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The reentry effect

For kids who have spent a year knocking about the world, the return home can be full of cold shoulders from classmates who care more about Britney Spears than Mohandas Gandhi.

Luke Irons, who returned from a 14-month sojourn to Alaska last year, says coming back was "like being put into a whole other world.

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"On some level you expect your peers to be up with you." Instead, he found them preoccupied with gossip.

Justin Wells, who sailed with his siblings and parents and traveled through Europe in the late 1980s, says that upon his return, American schools seemed stifling. "[Students] become more like each other than individuals. It becomes the great homogenizer."

While abroad, kids often mix with adults more than with other kids, and this may carry over when they get home.

"The funny thing was, [my daughter] had a great connection with other adults," says Lori Teller. "When she did mix with other kids [on our trip], it was at times forced, no chemistry."

Parents need to be sensitive when taking kids out of an established social network, educators say.

"[Students] do need that structured social environment in the fourth grade, especially socially," says Peter Hoff, who teaches fourth grade at Kennebunkport Consolidated School in Maine.

"They are entering a point where what happens to their friends is so important to them."

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society