What We Did in France

Colorful streets in france, green backpacks, family walking, blue sky

With backpacks in Chartres, France

After Denmark we flew through France by train. Our travel though France was a bit unusual to how we usually travel… We didn’t plan anything ahead, and stayed in cities for only one night, and we slept in hotels. Despite the short visit, it was great getting a quick taste of France and we will definitely have to come back to see the rest of the country.

We first entered France through Lillie Flanders after crossing Belgium. The most interesting part of travelling this way, by trains, was seeing the landscape and architecture change as we progressed west through Europe. The change was very visible upon entering France. The pointed roofs and brick houses of Belgium and Denmark were replaced by tall buildings with narrow windows and beautiful carved decorations that lined every street. We wandered around for a while, searching for a cheap hotel and checking out some Gothic cathedrals along the way.  As night aproached and hunger grew we were aquainted with French food for the first time (and French prices) and decided to have a hotel room picnic that night.

French design, tall narrow homes in lillie, France

Old and new in Lillie

The next day we took a one way train to Paris and spent the day walking around to see as much as possible. Despite the cloudy day, the city was beautiful. There was something interesting on every corner.

A news stand and street photo in Paris

People doing things in Paris

As a history nerd, seeing the Arc de Triomphe was my favorite. The Arc commemorates all who fought or died for France during the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and both World Wars.

Paris, France and the Arc, busy road

The Arc

We also saw the well-known Café des Deux Moulins. The cafe is famous for being where Amelie, from the classic French movie under the same name, worked in the film.

people in the Café des Deux Moulins in Paris, france

Café des Deux Moulins

That evening we traveled to Chartres, France. This city was my favorite of all that we visited. We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, and had a delicious bagel sandwich for breakfast in the square. The city was empty of tourists which made for a very peaceful day people watching and exploring.

amazing food in chartres, this is a colorful bagel sandwich

Look at the deliciousness!

After breakfast we looked around the cute streets of the old city, and saw the stunning Gothic architecture of the Notre Dam.

Gothic structure of the Notre Dam in Fance

Notre Dam in Chartres, France

That’s all for France. Next stop is Spain!

Unschool for High School

Unconventional learning while traveling

When my family started traveling my sisters (middle and elementary school) and I (high school) had to stop going to public schools. We tried to do online schooling with our district for a week or so; however, the time commitment and in-flexibility of this type of education proved to be almost as impossible to keep up with while traveling as regular school. Prior to leaving home we had already looked into a couple of methods of unconventional education and decided to switch to unschooling.

What is unschooling?

In short, unschooling can be described as the opposite of the public school system. There is no set curriculum, no deadlines, dates, or grades, and no teachers. The student is completely in control of his/her own education. In a public school, I would go to seven classes, five core classes and two electives, for fifty minutes each. Then, five hours of homework every night, tests, quizzes, finals, projects, required reading… you know the drill. Five days a week, for the entire year with exceptions of week long holidays and summer break. Now as an unschooler, I learn anything and everything I want. I can spend endless hours researching the origins of human civilization, or anatomy, or reading classics simply because I think they are interesting, and not because they are required for me to learn.

Transitioning:

For myself, the transition from conventional to unschooling was challenging. This transition is informally known as deschooling.  My sisters and I took a break from school completely after our last semester of regular school ended. I worried for a long time about how I would go to college, or get a job, or stay on the same level as my peers. I also worried about how I would be motivated to learn and what I would learn. I was unsure of how I would grow up to become the educated adult that society expects me to be without the constant guidance of the educational system.

It turn out that humans are actually a very naturally curious species. Without the restrictions of the school system, I have read, written, and been more excited about learning than I ever was while going to school.  Ironic, right?

Why unschooling is great

I don’t feel exhausted and mentally drained after spending countless hours in a classroom, and hours more at home doing as much work as possible to keep up with my 4.0 GPA and the hundreds of thousands of other 4.0s in this world all racing each other to the top of a ladder built not from excitement about learning, but from playing the system.

Instead, I feel empowered, independent, and smart. I feel grateful for an opportunity I was afraid of at first and took for granted, an opportunity to learn about the world in a way that the classroom cannot teach. As kids, we learn to play the piano, or paint, or cook, because it is what is interesting to us. Why is it that everything else we get to learn is closely controlled starting from five years old? For most of human history, learning was fluid and self motivated. This is how scholars such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Leo Tolstoy, Mozart, Einstein and Benjamin Franklin learned. I am excited to keep traveling and learning about the world, and I hope you feel inspired to do the same.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment if ya like 🙂 -Izzy

Some cool resources: 

Khanacademy.org — lessons that teach pretty much everything and lots of cool partner content

Alison.com  and Coursera.org — offer free college level courses  from prealgebra  to buisness to neuroscience

Ed.ted.com — Talks and lessons to getcha thinking

freerice.com — learn a bunch of subjects while helping end world hunger too

Goodreads.com — If you are looking for some interesting books

Overdrive downloadable library — hundreds of free ebooks and audio books to rent. All you have to do is put in your library card number.

Selfmadescholar.com — even more online classes that arn’t college level

Shmoop.com — a good resource for history, language arts, and test prep