About homeschooling from SWMBO. And for photos – just random stuff from our trip to make the point that travel is, in and of itself, educational:
We began our homeschooling journey ten years ago when Firstborn was entering Grade 2 in Canada. I was on maternity leave and it seemed crazy to send her to school when I was going to be home for a year. We never looked back.
Homeschooling has allowed us to: nurture a love of learning; develop at our own pace; bond as a family; set our own schedule; participate in many adventures we wouldn’t otherwise have access to. We have given up some income and changed our career trajectory but not as much as most people would think. Canvas homeschooling families and you will be surprised at the number of two income families. Flexibility in homeschool scheduling allows for creativity work-wise. We have met several single parent homeschool families.
How has taking our family on the road for 8 months affected our homeschooling? Well:
- We are away from our friends and support network
- We aren’t going to any organized activities or lessons
- We aren’t doing our regular, unorganized homeschooling activities – you know, the ones I put together at home
- We aren’t following our golden rule of ABSOLUTELY no screen time until the “end of the day”
But for us, school considerations are not a factor at all in undertaking a big adventure. The more I travel, though, the more I am reminded that that is not the case for most people.
Having moved from our beach house to a new homestay off the Cua Dai road in Hoi An, we began scouting around our new neighbourhood. The new place was close to the Dingo Deli. The Dingo is owned by an Australian-Canadian couple and caters to Western tastes. Imagine my surprise when I checked the deli website. Reviews. Delivery Menu. Delicatessen. Bakery. Homeschooling. Wait, what?
I headed over to the Dingo and met Gordon and Michelle, the owners of the deli. They have been homeschooling their 12 and 15 year old children since they came to Vietnam four years ago. We had a wonderful chat and arranged for our kids to meet the next day. That meeting led to a daily routine of DELICIOUS lattes with fresh milk for me and a lot of free play for the kids. We met everyday around 12:30.
I admire Gordon and Michelle. Their move led them to try homeschooling. In Canada, homeschooling is quite common and there are strong networks and a wealth of resources. This couple is forging a new path. Bravo!
One day when I was there, Michelle told me that there was a Canadian couple inside that I should meet. The couple had rented out their home in Canada and are travelling for an extended period. They like Hoi An so much they are thinking of renting a house there. Their children are 5 and 7 and they have fallen into homeschooling as a result of the decision to travel.
A few days later we returned to An Bang Beach for one last time before leaving for Ho Chi Min City last night. We met another Canadian couple travelling the world for a year with their nine year old daughter. After some awkwardly shy early moments, Venice had a great time with the 9 year old and eventually the parents got to talking. The nine-year old had attended school in New Zealand for a semester but now that they were on the road, they were also trying a hand at homeschooling.
I’ll wager that over the coming months, we will meet a fair number of families with children under the age of 10 who have decided that the educational value of travel at least equals that of school.
The barriers that I can see to new road schoolers:
Homeschooling is illegal or near impossible in many European countries. You can be treated like a lunatic or pariah for removing your children from school to go galavanting willy-nilly around the world. Let’s face it, our fears can play on our minds so even those of us from homeschooling-friendly places can be made to feel this way. In fact, we often do it to ourselves.
It is difficult for a whole host of reasons to take a teen who has been in school all along and travel for a year. Too bad. From what I have been observing in my older teen, this kind of travel is invaluable for teens because it gives them a dry run for the backpacking days coming in their 20s. Our older teen is learning to cross the street in Asia (don’t laugh – it takes a lot of practice), haggle in markets, decipher complicated train schedules, create and stick to a tight budget, assess value for money, do laundry on the road, keep cool under pressure, get by on erratic sleep schedules, pick a safe place to eat street food. Frankly, the list goes on and on and on.
For those trying to follow the curriculum of their home province or state, it can mean a lot of schlepping. Many families bring schoolbooks from home with the intention of working for an hour or two a day to keep up with classmates back home. Of all the families I have ever met, I have NEVER met one who stuck with this for more than a week (if that). Even if school books weighed nothing, I still suspect this would be a fail. It is hard to get worked up about math exercises when you could stroll down to the beach and snorkel instead.
Vacationing with your family is different from road schooling while on vacation. When you are on vacation, you are relaxed and happy to spend time with your family. You are lying on the beach for a week with the sun kissing your face and you don’t care about the structure of plant cells. If you are trying to road school in an organized way while on vacation, you may feel the need to do a variation of the good cop/bad cop routine: relaxed vacationing parent sipping mojitos/meanie insisting that this math better get done now. My own feeling on this from past experience is that it is better to stealth educate. Sort of like yarn bombing your students. You hit them when they aren’t looking and voilà, they have learned something. I haven’t made myself clear? You would like an example? See blog post on rice farming.
Leaving behind work and school to travel takes you away from your routine and can make you feel adrift. Restless. You don’t know what you should be doing. You really can’t figure it out because the nature of your trip means that you have to do different things every day. Trying to do schoolwork (which most recently-schooled people see as very structured) in this situation is challenging. Again, at the risk or sounding radical, my own feeling on this would be to take your Year of Road Schooling and do it like you mean it. New homeschoolers are often told to give their students one month off for every year they have been in school.
As a veteran homeschooler, I would say that this is the single best piece of advice you can get. The only piece of advice you need. Huh? A kid in grade 4 would get 4 months (6 if you want to add in junior and senior kindergarten!) to “deschool”. SWMBO – have you gone loco? How can this be good advice? My friend, I will tell you how. For once obey She Who Must Be Obeyed. Deschooling will allow your students to leave school rules and ideas behind, to do what they want to do for a change, to spend quality time with you without being cajoled into producing bookwork, to meet new people, to be spontaneous and to get bored. Never, ever underestimate the power of boredom. Schools would do well to let their students harness the power of their boredom rather than insist they stew in it. Well before the time is up, your students will be reading Kant, baking croissants from scratch, learning ukelele and writing haikus. Don’t believe me – I challenge you to try it and prove me wrong.
For the Canadian family or anyone else looking to move to Hoi An – check out the Dingo Deli website. It has a lot of information for those looking to relocate including my favourite quote.
What you might want to avoid when renting a house:
Neighbours with lots of chickens, ducks or pigs ( can be very smelly and noisy)
Neighbours who hammer tin all day for a living
Family shrines in your house that need tending to (it is good to ask if they need to visit the shrine regularly)
Wedding halls, karaoke, coffee and beer venues
Loud speakers in the vicinity… You might want to visit early in the morning. 5am-7am is the most annoying hours that the loud speakers like to torment us.