American family home school for a gap year and use Bali as the base
I had the privilege of sitting down with my Californian clients Katrina, John, Riley (11) and Rowan (5) in their stunning Ubud villa they rented through Airbnb. It is amazing to think that back in February we had our Zoom consultation on all things moving to Bali and now 6 months later we are meeting in Bali together! Looking very relaxed, they had only arrived in Bali a month prior, and I was excited to be their first guest! Our interview is set on their verandah looking out onto the rice fields and we are sipping on fresh coconuts Katrina bought earlier that day. As I admire their home, John tells me about the amazing sunsets they enjoy and Katrina tells me how they used have to ask Alexa to “play jungle music” and now they have the real thing as background music every night!
Let’s begin by talking about how this Bali dream started…
Our first visit to Bali was six years ago and we instantly fell in love with the place, especially Ubud. We felt a deep connection with the land, the Balinese, their culture and spirituality. Everyone here is just so kind. That first visit set something in motion for us and we felt that we were always going to come back. Two years ago, at the onset of the pandemic, we started the conversation of taking a gap year, stepping out of our norm and doing something completely out of the box for us. During the pandemic, this helpless feeling of not being in control of what’s happening around you really motivated us to create our own unique journey and we wanted to fill it with as many adventures as possible.
When we started becoming serious about planning our gap year, we considered various places in Asia including the Philippines since I’m originally from there. During one of our planning sessions, John asked “well what about Bali? and I responded “Yeah, why not Bali?” We always talked about how special Bali was, how connected we felt so we started looking for Airbnbs and found all these amazing villas. Everything about Bali just aligned with our idea of a home base during our gap year. The more we looked into Bali, the more this brand new world of possibilities just opened up for us. Everything became very doable and just kind of fell into place. Bali is definitely a calling!
You have two young boys, so what were you thinking when it came to Schooling?
Schooling was immediately my first big ‘Oh my goodness’ and some anxiety did settle in. I did some research on homeschooling and talked to some friends. The more I learned about homeschooling, the more I realized that this was a real possibility for us. I initially considered some form of remote schooling but the time differences would have been a real challenge. I also looked into International Schools like Green School. As I continued researching schooling options, I realized that it was much easier for us to homeschool the boys on our own. Homeschooling also meant flexibility in terms of how we wanted to approach and incorporate learning during our travels. I found a private school in California that would help manage our records and submit our attendance to the Department of Education. I also worked with the school director to build a curriculum for the boys that were in line with their California grade levels. I had all the schooling arrangements organized before we left and had our curriculum all mapped out.
So i take it you had some experience with homeschooling during the pandemic like we all did?
We did, and that was like the first test of our ability to be able to do this. It was tough, we were working and trying to make sure that the kids were engaged. Rowan was so young back then, but it was more difficult for Riley – he learned violin over Zoom! So we figured you know what, if he could do that, then why not do this in Bali?
SO WERE YOU PLANNING THIS GAP YEAR IN BALI FOR TWO YEARS?
Yes, we started planning our gap year two years ago. It was initially wishful thinking, but then the conversation evolved from “can we really do this” to “yes why wouldn’t we do this?!”.
Was there one defining moment that said – “that’s it, we are going to have a gap year in Bali”?
I think when we said Bali, things just fell into place and that became our defining moment to really pursue this gap year.
John: We are planning to visit other countries as well here in Asia but we decided on Bali as our homebase.
I’ve mapped out so many different itineraries for us and what this gap year would be like. It was crazy. I’ve certainly had many moments of anxiety, especially considering that this might be too crazy for the children. Traveling for a year would mean any kind of routine would be totally out the door and the fact that we would be doing this for a year just seemed intimidating. We are looking at traveling to Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan. Unfortunately, some places still have their restrictions so we are just trying to keep things open for now. At the time that we were planning our gap year, even Bali still had the 14-day quarantine. It wa s a bit challenging at first, especially trying to keep up-to-date with travel restrictions in various countries. The ongoing changes with travel bans and restrictions lead us to decide on needing a home base here in Asia.
how did you come across Our Year in Bali?
I Googled! I remembered coming across your website ‘Our Year in Bali’ and saying to myself “wow – this perfectly normal-looking family spent a year in Bali, how fabulous!”. I started reading through the different stories of families you featured on your website that made the decision to come live in Bali and I decided to reach out via messenger. I was so excited to tell John about you the following day and what a great resource you would be for us because of the amount of information you had in your website. I was so excited to talk to you because at this point, I was quite overwhelmed with the amount of information out there. After a while, it truly becomes confusing what to believe so it was such a relief knowing there was this one person who has lived in Bali with her family including young children as our main resource. It was just extremely helpful how you consolidated all the information we needed into one digestible piece.
It is so nice to know I can give you reassurnce, but everyone has their own journey.
Of course. Before coming across your website, I did an enormous amount of research on many different aspects of this adventure including the types of vaccinations to get for our family, schooling, activities etc.. The best thing about coming across your website was the assurance that many other families like ours, including yours, have successfully done this.
How long do you feel it’s going to take to settle in?
We already feel like we’ve been here a very long time, but then we’ve done so much, and have so much more to do. It’s been less than a month since we arrived but it feels like we’ve jam-packed a lot of activities already. We’ve done a cooking class, we’ve done Wood School camp, and we’re doing Green School camp right now. We’ve done some waterfall explorations, we’ve walked through rice fields, we’ve met some farmers, and we’re getting to know people out here. I think the next step is kind of retraining our brains to take it slow since this is a longer trip and embrace the fact that we do have more time to enjoy all these wonderful experiences.
So once you get into the home school routine what other challenges might you face?
Currently, we are still adjusting and trying to stay adaptable to changes. We are keeping an open mind and trying to learn as much as we can about our new environment. Recently, we found a dead snake in our bathroom that the villa cat may have attacked so we have to just continue to remind ourselves that we are in a different place and our experiences are going to be shaped accordingly.
John, what has moving to Bali been like for you?
I’m enjoying the quiet and I’m enjoying the time with the family. That’s been the best part about it. I can see we’ve grown so much in just a little over three weeks. I had a huge snake phobia before we came to Bali, but apparently it’s passed on to Katrina! When I saw the dead snake, ‘I’m like oh this sucks’ and I fell right back to sleep, and she slept with one eye open!
The only thing is I just want to find more friends for the kids. That’s my only worry, I want them to be engaged. I know we’re putting in our time with them, and we have seem them already make friends and have fun playing, I just want more of that. I know it’s gonna come, we’ve only been here three and a half weeks and we’ll figure it out. Me personally, I’m pretty settled.
Thank you John and Katrina for sharing your inspirational story for the Our Year in Bali community. I love how you have created this opportunity and chapter in your lives and you are all embracing it so beautifully. I look forward to following your incredible family gap year as it unfolds.