We have received a ton of messages in our inbox this weekend as more people become aware of our travels and our unschooling lifestyle. Overall the responses have been super positive and we are so overwhelmed and grateful for all of the support for our little family. Some of the messages have been (not so politely) advising us not to go so we thought it’d be fun to write a little blog post addressing all of the reasons people have given us not to go travelling with the kids.
1. IT’S ILLEGAL.
The current law in the UK states that parents of school-aged children are responsible for ensuring that their children receive an education whether in school or otherwise. The key word there being otherwise. We know it is difficult for people to understand that if you take children out of school during term time for a holiday you get a whopping fine off the local authority, yet we can “swan off on a jolly around the world” and not have any fines. But rest assured we are not breaking any laws.
2. THE CHILDREN WILL FALL BEHIND ACADEMICALLY.
Firstly we already unschool the girls, so we don’t hold our children up to some ridiculous standards plucked out of thin air by a government panel of professionals. All humans are different, they all learn in different ways at different paces. We’ve never compared our children to others, and we’re not worried about them “falling behind”. It also comes down to time. It has been calculated that over a school year children actually only spend 100 minutes per school day doing formal learning once you have taken into account all of the breaktimes, lesson transitions, assemblies etc. Given that home educated children are in their ‘learning environment’ for 365 days a year, this equates to 51mins per day (the ‘Time is Precious’ blog post by Monkey Mum explains this in more detail). Given that our children are curious little sponges, soaking up knowledge wherever we are at any and all times of the day we think we can safely say that 51 minutes per day of ‘learning’ is doable. Which leads us very nicely onto point 3…
3. THEY WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO ATTEND UNIVERSITY.
When we first received this message we were a little speechless. Like seriously you believe that our children won’t be able to attend university because we home educate them. Firstly they might not want to go to university. Secondly, they are 8 & 6, in Finland, my eldest would have only been at school for a year, and my youngest wouldn’t be at school yet. [Side note: Finland is 5th in the international school league tables. School there is compulsory for 9 years and they only attend for 4 hours a day, plus they’ve been named the happiest country in the world. Let’s be more Finland people!] Thirdly, (we feel like we need to scream this one) home educated children can still sit formal exams (GASPS). I know it’s shocking isn’t it to think we are able to tutor our children and pay for them to privately sit formal examinations saving the taxpayers a shitload of money.
4. OUR CHILDREN WON’T SUCCEED IN LIFE.
We find these comments ignorant and disrespectful to all kinds of people living and contributing to our society. So many people have repeated to us in some delightful messages that our children will fail at life, that they will never succeed. Here’s a challenge for you, define success? What does success mean to you? Now ask the person next to you, what do you need to succeed in life? The answer to this question is so complex and means something different to each and every person on the planet. For some people, success means the high flying career with the supercar, the massive house, designer clothes, luxury holidays once a year. Good for you, go for it. But to think that is everyone’s definition of a successful life is ill-mannered and uninformed. Success for others can be as simple as just getting through each day. Just because someone is in a low wage job does not automatically mean they are not succeeding in life. Success isn’t a club that only the elite can join. The dictionary defines success as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. For us success means living life how you want to live it, being happy and healthy. If someone is happy does it really matter what career they are in?
5. WE WILL END UP ON THE DOLE (AS WILL OUR CHILDREN SEE POINTS 2, 3 & 4).
People are extremely worried about us wasting the taxpayers’ money now, when we return and when our children inevitably fail at life. We didn’t realise everybody could see into our bank accounts?!? Rest assured folks we are funding the travels ourselves and we have backup money for when we return, we’re not idiots! As for the ridiculous comments about our children having to claim benefits because they are so poorly educated. Yawn. Are you also lobbying the government about the 17% of 16year olds leaving school completely illiterate or the 37% of recent graduates that are currently unemployed? When every person leaves the education system with a guaranteed job, when that happens, you can come at us all you want with your benefit comments.
6. WE’LL BE JOBLESS & HOMELESS.
Seriously, because nobody that’s ever left a job has ever managed to get a new job? (On this point we’re not snobs and will do whatever we need to do to feed and house our children). And nobody has ever sold their home, moved away, then come back home and bought or rented a new house? Think about it folks, it’s not rocket science.
7. WE’RE SELFISH.
Apparently quitting your job to make memories with your family is selfish. Removing your children from a place and situation (school) that’s makes them mentally unwell is selfish. Taking a huge leap of faith to make your children’s dreams come true is selfish. Also making our dreams come true so we are happier and fulfilled, meaning the children only get the best of us is selfish. Protecting, sharing and cherishing our children’s childhood is selfish. Being with your children all day, every day is selfish. Sacrificing time and money to give your children an enriching education is selfish. I think you get it, we’re so bloody selfish!
8. WE’RE BLOODY HIPPIES.
You’re right we’re bloody hippies. William has a beard (hipster wanker), and Natalie has a nose ring and a bad home hair dye job, the kids dress themselves, and occasionally they don’t brush their hair (feral). We’re sorry guys. Sorry that we choose to cuddle our kids to sleep instead of leaving them to cry. We’re sorry that we choose to negotiate instead of punish. We’re sorry that we choose differently because, yes we might have turned out OK, but OK isn’t what we’re aiming for when it comes to our children. Sorry that we are pissed off with all the plastic pollution and will nag anyone we see using single-use plastics. Sorry that we won’t buy anything containing Palm oil because of deforestation. Sorry that we’re concerned about child poverty around the world. Thank you for allowing us to see the light. We won’t take our children to beach cleanups in the Philippines, orangutan orphanages in Sumatra, elephant sanctuaries in Sri Lanka and poverty-stricken villages in Cambodia whilst we’re visiting. Thank you for alerting us to the error of our ways. We will immediately shave off the beard, remove the nose ring and ensure the girls brush their hair. We will only stay in English speaking tourist resorts that have a detrimental effect on the environment and not venture any further than Paddy’s Irish Bar and The Red Lion next door to the hotel. We were being selfish again, weren’t we? Honestly, who gives a shit about the world we’re living in?
So there you have it we’re benefit scrounging, child neglecting, selfish wanker hippies!
Sorry to disappoint you but that whole post was complete rubbish, we are bloody hippies and we do care. If you haven’t gathered by now, we care deeply about our children, so deeply that we are sacrificing everything to make their dreams come true and give them an epic childhood. Deeply enough that we’re making radical changes to protect the planet for their future.
We understand that our story being out there is going to divide opinions and garner reactions. That’s awesome, we love a good debate, we need to open up conversations about the education system and mental health, happiness and wellbeing. If our story being out there inspires just one person to make a positive change in their life then that is mission accomplished.
We are so glad that people feel passionate enough about our children’s education to take the time to send us their opinions. But do us a favour, educate yourselves before sending a message. Research your point, just throwing insults or random comments helps no one. Take that passion you have for our school system that you hold up on a pedestal and go lobby the government for change for your children, and their future.