When you have school age children, people often wonder (aloud) how you balance traveling with the education of your children. They are all smiles and wondrous eyes when you describe your international adventures, but when you mention traveling during the school year, the smile lines quickly become frown lines. These frown lines are linked to the immediate streams of thought flowing through their minds:
- Your poor children are being cheated out of their education birthright;
- You are not a good parent;
- Why haven’t you gotten in trouble with the school district…because you just can’t take your kids out of school for a non-district sanctioned holiday;
- Etc., etc., etc.
This would have been very disheartening…. if I were someone else; however, I will freely admit two things about myself; (1) I am a proud non-conformist and (2) I am an education/school snob.
I am non-conformist in that I do not believe that:
- the “state” is the best educator of my children;
- I relinquished my rights over my children when they started kindergarten;
- Our lives should revolve around a relatively arbitrary school calendar (especially when I live for low fare season);
- Public school are set-up to create critical, thoughtful and independent thinkers, whose vision of the world stretches far beyond our national borders.
I am an education snob because I have had the benefit so some of the best education in the world. I attended outstanding, foundational elementary schools, I spent the beginning of my high school years in a West African, Catholic Girls school and I went on to get degrees from Yale University and the University of Notre Dame, with additional graduate course work at Columbia University.
I say this to say that I am no stranger to exceptional educational institutions. However, those experiences were balanced out and influenced by the fact that I traveled as a child. To Germany for two months to visit an uncle, to Sierra Leone for a year to attend school, to Hawaii, Amsterdam, and Solvang and Palm Springs (both in California), because I had a parent who valued travel, no matter how near or far.
Traveling outside of areas that are familiar, seeing people, hearing speech, touring cities, that are different from what we are accustomed to, breeds an appreciation for “the other”, no matter what that “other” is. Traveling brings forth observation, inquiry, conversation, things that are sometimes in short supply in classrooms. Traveling opens the doors to arts and architecture, food and music, landscapes and languages, that will permanently imprint themselves on young minds.
So when we travel the world becomes our classroom, but we definitely do not leave school behind. We always have to travel with one suitcase filled with books (usually fiction)….because my kids absolutely insist upon having the pleasure of reading, no matter where they are..or for how long.