Simpler Living. Closer Family. Richer Education. Uncommon Adventures.
These are the 4 pillars that make up our Ditching Suburbia focus. We touched on our view of these in our Manifesto.
I thought it would be interesting to hear how other Ditchers and Becoming-Ditchers define them. I reached out to some other suburbia ditching families and asked for input.
We’ve already talked about Simpler Living and Closer Family.
Now it’s time to look at the 3rd pillar:
We opted out of the public school system from the beginning - feeling called to educate our two children at home. Ditching the suburbs has enriched that choice, allowing us to learn immersively, on-location and in person. There’s just no substitute for being there.
Miranda fell in love with nature:
- Beachcombing along the Atlantic Ocean and identifying her finds.
- Learning all she could about the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert.
- Caring for and interacting with animals in the wild and on farms.
Harrison challenged his physical endurance:
- Biking - on road, off road, and on a track.
- Snorkeling in the Atlantic Ocean
- Surfing in the Pacific Ocean
- Kayaking - in many states, including Arizona.
Don’t think the kids are the only ones learning. I have developed an interest in history, which is a surprise to me. I mean, when we started this adventure, I didn’t even know that Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania. I’ve also discovered through our farm stays that I actually enjoy working with animals.
That’s a glimpse of how our family has found richer education on the road.
Let’s hear how some other ditchers have found richer education while traveling.
Visiting National Parks
Heather Gebbia of 4 Radical Roadschoolers and a Fat Cat writes about how their family has used the National Park System in the US as a basis for education:
“We have found Richer Education mostly through our travels to national parks. Prior to ditching the suburbs we lived in Florida and the majority of our family vacations were spent at Disney World.
I don’t think I even knew anything about our country’s national parks back then, other than hearing about the giant hole in the ground known as the Grand Canyon. I had no idea there were so many incredible places to visit in this country!
We have now been traveling for 2.5 years and have visited over 35 national parks, monuments, seashores, etc. Our kids have completed the Junior Ranger program at just about all of these. I find the Junior Ranger programs to be very educational for them as well as for my husband and me as we help them complete the books. We have explored canyons, caves, mountains and glaciers. Seeing these places in person and talking to rangers and locals in each area far exceeds the experience of reading about them in a book or looking at pictures.
It has also opened our eyes to the variety of different people in our country. When we lived in Florida we were in our own little comfort zone, only spending time with people from our homeschool group or church, in other words people just like us. Now we have had to get out of our comfort zones and get to know people from all different backgrounds and walks of life.
My children have learned to play with kids of all ages, not just their own peer group. They have sat around the campfire having intelligent conversations with adults. Our family is generally shy so this lifestyle has been really stretching us in so many ways.”
Experiencing New Cultures
Aimee Nance of SV Terrapin finds that for her family it’s the local culture that’s been the most valuable source of education:
“Our family finds richer education through traveling by immersing ourselves in local culture. It starts with the mindset that we are not on vacation, therefore we avoid most places that one would visit while on vacation and seek out more authentic places to visit, eat and enjoy.
When visiting new places, our girls are quick to learn about the local history (also part of our homeschool). By learning about an area’s local history, we have become familiar with local customs, traditions, holidays, celebrations and it has helped us understand the significance of what locals hold special.
As an educator, I’m passionate about our daughters education and take every opportunity to help create a richer educational experience for them. In Mexico, our girls were our “tour guides” and took us on a three day tour of Mexico’s pyramids and museums explaining the significance of what we were looking at (this also served as a history test for them). In French Polynesia we attended days worth of Heiva festivities as the only nonlocals mingling with Polynesians who were eager to share with use their traditions.”
Learning From Others
Leanne Heggie of Cake and Eat it 3 looks at each person they meet while traveling as a new educational opportunity:
“We are an Australian family of three (with one all grown up). Currently we are roadtripping Europe in a campervan for three and a half months which we will return to do again Summer of next year. When home in Australia we are fulltime travelling in a Motorhome.
We are strong believers that everyone you meet, you have the opportunity to learn something from. While travelling fulltime as a family and having experiences together, learning new skills and problem solving as a team, we and those we come in contact with, provide invaluable life skills for our daughters future.
Whatever term you use, Worldschooling, Roadschooling, Unschooling or Homeschooling, learning hands on and being present with your children provides a positive and enhanced learning experience that cannot be achieved in a classroom.
It has never been easier to access information and connect with other likeminded families around the world. Unlike when I completed my highschool by Distance Education while living on a boat– entirely handwritten!
We have travelled as a family extensively both in our own home country of Australia and abroad. Backpacking, Hostels, Hotels, Tents, Campervans and Motorhome all these travelling experiences have enriched our childrens’ lives and will continue to do so.
With every destination we visit we discuss it together, we taste the food, discuss the smells (not always good!), talk with the locals and preferably learn some language. We download learning resources that we then share on our blog for other families. This enhances the learning experience further still, even if it is once you return home. Hands on learning is more easily absorbed and remembered than from a text book.
You can’t measure the benefit as a mark or test score, but the closeness you get being able to travel as a family, with the freedom to go where you choose, watching your children grow and experiencing their achievements and triumphs every day, far outweighs the alternative school, vacation care and work 9-5 life.”
Studying Your Surroundings
Behan Gifford of Sailing Totem and her family have found that context is king when it comes to learning opportunities:
“For more than nine years our family has called a sailboat “home.” During that time we’ve sailed around the world, and our three children have spanned the education range from preschool to graduation from high school.
As a traveling family, opportunities to learn from the environment around us are myriad and our educational path is heavily influenced by our surroundings. The children who couldn’t swim when we left home became human fish in the span of a few months in pretty, warm waters of the South Pacific. Their passionate new interest in marine life was the foundation: we based learning in science, reading, and writing around this interest. Before long, the 10-year-old kid who ‘hated’ reading was now deep in high school biology textbooks, learning species classification, and teaching us about the world underwater.
When we spent three months sailing through islands in Papua New Guinea, the legacy of World War II was physically present in the gun batteries, plane wrecks and human experiences revealed in nearly every island we visited. This placed WWII history on top of the learning menu: surrounded by this palpable history, by the stories told by people for whom the war was living memory, that learning was fascinating. In South Africa, the legacy of apartheid was painfully captured and present in too many ways to ignore, even if we hadn’t been specifically interested in learning about that sad chapter.
Our son recently completed the GED, a requirement one of the colleges he’s applying to asks of all homeschool applicants. As he prepared for the test, the difference in how we learn and how education is traditionally delivered have come into sharp focus. He has truly benefitted from a richer education by having the opportunity to learn not just the facts and figures that our culture says are important to progress in education, but to learn them in context of the bigger world, his place in that world, and his opportunities to make improvements. That, I believe, is the greater purpose of education fulfilled.”
Touching The Real Thing
Gretchen Holcombe of Boxy Colonial on the Road reinforces the belief that there is just no substitute for being there:
“I’m certainly not breaking any new ground by saying that traveling and seeing in real life the things you’ve learned about in school or books deepens your understanding of those things, makes them more interesting to you, and gives you a closer connection to a historical figure or place or to a certain kind of landscape. But it’s one thing to recognize this in the abstract and another to watch it happening with your kids and know that it’s much more than a cliche.
My kids have read all about slavery, but in Charleston, SC, at McCleod Plantation, they touched the fingerprints of an enslaved child, still visible in the bricks the child had made by hand in the 19th century. My kids are presidential history buffs who happily sat through all of the John Adams miniseries, but the moment in Augusta, GA when we visited Woodrow Wilson’s boyhood home and saw the window where the young Wilson had etched his name in the glass probably made at least as much of a lasting impression of presidential history as the hours spent watching it on TV.
We’re not full timers; my husband’s a high school math teacher, so we’re tied to a school schedule even though the kids are homeschooled. But summer breaks and wanting to travel as much as possible (on a teacher’s salary) were the things that motivated us to buy our travel trailer, and we just spent two months on the road this past summer.
We’re back to sitting on the couch and reading about history for now—and that’s okay; we’re big fans of books, too. And I know that the things we’ve seen in our travels will continue to resonate with us and add to our grasp of history even when we’re staying put. It’s all kind of a big circle: we visited the LBJ library in Austin this summer and my sixteen year old son immediately wanted to add Doris Kearns Goodwin’s LBJ biography to his reading list for this year.
Next summer we’re planning an east coast/Maritime Canada route, and I know that many of the places that end up on our itinerary will be there because something one of the kids read about or learned will inspire them to want to see the place for themselves. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is already on the list for next year thanks to my oldest studying art history last year (and since I studied it along with him, I’m super excited to see it as well). So there’s a symbiotic relationship between the learning we do at home and on the road; each is influenced and made richer by the other.
It’s possible our own kids aren’t the only ones whose educations will be influenced by our travels, either. There are rumors that some AP Statistics students at my husband’s school might be working on some problems involving predicting geyser eruptions this year ;).”
Learning As A Family
Ashley Longnecker of the Bareneckers loves the idea of the family experiencing these opportunities together:
“One of my favorite things about traveling with our kids in tow is that we get to learn all these new things together. We get to learn about the Ancient civilizations that built their homes in the cliffs and then actually go there and touch, feel, experience their ancient dwellings…”
Continue reading Ashley’s post , A Different Kind of Education.
In what ways have you and your family found richer education outside the suburbs?