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Donating money isn’t the only way to give to charitable organizations, many of whom rely on volunteers for various services. If you find yourself with free time on your hands on your weekend, or during the week, you could consider putting in some community service. Not only will you help a good cause, but it can also be a way to meet people and learn new skills.
You want to get involved and give back to the community, but can’t fit another big commitment into your busy schedule? Then microvolunteering might just be the thing.
Microvolunteering is a small, bite-sized task or project, that is quick and easy to perform. Best of all there’s a range of things you could do online, in as little as 30 minutes. Donating processing time on your computer, signing an online petition, or promoting a charity on social media are all examples of microvolunteering that you could do today.
THEN In 2008, I decided to take two students with me on holiday. The two girls, just out of third-grade elementary school, left with my three sons and me for Texas. It was an experimental holiday, planned to last six weeks. The holiday proved to be a great success. From that summer on, I have been traveling with students in the summer ever since. My students keep daily journals, in English, of course, where they document each experience of our days. Those journals are their ultimate souvenirs! We travel in small groups, and we rent houses or stay in hostels, so not speaking English is not an option. The general rule is that we do two cultural activities, and then we do one fun, recreational activity. Traveling and speaking in English, that’s the goal!
HOUSTON When most Europeans think of traveling to the United States, Houston is far from their thoughts. Houston is so big, and it is so far from New York and California that people don’t even consider it most of the time. Physicians, scientists, and astrophysicists certainly know that Houston is worth visiting though. At least them! The immensity of Houston is enough to shock you. The latest loop around the city is called the Grand Parkway, and it is 270 kilometers long! Galveston is where the beaches are, and it’s fun! Children’s Museum Houston (https://www.cmhouston.org/) is one of the best! Houston Zoo (https://www.houstonzoo.org/) is one of the best zoos, too! Between parks, museums, beaches, malls, and more, Houston is a great city to visit! Of course, if you can’t handle 40-degree (celsius, of course) with 120% humidity weather, you might have a problem with Houston. Yeah, just like John Swigert had a problem with Houston.
LONDON Londonium, as the Romans called it, London proves to be the most popular requested city, and, off the top of my head, I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been. Oh, London! London is so alive and so kid-friendly! From “The Making of Harry Potter” Warner Bros Studio (which must be booked months to a year in advance!) to the National Gallery (digs deep into my soul every time I go!), my students never get bored. Seeing Tower Bridge in 2012, when the Olympics were taking place, was very cool! Each time we seem to find new adventures to embark upon and new things to learn.
NEW YORK Well, there’s no way to describe how thrilling New York is. Bike-riding in Central Park is always fun, and, yes, we know where the Balto statue is. The Empire State Building is never dull. Between Ellis Island, the MOMA (except maybe for the golden poo we were so lucky to have seen), the Guggenheim, and Radio City Music Hall, enhancing our knowledge of local culture is a must. If you ever want to drool over books, visit the JP Morgan Library (https://www.themorgan.org/). Seeing Daniel Radcliffe in “The Cripple of Inishmaan” was a definite memory-never-forgotten. Finishing out New York with a day at Coney Island is a particular prerequisite in the program.
PHILADELPHIA Philadelphia’s rich history allowed infinite opportunities to learn about American history. Great hostel in Philly! We couldn’t miss out on the chance to make a Rocky run up the stairs to get to the Museum of Art.
BOSTON Now, Boston is a city that makes you want to buy a collegiate textbook and have at it. The air breathes of learning and exploring and wanting to plop down in a park and read for hours. Visiting Harvard and MIT is downright exhilarating!
CALIFORNIA AND ARIZONA I could write an entire blog post about California and Arizona. We’ve trekked around California and Arizona twice now, on extended holidays visiting L.A., San Francisco, Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Yosemite, Sequoia National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley, and Page. The most memorable activity was our private plane ride over the Grand Canyon. Tears of awe were pouring during that one! Our train ride from L.A. to San Francisco was enjoyable! The earthquake was not in the least bit fun, but we survived. Getting stuck in the sand with our van was an adventure. Getting towed out by a 1973 Ford after the 911 responders sent us a local guy with his rigged pickup made me want to rethink the vehicle I drive. There is nothing better than a road trip in the USA, and it must include California and Arizona!
WASHINGTON DC The second best 4th of July I ever had in my almost fifty years was in Washington DC. My students seemed American-born that day! We visited museums in the Smithsonian, listened to people dressed up like American founders read the entire Declaration of Independence, watched a pretty good 4th of July parade, enjoyed food from the stands at the international food festival going on, went crazy on a scavenger hunt (proving that Americans are the best at really getting into scavenger hunts!), and finished the day with the most spectacular fireworks display I’ve ever seen. Tears were rolling as the music blared during the fireworks. D.C… stunning city!
TALLINN While many Europeans are traveling maniacs busy hopping on flights from one capital to another, many of them overlook the enchanting city of Tallinn in Estonia. A lot of people have probably never even heard of it. Tallinn is small, but it is so full of interesting historical places to see. Kadriorg Palace is gorgeous. Old Town Tallinn seems to take you back in time with its artisan shops, cobblestone streets, red rooftops and towers. Bike-riding around Tallinn to finish off with a breathtaking sunset proved to be the best activity with my students. We read every historical plate on every building in Old Town!
AMSTERDAM While most of my students are oblivious (not forever!) to the most popular of Amsterdam’s attractions because they’re only for adults, the city in itself is like walking in a vast outdoor museum. And it is just plain fun! We leave bike-riding to the locals, and we always wonder how Amsterdam has such a low death rate caused by bike accidents. Rijksmuseum is never humdrum, and students awe over Dutch art, primarily when I show them those crazy minuscule reflections of windows they painted on the already tiny wine glasses on the already small painting. Seriously, how did they do that? Van Gogh? Well, who knew how many self-portraits he painted of himself? Who doesn’t love Van Gogh? But, visiting Rembrandt’s house… oh, the joy! When you visit all those little rooms in Rembrandt’s house and breathe the air inside, you want to pull out a paintbrush even if you’re not an artist! We can never miss the tear-jerking Anne Frank House, putting so many things in perspective, forcing my Italian students to remember their dark moments in history. However, I think that the best times are just sitting in the park in front of the Van Gogh museum and having our picnic lunch. People-watching is never more fun than right there!
DUBLIN Oh, the joyous city of Dublin! I think I’m the only non-Irish teacher who takes students to the Dublin Writers Museum, most likely because it’s a bit tricky to find. But it’s worth it! National Gallery is lovely. Chester Beatty Library (https://chesterbeatty.ie/) is one of my absolute favorite places to visit anywhere in the world. I saw my first Guttenberg Bible there years ago. I swear, the Chester Beatty Library has more stuff that the Vatican! It feels like it anyhow. Dublin is so alive, a bustling city full of people out-and-about doing their thing. Students like it! I love it!
GORTNAKILLY Now, I can’t leave out Gortnakilly! We ended a holiday by spending three days in a beautiful house on Sheepshead Peninsula on the southern coast of Ireland. We spent our chilly days biking around the sheep-filled green pastures throughout the peninsula. Bantry House and Gardens was breathtaking, and we enjoyed seeing the Italian mosaic floors there. We spent an entire morning chilling out deep in discussion whilst my yummy pancakes just kept on coming! I had some great girls in that group who have grown up to be some pretty incredible young women. I miss them!
STOCKHOLM – HELSINKI – VISBY – Scandinavian cities easily measure up to their reputation of being family-oriented, kid-friendly, kind, and calm. Visiting the Viking city of Birka was a must-see for students. I’m not sure which the kids enjoyed most: the boat ride over from Stockholm or seeing the Viking boats docked near the village. It was a good adventure! Vasa Museet (https://www.vasamuseet.se/en) really should be seen by everybody at least once in their lives. Too cool! Korkee Adventure Park in Helsinki is one of the best adventure parks around! Students loved visiting the Royal Palace in Stockholm just about as much as they enjoyed visiting Buckingham Palace. You probably don’t even know about Visby, or maybe you do. We learned about Visby when we biked out to Pippi Longstocking’s house. And boy was it worth it! Without a doubt, however, Scandinavia’s most memorable event for us is eating local, delicious berries on our picnic lunches! Swedish blueberries are the best!
ST. PETERSBURG Russia. I had never thought about traveling to Russia until the opportunity was right in front of me. And it seemed like an occasion to allow at least a few students not to miss! And so, on guided tours, we visited Peterhof Museum, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, and The Catherine Palace. Before visiting, I didn’t know how much Roman architecture influenced construction there. It was gorgeous! Because I wanted us to see how local Russians live, we took a tour based on the daily lives of the people there. The tour took us inside the unbelievable metro system of St. Petersburg full of chandeliers, mosaic tiling, and intricate design work. Stunning! We also visited a local market, where locals were busy choosing all their favorite weekly goods. It was life as usual, surprisingly normal-like for us.
SINGAPORE Singapore is the furthest Extreme English 4 Kids has traveled with students. It was simply stunning! Wandering around with the Marina Bay Sands always in view was pretty neat. Gardens by the Bay gave us a great evening light show and breathtaking indoor fauna show. The Singapore Botanical Garden is a wonder all on its own, with many various
flowers, plants, and trees. Who knew there were so many species of orchids on this planet? We couldn’t help but enter the Buddhist temple to surround ourselves with all the people chanting away. Such passion! We got pretty grossed out with all the strange things to eat like turtle soup, shark and crocodile paws. Ew! I had a pretty hard time getting my Italian students to eat chicken with rice! The Night Safari and River Safari were fun and educational. Our trek on the elevated walkway, Southern Ridges, was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and so much fun! As far as fun goes, well, you can’t beat Universal Studios. It’s excellent in Singapore! However, seeing the beautiful, modern Singapore of today was educational and fun, I couldn’t let the students not see how Singapore was fifty years ago. So, we headed out to Pulau Ubin! Our ferry got us to the island where we picked up our bikes. We spent the afternoon biking around the island, finding hidden lily-pad-covered lakes, enormous leaves, and small run-down houses with people showering in the yard. There were no cars around and very few people. We reached the other part of the island and stopped for a break when we found ourselves surrounded by monkeys and wild boars coming up to us as if they were our pets from home. The monkeys knew how to open
our backpacks and suspected they could find food in them. While it was fascinating to be around them, we kept our distance from them as we regrouped before we started heading back. Wow! We finished up this holiday with a beach barbecue at Changi Beach Park. What a great adventure it all was!
NOW With all the latest developments on this planet, Extreme English 4 Kids and Teens has taken a traveling pause, as has the entire world it seems. We’ve all reminisced during Summer 2020 about all our great adventures in so many unbelievable places. Staying close to home is a necessary measure this summer as the human race attempts to get COVID 19 under control. But I think we’re all looking forward to better days when we can dust off our backpacks, get our travel apps ready and get on our next plane to who-knows-where. I miss our English adventures around the world!
When I was expecting my third child, my older two, both boys, were almost two and three years old. (Yes, we did plan that.) I wasn’t hoping for a girl. Healthy was good enough for me. So, when I discovered in the sonogram that the third was a boy, too, I was in no way disappointed. How cute they’ll all be, I thought. And that was undoubtedly the case. Life with them has been so incredibly imperfect, wonderfully full, and unmistakenly fun! So many years and a lot of new white hairs later, now they are 19, 21 and 22 years old, I find myself often sitting and just thinking about them. I miss them terribly when they are not home. I worry that they aren’t eating as healthy as we taught them. I wonder when I’ll be able to hug them again. I wonder when we’ll share just one more heart-to-heart. I wonder if they are choosing kind people to be around, people who will love and respect them at least a fraction of how much me and their dad have done for the last nearly twenty-three years.
COVID 19 has changed life for everybody. Our predictable and safe lives from before are no more, and they may never exist as they did six months ago every again. Re-inventing a new life has become the goal of the entire human race. So be it.
Circumstances have been on my side, though, at least through my eyes. My husband, who is a Chief Engineer for Royal Caribbean, is home because he was already home on holiday before the lockdown, and cruise ships aren’t sailing. And, at the moment, companies cannot embark or disembark anyone without individual and specific permission from the CDC. Coincidentally, my oldest son was here on holiday from Iceland, where he’s lived for almost three years, and he’s been with us since Italy went into lockdown. So, since the beginning of March, we have all five been home, and it is now lasting months. Staying at home this long all together hasn’t happened since the boys were very young. What a lovely idea!
When the boys were very young, though, they could easily be distracted, entertained and amused by various things that I happen to like very much. Baking cookies, cakes, pancakes and waffles are a few of our culinary favorites. Taking a walk outside was always a favorite. Chilling out and watching the latest films was always an excellent choice, popcorn a prerequisite, of course! All those merely simple things were enough for them then.
My boys have gotten pretty complicated these days, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not sure I know when that happened. I’ve seen it slowly happening throughout the years. As a result, they don’t want me to help them cook or bake. They can do those things without my help. Instead of taking strolls around the woods near our house, they head out on their motorcycles with a frisbee, the huge speaker and other outdoor supplies (that would be food!). And their idea of watching something on tv is watching “Reservoir Dogs” or “Full Metal Jacket,” which, I deem necessary to admit, are two of the best films ever made. In my opinion, however, they are not precisely the kind of pick-me-up film one needs in times like these. And, as an alternative to a nightly film, they have implemented the new tradition of playing poker. Yeah, poker, which I had never played before. Luckily, through our travels around the world, we have a massive selection of international currencies in all shapes, sizes and colors, so playing for real cash is out of the question. We even have a few coins with holes in right in the middle of them. (Thanks, Denmark, for allowing added, yet limited, conversation to our poker table!) They’re attempting to grow a real moustache, so they’ve got that Zorro look going for them. They won’t let me cut their hair, and they’re starting to look pretty raggedy. Luckily, there is a tv on a different floor of the house far from me dedicated to their Playstation. I figured out around middle school that video games were going to be a part of life, limited, at least. They’ve even created a new tradition of planet-gazing! Nino is our future astrophysicist. So, he drags his brothers outside to search for who-knows-what around the universe. They do that after 11 pm usually, so that rules me out, seeing that I’m up at six or seven every morning. And, to add heat to the fire, they’ve discovered a channel on Sky called Blaze, and, now, life has become even weirder because we’ve got “Battle Bots” going on in my living once or twice a day. Seriously?! “Bite Force”?! “Bronco”?! That’s not exactly what I would designate as positive evolution in artificial intelligence. And, to make matters even worse, they keep wearing baseball caps INSIDE my house! What is that?!
My entire house has become one giant, massive man cave! Everywhere I go, and every place I see, my life has been taken over by four grown men. My life has turned into watching these four men maneuver themselves around my once femininely pleasant and sweet atmosphere. Now, I am reduced to “hiding” away in my room to watch “Pride and Prejudice,” bake cookies alone (until they’re hot-out-of-the-oven and boy do they come running!), watch the room vacate the moment I stick Yanni on the speaker and roam around my house singing to myself.
But, in the end, I can’t remember the last time I felt so happy at home. We take turns preparing meals every day. We sit and talk before and during meals, and then we We work out in the garden together building a Texas-style fire pit. I can tell who’s coming up the stairs by the way each of their steps sound. I can hear their trio of chatting and laughing into the wee hours of the night. We are all safe, and we are all together at our home. I can’t think of anything in the entire world better than that, man cave and all.
The fascinating thing about teaching English is watching constant improvement as students grow. I’m fortunate to be able to start teaching children at a young age. Seeing them grow up and becoming bilingual is remarkable and unmeasurably rewarding. Most students come to me without even knowing more than a hundred words or so. From that to becoming bilingual, earning a CEFR C2 English certificate, is a long road to endure. Having patience and unswerving objectives is necessary for both my students and me. If there is one thing I find irresistible, though, it is unquestionably a challenge. So, bring on that English challenge and any kid. I’m ready!
Now, I could prepare a series of sentences and questions to teach to young children. Memorizing dozens to hundreds of prepared sentences would be easy, and children would be able to remember and recite numerous sentences in a short amount of time. However, that would be just like learning and singing a song. Yes, kids learn songs quickly, and they certainly love singing. But children don’t become bilingual by learning just songs or memorizing sentences and questions. Unfortunately, some parents wrongly believe that a seven-year-old student should be speaking English fluently after three months of weekly English lessons. And sometimes I am approached by such parents bewildered that their children aren’t talking to them in fluent English after a few months, roughly twenty hours of English lessons. Becoming bilingual doesn’t work that way.
One of the most frequent questions I receive from potential parents is, “Do you speak to the students only in English?” When I hear that question, I almost always want to switch on my English and begin spurting out a long and complicated series of answers, delving into the captivating and challenging subject of teaching English to children as a second language. Most Italian adults I know would not be able to comprehend, much less discuss such complicated issues in English. They would not be able to handle the stress of English in that context. It should not be expected of students either, no matter how young they are.
Anyhow, my answer to that question is no. First of all, many children from three to six or seven years old could very easily break into tears if they don’t understand what I’m saying. And I could sing and dance and use all the body language I can imagine attempting to help them understand the words coming out of my mouth, but that doesn’t always console their confused minds. And I have this unbending belief that children shouldn’t have to cry to learn English. In my experience, they don’t need to. If English makes them cry, they won’t like it. If they don’t like it, they will not want to learn it.
I teach a lot of grammar in elementary school. The Italian language is incredibly complicated in regards to grammar rules, while English is not. So, I teach most English grammar while my students are still in elementary school, while they are learning either the same or even more complicated grammar in Italian. So, I need to speak to them in Italian sometimes. An Italian second-grader is not going to understand how to use prepositions, articles and adjectives in English unless I explain it to them in Italian. An Italian third-grader is not going to learn how to conjugate a verb in Past Continuous unless I explain it to them in Italian. And an Italian fifth-grader is not going to understand why some English verbs are irregular unless I explain it to them in Italian.
So, no. My students are not able to go home after four months of English lessons and discuss Shakespeare or Dahl in English with their non-English speaking parents, especially first and second graders. I have yet to find a magical English fairy who flicks pixie dust on students, and, magically, they become bilingual. I do not talk to my students only in English until they are in fourth or fifth grade. They do not understand everything I say until then. And, because it is so essential for them to grasp the basics of English grammar at an early age, I need them to understand.
However, yes! My students are capable of writing somewhat complicated sentences and stories by the time they are in fourth and fifth-grade in elementary school. And they not only know which words in their sentences are the articles, adjectives, prepositions and verbs, but they know the verb tenses as well. My middle-school students are capable of expressing detailed ideas and questions. They are capable of developing opinions and thoughts in English, and they are capable of discussing those things at length. That is so much more important for their future with English than being able to recite memorized sentences, which have no meaning to them whatsoever.
Becoming bilingual is challenging and strenuous. It takes a lot of hard work on the part of the teacher and the student, and it takes time. It is a long process, and Italian students should not feel pressured into believing they should be holding conversations in English when they are seven years old and have never taken English lessons before. That is an unrealistic expectation.
You can spot one from at least 100 meters away! They are, at best, beautiful, historic buildings about 100 years old or so, restored to their original states, and adorn flags (of course!), plaques, statues and carvings, emitting an inviting air of “Please, come inside and learn.” At worst, they are fifty-year-old buildings, badly in need of restoration adorning flags and that’s pretty much it, emitting an air of “Get in here and learn. You don’t have a choice.” They are Italian schools.
Now, this native Texan dares to blog about Italian schools, because, frankly, I have a valid right. I have earned that right through fifteen years and counting of being a protagonist in them, carrying the precious title of Mom-of-Italian kids. I’m specific about that because I’m convinced that a Dad-of-Italian kids has it a bit easier. Most of the time, in my experience, moms were always there, waiting for the infamous bi-annual teacher meetings, which we are strongly expected to attend. My three sons went to Italian schools from Day 1 completely and utterly by choice. My husband and I chose to raise our sons in Italian schools. For me, deciding to plant roots in Italy and raising my sons here, meant being completely integrated into Italian life.
From about 3rd-grade elementary school, I couldn’t help my sons any longer with their Italian. History and science were pretty easy. BUT Math… Ah, math! Now, I was good at math. It was always my favorite subject. However, from about 3rd-year high school, I could no longer help my sons with their math at school, if they got stuck. It was in part because I couldn’t remember most of it, but even more than that, I had never done any of the math that they were doing. (I graduated in the top 10% of my high school class in Texas, so I’m not stupid, I would say.) In Italy, though, the math curriculum goes beyond anything I had ever seen. In elementary school, the curriculum requires students to begin basic concepts of all sectors of math. In middle school, they go further into those sectors of math, and they start learning lots of theoretical math and not just practical math. In high school, well, they go even farther and, from about 3nd-year high school on, they get into the math, and, at that point, it becomes pretty undecipherable for me. My second son thought about attending university in the USA, so he took the SAT. He sat down twice to look over SAT math problems. He was more concerned with the English, as Italian proves to be his native language, so he dedicated his study time to the English. In the end, he finished the math part of the SAT in the 88th percentile of all the kids who took that version of the SAT, with basically no preparation. Italian schools, primarily scientific high schools, are incredible when it comes to preparing kids in math!
In scientific high schools, students study five years of physics and math. They study five years of Italian, and study philosophy for two years. Italian schools require students to study world history from elementary school. There is little to nothing they do not know, at least generally speaking, when it comes to world history. They study Latin for five years giving them endless opportunities to use Latin for logical thinking, reasoning and expanding vocabulary. They study sciences, of course, including earth science, biology and chemistry. Students are obligated to study all basic humanistic, science and math subjects in great detail. By the time they finish high school, aside from their brains ready to explode, they are academically well-prepared to take on any university degree program out there. They’re pretty incredible to talk to at that stage. Very pleasant to converse with.
Italian schools may sometimes be lacking toilet tissue in the bathrooms, which they then ask parents to donate. Students coming out of most Italian high schools are not bilingual Italian-English speakers with CEFR C2 levels, unfortunately. Most students have little technological knowledge apart from Instagram and Facebook use. And, sometimes, especially from middle school on, teachers are unfriendly, unhappy and, often, take out their misery on students. In the long-run, the ramifications are worth coping with, although they are tough, and also very heartbreaking to see as a parent. In the long-run, though, students will forget bad, unpleasant teachers (selective memory is useful sometimes). Achieving a sound, in-depth and advanced academic education before university is priceless. Actually, in Italy, it’s FREE! Anyone who travels probably knows or knows of Italian university graduates working abroad who prove to be more knowledgeable and prepared in their academic fields of study. Exchange students return to Italy after their year abroad, and they express that they had found the academic subjects, especially math and science, to be easy. I’m a passionate advocate of the Italian school curriculum. All parents should take advantage of the free advanced academic curriculum offered by the Italian government.
The only vital things missing from Italian schools in 2019 are the chance to become bilingual, CEFR C2 before leaving high school and technology. In today’s world, students need to be technological savvy, and they need to be English-speaking. Those are the missing pieces in Italian schools. That’s why I dedicate my school to helping students fill those two gaps. If students work hard, they can finish high school and be well-rounded in every field of study and knowledge necessary.
Learn English and go!
Finally! My Italian students have the opportunity to study English and technology in English! After years of work and organization, beginning on Monday, September 16, 2019, my students can participate in Extreme English CoderDojo.
My Dojos give students the opportunity to double their English time per week, either adding 1,5 hours of Dojo after or before their afternoon lessons. CoderDojos are free-of-charge, and they’re open to the public, too.
We will begin Dojos with Scratch (www.scratch.mit.edu), the excellent and opensource program created by Mitch Resnick at MIT. With Mitch’s team called the Lifelong Kindergarten group, the development of Scratch is forever ongoing and creative. Scratch allows students to use coding features in a block style format easy for them to use.
The Dojos will move onto the use of Microbit, Raspberry Pi, Lego Robotics, Dash and Dot and Ozobot. Students can begin to learn robotics concepts and beginning ideas of mechanical and electrical engineering. Students progressing quickly through Scratch can move onto HTML and Python, entering into more advanced coding language.
Extreme English CoderDojos will work on group projects and present them to Coolest Projects in Dublin, Ireland. We’ll first try to get projects completed in time for Coolest Projects in Milan (http://milano.coolestprojects.it/).
Students from 10 to 17 years old will take part in Wix’s Beta launch of Wix Education. Students will have the opportunity to work on an HTML project, creating a website for their community. The students will begin with brainstorming, and they will move through the developmental process of creating a useful, functioning website while learning to code in HTML.
In today’s world, students of all ages need 21st-century skills! Working in groups and hammering out all the dinks in projects will give them the chance to grow. Maturing with others through collaboration helps students develop social and cognitive skills needed in today’s world. It should be part of their key development in this new century, and it will help students become astounding, well-rounded and ambitious adults. Extreme English CoderDojo’s will help students do all those things.
During my five years with Royal Caribbean, I had the privilege of working with some truly marvelous people. One of them was Canadian Shannon Wall (aka Shocker Shannon). I learned so much through her free spirit, full of passion for everything this world has to offer. She loved the kids and work as much as she loved her free time and immersing herself in every bit of the marvelous nature wherever the cruise ship took us. I was undoubtedly too work-oriented at the time and she showed me how to remember how life is just going by and that it is important to stop, breathe in the sea air, take a hike, write and paint, relax and enjoy the free moments we have with those we love. It was one of the best lessons for me to learn before having children.
Interestingly enough, we both moved on to become mothers of three boys. Thanks to my husband’s job, our three boys have had the exceptional opportunity to travel. Before their teens, they had visited more than thirty countries, always using local transportation, visiting the remotest of places and taking the roads less traveled. We avoided touristy places as much as possible so that they could actually feel each country’s magical atmosphere and interact with locals. As young adults, they have begun to travel alone, each time departing with vast curiosity about what they will find.
Shannon’s boys have not only had similar opportunities to travel, but they have been given the ULTIMATE travel opportunity. Shannon and her husband took their boys out of school for a year to travel around the world (Instagram shann232323 and Dreamsintoplans.ca). Shannon has been homeschooling the boys throughout their incredible journey. I’ve been following them along the way, and I can see how the boys have grown. Their faces! Their smiles! Each place has brought them immeasurable joy! As a family, they have had the most intense opportunities to grow. Their endless adventures to unlimited countries and among the natives of those counties have compelled each one of them to grow boundlessly. What a beautiful family!
They just got into Kathmandu this morning, flying by Mount Everest during arrival. “This world, this world!! What a place!!” is what she wrote to me. Shannon already knew years ago that the world is a magnificent place. She helped me see it. I showed it to my boys. Years later and three sons later, she continues to see it, feel it, encounter it and saturate herself and her boys’ lives with it.
Thank you, Shannon, for the inexhaustible love you have for this planet’s marvels and all the people in it. I love you! Christina
Learn English and go!