$ 4,100 for student educational travel. Twelve days in two countries.
It’s a chunk of money; it means sacrifices and hard decisions for a family.
If this endeavor is so costly, why does CCA promote it? How do we measure the value of the experience of educational travel?
Human Connection to Believers in Vibrant, Local Churches
Both Señora Allen and I have taken our children to Europe and have intentionally hosted believers from other parts of the world in our home. These choices had their roots in wanting our children to wrestle with the following truths:
- the Lord chooses whom He will choose
- not every believer looks like our family
- not every believer faces the same struggles
- not every Christian worships in the same language, understands community, or struggles the same way we do
- and God is still near to His own, still using His Holy Spirit and His Word (in different languages) to call, renew, and transform His people.
In France, students experience Sunday worship with the reformed believers at Eglise Réformée du Marais and participate in a French reformed service with Christ-followers in Paris. They take the Lord's supper in a circle in an 18th-century French church. In Spain, students hear from missionaries how Christianity is considered a cult and the difficulties of sharing the gospel. Students wrestle with their ideas of how to share the gospel, and we discuss the barrenness of religious trappings without the true gospel at the center.
Human Connection to Historical Places and Events
We miss the textures of a historic site missed when only reading about the event; there is an element of awe to visiting the Colosseum in person. You are walking where our forebears, our older brothers and sisters in Christ, found their faith tested and chose martyrdom over forsaking our Lord. They are portraits of moral courage, reminding us of both the cost and the reward of our faith. What of Paris and Normandy? What can we see there that we cannot see on the internet? The American Cemetery, next to Omaha Beach, is a solemn place making an indelible impression on the memory. I read a 'sanitized' version of Patton's pre- D-day speech, then let the weight of the site, and the silent witness of the trees and ocean bear down on our students.
As for Paris, I have seen tourists swarm through the Louvre and other places that inspire me with awe. What makes the experience valuable? Site talks, thoughtful conversations, pointed questions, and time for reflection offer our students the opportunity to reflect on what they are seeing and draw connections. It is one thing to listen to a lecture on the reasons for the French Revolution, but another layer is revealed and strikes home when we walk through Versailles, seeing its gilded halls and sumptuous furnishings. It is hard to wrap one’s mind around the engineering prowess and scope of the Roman aqueducts from a book or even a picture. But we stand in wonder upon actually seeing one of the best-preserved elevated aqueducts in Segovia, Spain built around the 1st century AD. We often have our devotions here. We reflect upon the importance and centrality of Jesus as our cornerstone. Additionally, it is awe-inspiring to physically touch something that likely existed when our Savior walked this earth.
More than Pathos?
Are there reasons for educational travel greater than emotional and experiential? Yes. Student’s minds are informed, and they return to the US with a significant body of knowledge. We enjoy good museums in our region of the world, but the collection in the Louvre museum in Paris is extensive in art as well as historical exhibits. Visiting the impressive fortified castle, Alcázar of Segovia, reveals to our students the beauty of Moorish art and architecture while also causing us to wrestle with what those in power do in the name of religion. We guide our students to observe the culture, and to adapt to social rules like how to behave on the Paris or the Madrid subway. The experience with careful adults guiding broadens the horizons of a young person. Students with the experience of managing the challenges of travel abroad or directions in a different language grow in confidence; they can imagine themselves managing situations that are unfamiliar and new like college, a new city, or a new calling.
Connections to the Curriculum
Our instructors have prepared the Europe travel with the Rhetoric school curriculum in mind. Both the timing of the trips and the site visits are coordinated to draw important connections to the history and literature our students cover in class during the school year. Mr. Bassett’s lesson on flying buttresses was born in front of Chartres Cathedral in 2012. At the Prado Museum in Spain, considered one of the world’s greatest museums, we view “Las Meninas” studied in 11th-grade History/English.
The Expense of Educational Travel–A Very Personal Decision
Anecdotally, there were years we each chose educational travel for one of our children over new carpet or furniture. Each of our children valued the experience and returned with a greater sense of history, their place in the world, and a sense of connection with people on the other side of the ocean.
For families, managing the various expenses must fit a priority. When the youngest Snyder was a freshman, we told him to choose between a high-end cello and a used car. He chose the cello. We were a bit surprised. Economically speaking, the cello has increased in value and became an avenue for significant scholarships. It was inconvenient for a year, but In the long run, this decision was the wisest for our family.
Similarly, educational travel, whether to Washington, DC, to Spain, France, Italy, or the well-planned family trip to Boston, places hope on future dividends that we cannot accurately predict. With these decisions, families should consider the cost and outcomes of devoting resources to travel. Is the timing right? Is your child ready to travel to Europe? Is it worth the investment?
Ultimately, this is a decision each family makes for themselves.