A Travellerspoint blog

June 2012

Hitting the Road


Well, we did it. Sure, it’s only the first step of many, but that sometimes is the hardest one. In our case, it was two crazy weeks filled with many steps to get us out of Seattle. To recap, we...

  • finalized our house rental,
  • found a great solution for our dog Zillah after our prior dogsitter bailed at the last minute,
  • sold / donated / threw out years of our accumulated “stuff”, and packed the rest of it into one closet and one spare room in our basement (luckily, the renters were kind enough to allow us this solution - made it a LOT easier [and cheaper] than driving it all to a storage unit),
  • tied up all remaining loose ends (insurance, school, medical, mail, bills, house cleaning, etc.),
  • helped our Chilean exchange student Juanchi get ready to go back to Santiago after a year in Seattle (that's Juanchi in the picture above),
  • packed all of our gear for 13 months into 4 bags (we're working on a whole separate post with details of our packing).

But no matter how challenging all of this work was, it was not nearly as hard as saying goodbye to our family and friends. We have built so many wonderful relationships in the 13 years that we’ve been in Seattle, and it’s hard to not want to continue to participate in all of the things that have made our life so enriched. Family dinners, camping trips, school events, concerts, spontaneous get-togethers with friends. Unfortunately, we’re a “No” for every invitation for the next year. We don’t want to miss out on the experiences and memories that will happen with the people that we care about over the next year - birthdays, celebrations, first days of school - but we’re making the choice to be absent. That’s not a bad thing, just the reality.

Now that we’ve left our life behind in Seattle, we feel the:

  • Freedom of being out of our “must-do’s” and into the “can-do’s”.
  • Fear of the unknown - we have no idea what the next year is going to be like.
  • Feeling of being adrift - we’ll be living out of a bag for the next year, with no “home” to go to.

Life is a series of routines / patterns, which we get comfortable with and good at. Traveling takes you out of these.

What is important to remember, is that all of these feelings are what we wanted as part of the trip. We wanted to take ourselves out of our comfort zone. We wanted to experience new things. We wanted to have adventures. We wanted to grow as individuals, as a team, as a family.

And here we go.

Posted by noahv 19:15 Comments (2)

Why, How, and WOW!


When we talk with people about our upcoming year-long trip, we typically get one of the following responses - “Why?”, “How?”, and “Wow!”. I have started to call this the “WHOW” effect. Here’s some of the background behind the “Why?”.

Both of us grew up in families that valued travel as an important part of life. Anne’s parents are both Peace Corps volunteers, and she grew up in house with lots of exchange students. She and her sisters have all spent time living and travelling overseas -- one of them has even made her home abroad. Noah traveled with his family every year growing up, and he has been moving around the country since his early teens.

We have traveled both internationally and domestically with the kids and learned some lessons. We took Alex to Europe when he was 16 months old, and took both kids to Switzerland shortly after Leah was born. We “enjoyed” those experiences traveling as a family, although traveling via airplane with kids between 1-3 is pretty tough (they always want to run up and down the aisle on the airplane, go into first class, etc.).

For us though, it’s not really about the travel itself - but the shift and shared memories that make it worthwhile. As a family we value experiences -- learning by doing -- which is why we chose an alternative school that used the Expeditionary Learning (ELOB) approach. Our concept for this trip emerged primarily from that core value.
“Is there a way we have the ultimate expeditionary learning experience together?”
Talking about this, Anne floating the idea that “we COULD take the kids out of school for a year and travel” and Noah agreeing, was what could be called our “CONCEPT” phase.

Most folks travel in their 20s when they have few responsibilities or in their retirement when they have fulfilled them. We thought we’d try splitting the difference.

We talked a lot about whether we wanted to travel in-between school years, or take the kids out of school for the whole year. This decision was made a bit easier by the fact that Anne is a teacher, and we can homeschool the kids for the year without major impacts to their overall school journey (see entry on “Worldschooling”).

The timing of our trip is no accident - it’s based entirely on Alex and Leah. The 2012-2013 school year is 5th grade for Leah and 7th grade for Alex, and we wanted to avoid them missing a transition year if possible. Middle school in Seattle is 6-8, so Alex will miss the middle year of middle school. Leah will skip her last year of elementary school, but will hopefully return to join Alex at the same middle school. Additionally, the kids are old enough to carry their own luggage and fully participate in our adventures, but not full-blown teens yet. Once we picked 2012 as our target year, we entered “INTENT” phase.

Once had the intent, all of our decisions took on a “Does this work for the trip?” filter. Purchase it, or borrow it? Do we really need this? One of the great side-effects of the trip prep has been the opportunity to purge all of the cruft that had accumulated over 13 years of living with 2 kids (and multiple dogs) in our house.

We’ve been planning this for about 6 years, but we entered “COMMIT” phase when we booked (with a deposit) the first activity for the trip (Thailand Elephant Nature Park). Of course, booking the airfare was also a big commit.

It’s hard to believe that it’s finally upon us - we are getting more excited (and stressed) every day. In the past week we have finalized the rental of our house, sold both of our cars, had our last day(s) of work, forwarded our mail, ended our gym membership, and relied heavily on the generosity of family and friends. We know that we will make it, but this last week is going to something of a marathon.

We are looking forward to sharing our experiences, but the big bonus will be hearing that we have inspired someone/anyone else to take a similar step. Think about it - this might very well be something that you can do too.

Posted by noahv 12:45 Archived in USA Tagged why Comments (3)

World Schooling -- Act 1

Homeschooling on the Road - Doing Our Homework

Getting ready to write part 2 - so re-posting part 1 for those who might want to read them together . . . IMG_1244.jpg

Act 1

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." -- John Dewey

When we talk to other parents about our "year off" they usually say that they would LOVE to do something like that . . . but . . . what about school?

Schooling Doesn't Need to be a Deal Breaker

Doing OUR Homework

We've found that requirements for Home Schooling vary with each state. Washington is pretty easy. The Law basically states that:

  • We must file a declaration of intent with our local school district.
  • We must work with a certified teacher who meets with your student on the average of an hour a week. (Hey! Cool! Mom IS a certified teacher)
  • We must teach 11 required subjects -- reading, writing, spelling, language, math, science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation.
  • Students must take some sort of assessment annually (supervised by a certified teacher - could be Mom again)
  • We should keep some sort of records (not specified) of student instruction and progress.

We are also fortunate that Washington State's Grade Level Standards are spelled out for us to consult periodically. I will be meeting with the 5th and 7th grade teachers soon to let them know about our plans and get their take on essential skill areas we should cover. I bet they will have some creative project ideas for us as well.

Embracing a Teaching & Learning Philosophy

Just like when I was searching for the "perfect fit" Kindergarten, it has been easiest for me to start with what I DON'T want.
I don’t want . . .

  • schoolwork to be a separate and imposing add-on to our experience.
  • to lug around a bunch of workbooks
  • my kids to be bored or restless
  • them to return unprepared for their next year of school

We have a HUGE jump on making this happen because our kids have always loved their time at school. They have thrived at Thornton Creek academically, socially, and emotionally. I credit the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound Model and excellent teachers for fully engaging them. My plan is to take what has been so positive about their experiences there and apply it to the world classroom.

Expeditionary Learning

Expeditionary Learning focuses on teaching in an engaging way while emphasizing learning by doing, character growth, teamwork, and literacy. The approach is experiential and project-based, involving students in original research -- with experts whenever possible -- to create high-quality products for audiences beyond the classroom. All subjects center around an assigned expedition that will spark students’ interest, support critical literacy, promote character development, create a sense of adventure and foster an ethic of service.

My experiences as both a learner and as a teacher have made me a believer of the effectiveness of this approach. It is easy to see how our trip itself can become our year long "Learning Expedition". I admit to being excited about the challenge and fun of guiding my own small class in the coolest classroom ever.

Gathering Materials


Both kids go through books like crazy and we can't imagine taking enough paperbacks with us - so we decided that investing in e-readers seemed prudent. After some research, we found that Nook Simple Touch made the most sense (Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for the Christmas gift!!). The reviews generally put the nook ahead of the Kindle because of the touch screen and lower price ($79 special offer).

We like that it has 2GB of internal memory and that we can expand that memory with a microSD card (up to 32 GB) -- That’s a TON of books! Noah figured out that we could get FREE e-books directly from the Seattle and King County Public Library and other sites - even overseas (I had my sister in Singapore try it out). There are advantages to being married to a technology geek. We can also share the same book on multiple devises - I'm thinking family reading group!

Our Favorite Portable Somewhat Educational Activities

A lesson learned from our travel experiences so far - there will be time to kill - so come prepared! Here are some easy to travel with games/activities that can be pulled out in the airport, train, bus station, cafe, etc.
Rory's Story Cubes and Rory's Story Cubes - Actions (We combined the sets for even better story making).
Crossword Cubes and Bananagrams (Word Games)
Ken Ken Math Puzzles both kids love and I find really hard! (We like the Will Shortz series) Puzzles are also available online.
Zeus on the Loose
Apples to Apples

Learning from the Experts

Some Great Family Travel Bloggers Have Written About Schooling While Traveling:

On Preparing for the Trip
On "UnSchooling"
On Learning Opportunities While Traveling (with 4 kids!)
Volunteering as a Family

I've found the reflections of Traveling Families once they have returned to be extremely valuable. Their End of Year "Report Cards" on schooling especially so -- Thank you bloggers!!
Wander Mom
Travels With A Nine Year Old
Six in the World

Home schooling Resources

Washington Home school Organization
Simple Home schooling
ADPRIMA (provides links to a variety of other Home schooling sites


Tune in Next Time!
Act 2 - Setting Ourselves Up for Success
What Will World Schooling Look Like for Our Family?


Kids Are Ready to Go!

Posted by annevl 17:00 Comments (2)

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