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.
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