GettinG out of school to travel overseas is the stuff of dreams for most kids but little do they know holidays are also filled with valuable learninG opportunities. words: tiana templeman



f you’ve been umming and ahhing over whether to avoid the school holiday rush and book a family getaway during term time, then don’t stress – just take a tip from Professor Deborah A Byrnes. “Travelling is always educational in some way,” says the early childhood education expert. She says travelling “provides children with opportunities to learn and practice, in a real-world setting, concepts and skills in all of the core curriculum areas.” In other words, there’s no need to feel guilty about pulling your child out of school to travel. When Annabel Candy and her husband decided to explore South America for 18 months with their three children, they spent time preparing for their travels by learning Spanish as a family. This created a sense of excitement and helped get their adventure off to a great start. “I knew I’d achieved my goal of helping the children become bilingual when, halfway through the trip, the eldest started complaining that my Spanish was embarrassing,” she laughs.

Live like a local
Attending a local school in Costa Rica not only helped the Candy children develop foreign language skills, it also made them appreciate the school they now attend in Australia. The vast choice of books in the library, educational games they get to play in the classroom and endless after school activities will always be seen as a luxury; their Costa Rica school relied on old-fashioned rote learning and could not afford to provide students with a desk and chair. Spending time with the locals can broaden your child’s mind in more ways than one. It’s worth noting that parents and their children may experience a period of readjustment in the early part of a trip, as few families are used to spending so much time in each other’s company without the familiar distractions of home. Fortunately the constant need for stimulation is soon replaced with simpler pleasures. Exploring the unusual shapes and tastes of local fruits at a bustling Balinese marketplace; chatting as you watch local fishermen bring in the day’s catch or marvelling at how the sun slips into the ocean like a huge, sizzling disc creates long-lasting holiday memories that are far more precious than any video recording.

From left: Anantara Mahout Training. Courtesy of Anantara The White family in New Zealand. Luke Candy with his classmates in Costa Rica. © Annabel Candy

Learning in context
These types of experiences also provide valuable learning opportunities because when children travel, they get the opportunity to learn in context. “Being able to explain a concept using a real life example has a far greater impact than any classroom ‘chalk and talk’,” says primary school teacher Heather White who has experienced this first-hand. When she travelled to New Zealand with her two boys, they were fascinated with the role glaciers play in shaping the landscape. “It was an advanced concept for children that age but they had no problem understanding it because they could see the path of the ice at Milford Sound.” To make the most of these opportunities, it can be helpful to meet with your child’s teacher to see what topics are being covered while you’re away. For example, if your child is studying farming, point out some crops at your destination and explain

how people grow their food. Professor Byrnes recommends using thoughtful questions to link what your child is learning in school to what they are seeing to further enhance the educational value of the trip.

It’s all in the planning
Travel schooling, like home schooling, is a serious responsibility (and one that parents should not take lightly) but it can also be challenging. “When you’re in a new place no one wants to sit down and do worksheets, you want to get out there and explore!” says Candy. Completing activities such as spelling in the car and setting a regular time for lessons can make things easier. Some parents get their children to do the bulk of their formal school work on the flight. “A 23 hour flight each way allows plenty of time to do a few weeks worth of class work,” says Cynthia Dammerer, who has been travelling with her now-teenage daughter since she was in kindergarten. “Karri revises on the way home which allows her to enjoy the travelling experience to the full.”


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From above: Max and Luke Candy walking to school in Costa Rica.
© Annabel Candy

Club Med Bali - Tex Templeman.
© Trevor Templeman

Kwandwe Game Reserve.
© Kwandwe

Older children will likely be given school work to take away but youngsters seldom require such a structured learning approach, particularly for shorter trips. “I don’t see the need for too much formal learning when they’re young but it’s always important to keep up those basic skills,” says White. She suggests getting children to write in a diary every day as it requires the same discipline as homework, but is much more fun. “This also gives them something to share with their peers when they return to school plus it makes for a great show and tell.” Travelling short or long term is an education in itself, for parents and their kids. It fosters a love of learning, builds your child’s confidence and celebrates a spirit of adventure. Children who travel become students of the world.

a trapeze with the confidence of a child twice his age. Building self-esteem and having fun is a key component of the Club Med kids’ program which goes well beyond basic childcare and, at some resorts, even caters for babies. Expect fun activities with a focus on team work and don’t miss the famous Club Med circus school and the unique Clean Art Planet program which teaches children about recycling through art.

bathing. Kids must complete a short ‘driving test’ at the end of the course in order to receive a certificate.

Shamwari Game Reserve, South Africa
Shamwari gets a big tick of approval for its family-friendly offerings. Found in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, close to Port Elizabeth, Riverdene Lodge is a specific family lodge on the reserve with plenty to entertain children of all ages. Children can take part in the Kids on Safari program which will see them visit the animal rehabilitation and Born Free centres supervised by a specially trained ranger. There’s also a ‘dung hunt’ as part of the explorations that are created for kids to learn more about wildlife and conservation.

explore and learn about Fijian culture, the environment and the natural word. This watery wonderland is the only luxury resort that employs a full-time marine biologist to help visitors learn about the underwater world of Fiji, with hands-on sessions on the importance of preserving our marine ecosystems. There are also scuba diving lessons available for kids 10 and over.

Hard Rock Hotel Penang, Malaysia
The Hard Rock Hotel Penang is Malaysia’s trendiest hotel as awarded by TripAdvisor, and is a massive hit with Australian families. In addition to regular kids club offerings like sports and crafts, the resort’s excellent Lil’ Rock kids program offers an extensive range of activities with a difference to keep the kids engaged and educated. Little chefs can hone their kitchen techniques with cooking lessons, there are dance lessons, language lessons and even the chance to learn and play traditional Malaysian games.

Hayman, Whitsundays, Australia
Budding chefs can work on their inner Masterchef at the Hayman nature resort. This luxurious island retreat is famous for its fine dining so it seems only fitting there’s a special kids’ program for budding chefs. Junior Hayman Chef includes exotic juice blending, a pizza making class and a tour of the famous Hayman Chocolate Room (with tastings, of course). Once the children have finished in the Chocolate Room, they collect their pizza boxes and return to the kids club for a feast.

Top of the class
You may not be ready to pack up for a life on the road but even a short resort break can offer some great learning opportunities for your children. Gone are the days of resort’s ‘kids clubs amounting to a tired-looking room with a meagre box of toys and a long-suffering staff member. Resorts have responded enthusiastically, and creatively, to meet the needs of discerning parents and their children with an impressive array of enjoyable and educational children’s programs with lessons in everything from local cuisine to marine biology. Here’s our pick of the best:

Treasure Island, Fiji
Don’t worry about kids missing out while they’re away on Treasure Island. Here can still enjoy a great Fijian holiday in the off-peak season without kids getting behind. The kids club is a large purpose-built bure with an innovative program of activities is run by fully qualified teachers and early childhood development specialists. Children can also get some unforgettable hands-on experience of Fijian culture and also learn about Treasure Island’s natural environment. Kids may never look at their classroom in the same way!

Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa, Thailand
Children staying at northern Thailand’s luxurious Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa can pass their driving test in just three days – on the back of an elephant. Working with a qualified mahout (elephant ‘driver’) and an English-speaking guide, this educational program for children aged eight and older covers basic ‘driving’ commands, elephant care and river

Kingfisher Bay Resort, Fraser Island, Australia
Learning is a wild experience with Kingfisher Bay Resort’s Junior Eco Rangers. Fun and informative, the programme focuses on the environment while keeping kids active. There’s a low ropes course and canoeing, sand sculpture, art and craft as well as environmentally-themed games and guided walks. As the sun goes down sit around the campfire for songs and Aboriginal stories, head out on a spotlight walk or enjoy some stargazing.

Club Med Bali, Indonesia
Cheered on by his new-found friends from the kids club, my usually timid five year old amazed us by flying through the air on

Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, Fiji
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s superb Bula Club offers kids a chance to


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