Chapter 9 - Staying Safe






Crime is as worldwide as street food, so don’t let a newspaper headline close you off from the world. Just because Australia is known for deadly animals doesn’t mean you’ll encounter any. Also, ice cream is excellent at determining the seriousness of playground injuries.

New York Times bestselling author AK Turner kicks off the Vagabonding with Kids series with a free podcast version of the book. Hilarious adventure blends with tips (often learned the hard way) on extended travel with children. Perfect for digital nomads and lifestyle entrepreneurs.

Another Chapter from (Book 1) Vagabonding with Kids

Alternative Ed Review: Smartick




I was recently given a free trial for Smartick, an intuitive, online math tutorial for kids ages 4 to 14. Each child has their own profile and logs on for 15 minutes per day, 5 days a week. They complete math problems to gain ticks (stars that serve as Smartick currency). After the 15 minutes, they spend additional time navigating Smartick's virtual world, where they can redeem their ticks for avatar accessories, virtual pets, and treehouse decor. Eventually a game center opens up with games that focus on perception, memory, attention, and reasoning.

Focusing!

Pros:

Intuitive - As a child answers questions, the program gauges her level and adapts accordingly. There is also an "I don't know" button if the material is too advanced.

15 Minutes Per Day - This is an entirely manageable block of time. It goes by quickly. Not only do I no longer get resistance from my children about doing their Smartick lesson, they wish they could do more lessons (the program allows one lesson per day, no chance to binge).

Virtual World & Games - Smartick's virtual world and math games are highly engaging. As students progress, new aspects of the world open up. After the lesson my daughters easily spend another 15 minutes exploring the virtual world and tailoring their avatars. Because this is so engaging, they're eager to do their lessons. The games available are math-orientated. If your kids are going to play games online, these are the types of games you want them playing.

Timer - I debated over whether this was a pro or con. In the beginning, the presence of a timer caused panic and frustration (the kids can see if they're on track to finish or falling behind). Ultimately I think this is a necessary component. Without a timer, either of my daughters is liable to end up staring into space when confronted with a difficult problem. The timer keeps them focused and moving forward.

After the math lesson, it's game time. 

Cons:

Dialect Issues - Smartick originated in Spanish, was then translated for a British audience, and is now being introduced to the US. There are a few instances of unfamiliar dialect or words not common in American English. Overall this isn't a huge stumbling block, but it does come up from time to time. These are kinks that the company is actively working out.

Occasional Lesson Glitches - One in every ten lessons seems to miss the mark. Either the content will suddenly revert to something far too basic, or a lesson gets stuck repeating a question a dozen times (even when answered correctly the first time). Again, I think this type of thing will be smoothed out shortly.

Price: 

For two children, Smartick ranges from $30-$45 per month, depending on whether you pay monthly, quarterly, or yearly. My children each complete their 15-minute Smartick lesson 5 days a week. This works out to be 10 hours of math tutorials per month (I like to work out the hourly cost for this sort of thing). While more expensive than using IXL, Prodigy, or Khan Academy, the reward system of what the user can do with their avatar in Smartick's virtual world and the games available make the program more engaging.

From the Mouths of Babes:

Emilia (age 10): "I love Smartick. It's so fun and you learn a lot of stuff. You also get to buy things and there's a school and a treehouse where you make friends. You get to buy a lot of stuff like a pet that you see with your picture every time and you also get to buy gifts to give to other people. The thing I don't like about Smartick is there's this timer that drives me crazy. You only get 15 minutes to see how many questions you can answer. And the more questions you answer, the more ticks you get. That's like money in Smartick world. But otherwise it's really fun to do and I hope other people get to do it."

Ivy (age 7): "Smartick is super fun because on the math part there's a timer and also you get to play games after a little while. And I think I should share Smartick with other people in the world."

Overall: 

The pros far outweigh the cons for this one. The program is engaging, interactive, and challenging. Smartick is not meant to be a substitute for math instruction, but a supplement to it. It's an exercise in mental agility. The fact that my children look forward to a daily math exercise is a testament to the program's efficacy. I definitely recommend this product. I'd encourage using the free trial and having your child complete a full two weeks before you pass judgement.

For more on alternative education, check out:

Chapter 8 - Adventures in Street Food






It’s worldwide, delicious, no riskier than your local McDonald’s, and a great way to experience culinary culture.

New York Times bestselling author AK Turner kicks off the Vagabonding with Kids series with a free podcast version of the book. Hilarious adventure blends with tips (often learned the hard way) on extended travel with children. Perfect for digital nomads and lifestyle entrepreneurs.

Another Chapter from (Book 1) Vagabonding with Kids

Chapter 7 - What Do You Really Need to Take with You?





Don’t let small children pack their own bags, skip the vanity items, and what to do when you find yourself stranded on an island in Alaska with a breast infection.

New York Times bestselling author AK Turner kicks off the Vagabonding with Kids series with a free podcast version of the book. Hilarious adventure blends with tips (often learned the hard way) on extended travel with children. Perfect for digital nomads and lifestyle entrepreneurs.

Another Chapter from (Book 1) Vagabonding with Kids

Chapter 6 - But Think of the Children!



For all available audio recordings of Vagabonding with Kids, click HERE.



The idea that removing children from traditional education is both outdated and wrong. Adopting hybrid forms of education and the benefits of travel for both kids and adults.

New York Times bestselling author AK Turner kicks off the Vagabonding with Kids series with a free podcast version of the book. Hilarious adventure blends with tips (often learned the hard way) on extended travel with children. Perfect for digital nomads and lifestyle entrepreneurs.

Another Chapter from (Book 1) Vagabonding with Kids

AK Turner on How to Raise a Maverick



My latest podcast appearance was on an awesome new show called How to Raise a Maverick, hosted by Emily Gaudreau. She's a fierce advocate for children and a mom who knows that protecting your kids doesn't mean shielding them from the world. She also has some pretty crazy travel stories of her own.

We talk about:

The value of finding your own path 
The ridiculousness of mommy guilt
The benefits of traveling with children
Education models and options 
Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit
How to expand your cultural knowledge without leaving home

There are also practical travel tips including what basically amounts to a commercial for Imodium. 
Maybe Imodium could be my corporate sponsor?! 
While I work on getting that arrangement set up, check out the How to Raise a Maverick podcast as well as The Three Traits of Maverick Parents.

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Want more on educating kids? Check out:



Chapter 5 - A New Perception of Home



For all available audio recordings of Vagabonding with Kids, click HERE.



Chapter 5 – A New Perception of Home: Home exchanges, camper vans, and accepting the fact that ownership of things is less important than experiences.

New York Times bestselling author AK Turner kicks off the Vagabonding with Kids series with a free podcast version of the book. Hilarious adventure blends with tips (often learned the hard way) on extended travel with children. Perfect for digital nomads and lifestyle entrepreneurs.

Another Chapter from (Book 1) Vagabonding with Kids

5 Great Tips for Taking Kids Abroad



Guest post by Susie Thompson, Mum of 4, who loves to travel with her kids.

Travelling with children isn’t always the easiest of experiences. While holidays away are an excellent means of relaxing and relieving the stress of daily life, having the wee ones come along can sometimes pose a totally new challenge. Fear not, however – it isn’t all doom and gloom. Today, let’s take a look at five great tips when it comes to taking kids abroad.

1.     Book in advance

Booking ahead of time is a guaranteed way to make sure your trip is as easy possible, even with the kids in tow. You’ll always be smart to employ this tactic when it comes to a holiday, but it’s particularly wise with the kids around.

The last thing you’ll want is to arrive at your accommodation or for a day out and find your plans have been scuppered. The kids will become easily irritated and will make an already stressful situation even harder.

As well as that, you’ll also find booking ahead of time will save you a considerable amount on things like hotels and flights. You can use price comparison sites to see just how much money you’ll save by booking early.


2.     Pack Smart (for kids)

“Take what you need” is a mantra bandied about when it comes to adult travel, but things are a little different when young ones are involved. You definitely don’t want to overburden them with items, but at the same time you also need to keep them entertained.

Make sure you leave room in their hand luggage or travel packs for something which’ll keep them occupied on the journey, or at your hotel room when there’s nothing else to do. Happy children are quiet children – which is what you’ll need when trying to make things as simple as possible for everyone.

3.     Arrive ahead of schedule for flights

Reaching your destination often poses one of the greatest challenges when it comes to booking a holiday. Factoring in children to this process serves to provide you with the almightiest of headaches.

It might sound nightmarish on paper, but there are ways of dealing with flying with children. One of the best is to make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time. This gives you the chance to make all the necessary adjustments and changes you need to. This includes stuff like:

·      Toilet breaks
·      Nappy changes
·      Queuing

4.     Bring Snacks

Healthy snacks are a clever way of keeping the little ones satisfied, while also boosting their energy levels. You can go to the extent of creating handmade bites prior to travel, or simply purchase pre-made things like carrot sticks or cucumber slices.

It’s also a good idea to make sure the items you’re bringing along aren’t going to go off if left around for too long. Only take foods which have a long shelf-life, or else you might be forced to throw them out relatively promptly.

5.     Use a child-locating app

The wonders of the modern age have meant it’s not easier than ever to make sure your kids are safe while you’re on your travels. GPS systems and child-tracking apps now make it possible to keep a constant vigilance of where your wee one is at all times.

If you take heed of these five great tips for taking kids abroad, you’ll find things considerably easier in the future.

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Alternative Education (Dare I Say... Homeschool)



I know, it's crazy. After all, I was the mom who audibly groaned at the mention of homeschooling. The idea terrified me. Terms like unschooling and worldschooling were less scary, but I basically still equated them with homeschooling. So what caused me to make the switch? It's complicated. And also very simple. 

First, I recognize that I'm privileged to have choice in the matter. I work from home. I am able to homeschool and I'm grateful for that. I realize that many parents have no such option. Another important point to make is that I have loved every teacher my children have had during their time in the public school system. That said, I cringed every time I heard myself say, "You have to stop reading so you can do your homework." And I hated dragging them out of bed though they clearly needed more sleep. The time that school took from us made our children more dependent on me than ever. I wanted them to learn to make their own breakfasts, to put away their own laundry, but I'd end up doing these things all in the interest of time. We'd rush to get to school, rush to complete homework, rush to get to bed on time. 

We'd dabbled with the homeschool model during our travels. We never confined our trips to school breaks and at times have traveled for months at a time, so it was necessary to take a more active role in our daughters' education. When we returned from our most recent trip, we decided we would not enroll the girls back in school. 

So, what does homeschooling look like for us? Is it hours of tears doing worksheets at the dining room table? No, though I'll admit we've had a few math meltdowns. 

Here's one version of what homeschool looks like - the girls at City Hall finding out what sort of permits they need to start their own business. 


Their dad spearheads their entrepreneurial education. After City Hall they examined various business models and determined that they could sell coffee and hot chocolate for fifty cents a cup. OR they could give away coffee and hot chocolate and accept tips, the average of which is one dollar. 




An average week includes math, reading, science (Mystery Science or IXL), library time, PE at a local gymnastics studio, Zumba with their Aunt (an adult exercise class that they crash), Spanish (Duolingo for the girls, Pimsleur for me), chores, playdates, geography, history, typing skills, writing pen pals, theater camp, and Fridays with dad. We've learned about Rosa Parks and Marie Curie, practiced old-school long division, and grown apple trees from seeds. I had no idea that it would be a blast.

Building a catenary arch at the Discovery Center

And of course when we travel, it becomes more worldschooling than homeschooling. Here they are visiting with the Tatuyo tribe in the Amazon.



I'm three months into full-time homeschooling and I have no regrets. The only casualty thus far has been my writing time, but that's something I anticipated. It's a riddle I haven't yet figured out. But when I look at my daughters and realize how fast they're growing up, I'm able to see my priorities with a new perspective. I don't have all the answers (never will), but I do know that it's absolutely worth it.

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