On Origami, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Origin of Species

17 Dec

What’s the point in taking such young children travelling around the world?  They won’t understand what they are seeing and they won’t really remember it when they’re older.  Why don’t you just stay at home?

Mostly, when we tell people about our travel plans they are overwhelmingly positive, Eve’s teacher’s initial reaction was “What an education!”.  But occasionally someone will not understand.

So what is the point? And what can we do to prepare them for such a big change in their little lives?

Because they are so young, I think they have trouble differentiating between countries, so we are doing all we can to teach them about our destinations before we go.  The older two frequently confuse, India, China and Japan for instance, so we look at picture atlases, read National Geographic and talk about our experiences of visiting some of these places before they were born.

We are trying to find out what children in our destination countries like to read, play and watch, and remembering books and programmes from our childhood set in foreign lands.  So ‘Skippy the Bush Kangaroo’ and ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ are on order and the picture book ‘I live in Tokyo’ by Mari Takabayashi is studied with great concentration as we learn about the Doll’s Festival and how to write fish in Japanese.  Playdough sessions are interspered with origami making and Thai kick boxing.  Although I’m now regretting suggesting the latter.

We are planning to see volcanos, coral reefs, glaciers, deserts and jungles on our travels, so we’ve been mining the library for reference books.  I would love it if we went on a walk through the Malaysian jungle and one of the children said “Look there’s a …”  Then I would know that we were doing the right thing.  Having a geologist Daddy is helping.  I’m confident that we’ll all know a lot more about glaciers and volcanos by the end of our trip.  Whether we want to or not.

Learning about animals is easy, with Battersea Park Zoo down the road and a well-used season ticket to London Zoo last year.  We’ve adopted a Cambodian otter and an orangutan called Sen, who lives at Sepilok Sanctuary in Borneo, a place we intend to visit.  He’s the same age as Dickon, likes splashing in the bath, throwing food and playing with his toy train.  Apparently, Charles Darwin’s visit with his infant daughter to the orangutans at London zoo was one of the catalysts for the Origin of Species.  Hmm.

One of the great joys of travel is trying new foods, particularly somewhere like Thailand or Vietnam.  But if you are four years old, trying new food  can be something akin to being made to walk across hot coals, and if you add chili to the food, well you might as well be throwing your four year old to the lions.  I don’t want to have lots of battles about food, so I’m quite prepared to let them survive on a diet of rice, fruit and cartons of chocolate milk for three months.  But I’d love it if they could enjoy eating in Asia, so to that end, and also because we are greedy, we eat out as much as possible, and almost always Thai, Vietnamese or any cuisine involving chillies, noodles or raw fish.  We have also persuaded them that seaweed makes a yummy snack.

I do realise that a four year old will have a limited memory of a trip like this as an adult, but I also think he will get things from it that are not all about remembering.  He will have a year away from formal schooling, a year spent with his family, a year of learning to adapt to new places and new experiences, a year of learning to amuse himself on long bus journeys, all things which I hope will have a lasting impact.

As for not remembering, we’ll have blog posts and photos coming out of our ears by the end of the trip.  Forgetting about it won’t be an option.

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16 Responses to “On Origami, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Origin of Species”

  1. Laura 17/12/2009 at 2:04 pm #

    I am torn between saying “TAKE ME WITH YOU” … again and telling yu to “GET ON WITH IT” so I can read all about it!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 17/12/2009 at 2:07 pm #

      Sorry, I’m afraid you’ve months and months of pontification before we actually set off. You’ll be sick of me long before we leave!

  2. Vic 17/12/2009 at 3:50 pm #

    I’m with Laura!
    I can’t help wondering if four year olds remember more than we think. I know the boy’s very happywith his memories from two and three, whether they’ll hang on in 20 years time is a different matter, but he’s got them for now.
    Either way, it’s a great experience for all the kids and you’ll probably find the negative comments come from those who are jealous they can’t do it themselves.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 18/12/2009 at 4:21 pm #

      Thank you, our three year old remembers lots about our holiday in Switzerland, in fact he often brings it up, particuarly riding in cablecars!

  3. Liz (LivingwithKids) 17/12/2009 at 7:11 pm #

    I honestly don’t know why you wouldn’t go, to be honest. Although we didn’t do any major trips when No1 Son was small, he did go to New Zealand (where his grandparents live), Australia, all over the Caribbean, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Finland, Sweden, France and Ireland on various holidays. Every single trip made him more confident, gave him better social skills, helped with his understanding of foreign culture and landscapes, history (we always go to a lot of museums!) and even different languages. Can he remember all of them? Probably not, but it has helped to give him a love of travel and history, he has an exceptional ear for different languages and he’ll try any kind of food once. We would love to go to Japan (I studied Japanese at uni as one of my outside options) and hopefully one day we will.
    The only thing I would say is be careful in Borneo – not sure where the sanctuary is but I understand there’s some quite dodgy bits now. As long as you’ve checked everything on the FCO website I don’t see the problem.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 18/12/2009 at 4:17 pm #

      It’s great to hear from someone who’s travelled widely with their children and doesn’t think we are mad! We are planning to go to Malaysian Borneo, which as far as I know is OK. The orangutan sanctuary is well set up for visitors with places to stay nearby ranging from basic huts to a fancy ego lodge. I think it’s Indonesian Borneo that has the problems, but I will look into it.

  4. Josie 17/12/2009 at 9:02 pm #

    I think it is madness to underestimate the impact that our early experiences have on us as growing children and later as adults. All the preparation your doing with them, your adventures themselves, I truly believe these are going to become a very influential part of how they grow up seeing the world and their understand and appreciation of it.

    I am so in awe of you and think you are fantastic to give them such amazing experiences xx

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 18/12/2009 at 4:14 pm #

      Thank you, I agree with you really, it’s just easy to doubt yourself when others do. Please don’t be TOO in awe of me, in addition to the improving learning of Japanese, the also have an intimate knowledge of Cbeebies schedules!

  5. SandyCalico 17/12/2009 at 11:09 pm #

    Of course you should take them! What an amazing experience for all of you. I’m envious. I wish I was more adventurous with my boys, we can’t face taking them abroad yet – but they are only 2 and 1!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 18/12/2009 at 4:12 pm #

      We couldn’t face taking ours any further than Hastings (1.5 hrs drive from London) until this year! It definitely gets easier as they get older. Thanks for your kind words, it’s lovely to hear from people who don’t think we’re completely mad!

  6. Sarah Lavender Smith 18/12/2009 at 7:24 pm #

    I enjoyed this post and obviously support what you’re doing, since our family is engaged in a similar journey! However, for what it’s worth, I wanted to encourage you to not feel like you have to justify your trip by making it always seem educational and productive. Sometimes it’s best to just travel for the sake of travel, and let the kids play for the sake of playing. This is a big topic I can’t intelligently squeeze into this comment but I recently blogged about the topic of play, priorities & parenting at http://away-together.com/2009/12/18/play-around-rotorua/.
    When we started our trip, I felt guilty and unproductive if we weren’t always “making the most out of” our destination, however that may be defined, and being able to show my kids’ teachers and extended family back home all that we’re doing and learning. It’s taken me four months to let go of that and recognize that often less is more, and “doing nothing” really is something.
    Good luck with your travel prep, and happy holidays!

  7. Pamela 20/12/2009 at 3:53 pm #

    I think what you’re doing is just incredible! Your child are not going to be home schooled, they will be out-of-the-home schooled and that is truly an awesome experience! I think you will be surprised at what they will remember, especially things that trigger particular fields of interest for them like animals, marine life, geographic features, etc.. I home schooled my daughter for three years and although we didn’t travel as extensively as you are going to do, we did take advantage of every out of the house opportunity to visit historic homes, re-enactments, cultural events, zoos, and museums. Having been there and done that is a far better way to learn that reading about something in a textbook!

    I am really looking forward to following your adventures!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/12/2009 at 10:38 pm #

      Thanks so much for your comments. I’m always really interested to hear about home schooling experiences so I’ll definitely be coming to visit your blog over the Christmas break. Thanks also for the bento link 😉

  8. Pamela 20/12/2009 at 3:53 pm #

    * Sorry, that should be your childREN!

  9. Pamela 20/12/2009 at 3:57 pm #

    I just read Liz(Living with Kids)’s comment above and I have to agree – experiencing different cultures is the best way to teach your children to understand and value the lives and opinions of others. Far too many people do not see any farther than the end of their street, city limits or country and that is very sad. An appreciation and respect for others goes a long way to making a better world.

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