Why travel with your family? It can certainly require a lot of effort! But family travel is full of teachable moments for our children and us! Diapers, strollers, pack-n-play, car seats, boosters, snacks, toys, busy bags, wet wipes, extra clothes, passports, phone chargers…etc. Oh! Don’t forget the babies and the older children! You finally got yourself half-packed for this international trip. Then you went for a bathroom break, only to find that the kids “help” you unpack your bags again. Out the door, sitting in traffic, checking in at the airport, only to find out the airline is slapping extra charges on you for checking in baby gear. Take a deep breath, cue the airport scene from the movie “Home Alone,” apologizing to the people sitting next to your children on the plane, only to arrive half-way across the globe jet-lagged and exhausted.
Sound familiar? Yep! Then why in tarnation would any parents go through the trouble taking young kids to travel, even taking them half-way across the globe?
We Are Global Citizens
When I was single, I worked as an international educator at a University. Both my research and my mission were centered around teaching college students to be successful global citizens. I have directed study abroad trips that hosted 300+ students. But now that I am a stay-at-home educator and mom, I can vouch that it is more a lot more work to take three little preschoolers on trips than 300+ college students. I still have the same mission – to train my children to become successful global citizens, to show them a world that they have never seen before, and to increase their appetite for differences and tolerance.
A Vision for Homeschooling That Sparks Communication
My vision of homeschooling is not only to impart knowledge and see them off to college in twelve years. My vision for our home education is to train our kids to be effective in a global economy, and ultimately, advance God’s Kingdom to the nations.
So how do we get there while we change diapers and haul those strollers? We lift our eyes and look beyond the hassles of traveling. We model flexibility and problem-solving. We set examples of cultural appreciation, and God’s love the red, brown, black, and white little children. And while we do it, we as parents learn the most! We get to reexamine our hearts and attitudes towards others in this diverse world. Teaching moments are everywhere while we travel. Being outside of our usual social circle, our kids get to see people and things outside of their routine. Then Boom! They ask innocent questions that make us think and make them love.
For example, my six-year-old child saw a Muslim woman in headdress when riding the subway. His questions sparked a whole conversation about “modesty” and “respect.” These types of discussions sometimes serve as a mirror into my own heart and attitudes.
Teachable Moments for Parents and Kids
If you ask me, what’s the one thing that I learned most of my own heart? C.O.N.T.R.O.L. During our travels, we take along the curriculum that we are scheduled to complete, but I have to turn over my need to control and flow with the circumstances. Sometimes the bus doesn’t show up, that tropical rainstorm lasts an hour, the museum is closed for maintenance, and the child with motion sickness drenches you in puke! One has to learn to laugh it off. I have learned to repeat to myself and our kids “When God closes a door, He will open up a window”.
The Art of Distraction
True story, we planned to visit an art museum in Taiwan. After forty minutes of commuting, we discovered the museum was closed for an art installation. Both parents and kids were disappointed. We allowed kids a few minutes to be sad and disappointed. My oh-so-dramatic five-year-old even let out some wails. Then I remembered that I had mastered the art of distraction: “Oh! Wow! Look at this little gecko on this tree!” The kids then started to observe that tiny little gecko for five minutes while I search for the next living creature on the sidewalk. Ants, spiders, roots, tree bark and other random things have made up the best teaching moments. Sometimes there is nothing better than a simple observation lesson. Then, you betcha, I will say, “See? If we had gone inside the museum, we would have missed all these interesting sights!” There, drilling the concept in. Flexibility is essential for both homeschooling and parenthood.
We Learn Everywhere
As homeschooling parents, we do what we do best – make anywhere our classroom! Homeschool mommies are excellent CEOs of their families. We thrive on lessons, logistics, planning, routines, and order. But any big-name CEO will tell you the value of risk-taking and flexibility. So yes, traveling with little ones can be hectic, but what better way to learn how to give up our control of life and turn it over to God? So, I accept the challenge and imagine that my 100m dash through the airport is a scene on the “World’s Amazing Race” Reality TV show. Both pit stops and final prize are glorious.
About the Author: Yating Chang Haller is a freelance writer and international educator. She works full time as a mom and home educator of 3 little ones (3, 5, 6 years old) and part-time at Purdue University, USA. She was born in Taiwan and grew up in Singapore.
To read more about homeschooling and family trips, check out the blog post on Homeschooling Basics. Get tips on adding family field trips to your curriculum and learn more about how traveling and foreign language study work together or read about how to build a unit study.