by Janelle Schroy
We are a continuously traveling family of six. Current Location: Istanbul
It’s 8:00am and I rise to a quiet house. I open the curtains and peek out to see the bright sun shining off the mosques of Istanbul.
I make my favorite morning beverage to start my day: warm water with a slice of lemon.
Stepping outside, I take a couple of minutes to set an intention for the day and say a prayer of gratitude. Starting my day with gratitude is game-changing for me and is a key personal habit which daily determines the course of my heart.
We’ve been in Türkiye for one month now, touring the historical sites, hiking the national parks, exploring the ruins, and learning about Turkish food, culture, language and traditions.
As a traveling family, we spend every 4–6 weeks in a new country. Our goal is to travel to 50 countries (roughly 1/4 of the world) as a primary means of education for our four girls. We are now 28 countries and 3.5 years into that journey.
After getting myself ready for the day, I wake my two older girls, Reagan (age 12) and Madison (age 10) at 8:30 and get them started on what we call “healthy habits.” This includes brushing teeth, making beds, getting dressed, doing hair, and tidying rooms.
MORNING LEARNING TIME
By 9:00am, Reagan and Madison are settled at the dining table with their iPads and headphones on, quietly eating their Turkish breakfast.
Our Turkish breakfast today includes fried eggs, olives, feta cheese, cucumber, and simet (large, soft bagels with sesame seeds).
Here in Türkiye, simet is made fresh every day and delivered to roadside stands and cafes throughout the country. As we travel, we try our best to mimic what the locals eat every day.
OLDER GIRLS: DEBATE AND NEGOTIATION CLUB AT KUBRIO
Reagan and Madison log onto Kubrio, a global learning community where they are connected to their students and teachers who are located throughout the world.
They join a Debate & Negotiation Club, where the teacher facilitates a discussion about whether or not paper should be banned. There are nine kids in the class today, and they are located across five different countries, and they all speak English.
The teacher is Oliver, and he’s based in Germany. Together, he and the students have a rich and rewarding live video-based conversation which includes pursuing a range of curiosities, healthy debate, and respectful disagreement. The club is once a week and the topic is ever-changing.
YOUNGER GIRLS: YOGA PRACTICE
During this hour, I get my younger two girls up and going on their healthy habits. After they finish their breakfast, they start their day with yoga.
My 8 year old, Devyn, completes a lovely morning yoga practice with Adriene, her online teacher. Adriene runs Yoga with Adriene, and she lives in Texas.
Peyton completes her yoga practice with Jaime, who lives in England where she runs Cosmic Kids Yoga. At the age of five, Peyton knows how to navigate straight to her yoga practice via her SensicalTV app on her iPad. There, Peyton can choose which practice she wants to enjoy each morning.
While everyone is occupied, I have my earbuds in and I’m getting myself breakfast and unloading the dishwasher. As I do so, I’m listening to the news podcast called Apple News Today. It’s a quick 8 minutes of news highlights — which is about all the time I have before it’s time to transition the kids to the next learning activity.
By 10:00am, the older girls have finished their Kubrio club and the younger girls have completed yoga. All are ready to begin practicing their instruments.
Reagan gets out her violin and opens her iPad to the app called Scribd, where she has access to thousands of music books. She has her own Music List which we’ve made on the app. Her violin teacher is based in San Francisco, California, and he also has an account on Scribd, so he can access all the same music books as Reagan.
In between her bi-monthly lessons with her teacher on Zoom, Reagan completes a 30 minute violin practice every weekday. We have found it to be an incredible experience to learn the art and music of each country while we travel around within it. We also take time to jam with local musicians whenever we can.
Madison gets started on her ukulele practice, and Devyn with her flute. Peyton gets out her piano. Soon all of them are playing in different rooms.
The house is filled with the sound of music!
INNER WORK | GRATITUDES, AFFIRMATION & INTENTIONS
By 11:00am, the girls are ready to go and Jedd, my husband, is ready to join in our day.
Jedd works online for a philanthropic advisory firm based in Colorado , so he works Mountain Standard hours no matter where we are in the world.
While we are in this time zone in Istanbul, this means he starts his day at 5:00pm and finishes at 2:00am. For this reason, he sleeps until 10:00am and joins us for our afternoon family adventure.
After a quick lunch of simple pasta with pesto which I make while the kids are practicing music, we are soon out the door as a family, off to explore the great cosmopolitan city of Istanbul.
It’s a 30 minute journey in traffic, and we always start our family adventures in the same way–by taking time to practice gratitude and offer each other affirmations. We go around and each say two things we are grateful for, then we choose one person in the family and say something affirming to them.
“I am grateful for Turkish delight and all the cats in the city!” Devyn begins, always aware of the local foods and animals. Cats are a deeply ingrained part of Turkish culture and she loves having kitties to pet in every shop, cafe and historical site we visit.
“I’m grateful for great architecture all around us,” adds Reagan, sketchbook always in hand. She draws what she sees out the window.
“Madison, I love how you are always giving me warm hugs,” joins in Peyton, beginning our affirmations.
“Peyton, I love how kind you are to everyone and you’re very compassionate when people get hurt,” returns Madison, smiling.
I love this part of our day.
It only takes five minutes, and speaking our gratitudes aloud sets us on track to be able to take on any craziness we experience in our adventures by subtly establishing that there is always something to be grateful for, regardless of the circumstances.
Likewise, the affirmations create a tone for the day which breeds unity between the six of us.
“I set an intention to stay calm if things go wrong. It’s so hard!” Reagan commits.
“My intention is to not talk back to mom and dad when they give me instructions,” Madison shrugs. “I really want to be more respectful.”
FAMILY ADVENTURE IN ISTANBUL | Hagia Sophia
It’s high noon as we inch closer to the center of the city, we get super excited about our adventures for the day: seeing the Hagia Sophia, and exploring Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.
Devyn is feeling silly and requests we play the song, “Istanbul, Not Constantinople,” by the rock band called They Must Be Giants. It’s a hilarious song which the kids have loved learning here.
We park the car and walk toward the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, and we pause on a bench to watch a BrainPOP video about The Ottoman Empire. We discuss some of the history which Istanbul has witnessed over the last 1,485 years.
Inside the mosque, I quietly whisper to the girls, “Hagia Sophia was built as a cathedral as the state church of the Eastern Roman Empire when this city was Constantinople. That was in 537 AD. For the next 1000 years, this was a cathedral.”
The girls have been to the Holy See at the Vatican in Rome, so they know full well what it means to have a place be at the center of a massive faith tradition.
At one time, Hagia Sophia was the world’s largest indoor space, and it was proud to have the world’s first fully pendentive dome, a feat which literally changed the history of Byzantine architecture.
Jedd used to work at the American Institute of Architects, and he explains to his girls that a pendentive dome means that it’s a circular dome over a square room.
We look up together. No doubt about it, it’s a beautiful design. Reagan makes some notes about this in her sketchbook.
The girls have been learning about the Ottoman Empire throughout the last month as we’ve crossed the country on a circular road trip:
- Antalya (modern port city)
- Fethiye (historic port city with a large worldschooling community and the fascinating ghost town of Kayaköy)
- Laodicea (ancient city, historically important)
- Pummekele (favorite natural hot springs of Queen Cleopatra) & ancient city of Hierapolis
- Ephesus Archeological Site (key city in Roman times)
- Izmir (dream city of Alexander the Great)
- City of Troy (from Homer’s books Iliad & The Odyssey)
- Bursa (silk trade hub, former capitol of the Ottoman Empire)
- Istanbul (city at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, culturally and historically important)
After a few weeks in Istanbul, we’ll head out again and go to Türkiye’s capital city of Ankara to study the Hittite Empire.
We’ll then go on to Cappadocia (epic land formations and home to the worlds’ largest underground cities), before completing our circle by returning to Antalya.
Next month, we’ll be in Israel where we will dive into a very different kind of Middle Eastern history.
“Guess what?” I continue to explain to the kids inside the mosque.
“In 1435, Hagia Sophia was transformed into a mosque by the Ottomans after the Fall of Constantinople.
“As part of the cathedral’s transformation, the bells, icons, mosaics, baptistry and all other signs of Christianity were removed, plastered or painted over.
“To complete the change over into a mosque, four minarets were added outside the cathedral, and inside — a minbar (pulpit) was built from which an imam (leader) can speak to the people in the mosque.
“They also made a a mihrab (a niche in the wall showing the direction of Mecca, where they should pray) was established.”
Together we walk quietly around the mosque, considering all of this. This is world history, art appreciation and world faith traditions offered all in one experience.
I wear a hijab, or head scarf, as is requested in mosques according to Muslim tradition. No one wears shoes. They are forbidden as this is seen as a holy place.
People are laying on the floor or sitting propped up against the walls. Some are browsing on their phones, and some are chatting quietly. Some are praying. No chairs or benches are in sight. Not in a mosque. Here the praying is done on prayer mats or carpets.
We pause and watch the group of men at the front of the mosque perform the salah, an Islamic prayer of supplication and worship which is prayed five times a day.
The mosaics of Mary and Jesus are still high in the dome above them peeking down at the worshippers, but they are covered mostly by stretched curtains. No icons or representations of humans are allowed to be in site when Muslims are praying.
We’ve learned from our Muslim friends here in Türkiye that nothing is actually required by the Islamic law.
Rather, it is suggested and encouraged according through the words of the Qur’an and the Hadith (a collection of sayings from the Islamic prophet Muhammad).
A kind lady in an official looking uniform approaches me and offers her help. My headscarf isn’t on properly, she tells me, and asks if she can rewrap it “the Turkish way.”
She thanks me sincerely for coming to the mosque and honoring the faith practice which is part of the daily life for 99% of the Turkish people.
I smile. The Turkish people are so welcoming, gentle and hospitable.
Grateful for this unique experience, we turn to gather our shoes and head into the sunlight outside the mosque.
FAMILY ADVENTURE: GRAND BAZAAR
It’s now 1:30pm and we walk a few minutes to the Grand Bazaar, the center of Istanbul’s trade. This place is a must-see destination in Istanbul, unlike any other in the country, possibly even in the world.
For several hours we walk, seeing various products and services people are offering, negotiating the crowds as we dip and dodge through the masses. The entire thing is a multi-sensory rainbow of sights, sounds and smells. My girls want to touch and smell everything before them!
Tea runners run between the shops, balancing trays of çay (Turkish tea) in tulip-shaped glass cups as they deliver the çay to shopkeepers and their guests. This small gesture of kindness and humanity is such a delightful touch for customers who are in a busy and overwhelming marketplace.
We stop for a Turkish meal and we love tasting the bold flavors of Istanbul. The total bill for 6 people is no more than the equivalent of $10 USD.
EVENING LEARNING TIME
By 4:30pm, we head to a park. The kids have some time on a local playground, where they are soon chatting with kids their age and practicing their handful of Turkish words.
Later, they all shower and get comfortable so we can settle into our evening learning time. Jedd heads out the door to a coffee shop to begin his work day leading the research team as they help advise their clients on how best to channel their charitable giving.
At 6:00pm, the girls gather their iPads and headphones and sit around the dining table. I start making a light dinner of finger sandwiches and cut fruits and vegetables while keeping an eye on the self-directed learning going on around the table.
OLDER GIRLS: CREATIVE WRITING CLUB AT KUBRIO
Reagan and Madison re-join their Kubrio platform and join a Creative Writing Club.
They play word games with kids from around the world and then follow a prompt to write anything that comes to mind about a photo on their screen —today it’s a black and white picture of a very old man in a tweed coat with a pipe in his hand.
They are intrigued. With notebooks and pencils in hand, they are soon lost in a world of words.
YOUNGER GIRLS: GLOBAL STUDIES ON iPAD
Meanwhile, Devyn and Peyton get out their iPads and start into a fun hour line-up of exciting learning which includes:
- Current Events — They open their podcast app and listen to KidNuz where they hear the world news in a short, kid-focused podcast. When they finish, we discuss it together, processing the information.
- Social Studies–They open their BrainPOP app and choose a biography from the social studies section. After the five minute animated film, they take the quiz and then share with me what they learned in a few quick sentences.
- Geography — Devyn opens her Seterra app and starts quizzing herself on the Middle East map which she has been diligently memorizing the last few weeks as we’ve been traveling in the region. She surprises me with her incredible knowledge! Peyton works with her World Atlas app, completing puzzles and challenges related to geography.
By 7:00pm, the girls have just taken a quick break and are ready to jump into another hour of learning.
OLDER GIRLS: 3D ANIMATION CLUB AT KUBRIO
Reagan and Madison enter Kubrio again and join a 3D Animation Club.
They are learning how to make a 3D model of a person’s head using the Blender platform. They work together as a team and learn from their teacher and other students who are on the video call from around the world. Yesterday at this time, they were in a Drama Club with Kubrio, and tomorrow it will be a club called Model United Nations.
These once-a-week clubs are just too much fun. Nothing is required and everything is optional. The go for the love of it — exactly as learning should be.
YOUNGER GIRLS: WORLD LANGUAGES ON iPAD
- English — Devyn and Peyton then start into a robust 30 minute lesson on their Reading Eggs app. It covers 15+ English language activities and includes spelling, sight reading, reading comprehension, grammar, and more. They are laser focused for 30 minutes, fully engaged in the animations and reward systems within the app.
- Handwriting–Switching to a tactile activity, the girls get out their notebooks and copy out a few lines of poetry. I figure that since they need to practice writing, they may as well be working with great literature rather than silly sentences! This month we are writing out Emily Dickinson poems, and they are utterly delicious. It only takes a few minutes for this activity, and at the end, they are so proud of their work.
- French — Peyton opens here Gus on the Go French apps and works on French vocabulary and reads stories in French. Devyn completes three full learning activities in her Rosetta Stone French app, which she’s been working through for several years.
By 8:00pm, the girls have just taken a five minute break and they are resettled into their last hour of learning.
OLDER GIRLS: MATH & FRENCH
Reagan and Madison turn to individual work now that they are finished with their Kubrio clubs for the day.
Tomorrow their clubs will be different and will include: Art Club, Coding Club, Global Citizenship, and Film-making.
YOUNGER GIRLS: STEM
- Math–Peyton and Devyn both start into their Math Seeds lesson, which they absolutely love. It’s completely animated and they enjoy learning the math skills while playing games, watching videos and earning prizes. It is amazing to see them leading their own learning process while I just assist if they get stuck.
- Science–The girls finish the hour with BrainPop, where they work through two science videos, narrating to me what they learned after each one. As a reward, they get to spend a few minutes catching up on space news with NASA Kids Club.
By 9:00pm, the girls are ready for some down time after a very full and exciting day of learning.
As the sun slips below the western horizon, we complete a “ten minute tidy up” together, resetting our space for a new day tomorrow. (That way, I can get a few hours of work time in from 10pm — 1am instead of cleaning!)
I gather my girls together into bed and we end the day together by reading a chapter from a book. We’ve been making our way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy after finishing the Chronicles of Narnia series together.
They cuddle up close as I read aloud. They close their eyes to listen, all five us snuggled together, laughing and talking at different points throughout the story.
After a chapter is done, everyone is sleepy, so I put the book aside and offer my final words for the day.
I start our bedtime ritual with my littlest one.
“Peyton, can you see my eyes?” I ask her.
“Yes, Mommy.” she smiles, holding my hand. She knows what’s coming. Though our days are wildly different each day, we do have this same conversation every night.
“Do you know that I love you?” I ask her
“Yes I do,” she replies.
“I love you when you are the most fantastic, obedient, kind girl you could ever be.
“I love you when you are have a terrible day, and you are difficult to your sisters and your mommy and daddy.
“I love you forever and always, no matter what. There’s nothing you could ever do to make me love you less.
She cuddles in close.
“You are deeply and completely loved. You are precious to me and I’m proud of you.” I finish, still looking straight into her eyes.
“I know, Mommy. I love you too,” she melts.
“Peyton, who else loves you like that?”
“Daddy does! And my sisters, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles.”
“That’s right, Peyton. Now rest in our love.”
I kiss her and send her off to bed, repeating the same thing with each of my girls in turn.
We don’t have many rituals, but this is one of them.
We do this every night because I always want to end each day with grounding the kids in unconditional love. It is far more important than all the learning, all the exploring, all the coaching and all the struggles.
Often this ritual evokes grateful tears and warm hugs, especially on the hardest of days.
What makes a child feel grounded and secure is not where they spend their days, but how they are LOVED by those who are closest to them.Janelle Schroy
This was a look at a day in our life–one small, ordinary day which was filled with so much wonder and learning.
Or perhaps, not so ordinary.
You see, worldschooling means seeing the whole world as a classroom and everything in it as a learning opportunity.
And therein lies freedom.
Watch The Adventure Family’s educational YouTube show for kids about traveling the world.