In class Tuesday I talked about an article in the Washington Post that discussed a New Jersey family who is taking their third and sixth grade daughters out of school next year in favor of a trip around the world. They are going across the country in an RV and then traveling through a number of countries.
Mom, Sarah Blaine, said she became worried about the lack of social studies she saw her children receiving in schools. She felt like her children were not getting a well-rounded view of the world.
She and her husband planned their family’s worldwide trip to remedy that.
The kids will learn social studies through their experiences in the different states and countries, english through writing about it on a blog, and other subjects through a homeschool curriculum. Sarah said she recognizes that this is not an opportunity for many families, and said this about her commitment to improving schools:
“We are excited that home schooling is available for us as an option to make this trip possible, but we believe that aside from a trip like this one, our duty is to send our kids to our local public schools, and where we see room for improvement in our local public schools, our responsibility is to advocate for positive change from within, not to walk away from them.”
When I first read this article I was on the fence about what I thought about the idea of this trip. On the one hand, I think the importance of understanding other cultures and broadening children’s views of the world is very important. I think this trip will be exponentially more effective in teaching them about things outside of their New Jersey city than any textbook or lesson could. Also, I was homeschooled, so I am naturally going to want to be in favor of something that shows one of the many positive opportunities those who have the means to homeschool have. I know I would have LOVED this as a kid.
On the other hand, I think pulling kids out of school for one year is tricky. I went to a community college for my junior year of high school after two years in a public high school and then returned to my high school for senior year. While I am grateful for the opportunity to earn college credits and get experience in a college classroom setting before UNC, it was somewhat difficult for me to transition back into my high school. I had gotten used to being able to go to the bathroom without raising my hand and not having to wait for everyone to finish an exam and I had missed out on everything that happened at my school for that year. My friends all had stories, and experiences, and memories and even new friends that I didn’t have. I think this could be a possible difficulty, especially for the second grader. Transitioning from learning about history through museums and walking the streets where it happened to being back in a classroom and being expected to sit still and pay attention could potentially be difficult. For the sixth grader middle school is such a difficult time already, I can see this being really good or really bad. She will be away from her peers and out of touch with everything that happens at her school for a year. While this could be good in helping her create a sense of self outside of the pressures of middle school, it could also be emotionally difficult to reinstate herself when she gets back.
After talking about this topic in class, though, I was swayed more to the side of this being a very positive experience and wonderful for this family that is able to do it. THey have laid out a curriculum that will keep the girls on track with the educational progress of their peers and they will be returning to the same schools when they return. The teachers are aware of what the Blaine’s are doing and are trying to work cooperatively with them to keep the family involved in the classroom as much as possible. They are even thinking of Skyping them in during class when the lesson fits where the family is.
I am looking forward to maybe checking the family’s blog a few times in the next year to see how this adventure goes for them!