The Stealth Wealth Family recently spent a few weeks in the US Virgin Islands, for both business and pleasure. As part of her sabbatical, Dawn decided to do some anesthesiology work at the governmental hospital in St. Thomas. After her assignment was complete, we moved over to the island of St. John for another week of fun in the sun.
Aspen turns 4 this month. She’s not yet old enough to have been pulled out of school for a few weeks, but we know that families are often reticent to travel during the schoolyear for this reason. Sadly, even in elementary school, playing catchup with assignments these days can be painful. When you have such timing limitations in place – maybe one week during the holidays, one week in the Spring, and a couple months in the summer – it can be difficult to visit far off lands or places with a unique season.
So did we drill her on her letters and phonics? Not at all.
How will she be able to compete with the others in Kindy? Spoiler: we don’t care.
We thought it’d be fun to highlight all the things that Aspen did learn at the beach during this trip:
While Dawn was working at the St. Thomas hospital, Trent and Aspen spent the majority of mornings building sandcastles on the beach. They would experiment with different mud consistencies to see which concoctions and shapes made for the best towers. She discovered that there’s a sweet spot for the amount of water needed to achieve a strong, easily-formed tower with optimum height.
On those same mornings, the two would often venture out into the waves. Aspen witnessed the energy of the water, how the tide swells and recedes, and how the waves changed with the cycle. She learned physical boundaries by feeling the power of the waves.
On St. Thomas, we saw tons of lizards – both big and small. There were also some large caterpillar-like bugs gnawing on the tropical gardenias near our AirBnB. On St. John, we snorkeled every day, seeing tropical fish, sea turtles, nurse sharks, and rays. Witnessing the diversity of species prompted Aspen to ask us about the differences between land and sea animals. She learned about what mammals are and which of her favorites are mammals vs. non-mammals. We also discussed coral reefs and underwater plants. This part of the trip was Dawn’s favorite experience.
Health and PE
On tropical islands, the conditions can be extreme. We discussed heat and humidity, and Aspen got a taste of what it’s like to exert herself in such weather. When she protested walks in the heat of the afternoon, we talked to her about hydration and making sure she’s eaten/drunk enough to power her legs for walking. We also talked about distraction techniques in the face of perceived pain and fatigue – such as realizing your legs “might be lying to you”, singing a song to pass the time on a sweltering walk, or laughing/smiling when feeling down or tired.
We all did body weight, functional exercises such as squats, pushups and band work during our stay. Aspen’s swimming improved drastically with all the time in the water, and she got comfortable dunking her head to see all the underwater life.
We didn’t just stick to tourist locales during our trip. Aspen experienced different skin colors and cultures, especially during our trips to the grocery stores. There’s quite a mix in the US Virgin Islands of natives, American and Western European ex-pats, and cruise ship passengers. While food is quite expensive there in general, we focused on eating the most reasonably-priced meat and produce – the foods closer to the island and not shipped in from thousands of miles away.
Aspen also witnessed us mixing work with play – an important concept we want her to understand for life. Dawn spent a solid week working and then was off for fun, while Trent spent smaller blocks of time working remotely most of the days. We explained why certain things – like phone calls – had to be done at certain times of day, given a 3-4 hour time change. There are lots of ways to live a life of combined work and play, and we want her to understand this.
A constant lesson of travel for all of us is the lesson of doing without. Aspen couldn’t bring all her toys, Trent couldn’t spread out in his king bed with ice cold air conditioning blowing on him all night, and Dawn missed her dark chocolate bars. Something we talked about a lot during our trip is how missing all the comforts of home make it so that when you return, you appreciate them even more.
As parents who want to live a life of adventure and travel, we have to open our minds to the ways our children are learning outside of the books and apps. When you choose to worldschool, the classroom is everywhere – no matter if your child is 4 or 14. There are even communities of worldschoolers on social media for connection and support/resources.
Have you ever taken your child out of school for an extended trip? How did you deal, and what unique things did they learn through your travels? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.