We spotted dolphins and saw long-horned cattle.
Most of all, the trip expanded my personal view of the world. Up to that point,
I had never been farther west than Texas.
I had never seen a panorama so vast that
you could see four separate freight trains
strung out across the horizon. I had never experienced a desert, except in the interior of the climate-controlled Mitchell
Park Domes in Milwaukee. I had never
even considered becoming a world traveler. My daughter had already been living
in Korea for several years and it had never even crossed my mind to go visit her.
After that trip, however, my perspective changed. When I was given the opportunity to speak at a homeschooling
conference in Nairobi, Kenya, I jumped
at the chance! While there, I saw the
worst of the slums in Africa. I watched
a group of baboons in the wild. We got
stuck in the mud in a game preserve and
were pulled out by a bunch of Australians in a Hummer. We walked in hippo
tracks and got a mile away from the car,
between a crocodile-infested river and a
grasslands preserve with a bunch of lions—all without a guide or a gun.
After I went back home, I went
straight to the phone and arranged for
a trip to Korea to see my daughter. I
wound up giving a large workshop in
Seoul and prepared by studying Korean
for six months—and then had the experience of giving a talk via a translator for
the first time.
More recently, my daughter moved to
England and got married to a Brit. By
this time, it felt normal and comfortable
to purchase a ticket to Great Britain and
arrange for a week’s stay at an inn in Essex. Less normal and comfortable was
the week afterwards, when my son and I
rented a car and drove all over England,
from Hadrian’s Wall at the north to the
oldest abbey in Great Britain, down in
Wales. Keep in mind that cars drive on
the other side of the road in England
. . . that was just a little bit out of my
The point of all this rambling is: “Yes!
Of course these things should count as
school!” Before going to England myself I had zero interest in learning about
English history. Now I can’t wait to
learn more! Before we went tent camping across the United States, I had only
a textbook-level knowledge of canyons
and deserts and California beaches.
Many of you, of course, don’t think
you are in a position to do any of this.
Don’t let fear stop you! I’ve been afraid
most of the time when I was starting out
on these voyages; you just have to do it
anyway! Don’t have the money? Start
out small. My initial love of history and
geography began when I was still a child
living in Wisconsin. At that time, a trip
to Lake Michigan, only 30 minutes from
my home, seemed like a long trip to an
exotic locale. Begin by exploring your
own town. Learn about the history and
geography of your own state. Then, as
the children get a little bigger, and funds
allow for it, begin exploring larger and
This is education at its finest: real-life
exploration and adventure! This is what
sets the stage for motivation for further
academic studies. If you can’t actually
travel, have vicarious adventures with
travel videos and language studies.
Mary Hood, Ph.D., and her husband,
Roy, homeschooled their five children
since the early 1980s. All have successfully made the transition to adulthood.
Mary has a Ph.D. in education and is
the director of ARCHERS for the Lord,
Inc. (The Association of Relaxed Christian Home Educators). She is the author
of The Relaxed Home School, The Joyful Home Schooler, and other books,
and is available for speaking engagements. Contact her via her website, www
The world is getting smaller all the
time. My grandmother never ventured
beyond her home state, Wisconsin, and
my mother never traveled outside of the
United States, but my kids have already
lived in Thailand, Korea, and England.
They have visited Greece, walked on the
Great Wall of China, and taken a driving
tour of New Zealand.
Recently, someone mentioned to one
of my friends: “Mary Hood must really
have a lot of money. Her kids travel all
over the world!” Definitely not true!
Mary Hood is still paying off her trip
to England from last June, and her kids
have paid their own way ever since they
became adults, working at international
schools to pay their airfare and arranging mission trips to places they wanted
Don’t let anything stop you and your
family from experiencing the world!
And, yes! Please do count it as school!