Is It Irresponsible To Pull Kids Out Of School For Travel Adventures?

My husband and I have this idea that we can still live a semi-nomadic lifestyle with our two children in tow. I’m not talking about applying for a World Passport (yes, it’s a real thing), or hopping on a private jet, but we envision a life in which we have a home base somewhere that we’re able to use as a jumping-off point for random and not-so-random adventures to the more affordable parts of the globe. If it were just the two of us, this would seem to me like the perfect set-up for a fun-filled, free-spirited lifestyle that would pay untold dividends in the form of a never-ending world education. Can it do the same for two small children?

The more we talk about it, the more we find ourselves coming back to the same set of concerns. How important is a ”home,” when defined as four walls in one place that never moves? And how important is a perfect attendance record in pre-school? What about friends that you see every day? How vital are these things to the healthy development of our children? (The ”how will we afford it?” question is reserved for a different conversation.)

When I was a child myself, I handled my family’s frequent moves rather well. The ones that happened before I was eight don’t even register as conscious memories and the several after that were made less traumatic by my parents’ decision to always wait until the end of the school year before uprooting us. I know that changing towns and houses is not the same as visiting a bunch of different countries, but it did present me with multiple opportunities to be among ”new” people in unfamiliar places. I bring it up here because of the positive effects I feel it had on my developing mind and personality.

Change, to me, is a good thing. It doesn’t really scare me. It isn’t the end of something; rather, it usually signifies the beginning. This outlook has helped me in some pretty important ways throughout my adult life. I realize that our kids could go in the opposite direction and spend their adult lives seeking stability and routine, but I just don’t see that happening. (Maybe my eyes are closed when I turn my head in that direction?)

The school thing is probably the biggest concern my husband and I have. Right now, ”school” means two half-days per week and only for our three-year-old, but before we know it, we’ll be attending parent-teacher conferences to talk about Lio’s math skills and Dash’s spelling prowess. I have no interest in home-schooling our children, so in order to keep on traveling, we’ll have to take them out of school for a few extra weeks during the school year. Is that a bad thing? I totally judged Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for dragging their kids all over the world after briefly ”enrolling” their son, Maddox, at the prestigious Lycee Francais in New York. But can we conclude (hypothetically, of course) that those weeks are better spent hiking in Bolivia than in a typical American classroom? My husband and I are willing to bet that the answer is yes.

It occurs to me as I’m writing that I’ve got this whole conundrum way more sorted out than I thought. Routine and structure are relative and, ironically, mutable. If we, as loving and responsible parents, take a thoughtful approach to designing our family’s lifestyle, I don’t think we can go wrong. (Yikes! Did I just say that? Sounds like I’m setting myself up for disaster!) We can build into our family’s ”normal” whatever deviations seem right for us. We can provide stability in the form of proper planning, hyper-organization and a predictable travel schedule. Living the semi-nomadic lifestyle of our dreams does not have to equal a haphazard or confusing lifestyle for our kids.

Because, as my parents showed my siblings and me (without even a fraction of the generation-mandated hemming and hawing I’m guilty of here), love is stability. Parental love, unconditional and unconscious, travels with our children wherever we may roam.

I realize that this ”decision” is actually more like a loose plan for the future. So many aspects of this proposal are impossible to predict exactly, which means we’ll be winging it and making a lot of educated guesses along the way. I’m okay with that, as long as we have in mind the true long-term goals of our circus-like existence: to never stop learning and teaching. To always be grateful for the opportunities we have. And to love each other deeply on our journey.

(Photo: iStockphoto)

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