We traveled for a year and now we’re home. Our project is completed. Now I feel comfortable to write about logistics and comment on what worked (or didn’t) as a reference for anyone else out there planning to do an around the world trip with or without children.
In today’s installment I’ll cover what is probably the most difficult topic for me to write about: schooling.
Let’s just get this out there first: I am not a teacher; Murph is not a teacher. We opted to “homeschool” our children while traveling because we could. The school system in Seattle permits, and indeed makes it easy for, parents who opt not to send their children to school. We both value education very highly but boy, do we differ on how to educate a child and what matters in terms of a student’s educational excellence. I’m very old-school. I like my rapid-fire times tables and page-long essays. I value production and demonstration of knowledge. Murph’s more about understanding and will take discussion over writing any day.
So, how did we do? (measuring ourselves up to very high standard set by travelswithanineyearold)
It’s always good to start with the good news. Our kids batted the ball way out of the park in math. We had grade-appropriate curricula for each child, old-style math books and workbooks so we would not be tied to having an internet connection to be able to do math. BigB completed a full year of Singapore Math 5th Grade and CAM worked through a dense Geometry course pretty much all on his own. Yeah. They rocked. Murph deserves kudos for being the primary question-answerer and explainer too.
This is the good news-bad news part of the story. We never had trouble (and never have had any trouble) getting our boys to read. They read pretty much constantly all year. We could not have done this without our Kindles which provided us with a constant supply of age-appropriate reading material for each child. Sometimes we assigned them books to read – in order to learn about a place, people or culture. Mostly they chose their own books. BigB re-read lots of tween boy favorites and then some. We had a lot of “I have nothing to read” from CAM until he discovered that Murph and I have pretty good taste in books. He enjoyed Michael Lewis, Anne Fadiman, Laura Hillenbrand and some impressive tomes on the Cold War and war in South-East Asia. Those are the high points.
We barely scored a “C” on writing. My children used every kid tactic available to avoid writing anything. They refused to write a diary. It was never a good time to write on their blog. With an extreme amount of arguing and arm-twisting I finally got them into a fairly regular routine of writing book reports. Like I say, a “C” at best.
60 hours of lectures on Roman History. In-depth discussions on the Spaniards in South America. Following the path of the Incas from Ecuador to Argentina. Tracing tea and cocoa trade routes from South America to Europe and then following the impact of such through to the Opium Wars in China. Clambering over temple ruins in the jungle and learning about Thai and Khmer cultures. Immersing ourselves in everything Chinese going backwards from Empress Cixi to the 2nd century BC. Crossing into Central Asia and seeing relics of the Cold War in these struggling ex-Soviet republics while learning about the Great Game. Ending with a quick dash through Persian history through to the Ottoman Empire and finishing in Kurdish Turkey. Yes, I think my kids got an in-depth, year-long immersion on world history and geography. They deserve an A for effort and for the amount their sponge-like brains retained from all of the above. Murph and I deserve extra credit for impromtu kid-friendly lectures in situ and on demand.
The boys got to use the Spanish they’ve been learning in school. We learned basic phrases in Thai, Lao, Khmer, Vietnamese, Chinese, Kyrgyz, and Turkish. Ho-hum. What is more impressive and will, I think, have a more lasting impact on CAM and BigB was firstly, watching Murph and I dredge up high-school German, French and Spanish and use it again and again; and secondly, meeting easily a hundred young backpackers from all over the world who could speak pretty fluent English even though it was not their native language.
This was a tough one to cover while traveling. Thankfully we’re geeks and geeks with an internet connection have a ready-made stream of science-related topics and news available any time. Practically, learning about depth, pressure, and the physiology of breathing during a one-week scuba diver certification course was the only real science work both boys were able to do this past year. They both passed with flying colors.
In our year we did four multi-day hikes, one three-day bike trip, a couple of horse-riding treks (all day and multi-day) and lots of walking with our packs. We came back fitter. High fives and high scores all around.
Whew. That was a lot.
The “formal” schooling part (math) was a great excuse for taking a day off traveling and hanging out at our hostel. I’ll be happy to never, ever again have to go through the pain of trying to get my children to write. Both Murph and I truly enjoyed sharing our love of and interest in world history and culture with our kids. Sometimes they strongly resisted all attempts to engage them in learning. But, when we spent our last four weeks with family, I was able to eavesdrop on many of their conversations with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. I was genuinely surprised by how much they’d each retained and to learn that during some of those times when I’d complained about hogging the computer for games they were actually researching and reading up more on the topics we’d covered. That was pretty darn cool.
Family World Trip Logistics Part I: What We Left At Home
Family World Trip Logistics Part II: Insurance and Medical
Family World Trip Logistics Part III: Schoolwork
Family World Trip Logistics Part IV: Travel Planning and Booking