Take Your Family Outdoors
Last year, Rainer Jenss traveled around the world with his wife and two sons, and blogged about his experience here on Intelligent Travel. This year, he’s back with a new column that focuses on traveling with kids.
Some quick advice: If you are a mom or dad of a school-aged child and have anxiety if they miss a day or two of classes, don’t worry, they’ll be fine. Maybe you’re even doing what my parents did when I was younger and taking your children out of school willingly for a short time to go on a vacation over the holidays. Again, unless there’s something really pressing they can’t afford to neglect, don’t distress too much. It’s probably nothing they can’t make up when they get back.
My wife and I took our two boys out of school for 12 months last year and now that Stefan and Tyler are in the 4th and 7th grades as originally scheduled, I’m happy to report that they have adjusted back to academic life just fine. Granted, we “road-schooled” them during our round-the-world journey to keep them caught up on the curriculum they would have studied had they remained in school, and found relevant ways to practice their math and English (exchange rate conversions and blogging certainly helped supplement some of that). But truthfully, that wasn’t our main concern.
One of the primary reasons we embarked on a yearlong sabbatical with our kids was actually to enhance their education–one we felt they couldn’t get in any classroom. We believed that giving them the opportunity to see and experience the world first hand–particularly at their young ages–would provide them with a foundation of understanding and learning that they would carry forward through the rest of their lives. After all, if a formal education is meant to enable children to successfully navigate the world around them, travel only enhances that, as it embraces such a diversity of subjects: science, geography, language, social studies, math, history, music, religion and health. Better yet, it connects them to the natural world where they can personally see, hear, feel, touch, smell, taste and experience the world for themselves.
I say all this because in the end, traveling with children presents parents with a whole lot more than just the opportunity to spend valuable time together as a family. It will open up the world to their kids in more ways then they could ever imagine. The experiences themselves will help form special bonds and memories that often last a lifetime. Getting kids involved in photography will not only capture those moments for posterity, but nurture their artistic side. In the case of my son Tyler, it sparked a passion that just might lead to a life-long hobby… if not more!
But interestingly, travel might actually be good for your son’s or daughter’s health and well-being! At the recommendation of Sven Lindblad, who shares my strong belief in the importance of family travel, I picked up Richard Louv’s national bestseller, Last Child in the Woods. As the chairman of the Children & Nature Network, Louv details how direct exposure to nature is essential for a child’s physical and emotional development. He’s coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder,” to describe how a lack of nature and exposure to the outdoors raises the risk of a child developing attention disorders, obesity, and even depression.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
If you’ve ever gone camping or hiking with your children or traveled to a national park, you don’t have to read this book to know that kids suddenly take less interest in what’s on television and playing their video games. Living in a world where climate change, globalization, and terrorism are among the biggest issues that will effect the future for the next generation, isn’t it more important than ever to expose them to the wonders of nature and what life is like beyond their own backyard? So the next time you contemplate if taking your child out of school to go on a family trip is compromising their education, maybe take a moment to consider what they’ll be missing out on if you didn’t.
Need some ideas on ways to get outside? Check out our Family Vacation Planner and our Guide to the National Parks.
Photo: Rainer Jenss