Embarking on a homeschooling field trip to Central America is stressful enough, but add in perilous bridge crossings, trips to the hospital, and a lack of women’s underwear, and you have the makings of an Adventure by Chicken Bus.
Buckling under a mountain of debt, Janet LoSole and her family are at their wits’ end. Determined to make a drastic change, they sell all worldly possessions and hit the road. With only a few items of clothing, a four-person tent, and little else, the family visits a sleepy island backwater in Costa Rica to save endangered sea turtles. In Panama, they bounce around like turnips in the back of a vegetable truck to reach an isolated monkey sanctuary. In Guatemala, they scale the ancient Mayan temples of Tikal.
In between tales of begging rides from total strangers and sleeping overnight in the jungle with an indigenous family, Janet endorses community-based travel—supporting local businesses and favoring public transportation called chicken buses. She also writes candidly about what it takes to travel long-term with two little girls amid the chaos of border crossings, erratic drivers, and creepy crawlies lurking at the edge of the jungle.
I was kindly sent a paperback copy by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Janet!
The full title of this book is Adventure by Chicken Bus – An Unschooling Odyssey Through Central America. Unschooling is a practice favoured more and more these days of taking your kids out of the traditional school system and instead taking a more informal learning approach that advocates the child being taught via hands on, field trip type experiences, rather than textbooks and exams. It is well proven the children learn by doing, rather than by having to learn by wrote.
The Canadian family undertaking this amazing experience had always homeschooled their two young daughters but describing themselves as:
A bored, burnt our family in a lot of debt
they decided to go on the field trip of a lifetime by renting their house out, selling off all their belongings in yard sales and heading off to Central America for two years filled with amazing cultural and educational experiences.
I can only imagine how daunting this must have been, the idea of trying to keep a 6 and 8 year old safe in such unfamiliar countries would have terrified me. Luckily the girls proved to be very flexible and had the stamina to undergo long hikes in oppressive heat and humidity while carrying backpacks, without too much complaining.
The lust for life and for cultural experiences of this family is palpable. They had some amazing adventures: volunteering with turtle patrols, a harrowing journey to the monkey sanctuary of Mono Feliz, and volunteering at an indigenous people’s soup kitchen in the rainforest were some of them. They traveled across the terrifying “banana bridge” at the border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama, where they had to stand on plywood over a rushing river, clinging for dear life to a chain link fence, while tractor trailers went rushing past them. They visited an archeological site, and the Mayan pyramids of Tikal in Guatemala (used as a location by the Star Wars movie franchise). They also learnt how to make cheese, chocolate and coconut oil.
Janet LoSole’s writing style is completely engaging and the tale is full of interesting snippets of information regarding how Costa Rican showers work, how monkeys are able to cross the road safely via their own rope bridges strung over the roads, how (not) to buy a bra in Central America and tips for keeping young children happy while on the road. Luckily, the girls seem to be extremely well behaved and patient and most of the people they encountered found them delightful.
I found this book very difficult to put down and therefore a quick read. I would recommend it to anyone who loves travel, who homeschools their children or who has an inkling that they might like to travel with their children in a less touristy way sometime in the future.
Visit the accompanying website to see the amazing photos taken by the family on their adventure: https://www.adventurebychickenbus.com
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About the Author
Janet LoSole is a freelance writer living in Ontario, Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French Linguistics from York University in Toronto and a Bachelor of Education Degree from Nipissing University. She is a certified TESOL instructor and has taught ESL internationally since 1994. She began homeschooling her daughters in 1997. She writes about traveling with children and homeschooling. Her work has been published in: Canada’s Education Magazine, Natural Parent Magazine, The Alliance for Self-Directed Education, Outdoor Families Online, Unravel, and elsewhere.