“We decided, before we ever had kids, not to send our children to school.” Say whaaa?? Or, rather, say, wow. Welcome to the Miller family: Jennifer, her husband and her four children who have all grown up living as world citizens. Their blog, Edventure Project, not only documents their travels, it comes with a hefty side of learnings and teachings they’ve encountered along the way.
While the kids are homeschooled, their real education, as Jennifer says, comes from the incredible experiences they’ve had while traveling around the world. We spoke with Jennifer about some of those experiences, what it’s like to travel as a family, and what happens when everyone gets homesick.
- The Trip Tribe: What are some of your favorite “lessons” that your kids have learned or that you have taught along the way?
- Living for an extended period of time in deeply Muslim countries, where our children have had the opportunity to experience being the racial and religious minority. This has developed a compassion in them that would have been hard to cultivate without first hand experience.
- The importance of languages. There’s no need to explain the relevance of Spanish class to a kid who has traveled.
- The significance of history to the presence. Taking our kids to the Killing Fields in Cambodia, military prison sites in Vietnam, Buchenwald’s concentration camp in Germany, and other difficult sites has really given them a deep awareness of the evils of the world and they’ve got a personal commitment to making sure these things don’t happen again in their lifetimes.
- The unity of the human race. Our kids see more similarities than differences between cultural groups. They’ve learned from their friends all over the world that we’re all just the same, seeking the same things for ourselves and our families.
- Inoculation against propaganda. There is no antidote for propaganda like first hand experience and friendships across borders. “Those people” become “our friend the baker.” Our kids see past the broad brush strokes of political rhetoric to the eyes and smiles of their friends and our neighbors. That’s a priceless lesson.
- Going Anyway This family inspires my socks off… Australians with five kids, one special needs… and huge adventurers. Their kids are some of my boys’ best friends!
- 1 Dad 1 KidTalon and his son are great friends of ours also. Talon will inspire you to the reality that anyone can do this, even a single dad with a teen boy!
- Toughen Up Buttercup Not a travel blog… this lady is a tough cookie. She blogs about fitness and doing the hard things in life
- Brain Pickings Just so much fun, thought provoking, intellectually satisfying/stimulating stuff here 🙂
Edventure Project: The whole purpose for our journey, in the beginning, was the educational benefit for our children. We approach our travel looking, specifically, for the lessons that the world has to teach us, as children and adults. There have been too many to list, but among the most significant are:
TTT: How have your children influenced your traveling?
EP: We’ve always included the kids in our travel planning. We do a lot of talking about who wants to go where and see what. We try hard to work in the things that are important to each person and to make sure we hit the highlights that each family member really doesn’t want to miss. Elisha chose Hanoi for his 12th birthday and had the “Uncle Ho” shirt to prove it. Hannah wanted to visit Angkor Wat for her 16th birthday. Gabriel wanted to go skiing in New Zealand. Ezra wanted desperately to ride elephants in Thailand, and so we did, for his 10th birthday.
I think it’s really important, especially if you’re traveling long term, to have the buy-in of all members of the family and for everyone to feel as if this is “our” trip together. Especially with teens, looping them into the planning process and then giving them the freedom to start orbiting the family a bit and traveling on their own is a really big deal. This summer our three teens are all off on adventures of their own for a couple of months at a time and it’s exciting to see them starting to chase their own dreams.
TTT: Have you ever encountered any pushback from your kids about not wanting to lead a nomadic lifestyle? If so, how did you approach it?
EP: Everyone gets homesick sometimes. That’s a reality. Our kids, the teenagers, know that they are free to come and go from the family, travel home to see friends or have their own adventures as it suits them… so long as they can pay for it. Both of our older teens have taken solo trips to see friends. This summer, as I mentioned, all three of them are off doing their own things for a bit. The boys are working jobs (separately) in the midwestern USA and combining that with visits to friends and family. Hannah is taking off to backpack in Europe with a friend for a couple of months. They all really love travel. And we all really love the periods of time that we are home.
We haven’t really had pushback because our approach to parenting our older kids is pretty open handed, they are free to come and go so long as they can pay for their own stuff. That gives them a freedom coupled with a responsibility. They don’t feel tethered to “our plan” but they also have a realistic grip on what it takes to do something else. Open communication about what people want and need, including them in the plans to be away and home, and being flexible when it comes to where and how they fit in the family are all very important to making sure everyone’s needs are being met.
If we had a kid who was really, really wanting to settle in one place, we’d consider doing that for a period of time. So far, our lifestyle has worked because it has worked for all of us. We negotiate and we work together to make sure that everyone is happy.
TTT: Besides your own, what are some of your favorite blogs.
EP: Would it shock you to know that I’m not a huge blog reader? I don’t have a lot of time for extra online time at this stage of life. I do read along with several friends and follow their adventures. Here is a short list:
TTT: Describe yourself in six words
EP: Dreamer. Adventurer. Writer. Lover. Fighter. Thinker.
About The Millers
Jenn Miller is gypsy mama to four wild adventurer children growing up with the world as their classroom. The Miller Family is in their seventh year of an open ended world tour that has taken them through about thirty countries so far. They’ve journeyed across Europe and N. Africa on bicycles, the length and breadth of North and Central America, deep instead of wide for six months in Guatemala, seven months across mountains and rivers across Southeast Asia and they’ve backpacked their way through Borneo and Indonesia and thoroughly road tripped Australia and New Zealand. She’s traveled with newborns through teens, homeschooled from day one clear to college, and is a freelance writer for the alternative education and travel markets. When she’s not hiking in rain forests or SCUBA diving remote islands in Belize, she can be found riding off in to the sunset with Arab horsemen or swing dancing under the stars on her favorite lago with her husband of twenty years and life long adventure buddy. To join her on her adventures, you’ll want to stalk her blog: The Edventure Project.