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From Classroom to Continents: How travel became our family curriculum

In 2015, at age 9, I left traditional schooling to embark on a homeschooling journey with my younger brother. Taught by my mom, a qualified teacher with an EdD, our early days mimicked a conventional classroom. Our breaks consisted of free play on our countryside property, which we share with our retired-teacher grandparents. We would spend that time hunting down imaginary poachers (scaring the chickens and alpacas), sailing the seas as pirates (swimming across the pond in a makeshift boat), or exploring the Amazon as shipwreck survivors (running through the forests.)

It became just as much of a chore for my Mom to ‘teach’ us, as it was sending us off to school. So – we became ‘worldschoolers’ and Mom and Dad shifted from being our teachers, to facilitating the way in which we experienced the world and learnt from it. They shifted from us ‘reading about’ stuff and writing reports or spitting out facts….to ‘living it’ wherever possible.

“When a person demands a learner participate in expectation of a particular result, they are not facilitating. When a person asserts power, controls the process, and uses manipulation to achieve a certain outcome, this is not facilitation.” ~ Lainie Liberti – Seen, Heard & Understood

This was really hard for Mom initially. All those years of training as a classroom teacher had to be ‘undone’. In fact, she had to be ‘deschooled’ as much as I did when I first left the classroom. It was a journey we all did together.

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Our education expanded dramatically when we started traveling. On a 2017 trip to Washington, DC, we explored museums and historical landmarks but also experienced simple yet impactful “firsts.” We saw forked lightning, fed squirrels, and even spent a day in an American school alongside our cousins. All of these experiences were novel for two kids from New Zealand.

Another adventure took us to New York, where we stayed in Brooklyn and immersed ourselves in local culture. Then, there was Key West, where we heard Haitian for the first time, and Miami’s Little Havana, introducing us to a rich collection of cultures that broadened our horizons. Every trip was an education, teaching us more about the world than any textbook ever could.

Later that year, we went to Hawai’i for the first time, staying in Honolulu with my Aunt, Uncle, and Grandparents while my dad got his Pe’a done by my Uncles. This meant, for the week that he spent getting his P’ea, Mom took both my brother and I off to explore Honolulu with my Nan, who had flown over from Auckland with my Pa to support Dad.

We spent a day at Pearl Harbour, learning about what had happened from the sources there, rather than having to spend weeks reading through textbooks and watching movies as we would have done at school. Later that week, we spent time out at Laniakea beach, swimming in the same waters as Hawaiian Sea Turtles and learning about them from the incredible volunteers at Malama na Honu, an experience that I would recommend to anyone in a heartbeat.

Trips across America led to journeys over four continents and 11 countries. We’ve also explored our native New Zealand extensively, experiencing its wonders from the Tasman Glacier to Roys Peak. Our adventures have been diverse: from watching the Milky Way in our backyard to petting a Black rhino at the Hamilton Zoo.

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This eight-year unschooling voyage has been life-changing. The learning that Mom and Dad have spent years facilitating for both my brother and I, has not only expanded our horizons, and helped us learn in person rather than seated at desks in a classroom, but it has also made us appreciate just how grateful we are to have the life we do. We, as New Zealanders, are incredibly sheltered down in our little corner of the world, which is something that I’ve noticed more and more as we travel.

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself…You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts…You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.” ~ On Children – Kahlil Gibran.

But the more worldly experience you gain, the more you realize how much there is for us to see and do out there. People who don’t get out of their comfort zone and throw themselves at the world, not only miss out on the most memorable experiences, but will also never truly endure life for what we have been put here to live. It’s for that very reason, that I am so incredibly grateful for the partnership I have created over the years with my parents, through deschooling and the travel that came with it.

2 thoughts on “From Classroom to Continents: How travel became our family curriculum”

  1. Beautiful and immensely inspiring for a WS solo mum, 2 boys , I truly wish they will see it that way in a few years, they turn 10!and 13 next week in London after 3 years in France. I’ll be following your articles. Loved it

    1. Thank you! I’m sure they will, it took the interruption from covid here in NZ to lead us to travel across our own backyard, but we missed international travel! After a few years, it becomes something that you just can’t stop thinking about :)

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