I spent my twenty-first and twenty-second birthdays in France. I lived a year in Bordeaux, studying and perfecting my French skills. My husband and I honeymooned there. At 22 years of age, I considered myself a world traveler. And I fully intended to spend every birthday in Europe.
But, as we know… life is subject to change.
In those last eighteen years since my feet set ground in la belle France, our family has welcomed six babies, moved cross-country and back again, and fought our way out of consumer debt. It’s not like we were sitting around twiddling our thumbs when we could have been globe trotting.
However, earlier this year, after watching a series of France-based films, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Why not?”
- Why not take the kids to France?
- Why not make the investment of time and money to travel to Europe with SIX kids?
- Why not expose them to a culture that was once near and dear to my heart and a huge part of my everyday?
So, we’re committed. At least publicly.
Our plan is to spend our 20th wedding anniversary in France — with all the kids. In fact, we hope to spend an entire month traveling throughout the country, renting apartments in Paris and in a small village on the Mediterranean. We’ll introduce our kids to stinky cheese, the metro, and my French family.
And in the process, we hope to:
Show them a bigger view of the world.
As my husband often says in regards to our large family, “You can’t turn an aircraft carrier on a dime.” How true it is. So, we’re taking the long view and planning through the next 22 months for this European Vacation with our kids.
Imagine the Griswolds on steroids.
Here’s how we’re planning our European vacation:
1. Saving money.
We plan to pay cash for this venture. While we can’t predict what the exchange rate will be in 2014, we can guesstimate our needs. My last calculations show that airfare for 8 people as well as transportation, accommodations, and food for the crew for a month should total at least $20,000.
Clearly we have our work cut out for us.
But, my kids are no strangers to frugal ways. And I think that the saving is part of the experience, teaching them to delay gratification as well as work hard for something we want to do as a family.
2. Making room in the schedule.
We are thankful that my husband’s job provides three weeks’ paid vacation. We are being mindful of how we spend these days so that he has lots of hours stored up to take time off without penalty.
Homeschooling obviously affords us that room in our school schedule to take off. Literally.
3. Learning the language.
Up until this point in my kids’ education, I’ve allowed them to choose the foreign language they wanted to learn. My 10th grader is entering his second year of Latin.
But, if we’re going to spend a month in France, it would be nice if everyone knew enough French to ask for the bathroom and how to order some baguettes at the corner bakery. So, French is on our list for next year. No questions asked.
Since I used to teach French as my job, I dug out my old French curriculum and teaching aids for this coming school year. It shall be a family project. And I love Ann’s suggestions for do-it-yourself French. We’ll be using some of those resources throughout our school work next year.
4. Watching films that show French culture.
I’m on the look out for family-friendly films that will expose my kids to France, past and present. This spring we watched Hugo and War Horse, both which gave a small taste of life in France and Europe in general. While these are not the most accurate depictions, at least they offer a taste.
I’m on the hunt for more movies to help us picture what it might be like.
5. Studying France’s rich history.
Our history curriculum over the next two years will span much of the world’s history as we study everything from the middle ages to the mid 19th century. I know that the anticipation of our trip will be a great way to make our history studies a little more real.
Seeing an actual suit of armor somehow makes the crusades seem more real.
6. Eating the French way.
Since we’re a foodie family, good food is top on our list. My kids didn’t respond too positively to their first stinky cheese exposure in our winter raclette experience. I have some work to do in training their palates to enjoy la cuisine francaise.
I’m thankful that there is a true French bakery around the corner from our home and plenty of sources to buy French cheese. I plan to do some cooking out of The Bonne Femme Cookbook to get them ready for a feast of the senses.
Because honestly? I just want to be able to dine in a restaurant without being embarrassed.
It’s worth the effort.
Clearly, it’s going to take some time, effort, and money to pull this off. Our oldest will be close to 17 when we go, our youngest will be 5. It’s as close to perfect timing as it could get, before one leaves the nest, and as soon as another can travel easily without too many potty stops.
I’m excited and nervous and hopeful of what this trip will do for our family and our homeschool.
What do you think about foreign travel with children? What’s been your experience and how did it impact your child’s education?