Holidays can be learning times too.
All of life is about learning, every second of every day, holidays are no different. Even a short one week break, vacation or holiday can fill everyone’s heads with new information, ideas and attitudes.
We spent just one week in Umbria in the summer of 2014. We were guests of Our Whole Village, a company that promotes and encourages mindful global discoveries for families. Let’s take a look at some of the learning that happened, some obvious, some unexpected.
We went to the library and grabbed an armful of books about Italy. We flicked through, looked at the pictures and checked out the maps. Alongside the books on modern Italy we brought home a few on the Romans, it’s always good to revisit subjects as they come up. My boys particularly like comic strip style books, so a Horrible Histories book of Roman stories went down well.
We drew and coloured the Italian flag, talked about Europe and learnt a few words in Italian, noticing how similar they are to the Spanish words we picked up in Guatemala last year. We found a phone app that pronounced the Italian words and phrases correctly for us and had a good laugh using it. We were ready to go!
We stayed in the most beautiful Umbrian farmhouse, lovingly restored by its British expat owners into a series of top quality villas. Food was hugely important to our hosts, they ran a restaurant on site and produced as much organic food as they could for its use. We toured the farm, cuddled the chickens among the raspberry canes, dug their potatoes and helped with their recycling and composting efforts.
Since we got back, my son has plans to be an organic farmer.
Local Food Production.
Driving around the Umbrian countryside we saw field after field of dazzling sunflowers interspersed with olive groves, wonderful herbs and vineyards.
Agriculture here was clearly very different to that dictated by our tropical climate back home.
We walked in the woods hunting truffles with dogs, tasted the wild boar and the pork products the region is famous for and ate simply but well at every meal.
We learnt to make pasta. The kids produced ravioli from scratch using those golden-yolked organic eggs.
Art and Crafts
Umbria is famous for beautiful hand decorated ceramics. We saw these gloriously colourful plates, vases and platters in galleries and later the kids and I tried our hand at working with clay and at decorating our creations.
The Social Stuff
Some people think social capability is best learned in school. Sorry, I don’t buy it, our lives take place in the real, wonderfully diverse, world, not in isolation with others of similar ages and backgrounds.
We met all kinds of people in Italy, cute babies, adorable children of several nationalities, British and American expats and Italian locals. How can people think that home educated children don’t meet a broad cross section of society?
We’re not a religious family but we do make a point of learning about all world religions. In Italy we had a chance to expand on what we knew about Roman Catholicism from spending Easter in Guatemala.
Visiting Assisi opened the door to learning about St Francis and the reverence he receives. His story was richly illustrated in the frescoes of his Basilica and all over the town of Assisi. Members of the Franciscan order he founded strolled the streets along with the tourists. We took a sensational tour with a guide who new how to keep children engaged while teaching the grown-ups a thing or two.
Battles raged through medieval times in Umbria. Italy wasn’t yet unified so rival towns fought for dominance. The picture postcard beautiful cities that remain are actually a result of ancient fortification and defense.
Beneath the medieval constructions, Roman remnants still show. This Temple of Minerva stands on Assisi’s original Roman plaza.
Just the Travel Stuff
When we travel with our children, we don’t just give them region specific knowledge, we give them so much more.
They grow up with an awareness of the world, its people, their similarities and differences. They see that no one way of living or doing is the “right” way. I think that’s really important in raising a kinder, more empathic and understanding generation.
They develop adaptability, capability and flexibility through being out of their normal comfort zone.
But aside from all the “educational” stuff, we parents get to spend valuable time with our children away from our regular distractions, be they work, domestic chores or social media. And that memory-making is priceless.
If you’re interested in reading more about this trip, head along to World Travel Family’s Italy archives, or go straight to Our Whole Village at the above link.