World School: To Pack and Go… or Not
This is a guest blog post written by Mary Katzke – Filmmaker, Photographer, Writer, & Traveler
Now that school is back in session, do you ever catch yourself wondering what it might be like to take your child out of school and travel the world? This was a lifelong dream for me and one day, after a life-changing family tragedy, I finally found the inspiration and courage to take the bold steps of selling our home, putting our lifelong possessions into storage, learning to homeschool, and taking off. Our adventure started with a one-way ticket from Alaska to Ireland. Our intention was to continue traveling east until we made it back home in one school year’s time.
And we did it.
My son, Corin, was ten at the time and about to enter fifth grade. He was doing well in school and I was fairly confident I could keep him on track as opposed to later when his school work was more difficult, not to mention the inevitable teen/parent challenges! This turned out to be the perfect time to do this on so many levels. While he had friends at home, it was much easier to leave them behind than it would be now that he is almost 15. On the edge of puberty but not there yet, we could comfortably share a room. Most ticket prices including museums, some airfares and cruise ship fares go up at age 12. Yet he was old enough to find his way back to a hotel if need be, or stay behind alone while I went out for sunrise photo pursuits.
We started our planning six months before we left by making a list of the places we wanted to see. He wanted Ireland, Venice and the Great Wall of China. I wanted to see Vietnam, Africa and China. We did switch from fifth grade curriculum to sixth grade due to the focus on world geography in sixth grade and this worked just fine. I will say homeschooling was much more challenging than public schools and he received a very good education on this trip, both academically and globally. Perhaps I am a bit old school, but I was frustrated at how loosely grammar and spelling are managed in public school and this was his first real attention to commas, participles, dependent clauses and more. World art history was backed with seeing the actual paintings and sculptures in his books. Chemistry class proved to be impossible with all the bottles and cubes of inexplicable content at borders!
Another valuable activity we did was to write in advance to schools in our pathway offering to share an iPad presentation on Alaska in exchange for being a guest student for a day. We were successful in six countries: Scotland, Iceland, Czech Republic, Mauritius, Thailand and China. International schools were particularly cooperative. This also allowed Corin to have some peer interaction, and sample lots of different kinds of lunches. He experienced classes like Thai dancing and waffle making in Iceland that he would never have had the opportunity for if not for being a guest student in so many different countries.
Many people express concerns that their child may fall behind if taken out of school, but I want to reassure you that we found that 90 minutes per day of concentrated effort was all we needed to do in order to keep up. This was proven by the SBA (Standard Base Assessment) testing required by our public school district when he completely aced the exams! It probably goes without saying that there is so much more to see of the real world than what is right outside our door. I think the change to interact with adults on a daily basis also improved his social skills and confidence in noticeable ways.
So when we came back and he re-entered public schools that fall, he came home with a tinge of pout in his face.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “I got second place in the geography bee. Second to the other kid who spent last year going around the world.”
And there you have it. I can honestly say this was the most inspiring, impressive, life-changing and satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my life and I truly hope those considering such an adventure will take the risk and go for it.
Mary Katzke, Filmmaker, Photographer, Writer, Traveler and Single Mother of Corin Katzke.
Please visit our website at www.worldschoolfilm.org and feel free to order our film about our year of “world schooling”.