9 marzo 2015

Interview with Katie: the worldly education

This week I'm pleased to introduce you Katie Barnes, my new friend who has lived in Italy with her family for a few months.


"I have so many stories to share and pictures I wish I could capture, but, I get no time! Life with 3 kids :)"
"We continue to evolve our learning and living philosophy to best fit our changing needs, but believe that interest led learning and freedom to discover the the world to be the best education."
"We want to wonder about the world around us and research answers to these questions. We want to experiment, experience, and learn about life's magic. We want our children to love to learn and construct their knowledge in their own special way."


1.What was your travel style like before you had children?
When Jeff and I met, we worked at the same company in California. We took a few trips a year, mostly to Europe, once to Asia. We later bought and remodeled a house and when it was ready to sell we used to proceeds to buy a boat and travel by sea. We left from Florida and spent 3.5 years "cruising" (island hopping the Caribbean and along the coast of South America and then crossed the Pacific to New Zealand) where we sold the boat and returned to CA to work again and start a family. We were inspired to travel with kids by the many families we met who were sailing and we were inspired to do the same again someday.

2.What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
We traveled to Europe a few times with our girls before moving here. Once when our first was 6 months we visited friends in Germany. Then when they were 3 and 1, we visited Germany and Croatia. Then when 2, 4, and pregnant with the 3rd we visited Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Then when the 3rd was born we moved to Prague, Czech Republic.

3.How long have you been traveling for and what countries have you explored?
Since we moved to Europe, 3 years ago, we have explored Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Belgium, Germany, Croatia, Italy, England, Ireland, Spain, France, Morocco, Romania, and Bulgaria. We had a home base in Prague for the first year, were nomadic for a year, and now are on our second year having a home base in Spain to travel from.

4.You follow an unschooling or homeschooling or worldschooling approach for education?
We follow an eclectic homeschooling/worldschooling approach. It has evolved into a hybrid approach, where we travel and learn from where we are, intermittently use various curriculum for math and reading, and enroll the kids in as many classes, activities, and school when it suits us. We believe learning should be proactive and child led, but constantly open to inspiration and on the lookout for mentors or learning opportunities. In Prague, the girls took art, drama, reading class; in England they attended traditional school for a short time; in Romania they attended art camp, ballet, and art classes; in Spain they took tennis, ballet, craft class, art, an unschool "free" school" and currently we have one daughter in public school, they other has a Spanish tutor, art, and swim class. Our approach changes a bit as we move and they grow, trying to find what suits their learning style and interests.

5.Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
We met many families that were traveling with their kids by boat and found the kids to be so great to be around, outgoing, active, and closely bonded with their parents. Jeff had traveled by boat with his family as a kid and remembered it as one of the best times of his childhood and loved homeschooling. The more I traveled, the more I realized how much there was to learn from the world and how important it was to see other ways of life, question the status quo, and gain different perspectives. We want the kids to feel that all ways of life are valid and interesting. I want them to understand that there is no "normal" just different. I want them to be free thinking individuals with many experiences to draw from and free learn their interests and passions.

6.Can you tell us how your traveling lifestyle has enhanced his education?
I think thus far, since they have been young in our travels and I realize that there is a lot that they won't remember into their adult lives as far as the where and when, there have been many intangible benefits of travel. They are getting the sense that the adventures in stories are real, based on real places and people. They are growing up knowing that anything is possible, that if they have an interest, that we just have to figure out a way to make it happen, wherever that may be. They have become very adaptable, getting used to adjusting to learning and interacting with multiple languages around them. I feel travel greatly enhances the interests of a person. We can start reading something and more and more often, it relates to somewhere we have been or something we have experienced. I think it opens the doors to learning just knowing that places are real, not just on a map. Our oldest seems to be inspired by our travel life with aspirations to keep travelling and learning about food so she can one day have her own restaurant that will change the world.

7.How have helped your children to build your itinerary?
We base most of our travel experiences on what might interest the kids and there are so many opportunities everywhere for this. Festivals, workshops, classes, nature experiences... We recently had a "family meeting" to try to assess what the kids wanted to do in they next year because sometimes we question it all and wonder if they would rather go back to a "normal" life. Our oldest wants to go to Turkey, which we have been discussing because she found out there is a Hello Kitty cafe and because Jeff has talked about it having some of the best food in the world. Our other daughter is currently in a princess phase, so we will try to make that a focus of travel experiences. Next month in Ireland, we will attend a royal feast at a castle and I think she will love it.

8.How has it been for your children in regards to making friends on the road?
I will admit this is one of the challenges to a travel lifestyle. They made some friends in Prague through classes and finding other homeschoolers. The nomadic year we made friends with people we stayed with and another traveling family we spent time with in Italy and Croatia. They made some friends at school in England and some here in Spain. Sometimes I wonder if its enough, but they do have each other and are very close. I think its a skill that takes practice, making new friends frequently... I know I have become much better at making new friends through travel and I think they are starting to become more comfortable with it as they get older.

9.Your backpack: what items would I find? What is a must for your children?
Paper, coloring books, workbooks, pens, pencil, books relating to where we are/nature guides, activity books, which could be considered curriculum, but to them they are fun because I don't make them do them. Maybe encourage, but when its not enforced, they do more than enough, when they want to. I have recently become accustomed to bringing a tablet, which holds a huge collection of ebooks, a few movies and games. Then of course, snacks, drinks, extra pants. Sometimes I feel I am forever packing snacks.

10.How you find your interactions with locals?
We have had almost all great interactions with locals. People we have rented houses from have been very accommodating and friendly. In the beginning it was hard, but I think I have gotten better and finding ways to interact and get involved and it has made all the difference.

11.Your family and friends were been supporting for your choice?
Our friends and family have been supportive, but I know they miss us and don't completely agree or understand our choice. It is hard being so far away for so long, since most of them don't travel to see us, we don't see them as frequently as I'd like.

12.Has your relationship with your children changed since you started traveling together?
It's hard to say how it might be different otherwise, since they were so young when we left and relationships change in any circumstance. Though, I think it has brought us closer.We have weathered ups and downs and learned to cope with different places together. Its work, but I think it is getting easier, and will pay off as time goes on. I think we have so many ways to relate as we can reflect on the past and talk about experiences we've had together.

13.If you could choose the best and the worst things about traveling as a family, what would they be?
The best and worst is so much time together. I wouldn't change it, but there are times when 24/7 together, husband working from home and kids underfoot all the time is hard. We have become more comfortable finding babysitters in various places because sometimes we need a break for our sanity. Also the best and worst is constantly re-evaluating what to do and where to go next. Even though we now travel with a home base, we are always thinking about the next trip and decisions for the next year. There is no status quo to rely on so sometimes the decisions are tiring. Trying to tune in with each person's needs and decide what is best is hard, but its also the best part of this life because we have the freedom to adjust and change as needed. There are higher highs and lower lows when you travel as a family. Days when everything is so perfect and amazing that you feel so grateful and then those when you are just so tired, you wonder why you do it.

14.According to your child, what is their favourite part about travel?
According to our 3 year old - "Its learning about trucks and tractors..." According to our 5 year old - "I like sleeping on airplanes and getting candies like we had in Morocco." According to our 7 year old - "I like seeing new places, learning about cultures and foods.

15.How much longer do you plan to be traveling and what are your intended destinations?
We do have travel plans set for the next 6 months, aside from living in Spain, one month in Ireland and one month in California to finally see family. Then we will return to Spain and find another home base. After that, its hard to say exactly... every year we seem to regroup and make decisions. However, if we had to say, and knew that Jeff would continue to have employment that allows for this nomadic life; we would spend the next year in Spain continuing to work on mastering Spanish and travel from here every few months. We want to visit Turkey, Greece, and Croatia again, maybe Egypt. We are hoping to continue a slow travel lifestyle and save money to buy a boat again to sail the Mediterranean and Pacific with the kids when they are older.

16.What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
I think the best advice is just go, expect some days to be hard, but know there will wonderful experiences to come out of it. Not worry about bringing too much. I started out packing much more than was necessary and travelling light makes it much easier. There are always ways to adapt and get what you need where you are. We also find staying in 2 or 3 bedroom houses/apartments is the only way we can make it work. Jeff has to work wherever we are, so he needs his space, the kids need some space and we need a kitchen. Staying in a hotel or hostel is fine for a night or two here and there, but we need to be able to relax and feel at home where we travel.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

You can find out more about Katie and her family’s adventures at her blogs:

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