On August 23 – 24, 2013, Miro and I presented at the inaugural worldwide Homeschool Conference. This two-day, online, and free event provided an opportunity to share strategies, practices and resources for those involved with homeschooling, unschooling, free schools, democratic schools, and other forms of alternative and independent education. We were honored to participate.
Our session was called: Travel as an alternative form of Education – Life Learning on the Road
The session will be a presentation by mother and son team, Lainie and Miro whom together, have been traveling and learning naturally for four consecutive years on the road. They share with you through their trial and error what keeps them engaged, learning naturally and committed as a supportive team. In their case, natural learning (or unschooling) partners with the surrounding environment, as the world has transformed into a classroom with infinite possibilities.
Lainie and Miro share real-world examples including strategies to keep children / teens engaged, suggestions on how to integrate long-term travel as part of the educational plan, and open up the session for Q & A.
We’ve included the text of our presentation below. However, if you listen to the recording above, you can hear the Q & A session after the presentation.
Thank you so much for joining us. Our session called “Travel as an alternative form of education – Life learning on the road.” This session is designed for unschoolers, natural learners, life-learners and families who may be interested in traveling to enhance their life-long learning. We will speak for about 30 minutes, then open up the session for Q & A. We have a lot of information about our journey, our background, our projects and our adventures at our web site RaisingMiro.com. I’ll share our links and contact info at the end of the session, so if you happen to be watching this as a recorded version feel free to contact us via our site, if you have questions.
We are so honored to be here at the Homeschooling Conference, among so many incredible experts and thought leaders in the field of education.
Unfortunately, we are neither of those, simply a mother and son who sought out a different way of living our lives and stumbled upon a lifestyle in which we discovered were learning effortlessly, completely engaged in our lives and having a lot of fun doing so.
My name is Miro and I’ve been living a nomadic lifestyle with my mom for the last 4 years. And I’m Lainie, his mom.
This conference is focuses on homeschooling and all that surrounds it. What makes this talk a little different, is that we don’t have any specific credentials, no a particular philosophy nor do we even have a home a lot of the times. But what we do have, are our personal experiences to share with you.
First a little background; My mom and I left the US in July of 2009. I was 10 when we left, and we thought we were leaving for one year of traveling. As we start on our fifth year on the road, we’ve discovered so much about the power of travel as it relates to learning.
When we left the States, I had no idea we’d still be traveling today. Somehow I believed that traveling for one year would be a sufficient education for my son, so I didn’t think about curriculum, to supplement his learning as I knew intuitively he’d get way more out of the travel experience than anything 5th grade could ever offer him.
Miro went to a public school up until the fourth grade. I’ve always been a single parent, and I had never even considered homeschooling, since I ran my own business, and frankly my thought about homeschooling in general was, that homeschooling was only an option for strict religious people, which we certainly were not. And unschooling? Absurd, I had never even heard of such a thing. I grew up with the belief that it was someone else’s responsibly to “educate” my son, to “teach” him and I never even questioned that belief. After all, there were experts in the subject who had years of education surrounding education and who was I to question that?
I hated school. So when my mom suggested we travel for one year and I didn’t have to go to that prison we called school, I all for it. My mom’s hunch was right though, travel gave me way more than 5th grade ever could. And 6th , 7th and 8th grade, to tell you truth. Today, I’m considered an unschooler who’s traveling, and we want to share with you why it works.
We just started our 5th year of travel and our view about “learning” has changed dramatically. We are going to share with you why travel can be approached as alternative form of education for you and your family.
SLIDE 1 – What is long term travel?
Travel and education go hand in hand. But for the purposes of this talk, we are going to define travel as “long term travel”, at least one year.
SLIDE 2-How does learning happen?
How does learning happen? In our experience, we’ve discovered three types of inspirations that lead to learning.
First, we naturally learn when we are encouraged and supported to follow our interests. Miro has discovered many along the way, including permaculture, theatre, mythology, cryptozoology, zombies and writing.
Second, the world is our classroom, and can’t help but to teach us. To the degree we are engaged in the world around us, we are matched with equal learning opportunities. Miro naturally picked up so many things like Spanish, geography, history, politics and economics. But the most profound thing I noticed about my son’s learning was that it happened naturally and life wasn’t broken down by subjects.
Last, is learning through community. What makes travel so different than a formal educational setting where learning is passive, travel is participatory by nature. When a group of two or more are having the same experience, it invites the opportunity to process the experiences through conversation, which reinforces a deeper learning. Formal education removes the family element from the learning process. Travel brings it back.
In my experience, learning and co-creating with one another are the very foundations to a joyful life. And our traveling has granted us that privilege.
SLIDE 3-What are some of the examples of contextual learning?
What are some of the examples of contextual learning?
Receive a worldly education in context- We explored the art work of Botero in Colombia, Guayasamin in Ecuador, Recinos in Guatemala. We’ve explored countless museums, studying pre-Columbian artifacts in the countries they were discovered in. We’ve traversed over 40 different ruins, spoken with noted researchers and archeologists, and developed our own ideas about history. We’ve learned the art of traditional weaving taught by the famous weavers of Chinchero. We’ve spoken with the victims of war, listened to their stories and empathized with their struggles, as we learned about politics and economics as expressed through the human condition. We’ve put our hands in the soil, planted native plants and explored the historical relationship between human and plant within the world of ethnobotany. We learned about pirates, trade and colonialism in Panama, stumbled upon legends of zombies and pursued our own investigations through local inquiry. We’ve gone on archeological expeditions and explored Inca graveyards, witnessed the unveiling of 500 year old remains. We’ve helped document the anomalies of ancient cultures, held 1000 year old skulls and questioned if they were of human origin. We explored the highlands, the Andes, the beaches and the jungles and witnessed volcanoes and other geological wonders. And that’s just to name a few. There is no doubt, tht for us, immersive travel equals powerful experiential learning.
SLIDE 4 – What other kinds of learning does travel offer?
What other kinds of learning does travel offer?
Self-reliance -While traveling there are always new things to stimulate, excite and engage your child. When the external things aren’t available, my son has learned to occupy his time through drawing, reading or writing.
Socializing -Travel presents opportunities to connect with people of all ages, all walks of life, all nationalities and all professions. Socializing is a no-brainer when it comes to travel and there isn’t another activity out there that offers such diverse social opportunities.
Tolerance & acceptance- Through travel, we are granted that magical opportunity to practice tolerance and acceptance on a daily basis. Travel brings out the worst (and the best) in people. Living in close proximity with one another full-time, one has time to practice this lesson, inspired by each other’s quirks.
Practice patience- In conventional non-traveling lifestyles, patience is expected, but rarely practiced as routines, schedules and obligations often times become the norm. However travel is the opposite; the unexpected is expected and without a doubt, travel requires countless opportunities to simply “wait”. Waiting in long lines, check-in, security procedures, and boarding all require patience.
Contributing to group efforts-As parents, we say “your opinion matters”. But children’s voices are often quieted in conventional life, as routines, schedules and responsibilities take a priority. However, traveling provides the perfect platform to encourage all voices to be heard and to create equity among the group (family) as a unified unit. Practicing group dynamics is one of the most important life lessons, and encouraging your children to speak up and share their needs, desires and interests can be a valuable way to learn it.
Becoming adaptable-When you travel, things ultimately do go wrong. There is no avoiding it, things get lost, there are unexpected weather conditions, issues come up surrounding transportation and places are closed when they are supposed to be open. Being able to adapt or “make do” is an important lesson in flexibility and letting go of expectations.
Real world problem solving- Through travel, Miro has had the opportunity to make real-world decisions, solve problems in context, plan and budget our lives. You can’t get any more real-world than that
SLIDE 5 – How does the entire family benefit?
How does the entire family benefit?
Learn together, as my mom just pointed out earlier, “Formal education removes the family element from the learning process. Travel brings it back.”
These are pretty self explanatory benefits:
* Collecting memories, not things.
* Creating stronger bonds.
But what travel really offers that clearly no other form of education does is a global experience, which equates to thinking and becoming a global citizen. Through our travels, we have learned that humanity is our family and the world as our home. Global citizenship has become our way of thinking, behaving and the belief that we can make a difference in the world. Through our travels, we’ve learned that it is our responsibility to value the earth as precious and unique. We’ve learned that we must honor all of humanity as our family, all with diverse backgrounds and opinions, no better, no worse than our own. We’ve learned to identify with humanity first before we start narrowing our beliefs, passing judgements, viewing one another as somehow separate from oneself. You can’t learn this stuff in a classroom.
SLIDE 6– What are some strategies to keep the family engaged?
What are some strategies to keep the family engaged?
Research- traveling to someplace new presents the perfect opportunity for each family member to research what they want to see, do or experience and add that to the itinerary, giving everyone a voice, and everyone responsibility.
Planning- planning should ALWAYS be a group activity, giving everyone an equal voice. Figure out what works best for your family but schedule planning meetings and daily or weekly check-ins as needed.
Budgeting- this should also be a family / group responsibility. Define the yearly budget, break it down by month, week, day, etc. and allow each family member to be responsible for a portion, which can involve currency conversion, defining separate budgets for entertainment, food, lodging, transpiration, etc. These are real-world learning opportunities that should not be overlooked.
Logistics- trains, bus, flight schedules? Involve everyone.
Group dynamics- Practicing group dynamics is one of the most important life lessons. Encouraging your children to speak up and share their needs, desires and interests, can be a valuable way to learn it. Through consciously focussing on what is best for the group, every voice must be heard and each person has the opportunity to exercise positive leadership in one circumstance or another. On the flip side, grace and compromise become an important element. You can’t teach this stuff in books, this sort of lesson must be learned.
Play! Always be reminded to experience the world through your child’s eyes- Because travel offers new sights, sounds, flavors and experiences, sometimes as adults, we become desensitized to these things. Our children allow us to see the world freshly through their eyes and allow us to experience the world through a renewed child-like perspective. Use this perspective to play, and realize that this, is one of the foundations of learning freely. Curiosity and play. I hope to never lose sight this quality inside of me, ever again. (Thank you Miro for restoring this in my life.)
So that’s it. We hope you’ve enjoyed our presentation. We’ve put up our links and we invite you to visit us at our web sites anytime. We’d like to open up the forum now for questions. Feel free to type them in the chat box, of if you prefer to ask us a question via microphone, let us know that too and we’ll open up the mic for you. Thank you again, for joining us here today!
We wrote a post you might like that defines 16 reasons to combing travel with learning: