Many parents try to send their children to the best private schools abroad because they believe that this kind of education is going to give their children a lot of growth. Nonetheless, after a deep exploration of the UK and US education system, we came to the conclusion that while school education is important, children’s success is heavily influenced by what the family invest in their growth.

We are very honoured to have invited four successful British mums to share with us how they interact and educate their children through traveling.

They themselves are all successful businessmen or elites in their industries. Some of their children are studying at top-notch private schools such as Eton: Mrs Vellacott and her family live in Bath with three lovely sons. Alicia Drake is a writer who recently published her new novel I love you too much in the UK and the United States, she has five children, and she herself graduated from Cambridge; Mrs Docx’ family has four children, all attended elite schools in the UK. Swenja and Peter emigrated from Germany to the UK, they have four lovely children and they always try to pay great attention to their children’s education.

So, what do they think about education through travelling?

Q1. What kind of travelling do you do with your family?

Alicia Drake

About every three years we do a big family road trip. We have driven round Europe camping, staying with friends, staying in hotels and last summer we drove across the States, from NY to Vermont, then Chicago, across Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota into Wyoming, Montana, before flying back and staying in an Airbnb in NY. Our children are now 18, 16, 13, 11 and 8. But we have travelled far with them since they were young. We always tend to be over-ambitious in our travels in every way. It makes for exciting travel.

Our children are aged 16, 12, 8 and 6 – 2 Boys and 2 girls. We have always travelled as a family. I was lucky to grow up with parents that were enthusiastic travellers – we would often spend 4 or 5 weeks during the summer holidays exploring North America as a family. I loved it. That’s why we take our children to many countries with us and we love planning the trips according to our own needs. We like to combine culture and nature – to make sure that there is a good mix— I love thinking this through: what to see, where to stay, the distances and variety. And what’s also important is to find a good balance that works for all. Our kids love swimming – so hotel pools are really important. I love nature, so staying in remote areas is great. Combine that with two or three days in cities and you have a good mix. But it really depends on what you as a family want to do.

Q2. Do you think it’s important to travel as a family and why?

Alicia:

Yes, because it challenges you in every way, mentally, physically, it challenges all your assumptions, it challenges your patience, your courage, and you meet these challenges as a family. [As a result] we grew closer, we learned to accept each other more. We had fun together. We met challenges together. We became more patient of our shortcomings. We laughed together. We made memories together.

Mrs Docx

Yes extremely important!

Family time together is bonding time, giving the children the chance to be themselves, to feel secure, to know their other family members and to learn how to function in a group. Family time traveling together can also put the children in the face of challenges but again, in a protected way: camping in sub-zero temperatures; camping in the pouring rain; travel problems with the need to change plans (cancelled flights etc) – all needing the family members to learn to be flexible and to work together to get through the challenging situation.

Q3: What are some of the most inspiring things you have done together? How do you think you all benefited from them?

Mrs Vellacott

Jungle trekking in Borneo, staying with a Borneo family and learning how they live; visiting the Grand Canyon, trekking through gorges in Zion National Park; snorkelling in the Red Sea; skiing in Colorado; camping in France. To us (parents), we had lots of fun seeing how our kids interact with people from different cultures e.g. playing with the kids in the family we stayed with in Borneo. And I think for the children, they were having fun adventures, meeting new people, and learning different skills and sports as we traveled.

Swenja

Some examples of fun things that we’ve done:

– staying overnight in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan

– sleeping in tents in the Sahara Desert in Libya, with our two daughters playing cards with local tribes men, and exploring old Roman sites at the Libyan Coast (this was before the war started)

– spending a week on the Amazon in Brazil with a local scientist who took us to the villages where she grew up and organised local experts who showed us the secrets of the rainforest

– spending three nights together on a remote island off Newfoundland, sleeping in the lighthouse and watching whales

– exploring the Mayan ruins in Mexico and learning with the kids about the history and customs of this amazing culture.

For us (parents), we love exploring new places and cultures and it is great to see how the kids absorb everything and are open minded. Traveling together as a family will require a more relaxed schedule, and mean more organization and planning, but it is worth doing it. Our house is full of photos from our family trips and the kids have lots of items from all the places that they visited in their rooms. They treasure those, which is great to see.

For kids, priorities change with the age – pool, some beach time and fun food work great with the little ones, but they also love the stories about famous people or places that you visit. Making it an adventure. I usually prepare colouring books with some sites and local objects, the kids do those during travel time.

Older kids love unusual experiences – staying in the light house, cultural visits, the Amazon boat tour – during which our oldest daughter also used a kayak, some boating through cities, combing activities with sightseeing: almost every city has something unusual to offer. Cemeteries are an example – our youngest boys are into vampire stories, so this is a highlight for them. And you can learn so much about people and places when visiting cemeteries.

Q4. Have there been instances where you have learnt new things together (could be a skill or knowledge)? What have those been and how have they influenced the children and you as a family unit?

Mrs Vellacott:

Last summer we all learnt about the wildlife in Borneo from our guide & how the orangutans are endangered species – we saw the devastation of their natural habitat from palm oil plantations (Louis had studied this at school, so he could then see it for himself) & we went to the Sepilok sanctuary to learn about how the baby orangutans are rescued and rehabilitated so they can be released back into the wild. We saw wild pigmy elephants, a mountain tortoise and other indigenous animals. We also trekked up Mount Kinabalu (the tallest mountain in SE Asia) and learnt phrases in the local dialect from our guides as we went & learnt about life on the mountain/the recent earthquake. It has given us an appreciation & respect for local cultures & geological / geographical knowledge.

Mrs Docx

Skills:

  • campingskillssuch that the children all now camp independently
  • thechildren,through camping, are capable of living simply and ‘roughing’ it rather than only being able to live in luxury
  • orienteeringandmap reading

Influences:

In summary, the children are all extremely capable and able to deal with challenges independently, because they learned the basics under our protection and so developed the confidence to then step out and enjoy new experiences of life and the world for themselves.

It can be seen from these mum’s responses that although they set requirements for their children, they do it in a carefully created, caring and interesting environment so that children feel secure to explore the outside world and grow with their family together. This will not only make the children more confident, parents can also experience happiness/fun as they see their children grow.

*I Love You To Much by Alicia Drake, published by Picador in the UK and Little Brown in the US