Taking the kids out of school – did the papers get it right?

Travelling by campervan
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A journalist from the Sunday Post newspaper in Scotland contacted us recently after reading our blog. Could he ask a few questions, it was a great human interest story?

Sure. OK.

Our blog started out as a diary and an update for family and friends that we were safe, well, and not lost, but has become much more than that to us. We have been in contact with people from all over the world who are interested in travel in general, travelling with children long term, travelling by campervan, homeschooling their children, moving abroad with kids, language learning, new recipes, a whole host of things. They have given us tips, we have given them tips. We have chatted and shared stories. It has been an unexpected and welcome bonus. Below is a picture of the countries people have accessed our blog from.

Blog stats
The countries from where our posts have been read – the darker, the more visits.

We are working on making it a bit more interesting for Greenland.

Following on from the conversation with the journalist, an article was duly published in the Sunday paper. It was a nice article but the text box next to the main article suggested that we were a bit weird – for not falling out and for wanting to spend time with our kids in the first place. Of course we fell out. It’s just that in a box with an interior of 2m x 6m you have to make up pretty quickly. And as for “needing a psychiatrist” for wanting to spend time with our kids? That is a really sad reflection of the world we live in. For sure people are busy, too busy, and stressed, too stressed, at the ins and outs of day to day life. But if we weren’t, then surely we are all the same and want to spend time with our kids before they grow up?

Over the next few days, strange things began to happen (strange for us because we don’t know how the press works). National newspapers in the UK published articles online and in their paper. The Telegraph reported on a “Family’s year of travel, riding camels, elephants and doing homework”. The Daily Mail, “Adventurous couple takes their three children out of school for a family gap year travelling the world”.

Telegraph report.

Daily Mail report.

A tiny £35000 typo in the Daily Mail reported the cost of the trip at more than three times what it actually was – back to costs later – but what stood out in this feature was the paper’s unwillingness to distinguish between taking your kids out of school for a holiday and taking your kids out of school to school them.

All parents in the UK – and France where we now live – have the legal right to remove their children from school and provide them with an alternative form of education. I’m not saying for a minute that all schools are bad, on the contrary, our “mainstream schooling” for the kids so far has been good. But there is that right for parents who want to exercise it. There are no official figures but estimates suggest that between 50000 and 80000 children in the UK are homeschooled, and it’s not odd, it’s just different, sometimes necessary.

For the people who take their kids out of school for a term-time family reunion or a family holiday, or for other reasons they have deemed to be important for their family, I have sympathy too. You can’t help that your grandpa’s birthday is during term time. And you only need to look at the appalling money making scams the holiday companies pull when they up, double, even triple their prices during official school holidays. Who suffers? Families who can’t afford these massive hikes in price, that’s who. Families who need a bit of down time as a family, away from the hamster wheel.

So back to the costs.

One our most popular blogs was this one about the cost of the trip. Before we set off on our own trip we scoured the internet for an idea of how much it would cost. The sites which chose to share that information really helped, so that’s why why decided to in turn share ours.

One of our most popular blog posts
One of our most popular blog posts

Budget blog post is here.

Matt diligently recorded everything we spent. A great lesson in budgeting and arithmetic. As a family we decided where the budget would be spent. We all agreed that staying put (no fuel costs) and pasta for a few nights was worth it, say, to go inside the oldest salt mine in the world.

Our budget was 10 euros per day per person. Or £8 per person as reported in the UK. For everything except insurance. It didn’t include the cost of the campervan which we are now selling – we love you campervan :(. Nor the costs of our flight to Thailand which was booked and paid for long before the trip started. The rest of the travel – fuel, ferries, tolls etc was included.

The budget went up a little to 60 euros in total per day when we left our campervan ie accommodation, means of travel and cooking facilities behind to go East. It went down to 40 euros per day in Morocco for an equivalent amount of time. So the average remained at 50 euros per day for the 5 of us.

At the end of our 10 month trip we were a few hundred euros over budget (a bit less than a ferry fare that we hadn’t reckoned on) so basically we were on target.

image

Does that seem a lot? Everyone’s circumstances are different. For us, it cost less to be away for a year than it did to be at home. Add up your housing costs, heating, electric, food, transport, clubs, clothes, entertainment etc etc for a year and you’d be surprised at what it comes to.

Travelling is not about being rich. It’s about taking a risk and cutting your cloth accordingly. We stuck to a budget which was pretty tight at times. It meant we actively had to find ways of reducing costs – talking to fellow travellers, helping out on farms or volunteering (WWOOFing – working on organic and sustainable farms is a great example), housesitting (we didn’t because we had our van, but we know many travellers who do), eating local produce and not hunting out Macdonalds in Morocco, mending and fixing things en route…… There are many many ways to save money which are more satisfying than spending money. It’s a choice. Travelling is either a priority for you or it’s not.

If you don’t want to travel, don’t. Not everyone does. But if you do, it’s only you who’s stopping you.

The biggest obstacle is fear. Possibly of the unknown. Or maybe where you were born, because that is a horrible, sometimes unfair lottery over which we have no control. Overcome the fear and all the rest kinda falls into place. The scariest thing for us now is knowing, in retrospect, how easy it was.

What are your thoughts? Is travelling good for kids? Can most people travel if they want to? Is taking them out of mainstream school, for whatever reason, a good or a bad thing?

By Jen

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10 Replies to “Taking the kids out of school – did the papers get it right?”

  1. Well said! I bet that was frustrating with the papers not getting it right. Of course you know our thoughts on the subject. Travel is the best education for any age.

    1. Thanks Heidi. Not frustrating, just what we were expecting. It’s great to be able to share ideas and advice with people. Best wishes for your time in Asia x

  2. As you are no doubt aware, ignorance breeds contempt. Your kids have learned things about the world that many can’t imagine. Even if you didn’t school on the way (which you did), the lessons of travel would enrich their lives forever. And never take anything the Daily Mail says seriously 🙂

    1. We question a lot more then the Daily Mail these days Saxon. Never a bad thing to ask questions….. We are also learning by reading about your adventures too, thanks – and all the great pictures.

  3. As a teacher, I feel you have offered your children an amazing opportunity to learn which they clearly grasped with both hands.

    1. Thanks Lorna. There is an agenda to what and how we are being taught which us not always necessarily for the good. We’ve realised that sometimes it’s important to step back and evaluate what is important.

  4. I’m a teacher and a Mum and think what you’re doing is great. Now I need to convince my husband.

    1. Thanks. Good luck 🙂

  5. Thanks for writing this! My family is currently spending a year traveling the US and Canada. I’m roadschooling my two kids, 7 and 3. It’s always very reassuring to hear of other families having similar adventures! We’re currently trying to create a plan to explore other countries, next year. Your experiences are an inspiration for us!

    1. Hi Vicki. You sound like you’re having a great adventure. Initially we didn’t know anyone travelling with older kids, now we know loads, and its reassuring and inspiring for us to read their stories too. Happy travels!

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