A global classroom

TRACEY SPICER
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2013
Bender Landscape

GLOBAL CLASSROOM: Erin and Josh Bender's children in the US.

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At the age of four, Taj peered at the photo of the World Vision child stuck to our fridge.

"I don't like Amili," he announced. "Her face is dirty."

It was at this point we decided to enrol our kids in the global classroom.

More and more families are undertaking long-term travel, defined as anything which exceeds the length of the end-of-year school holidays.

Some friends think we've gone around the bend. But others, like the Benders, put it into perspective.

Sydney couple Erin and Josh have been travelling around the world, with their three and four year olds, for 547 days.

"What do you do once you have the kids, the car, the dream job? You get more. You think about the next house, the next car ... and realise you don't want to be caught in that rat race, when all you every really wanted to do was see the world and be part of something greater than just the Great Australian Dream," they write on their site, travelwithbender.com.

They started by renting out their house and buying a one-way ticket to Bali.

Jacob and Kalli, founders of Facebook page Portable Professionals, took a different road. The inveterate travellers were sick of being told by friends, "It's great you're doing this now, because you won't be able to once you have a baby."

It was an "existential dilemma for a while: to never have kids or to give up travelling".

When baby Ryder came along they decided to do both, setting up online businesses to pay for it.

Theodora Sutcliffe (escapeartistes.com), who left London to travel with her 10-year-old son Zac (kidventurer.com), says families fall into two categories: the "Screw this, there must be something better, let's go!" and the organised, "Let's have a perfect year as a family" group.

Our friends Rod and Aneta Last are part of the latter.

She wanted eight-year-old twins Olivia and Harrison and seven-year-old Matthew to understand their Polish heritage.

After months of research, they discovered home-schooled kids who have engaged and educated parents do just as well as their schoolmates back home.

"This is the perfect age, before they have to really knuckle down at school," she says. The best time to travel long-term is when the kids are between the two t's: toddlers and teenagers.

The top tips from the Benders are to pack light and improvise. In Guatemala, they bought a $1 shower curtain to line their son's bed during toilet training.

For inspiration closer to home, check out the Facebook page Travelling Oz + The Norcott's Crazy Adventures.

Pride of place on their wall is this quote by the poet and painter John Cleal: "We must teach our children to smell the earth, taste the rain, touch the wind, see things grow, hear the sun rise and night fall - to care".

Or, at the very least, for Taj to understand we are all part of one global village.

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Do you have any advice for travelling with kids?

- FFX Aus

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