For my husband and I it was never a question of ‘would we travel with our children?' it was “How do we travel with our kids but not make it all about them?” I believe we hit a nice balance in our travels. As I told Irish Fireside when they interviewed me, we split activities between things my husband and I enjoy and activities specifically geared toward the girls. If we spend the morning touring castles we may spend the afternoon at an animal farm or nearby park.
In the past few months conversations have churned through the online travel world. Two distinct sides: for and against travel with children. I, of course, fall on the “for” side. Arguments on the “against” side include statements like, “Your kids won't remember it” and “Kids don't learn anything when they are that young”. While I've always disagreed with those statements, they were personal opinions. But today I have proof.
Today I sat down with Brenna's first grade teacher. We had a terrific conversation and a few key points really made an impact on me and helped me realize that traveling with our kids is one of the best decisions we have made.
Travel Expands Conversation
Brenna is 7 and has been traveling since 3 months of age. She has seen and experienced many things- Irish castles, the Alamo, original log cabins on the plains, cattle drives, Mariachi wandering through restaurants, pilgrims and Indians at Plymouth, the Freedom Trail, and interactions with people of practically every race and color you can imagine.
According to her teacher this helps during “story and discussion time” as Brenna is able to more fully understand things that may be mentioned in stories. She has been in a castle, seen a real cowboy, stood in a log cabin, talked with Native Americans, had dinner with people from Africa, flown on a plane… So when the discussion happens she has an understanding many of her classmates don't have. She is able to speak of experiences and share her thoughts in a mature way, beyond her 7 years.
Travel Expands Comprehension
Reading comprehension is a strong focus in Brenna's first grade classroom. Because of our family's travels Brenna is more easily able to understand the feelings of riding in an airplane, entering a musty cabin or cave, touching sea creatures or eating in a fancy restaurant. She doesn't have to imagine or have it explained, she understands because she has lived it.
Travel Expands Imagination
Writing and story telling are also important in Brenna's class. According to her teacher, Brenna is more fully able to get her ideas across in her writing. And because of her travels her writing has more depth and description. Instead of a castle wall being big, her castle walls are “three feet thick and cold when you touch them”. Animals in her stories have actions like sheep pulling weeds from her hands. And leaves on trees wave goodbye.
I see this with Caelan, too. Her journals from preschool are filled with bits of travel memories mixed with the story she is telling.
Travel Improves Manners
My girls can be absolutely awful at home. But take them out in public and they are well behaved and polite. So much so that people will often come up to us in restaurants or events just to tell us how good they are. Brenna's teacher concurs, telling me that Brenna is thoughtful of others, helpful and polite. While I know such things begin at home I am also aware that putting my girls in situations that don't happen every day- riding an airplane or touring museums, for example- make them more aware of people around them and appropriate actions. We make sure to share every bit of praise with them; positive reinforcement yields even better behavior!
I want to stress that while this site focuses on family travel to Ireland, travel doesn't have to be far away or expensive to positively affect your children. Just taking your kids to nearby museums, galleries, farms and historic sites can yield the same results. It's the experience that causes growth- not the amount of miles you travel.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you or would you travel with your kids? Do you think it helps their education? Or is travel with children wasted in your eyes?