Tina talks to La Mama about her favorites. I think we’re going to repeat these questions over time to see how they change.
Tina talks to La Mama about her favorites. I think we’re going to repeat these questions over time to see how they change.
Tina is excited to join the blog party! We’re going to post her thoughts, photos, and videos here.
Soon after moving to Peru, Edgar and I decided it was a good time to have a child. Edgar was pushing 40, I was without a full-time job, and both of us were ready to give our time and energy to someone else. I have found in my life that as soon as I put an intention out, I quickly see action. We were pregnant within months of trying, which happened to fall right at the beginning of a 6 month backpacking trip through Central and South America. Now we joke that Tina has been traveling since conception.
I suspected we were pregnant in Bocas del Toro (Panama). Our neighbor was a single mom who had been traveling with her 10 year old son for several years. (Molly and Blake, if you ever end up reading this we think about you all the time. Let us know how you are!) She eased me through my initial doubts about being ready for motherhood. (Is anyone really prepared?)
When we passed through Puerto Viejo (Costa Rica) I met a young woman who was 8 months pregnant. She had been backpacking with her boyfriend for the previous year and they were holding out as long as possible before returning home to the US. She was so laissez-faire about the idea of giving birth you’d never guess she was due in a few weeks. I applauded her for being so brave about traveling until the end of her pregnancy. I still had no confirmation that I was pregnant – pregnancy tests were so expensive in all the beach towns that I hadn’t bothered to do one yet – but I was feeling this sense of increasing responsibility as time went on. I finally bought a pregnancy test in San Jose, Costa Rica and we got proof positive. Honestly, that day wasn’t really special – I had already known in my heart that Tina was coming.
Trouble in Paradise
I was fortunate to have an easy first trimester. Sometimes I had morning sickness when I woke up early to surf. But I met my match when we took a 6-day boat trip from Puerto Lindo (Panama) to Cartagena (Colombia). It was brutal. This was no cruise ship. It was a 42 foot sail boat with 10 people on it. My bed was the kitchen sofa. The trip was supposed to last 4 days but due to engine problems and faulty autopilot we were delayed 2 whole days. I puked the entire first night – to be fair, everyone on the boat did – and I laid prostrate for the next 5 days to avoid further vomit sessions. The only time I left the cabin was to snorkel in the San Blas Islands or to steer the boat when the captain needed some sleep. My tour of duty was from 4-6 am and Edgar from 6-8 am. We would sit together in the dead silence of the night and watch for shooting stars, making wishes that Tina would be born healthy. Every morning we felt blessed when the moon descended to our backs and the sun peaked its brilliant golden face above the horizon.
On the third day, the captain announced that the motor needed a prolonged break. There was no wind for the sails so we ended up floating in the middle of nowhere for about half a day. It was a long time to sit in one place when we just wanted to get to our destination. I felt stupid for taking the trip in the first place. My mind was running with all the horrible things that could happen. “What if the engine can’t get going again? What if we run out of food and water? What if a huge storm comes? What if something happens to Tina? What if…?”
Fear is so insidious. Edgar was very quiet. I know he was thinking the same things. I decided to snap out of it and find something better to focus on. I imagined taking the remote control to my mind and changing the channel.
I looked out at the deep blue sea – hundreds of miles out into the ocean with no land in sight – and felt a profound sense of peace. It was the first time we had sat quietly and listened to the waves lap up softly against the boat. We watched wispy clouds pass over us and the sun slowly shift across the sky. I felt gratitude more than fear – I was grateful there were no rain clouds, thankful it was not hurricane season, appreciative of a floating boat even if it wasn’t moving forward, and glad to be healthy enough to sit on deck and enjoy the view.
By the end of that trip I vowed to never get on a boat again – at least for so long – and yet I will never forget the experience. It is one of the most intense of my lifetime, so it is also a part of Tina’s early experiences. I often wonder if her problems with motion sickness come from that week of constant, undulating movement.
When we finally arrived at the port of Cartagena we were overwhelmed by the formidable fortress walls and ominous cargo ships. It was an unreal feeling to step onto solid land after so many days of disequilibrium. Our legs moved like rubber bands and it took 3 days to feel normal again.
Cartagena is a beautiful city with a mix of old world architecture and Miami style beaches. We enjoyed ourselves for a few days but were definitely feeling concern about Tina. I appeared to be strong but was she okay? Actually, we didn’t even know if Tina was a *she* yet. So we found a pediatrician in a private hospital and did our first ultrasound. We were very thankful to hear Tina’s heartbeat, strong and normal, and lay eyes on “The Nugget” – aptly named because at 10 weeks she looked just like a nugget of gold, or a Chicken McNugget, on the scan. That’s what we called her until the gender was revealed several months later.
We continued traveling along the Caribbean coast to Santa Marta and Tayrona. I really wanted to cross the border into Venezuela – we were only a few hundred miles from where I was born – but we changed our minds when we learned of military activity between FARC and the Venezuelan army in the region. After the boat trip we were definitely trying to avoid risky travel experiences for Tina’s sake. So we went south to Bogota on one of the worst night buses ever. (I will write about that in a future post, with all the other crazy bus stories!) We arrived around noon and hailed a taxi outside the station. The driver took us to Candelaria, one of the more economical parts of town. Upon discovering that every hotel within our price range had prostitutes sitting in the lobby, we told the driver to take us right to the airport. Yes, we spent about 2 hours in Bogota and decided to move on. That’s the benefit of traveling without reservations – we can change our mind whenever we want. It’s an attitude that can be both scary and liberating.
We were lucky to find same-day plane tickets from Bogota to Guayaquil, Ecuador, with a 24-hour stopover in Quito. We saw an immense amount of Quito in just one day – old town, churches, museums, main plaza, typical lunch – but we nearly missed our continuing flight because the hostel was locked and unattended when we returned to recover our backpacks from the storage room. The airline was kind enough to move us onto the following flight to Guayaquil at no cost. Those were the kind of experiences that taught me to stop worrying so much. Even when things felt out of control, they always worked out fine.
Guayaquil was a nice town to explore and take advantage of solid internet for my new job training. Then we headed to Montanita on the coast, very eager to find some waves. It was a big pain to carry two surf boards across thousands of miles with no opportunity to use them for more than a month. Unfortunately, we were sorely disappointed with Montanita. The waves were small and the party scene was not fitting for a pregnant woman and her partner. So we moved on…
Back to Peru
Edgar was very excited to visit Mancora because he had heard so much about it. Most surfers in Lima spend part of the year in the north of Peru, having summer homes in Mancora or Los Organos. I’ve come to learn that it’s dangerous to have big expectations about travel destinations. They can be such a letdown if the expectation is not met. Such was the case with Mancora. To me, the town is really nothing more than a glorified truck stop with hotels and restaurants built right off the highway next to a surf break. We arrived when the waves were as flat as a swimming pool and felt no desire to stick around for a swell. Everyone promised that Lobitos, a famous surfbreak about an hour to the south, would have waves. So we moved on…
Only to find that Lobitos as one of the most forbidding towns we have ever seen. Many years ago it was a thriving oil town with casinos and Colonial homes. When we hopped off the bus it was like stepping foot into an old Western movie. Nothing but dilapidated buildings and tumbleweed blowing across the long, sandy beach. We made our way to the one building that appeared inhabited and found four surfers smoking weed. I asked to use a toilet and they showed me to a hole in the ground that was straight out of a bathroom nightmare. When I came back out I found Edgar watching the wave. It was incredible. A perfect barrel with only two surfers on it. Unheard of in most parts of the world. I thought he was going to rip out his board and run to the water. Instead he said: “We have to go. This isn’t the kind of place for you and the baby.” So we moved on…
We stopped in Piura for a few nights and pondered our next move. I was now about 3 months pregnant and my body was changing. It was getting harder to carry my backpack and the surfboard, I was getting tired more quickly, and our mentality had shifted. We were no longer up for the challenge. We were starting to let doubt enter our minds. Is it really safe to travel while pregnant? I certainly didn’t feel like that girl in Costa Rica who traveled until she was 8 months pregnant; but I did feel that if we could find a place to settle for a bit we’d be fine. We take risks any time we leave the house. I didn’t want to submit to the idea that I had to sit at home in bed just because I was carrying a baby. But I listened to my body as well. I was getting tired of all the moving so we opted against a difficult trip to Kuelap (ancient ruins). We skipped towns like Chiclayo and Pacasmayo and headed down to Trujillo and Huanchaco. We finally found a place to rest.
Huanchaco is one of my favorite beach towns in Peru. The people are warm, the climate is pleasant year round, the food is rich and cheap, and the surf is consistently good. Except the same lull in waves that kept us moving south in search of something better was no different in Huanchaco. I was getting antsy because my belly was beginning to show and I knew it was time to give up surfing – at least until after Tina was born. When the swell finally arrived it was bigger than usual. Edgar thought it was too much but I decided it was my last opportunity to surf. So I charged out into 3 meter waves (well over my head) and Edgar sat on the beach praying to God I wouldn’t get hurt. It was one of the best surf sessions of my life. Surfing is a mental sport, so if I had let my fear get the best of me I wouldn’t have even paddled out. Instead, I focused on the task at hand, connected with one wave at a time, and trusted my instinct. In other words, I shut off fear and lived in the moment. A mindset I was glad to practice before going into childbirth.
I enjoy international travel because it forces me into extreme situations. Lessons are learned hard and fast. I think backpacking while pregnant was one of the best things I could have done to prepare myself for motherhood. It taught me to:
Pregnancy is not an illness that needs to be nursed. It’s an opportunity to grow along with a child.
When I first considered homeschooling as an option for Tina I was voracious in my research to discover which approach we should use. I was overwhelmed for several months because the number of choices and available resources are staggering. It didn’t take me long to determine that there was no one, *right* approach for my family.
Some approaches were obviously not a good fit. Pre-packaged curriculum? Nope. Can’t bring those around the world in one suitcase. Christian-based? No thanks. We are agnostic. Computer-based? Maybe later on, but not when Tina is little.
Then I met a lovely French family on the beach in Hoi An, Vietnam. They were in the midst of a one year round-the-world adventure with their two children. The daughter was 8 years old and they had obtained permission to pull her out of school. The son was only 18 months, like Tina. I asked her how they were doing school and the mom said, “We’re doing it now!” as her daughter examined a sea anemone Edgar had pulled out of the ocean in a bucket. It was like being hit by a Mack truck. She was right. Real life was such a rich place to learn. That was my first foray into the idea of worldschooling.
So what is worldschooling? While the idea has probably been in existence before the advent of internet and blogs, the earliest reference I can find is from Eli Gerzon in 2007 (http://eligerzon.com/worldschooling.php): “It’s when the whole world is your school, instead of school being your whole world.” Gerzon goes on to say that worldschooling is “when one actively experiences and learns from the world around oneself.”
I would define worldschooling as taking advantage of the wonders of the world to learn, grow, and connect. For our family, it’s not just learning wherever we are, it’s seeking out places that interest us so we can learn directly from them. For instance, last year Tina fell in love with ballet. Seeing her growing interest, we went out of our way to take her to the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg so she could see Giselle performed by one of the top ballets in the world. We saw Swan Lake in Lima, Peru for $6 and it was NOTHING like the experience we had in Russia. For us, it was worth the extra cost to create a heightened learning experience and something Tina will never forget. (Heck, we will never forget it either!) This is the value that worldschooling endows a child beyond any of the other approaches to learning.
As we have continued on our journey of discovering the method(s) that works best for Tina I have realized that almost every approach has something redeemable, and many of them are highly related… especially to worldschooling. For example, several approaches discuss the importance of considering stages of brain development, with 7-8 years (when the corpus callosum is fully developed) being an important milestone in a child’s life. Being a person that likes to collect information and synthesize it, I created a table of each approach, summarized its philosophy, and defined its connection to worldschooling. Perhaps you will find it useful for organizing your thoughts and coming to a conclusion as to what works for your family.
|Approach||Philosophy||Connection to Worldschooling|
|Charlotte Mason||Belief that children should be respected and they learn best from real-life, hands-on experiences.||Take nature walks, visit art museums and historical sites, discover animals in their habitat.|
|Classical (Trivium)||Teaches children based on three phases of cognitive development: concrete, analytical, and abstract thinking.||Favors links between subjects – Math and Science, Literature and Art, History and Religion – which can be seen naturally around the world, especially UNESCO sites.|
|Thomas Jefferson Leadership Education||“Seven Keys to Great Teaching” are: (1) classics, not textbooks; (2) mentors, not professors; (3) inspire, not require; (4) structure time, not content; (5) quality not conformity; (6) simplicity, not complexity; and (7) you, not them.||World travel offers high quality, inspiring learning experiences. Having those experiences with parents allows for development of relationships and family values.|
|Montessori||Emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.||Liberty to choose and act freely with an environment (the world). “Absorbent mind” is sensitive to language acquisition (0-6 years old).|
|Waldorf||Child’s learning based on developmental stages (7 year cycles). Early childhood teaching with imitation, repetition, imagination, connection, warmth, rhythm, and gentle guidance.||Journal experiences, daily drawing and painting. Develop rhythm to travel life despite the inconsistencies. Establish strong connection to the family unit due to shared experiences.|
|Reggio Emilia||Children must have: some control over the direction of their learning, be able to learn through experiences of the 5 senses, a relationship with other children, opportunity to use and explore material items in the world, and have endless ways to express themselves.||Travel offers opportunities to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing. Aligns with belief that children have rights and should be given opportunities to develop their potential because experiences occur at magnified levels and in the real world.|
|Unit Studies (Interest-led Learning)||Takes basic area of interest as a catalyst to develop in-depth knowledge across the span of subjects.||Travel locations become jumping off point for discoveries in geography, science, religion, reading, writing, art, music, etc. Many locations become pivotal to learning certain eras in history (e.g., ancient Rome).|
|Project-Based Learning||Alternative to paper-based, rote memorization, teacher-led classrooms. Provides depth of understanding of concepts, broader knowledge base, improved communication and interpersonal/social skills, enhanced leadership skills, increased creativity, and improved writing skills.||Can be incorporated into the learning environment though creation of journals, movies, blogs, books, music, or artwork based on worldschooling experiences.|
|Unschooling(Child-led, Self-directed, Life or Natural Learning)||No use of curriculum or scheduled lesson plans. No difference between living and learning. Encourage child to follow interests. Learn through curiosity, passion, and daily experiences.||Best fit with worldschooling as the universe of possibilities for learning are open to the entire world (not just the classroom, home, or local community).|
|Eclectic||Relaxed homeschooling. Draw from multiple approaches.||Strong alignment with worldschooling based on connections listed above.|
If you would like to read further on any of these approaches, here are some resources I recommend:
Charlotte Mason: http://simplycharlottemason.com/
Thomas Jefferson: http://www.tjed.org/
Project-based Learning: http://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning
Great read about the benefits of worldschooling, by a worldschooler:
I suppose it makes sense to begin the story of our travels with how I met El Dada (Edgar). We’ve told the story dozens of times because it’s not obvious how an American doctor and Peruvian surfer would make a connection. The short answer is that we met on the beach in Peru. If you want the long answer, read on…
When I turned 29 I decided it was time to return to Venezuela to see where I was born. However, at the height of Chavez-related political problems it didn’t feel like the best time for a single woman who couldn’t speak Spanish to travel to a remote part of the country. So I looked for other places in South America to take a vacation. Buenos Aires stood out so I signed up for 7 days of intensive language school and tango lessons. I also had a friend from graduate school living in Lima, Peru so I tacked on a trek up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and a few days for surfing in the capital.
My friend knew Edgar by acquaintance so when I asked for advice on where to rent a board she knew right where to take me. We took a taxi down to Makaha Beach and started looking for his face. It was November so there were very few locals on the beach. Back then, Edgar had one of the only surf schools that worked year round – now Makaha is teeming with tents and touts to make surf lessons.
I had no idea who we were looking for but my friend found Edgar right away. The first thing I saw was his bright smile and long hair. (He says the first thing he remembers about me was my long neck and bob haircut. Six years later we have switched hair styles!) My friend spoke perfect Spanish but I was barely capable of asking where to find the bathroom. Fortunately Edgar spoke great English due to his work with tourists. I actually had traveler’s sickness so I didn’t want to surf that day. We set up a time to come back the next day and agreed that my friend and her boyfriend would take lessons while I rented a board.
The next morning we returned to the beach ready to go. Edgar had pulled a tendon in his knee so he couldn’t surf with us, but my friends took a lesson with a guy he worked with. As we were picking out equipment Edgar offered me his own wetsuit. This is a pretty big deal for a surfer. It’s like giving away your underwear. I said, “Are you sure? I have a tendency to pee in my wetsuit.” (Joking, but I had done it during a 4 hour surf session in Maui!) He laughed and gave me the suit anyway. Thankfully we had the same sense of humor.
After surfing we were all getting dried off and talking. I don’t recall the conversation being overtly flirtatious but it wasn’t just business either. Being that we were a bit more mature than the typical tourist that comes through Lima, Edgar asked if we’d like to meet up for dinner later on. We weren’t sure of our plans so I took his phone number and said I’d call if we ended up being free.
Edgar told me later he thought I would never call. Typical of a surfer, he thought of relationships like the tides. They come and go; you always have another chance to catch something if you miss an opportunity. He also thought of finding the right partner in terms of the waves. Most surfers don’t take the first wave in a set; it’s the second or third that’s much better so they prefer to wait. Edgar was waiting for the perfect wave and it wasn’t evident yet that I was the one.
As we were walking back up the hill (the beaches in Lima are at the bottom of cliffs with the city built up top) my friend was asking whether I wanted to have dinner with Edgar… alone. I said, “No way. I’ve had enough of Latin guys coming on to me.” (In Buenos Aires I had 3 guys ask if they could come back to the US with me. It was a bit much.) “Besides, he wanted to go out with all of us.” My friend thought different. “I think he wants to go out with you but we were standing there when he made the invitation.” Hmmm, I wasn’t sure.
Perhaps I was generalizing about Latin men. Edgar wasn’t overly aggressive on the beach so maybe he would make a nice dinner companion. It was my last night in Lima and maybe his local knowledge would make my time worthwhile. So I thought about it. Then when my friends agreed they could come along I had no more excuses. I called Edgar to see if he was still available to go out.
The story diverges at this point because my perspective is very different from Edgar’s. From my point of view, I called his cell phone and we agreed to meet up at the McDonald’s in Miraflores to go to dinner from there. It was the only landmark I was familiar with. From Edgar’s point of view, he thought I was a friend from Huaraz (8 hours away from Lima) who had come to town for the weekend so he was confused why the meetup should happen somewhere like McDonald’s.
At 5 minutes before 8 I stood outside of the McDonald’s leaning against a post. Edgar came next and said, “Where are your friends?!” You see, he didn’t want to go out alone either. In the previous year he had a tumultuous relationship with an American woman and he wasn’t keen on having another one. Just then, my friend and her boyfriend showed up. Thank goodness!
We all jumped in a taxi towards Barranco. Edgar took us to an Italian restaurant on the cliffs. Our table was set up for two couples, with chairs set very close on each side. My friends were a couple, but Edgar and I were not. The waiter saw it otherwise and handed us one menu to share. So we started reading together and Edgar said, “I wouldn’t mind a pizza. You want to share?” Sure. “I like Hawaiian, is that okay?” Sure. “Want to share a bottle of red wine?” Sure. Turns out we have the same taste in food.
My friends, on the other hand, were still figuring out what to order. We started harassing them for being the real couple but unable to communicate. I run a blank on how our conversation evolved, but somehow the fact that my friend’s boyfriend is a certified minister came up. (Like Joey Tribbiani from Friends, when he married Monica and Chandler.) Edgar thought it was an intriguing idea that a “normal” person could marry a couple. He proceeded to roll up a napkin, tie it in a knot, and test to see if it was the right size for my finger. His ring was ready for a wedding ceremony. I’m not one to lead guys on, so the fact that I didn’t stop him right there was telling. For whatever reason, I must have felt quite comfortable with Edgar so I let my friend go on with the marriage vows. None of this was official, as Edgar was actually still married to the aforementioned American girl, so it was all in good fun.
After saying the “I do’s” my friends urged Edgar to kiss the bride. Edgar closed his eyes and pursed his lips, waiting for me to respond. My friend asked for me to wait until she got her camera out. That gave me enough time to think “Well I better make this a good picture”, so when she was ready I planted a good one on him. Edgar was shocked – he expected a pretend kiss – so his lips were shaking like a little schoolboy. When we stopped I think we both looked at each other a bit differently. What the heck was that?!
Following dinner my friends had to leave for other obligations. Being a Saturday night I was not planning on going home to the hostel until a bit later. Edgar sensed my reluctance to leave and let me know he had some free time before a birthday party if I’d like to get a drink with him. I distinctly remember the smile on my friends’ faces as we said goodbye. I think they knew what was about to happen.
Things went from casual to mutually interesting over the next several hours. While talking over a beer it became apparent we had a lot in common. We both had been raised in large, Catholic families; had parents still together; were middle children; had lived as successful members of society (i.e., went to grad school and worked at the executive level) but felt a desire to find deeper happiness out of the 9-5 system; had a penchant for travel; and a desire to give back to the world. Our conversation was far from superficial – “why are you single?” – “what do you want in your life?” – “where do you see yourself in 10 years?” While I had become accustomed to seeing red flags within 15 minutes of talking with most men, I saw nothing but green lights flashing when I got to know Edgar more. So when it was time for Edgar to go to the birthday party he wasn’t ready to say goodbye… and neither was I. He invited me to go along and I accepted.
The party was loads of fun because it was in a funky nightclub with loud music (meaning there was no expectation for me to have a conversation in Spanish with Edgar’s friends.) Edgar told me later that he introduced me to everyone as his wife, which explained why they all gave me such big hugs and more than two kisses (the custom in Peru). At one point Edgar pulled me aside to a quieter corner and said, “I’m having such a good time with you. It’s too bad you have to leave tomorrow. What do you think about changing your ticket? We could go down south to surf in a little fishing village and get to know each other more.” Tempting as it was, my logical brain answered first: “I can’t. I’ve already been gone from work for 2 weeks and I have to get back.” But the next morning my heart had something different to say: “You haven’t felt this content with a man in a long time. If it costs less than $200 to change your ticket take it as a sign.”
I called the airline and it cost $150 to move my ticket back one week. The decision was easy. I told my boss that I had traveler’s sickness – which I really did – although it wasn’t that bad. (Karma got me back on that white lie – I got the worst case of antibiotic resistant campylobacter infection about a week later.) That extra week with Edgar is better saved for a romance novel. Suffice it to say, we fell in love – mind you, we were both older and had been through several relationships so this wasn’t puppy love. Nonetheless, I knew I had to return home and think clearly about what I could do to bring my life together with Edgar.
I also had to see if Edgar was really serious. In the back of my mind I kept thinking “This guy is a surfer. What if he does this with a different girl every other week?” Well he turned out to be extremely serious. When we said goodbye at the airport he asked what time I would be home. I said 6 pm. He called me at 6 pm on the dot… and he did the same every day for the following months. We continued to court each other through text messages, online chat, and phone calls. A few months later I returned to Lima for one week, mostly to see if my feelings were still “real.” They were. So I continued to work on finishing up my fellowship and looking for work abroad. Edgar considered how he could get a visa to come to the US. But he had his own business in Lima and I was done with living in the US, so once I got a job through an online university it meant I could live anywhere. My friends and family were understandably nervous about me moving so far away, but I think they knew I was a big girl and could handle it if something went wrong. Six+ years later I’m still glad I made that leap to Peru. It launched me to more places than I ever expected.
I think this is the most asked question for a traveler. Most people ask because they are curious or want to know if there is some connection. Locals ask because they want to know an angle to sell something. Other travelers ask to find out information about a new location to visit. The answer might be straight-forward for most people, but not for us.
It’s obvious I’m of European descent. In fact, most people don’t guess that I’m American at first sight. One guy ran across the street in San Francisco to ask if I’m Danish. “No, sorry. I’m American.” He missed his homeland and thought he had found a fellow countrymen. (I need to visit Denmark!) More often people assume I’m German or English. When I speak it finally gives me away. But I throw a wrench in their thinking when I start off speaking Spanish and tell them I’m Venezuelan. “What? You don’t look Latina!” Correct. But being born out of the United States has always made me different and sometimes I use that to my advantage.
For example, I have chosen to hide the fact that I’m American for safety reasons. When we were in Morocco last year, 21 American embassies in Northern Africa and the Middle East were closed for fear of a terrorist attack. I only revealed my US passport at immigrations and otherwise said I was Venezuelan. We didn’t feel particular hostility towards Americans, but we just weren’t sure. The reality is that Americans are not well-loved around the world these days, so in some cases it has felt wise to conceal my identity.
Nobody ever figures Edgar out. When we were in Bali, people asked if he was from Sumatra. When we were on a bus in Costa Rica, a local asked him what tribe he was from. When we were in Morocco, everyone assumed he was Berber. When we walk together, people ask if he’s from Hawaii (perhaps deducing that this is one place where white and indigenous groups mix). It’s only the travelers who have been to Peru or Bolivia who correctly identify him as Peruvian because of the signature Inca features (high cheeks, strong jaw).
Now Tina is another enigma. If she’s just with me, she looks like an adopted child. If we’re together as a family, it’s more obvious that she’s a mix of mom and dad. Last year my brother offered to have our genetic testing done so we could learn more about the family’s ancestry. Tina’s genetic roots were intriguing. There were expected results – Northern European from me, Spanish and Peruvian from Edgar – but African and Asian? Turns out the African roots probably come from the Moors who moved into Spain several generations ago and/or were brought over to Peru as cooks and wives of the conquistadors. The Asian connection is less obvious although there is a large Chinese population in Peru. There is some DNA evidence that the RapaNui (of Easter Island) have a distinct but small contribution from South America. The connection between Polynesians and Peruvians has also been suggested through voyages of the Kontiki. Perhaps Edgar’s family has descendants from some Polynesian island, which would explain his love of the ocean.
When you mix all of these factors together it becomes difficult for our family to answer the question “Where are you from?” Depends. Does that mean: “Where were you born?” –or- “What is your passport country?” –or- “Where do you call home?” –or- “What is your heritage?” It’s very complicated for us to answer these questions! We are from everywhere – genetically, physically, socially, mentally. We are citizens of the world.
How do you answer this question?
Traveling long-term makes it nearly impossible to carry textbooks, so it becomes necessary to find organic ways to encourage learning subjects like math. However, every day life on the road provides a multitude of natural opportunities to learn math if you take the time to notice and point them out to a child:
1. Number recognition – Point out numbers on signs (especially home addresses as you walk down the street). Discuss price tags. “This means 45. The sign in front tells you it is dollars.” Count the number of steps to get somewhere. Have the child count out the number of items needed at the market. Encourage counting in the local language for an added twist. Since visiting Morocco, Tina likes to count out five breads for our breakfast in French. Let the child collect coins (and bills if you can afford the loss) from each country and talk about how much they are worth. This has worked great for getting Tina past the single digits into 10, 20, 25, 50, and 100.
2. Addition and subtraction – While packing, have the child add up how many things they will bring. Then have them take a way some and discover the answer. Anytime a multiple number of items is at hand (e.g., forks and spoons on the table) you can talk about them. “Two forks plus two forks makes four forks. What if we add two spoons? What if we take one fork away?” Works great when you are stuck at a restaurant with bad service.
Overall, addition and subtraction is about more and less. It comes up all the time. Give your child a certain amount of money and let them figure out if they have enough to buy things. “Do you need more money? How much?” Make sure your child gets the right amount of change!
3. Fractions and division – In the context of travel, fractions and division can look like the same thing. Take for example, if you order a pizza and have the child split it up evenly for the family. This could be explained like this: “You have 16 pieces and 4 people who want to eat. That means each person can get 4 slices (division). Or everyone gets 1/4 of the pie (fraction).” Anytime splitting occurs there is an opportunity to discuss fractions and division. “The tour group is splitting in half. That means 10 people will go over there and 10 people will stay in this bus.”
4. Multiplication – This is a concept that comes up often if you think about it. Have the child make hotel reservations and calculate the total cost based on rate per night and number of days you will stay. Determine how much money you need for food by calculating costs per day then multiply by 7 or 30 for the week or month.
5. Percentages – You can consider percentage of total cost whenever a discount is offered. In many third world countries, vendors consider their percentage of gain when they start negotiations. In Morocco we noticed a markup of 400% for me (obvious tourist) and only 200% for Edgar (who can pass for a local Berber). We discussed with Tina the reality that prices can fluctuate based on perception and she should consider how much an item is really worth before settling on a price.
6. Algebra – Currency conversion is a wonderful way to help a child grasp algebra concepts. Figuring out how much the local currency is worth in your home currency is a daily task while traveling. For our family, we have to do this twice because I think in US dollars and Edgar thinks in Peruvian soles. We set up mental equations to make quick conversions. “1 US dollar is about 35 Russian rubles. Or 100 Russian rubles is about 3 US dollars, which is about 1 Peruvian sol.” Algebra can be essential if you rent a car. Have your child figure out how much gas is needed for a day trip, or how much you’ll have to pay to fill the tank before returning the car. (Some of these equations can cross over with multiplication.)
7. Geometry – Notice shapes, point out patterns, discuss the symmetry in a unique piece of art, examine the angles and structural integrity of ancient architecture. Geometry is all around us when we are looking for the opportunity to discover it.
8. Budgeting – What better life skill can you teach a child than to create a budget and stick to it? Let your child know exactly how much money you make and how much it takes to live while you travel. Discuss things like emergency funds, setting aside money for activities like surf lessons or scuba diving, and allowances for souvenirs. Create a spreadsheet and show your child how it works. Then when they ask you for a $50 teddy bear in the Paris De Gaulle airport you can tell them it’s not in the budget. Or in my case, I also explained to Tina that I could buy her 5 teddy bears for the same cost if she waited until we got back to the United States. That was a great lesson in impulse control and the value of hard-earned money!
9. Manipulatives – Now what about those kids that need to see things before it clicks? I suggest carrying a small notebook and pencil to write down numbers and equations. You can also take advantage of anything you have in large numbers (e.g., dried fruits, crayons, coins, rocks, Legos) to use them like Cuisenaire (counting) rods.
10. Cartography – Maps are ubiquitous with world travel and they provide a great way to learn lines, points, area, curves, scale, projection, and coordinate systems. Tina likes to collect maps and make her own. We have discussed our location and where we want to go, letting her plot the course and determine the distance traveled. The concept of area is evident when examining the globe. Even a little kid can see that the Earth is mostly covered by water and there are relatively large distances between certain continents. More complex concepts can be gradually introduced as a child’s understanding of how to read a map develops.
As you can see, most of these methods to introduce math concepts come up in the day-to-day activities that happen during long-term travel. But they can happen on a short vacation or at home too. It’s all a matter of seeing math in every day experiences. Are there any ideas I have missed?
Today represents the birth of this blog, but it is also marks Tina’s 5th birthday. Being that she is the inspiration for this website, I consciously decided to start publishing the events of her life on the same day that it began.
The idea for Tina the Tiny Traveler came to me about 3 years ago on a night bus in Mexico. It was one of those torturous bus rides where the seat didn’t recline, the air-conditioner was too cold, and the route was so curvy my head bounced back and forth like a bobble-head doll. I couldn’t sleep a wink.
As dawn was approaching and I hit a state of delirium, I looked down at Tina. Her head was resting on my lap with her mouth gaping wide open. She was curled up in a little ball to fit within the confines of the seat, but she looked comfortable. Tina was sound asleep despite all the reasons she could be wide awake like me.
In that moment I thought to myself: “I need to write about this awesome kid.” So I started writing (in my head at that point) the manuscript for a children’s book called “Tina the Tiny Traveler.” That idea is still in the works.
In the meantime, I plan to use this website to document the amazing adventures Tina and I (and her father, who I’ll call “El Dada”) have experienced over the past 6 years.
Why 6 years when Tina is only 5? Well she arguably started traveling with us from the day she was conceived. El Dada and I embarked on a 6 month backpacking trip through Central and South America when she was just a zygote. More on that in a future post!
As of today, Tina has traveled over 100,000 miles through 5 continents and 30 countries. Needless to say, I have a lot of material to draw from… and who knows where we will end up next?
I hope you enjoy following along our (retrospective) log of world travels and my (prospective) reflections on family travel, worldschooling, and unique cultures!
Un abrazo (hug) ~ Aimee