Waiting for a ping-pong table to free up...tightrope walking anyone?
As I’ve been on the subject of homeschooling and our ups and downs with it so far, I thought I would take a moment to consider all the non-academic gains that I think our travels have been producing for L:
1. Making friends in another language. I have been both impressed and proud at L’s willingness to wander into new and unknown settings involving kids who for the most part, speaking little or no English, and just roll with it. As I wrote about in an earlier post, soccer is the universal arbiter of play and communication happens, as necessary, in order to get a game going. And for L particularly, his desire to play soccer overrides any possible shyness he might feel in a new situation. Since we’ve been in Berlin, he’s played with neighborhood kids, a group of 20-something guys having a weekly, organized scrimmage, and a team in Mitte that practices twice weekly. He also had a brush with bullies the other evening in the local park. They weren’t physically threatening and, full disclosure, I was hovering in the background, waiting to intervene when necessary. But they were enjoying a bit of taunting, taking his ball and having a go at him with their withering 5 words of English. But he kept his cool and didn’t let them smell fear, and they eventually got bored and moved on.
2. Becoming an adventurous eater. L has been a fairly picky eater most of his life, yet he will eat good, healthy food that is put in front of him as long as it is a) fairly simple, b) not mixed together, and c) not spicy in any way shape or form. But I am thrilled to discover that during even the short time we’ve been in Berlin, he has been extremely game to try most of the Turkish food we’ve had, he suddenly and bizarrely has become obsessed with spicy food – from hot sauce on his eggs to chorizo at the Spanish tapas bar down the street. Plus, he has decided he loves sushi. Being a foodie myself, I consider this a huge boon. He certainly may have come to some of these things eventually if we were back home, but most likely not just yet. And as a single parent who has so often ended up cooking two dinners (I hate to confess), this is a beautiful thing.
3. Learning to cook. OK, he could be doing this anywhere, but it's happening now while we're traveling. Maybe it's because we have more time and are not rushing from school, to after-school commitment, from work, etc. or maybe it's because of his increased repertoire of eating choices. But most likely it’s because we’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on YouTube at night, but L is suddenly keen to learn to cook. So we are starting with the simple Jamie recipe for beef or chicken noodle stir-fry with whatever vegetables are on hand. So far the results have been quite tasty. Added bonus: I’ve finally been successful in getting him to do the dishes afterwards. Although if he cooks, I’ll do the dishes. I could get used to this.
4. Learning how to navigate cities and places in a foreign language. I can finally feel that my endlessly getting lost in Berlin’s complicated grid of public transportation has an unexpected benefit. L is learning how to read maps, how to be an excellent co-pilot in the quest to get where we want to be going, and, for the most part, learning to keep a cool head and that there is simply always a way to figure out where you are in relation to where you need to be and how to get yourself there. Again, this is learning that is out-of-the-box in relation to life-as-it-was at an elementary school in a small Midwestern town.
5. Learning to be flexible and deal with a lot of unknowns. Finally, and maybe one of the most important things I see happening, is L’s ability to adapt to situations that sometimes have to change at the last minute or things that seemed like a good idea in the pre-planning stage, turn out not to be as good in reality, and so adjustments to the itinerary must be made. Of course, this is life, and happens wherever you are. And it does help to develop at least some kind of routine to our days. For us, right not that involves reading every morning and some school work (and my work), followed by ping pong in our local park, and then either we come back to the house for more work or doing an outing in the afternoons. But traveling, by its very nature, forces you to become flexible, because if you aren’t, it’s a trip to hell in a hand basket. Luckily, that hasn’t happened for either of us yet.
actor-writer-director, improviser, mother, traveler, life renegade