Thursday, April 18, 2013

Family Vacations Beneficial to Education?

Today I came across an interesting article about education (which is particularly relevant to the presentation from earlier today). It explores whether it is beneficial for kids's education to go on extended family vacations to different countries and cultures.

The central conflict of the article is that "Many parents agree that an extended period of travel, with its exposure to myriad new cultures, playmates, experiences and languages, can provide a valuable learning tool for children of all ages. However, many also fear that removing them from a conventional educational setting might cause them to suffer academically or from the loss of structure that school provides."

The article then presents various options that parents pursue in light of this. They include (I'll provide excerpts from each section):

Homeschooling - "A term most often used to describe parents teaching children at their kitchen table, many travelling parents these days opt to “homeschool” in the trains, planes and hotel rooms along their journey. Some create their own content from a combination of workbooks and online content."

Online options - "Education pioneer Salman Khan’s acclaimed online Khan Academy, for instance, offers more than 4,000 instruction videos and practice exercises, ranging from simple addition to cosmology and microeconomics. Free of charge and accessible anywhere with an internet connection, Khan believes the strength in his lessons – which have easy-to-keep-track-of progress reports – lies in allowing students to learn at their own pace, rather than the “one size fits all” approach sometimes found in a conventional classroom."

Unschooling - “What children need,” said educator John Holt in 1969, “is not a new and better curriculum but access to more of the real world." Coined by Holt in the 1970s, “unschooling” puts less emphasis on traditional classroom curricula, and instead encourages children to learn in a self-directed manner, following their own curiosity as they navigate the world around them."

Semesters overseas - "For families planning to remain in one location for several months, spending a semester overseas can afford children a unique chance to truly get beneath the surface of their chosen destination. Many traditional schools are able to accept students for a minimum of one semester; it is vital to contact schools well in advance to discuss educational options and fee structures."

Travelling Schools - " ...Think Global School, an International Baccalaureate World School that spends each semester in a different country, with locations ranging from Boston and Bhutan to Beijing and Chiang Mai. Here teenagers spend months without their parents, becoming instead part of an extended “family” of roughly 60 students from more than 20 countries around the world. "

This is an interesting article from a perspective I haven't really heard much about before. What are your thoughts? Would travelling around be a beneficial environment for kids to learn in? Would you have been up for any of these? Does Education discourse need some more unique ideas like these (or not like these - depending on your opinion)?


  1. I firmly believe that students learn more if they are able to interact with new environments. Sitting in a classroom listening to someone teach AT them for 8 hours/day only teaches kids to daydream, doodle, sleep, etc. Being able to GO places with my family has allowed me to learn about people and places I otherwise wouldn't have learned about. For example, it's one thing to see a picture of the Lincoln Memorial in DC. It's another to actually go there and see it. And when I say go there, I don't mean a two day trip with half the 8th grade on busses, like my school did. Instead, I went with my family for almost a week and got to see things and learn things everyone else didn't. I got to take the time to absorb the things I was learning. And now I'm a History major. Because I had the opportunity to spend time on important matters in history.
    Basically, what I'm trying to say is: Traveling and Semesters Abroad are the best opportunities for learning. You can only learn so much from books and the internet.

  2. I agree with Amanda. I think that everybody learns in different ways. There are pros and cons to traditional and alternative methods of education, and these pros and cons vary from person to person. As someone who only has experience in an institutionalized educational system, I wouldn't mind trying some of these other options out.

    I think it's very important to raise awareness about these alternate forms of education. There's too much emphasis on standards and "being competitive." Our educational system is flawed and I'm not sure how it can be fixed. However, this kind of public discourse is definitely a step in the right direction.

  3. I think that many vacations, especially those that have educational content, are beneficial to students. It allows them to experience different cultures, and can, as Amanda S. mentioned above, inspire students to pursue specific studies. I have fond memories of visiting places like the Grand Canyon and Mammoth Cave and learning about the geology of those places. Students can also experience the different ways cultures express themselves through public discourse. Educational methods that use this as a tool have the potential to improve the overall state of education today.

  4. I think that it is very beneficial to students for them to be immersed in different cultures and environments. I agree with Amanda S. that sitting in a classroom all day long isn't always the best way to learn things. You can learn so much more by going out there and experiencing these things for yourself, first hand. Sitting in a classroom can be very stifling to education and the learning experience.

  5. I think Amanda kind of hit the nail on the head. There can be great benefits in immersing students into different environments, and presents a new way of learning that students cannot achieve in the classroom. Personally, I remember a 3-day trip my fourth grade took to the Falls of the Ohio very vividly, and I think I learned a great deal through it. And not just conventional learning, I learned more about how to function in the world in general.