Does Travel Negatively Affect a Childs Education?

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The title of this article in the Sydney Morning Herald grabbed my clicking attention – No safe level of missing school, study finds.

I dismissed it as soon as it stated the case study was based upon Naplan test results (standardized testing).

It’s the first major study linking poor attendance to lower NAPLAN results.

The consensus is that missing just one day of school has negative consequences for a student’s academic achievement and those who choose to travel with their kids, even if it is for a long weekend, or a short two week jaunt to Paris, are completely screwing up their child’s ability to have a successful and fulfilling life.


It’s sad that Australian education is heading to the place where NAPLAN testing is the core focus of teaching and the only indicators of a child’s intelligence and potential.

I say the NAPLAN test is every reason to be absent from school.

Relevant learning because of travel

I thought more about that article as we walked around the rim of Kalkani Crater in Outback Queensland.

Millions of years ago, this landscape in Far North Queensland, now called Undara Volcanic National Park, was a tumultuous place, filled with constant volcanic eruptions shaping the land.

Kalkani Crater, Queensland, Australia
At the top of Kalkani Crater

From the crater, we could look out to see volcanic peaks and get a sense of the land that once existed and how these constant volcanic eruptions helped to form the land.

We looked down to the line of dark green rainforest growth depicting the lava tunnels we had walked through the day before.

Kalkani Crater, Queensland, Australia
Walking the rim of Kalkani Crater

We learned about basalt and granite rock and how the lava flowed to form the tunnels. We heard of how the savannah took over  part of the rainforest and why the two habitats can now live beside each other, one not destroying the other.

Undara Lava Tubes, Queensland, Australia
Exploring the Undara Lava Tubes

Why did I not know volcano’s existed in Australia?

I’m nearly 40 and have just discovered this. I’ve never heard of lava tunnels before and really had no thorough grasp on how they worked much beyond a huge explosion.

Why didn’t school teach me this? Or perhaps my teacher did, but it was lost on me as I daydreamed out the window trying to find solutions to my problem or dream of that hot boy in the school next door.

Or maybe it was because the class clown needed more attention during that lesson.

Now, here was my six-year-old daughter standing beside me in a lava tunnel learning while she was experiencing (without the hot lava thankfully!). She picked up a basalt rock and in that moment understood that it was formed when the bubbling hot lava cooled down. She won’t ever have to try and remember that fact from a text book.

Apparently, according to the studies this experience was impacting my child’s education in a bad way!

Ha! Who the hell are our educators and those in charge of the research and creating the system?

Apparently “they may be learning a lot about the world but they’re not necessarily learning everything they’d be learning at school.”

Hmm, what are they learning in school then if it’s not about the world? I thought that’s what we all lived in and what we needed to know about in order to, not just survive, but thrive.

  Update: We’ve since changed our homeschooling approach again, due to a change in our travel lifestyle. You can read about how we homeschool and travel now. Keep reading this post as well, as it may be a good solution for your travels too!

What about the life skills to thrive in this world?

Both my daughters have learned an incredible amount on this road trip so far.

More than school will ever teach them and I say that from not only the perspective of a mother, but from my 15 years of Primary School teaching in five countries.

Not only are they learning interesting things about science and social studies, spending time with Aboriginals, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, and walking through a 160 million-year-old rainforest, but they are learning the vital life skills that school fails to teach and NAPLAN tests fail to test.

Making a decision, social responsibility, how to get along with strangers, how money works, how to plan and organize and take action. How to overcome fear, how to solve a problem, how to dream big, follow your passions and be yourself.

Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia
Learning about the 160 million year old Daintree Rainforest at the Daintree Discovery Centre

One of the most important things of all – they’re forming an incredible bond with their parents and siblings.

From my experiences as a former teacher, most of the troubled children came from families that were troubled. I’ve witnessed it in schools in Australia, London, Dublin, Bangkok and the USA.

A strong family bond is one of the most important things in a child’s life that will give them the self-confidence and support to overcome any obstacles and to thrive.

The only thing that school does not give my child is long-term friendships, but then I look back at the school system and I think of all the dramas and heartache my students went through because of friendships and bullying, I wonder if she’s really missing out at all.

Connecting with nature

As we were coasting along in a tiny boat through the narrow and exquisitely beautiful Cobbold Gorge on the Gulf of Savannah, our guide, Emma, a sweet gentle lady whose passion for nature ran so deep said,

I’m so grateful to you parents for bringing your children here today. It’s so important that they come to these places in nature and be one with it to learn more about their land.”

The closer our bond with nature, the healthier our lifestyle.

What classroom teaches you that?

Cobbold Gorge, Queensland, Australia
Cobbold Gorge

Do they talk about great health choices or how to de-stress through long bush walks, staring at the ocean, or meditation? As far as I know obesity levels, stress and depression is up on the this-is-really-scary levels for children.

I believe if they ran a study on kids who travelled and interacted a lot in nature, these levels would be way down.

In the car as we drove out of Cobbold Gorge, we started Kalyra’s formal lessons as part of her distance education. She had to write a report on the many uses of trees – at last something relevant and interesting where she could showcase what fascinated her and all she had recently learned.

She wrote about the pandanus palm and how wrapping a leaf around your head would take a away a headache. How the sap of the Bloodworth tree is a powerful antiseptic provided by nature. How the tea trees wrap their roots together to keep back the river banks, and how it provided us with paper to write on and soft paper to wipe our bums.

If we never made her absent from school her report probably would have been a few lines of how great trees were to climb up. Pretty important stuff for any child, but the travel part has helped her understand just how much more valuable trees are.

Would this knowledge serve her well in a NAPLAN test? I doubt it would be tested.

The broken system is really broken

The researchers are clutching at straws to try and explain why a broken system isn’t broken and pointing fingers at children who are traveling and not attending school.

So the research shows there’s a correlation between low performance and days absent from school.

Is it showing that some kids are shit at taking tests and crumble at the first question?

Is it showing that some kids just don’t give a shit about tests so they don’t bother to show their capabilities?

Does it show that teachers, due to the intense pressures of a broken system, no longer have the capabilities to educate children properly?

Does it show how the emphasis on standardized testing and letting that guide the curriculum is destroying curiosity and enthusiasm for learning in our kids and how it’s distressing parents who don’t understand, so take the test results as gospel that there is something wrong with their kids?

What are the implications of that by the way?

I know with the formal school work I do with Kalyra on the road she’ll be asked to do many tasks, for example retelling something she’s just read.

It’s usually a book she has no interest in and is a little bored by it. Perhaps it just didn’t rock her world. And she feels she’s done with it and doesn’t want to discuss it. So her retelling is pretty poor. Based on that her teacher could mark her as a low performer and not great at comprehension.

What they don’t know is that three weeks after she watched Frozen she spent an hour walk next to her father retelling the whole story, including word for word dialogue from the characters.

Last week she devoured a chapter book in two hours and then retold the entire story for me. She’s currently reading a Lonely Planet Travel Book that is probably on a fifth-grade reading level (she’s 6). Sure there are words she has difficulty with, but she can sure tell us a few of the amazing facts she’s learning about all the countries of the world.

She knows she doesn’t really want to go to Kakadu National Park because in 2006 a croc snuck into someone’s tent! But Paris holds her fascination and is at the top of her bucket list.

Children learn in different ways.

Children express what they know in different ways.

Some do it well through a test, where they bubble in responses. They’re good at remembering and rote learning and love the satisfaction of achieving high results and getting a gold star.

Other kids enjoy the processes of learning more than the results. They like to showcase the journey – the destination seeming almost pointless, so why bother? Cause many kids are like that. If they don’t see the point, the won’t try.

In fact, many adults are like that – myself included.

The part where I swear

I’m annoyed this “study” has come out and may scare parents away from travelling with their kids and taking some time off school to do it.

Don’t fear the NAPLAN test or any kind of standardized testing. After spending four years teaching to a test in the USA I can see what a scary and dangerous road we’re taking in Australia following this path. I got out of teaching because I couldn’t handle being a part of it anymore and damaging kids.

You know something is broken when, in response to your concerns that the fifth-grade students don’t know their basic multiplication skills, your principal says:

“Don’t worry about that. They can use a calculator in the EOG (End of Grade Test) so you don’t have to spend any more time on it.”

What the FUCK is that about? Excuse my French, but that should have the highly emotive force of a cuss word behind it.

I wasted hours of valuable time teaching my children how to colour so the pencil stayed in the bubble AND how to use the process of elimination to narrow down the four answers to two. That made the odds of guessing right better because they usually give you two silly answers.

I KID you NOT!! IT’s freakin catastrophic.

That’s what these stupid tests do.

I’m in no hurry to send my child back to school. I think she’s far smarter with out it. I think she’s been granted the gift of space to love learning to embrace her curiosities to follow her own passions, to not waste time learning crap that bores her and she’ll never use again once she leaves school.

I’m so glad I spent hundreds of hours learning algebra and calculus during Maths class because since I finished my final Year 12 maths exam, I’ve used it for… I’ve used it for….. NOTHING.

Everything I have learned to help me live a happy and fulfilled life has come from the lessons and experiences I’ve had travelling. Except for reading, basic maths, and writing, which I grant school helped me out with to a certain extent.

What would you rather, a child that’s good at regurgitating information to pass a test, or one that can create and innovate based upon their passions and talents?

Who are the better inheritors of the earth?

Those kids given the opportunity to interact with their world, to learn about nature and survival, to learn how others think and solve problems, to investigate cause and effect with their own hands, to socialise with people from many parts of the world, to think creatively, to help their parents solve the problems when they run out of fuel, or take a wrong turn, or can start a fire, and grow a veggie garden, raise cattle, and help other diplomatically resolve disputes with the ability to see and understand all sides.

These are the kids that might fail a stupid test but will win at the game of life.

Some of the most successful and richest people on the planet never finished high school or went to college.

UPDATE: We are now travelling full time again overseas. This time we have chosen to homeschool rather than do distance education. I share why, plus my homeschooling strategy, routine, and resources in this post.

If you are going to take your kids out of school to travel do this

Some of those findings could be a true reality – absentee kids’ education could well be affected.

But delve deeper into the stories behind it before making blanket statements.

Perhaps there are learning difficulties already there. Perhaps their parents don’t take the time to do some work because if you do take your kids out of school there is some work you’ve still got to do.

Read more – Homeschooling & Distance Education: the GOOD and the BAD

Teaching Kalyra on the train
Teaching Kalyra on the train

But I reckon these stats would be low.

They will learn so much from interacting from the world around them, but you do have to keep the skills up.

Reading and basic maths and writing is essential. You cannot take a holiday from them, but it’s so easy to incorporate that and I find kids will pick up the skills far easier because its one-on-one learning and far less distractions than you will find in a classroom.

Schools do have a purpose and are important for helping kids learn, but a revolution is needed to make it more relevant to life!

Standardized testing should be nuked!

I’m currently putting together an eBook of a series of articles I wrote about life learning. Within will have lots of amazing tips for helping children learn – with love and passion, outside the school walls.

After reading this article, I feel like I need to get that finished and out there to help parents who might feel a little overwhelmed by the school system and these stupid tests and might need some help to take on some of the responsibility themselves.

All good education starts from the home.

Parents are the foremost educators for their children, they cannot pass that torch over to the school system because its broken and teachers are stretched to the max.

I love and adore teachers, I know the hell they go through, and I know that at the core of what they do they just want to help children learn and love it.

Their job is getting more and more difficult due to the powers above who don’t have a clue. Sadly more of our quality teachers are running for an alternative path, or taking time out on stress leave.

Simple tips to get you started:

  • I’m not sure these tests are going away. Let your children know that it’s important they do their best, but it’s not the be all and end all. They are amazingly talented and intelligent beings who have something very special to offer the world and often tests and schools don’t know how to recognize that.
  • Read to your child every single night from birth. I don’t care how busy you are. We’re all busy. You just need to do ten minutes a night. It’s a beautiful bonding experience and will help them in more ways than anything else. I know that Kalyra picked up reading very quickly because of this ten minute a night groundwork – it really is that powerful.
  • Incorporate basic maths in your everyday life and discussions. Let them help you with shopping, let them touch money and hand it over and count the change. Let them measure out the ingredients when you cook.
  • Allow them to pursue their passions. If they’re super talented at soccer, let them join a team. If they’re passionate about the guitar, get them lessons, sign them up for acting classes, allow them to dance. Skip homework if you have to, the passions are more important (Don’t get me started on the homework rant!)
  • Travel as often as you can. Even if it’s a weekend getaway to explore new regions in your home town. And take days of school to do it if you need to. Hell, take a whole month off. You won’t regret it and the development of your child’s whole self will be amazing – that’s the true purpose of education.

What do you think?

Do you think NAPLAN and standardized tests are a good thing?

Does missing just one day, one week, or even one year of school to travel impact your child’s education in a BAD way?

96 thoughts on “Does Travel Negatively Affect a Childs Education?”

  1. Love the conviction here, Caz. The gift of making travel a normality can expand a child’s education, imagination and prospects of living a happy, hopeful, curious and informed life. That’s my belief, although I’m open-minded to discourse. Either way, as a new parent with a love of living a life of travel, I definitely look to you for inspiration as someone who not just values travel for young people but takes action to give it to them. Cheers.

  2. Juan Morales Mora

    I totally agree with you about education.

    Sadly, in my opinion, the whole purpose of the education system is to teach people how to fit in the system: get as much degrees as you can to get a “better” job…

    If there would be in the world more people like you taking with more responsibility kids education, definitely, in the long term, the world would become a better place for everybody.

    I want to share with you a link about education that I found the other day, I hope you like it:

    1. I agree Juan. Schools could be such a more powerful tool for empowering children and help them to follow their dreams, not conform to the box

  3. Wow, this is all so true. From my own experience, I was both the class clown 🙂 and was always staring out the window daydreaming about the larger world out there. I always felt I was “missing out on something” while in school. It turns out I was right. And I was extremely bored in my US clean as a whistle educational system. Everyone around me was so…..busy…..trying to “get somewhere” or please their parents or who knows what other motivation. I took a different path. Failing miserably at math, I turned to my true love, art. My grades were horrible, except in art. I went on to get a fully paid scholarship based on art (def not my SAT scores). Again, I was following something interesting. After I completed college, I wanted to travel. So I took a year “off” & became a flight attendant. For some reason, this “career” wasn’t good enough so I returned to a “traditional career” also known as me trying to fit society’s expectations of a good citizen. Do you know I learned more in that one year flying all over the Americas, Caribbean and Canada than I did in ALL my years of combined schooling!? What you wrote above carries so much weight but I have come to realize most people are too caught up in their own world of security to try & really venture out. Well, I’m tired of my 9-to-5, hence I found your absolutely beautiful life-affirming blog!! I’m leaving it next year to teach English in Costa Rica because I can’t stand traditional office life anymore! xoxo

    1. Great story Dani and thank you for sharing. I’m so glad you pursued what’s in your heart – schools should be teaching us to do this. It’s vitally important for our life purpose that we follow the heart!!

  4. Couldn’t agree more. We took our kids out of school for 8 weeks last year to visit their grandparents and travel in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. They’re much more aware of geography, varying cultures and languages as a result and never missed anything significant at school.

  5. Yes!
    My son is in grade one and school suits him just fine. He’s an academic and loves the environment. However, I do not hesitate to take him out of school for travel.
    Last weekend we went to the Princess Margaret Rose caves in lower glenelg national park and took a day off school to make this a long weekend. I’m confident that he learnt more than he would have at school that day. It also aligned with his current cave passion and dreams of being a spelunker when he grows up.
    We plan on taking 3 months to travel the USA in a few years. I know I’ll have to jump a fee hoops to get past the education dept but it will be worth it. I’ll have 3kids by then too.

    I also believe that every high school student should spend time in a third world country as part of their education. I could go on about the reasons for that for hours but I won’t!

    1. Totally agree with the third world country idea. Can you imagine the solutions they’d come up with to raise the standards of living. Kids have so much to teach us if just given the chance to expand their learning and share their passions.

      I hope you can wrangle that time off from school for the US. You should be okay.

  6. I had to come and leave another comment after reading the smh article. Usually the comments on SMH are mind bogglingly bad in the areas of spelling and grammar. I must say, the comments on that piece were above standard for SMH and quite eloquent. Most were from people that had missed school due to travel. Hilarious display of disproving the point.

  7. I agree with you one billion per cent here Caz! I’ve blogged about this before and I’m sure I will blog about it again in the future now that my son is school age and I will probably have to have some arguments with the school about taking him out for future trips.
    My parents took my sister and I out of school in Grades 5 and 3 to take us campervanning around Europe and we certainly didn’t suffer – quite the contrary, we learned a crazy amount of stuff that I still know today – geography, history, languages, currency conversion, etc etc etc. Sure, kids being absent from school is not good but if they are absent with interested, involved parents who are showing them the world I think it’s a totally different matter. Even as an adult I still learn more when I’m travelling than when I’m at home.
    Also I’m hoping to line up trips to coincide with Naplan tests!! (I love how Maggie Dent calls it “Napalm” – appropriate!)

    1. Have not heard of the Napalm reference before – so totally relevant! I’d definitely time the travels with them. I’ve never met a child who travelled whose education suffered. I just can’t wrap my head around these experts even suggesting it.

  8. Great post Caz! I totally agree with you! Looking back on my childhood, I can say that school kind of made me dumb and introverted. I used to be very outgoing and smart before I went to the first grade. Then something happened. And when I graduated, when I grew up, only then I realized how school changed me, and it took me years to fix all the damage I got there.
    Also, nice point about the importance of the family in child’s education.
    I enjoyed reading this post very much, thank you!
    Safe travels!

    1. It makes me so sad to hear that Dzina as I’ve seen it happen to so many children. And I know due to the stress and pressure I was under as a teacher, I was part of damaging children like this. It’s why I had to get out of the system – it made me sick

  9. The best education is travel. School is all about learning what someone thinks. In my opinion this is what’s wrong with our society today. We learn what to think, not how to think. By exposing your kids to travel and the way of life of many people around the world, they’re learning real skills. Skills that will get them so much further than most things you learn at school. Don’t get me wrong, school is good but to say that missing just one day is bad for their tests…that’s just wrong! Great blog subject and even though I don’t have kids, I could talk about this for hours. Your kids are getting the best education there is in my opinion – don’t ever let anyone tell you different. Do what you believe in. Zag when everyone zigs.

    1. That’s what used to bother me about teaching my children in the States, where it was so heavily focused on the tests – so many of them did not know how to think and no teacher was geared towards developing that. Totally tragic implications of that.
      I love zagging!

  10. Caz, I love this! We left Oz with our two kids when the youngest was just 10 weeks old. We spent 19 months sailing the Caribbean and driving across North America. We now have a 2 and 4 year old who can read, spell, count and have the most amazing imagination. The 4yo can tell you all the States of America, and most of the capitals, and asks us when can we go back to the Space Needle! They know what moose, bears and bison are, because they’ve seen them, up close and personal. They recognize the Golden Gate Bridge, Denali, NASA and goodness knows what else. Not bad for a kid with dyspraxia! I really believe a standard schooling system would have failed him already – and I am really hoping that our ‘alternative’ lifestyle has given him enough of a foundation to thrive if/when we decide to enrol him in school. But he’ll be absent for NAPLAN – it’s not a test I’m happy for him to be judged by.
    Enjoy your travels – I hope it continues for as long as you want it to!

    1. So so awesome!! I’ve got goosebumps reading this! What an amazing foundation you have given your children. You couldn’t attend a school for 365 days a year anywhere in the world and get an equivalent education to that.

      1. Thanks, Caz, you are so right. And if we had been able to find a way to fund our travels like you have, we’d still be going. But now we are waiting for visas to head back to the US long term – so at least we found the ‘next thing’ for us while we were exploring.

  11. Excellent article here Caz and I couldn’t agree more. Very few children these days even get outside to play in the bush and learn about nature an the world in their on backyard. When my children were young we took them with us when we travelled throughout Europe in a campervan – one of my daughters still remembers spending her 5th birthday in Switzerland (and she’s 40 now!). Travel is one of the best gifts you can give a child.

    1. I think it’s a huge problem that children don’t get to play outside much. When I was at school, I felt as if we had so much play time. I’ve seen it decline more and more and it’s all due to the pressures of trying to teach kids a bunch of crap they don’t need to know and get them to do well on tests. It’s insane

  12. I missed heaps of school to travel as a kid. And if you want to judge the result of that on fairly traditional means, I was accepted into TWO “sandstone” universities in Australia. Yep, clearly those weeks spent learning about other people reaaaaallly effed me up for life.
    The article is BS.

  13. Experience is SO much more vital for children than schooling. As long as they keep up with their literacy and numeracy skills, the world is a much better class room! A friend of mine left primary school for a year in grade 5 to caravan around Australia. Now she has finished high school and still considers it the most valuable experience in her life. She has never been disadvantaged by doing distance education for a year and learned more about this country than any of us learnt in our history classes.
    On Naplan, it is a ridiculous test that does very poorly in reflecting ability or our national standard. My mother is doing her PHD thesis on the ways in which Naplan is a failure of a test, particularly in indigenous education.

    1. I’m so so glad your mother is doing that thesis and I hope those findings are shared that make way more sense then this ridiculous one. I’m very strict on making sure Kalyra keeps up with her literacy and numeracy as I do believe that is vital, but other than that the travel ticks off all the other learning areas.

  14. FINALLY, someone brave enough to come out and and say what most of us parents are thinking. Before we left on our 7 month trip, one of the teachers whispered in my ear “don’t you devote one minute of worry to those Naplan tests, it’s a test of the school not the child, your child is about to be given the gift of a lifetime and I am ridiculously jealous – go for it”. She has no idea (yet) of how powerful those words were to me. If a Year 3 teacher can say that …… well that sums it up for me.

    Before we embarked on this trip by 7 year old would cower in front of her class at news time. It’s meant to be a no pressure situation but let’s face it it’s not. Now she jumps in front of our camera and confidently delivers a video message to her class full of interesting things she has discovered. Last week she told the class about the bombing of Darwin and Cyclone Tracy… least 5 sentences rolled off in a relaxed fashion and her father and I were stunned. All the kids make instant friendships, my five year old swam up to everyone in the Mataranka thermal pool and said hello (nomads, families, other small children her age, so funny to watch). Travel has lit the spark of interest and the questions never stop. These are things I know would not have happened unless we took on this trip. They will forever be changed, stretched, enriched and full of lifetime memories.

    1. Total goosebumps reading this Tanya! Thank you for sharing. I so wish schools could give this gift to each child. What an amazing experience for your kids and for you to see them grow and thrive so much.

        1. Oh yes Tanya! Thank you for coming up to say hello! What an adventure we had trying to get that trolley out of the crazy path I took us on!! lol

          Kakadu is awesome and you were right about the campsite here at Jabiru. Love it!

    2. Tanya, I love that – there’s a teacher I could imagine sending my kids to! And your stories of watching them blossom into the people they ‘should’ be is absolutely beautiful. We should all have been so lucky.

  15. We heartily agree Caz, so well written. My reasons for leaving teaching are exactly the same, and we hope that our kids never have to go back to schools that are more concerned with preparing them for tests, than preparing them for life. They are learning so much more whilst we are travelling. Even though we work through the basics, (a little bit of maths and literacy) only every now and then, we are watching them blossom and grow in confidence as they learn from the experiences that we are having.

    1. IT’s just the best. You can’t beat the life experiences they are having. I’m so glad you’re all having such a great time. Hopefully we can meet up somewhere around the track!

  16. Interesting article Caz. I am wondering the same thing at the moment as my son is entering school. He hates it! He is a free spirit that just hates to conform, and what do schools teach? You must conform! So I wondering if he would learn better by doing something similar with him,home school witha difference, travelling!

    1. Yeah some kids just don’t do well in school for this reason. It doesn’t allow much for different personality traits. I’d say he’d thrive with travelling and homeschooling -space to pursue his passions and allow his creative thinking to go wild.

  17. Our kids have finished school now, but the amount of pressure that was applied in the test to receive an OP score for university was so extreme that students took their life when they got poor results, believing they had failed in life if they failed to get the required OP. Yet taking a year off between school and uni, the OP was not required anyway. So sad. Our kids suffered the pressure, got fairly good OP’s and did not go to Uni so it was all for nothing anyway. Back to the Naplan tests. Before schools started worrying about their Naplan results we were encouraged to take out kids out of school to travel. Our kid’s teachers said Do It – They’ll learn so much travelling! Their teachers just required that they kept a diary which they shared with the class on their return. You will know yourself as a home schooling Mum as well as a teacher, how quickly the kids learn with one on one attention, with lessons tailored exactly to their needs instead of a class of 30. Most of the time in school is spent in organising and waiting for everyone to finish a task or get ready to start it. Rant finished.

    1. I tell ya! It’s amazing how fast we zip through the work being one on one and I know so well how much of the time is taking up with managing and crowd control. I felt like I was never teaching anything valuable.

      I think a glaring indicator that something is severly broken is when kids take their own life due to school pressures. That’s what they should be publishing articles about

  18. I love this so much. Growing up, I excelled in subjects like geography, history and English. But it wasn’t until I travelled overseas myself (as an adult) that I realised how much more I would have taken in, if I’d been able to see these places myself. Education is so much more than sitting in a classroom (where you may not fit in the box, and then God help you), and taking stupid tests which mean nothing in the real world. Education is also learning about life; tasting, feeling, experiencing, bonding. Building memories. I get many opportunities to take trips away with my kids but the schools say no. That every day counts. And I get that. But there are many ways to make a day, or a week, or a life count.

    1. Exactly. We have to consider what are we making those days count with. Our five senses are here to help us learn from the world around us! Schools don’t let us use many of them!

  19. Great post! I was homeschooled for several years and now homeschool/unschool my own children. I like the freedom it affords our family for travel, independent learning, and interest-based exploration. We are free to be creative and that’s so important!

    1. Creativity is so important for the health and evolution of all of us! Unfortunately there isn’t much room to explore it in schools anymore.

  20. Caz, I completely agree! I was taken cycle touring when I was younger and learnt so much that I never could’ve in school. The BBC published an article in May about how children taken out of school disrupt their own learning and other children’s learning. I find this ridiculous and wrote a response here on Huffington Post that you might like to read;
    I think these ‘authorities’ need to realise how incredibly beneficial travel and exploration is to children’s learning.

    1. I think those in authority must never have travelled to say such ridiculous statements.
      Great article – thanks for sharing. As you said, a few weeks off school really doesn’t amount to much that you’re missing out on. Travel more than covers it.

  21. I firmly believe traveling gives real life skills and an understanding about the world around you – something not often conveyed in schools! I was homeschooled for 2 years when our small town school was running short on teachers, and when I was tested to go back to public school in the 5th grade I was at a high school and college level in all my subjects!

    1. That’s so awesome Kari! Thanks for sharing. It makes total sense of course because you’re learning without the normal distractions of a classroom which are immense. It takes a teacher at least 5 minutes just to get the whole class quiet with their materials ready to learn. Sometimes that can take 20 minutes!

  22. I haven’t read the study you are referring to, but there are other studies that homeschoolers score higher on standardized tests. However, I get the point that the tests really are not measuring what is important. We homeschool and travel and my kids have learned so much that they never would have stuck in a classroom.

    1. I truly believe they’d score better on standardized tests as well. The study in that article was just ridiculous. It could definitely apply to children who miss school just to miss school, but not those who travel – in very rare cases perhaps.

  23. It seems like insinuating that missing one day of school is detrimental to a child’s education (and future life!) is another way of conditioning people to accept that once they’re out of school and get a job they must work there endlessly without breaks or changes in direction…sad.

    1. Great insight Alana and so true!! WE all know how valuable the mental health days off are for our ability to refocus back at the office!

  24. This study was flawed from the outset. Those NAPLAN tests are an utter JOKE. Being from Australia with several best mates as school teachers, and knowing many kids ‘results’ of that test, I can tell you…run, run for the hills and travel if thats what works for you. That said, I am not sure how much travelling can be done with children who are pre-teen / teen who need to make friends and who will want to do extra curricular activities. Lucky for us right now that is not a worry. GREAT POST! Will share with all of my Aussie family now.

    1. Yes. I think it does change a lot when they become teens. I’m sure we’ll be living more of a settled life as friends become more important to our girls. So we’ll lap all the travel up now and miss as much as those NAPLAN tests as we can

  25. I just finished an interview on this exact thing. They asked what my child was learning and the list was long! A lot of the education comes from travel – languages, geography, bartering in markets, currency, nature, history and so much more. Am I worried my kids travel instead of going to school – NOT AT ALL!

  26. Bravo, Caz! With a combined tenure of over 60 years teaching at the University level in the U.S., my Desto3 partner and I agree 100% with you. Travel and education should never be at odds with each other. Hence, our mottos:
    “Travel is fatal to prejudice. bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” — Mark Twain
    “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere” – Albert Einstein

  27. I live in the US and pull my daughter out of school whenever we get the bug to travel. Some teachers are supportive, others I can tell roll their eyes because it means more work for them to prep her homework to take along. That being said, she is 10 and on the first day of 5th grade last week the teacher gave each child a blank map of the US and a list of the 50 states for the kids to match. The teacher then gave the kids 5 minutes after which she asked anyone who got 40 or more to raise their hand. Needless to say, only my daughter and one other student raised their hands. Both she and the other student got all 50 states labeled correctly. I would love for someone to challenge my decision to pull her out if school many times a year for these learning opportunities. I firmly believe that this time with family is equally important to form strong bonds with your children and help them learn about the world and how to be successful in whichever way suits them best. None of this can be taught in a school classroom.

    1. Exactly! How can they not learn more about the world around them as they are actively participating in it? Savannah is almost three and she already knows many of the States names in Australia. Not only does Kalyra now know them but she understands how each state is different,what their capital cities are, what the climate is like, etc. It’s something she’ll never have to try and memorise from facts in a book.

  28. So agree!! I struggle in the states especially with my son, who loves to travel, is a smart kid, but doesn’t always do well in school to begin with. The schools have this “you can’t get work ahead of time” rule even though you HAVE to let them know pretty far in advance if you’re taking a kid out. And while I know it’s not the teachers’ jobs to put together work in advance, when a kid asks for help and guidance afterwords, why can’t it be given to him?? Frustraaaaaating. Here’s another good article for when the kiddos are older:

    Thanks for your post!!!

    1. Just keep taking him out and doing all you can to keep him up to date. Id’ just keep up the reading and journal writing while you’re gone. I seriously think they are the most important. I think the travel will serve your son more and give him memories he’ll have forever.

  29. Hi there, I’ve just discovered your blog and am loving reading all your adventures. This topic is always on my mind and I honestly struggle with it most weeks as we go about our routines. My son said to me last month while on holidays” I learnt more in a day in Amsterdam than a whole year at school”…., it scares me a bit! Anyway lovely or meet you! Bron

  30. What a fantastic article, well done!!! I have 4 daughters and we are heading off January 2015 to travel around Australia for at least 2 years. We will do distance education to start and just see how we manage that and go from there. I love your comment about how school does at least provide long term friendships, I agree, and from what my 13 and 11 year olds have been going through for the past 2 years I’d rather they didn’t. The way supposed friends treat each other is disgusting and stressful, and I want to teach my girls that they don’t have to accept this treatment as it is not how ‘friends’ behave!!!! They don’t have to put up with it to just fit in and be ‘normal’ !!! As well as the basic maths, English and science we want to teach our kids to be ‘street smart’, resilient and be able to cope with any problem that come their way, big or small!!!!

    1. Yes! I can really see the leadership and problem solving skills coming out of Kalyra – never would have happened to that extent at school. The whole school friendship thing does really bother me. I was a teacher for 15 years and I saw a lot more meanness and problems then kindness and loving friendships. It was yet another thing that constantly took my attention away from teaching.

  31. My two boys have traveled since birth. They are 5 and 3 now and they have been to 22 and 17 countries (in four continentes) respectively. Luckily, I found a school that appreciates the travel and even encourages it – they asked us to blog and skype and connect back to the kids in the class so that they could “travel” with us and learn about the places we were visiting. We are lucky – most schools wouldn’t be as agreeable.

  32. Great article, and one I could not agree with more!!!

    I was a supply teacher in London schools where kids were also ‘taught to a test’ and I could see it was allowing even the brightest of students to make their way through their school years with huge gaps in their knowledge. Not their fault, not the school’s fault, but definitely the fault of meddling higher authorities and bureaucracies with limited experience in classrooms or with kids. Yet Australia, with its inferiority complex set to ‘extreme’, wants to emulate this education system (along with a USA-style health system and a society of the ‘have-lots’ and ‘have-nots’ it seems).

    Your daughters are receiving an amazing education by the sounds of it!

    1. I forgot that England also has a test. I didn’t have to worry about that too much when I taught there as I didn’t teach that grade, but I do remember how stressed the teachers were – breaking down in tears in the staff room. It’s so so sad. The authorities have no idea.

  33. Most likely the people making these recommendations also believe teachers must have apples to compare with apples for marking purposes and so require all assignments need to be submitted in alpha numerics, which if you’re a kinaesthetic person, comparing you with an aural person is like comparing apples with trees – There’s no comparison.
    For those kids still being “taught” in schools I long for the day that assignments at least can be submitted via your predisposition and interest not by the one size fits all 🙁

    1. Wouldn’t that be revolutionary Linda! We’d have to have some innovative thinkers in at the top to create that. Unfortunately I don’t think they are anywhere to be found!

      Craig and I are so excited to be seeing your maps everywhere on our travels!! We’re meeting people who use them and love them too!

      1. I’m conversing with one here Caz!!

        Thrilled to hear my Map Journals are being discovered and enjoyed far and wide… although the real proof of the travel memory pudding is in a few years when the journey is long gone but that smile spreads back across your face 😀

  34. The passion with which you wrote this article just pours through – made me a bit teary (I could also be a bit tired from the 4 day car trip to Townsville). I have loved every minute of our two years on the road with our kids (15, 13 & 10) and just recently told them that my favourite part about travelling Oz is just the amount of time I get to be with them – not doing housework, or running around caught up with life – but hanging out around the fire or playing boardgames. Thanks for writing this article 🙂

    1. LOL those Australian drives can make you a bit teary alright!! The greatest gift of this nomadic lifestyle is the amount of time it gives you back to spend on those things that matter. No test can ever compensate for that!

  35. What a great article – Thank you
    We are travelling for 3 months with our 3 children aged 9, ,11, 13
    2 weeks ago we explored the Undara Lava Tubes as well and I, also age 40, didn’t know volcanoes existed in Australia!!!
    The experiences we are sharing as a family, will enrich their future more than any classroom.

  36. Well said!! I think anyone who thinks that schools are necessary for education have spent no decent time in any of them. As someone who was working as a graduate teacher this year (and only last two terms even as a part time high school teacher as the stress and work load was absolutely ridiculous), I can only see the situation getting worse. Just from the teaching perspective, everyone I talked to in their first few years of teaching was absolutely miserable and wanting to do something else, and this was at a good school. The amount that kids actually seemed to be learning was very small and the emphasis on real skills also very small. Some schools I went to on my placements were atrocious. I think those kids may learn more sitting in front of the tv :-/

  37. Mm. I’m really fascinated by this discussion and it’s very relevant to us as we look to starting “proper” school next year.

    I agree schools aren’t the be-all and end-all of learning. I disagree that tests are all about memorisation and regurgitation (I did well on tests and I’m bad at those things). I think there is a bit of being able to “game the system” but another way to look at that is being able to accurately asses what’s wanted and apply yourself accordingly to maximise results, which seems like a useful life skill. I also don’t go along with the argument that calculus is only useful if you afterwards need to do calculus – it’s an exercise in logical thinking and abstract manipulation.

    There’re also studies showing that young adults who do the (what’s it called? you’d know as a teacher in the US) high school equivalency diploma don’t do that well later on compared to those who stick it out til graduation, with the blame being placed on their relatively weak ability to stick at things they don’t immediately see value in. So sticking at things you don’t see value in turns out to be a life skill, and schools are very good at measuring that (that’s one of those back-handed compliments, but you have to see both sides there).

    So I think it’s actually quite complex, and as usual the media likes to report it in very black and white terms so we can all freak out and start arguing.

    The truth is I’m very ambivalent about the way schools are run and I frequently take our kids out to travel (just as we did when we were kids and we not only turned out just fine but had some very rich learning experiences on the road). I hated school, especially primary school. I’m especially dubious about the “social skills” aspect everyone gushes on about and which you mentioned in your piece. I am halfway towards gearing ourselves up to homeschool if things don’t work well next year, and I’m certain my son learns more in terms of total information when left to his own devices than when sitting in a classroom.

    But most of all, I’m very worried about the focus here on test results as the Meaning Of Life, when really it’s only a very narrow aspect of what we can define as success. Kids who attend school more tend to be better at school. Call the press! Next they’ll be telling us we get better at baseball the more we practice.

    We need to think more deeply about what the results are telling us and take a longer-term view.

  38. Dr. Daniel Butterworth (USA)

    As a recently retired teacher my opinion, research, and experiences with my own children – children benefit more from being outside of the classroom than in the classroom. There is not one subject (academic or otherwise) that cannot be more effectively taught in the natural world. We home schooled our children for ten years, and they traveled with me when I was in the military. What did that do for them? It presented them with a wide variety of cultures, people, food, and geography that students cannot have replicated for them in the class. As to standardized testing – it is the worst thing that has happened in US education. Every student (advanced, average, low/slow, physically and/or psychologically impaired) are expected to perform at the same level. How did that affect my classroom? First, the teacher cannot teach exclusively to any one of the above listed groups (and we have them all in one classroom). Since that is not possible, you tend to teach to the average/middle group of learners that make up the greater part of the class population. In doing so – the main tragedy is that the higher learners are bored because the material is to easy and slow. Then there is the low/slow learning group or those who have disabilities that affect their learning processes. They get frustrated because the material is presented too fast or is difficult for them to comprehend (for whatever reason). In the end, the upper and lower learners end up being a discipline problem taking 15 – 25% of the class time to keep “occupied” and out of trouble. I am all for ability grouping and all against standardized testing – in any form.

  39. I completely agree that travel is one of the best teachers – local or international. Some of the progressive schools I have seen in the US lately, not only allow travel but encourage it. They have a way for kids to login and do their work or not – it is up to them since they are already learning while traveling.

    We have a week of day trips planned for our “not back to school” week. They learned so much yesterday as we explored a new gem near by. They learned more in one day than I can even imagine could ever have happened within a classroom. Beautiful photos!

  40. The best way to teach your kid Geography, to show him to be kind to those around him, to have people skills so useful later in life, is to take him around the world. Show him incredibly beautiful places, people that lack having a house and a nice meal but still are decent and caring, teach him to interact with others, all these are just as useful as having a nice degree.

  41. So true Caz. Learning outside the classroom is vital to gain a real balance. I have had withering looks from teachers recently at the prospect of taking both daughters out of school to go to the UK. They will do distance education while we travel.
    The teachers at the school definitely seemed unimpressed, it is possibly due to their own mis-understandings and fears.

  42. I know this is an old post but I had just to add something. Having had a horrible day dealing with our local school (who are strongly against) and the local authorities who, having assured us we would receive a fine but no further action if we took our primary age kids on a 7 week trip to SE Asia, have now informed us (after we’ve booked and paid for everything) we may be prosecuted (which could involve a much heavier fine or even prison!) Its been so depressing dealing with people who see your family travel dreams as selfish and irresponsible. In the UK they also have many similar studies they are touting as reasons for being heavy handed with parents who take their children out of school. Apparently we are severely impacting their education (they are ages 5,5,7 & 8). So thank you Caz, after reading this my sanity and my faith in myself and belief that I’m making good choices for my family is being restored a little 🙂

    1. Oh wow. That is ridiculous. You stand by your rights. They’re your children and you know what is best for them. There is not one strand of energy within me that believes you are disadvantaging your children by taking them on this trip. You might like to also listen to this webinar I did with a friend. We talk about the benefits of travelling with kids. I think it will also help you feel better. It’s around the 43 minute mark that we start chatting about it. Enjoy your holiday and this time with your children!

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