After over 2 months of non-stop traveling, we finally arrived at our first long-term stopping point: Naxos Island, Greece. We had three weeks to spend there and nothing on the agenda. In fact, we told the boys that they did not have to go to a single historical site, museum, or do another touristy thing the entire first week. Here is a look into our life, for three weeks, on the island of Naxos…
We rented a three bedroom apartment which took up the entire second story of a house owned by a sweet octogenarian couple. The apartment was spacious compared to most of the hotels and apartments we had been renting and we were excited to have the opportunity to spread out a little bit. We unpacked our bags, and I stored our backpacks and packing cubes away so I wouldn’t have to even look at them for the three weeks we were there.
Our house was located right on St. George Beach just a 10 minute walk or so to Naxos town. It was the perfect location because we didn’t even have to rent a car except for the few days we wanted to explore around the island.
Our home away from home was Flisvos Restaurant, just a few meters down toward the beach. (Did you catch that metric system reference? We have been in Europe for almost 3 months and are adopting it!)
We were fortunate to have some pretty great neighbors while we were on Naxos. A welcoming couple originally from Greece, lived in Montreal for 60 years and then had recently moved back full-time to Naxos. They adopted us right into their family. On the first night, Eddie took us to the local restaurant and introduced us to “make sure they would take good care of us.” It felt like having our grandparents living downstairs. Eddie was always ready with advice on everything from what the good restaurants were in town to how much we should run our air conditioning. His wife was often stopping us to offer fresh baked cookies, home-canned oranges in syrup, and fresh vegetables from their garden. Jeromy even spent quite a bit of time helping them with their Wifi and other computer issues. Just like a grandparent!
One other fun member of the household downstairs was their dog, Achilles. He was just over a year old, so still a puppy, and loved to chase the boys around and the boys loved it right back. Jeromy and I, not really pet people, found this to be the perfect scenario. We were able to have a dog for 3 weeks that we didn’t have to feed, clean up after, or take to the vet when he got caught in fishing hooks. Achilles followed us to the beach in the day and into town for dinner at night. At the end of our time, I think the boys really missed him and I’m sure Achilles missed having the boys around to play with as well.
On an average day in Naxos, we would start the day with breakfast at home and then do school for a few hours. After lunchtime we would head out to the beach and build sand castles, swim, snorkel, or just lay around and read. Then, after watching a beautiful Naxos sunset, we would head back in to shower and get ready, then walk into town for dinner and wandering through the passageways. We spent pretty much every day like this the first week and it was nice to settle into somewhat of a schedule after so long without one.
We generally gave the boys Saturdays off from school and we would spend Sundays having our own little church at home where we all took a part in teaching, praying, leading the music, and speaking. These were particularly special times for me to learn at the feet of my children.
While we all have been learning so much throughout our travels, it wasn’t until Naxos that we started doing more structured learning for the kids. The two things that we found missing in our more unstructured learning of the past two months were Math and English so we spent the most time on those at home on the computer or iPad. Before we left we talked to their schools to see what they would be missing and came up with our own “curriculum”for the year. Here’s a basic look at what we did:
We are using IXL and Kahn academy for Tyler and Luke and as long as we have consistent wifi (not always the case) it is going really well.
While Parker is only in 8th grade, he is a grade ahead in math so we had to get an accredited program for him for Algebra so it would count as high school credit. We decided on BYU’s online program and it has worked seamlessly so far.
Luke buys postcards for his grandparents and writes those to them as well as writing answers to questions I come up with in his journal. He is also doing language arts IXL. Then of course, we read with him.
We have had an abundance of history lessons along the way in our travels, but in Naxos we were able to really dig in further to this specific area. There is evidence of civilization on the island since the Neolithic Era (about 10,000 BC) and during the 8th and 7th centuries BC Naxos dominated commerce in the region and was known as one of the most prosperous Greek islands. It has been continuously inhabited since that time and after being ruled by many different empires, it finally became a member of the Greek state in 1832.
Naxos also has a rich mythical history as well. In Greek mythology the young Zeus was raised in a cave on Mt. Zas, and Dionysos was said to have been born and married on the Island. Add to that stories of Apollo spending time there and Ares, the god of war, finding shelter in the bowels of the island, and you have an island steeped in mythological history around every corner.
In addition to learning history through worldschooling, Parker is taking a US History course online through Khan Academy.
We love talking to the local people to learn about the politics, their culture, and issues happening in the areas we visit. In Naxos, we learned that the people of the island don’t like answering to the national government. They have lots of produce, fresh water, and resources so when they have an issue with the government they tell them they don’t need them so they can leave them alone! (At least that is how it was told by our friend Eddie downstairs, but he isn’t a fan of government in general. He had a dirt road in front of his house and didn’t like people driving through so he put a gate up on one side and a fence on the other! It is no longer a through street).
We were also able to explore the island and see the industry on the island including famous Naxos cheese, marble, potatoes, and olive oil.
Typing: Parker and Tyler spend about 15 minutes a day on typing.com to hopefully learn that skill as it is invaluable in today’s world.
In Naxos, the boys spent a lot of time being active, but the new thing they learned how to do in Naxos was windsurf! Actually, all of us but Luke took lessons for 4 days while we were there. Our apartment was only about a 10 minute walk to a fantastic spot to windsurf for people all over the world. Fortunately, they kept us closer to shore where the winds weren’t quite as strong.
While on Naxos we experienced all kinds of art, from handmade trinkets made to sell in the local shops, to ancient Kouros carved thousands of years ago. But our favorite experience with art came when we visited an old half-built hotel on Alyko Beach. While talking with the owner of the windsurf shop where we took lessons, I asked what some of the out of the way places on the island were that we should visit and she suggested this place. I’m so glad she did! We found an old abandoned hotel that had some of the most amazing graffiti I have seen, especially when you look at the setting it was in. What an experience.
We were lucky that we liked Greek food when we decided to spend 3 weeks on Naxos as part of our journey. While there were plenty of options for restaurants, almost all of them only served Greek food! Greek food is delicious, but I have to admit that after 3 weeks, I was ready for some variety.
Some of our favorite’s were Gyros, Naxos potatoes and a day didn’t go by that we didn’t eat pita bread with tzatziki. Flisvos (the restaurant on the beach right by our house) served the best tzatziki and was one of our favorite restaurants to go visit.
Our favorite gyro’s place was To Enitiko. We got to know the owner there and each time we would go he would teach the boys a new riddle or game. They also served the best gyros on Naxos for a bargain price of about $2.50 US!
The boys also had fun watching them make candy at the local candy store. We ended up back there a few times while we were there as well. As a side note, there are a ton of cats in Naxos. On our way home after dinner one day I told the boys if they saw 20 cats we would stop for candy. By the time we got to the candy shop, they found 17 (this is over a 5-10 minute walk). I thought that was pretty close and when we were talking to the owner about it, she said, “You should have stopped by my house I own 21 cats!” That is a lot of cats and Jeromy’s worst nightmare. It seems like everyone on the island has this love of cats because they were everywhere!
While our favorite beach was St. George beach that we were on, we were able to rent a car a few times and explore some other beaches around the island as well. We did have to be careful though as clothing optional beaches can be found pretty easily (just ask Luke)!
As we said goodbye and made our way to the Ferry to head back to Athens, I was sad to leave Naxos and its people behind, but grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know the island so well in the time we had.