What is school for? A look at the boys’ education while travelling and beyond…

CNEd / the french distance learning syllabus

While we were travelling, we decided to educate the boys using the French distance learning syllabus called the CNED. After two months of “home/travel schooling”, we chose to move to Copenhagen and decided to send the boys to a French international school.

I had found working with our eldest enjoyable and Gavin was making progress with both boys in mathematics. Our youngest, however, had me wrapped around his little finger. I had to laugh. He spent a week at his old school in France prior to our move to Copenhagen and the teacher showed me his beautiful hand writing. It held no resemblance to what he was producing for me. It had been such an effort for him (and for me from an encouragement perspective) to produce even one line of text! Beautiful handwriting for maîtresse, but a headache for me…

Maîtresse also revealed to me that our eldest had remarked: “mom doesn’t know anything!” At the time, we had been working on a classic French text from La Fontaine. It is a beautiful piece of writing, but since it dates from around 1680, I had had to look up at least half the words. I cannot deny it, I found the French CNED grammar and literature – even at age 9 level – difficult. I was secretly happy to relinquish the task to someone more qualified although I did enjoy pouring over the dictionary with G and deciphering texts together.

All in all, I think it might have made better sense for us to use an English curriculum or no curriculum at all. Fortunately, the boy’s French school had advised us to do only French and Maths so we were able to supplement their learning and all-round fun – Geography, Science, Biology, Physical Education, Art – with all the wonderful travel experiences.


The boys then attended the French school in Copenhagen. After small French schools in the Gers countryside, the size of the school and the number of children was a shock to the system. The boys found it overwhelming and noisy.

Fortunately, R’s teacher for the year was from the south west of France and he has the same accent as R does, so they could appreciate and understand each other. The school also offered a few activities that would be unheard of elsewhere. R did a semester of ice-skating on an outdoor ice rink during the winter. I went along to assist with the taking-on and -off of skates. With the early morning chill in the air, excited children, pink cheeks, cosy gloves and mittens, it was an unforgettable moment.

I also attended a couple of sports days where we cycled with an entire class of children (at least 30 eight and nine year olds) to a sports field a good 40 minutes from the school. Copenhagen has remarkable cycle lanes, but to me it was a monumental achievement none the less. I can’t imagine that being possible anywhere else in the world.

In the end, both boys left with a few good friends that they will keep in contact with. They were, however, very happy to move back to their Gers classrooms!


The boys are now back at the local French schools in the Gers. Both seem to be enjoying being with their old friends again. I find the local schools lovely – they’re small for a start with just over 20 children per class.

The complication arises that there are so few children in the countryside, that two to three grades of children are all grouped together. In the Montessori philosophy, this is regarded as beneficial as children are exposed to the level of work ahead of their actual grade and can “review” work from the previous year if necessary. It also allows children to work together and independently as the teacher cannot be with all two / three grades at one time. I think the local teachers manage the situation well although it can’t be easy.

Another remarkable advantage of small schools and the French system is that each school has a dedicated chef who provides a three-course lunch for the children. The menus seem well balanced and even the deserts are well thought through – fruit / fruit-compote / plain yoghurt. This means that the children are exposed to many flavours and end up being adventurous foodies which is loads of fun.

Both boys have started playing rugby with the local Massylvain club and they so enjoy being a part of a team and enjoy the physicality of training and tournaments each week and weekend.


When we visited Bali, we had the opportunity to visit Green School which is a school based on the ideology of sustainability. The buildings themselves are sustainable and are built from bamboo. The result is beautiful and inspiring indoor-outdoor classrooms. We were so impressed with the school, that we have applied for the 2019 September intake. They are completely full at the moment so we will have to see what is possible. Even if they are not able to attend, it would be awesome to send them on some of the holiday camps on offer. Take a look at the kids camps here: https://greencampbali.com/kids-camps/


In the meantime, I’m reading as much as I can about education. What do children need to learn? My favourite find so far is Seth Godin’s book where he discusses the importance of independent study, experiential adventures, community service, privacy and solitude and apprenticeships. You can download it here: https://sethgodin.typepad.com/files/stop-stealing-dreams6print.pdf

I’ll write up what I learn along the way and if you have any insights about education that you could share, I’d love to hear from you. Does the system your children are in suit them? Do you think it prepares them well for the future? What’s missing for you and how are you going about filling in the gaps?

One Reply to “What is school for? A look at the boys’ education while travelling and beyond…”

  1. Education is one of those totem problems of childrearing, isn’t it? I can’t help thinking if a child is happy at school – feels safe, has friends, make progress – then you can’t go wrong. But maybe that is the bottom line, the minimum expectation we have of school. Parents also want other things for their children: to be inspired to learn, expand their centres of interest, to be stimulated by opposing ideas. Mmm, you’ve got me thinking…

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