To School or Not To School

How dare we separate these two BFFs?

How dare we separate these two BFFs?

The big question in our flat this week pertains to enrolling L in school during our time here in London. Do we or don’t we? Powerwoman and I continue to go back and forth.

Some parts of the equation are simple. Yes, we took our 4-year-old out of her second year of preschool to be here for the fall. And, yes, we plan to send her back to the same preschool when we return (the folks who run her preschool have been kind enough to save her spot).

We also believe that L (like most kids) thrives in the school environment, and needs the age-appropriate social stimulation that environment provides.

Beyond these truths, however, we are truly flummoxed.

First is the issue of logistics. Last year, at home, L attended school twice a week for three hours a day. This year, when we return, she’ll attend school three times a week for three hours a day. Here, however, they do school differently. Most kids are in full-time school of some sort by age 2. It actually has been very difficult (and incredibly frustrating) to find a preschool equivalent that isn’t fewer than three full days (read: 8 hours a day) every week.

Then is the issue of philosophy. We relish the fact that we have the opportunity to live abroad with the girls while they’re so young. Because we are travelers by nature, we want to show them the city, take them around England, and explore Europe as frequently as possible.

I, in particular, am struggling with the decision, as I’ve taken it upon myself to create a “classroom” out of the everyday, supplementing journeys to different parts of the city with “lessons” before and after.

(Example: we’re attending a cricket match this weekend and I’ve started with stories about the rules.)

Still, the situation raises pretty serious questions. To what extent would L suffer from being out of school for four months? To what extent would enrolling her change the everyday, on-the-ground experience for her (and the rest of us)? How difficult—if at all—would it be for her to adjust to a new school in a new city in a new home? Finally: How might her enrollment impact our ability to travel while here?

Ultimately, I think Powerwoman and I probably will seek a compromise. My hunch is that this compromise likely will involve enrolling L in a full-week, half-day program, and insisting that the school allows us to keep her out one day a week (preferably a Monday or a Friday) to keep up our “curriculum” of exploring through travel.

Is this ideal? Not really. But at least the approach would incorporate both the traditional (school) and something new (travel).

At the end of the day, the school issue isn’t about what’s best for us at all; it’s about what’s best for L. That reality doesn’t change with a mailing address. And it’s a notion we try to embrace regarding both daughters wherever and whenever we can.

How have you handled schooling your kids during extended family trips?

Sightseeing with the Family, Prefontaine-style

The Daditarod, on a recent trip.

The Daditarod, on a recent trip.

Many families like to explore new cities on guided tours. Others prefer to rent cars and see the sights on their own. Still others—usually those with kids old enough not to complain—like to walk.

In this family, however, we take a different approach. When I’m itching to experience a new place with my kids, I buckle them in a jogging stroller, lace up my sneaks and start running.

The result is a fast-paced, ground-level view of the very best a destination has to offer. We run through urban parks, alongside rivers and over bridges. We run along quiet roads, past farmlands and (at least in our hometown) vineyards. When we’re feeling really adventuresome (and when traffic doesn’t create a major safety issue), we even dash by major tourist attractions.

Because I’m the one mushing, because these runs usually are epic (read: 1 hour or more), I call this method of sightseeing the “Daditarod.”

The approach keeps everyone happy:

  • I like it because I get in a killer workout (trust me: pushing a 40-pound human and a 6-pound jogging stroller up a giant hill is tougher than anything I’ve done with the personal trainer).
  • My wife likes it because taking the kids out for a jog frees her up to take a tub, hit the spa or swing by a museum on her own.
  • Of course the kids like it because they can sit back and tune in or check out when they want to, without having to worry about following along.

L also appreciates having the privilege of using my Smartphone to play deejay, and regularly blasts old-school Taylor Swift songs as we plod along.

Depending on where you travel, you can either rent a jogging stroller or bring one from home. We’ve done both; while renting the devices can get expensive, I recommend that approach because these strollers take up a TON of room in the back of a truck or car. (Of course you also could ask Facebook friends at your destination if they have a stroller you could borrow.)

In case you’re wondering, most manufacturers sell special shields for you to throw over the stroller to keep the kiddos dry when it rains. Some manufacturers also sell full-body warmers to keep babies toasty in the cold.

So…if you run and you can get hands on a jogging stroller during your next trip, give this a try. It’s easy! It’s fun! And the word “Daditarod” becomes “Momitarod” in a flash.

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