“I always wanted you to have a big world view, even though we lived in a small town.” I’ve heard these words from my mother often. It was important to my mother that my two sisters and I experienced the world not only through a textbook, but with our eyes, our hands, our heart. For that reason and many others, she decided to home school us.
For most of my upbringing, she was not only my mother, but my teacher, guide, and fellow adventurer. Whatever we studied at home, she tried to bring alive. She exposed us to experiences, people, and places that taught us how to engage with the world, as if it were all one big classroom. As an adult, I blame my insatiable sense of curiosity and thirst for knowledge on these early lessons.
As a traveler, Workaway has given me the opportunity to expand on the gift my mother gave me. When I am staying with a family and playing with their kiddos, I can see the same spark of excitement light up in their eyes as we teach each other new words, games, and ways of enjoying life. When we are sharing food around a table, daily chores, and personal stories, the line between student and teacher, family and outsider begin to blur.
Ludmila, a mother of three and one of our hosts from Poland was kind enough to share her perspective on homeschooling with Workaway and welcoming volunteers into her home.
“Kids are the best teachers of life and to teach kids is both a challenge and an adventure. We have home schooled our children for six years. During that time we traveled a lot, exposing them to varied cultures and lifestyles, yet it was only when we started hosting Workawayers that the dynamics of our homeschooling experience has changed so much for the better.”
She recounts a favorite memory, “It’s an ordinary Saturday evening. Our fourteen year-old son is explaining the rules of Carcassone (a board game) to a couple of New-Zealanders. They’ve already been talking for twenty minutes and I’m secretly listening to them, admiring the fluency of my son’s English. When did he learn such good communication skills? Certainly not at school.”
Sanni, another mom and host from Germany chimes in about homeschooling with Workaway: “I think it’s cute when our children start speaking English in various accents, sometimes British, sometimes Australian English, depending on who is our Workawayer. It never gets boring, that’s for sure!”
Ludmila continues, “Later on, while drinking some wine I talk to my husband. “You know, we have been homeschooling citizens of the world. “One day…” he answers back, “They will stay at somebody’s else family and they they will teach them all they have learned.” “Yeah…” I smile. “We have created three new Workawayers.
We decided to open our home for the world and the world opened us. Every Workawayer who stayed with us taught me and the kids something new: how to repair bikes, how to cook vegan food, how to play the flute, how to paint watercolors, how to make the most delicious lemon and ginger drinks, how to build a table, how to play the ancient board game and above all how to share differences and similarities and how to embrace the whole world in two tiny hands.”
I can only imagine my mother’s delight if Workaway had existed when we were growing up. She worked diligently to show us the world, and for that I am eternally grateful. Now, I have the chance to honor that gift and bring the world to a new generation of home schoolers, knowing they will one day complete the circle.