Playing Hooky, But Not Really

As we were planning the trip, people often asked, “What are you going to do about school for the kids?”  One answer is that we’re homeschooling them.  We follow an extensive and sometimes grueling curriculum designed and, thankfully graded, by the Calvert School in Baltimore.  The Calvert curriculum is substantive and rigorous, more so than we expected and sometimes more than we would like.  The kids have worked really hard and learned a lot, as have we! Overall, I’m glad we’re doing it.

But there have been times when the Calvert schoolwork seems to overwhelm our travels, and not only because of all of the books we have to lug around.

Case in point, we just finished a week at an agriturismo near Ragusa Ibla in Sicily.

Quite and peaceful, it seemed like a great place to knock out a lot of Calvert lessons. A few days into our stay, however, Brendan and I realized we were spending almost all of our time, and a large share of everyone’s mental energy (and patience), stuck inside the farm, looking at books about the world, rather than actually seeing it. Was this really the point of paying all of that money for all those plane tickets?

Not so much.  So we decided to put the schoolbooks away for awhile and play hooky for the rest of the week.

The first day, it was hooky for real.  The boys golfed and the girls played in the Mediterranean. Pretty nice.

After that though, we spent the rest of the week reminding ourselves about our most important educational methods for the year. At the top of that list?  Meeting and learning from the amazing people who live and work in the places we’ve visit.

Like Sicilian chef and businessman, Lele Torisso of Siracusa, who showed the girls their first yellow fin tuna.

Our Mount Etna guide, Fabio Cannove, who schooled Brendan and me on the three different types of volcanic eruptions and kept all of us laughing.

Giuseppe Coco of Zafferana, who taught Coco where saffron comes from and proudly described all of the beautiful produce that grows in the Catanian soil made so fertile by centuries of volcanic ash.

And Signore Mario, our charming host and a true gentleman farmer in Ragusa.

Of course, this method of learning began before we arrived in Sicily list. When we met…

Maria Lingusa of Pompeii, who has studied architecture all over the world, including in our home, Washington DC.

Our wonderful friend, Yussuf Amzil, surfer extraordinaire, who introduced us to the Moroccan waves and its small, coastal villages, like the one where he grew up, with six older sisters, the son of a fisherman.

Lahcen from Imlil, who introduced us to our first donkey (we’d meet many in the coming months), guided us through the beautiful High Atlas, and introduced us to his beautiful family.

Kamal Chaoui of Bhalil, who left Morocco as a young man to work as an engineer in Germany and France but has now returned to help grow the economy of this beautiful mountain town, including by promoting the work of local artists.

Filip, who showed us a “very traditional” Portugal and whose tough tactics helped Brendan, William, and me reach a new level in surfing.

Domenico, originally of South Jersey now of Rome, who toured us through the tastes of the Trastevere and whose newphew, coincidentally, was a year below William on Team Maryland.

And Katja Hansel, who made the Vatican and St. Peters come alive for the kids and the rest of us.

This list leaves many off.  I don’t have nearly enough data on my dwindling Italian SIM card to describe all of the wonderful people we’ve met. People who’ve helped us learn something new or unexpected, something we might have never known if we’d stayed put in our comfortable status quo.  We’re grateful to them all.
Off now to Delhi, via Abu Dhabi, where we can’t wait to visit the Kochs, of Chevy Chase.  It will be so nice to be with good friends as we begin our 6 week adventure in India, and learn a bit about ex pat life in the subcontinent while we’re at it.

Wheels up. Ciao ciao for now.  Alex

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