As travelers, my family and I are always open to questions from others who are moving towards traveling themselves.
As a traveling family of six, we get questions concerning our lifestyle and how to “make it work” all the time. Today, my Mom received this comment on an interview she recently did with WirelessIdeology.I have a question for Jennifer: I guess you have been homeschooling your kids? How is that working out as they are getting older? I would think that some form of real schooling would be beneficial for a high school age kid, as well as a chance to make “real” friendships that last more than a few months.
This is a valid question, and one we’ve been asked multiple times. Mom came to me asking me to write back and answer it as the teen the comment refers to. Please understand that all opinions stated here are my own.
First of all, how do you define “real” schooling?
For me, homeschooling has been extremely beneficial, and it’s definitely a “real” form of schooling. Not only does it allow me to learn at my own pace, it gives me more time to follow my own interests than I would have if I attended a “real” school. It has taught me time management skills in the best way possible. Mom gives us a certain amount of school per year, divides it into weekly segments, and allows me as a teen to do it on my own time. If I wait to do school until the end of the week, I’m swamped. But if I manage my time carefully, I’m never behind, and have time to blog, play my instruments, read, draw, and use the rest of my day for my favorite forms of play. Even my play can be construed as education.
On a normal day, I can finish school in four to five hours. If I was in a public school, the same amount of work would take me the better part of the day. Does that seem right? At fifteen, homeschooling has allowed me to finish my high school work early, get multiple writing jobs online, and begin moving on towards being able to provide for myself. This coming semester I will start taking online classes at Oregon State University.
Where friends are concerned, (once again) how do you define a “real” friendship?
From my point of view, traveling allows you to make new friends all over the world. It also separates the friends that will hang out with you, but don’t really care about you that much, from the friends that will stick with you through thick and thin. How so? Think about it. Only the friends who truly care about you will make the effort to keep in contact with you over the years apart.
Also, I find that the social environment provided in schools does not prepare teens for the “real world.” Where else in the world are you thrown into a room filled entirely with people of your same age and culture? In my opinion, travel has prepared me far better for the world I will be faced with when I’m on my own. It has taught me how to deal with other cultures and traditions. Most importantly, it has allowed me to make real friends with people outside my age group and culture. I have friends who are German, Canadian, Guatemalan, Belizian and Italian, as well as many American friends.
I have friends who are my age, but I also have friends who are five, eighteen, twenty! I even have one friend I’ve made independently of my parents who is in her early fifties. I count her as one of my favorite people in the world! All of these friendships have lasted much longer than a few months, many reaching into five years or more of my life. So I don’t think it’s necessary to be enrolled in school in a fixed location to have real friends.
The underlying assumption here is that travel is detrimental to my social standing and education.
I hope I have enlightened you. While it may be true that I will never “fit in” to the average teenage crowd, the truth is that I don’t want to. The average teen culture that I’ve experienced at home is not something I would be proud to be a part of. I would rather be considered a citizen of the world, a part of a culture that includes all age groups, instead of being pushed off into the teen culture for some of the most important years of my life. Not only does that close a world of opportunities for me, it’s a culture that I can’t be part of for more than a few short years. The kids that are prime examples of this culture do not represent the person I want to become, nor do I have many friends among them. The people I’ve met both at home and around the world have stayed my true friends. The benefit of finding friends on the road is that we share the same interests. Travel has given me wonderful friends and experiences, and provided me with the best form of education possible.