Maya Frost is the Ironman of global education.
This thought occurred to me as I was reading her book, The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education, last week while also working on an article about an aquathlon-duathlon-triathlon series for a local magazine.
In the world of amateur athletics, some of us are stick-to-to-the-treadmill types, street joggers, or weekend 5K’ers. Others are more committed, and train for marathons and triathlons. Then, at the top of the amateur athletics heap, are those exceptionally motivated souls who have the desire and mettle to compete in Ironman triathlons, the ultimate endurance events.
These athletes have taken things to a level beyond what most of us can imagine. We regard them with varying degrees of admiration and are-you-nuts skepticism. We may or may not want to be them, but we find them fascinating – and we’d love to know the secret ingredients in their morning smoothies.
Such was my reaction to Maya Frost and The New Global Student.
In 2005, Frost and her husband sold everything, left their life in suburban Oregon, and moved abroad. They had four teenage daughters – three in high school at the time. The Frosts weren’t missionaries, in the military, or in foreign service, and they didn’t have a corporation relocation package. They planned and executed the move entirely on their own, because they thought it was the right thing to do for their family and for their daughters’ educations.
In Frost’s words:
“The world is a zesty place, but it’s easy to forget that when you’re surrounded by clusters of nondescript cul-de-sacs and uninspired strip malls… (Our daughters) needed to become flexible and innovative in order to be prepared for an exciting future full of all kinds of impossible-to-predict opportunities… Instead of sheltering our kids from the world, we believed we ought to hang a loving life preserver around their necks and toss them into it… We wanted our daughters to develop empathy and responsibility in order to become upstanding global citizens.”
This adventuresome move alone would be enough to distinguish Frost as a serious supporter of global education (marathon level, maybe), but there’s more. She also sent three of her daughters to study abroad for their junior years of high school, enrolled one as the only foreigner in an all-Spanish high school in Mexico, and encouraged all of them to become multilingual and well-traveled through a myriad of international experiences. And, she’s written this spirited, innovative, and advice-packed book describing exactly why and how she did it.
The book opens with the Frost family’s story, and then rolls into a chapter titled “Beyond Math & Mandarin”, in which Frost provides an insightful look at what it really means to get a global education, and why a traditional American educational path isn’t the way to obtain one.
A central premise of Frost’s book is found here:
“Savvy parents know better than to rely on American high schools or colleges to provide a truly global education for their students. They actively seek opportunities for international learning beyond the high school classroom or college campus.”
In the following chapter, Frost postulates that the “one thing preventing students from catapulting forward” is the combination of parental fear and ego, which she calls Fego.
“Letting go. Falling behind. Not doing enough. Unstructured time. Slowing down. Taking charge. Which is your favorite fear? If you’re like most parents, you’ve got your own fear stew on the stove, and depending on the day (or hour), it’s likely to take on a particular flavor to reflect what’s going on around you.”
These types of fears, Frost says, combine with ego to motivate parents to hover over their teenagers and to spend fortunes on SAT-prep courses, vocabulary-boosting software, essay-writing guides, and “service experiences” abroad that cost $6000.
In refreshingly blunt fashion, she advises her readers to conquer Fego:
“Parents who set fear and ego on a high shelf are far more likely to become wise mentors rather than frightened protectors or crazed coaches.”
Thus, Frost has set the course for her book. If you want a truly global education for your teens, she challenges, you must allow them to step off the standard treadmill of American education, and you must not let your fear and ego get in the way.
In the remainder of the book, Frost offers a smorgasbord of options for meeting this challenge, all supported by plenty of facts, details, and personal experiences from her daughters and other students. Major sections include:
- Alternative Approaches to High School: Community Colleges, IB Programmes, GED
- Yearlong High School Study Abroad
- College Study Abroad
- Living Abroad as a Family – “Sabbatical or Sell-It-All”
Some of her ideas certainly won’t be for everyone. I consider myself to be among the more adventuresome of globally-minded parents (and I have friends and relatives who consider me to be a little nuts), but I’m not sure I’m ready to encourage my kids to graduate high school at sixteen to begin their independent global adventures. Still, I gleaned a wealth of ideas from The New Global Student, and enjoyed myself immensely reading it.
Like an Ironman athlete, Frost has personally taken things to a level that’s well beyond what most people can imagine. But she’s thought-provoking and fascinating – and in The New Global Student, she generously shares the secret ingredients in her globally-minded family’s morning smoothies.
The New Global Student, by Maya Frost, 2009, is available at:
The author was not financially compensated in any way for this review, and the opinions expressed are her own. This post does contain an affiliate link, and Young & Global Magazine will receive an extraordinarily small bit of compensation if you purchase the book through the link, for which we thank you!