Friday, February 24, 2012

Because travel sure beats being at school, kids

Going to school is important, right? But could travelling be even better? A friend of mine (coincidentally, the one who inspired me to get involved with Kiva) recently wrote an update on Facebook:



And then she made sure I knew about, assuming (100% correctly) that I would be a kindred spirit here! Not because I (as yet) have any gripes with the education system but because I think travel is the greatest thing of all!


I instantly thought of my six months in Europe as a child. These six months stretched over the European summer which, being opposite to Australia's, meant I missed probably close to three quarters of the school year that year. We took some distance education learning materials with us (provided by the state education department) but without internet (long before internet, in fact!) and because we were always moving around with no fixed address, it was really just something to keep us a bit busy on long campervan drives rather than something we were really meant to learn from. And our teachers at the time also said what I still believe now: they'll learn much more from this trip than they would in school.


Learning about life in Greece - me as a nine-year-old (and not in school!)
Now it's easy enough for me to totally agree with this now when my son hasn't even reached kindergarten, but I am seriously all for giving him travel opportunities even if they come at the expense of a few weeks (or perhaps even months) at school, especially when he's younger. When I think back to my six months in Europe, I know I learned so many things that remain with me to this day, including academic ones - the geography of Europe (I could draw and label a full map of Western Europe as a nine year old and I am pretty sure even many Australian adults can't do that), the currencies, converting them, the flags, the cities, the cultural icons, there's a huge amount of stuff that lodged in my brain in a way it couldn't be just from sitting in the classroom. And of course there's plenty of tangential learning going on too, learning about cultural differences, how to be independent, how to read maps and get around, so many life skills. I even got to practice badminton skills when we stopped in caravan parks and got out our rackets and shuttlecock!
Now, I'm not going to say school is not important, because obviously it is, and I wouldn't suggest taking a kid out of high school the year of important exams or anything like that. But to take a child to a foreign country for a while - that's priceless education. Agree or disagree? 

20 comments:

  1. Agree! of course :)
    We recently got a note home from the school mentioning absences for 'non-important' reasons and holidays were listed along with some stats about how much schooling they would have missed out on by the time they were 18 by missing x amount of school each year... blah blah blah...
    i would love to be able to give my kids the kind of experience that your parents gave you and if that is something we decide to do then I don't really think the school should have any problem with it - it's our decision for our children and I hardly think travel would impact negatively on their future!!
    I could go on and on but one more thing... you guys are looking hawt in your matching pink velour(?) trackie dacks!
    xxx

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    1. Rach, I'm glad you agree, and of course am not surprised :-) Great minds think alike, and all!

      It is a bit disturbing that K's school says stuff like that though - I would have thought at least Montessori schools might be a bit more open-minded about such issues? Scary.

      Oh and about the pink tracksuits ... not velour, thank goodness, but homemade by my mother (who sewed all our matching clothes as children) ... you should have seen the T-shirts she made with removable fluffy koalas! (removable so you could wash the T-shirts without harming koalas). We were FASHION QUEENS in the 80s!!!!!!

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    2. I think it has more to do with the principal than the Montessori philosophy - she is just one of those people (you know the sort who would freak out about the small things) I think her passion for rigidity and conformity equal her belief in purist Montessori philosophy; which strangely conflict....

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    3. That does seem like a strange combination! Anyway I'd still ignore what she says about not travelling!

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  2. Amanda, agree totally.I was bollocked by my son's teacher last year because we came back from holidays 2 days after school started and apparently she 'did not appreciate it'. Then the hypocrite takes the last 2 weeks off school to go on a european vacation with her daughter!!! She gave me a huge pile of work she swore had been done in those 2 days (which was rubbish), when I asked her 'when she would like the missed work by?' she says 'YESTERDAY'. Will not be requesting her as teacher for my daughter...

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    1. That's awful - I really can't believe two days can make such a difference (and then to be so hypocritical and go travelling herself! - I didn't think teachers got time off like that!). Yet surely she should see the value of travel then, too? Very sad.

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  3. Thanks Amanda, I knew you would do a great job blogging about this!! xxxx

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    1. You're welcome Sim. Thanks for giving me another blogging idea!

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  4. Agree in every way! My 2.5 year old is headed to preschool next year and I'm already counting the number of days (and months!) he will miss his first year, let alone once he is in kindergarten and primary school. Education comes in so many forms. I would have much rathered learned about world history by seeing the world than sitting in a classroom with a text book. The best college art history courses I took were in Europe where we were actually seeing the art work we were discussing. The art work I saw has stuck with me far more than the classes I took that included slide lectures of art in some far off city or museum.

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    1. Absolutely - seeing something in front of you brings it alive in a way nothing in the classroom can do. I was certainly a lot more interested in history in high school that was connected to places I'd already been.

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  5. Over the years our children have had lots of days off school for travel reasons. Either for family holidays or to visit their Grandmother. Teachers have generally been accommodating, especially those in ex-pat situations, more so those who knew us as parents because they knew we would make sure any extra schoolwork was completed. I guess letting children have extra days off is disruptive for teachers, but I think if there's a good reason for travel, then it's always beneficial - travel is such a good educator in the end. And those who CAN travel are very privileged. I home schooled for a couple of years in Hong Kong, and I don't think my kids have been too damaged by it :)

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    1. Good point Jo, I do have *some* sympathy for teachers when kids miss out on stuff but not enough sympathy to ensure our future travels are solely confined to the school holidays, at least in the early years. You make a good point about the teachers who knew you as parents - it must help to develop a good relationship with the teachers so they appreciate that you're not just planning to drink cocktails by the pool but to give your kids an enriching experience.

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  6. We're taking our year 7 daughter out of school for 4 weeks this year to go to the UK, Slovenia, Italy. We have done this a few times in her Primary School years and we consider this our last opportunity to do so because I won't do it when she's in High.
    Teachers have always supported us - and I agree that's down to having good relationships. They trust us to ensure that she's developing and learning. In fact, this year's teacher is quite excited about our travels as the destinations are a great fit with this years curriculum. We'll take Maths work along (our child does that for FUN).
    I doubt I'd do this or feel this way if my girl struggled at school. She's self-motivated and high achieving (for now!). Oh, and who could refuse a trip to Italy when that's the language they're teaching her?! I think the concern that has been recently discussed has much more to do with people taking kids to spend 2 weeks buying pirate DVDs in Kuta.

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    1. Oooh!! Slovenia! See, just like I posted this week, *everyone* is talking about Slovenia at the moment! What a great trip. Good to hear you have supportive teachers. And yes - if your child isn't doing well at school it makes sense to reconsider - easier to take a high-achieving student out than a not and I second you on the Bali trips (although others would argue, of course, and I deliberately didn't differentiate in my post what kind of travel might be acceptable - that's a long argument I imagine).

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  7. Actually I would agree with taking a child out of highschool and travelling with them! We home school four of five boys (our older one is in the navy) and our second boy has let us know that he has learnt more in six months, more than he has learnt in three years of private high school - scary!
    I think that life education is the best tool ever.

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    1. That's even better news! Thanks Lisa - so perhaps my travelling doesn't need to be too heavily curtailed during the high school years?! I think with the right kids and right parents (I'm not sure I could home school) it would definitely be a very effective learning environment.

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  8. I totally agree with you Amanda! Kids (and adults) learn so much from travelling than they would in a class situation - as you say, maps, currencies, cultural differences....Everybody should be able to experience travel.

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    1. Good point Sami - learning from travelling is definitely not limited to kids! Yet another good reason to keep doing it :-)

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  9. Wonderful post Amanda - thanks for really highlighting the need to challenge schools and some of their recent 'flawed' thinking around what learning really is - and can be - for some of our students!

    Recently I listened to a programme on Radio National about the Finnish Education system and it was so refreshing to hear alternative ideas about education presented so sensibly.
    The interview highlighted some of the gaping holes in logic surrounding our current directions in Education - I have put a link to it on my most recent jacsbac.blogspot post, if you want to have a listen to it!

    Anyway a great post - and good debate!Thanks!

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    1. Thanks Jacqui! I do sympathise with teachers who are trying to coordinate the learning of 30 students at once but definitely hope they can bear in mind how much you can learn from travelling.

      Finland does some really incredible things - I remember seeing some stats on the average number of books read per year and Finns read something ridiculous like twenty times more than we did - I will definitely have a listen to that, thanks for letting me know about it!

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