There are few things more important than a child’s education, but education doesn’t only happen in the classroom. Learning with other cultures helps children understand the backgrounds of people from other countries and allows them to function better in the business world of our global economy. A gap year may be a challenge for students because the learning style is usually different in another country and they will likely have to repeat a year of school and be behind many of their peers. Young children can benefit from being immersed in foreign culture, but every parent should weigh the risks and rewards before choosing to take a gap year with their child.
Family gap years are not for everyone, and there are many pros and cons to consider when taking a young child out of their education system for a year or more.
*Learning the language naturally
*Memories of a lifetime
*Requires extensive planning
Families with young children who take a gap year often make arrangements to home-school their children for the year they will be travelling, but it is also beneficial for families who stay in one country for a long period of time to arrange for their children to go to school in that country. The children will learn the language and customs of the country naturally and will likely remember these skills for the rest of their lives.
Parents must make special educational arrangements with their child’s head teacher or they risk paying fines or going to jail for failure to properly educate their child. Most children who are away from their school for an extended period of time risk losing their place at the school they currently attend and may have to reapply or attend a different school upon their return.
Gap years require a large amount of planning, especially when children will be involved. The health risks to everyone involved are an important consideration, especially if the family will be travelling to underdeveloped countries without the benefit of clean water. The whole family should visit the doctor to ensure their health before the trip and make sure they are up to date on any recommended immunizations. Taking extra vitamins may be recommended by their health care provider. Some health care providers will even give recommendations to families about getting medical care in the countries they will be visiting. It is essential that every family have a plan in case of a health emergency.
Even though they are travelling with their parents, homesickness is a very real concern to most children. They may miss their friends, cousins, and teachers back home. It’s a good idea for parents to carry pictures of important family members and allow their child to call and write as much as possible. Keeping a journal to show everyone when they get home may help children combat homesickness.
Taking a gap year with your children may be an excellent opportunity for you to grow together as a family, but there are also some drawbacks. Each family should spend a large amount of time planning their trip and taking the needs of everyone in the family into consideration when decisions are made.