Endless studies are showing that kids these days seriously lack life skills even by the time they enter college. It’s a result of the heavy focus on academics throughout their childhood. Instead of a healthy balance of schoolwork, play, and responsibilities, most kids are being pushed to focus the majority of their time on succeeding in school or extra curricular activities that would help them build strong portfolios for college applications as early as possible.
Alan and I decided a few years ago that our family wants no part of this “rat race.” We agree that it’s important for kids to learn, but the method to learning can vary so greatly depending on the individual child and the family’s circumstances. Making Bridgette sit through 6+ hours a day in a classroom setting 5 days a week, followed by the stress of homework and standardized tests, without enough time to sleep, play, and pursue personal passions just did not fit our family’s values in any way. We wanted her learning to be intrinsically motivated, to be interesting, and to have context. We also wanted her to gain life skills and independence at an early age, and to provide opportunities for her to learn humility by serving others. It took a couple of years of trial and error, but our worldschooling life right now seems to fit Bridgette’s learning style and our family’s overall values as well as can be, and we are very, very grateful for that. We recognize that besides determination and courage, it also requires a lot of resources to break loose from the norm, and we do not take any of this for granted.
So what kind of life skills can be gained from traveling? A LOT. That is, if you are willing to take a back seat and let your child make mistakes. When traveling to worldschool, we have the luxury of time and flexibility, so I often ask Bridgette to help with a lot of logistical things, like mapping places out and finding the way to our destinations, figuring out how to buy train or bus tickets, and exchanging USD to local currencies. We also encounter plenty of problems during our travels, and I would challenge Bridgette to help come up with solutions.
Tip: You simply cannot be in a hurry when you give your kids the opportunities to figure these things out or you will get impatient and frustrated.
“Let’s figure this out” is probably the most common phrase I say to Bridgette on a daily basis, but even more so when we travel together. We’ve gotten frightfully lost in a bad neighborhood in Paris, we’ve ran out of clean clothes way before we had access to a washer/dryer, we’ve lost one another at the train station in Switzerland, and we’ve mistakenly gotten into a stranger’s car in Vietnam. We’ve biked for over 10 miles in Copenhagen, only to find out that we went in the opposite direction of where we were suppose to go. I’ve had to endure a painful case of the shingles while traveling, which left Bridgette to become the caretaker for me. These are just a few examples amongst the many other mishaps that have happened during our travels around the world. Each time, it can feel discouraging and scary, but Bridgette and I would work together to find different solutions to the best of our abilities. It is through these experiences that Bridgette has been able to gain invaluable life lessons and life skills at a young age. Traveling frugally for worldschooling has been a hard adjustment to me, but seeing how these challenges have helped to shape Bridgette into becoming a resilient, adaptable, and strong young lady has made every bit of the hardships worth it!
Okay, so back to our Europe trip….after 5 days in Paris and 5 days in Bath, Bridgette and I took the train to the outskirts of London to spend 2 days with our family friends, the Tams. We had no agenda for our time there and ended up having a really relaxing time in their home just chatting, watching Harry Potter, and indulging in delicious homecooking meals. I was elated to have RICE for the first time in 2 weeks!
After two days with the Tams, Bridgette and I went on our way again and flew to ROME, ITALY!