I am happy to say we are an “unschooling” family. But I wonder if that term is a bit too limiting. Agreed, we have taken our children out of the confines of a scheduled and standardized school system and by all that society has agreed upon, we are clearly NOT doing “school”. But to only focus on what we are not doing is selling short all that we ARE doing.
We are showing our kids the world.
Three years ago, when our oldest son Gavin had completed 4th grade and our daughter, Adelaide, just completed 2nd, we decided to select a different path for their education. Replacing pictures in books with real life experiences, our goal was to travel as much as we could and show our kids what the world looked like. I heard it said once, “nothing broadens the mind like a well-stamped passport!” and I completely agree.
As we began to travel and live this lifestyle, there was one thing that got in the way of fully experiencing a life of travel: my corporate job. Working for a major media company, I will say by American standards, I had it pretty good. Five weeks vacation a year, plus holidays. Add to that a boss that was poor at record keeping, I was able to travel a solid six weeks out of the year. Then I realized how little travel that really was.
According to vpcalendar.net, the US has the least number of paid vacation days per year. While this depends on seniority, the US averages around 13 days. That means out of 52 weeks of the year, excluding the big holidays, we get 2½ weeks a year to travel with the family. Clearly that’s not enough. Especially when you see that France averages 37 and Italy averages a whopping 42 days! Based on a five-day workweek, that’s over eight weeks a year. In the US, that simply does not happen. Even Cadillac, to symbolize American ingenuity, poked fun at this trait in a commercial.
Even though I milked all I could out of my five to six weeks a year, it was time to do something more. So in a counter-culture, against all logic, dare I say a very “unschooled” approach, I left a stable, six-figure job to simply travel with my kids. (hyperlink: http://www.lifetravelzen.com/sample-page/)
Travelling with our kids as much as we can, road-schooling if you will, opens up so many wonderful discussions. Unlike a regular standardized school structure, these are not lessons from a book, but conversations spurred on by experience. Attending Easter Mass at the Vatican gave us a great opportunity to discuss the history of the Catholic empire. While none of us are Catholic, we were able to discuss the role of religion in history and how it has affected the world. Chatting with a bartender in Stavanger, Norway about her parent’s experience in World War II opened up a conversation about how the world was shaped by the actions of one man. These history lessons came about naturally and organically through our travels.
But it’s not just history…
Visiting waterfalls and spending time in Costa Rica brought about discussions of native wildlife in that region and how it differs from our home state of Florida. Experiencing the “Midnight Sun” in the Arctic Circle lead to a discussion of how the earth’s rotation around the sun varies depending on where you are in the world. Even enjoying a pint (for the adults!) in a pub in Ireland during Saint Patrick’s Day brought about the discussion of holidays around the globe. And there are countless more. This summer we are spending three months road-tripping across America and it seems every day a new conversation is started by simply “being” where we are.
With all this travel, there are no quizzes or tests and they don’t have to feel the pressure to remember every detail in order to advance to a next level. In this way, yes we are absolutely unschooling. They simply have to be present, open and receptive and they will take away from these experiences what they were meant to. In whatever way it happens to be, these experiences will help shape their lives as they evolve into adults.
Watching these two young souls evolve is so inspiring. Their lives are being shaped by this experience. Instead of thinking about a GPA or a passing a certain grade level to prepare them for an overpriced higher education, we are not controlling their outcome. Our hope is that they simply become who they were meant to be.
Michael Sharkey, a 25 year radio veteran, left the corporate media whirlwind in early 2014 to travel full-time with his family. The Sharkey’s – Tanya, wife of 17 years, Gavin, 13 and Adelaide, 11 – have spent a month in Italy this year so far and are currently traveling across America in a small RV with their two cats. Having also traveled to Costa Rica, Norway, Ireland and all over the Caribbean, their plans hope to take them even further in the coming months and years. Michael is currently travel writing, getting international accreditation and certification as a Life Coach and blogging at www.lifetravelzen.com.Facebook.com (search Life Travel Zen)Twitter: @sharkzenpdInstagram: @sharkzenpd