What Your Kid Needs More Than a High School Diploma

Janelle Harris

High school diploma

Even when I was a kid, I loved to travel. I never got very far — my mom didn’t make a lot of money and since it was just her, the bulk of our vacations consisted of road trips within a tri-state radius. But the passion for seeing other places was always there. Not that I’m raking in big bucks by any stretch of my or your imagination either, but I’m itching to plan a major vacay to someplace I’ve always wanted to visit: Africa.

A few months ago, I interviewed a doctor who goes to Tanzania every three months and he welcomed me to come teach English to the students in the village he visits. I was hyped. My first thought: OMG! My second: I’m terrified of the bugs already. My third: What will I do about Skylar?

Would you let your kids miss school if it meant they were able to travel to some faraway location and see a different part of the world firsthand? I would.

While there, my interviewee-turned-benevolent-trip-organizer told me I’ll spend a few hours a day teaching children of all ages, little ones to teens, the basics of our language. There are plenty of things to be taught and learned sho nuff, but I told him I haven’t had such great success as an educator and offered up one unfortunate episode as a substitute teacher as my confirmation. He waved my testimony away like I said I still believe in Santa Claus. Totally different bag of tricks, he reassured. I believe him.

I decided that if I go, I’ll have to pull The Girl out of class for the duration of our trip, which will be about three weeks. Shoot, the flight alone is about 14 hours one way, so it would be silly to get there and stay like we were someplace one state over. We’d be on constant go from the time we hit the ground, trying to fit everything we wanted to see and do and taste and touch all in a five-day stretch. There wouldn’t be time to sit and just be — half of our journey would be spent hovering up in the air. That’s not what I want the trip to look like. I want to experience Africa, not just say that I’ve been there.

There are times when life experience trumps anything you can get from a textbook, which is why I don’t mind Tween Travelista missing that block of school days. Of course I’ll be a responsible mommy and get all of her school work and information that she’ll be missing while she’s playing junior jetsetter. But this is a chance to see a place instead of reading about it and be there in the flesh instead of just doing a social studies project on it. That’s real deal hands-on education.

Besides, I don’t know how many other opportunities she’ll get to go to any part of the continent. I mean, hopefully her future will be full of adventures that’ll require her to whip out her passport and dash to far, exotic corners of the world. But in the meantime, I can’t see any reason to pass up a chance for her to get a taste of it now. Travel and exposure are two elements of making a child well-rounded and cultured and intelligent — outside of just reading about stuff on National Geographic. This stint will be like our own little study abroad excursion.

So would you let your kids sip from the cup of life experience at the risk of missing some school time?


Image via JermJus/Flickr

Read More