Detours are Windows to Learning.
My family and I started a travel-schooling experiment with a pilot in February 2019. Over five weeks, three countries and countless educational and recreational experiences, we learnt a great deal about the world, ourselves and especially our kids.
Kids are natural learners. They learn all the time, involuntarily. It is like breathing. So even if we did nothing at all, they will learn from their surroundings. Even so, well-researched and intentionally curated educational experiences catalyse this process tremendously compared to letting them learn what they will from day-to-day experiences.
Our travel-education has been unique. Our kids are learning to adapt to the idea that the world outside is their classroom as opposed to that inside the four walls of the schools they went to in Toronto, Canada. And we, their nomad parents, are beginning to understand what truly contributes to the learning of a four year old and a two year old when we place them at the centre of an unfamiliar setting every few days.
Originally, we set out with the notion that we would research and curate experiences beforehand and then take our kids to them, wherever they are in the world. While we continue to design and curate experiences as planned, we have also learnt to improvise and welcome intellectual twists.
When mundane events have caught the girls’ attention unexpectedly, we have had to abandon our planned activity and take a detour along the path of curiosity with the kids leading our minds. For example, as our family floated by the edge of an infinity pool watching the sunset over Moorea in French Polynesia, my girls were far more taken by a group of crabs walking sideways on the rocks just beyond the wall of the swimming pool. Eventually, our family spent the sunset observing the power dynamics between two crabs, each trying to protect its turf, literally. The wonder in watching the crabs easily surpassed the thrill in watching one of the most beautiful sunsets in an unbelievably scenic setting. Yet, for the girls, the crab-fight was the highlight of the evening! Moreover, this reinforced our belief that young kids are drawn to other forms of life more than anything else.
And as parents, we are getting better at watching for unplanned opportunities to faciliate such curiosity led education, and diving in it head-first even if they are far less glamorous than the original plans. So instead of a rigidly planned educational curriculum, our approach is evolving into this dance where our kids and we alternate between being a student and a teacher. Our role has changed from that of being facilitators of a pre-planned experience to that of keen observers who ask questions to nudge the girls to think along certain paths. In a nutshell, wonder-led learning can only be facilitated by creating an environment where intellectual detours are welcome.