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Oh, to pack it all in and head off round the world

Is 'global unschooling' the preserve of the super-rich or should everyone have a go for the sake of a healthy family life?

Sarah Willingham

If I read another story of parents choosing to follow the last trend of “global unschooling” I’m going to cry.

As I arrive at work at 9am, having already been up for the past four hours, sorting out washing, preparing packed lunches, pre-preparing supper, getting Master A to school, hearing him read, getting myself to the office, I can’t help but think: What’s it all about?

The idea of running away from it all, escaping the doldrums, jumping off the hamster wheel, of course, is appealing but, more importantly, the biggest draw would be spending quality time with Master A instead of simply a handful of snatched moments.

Dragons’ Den superwoman Sarah Willingham has just embarked on a year-long world trip with her husband and four children (all under 11). She’s taken the brave decision to step out of the game in order to enjoy time with her children, to share wonderful life experiences with them.

In her words: “I loved my life but it’s all a balancing act. So many people have said to me, ‘Enjoy your kids when they are this age. I can’t even remember that stage’ – and I didn’t want it all to go ‘whoosh’.”

Most of the working mums I know share this sentiment – and fantasise about taking time out from the mania, to press the pause button.

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But we leave it at that – a fantasy that we disappear into while sitting on an over-filled Tube or stuffing the washing machine with laundry. We make excuses like: “Well, of course, Sarah Willingham can take a year out, she’s already got a successful business with a shed full of cash,”

But that’s not true of the growing number of “ordinary” folk who are taking the plunge, too. The ones like Cambridge couple Paul and Carole King who recently sold their £280K house to go globe-trotting with their two young sons.

A conventional education is not on the cards for their six and four-year-old. These parents want to enjoy their children’s childhood, to introduce them to a different type of education: life experiences, different cultures, the wonders of the world.

Back on the school run, I’m moaning at Master A to hurry up, getting him to do his times tables in the car, grumbling at the ever-growing queue of traffic, stopping off at Tesco to grab a quick ready meal…

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