One of my long time favorite travel blogs and unschooling sites has been Raising Miro. Lainie and Miro are from LA, where our family lived for 9 years ( Kaya was born there) so it was great to see another LAian who ditched the insane traffic and smog and took to the road! On top of that, Lainie is such an inspiration to us and to thousands of other families around the world; she shows what happens when you raise a global citizen.
SF: What prompted you to leave LA and travel? How long have you been gone?
L: In the beginning of 2009, we sold or gave away all of possessions and hit the road for a permanent adventure beginning in July of that same year. We have been traveling throughout Central America & South American for over two years with no stop in sight.
The circumstances that led to our current lifestyle were an amalgamation of many things lining up to create a path of least resistance. There are three main factors that led to our jumping ship from the conventional lifestyle: inspiration, economy and mental sanity.
Being inspired means living a simpler life, something that is now trending in progressive circles, defined through the term ‘lifestyle redesign’. Before I had even heard this phrase, I was itching for a life off the ‘grid’ and outside consumerist cycle of ownership and debt. Professionally, I owned and ran a small branding agency which focused on serving green -eco business, non- profits and conscious business. I really tried to create as much peace as possible within my professional life but I still recognized I was still contributing to the world of consumerism and marketing.
For all of Miro’s life, I have been the primary care-taker, responsible for the well being of my son on my own. This has been a responsibility that brought me the most joy. In addition to being a full time mom I built from the ground up a successful brand, marketing and design agency called jungle  for 8 years. In reality, this meant that most of the time, I was overly busy.
One of my most tearful memory is recalling a common phrase I heard from my son say, time after time (after “I love you” of course): “Mom, you work too much. You never spend anytime with me.”
In 2008 the economy took a tumble and business in California were greatly effected. Especially those that relied on the non-profit world as it’s clientele. As a result, jungle ‘s “bread and butter” clients started going away.
One evening in September 2008, Miro and I were sitting in my office after everyone had left for the night. I remember letting out a grand sigh and looking at Miro and saying “I don’t want to do this anymore… Let’s get rid of everything and find a simpler life, climb a volcano, plant a garden, live in the jungle. Let’s go have an adventure in the world away from this consumerist lifestyle and get back to what really matters. Each other and enjoying life.”
Miro looked at me and smiled. Then he said “I’m in!’
..and that was all it took.
SF: You and Miro are global citizens, and volunteer. Can you tell me more about your lifestyle? Can you make any suggestions to other families looking to help society and enrich their lives by being of service to others?
L: I truly believe borders and boundaries are a thing of the past. There is only one citizenship that holds value, and that is “global citizenship”.
I come from a background of activism, which I no longer subscribe to. In the past, I strived to change the world, make a dent is issues that mattered to me, usually surround civil rights, peace and the earth’s health. This activism was a huge part of my education in compassion. However activism strives to change the world from the outside. Through traveling with my son, I have discovered that all change happens from the inside out. In other words ‘being’ the compassion can effect the world just by virtue of being in the world. By being compassion and interacting and through interacting with the adults and children we encounter, we cannot help but to effect our collective future.
Whether someone chooses to extend that further and volunteer, that’s fine. But it’s definitely not necessary. For us, we both have a lot of passion for animals and my passion for nurturing children has rubbed off on Miro through our latest volunteering experience, where we actually spent two months reading to children, getting them excited about stories and imagination and learned that Miro is a very good teacher. All of our experiences have been in one form or another of serving as we try to immerse ourselves within the communities we settle in.
We live like visiting locals but no matter how hard we try we will never be mistaken as a local. So we embrace our differences and live each day with respect and gratitude for the communities we live in.
Another way we immerse our selves is through learning as much as we can about the history and culture and local rituals, sometimes in the form of cooking, or learning about the local crafts and other times through volunteering. Most of the time though, the best strategy for immersion has been to participate within a given community by being present and connecting through smiles.
SF: When and why did you and Miro decide to unschool?
L: Our original plan was to travel for one year. I initially though for one year, the world would be our school. This was before I ever heard the term “unschooling” . When we left I knew without a doubt that traveling had it’s benefits and the experiences would provide everything Miro needed. I wrote this prior to our trip:
“What about school? What about 5th grade?
Take a year and gain valuable life experience, learn a language, travel through many countries, work on sustainable farms, learn about ecology, volunteer time and energy to make a difference, participate in new cultures, be empowered to make decisions, learn geography, navigation, budgeting, independence and respect. What does 5th grade have to offer in comparison? Nada.”
Since then, we’ve revised our plan to travel until Miro is 18 years old. So, education had to be a part of the plan.
Although during our travels, Miro was not following any schooling curriculum, I noticed he was talking about the things we wrap into neat packages within the formal educational system such as geography, sociology, history, economics, mythology, language and second language, literature, math, science. I sat back one night and realized how brilliant the idea of having the world teach my son was! Engage in life and children (and adults) learn!
Soon thereafter, I discovered the formal name for what we were doing as ‘unschooling’. In some circles it’s called ‘Radically Unschooling’, ‘Worldschooling’ and Roadschooling. There are similar principals to each of those ‘disciplines’ which is based on child-led learning. This is a radical departure form homeschooling circles that teach a formal curriculum only in the home environment.
The whole essence of unschooling is that children, when empowered will learn based on their interests. I have discovered by virtue of being in this world, we can’t help but to learn. Children learn naturally and retain so much more when they are engaged and leading the process themselves. I realized this just by watching Miro blossom and be empowered. What an authentic gift!
I have learned a lot from reading about the “unschooling” concept and have adjusted my approach with Miro ever so slightly. I have learned to take ques from his interests and seek opportunities together for further learning. I have become more involved in his education since he’s left the traditional school environment. I have consciously become more aware and present with his choices. And I have learned to be more communicative with my support and encouragement. And most of all, trusting the process. He is learning and we are sharing the experience. I couldn’t think of a more important role to take in this wonderful world of ours.
As a result of my unschooling education, I am growing as Miro teaches me how to be a better and more effective parent in the process.
SF: What lessons have you learned as a family worldschooling?
L:I think the most profound discovery is people are genuine and kind all over the world. It is easy to connect authentically with anyone by offering a a smile and making eye contact, even when there are language barriers. A smile can be an opening to a world of discovery, learning about different cultures and points of views, an experience Miro and I cherish. We have connected with homeless people on the street, children in impoverished neighborhoods, indigenous mothers, and the cosmopolitan socialites. We have made so many wonderful friends and have had the honor of being invited into so many peoples’ homes to experience a slice of their lives. The people have been the gift in the entire experience and they are the reason we keep exploring.
You can find the traveling duo at…
web site: http://www.raisingmiro.com