If sailing around the world doesn’t count as education, what does?

Dear Dutch Government Officials,

I just read that Laura Dekker is set to finish her solo circumnavigation of the world soon and is considering not returning to her native Holland because of you. I can’t even tell you how sad that makes me feel.

laura dekker

Laura Dekker is nearly finished with her solo circumnavigation of the world. She'll be the youngest person to complete the journey when she arrives back in Sint Maarten in two days.

When Laura announced her intentions to sail around the world at age 13, I could understand your concern. Although we all like to believe parents will make wise decisions regarding their children, it is true there are some parents who would knowingly put their children at risk. I suppose it is your job to prevent that.

There is no way to know for sure if Laura was mature and responsible enough at age 13 to handle the demands of sailing solo around the world. Maybe she was; maybe she wasn’t. Maybe the government did the right thing by preventing her departure; maybe you didn’t.

But really, that’s all water under the bridge at this point. The fact is that Laura did set off in August 2010. Another fact is that she’s now nearly finished her journey. Laura Dekker, at age 16, has managed to sail around the world. Nothing you can say or do will change that fact.

But when I read things like this: “I hear now that the Dutch government organizations have started causing problems again. I am seriously thinking about not returning to the Netherlands,” it really upsets me.

You’re causing problems now? Are you serious?

Now, after sailing around the world, with difficult port approaches, storms, dangerous reefs, and the full responsibility of keeping myself and Guppy safe,” Laura wrote in her blog, “I feel that the nightmares the Dutch government organizations put me through, were totally unfair. I think that the nightmares will follow me for the rest of my life…

You’ve done enough Dutch Government Officials. You’ve managed to create an unreasonable fear within a perfectly capable young woman. You’ve threatened to take her away from her father and lock her up in a clinic in order to prevent her from living her dreams. You’ve done your utmost to destroy her spirit.

Now it’s time to back off and revel in the accomplishments of young Laura. It’s time to look at this young lady, so confident and capable and well spoken, and say, “Well done, Laura!” It’s time to acknowledge that, for Laura, sailing around the world was the best thing she could have done. It’s time for the nation of the Netherlands to rejoice in the accomplishments of one your children.

What are you afraid of? Are you afraid that Laura will pave the road for other children to dare to pursue their passion and live their dream? Are you afraid that, once one child has successfully bucked the system, that others will follow in her footsteps? Would that really be such a bad thing?

I think I can say with confidence that not every Dutch child will now want to head out to sail around the world. Some will, some won’t.

But Laura and Jessica Watson and Abby Sunderland have shown kids that it’s possible to do so. My sons have shown kids it’s possible to ride a bike around the world. Jordan Romero showed them they can climb mountains. Even big mountains.

Is that a bad thing?

It’s time to realize that children are unique individuals, just like their parents. What’s good for one child isn’t quite so good for another. What floats one child’s boat won’t work for another. Maybe trying to cram round pegs into square holes isn’t the best approach.

It’s also time to understand that maybe, just maybe, kids can learn in a variety of settings. Maybe they don’t need to be confined to a classroom with four walls to learn. Maybe learning can be an integrated whole, just like life.

My husband and I recently spent a total of four years exploring our world on bicycles with our children. Together as a family, we cycled 27,000 miles through 15 countries. Our sons learned more during those four years than they could have learned in an entire school career. I should add that both my husband and I are long-time professional teachers; we know what we’re talking about.

We saw first-hand that learning isn’t confined to a classroom. Learning happens. Everywhere.

We learned about “school stuff” by experiencing it. We lived in Mother Nature’s handiwork for four years. We learned history by cycling through it.

But the real value of my sons’ education on the road is the other stuff. It’s the stuff that’s not taught in schools. It’s the self-confidence that can only come from knowing you’ve done something really big. It’s knowing that you’re more capable than you thought you were. It’s understanding you can press forward long after you think you can’t if you want it badly enough. It’s knowing that sometimes you have to fight through the hard times in order to get to the good times and that dreams are achieved by pursuing your passion in spite of what others might say about you.

That’s what Laura Dekker now has. Are you really going to say her education wasn’t as good as you could have provided?


You may also be interested in these articles about learning more than the 3R’s of education:

How travel will develop the 5 most important tools for your kid’s success
What we learned in three years on the road
Education = Learning = School?
Let your kids dream
9 Life lessons children learn from travel
Travel in the best therapy: Traveling with a handicapped child
10 Reasons to stop being a cotton wool parent
Preschool lessons from around the world
A 12-year-old’s top five experiences in Malaysia
Theology 101 on the road
Playing with Fire

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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37 Responses to If sailing around the world doesn’t count as education, what does?

  1. Hig January 20, 2012 at 12:51 am #


    Kids want to take risks. Many, for example, take risks while driving, and as a result the highest cause of teen death is car crashes:

    That kind of risk is acceptable in western society. We don’t send the police after kids we don’t know because we think they might not be properly educated by their parents to drive safely.

    Of course we should try to teach our kids to take risks in a way that won’t get them killed. But given bad luck and other issues, there is always a possibility of tragedy. That shouldn’t be a reason not to let our kids take advantage of the incredible learning that comes with adventure.

    • Nancy January 20, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      That’s very true. Kids will take risks no matter how safe we try to keep them. If we encourage them to take risk safely, and give them the skills to do so, we put them in a better position to size up the situation for themselves.

  2. Cila January 20, 2012 at 3:11 am #

    The Dutch government’s issue isn’t about education, it’s about indoctrination. Women aren’t supposed to… Laura is a hero for standing up and following her dream



    • Nancy January 20, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      Wow. Just wow. There are no words. I truly admire Laura for pursuing her passion.

  3. Yvette January 20, 2012 at 5:54 am #

    Yeah, I knew you’d get a total kick out of that article. 😉

    Now that I have more than 140 characters at my disposal, I do think that there are definite safety issues when a 13 year old decides to sail solo around the world. As Abby Sunderland illustrated, seriously bad stuff can happen when you’re thousands of miles away in the middle of an ocean during a storm, and whenever I hear “youngest person to ever do XYZ” I always think of Jessica Dubroff… but as you said, water under the bridge at this point, so I don’t know why anyone would really care.

    As I also said, the culture here surrounding homeschooling etc is also incredibly different- you can send your kids to all sorts of schools but homeschooling is illegal. Asked around and I guess the trick is anyone can get together with others to START a school (even religious ones get state funding) but if you don’t keep up to certain standards then you get shut down… So my Dutch friends say the issue at hand with Laura is she was probably not keeping up to the standards, ie not doing her maths or something.

    That said, every single one of my friends eventually said about homeschooling how it’s probably not a good idea even if there’s a qualified parent because kids would miss out on crucial social skills, so there we are. People have a hard time getting their minds around stuff they’ve never encountered I guess.

    • Nancy January 20, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      I am thankful for the pioneers in the homeschooling movement in the USA. It was because of their struggles that we were able to take our sons out on the road. I suppose there’s a long, gradual curve to acceptance of anything different.

  4. Laurel January 20, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    I’d have to agree! Of course, every incident is different and at some point we have to hope that the parents know their child and carefully weigh the decision to let go. Life is not always fair and there will always be bad parenting but in this case it seems the government is trying to defend their original position. Their interference seems beyond ridiculous. I admire your stance on raising kids with real world educational experiences. No doubt your children have benefited immensely. I hope it inspires others. Bravo!

  5. Laurence January 21, 2012 at 2:27 am #

    Great article. She’s accomplished an amazing task, and should be applauded for having the guts to do so, age aside.

    In terms of homeschooling – I homeschooled myself between the ages of 10 and 16, and I’d like to think I turned out ok 🙂 I’ve never really understood the whole education thing as it exists now anyway. Learning by rote so we can pass an exam and then forget everything we just learnt has never seemed that worthwhile an exercise to me. Sailing round the world, or cycling from the top of the world to the bottom, is a far more useful lesson in life than a million years in a classroom could ever be.

    • Nancy January 22, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      I think there is a lot to said about having confidence in knowing you can reach the stars. If you can do that, what can’t you do?

  6. Ali January 22, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    I think it is quite strange that a comment like this has to come from a resident of the USA…
    Isn’t that the country with the highest teenage (15-19 y.o.) pregnancy rate for developed countries (more than 5x times that of the Netherlands); where more than 15% of all people live in poverty (more than 50% more than the Netherlands); where every year, an estimated 1.3 million American high school students drop out? Maybe the system works in the Netherlands? And maybe part of that system is to prevent young people being exploited or to take unnecessary risks.

    • Nancy January 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

      Maybe the system does work? Maybe that’s attributable to the more homogeneous culture in Holland than in the USA? Maybe… There are a million reasons why that might be.

      But I still maintain that traveling the world is an awesome education. I don’t care how good the school or teacher is, there are certain things that simply can’t be learned in a classroom. That’s what Laura learned.

  7. Ellen January 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Laurence said: “I’ve never really understood the whole education thing as it exists now anyway. Learning by rote so we can pass an exam and then forget everything we just learnt has never seemed that worthwhile an exercise to me.”

    Although I do not agree what the Dutch authorities have been doing to Laura, I have to respectfully disagree with that part of Laurence’s statement. Memorizing for the test and then forgetting may be true for education in the US, but the Dutch education system is very different. In the Netherlands there is a very tough exit exam for high school that cannot be achieved by simply learning by rote or cramming the day before. It is accumulative in that all 5 or 6 years of secondary education (middle & high school combined) lead to that one all-important exam. Think SAT on steroids. So unless Laura can pass that exam, she will not get her diploma, no matter how much real world knowledge she has gained through her sailing experience.

    • Nancy January 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      I think what many of us argue is that very thing – the idea that a standardized test (no matter how many steriods it’s on) can ever be a true reflection of what a person knows.

      A standardized test, by it’s very definition, is standardized. That means the exact same questions will be asked of each and every person who takes it. I think that’s fine if the goal of the test is to assure that every person that “passes” has the same background knowledge. If the purpose of the test is to weed out those kids who won’t be successful in college, then giving them a standardized test is effective. You’re saying, “If you don’t have THIS PARTICULAR SET of background knowledge, you most likely won’t be successful in our university.” That’s fair.

      However, that’s not how we’re using standardized tests in the USA and, from the sounds of it, it’s not how they are being used in Holland either.

      If every single child, regardless of their goals and aspirations and backgrounds and histories, is given the exact same test, it’s not a fair indicator for them. It’s NOT a measure of what they know, it’s simply a measure of what kinds of experiences they’ve had in their lives.

      I used to teach in an American school in Ethiopia. We had kids from all over the world in our school. When I was teaching first grade, I had kids from 13 different countries in my class (including 2 from Holland). These kids came to me with a huge variance in background experiences and knowledge.

      When I gave the required standardized test, I marked each question that I felt reasonably sure at least one of my students wouldn’t know the answer to based on his/her background. An example of what I considered biased: a picture of a fireplace with three options next to it. The kids had to circle the log indicating that the log would go with the fireplace. Pretty simple, eh? Except that the fireplace they showed was the standard American fireplace set into the wall like you will find in many American houses, but that are nonexistent in most African homes. With that very simple question, the makers of the test had given my students an unfair disadvantage. My kids weren’t dumb, but they simply didn’t know what that thing was.

      In order for a standardized test to be fair, it HAS TO BE based on common knowledge. But – who’s to define common knowledge? In the USA, the particular set of common knowledge is that of typical middle class white America. If you fall outside those parameters, you most likely won’t know some of the stuff that is assumed you know.

      So the question comes back to the Dutch system. If ALL Dutch kids must pass a “standardized test on steroids” what kind of background knowledge is assumed? Is your society homogeneous enough to assume that knowledge?

      There are many, many considerations when you’re talking about tests. I am personally totally against the high stakes standardized tests the US has now adopted and think it detracts from real learning. I understand that others disagree with me.

  8. Suburban Cowgirl January 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Getting a diploma should not be the be-all and end-all to an educational career.

    Gaining useful knowledge and skills should be the purpose of an education, not a piece of paper proving you have the ability to memorize.

    Even here in America where we founded this country on the belief that “all men are created equal” we don’t delude ourselves that “all people are the same.” People should be allowed to be what they are, and not everyone needs to be a test-passing scholar. We need people who dream, who create, who innovate, who are free spirits. Forcing everyone to be the same and do the same stifles creativity.

    This great country got that way by people being different, being a bit rebellious, taking risks. If the Netherlands does not want people who can think for themselves, then maybe it’s better if this young lady finds a country to live in that will appreciate her differences, instead of trying to punish her for them.

    • Nancy January 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

      @Suburban Cowgirl,
      I think you’ve touched on a deep-seated passion of mine: what is the purpose of education? If the purpose of education is to assure that every kid has a high school diploma, then mandating a child to stay in school is fine. If the purpose is to prepare kids for “life”, then we need to understand and recognize there are many paths through life and encourage kids to prepare themselves for whatever path they choose.

  9. Ellen January 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Nancy and Suburban Cowgirl, I agree with what both of you are saying. I myself am a (retired) public school teacher in the US, but got my formative education in the Netherlands (3-12), so I am familiar with both systems. I was just disagreeing with the “learning by rote” part to pass an exam and trying to explain the Dutch education system.

    Nancy, I understand exactly what you mean about standardized tests in the US as I have been railing against them ever since NCLB started. It is inherently unfair as it primarily indicates the socio-economic status of the student.

    Here in the US there is a huge disparity between the well-to-do and the poor. That is not the case in the Netherlands. It is a small country with a primarily middle class. There are no poor people as we know them here in the US (and as I have dealt with in my entire teaching career). It would be inconceivable for a Dutch child to go to bed/school hungry, be homeless, or suffer from an untreated abscessed tooth as some of my students did. The Netherlands is indeed a far more homogeneous country. There is a social contract that gives people free education (including higher education) but in return society expects that the citizens are well-educated—and yes, that would be a typical middle class common knowledge base.

    To address Suburban’s Cowgirl’s take on the diploma, in the Netherlands it would be very difficult to advance to higher education or get a job without it. The diploma functions as a guarantee that the person has learned the necessary material to perform at that particular level, just as your new car warranty guarantees that the vehicle has all the important parts and that it runs as you expect. This is of course quite different from the US, where practically anyone gets a high school diploma if they stick around long enough.

    You will find many Dutch expats who found that living in the Netherlands was indeed too confining for them. It sounds like Laura Dekker may join them.

    • Nancy January 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      I think you’re absolutely right that some people will choose the Netherlands because it’s confining. I know we had a few families in Ethiopia for that very reason.

      In the end, there is no perfect system. We have seriously thought of leaving the USA again due to the poor medical system. You win a few and you lose a few I suppose.

    • Suburban Cowgirl January 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm #


      But are there no entrepreneurs in the Netherlands? Does EVERYONE have a “job” where they are working for someone else? Perhaps that is the case, but I would find it hard to believe. How can there ever be innovation if there is no freedom to be different?

      • Emiel January 23, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

        @Suburban Cowgirl, Don’t worry, there are a lot of entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. We have seen the number of people setting up their own business increasing. We are constantly changing our education to improve it, but events like with Laura do make me doubt.

  10. Ellen January 23, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    There are indeed entrepreneurs in the Netherlands, and surprisingly, well over 12 % of the working population is self-employed, more than in the US where it is just under 10 %. However, unlike in the US, most entrepreneurs (must) have diplomas and/or degrees, as it is much harder to make your own way without that important little document. Although the Dutch government is now promoting more entrepreneurial spirit, this is a relatively recent development.

    • Nancy January 23, 2012 at 12:43 am #

      We’ve been talking about the high school diploma thing a lot lately as our sons will be in 9th grade (first year of high school) next year. Right now they are only in school half time and we homeschool the rest – we’re trying to decide if we want to continue with this schedule or put them in school full time so they can get an official diploma.

      Basically, what’s coming out of the discussions is that if the boys go to school full time, they won’t have time to pursue other passions. For example, right now they are involved in a robotics club. They are currently spending around 35 hours per week building a robot for competition. They are both in agreement that there would be no way they could maintain that schedule and keep their grades up if they were taking a full load at school.

      So then we get down to the question of what will benefit them more? A diploma or lots and lots of hands-on, real life experience building this robot. There is no question that we decided the robotics will be more beneficial to them in the long term.

      I am NOT anti-school at all. I truly believe that, for many kids, school is the best thing going. For a lot of kids, the hours they spend at school are the best hours of the day and I’m glad we have schools for those kids. School is not the best place for all kids though.

      Some kids have interests that are best developed in other ways and I’m glad we have the freedom here to allow them to do so. For my sons right now, that’s robotics. For Laura Dekker, it was sailing around the world.

  11. Emiel January 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Great open letter Nancy, congratulations! Looking at all the comments and online feedback, people are really passionate about the subject.
    Homeschooling is still far away in the Netherlands as I don’t believe the education system will change a lot into that direction. As long as I see Dutch families emigrate to Belgium in order to be able to travel around the world for a year, I believe something seriously is witholding people from living their dreams. Is it our life or ‘their’ life??

    • Nancy January 23, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

      I’m sure there are good things and bad things about every country and every system. It’s easy for me to say, “Our system is the best” when truthfully it’s not. I’m not convinced any one system is the best for every child. I’m just glad that we do have the freedom here in the USA to homeschool our children.

  12. Hans January 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I think you (and some of the others) are missing (at least part of) the point here:
    Initially, the Dutch authorities were not happy to let a 13 year old do a solo circumnavigation, based on a number of concerns. They asked for of these concerns to be addressed, one of them was that she would do schoolwork whilst away (there were a few more practical concerns, like knowledge of first aid and understanding sleep deprivation, which a 13 year old does not consider) and that she would finish her education after her return.
    A few weeks ago (she was in Cape Town at that time), there was a bit of a check-up on this agreement. Laura has appearently not stuck to the deal about doing schoolwork on board and is not keen to return to education. So where does the fault lie? Something (quite reasonable, I think) was agreed and one party does not want to stick to it…..
    To me (and I have followed her trip, though not as closely as I have followed yours), Laura is just a spoilt brat who will sulk when life does not quite suit her. I am most disappointed (but not reallly all that surprised) in her.

    • Nancy January 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

      That very well may be – she may be spoiled rotten and throw massive hissyfits if she doesn’t get her way. What I take issue with is the idea that her education suffered while on her journey.

      Maybe she did agree to continue her formal studies while on the ocean and yes, if she made that commitment, she should have followed through. But really – why did she have to make that concession in the first place?

      It seems to me that the Dutch system is set up to say that EVERY SINGLE CHILD will be best served in their official program. One of the things we’ve found in the USA is that there is no way one single program can effectively meet the needs of every child. There are too many variances among kids to say that.

      I am flabbergasted that any entity would have the gall to say that sailing solo around the world is not “good enough” as an education. Think about what she learned – how much science did she learn from simply being out there in the ocean and Mother Nature’s world? Social studies from all the different ports she visited. Math and physics from calculating wind and wave action. Writing from her blog entries. Her education most assuredly did not suffer from her journey.

      Yes, there are many reasons why one would feel the ocean is not an acceptable place for a young child to be alone, but education is not one of them.

      • Anna February 1, 2012 at 4:32 am #


        If D&D had been told they could play football for an hour, on the condition that they would then do their math assignments, and you came home three hours later only to find them still playing football… how would you react? Write a note to their teacher with your parental sanction of their decision to ditch long division and work on their defensive/midfield skills instead. Fix them dinner and tell them they could just skip their math class altogether? Or would you go the traditional route with, say, a no-more-football-until-you’ve-done-your-homework-kinda consequences?

        Laura Dekker’s case is pretty simple: She was allowed to sail around the world on the condition that she would follow a made-for-her school programme. Dekker and her parents agreed to that, Dekker set sail… and didn’t follow her school programme. Now she doesn’t want to come home because she doesn’t want to face the consequences. (Which, BTW, are of the no-more-football-until-you’ve-done-your-homework kind).

        Now what… should the parents move away from the Netherlands so their daughter doesn’t have to face the consequences? What would that teach her? Responsibility? Or that if you sail too close to the wind, figuratively speaking, then running away is a perfectly valid option? IMO, the Dekker parents should tell her to sit down and do her homework like she promised; in addition to the main lesson, she might just build on her math/French/whatever skills as a side effect.

      • Anna February 1, 2012 at 7:18 am #


        Reply#2, because I came off more aggressive in Reply#1 than was my intention.

        Your opinion on the Dutch authorities “forcing education down her throat” surprises me quite a lot.

        Why? Because your MO of home-schooling-on-the-run was more or less the same. The biggest difference was that you, the teacher, went along for the ride, and you were therefore there to see that D&D were doing the work – or see to that it would get done. Plus, D&D didn’t need a very rigid schedule because you where there to manage it. But since Dekker went alone and her teachers couldn’t check in on her whenever they had set up a more rigid schedule.

        You say that Dekker must have learnt a lot from her journey; she probably has. But is it enough to just observe – waves, wind, people, knots, boat speeds – without reflection? When D&D had been to some historical site, you often made them write about it. Why? I suppose it was because you believed they would learn more when they were forced to reflect on what they had experienced, and not just about basic writing practice? You also made D&D do math problems in addition to all the things they were learning by hand-on/eye-on experience. That was not because you felt biking to South America in itself wasn’t “good enough” as an education, right? I think the Dutch authorities wanted Dekker to do her math problems for the same reasons you wanted D&D to do theirs.

        So, all in all, I just don’t see a huge difference between what you “did to” D&D and what the Dutch authorities did to Dekker.

        • Nancy February 1, 2012 at 10:34 am #

          I do get what you’re saying Anna. I get that Laura was allowed to sail around the world because she had agreed to “do her schoolwork” while she did it. And I understand that she then changed her mind and didn’t do it. Maybe she should face the “no-football-until-your-math-is-done” consequences.

          What I’ve seen with my sons in this past ten months since we got back is that their experiences have provided such a solid basis, a solid core of knowledge I suppose I should say, that learning everything else is very easy now. It’s stuff that they just learned – not stuff that we “made” them do. Truth be told, the schoolwork we had them do pales in comparison to the other stuff that they naturally absorbed.

          Let me give you an example. Both of the boys are now taking advanced science classes. These classes are designed specifically for the super-advanced kids. Regular advanced kids will take the advanced classes at their home schools, but the super advanced kids are bused across town to a special school for the extra-advanced classes. Obviously, it’s expensive for the school district to bus the kids so they only bus them over there if their needs simply can’t be met at the home school.

          The classes at this special school are designed to be challenging for these extra-advanced kids. They are taught at a very high level and should be challenging. My boys are finding them easy.

          A while ago I went in to talk with their earth science teacher to find out how they were doing and the teacher said, “I’m surprised you put them here – they already know all this stuff.” My response was that they had never, ever been taught any of it. If they already knew it, they knew it because they had lived it.

          My sons already have an intimate knowledge of the earth; now all they have to do is put the common language to it so they can communicate their knowledge. For lack of a better word, they need to “formalize” their knowledge. That’s what they are doing now and it’s coming very, very easily.

          That’s what Laura Dekker now has. She has that intimate knowledge of so much. She’s done remarkable things and already knows all this stuff. To make her go through and do paperwork is exactly that – busy work. Yes, she needs to somehow “formalize” her knowledge, but most likely a typical program like the other kids are using isn’t appropriate.

          Remember that my sons are doing a program designed for the super advanced and it’s easy. What kind of program are the Dutch authorities requiring Laura to do? One designed for the general population? Will that truly meet her (advanced) needs?

  13. Bethany Looi January 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Laura is such a brave teen! I agree and can relate to the fact that learning does not have to be confined to a classroom. I too have learned so much from travel, that going to school cannot compare with. Can’t wait to experience my family’s long term travel starting next year! Thanks Nancy for sharing my site with your audience.

    • Nancy January 29, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      @Bethany Looi,
      You’ll have a blast! It’s so wonderful to have that special time discovering the world with your family!

  14. LibertyLover February 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    The real point is that children belong to their parents not to a government and certainly not to people who surf the internet stopping to post their opinion on chat boards, forums, guestbooks. If you find sailing too risky for a teenager then don’t let your kid do it. Leave others alone to walk their own path in life. In other words, mind your own business.

    • Nancy February 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      I’m not convinced that children “belong” to parents, but I think the government overstepped in this case. It’s a tough issue for sure – if parents are locking a child in the closet and beating him to a bloody pulp, I would hope the government would step in and wouldn’t just say that the child belongs to the parents. On the other hand, I personally feel that the government overstepped their boundaries in this case. Where’s the line? Seems to me that’s what the issue is here.

      • LibertyLover February 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm #


        It’s not even in question they certainly aren’t here to be lorded over by those they aren’t even related to. Parents are the ultimate authority. The beating comparison is off point.

        • Nancy February 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

          I agree that the beating comparison is over the top, but I said that simply to illustrate that the government does have some responsibility for children of their country. Still, I think we agree that, in this case, the educational authorities stepped in when they shouldn’t have.

  15. Anna February 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    @Nancy; a reply to your reply to my reply, which does not seem to be reply’able!? Too nested, perhaps?

    As far as I know, Dekker is not back in the Netherlands yet. And the Dutch authorities are probably prohibited from revealing any details about whatever plans they may have for the continuation of her education… should she decide to return. If we do hear something it’s most likely going to be from the Dekker side. I do think, though, that the authorities have already proven their willingness to work *with* her by putting together a made-for-her programme she could follow while at sea. That’s a good sign, right?

    For the sake of full disclosure: I think the Dutch authorities acted correctly when they first decided to intervene and check up on this case. One of the reasons they appointed a guardian for Dekker, aka “took her away from her father”, was that her father announced he’d just leave the country with Dekker if the case went against him. (Compare that to a case in which the CPS are involved and the parents mention they’ll run to Mexico where rules are different…). I also think it was the correct call to insist that Dekker took a first aid course and was taught how to manage sleep deprivation, before she was allowed to set sail. No one ever questioned her sailing abilities; one of the main concerns was that she’d never been on a long trip before. (In fact, she’d only done a one-day trip across the Channel).

    As for Dekker’s “fear of the authorities”, I guess what I’m hearing is a displeased teenager stating her dissatisfaction in a teenagerish way, “boo-hoo they’re mean and cruel!!!1!11!!!”. Add to that that I also have a, perhaps old-fashioned, belief in discipline: You can’t always get want you want, you can’t always expect the world to cater to your needs; sometimes you’ve got to, pardon my French, suck it up and accept that you can’t get a specially-for-you-my-friend-deal on everything in your life. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it’s not fun, sometimes it’s uphill for 50 miles before you get your reward.

    • Nancy February 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      I also feel the Dutch government probably did the right thing when they refused to allow her to head out at age 13 – does a 13-year-old really have the years and experiences under her belt to be able to make wise choices out there on the ocean? Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t; I honestly don’t know.

      What I take issue with is the idea that her education on the ocean wasn’t sufficient. I believe that Laura learned so much out there that any traditional education – no matter how tailor-made it was – would pale in comparison. For the Dutch authorities to even begin to think they could provide a better education than Mother Nature is laughable.

      Is she a spoiled brat? Maybe. Does she expect the world handed to her on a silver platter? Maybe. Is she acting like a normal teenager sulking and throwing fits? Maybe.

      But I don’t think anyone can argue the fact that Laura got one heckuva education out there on the water.

  16. Mary November 2, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    Children, at least in my country, the United States, are underestimated and herded about like cattle for 18+ years. Our school systems want control and seek to make profit off children, and they do. It really is criminal. The educational industrial empire.

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