Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Home School - World School - School

Educating Your Children! It's such an important topic, mess it up and there's no going back.

No educational style is right for everyone and it becomes a uniquely individual choice as to what you do and how. For the most part in 1st world countries the standard choice is formal education, you spend a lot or a little time in choosing a school and that's pretty much it. Your decision is made, you interact and assist with the school as much or as little as you like and you can rest knowing that they are in charge of what is taking place in your childs education.

Creating Gemstone geodes from sugar and chocolate
When a parent chooses to home school / unschool / world school / (many other styles and titles exist): the decision can be a little more difficult as you become the person the education rests with. Some parents slip easily into this role, others (like me) stress over whether they are doing a good job or not. I found myself wondering at the end of almost every day if I had done well or not, the scary thing was the sense of not knowing until it was all over. Then when the child turns 18 or so, you get to look at them and think to yourself "Yes, I did well, that was a good choice" or "Oh well, guess I really messed that up - eek".
I found myself leaning towards the latter for a while in what I call my dark days.
Learning Gold panning with Gold Tours great organisers
(9 children and the families spent a great 2 days
in Victorian Gold fields - and yes, we all found gold)

Now this is a blog primarily about travel, rather than home schooling and there are many others dedicated to this choice and lifestyle so I won't fill the pages with this topic, however it IS a fundamental part of why we travel and therefore worth mentioning here.

Several years ago we had one of our children at a lovely private school, however life circumstances resulted in us temporarily removing her from school and whilst she loved it there, the moment she was removed she flourished. She was happier, more well rounded and chose to focus on topics that were exciting and relevant to her. We realised that as well as being $22,000 pa better off, we could tailor choices specifically to our children. We could hone in on the areas they needed some assistance with and really delight in the ones they excelled at and loved. For a while we attempted to create a mini classroom at home, we followed "school" time lines and curriculum and whilst we all "got there" it wasn't a true fit.

One day over a cup of tea (in our allocated break time), allowing the sun to wash over me, a realisation began to grow. Earlier that day I had received a call from the local public school telling me off for "jumping my son 2 year levels in 3 months". He had sat the Naplan test with them (yes, I was still very much in my 'control' phase of home schooling) and they were horrified to discover he was 3 years ahead of where he had been 3 months earlier. They asked me how many hours I was spending on home schooling and when I replied 9am - 3.30pm, they severely admonished me. Continuing on they asked me to think about the school day - I won't go into all the details here but suffice it to say it was equivalent to around 1 hour of one on one time per day, they strongly requested we pare our home schooling back to 1-2 hours per day.

Studying Chemistry & DNA with the assistance of jellybeans
Thinking back to this conversation, my idea grew, why hold children back from topics and adventures they love. Yet it was more than this; I considered how much I remembered of geography of locations, history and arts from what I learnt at school compared to how much I actually retained through travel. Travel incorporating guides, locations and stories, stories of the history of the past in those places, the architecture, the arts created there, walking the streets of Paris and reliving the cobbled laneways of yesteryear. There was no comparison.

Now I realise this is not the choice for everyone and it certainly takes some scrimping and saving for many families and some adjustments both financially, running your own business and lifestyle wise, but this was an adventure we were up for.

In our family, everyone is part of the decision making process, the children's thoughts and opinions are valued and part of almost every decision. They were called in to chat about this option and their faces lit up with a smile saying "lets do it".

We were soon to be working in China and realised we could purchase very cheap tickets to Paris from Guangzhou. We asked them to be involved in what we would share and as most home educating parents do, we incorporated all aspects of what we wanted to experience as part of their education in the preparation for this journey. They gravitated towards the French revolution, they loved the arts, the painters and the French History, we researched French foods and tried out new recipes, had trips to the movies to see Midnight in Paris. Famous writers jumped to life and they mapped out places they wanted to visit, train maps and accommodation. We found a lovely little home exchange where we swapped residences and booked an artists apartment near Montemartre for 2 weeks. They worked out currency exchange rates and budgets and whilst no "schooling" happened, I reflected that we were covering Arts, History, Geography, English Literature, Map reading, Maths, Home Economics, Human Sciences, Accounting and much more.

Unique Artpieces in the toilet of our apartment
Our days became relaxed, instead of studies, we watched Khan Academy, relaxed at the Movies and ate at restaurants; we had never been happier. One day whilst out, a lady sneered at my daughter and asked why she wasn't at school, she cheerily replied "Oh, we are home educated, so everything we do is really part of our learning". The lady looked down her nose at her and questioned "Is that so, well then what is 6 x 7"?

My daughter laughed and said "well that would be 42, however where it becomes a little trickier is when you need to convert that into Francs as you need to take into consideration the daily currency fluctuations and as we are mainly converting through US$ there's actually 3 currencies to work out. However, that's just maths, what I find far more interesting is how the financial crisis was probably the initial spark that set off the French revolution, isn't it fascinating to think about the gap between the wealthy and the poor in those days and how desperate the masses must have become. What are your thoughts on that topic"?

Feeling the language of love - padlocked together over rivers
I think she hurridly mumbled something about not being entirely sure and my daughter ended up sitting down and having quite the conversation with her about artists and Can Can dancers.

In that moment, I relaxed my views on creating a classroom, I deeply got it, the ideal of what education is, VS just allowing life to unfold and create a richness of experience.
Taking in the Unique Art in the streets

There is no doubt in my mind that if travel is at all possible for children, it gives them an amazing outlook on life, a deep richness of experience and an amazing sense of purpose within the world. Whenever we get the opportunity to travel these days and people ask us "What about school" we smile and reply "Oh we never let school get in the way of a good education".
Some family bonding over monuments

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