‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The World As Our Classroom

As you know, school has been a rough ride for Anastasia. For whatever reason, it causes her huge anxiety which nothing will relieve. Even with medication nothing changed. Yes, some of it is due to the trauma of abuse she suffered at school in Russia. School was not a safe place. In fact, some of her most vivid memories of abuse are from school. One example: She was beaten pretty badly once for stealing food from the school kitchen. Children from the orphanage were not allowed to have school food, as there was no money for it. They did, however, have to watch all the other children from the village eat at school. But they were expected to wait until they returned to the orphanage for dinner. She told me one day she was just too angry and too hungry to wait, so she snuck into the kitchen to steal what she could. She was caught and not only beaten, but reported to the orphanage, where she was beaten a second time.

Anyway, I'm sure you can see why school is considered unsafe territory. Believe me, I've tried. Her teachers have tried, the guidance counselors and social workers have tried, certain teachers have gone above and beyond trying. Still, she is full of anxiety every time she walks thru the door, and no interventions, medication, supports, or modifications have worked. So, we find ourselves homeschooling/unschooling again. It is astounding how open she is to learning when she is in what she considers a 'safe environment' -- home. She is a voracious learner when she feels safe and not on guard. Her favorite thing to do is make up math problems that are too hard for me to solve, so that she must teach me the answer. She learns well by teaching. She especially loves to learn about different cultures.

In late February I have a long break from teaching - four weeks off. We have been discussing what to do with this time. The other day I presented her with the idea of travelling to a place she'd like to learn about. I would want it to be a working/learning vacation -- not just a sit-on-your-butt kind of thing. She surprised me with a wish to go to Africa! We began researching volunteer abroad programs for families and found a great one that a friend of mine has used before. We started learning all we could, and contacted them for more information on their Tanzanian program. It is three to four weeks long and includes working with infants at an orphanage, going on safari, staying with a Maasai tribe for a few days, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (part way), and even a side trip to Zanzibar. Anastasia was very excited to learn that she was old enough to volunteer and could work in the local orphanage. She loves the idea of helping out with other orphans in some small way. So, we are seriously looking into this. I've travelled a great deal, and Anastasia has been to Germany, France and the Czech Republic with me, as well as a return trip to Siberia. She is an excellent traveller and has no problem roughing it. In fact, all of her best qualities seem to come out when we travel.

Of course, the only issue is money. She has saved close to $2,000 in the bank, but I need to find a way to come up with $2,000 more. If I take on just one more class per week, I should be able to manage. Plus, I'd be motivated to save for such a trip. I'm great at cutting corners, so I'll just do more of that. I'll keep you posted on our plan. I definitely want us to go somewhere in that block of time. If Africa is her first choice, I will find a way to make that happen. I've always wanted to go, but I never though she'd be interested. I also never imagined it'd be affordable, but doing a service program cuts out the cost of hotel, food and transportation! I'm excited! Tanzania is a gorgeous country, and I have a good friend who used to live there. If you've ever been there, let me know!


  1. I hope she can do it! That sounds like an amazing goal.

  2. Wow! I'm so impressed! I've never been anywhere. I've always wanted to go to Africa too. Do you have a link for this program? I have to admit the thought scares me. but it's exciting to think of at the same time. Wow! I feel so "ordinary" and unworldly! LOL. Great post! jeNN

  3. Good luck with your travel planning and your budgeting! I went through all my costs last year and looked for ways to minimize my spending on the not so important stuff so that I could still have funds for the fun stuff I like to do. Had to spend a few hours researching new phone, insurance and electricity plans but saved a few dollars that way; cut down on the bought cappacino's, on-line rather than paper newspapers; and so on.

  4. How amazing that trip will be!
    I will be so excited when M is old enough to go with me on a humanitarian mission. I cannot think of a better way for a child (or adult) to learn compassion and selflessness.
    Our dream is to travel to Haiti, her father was there while in the Navy, and never forgot the need there.
    Please keep us posted...


  5. keri - let me know where you are thinking of going. my friend michael runs a christian school in kenya. he started it with the help of grady spires.

    i also have good friends in durban south africa who can give you guidance and help you out.

    i get a bonus in february... it may be too late to help you out with money but i can try and funnel some your way.

  6. I wanna go! That's awesome!!!


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