve travel through many countries influenced by political ideals of Che Guevara and Simón Bolívar. We’ve personally seen the effects of war, atrocities, violence and crime. We can’t help but to continue to ask “why” and try to understand the politics surrounding these influences.
Miro and I have always approached our travels as a partnership. That includes everything aspect of financial decision making, making monthly budgets and of course our spending decisions. That’s our personal finances, in relationship to real world economics. Understanding the value of what we have, and experiencing what our money buys through exchanged currencies is a lesson in economics. Not to mention exchange rate fluctuations and budgeting.
I’ve had the opportunity to see “leadership” in action. On our travels, we’ve come across many kids, and been involved with many volunteer programs. We’ve interacted with many children from different cultures and each time, I have witnessed my son encourage these kids to peruse their interests and figure out what their dreams are. Most of the children we come across have never even considered that their interests were important, let alone been asked their opinion before. This simple inquiry just might have a lasting effect on another child’s life. It’s an inspiring process to witness and in my opinion, that’s taking on a leadership role.
Traveling has taught first hand that although people from around the world may have outwardly differences, every person we’ve ever met has the basic desires: eat, love, make a living, play, make a difference and try as hard as they can to live a good life. Travel has taught Miro to see the similarities, not focus on the differences. We are all global citizens.
Ecology and the Planet
Hikes through misty cloud forests, climbing volcanos, high altitude mountain walks, wondering through low land nature mangroves , exploring caves, basking in the sandy beaches, adventuring in the Amazon jungle and swimming with sharks are part of Miro’s travel experience. This is the ecology and the planet in action, not some concept in a book. Miro’s experienced it first hand and for sure his relationship to the planet has changed.
Art, Creativity, Crafts and Traditions
Artisans have been a part of the cultural experience from day one. From the exquisite weavings, to brightly colored traditional clothing, to jewelry, pottery and painting. Most of these traditions within Latin America have deep ties to cultural identities and many of the practices from hundreds of years are still practiced today. Miro has learned to weave, watched traditional dance, and can not help to have been deeply influenced by the sights and sounds of the artisan traditions experienced on our travels.
When traveling, learning happens every day. Even if you don’t look for it, it happens.