Teachers, Parents and a Trip around the World.

Everything I need to know about being a great teacher,  I learned this afternoon.

And the biggest lesson was? I am not one.

I spent the afternoon with a classroom of third graders as a parent volunteer with the Scientists in the School program. A few hours later?  I’m exhausted.

I had a healthy respect for teachers before I entered the classroom, but 3.5 hours of “But why?” and “Can I eat this?” (in a Science lab!!!!)  left me with frazzled nerves.  I came away with two thoughts:

1. Teachers don’t get nearly enough respect…or pay …or attention. They should be met with flowers every morning and parents should have to bow in their presence.

2. Thank goodness I don’t have to try to duplicate all that they do on our upcoming trip.

When Ish and I set 2011 as the date that we’d take off and head around the world for a year, how we would educate the kids was a looming question.

cam reads

We'll be trying to go from this...

We realized that it would mean taking them out of school for a year and we were okay with that. We believed (and still do) that the education they would get out of traveling for a year was far superior to what they would miss in grades two and four at home.  (Note that we were also very aware that waiting until they were older would make this a bigger issue.) So when we approached their school a few years ago to begin to prepare their principal and teacher for the coming exodus, we went in with the mindset that  even if the school was against it, we were going.

As parents we often give up so much control of our kids’ lives to others over the years and this was important to us. We were prepared to stand firm.

The thing is, the confrontation never happened.

From the moment we mentioned to the kids’ school what we were thinking, they were on board. The teachers immediately saw the value.

And even though my children had to change schools last year, the new school is even more supportive and is, in fact, looking for ways to keep us all connected during our year away so that my sons’ schoolmates learn from the experience as well.

This is all a huge relief.

It also helps that the requirements in Ontario are that parents sign a form promising to provide an education for their children. There is no set requirement that they do x hours of math or science. When they return the kids are placed in the grade they are supposed to be in – as if they’d never been away and the teachers assess whether they need help catching up and if so, whether it can be done without putting them back a grade or not.


....to this - WITHOUT teachers.

We’re lucky.

We know there are teachers and principals and parents out there who believe we’re making a mistake. Thankfully, it would seem that none of them are at our school. Even if the were, our decision would be the same.

It doesn’t change what we’re doing or why we’re doing it.

During our year away we’ll be world schooling – using the world we live in to help the kids understand subjects like history, math, geography and social studies. We’ll carry the curriculum with us and try to work it in as we go but we won’t be slaves to it. The point of this year is to spend time together as a family and share world experiences. If they have to wait until we’re home again to truly understand fractions – so be it.

But the time I spent in the classroom today was a reminder that I probably couldn’t replicate what their teachers do if I tried.

Instead, in these weeks before we leave, I’ll try to show my appreciation for all they do in little ways. I’ll work a little harder to help the kids realize how lucky they are, offer up my time in the school and take nothing about our education system for granted

We’re lucky. We know it. And we plan to take full advantage.

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{ 13 comments… add one }

Anonymous May 4, 2011, 10:43 PM

What an amazing experience and education your kids are going to get this year. Unbelievable. Have so much fun on your trip. And what a bonding experience!!


Heather Greenwood Davis May 4, 2011, 10:53 PM

Thanks Jacki. I’m so sure that this is good for them. It’s the one thing I know for certain. And the time together is going to be incredible and crazy-making and wonderful. :)


Anonymous May 5, 2011, 12:54 AM

OMG Heather I just volunteered in Ava’s class for Scientists in the Classroom last Thursday. First I need to read the fine print because if I had I would have realized that 3.5 hours is just way too long for me to be in a class with 25 Grade 1’s. Second, the teacher said to me “Oh, you are so good with them, you should be a teacher” and I smiled and thought “Are you stunned lady?” I need a hard drink of alcohol….NOW! I would therefore be an alcoholic if I had to do that daily. Finally, as we inch closer to your departure date I’m getting more and more excited for you!


Heather May 4, 2011, 9:28 PM

Candace I can always count on you to tell it like it is. :) hilarious! So glad I’m not the only one!


digitizing services May 6, 2011, 6:44 AM

Awesome blog. Thanks for providing this knowlegeale blog and interesting one where you combine the teachers, students and the parents. Very clear views.


Ruby May 7, 2011, 10:38 PM

Hi Heather,
I loved reading this article, being a teacher, I appreciate the fact you realize all that we do in our profession and people take us for granted and say things like yeah you have all those holidays. People need to realize we need some time to recuperate and then we’re back into it again. Thanks for your support. Happy Mother’s Day to you! Ruby


Heather Greenwood Davis May 8, 2011, 12:06 PM

So in awe that you don’t lose your temper daily! And the frazzled nerves? Crazy! You are definitely appreciated and deserve the holidays and then some. Happy Mother’s Day to you too!


Mom2twoboys May 17, 2011, 4:33 PM

 As a teacher and a former homeschooler, I’d have to say you’re on the right track.  The only thing I might suggest (which you may already have in mind) is some way for them to record their thoughts or observations–like a journal if they like to write, or a blank book for drawing, or a camera for recording the things that interest them (I assume you’re taking a computer and a hard drive along).  (so many cheap digital cameras around–we got our boys small cameras when they were a touch younger than your kids, and they really loved documenting their world.)  No matter what age they are, they’re going to forget some of the things that happen, and this would help them to remember.


Heather May 17, 2011, 4:40 PM

Thanks for this advice. Truly appreciate it and so glad I know where to find you when I’m ready to throw in the towel. ;)


Valerie May 18, 2011, 9:40 PM

Don’t know if you know about this, but it will be super helpful in teaching math to your kids and making sure they don’t fall behind (they might actually come back ahead of the class!): http://www.khanacademy.org/

I’m in my mid-twenties and spent a couple afternoons going through all the math up to university level out of nerdy enjoyment, but it’s really an incredible tool that you can access no matter where you are. There are videos that break down concepts and then online “homework” until you reach a certain proficiency (10 correct answers in a row) and are able to move onto the next item. While there are only math activities, there are videos and tutorials on virtually every topic in every subject you could possibly fathom, which would be an excellent supplement to the “world learning” you’ll be doing during down time or travel time.

I wish my parents had done this when I was a kid!


Heather Greenwood Davis May 19, 2011, 12:11 AM

This looks incredible! Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll add it to your arsenal!


Lula Lola May 31, 2011, 1:48 PM

I spoke to my boys teachers about taking a year off and they were all really supportive too.  I was really surprised.  They all said they’d learn more traveling than they’d ever learn in a classroom. We decided to try online school.  But, will reevaluate after a semester and see if it’s working for us.  
I’m thinking of setting up email addresses for the kids so they can write to themselves.  Figure they could include pictures, videos, day to day happenings.  It’ll be fun to have them bound into books and will be a great keepsake years from now. 


Heather Greenwood Davis May 31, 2011, 7:52 PM

Yup, our teachers were similarly supportive. It makes sense, right? We’ll have two kids with two teachers vs. 1 teacher and 23 kids. They’ll also be exposed to concepts in a real-world scenario. I don’t think the learning will be the same or better, just different and we’re ok with that.
I love the idea of the email addresses to write themselves! Great idea.


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