lot of our family and friends – as well as many of the people we’re meeting on our travels – ask about the children being out of school for a year. (Except of course the new friends we are meeting here in Paris’s campground, from Sydney and Whitehorse who are also on super long journeys with their children!)
Derek and I thought the opportunity to visit many places, meet lots of new friends, learn and live in new languages and spend time speaking French would be life changing for the kids. We were also really excited about having time to be together as a family, literally on the same journey.
When we spoke with the children’s teachers back in the spring, they were thrilled for Anna Sierra and Jasper and hesitated to offer much curriculum besides math, saying that the kids would be learning so much already. When the kids return to school in September 2016, they’ll go with their classmates into grade 5 and grade 8.
While we were in the Netherlands we heard from several people that it’s not possible for kids here to take a year off without repeating the year. We heard from one young mom that it’s even tricky to keep her four year old daughter home from school once in a while without a long letter.
This was sad news for Anna Sierra because she was so taken by the Netherlands’ lively bike lanes, (especially the tender site of parents riding next to their kids and helping them along with a friendly hand on their shoulder), the amazing playgrounds next to restaurants so parents could enjoy a meal while their children were happy, greenhouses full of local fruit and veggies, fresh bread every day and pretty canals that she was planning to raise her own kids here one day. But she remembers being in kindergarten and often staying home one or two days a week as she got used to the new routine – always with her teacher’s blessing.
When we were planning this year away, Derek and I often talked about wanting the kids to know that there are lots of ways to live and it’s clear that they’re already learning that.
One of the other experiences we were hoping travelling – which can be pretty intense at times – would bring is gratitude and appreciation for things we might take for granted in the routine of our life in Ottawa.
A few weeks ago, after several days of camping in the rain, we biked to an escargot farm which advertised a few camper van sites. When I asked the farmer if he had room for our small tent he said of course and added that we should pitch it in one of his greenhouses because the baby snails were grown and out in the fields and it would be much drier for us.
Before this trip, the kids might not have been over the moon about pitching a tent on a dirt floor in a snail greenhouse. But they kept saying this was the most wonderful campsite they have ever seen.
After we set up, while it poured, Fabian (the farmer), brought us into his store to tell us all about snails. We saw their noses, their hearts (visible through their shells), and learned that acne can be cured by snails who will eat the dead skin.
Fabian told us that the same species of snail will hibernate in the winter in Northern France, but hibernate in the summer in Spain to avoid the heat. All of us were both fascinated by everything we were learning about snails and thrilled that we understood technical French.
Fabian offered us escargot for supper and they were delicious.
It’s moments and memories like this that will make up our school of life this year.
With big hugs and best wishes, especially for all our favourites at home who have their first day of school tomorrow- I’m looking forward to seeing your first day of school photos on Facebook!