Inspiration & Social Proof: An Interview With Suzanne James
As we always preface at the beginning of our interviews, one of the things we hope to convey with this site is the fact that there is no single *best* way to be location independent parents, travel the world nor educate your child.
We all choose to do different things, based upon what works for each of us. So with that in mind, we have interviewed a wide range of location independent parents (of all types – nomadic or not) to demonstrate this!
We also have found it useful to be able to point to others living this lifestyle, when faced with questions and challenges from friends and family – so with this series, we’re hoping to give you plenty of social proof for this very purpose!
What type of location independent parent are you? (nomadic, entrepreneurial & nomadic, stay-at-home entrepreneur). Can you give us a brief overview of what you do & how this enables you to be location independent?
Entrepreneurial. I am project manager for two marketing companies, one web design firm, and my own internet marketing company. I work 100% from the internet in an office with four computers. I can work anywhere with access to the internet.
If you travel, please give us an overview of the benefits you feel that being location independent brings to you & your family?
I do not travel extensively, but I am mobile. My office and computer system are set up so that clients never know I am ‘out of the office’ – no matter how far I travel. I am able to stay home with my children, work hours that suit my family, and take care of the children when they are ill.
If you don’t travel, what advantages does being location independent bring to you and your family?
I found many advantages to being a partial ’stay at home’ mom. The benefits are evident in my children’s socialization, education, and self esteem. I am able to let my children learn at their pace, review until they master a skill, and let them go on tangents. They can explore different subjects and new topics when they are experiencing their peak interest.
What about schooling? How do you do it on the road or overseas?
Homeschooling is a challenge at any time. The number one concern is whether your children are fully prepared. I found that I leaned more to literary studies and natural science over math and chemistry. The resources are not always available when you travel. It is easy to take a child to a museum in a local city – when everything is in English. When the local resources are in a second language there is a barrier that can be difficult to overcome. The ‘ideal’ that it is good to teach a child two languages is not realistic. My children learned best in one language.
How do you cope with working from home and having the kids around you?
There must be boundaries. Everyone home schools differently. I know many parents who teach in the morning and have their children help around the house in the afternoon. When I worked, my children were in school. Sports events were included when possible. I found it much easier to manage the children at home, while working, when they had two social activities. My daughter did best when she was in a social club. My son did best when taking lessons. Each child needs to be allowed to make their own choice.
What fears did you have about becoming location independent that turned out to be unfounded?
I was afraid that my children would fall behind. My son wanted to try out ‘real’ school. At 9 years old I enrolled him in the board of education’s ‘online school.’ I gave him the freedom to be ’self taught’ and he passed Grade 9 geography with an 85%.
I found that my son was far less secure and self confident, and had fewer friends, after one year of high school. This was a direct contradiction to the argument that homeschooled children have social problems.
I fell into the trap of believing that I shouldn’t let my children watch children’s shows on television, have unstructured playtime. After about two years I relaxed. There was no intellectual difference, or performance levels, whether my children watched age appropriate television (violent cartoons were always off the list), whether they ‘hung out with friends’, or whether I confined them to a nurturing and intellectual environment.
I kept my children off the internet. They were in their teens before I allowed them on Facebook. My fears were unfounded. They socialized with other home-schooled children, made friends in foreign countries, and learned that homeschooling is not ‘alone’ or ‘unusual’. This was a lesson they would have benefited from in their early years. My son would go online with the daughter of a diplomat for 30 minutes before school every day. They talked about feeling lonely, their progress, and soon realized that they had more opportunities than other children. It was a positive experience.
Any that materialised? And if so, how did you overcome these challenges?
The biggest hindrance was other adults. Children take their opinions to heart. My son entered high school because he believed that ‘You cannot learn above grade 8 at home.’ I am sure the person was well meaning, but my son took their words to heart. When my son was eight years old he spent the summer ‘helping’ a local scientist take water samples and learning biology. He learned more that summer than in four years of high school science.
My biggest challenge was allowing my children to explore their individuality. It took a long time to reward behaviours that I did not personally value. I had to learn how to reward music and art with the same enthusiasm as I rewarded a science experiment, or reading classic literature.
Your top 3 tips for parents or soon-to-be parents wanting to be location independent?
- Allow your children to be individuals. Do not limit your praise to behaviours that you value.
- Do not be afraid to let your children pick their own friends.
- Do not stick to one set of books, one course, or one system. Use a variety of tools.
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