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School On A Bike

August 22, 2003 -- SCHOOL ON A BIKE
By Paula Holmes-Eber

"Who is your teacher?" "Which classroom are you in?" For the past seven years these all encompassing questions have heralded in the coming of fall and school for my two daughters, Anya (now an eighth grader) and Yvonne (who is entering sixth grade). Yet this year, as Yvonne posed this question recently on the telephone to one of her Bainbridge Island friends, it had a very new meaning. For her classes this fall will be held on the back seat of a tandem bicycle. Math and science will be taught by her Dad while pedalling up and down hills (and calculating our algebraic speed), while Mom lectures on Russian and Chinese history and literature with field trips to the Kremlin and Great Wall. Homework will be done by flashlight on a sleeping bag in a tent. And their classroom will be: the world.

This past May our family waved goodbye at the Bainbridge Island ferry dock to our many friends who had come to wish us luck on our cycling tour around the world for asthma. Since then lessons for Anya and Yvonne have taken on a far more personal dimension. They understand from experience exactly how the immense size of the ancient Roman Empire eventually led to its downfall: having pedalled over 2000 miles of the former Empire´s length from Greece to England. The physics of friction, momentum and gravity have new meaning after cycling over 4500 foot mountain passes in the Alps on a bicycle laden with their clothes, tents, food and schoolbooks in panniers (cycling bags) on the back. And no spelling, handwriting or grammar test could inspire them to improve their writing as much as the simple task of sending a handwritten postcard (without computerized spells checks) to a friend back home.

As our family now turns eastwards to cycle through Poland, Russia, Mongolia and China, we too have been on a "back to school" shopping spree: three new shirts and two new pants now fill out Anya and Yvonne´s allotment of ten clothing items per person; our usual ration of two English books each has been increased to a total of twelve books for the family, given the fear that no recognizable language will appear on bookstore shelves for the next three months, and new German Schulhefte (notebooks) are packed neatly in their panniers. Yet this September I have a feeling that the most important lessons won´t be learned during lectures in a grassy spot after a picnic lunch near our tandems, but from the greatest teacher of all: life experience.

World Bike for Breath
P.O. Box 11581
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
(206) 855-2907

Last Updated: August 22, 2003

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