One of the considerations of taking our family on the road for an extended period of time is the children’s education, the obvious conclusion is to homeschool. Having no experience with teaching, we consulted with our school Principal for guidance. He highly recommended the Government approved, online school called ‘Self Design’. Their model has nothing to do with conventional schooling and everything to do with lifelong learning. It is a model that has emerged from children learning together in true freedom – freedom to be curious and enthusiastic. This philosophy fell in line with our values, so we enrolled & selected our learning consultant, based on her experience with her own travels and working with other families who have travelled.
We believe life on the road & sea will cultivate curious minds. Education isn’t just for the young, we are all constantly learning. Having the experience of learning together in new environments with different cultures, languages, music, art, history, geography, food & so much more will give them a broadened perspective of the world.
What does Homeschooling look like? It’s hands on, hands in fun!….sometimes!
Some of the learning experiences have been… at the helm of a sailboat and in schools in both the BVI (British Virgin Islands) and Baja, Mexico.
Three of the Baja Missions, learning about the life and times of those back then. Swam with whale sharks & snorkeled reefs, attended bird walks & talks and ridden through the giant cactus forest of Baja, Mexico. Learned of the sun, the moon & star constellations. Spent Christmas in Mexico & Easter in Guatemala. In 5 months they have heard English, Spanish, Maya, Creole, German & Russian languages spoken.
With the world as our classroom it’s easy to cover multiple subjects at once. Visiting historical churches & pyramids they are surrounded by math, history, geology, art history & religion. Climbing pyramids, volcanoes, hiking mountains or swimming in cenotes, rivers, pools & oceans, they get a physical workout in nature. We have learned about the ancient & modern way of life of the Mayan & Aztec people. Played with children from different countries & unknowingly develop communication skills through language and play. Different currencies, identifying coin & note values when shopping in markets. We’ve hiked through the jungles of Belize and seen beautiful birds in their natural habitats. Identified constellations and navigated by map & compass. If this isn’t learning, I don’t know what is.
Yes, for sure there is more to Homeschooling, we agree the kids also need the balance of foundation learning like reading, writing, math & english which we regularly dedicate time to. We’ve brought along thick, curriculum work books for each, grade 1 – 5 covering Math, English, Science & Social Studies. Teaching these levels is easy, the tricky part, getting the kids to sit down and focus on formal learning, they are lucky to have ever changing classrooms. Routines on the road can be difficult to maintain, sometimes we can go days without doing any book work, but there are learning opportunities everywhere. While driving we have conversations about the land around us, how it was formed (volcanic, earthquake, tectonics) what it’s used for, agriculture/horticulture etc. We chant the times tables, play memory & spelling games, and read Roald Dhal books. When we stop for a few days we pull out the work books.
Family time, one of the great advantages of being on the road is the bond building and family time we get to spend together. They reflect us in so many ways, both good and bad, seeing just how impressionable they are. Human sponges who are soaking up all that is going on around them, said and unsaid. Meeting other families shows them that this is normal and they aren’t the only children to be taken from their friends.
Jaxon is 6, so we are working from the Grade 1 workbook. He’s a cleaver boy & when he is willing to learn, he picks up ideas and concepts easily. The difficulty is, like all kids, they he would much rather go play. He looks for excuses, gets fidgety, squirmy, needs to pee, is thirsty or hungry, fights with himself & sometimes has a full meltdown. I really should record this on film to show him when we are back home & he doesn’t want to go to school and wants to be home schooled. Working with a timer or showing them first what’s expected helps. Rewards are important too, a good effort & attitude earns them their cherished tv time. What’s interesting is that sometimes, the day after his melt down, he’s able to clearly recall what we were trying to work on….this blows my mind.
Charley is 8, is in grade 3, it is easier to get her to sit down and open the books. Her strengths is that she’s also a cleaver girl and grasps concepts easily, her weaknesses is her inability to focus, she is very easily distracted & gets bored quickly, so working one on one with her is key. I brought along what I thought was enough chapter books to last her a year or more, within these 5 months she’s read most of them.
Life Skills living in a truck means we have to maintain some level of organization to prevent me from losing my mind. The kids have their own cupboards for their clothes, that sometimes get folded, and big drawer for their toys, games and stuff. Both pitch in when with cooking, laundry, dishes, cleaning and on one occasion driving!
The internet is packed with awesome online education sites and resources. Through Self Design we are fortunate to have access to an extensive online library, information and educational websites such as Reading Eggs, Spelling City, Mathletics and many more. We don’t always have the wifi strength & speed to work with them, but during the Covid-19 lockdown, we have reliable wifi & are making great use of these sites. Our learning consultant is a fabulous support for us too, she gives great direction ideas and feedback.
Travel Journal, the kids are also keeping a travel journal of their adventures. Here they record in pictures & stories, tickets, postcards, stamps and souvenirs in the ‘old school’ way. Blog. We also have the Kids Page on the site. Here we post their impressions, thoughts and experiences in their own words. This is another great keepsake for them to look back on.
All in all, it’s been a wonderful experience for us all.