My first draft of this blog entry had two looonnnnggg paragraphs about my feelings about the current state of education. When I reread the final draft, my brain said, “blah, blah, blah…” and just didn’t feel like even thinking about all of it, sharing it, or offending anyone, so with a few strokes of my finger, I hit delete. If you know me, you know that I think the “system” of education is a mess and that I think we should reconsider everything we do. If you want to know what I think, the video that best matches my thoughts on education are laid out in this video by Sir Ken Robinson.
One new concept that really intrigues me is the concept of Unschooling or World Schooling. While it is not practical for many people, there are many who are opting to educate their children on the road. While traveling, I have been using travel blogs as resources for where to go and what to do. While gaining valuable travel ideas, I also stumbled on this concept by reading blogs including Raisingmiro.com and 1dad1kid.com. There are many more sites about traveling families, but I appreciate the way both of these parents are testing the boundaries of schooling by exposing their children to learning around the world.
About three weeks ago, I was video chatting on the phone with Jason and sharing information about World Schooling. His brother Josiah is homeschooled and we were talking about how cool it would be if Josiah had the chance to use the world as his classroom like this. I think something was said like, “he should meet me in South America” and a few hours later, Jason had Josiah and his parents on board and was looking up how quickly Josiah could get his passport. Two things here…One…I am awed by their vision for Josiah as a world changer and willingness to support that-even when it means putting a 13 year old on three airplanes to get here. Two…there are not many 13 year olds that I would want to travel with, but I spent a week with Josiah this summer when he attended film camp in Chicago. He was curious, easy to be with, and had great stamina for activities, so I knew our time together would be pleasant learning opportunities for both of us.
After a week of hustling for a passport, with his parents driving from Iowa to Chicago to pick it up, and finding the best priced tickets, we had a final plan. Josiah would meet me in Quito, Ecuador, travel for four weeks, and return home from Santiago, Chile. Our time together would include traveling through Ecuador, Peru, and the Northern part of Chile.
On Friday, after 12 hours and three flights, Josiah arrived in Quito. The American Airline chaperone service took him from Jason’s hands in Chicago to mine in Quito. He was excited when he arrived, and quickly learned his first lesson in economics. We could either take a taxi back to our hostel which would be more comfortable and cost $10 or take a crowded bus where we could stand for 40 minutes carrying a heavy backpack for the cost of 25 cents. We opted for the bus and enjoyed the city views along the way.
Our hostel in Quito is a family owned place and I think I was the only one there. They gave me the room with four beds in anticipation of Josiah’s visit and waited anxiously for his arrival. When he walked in the door, he was greeted with hugs like a long lost friend. We stopped at the restaurant down the street where they have two things on the menu-chicken and potatoes-and sat down to enjoy our meal. The restaurant is about the same size as my bedroom, so it is easy to become familiar with other patrons. We quickly made friends with eleven year old Joshue and his family. After a bit of conversation, we agreed that Josiah and Joshue would meet to play soccer the next evening.
On Josiah’s first two days in Ecuador, we have done so much. One of the things that has been nice is that I am doing some things I wouldn’t have done without him here. We started our first day by taking a bus to the market in Otavalo. He had his first opportunity to bargain and began to experience life in a country where you don’t speak the language. When we returned to the hotel, it was already time for soccer. Josiah and Joshue were anxious to get started, but when we met, we realized neither had a soccer ball. We shopped around for a bit until we located balls for each of them. We ended up at a soccer field that resembled a tennis court at home….fenced and concrete…where they joined ten other players with ages raining from about 5 to 30. People came and left the game. I think they were surprised when Josiah started scoring goals and some of the older guys picked up their game a bit. After the game, Joshue’s mom and aunt invited us to their home for hot chocolate. When we got back to the hostel, our neighbor restaurant said they would just deliver our food and we soon has steaming chicken and potatoes in our room. Ecuadorian hospitality was overflowing on Josiah’s first day.
I realize that teenaged boys do not like to wake up early, but for the second day in a row, we were out by 8:00 am for a tram ride to Teleferico. I have taken lots of cable cars to mountaintops, but I was excited to enjoy Josiah’s first ride. We got on and enjoyed beautiful scenes on the way up. On the way down, we had a bit if drama. I am a girl raised taking the CTA, so when you see moving transportation that you think you should be on, you make a run for it-which is exactly what I did when I saw the cable car that was heading down the mountain. As I jumped on, with Josiah behind me, the cable car picked up the pace as the door closed on my arm, with Josiah left behind. I had a fleeting moment of panic and imagining him left behind-which honestly would not have been an issue with the empty car just 10 seconds behind is, but my instinct kicked in and I pushed open the door and threw myself out of the car and onto the concrete platform…all while alarms starting going off and the entire cable car system stopped. The woman supervising the platform (where was she when I started running) seemed less than happy, but I graciously smiled and nodded through my Spanish scolding. Finally, after a really long minute of people stuck on cable cars staring at us, the system started working again and we were off… First catastrophe avoided-outside of a scarred ego and oodles of embarrassment.
In our short time in Quito, we did a lot…visiting the Mitad del Mundo for a stop on the equator, (I read somewhere that this night not actually be the exact spot of the equator, but it was a good tourist version with a line to stand on), climbing to the top of the bell tower of the Basilica de Voto Nacionale, wandering the historic city center, and taking at least 20 bus rides.
During our last moments in Quito, our hotel hosts changed our bus ticket out of Quito so they could drive us to a closer station. As I sat under the blanket they brought to their lobby couch and enjoyed a cup of mint tea and delicious onion bread, I struggled through a few hours of Spanish and thought about how much I liked Quito.
Josiah and I just got off his first overnight bus trip. He said, “I had no problem sleeping on other bus rides, but I didn’t sleep much last night.” I don’t think the blaring music and movies ever helps. We will spend the next three days on a quick trip into the Amazon before heading south to Cuenca, Ecuador and then onto Peru. I am anxious to see the things through Josiah’s eyes and enjoy his enthusiasm. As I sit across the table from him, while he writes his own blog entry, I think “doing school” with the Amazon as the classroom is going I be quite fun!