So often I hear families expressing concern about taking their children out of school for family holidays. And yes, being in school is 100% important and I wouldn’t say otherwise. BUT, sometimes, taking your child out of the city they live in, or even overseas, can create valuable learning experiences that just cannot be simulated in the classroom.
At school, teachers will do their very best to create rich learning experiences for children by providing access to books, videos, magazines, materials, posters etc… the list just goes on. We work VERY hard to build a bank of knowledge for children to make their learning experiences exciting, real and engaging. But let me tell you something that you already know… humans will learn significantly more if they experience things rather than watch or read about them.
At work, my fellow teachers and I talk about building schema. Schema is the bank of knowledge that we all have in our brains that comes from life and it’s experiences. Having a rich schema makes reading and writing much easier for students. It helps them make connections with texts to the world they live in and it also helps them think creatively during writing time.
I remember a few years ago I was doing a reading assessment with a student and we were reading a story about the beach. Part of the assessment requires the teacher and student to have a conversation about the text to see what the child has comprehended and learn more about the connections they have made. I asked the student “what things might you pack to take to the beach?” The student responded with “I don’t know.” After some time of rephrasing the question I had sense to ask “Have you ever been to the beach before?” The child responded with “no.” It was then that it became more apparent than ever that it didn’t matter how I phrased the question, or how many books he read, this little boy had never experienced the beach first hand so there was little chance that he was going to be able to discuss it, understand or even write about it! Other students who had been to the beach and played in the sand were able to have rich and relevant discussions with me. They had built a schema around the beach!
Taking your children to different countries or cities builds their schema in more efficient ways than you could every imagine. When children are exposed to different cultures, foods and surroundings, their curiosity spikes and increased wonder happens. They explore their environment as if it’s brand new… and it is! Learning about the world around them creates ideas for writing stories, recounts, information reports, you name it! It also helps children make connections with the texts they read and their own experiences. It’s simple Maths really. More life experiences= higher ability to make connections.
Travel won’t just help with children’s learning at school, but learning for LIFE! Seeing other ways of life builds tolerance and awareness of diversity… and in this day and age, it’s certainly an important issue. I want L to know and respect that we are all different, and he will learn that in an instant if we go to another country!
Regular travel may build flexibility, resilience, mindfulness and a sense of adventure! Not all things go according to plan during holidays, and in fact, we have had so many blunders while we were away that we decided to make no plans from now on! Especially having a 20 month old in tow! By going with the flow it’s another great way to instill a sense of spontaneity and flexibility in our children.
Exploring new things, things that our kids would have never seen otherwise, is the perfect way to raise resilient and curious adventurers! Engaging in our day to day and spending tiny moments relishing in the warmth of the sun or the cool breeze, makes for mindful moments, enjoying this new place with all of our senses.
My experience as a teacher tells me that a truly mindful student, who tunes into their surroundings and is curious about their world, NEVER has trouble thinking of things to write or say. They NEVER have difficulties in making connections with their peers or the texts they read, and they ALWAYS seek new and exciting ways to learn. Parents, listen up… travel is one of those exciting ways to learn and it definitely gets my vote!
Real life experiences really are the most valuable way of learning and building schema for your children. A quote by Confucius “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”, really sums this up. Yes, open the books, watch the docos, take them to the museum but make sure you also book that trip!! Their personal growth will be huge and their language and idea development will sky rocket out of sight!
*Are you an advocate for travel as learning? Leave a comment or shoot me an email, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂