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Is it really that difficult? -- Road Schooling Grade 3 -8

Published on 13 June 2011 by Amy Page | 1 Comments |

  • “You’re brave”
  • “Rather you than me”
  • “I couldn’t do that”
  • or “I’d love to do it, but I just don’t have the patience”

These are just some of the common responses that homeschooling parents get. When you are travelling, you are still going to face these same misconceptions and challenges. Education is not something to be daunted by.

This is to be an introduction in our series on education, or road-schooling, for VagabondFamily.org. It will focus on the benefits that road-schooling can entail, and try to ease concerns for future travellers. Future articles will follow with information on methods, curriculum, styles, and the legalities of home education for different nationalities. For now though, we’ll focus on convincing you that it is a lot easier than you think.  My personal opinion is that this age group is the easiest to home school, and to travel with.  This article focuses on primary and middle school children, who have already learnt to read.  Kids of this age are often independant readers, and with basic reading skills already in place, this may be one of the easier stages.

What other travelling families have said:

“We’ve all learnt so much as a family while we’ve been travelling. The kids have seen that Mum and Dad are still learning, too.”

“The kids now realize that learning comes in many shapes and forms – it’s not just something you do from 9 – 3 in a classroom.”

“They have learnt so much from their travels, it’s been incredible watching them grow and learn.”

“I was so worried about my own ability to teach them, we nearly didn’t start travelling. Now I don’t know what I was worried about.”

“They’ve learnt more than they ever could have learnt if we’d stayed at home – and that’s in spite of me!”

Convinced?

Think back to your school years. If your school was anything like mine, it would have consisted of reading books and watching films together in your English class and then analysing the text as a group. You would have done basic sciences such as chemistry and biology. A foreign language class was compulsory, but I didn’t do so well at it because it just seemed like memorising long lists to me. We did art, cooking, and physical education. Then we had a rotation of social studies subjects from geography, history, environmental studies, international studies, and politics.

I’m going to look at these in reverse order. The social studies are almost so easy to teach while travelling that you don’t need to think about them. Visiting ruins, shipwrecks, and museums it is all there in front of you. It’s living and it's interesting. Think about it.  History? Would you rather learn about Australia’s convict past while walking around the historical prison at Port Arthur, or would you remember and enjoy it better reading about it in a book? Are you going to appreciate why a particular coast is called “Shipwreck Coast” looking at the photos and memorising statistics and dates, or are you going to be inspired by standing on the cliffs sprayed by droplets of ocean water?

Geography is not just a name or feature on a map, but conjures up images of cliffs, deserts, chasms, canyons, oases, and reefs. Your children may see ancient rainforests being logged and the effects that this has on the people, land, and animals in the area. Or your children may get the opportunity to walk through mines, and have those images to draw back on. Visiting different countries or even just travelling around one country is a far better way to learn about geography than staring at a world map. It provides memories and a context for children to base their understanding within. 

Politics and international studies come alive when you roam from country to country.

Politics and international studies come alive when you roam from country to country. Your children aren’t hearing about some foreign irrelevant place on the news – they are riding or walk through the streets of these countries and experiencing it for themselves.

What about learning to Read and Write?

In my opinion, there are two aspects to language teaching that are really tricky. The first most kids seem to do without too much help – they learn to talk.  They listen to their parents and other people around them and begin to understand what is being said, then they start to talk.  The second is teaching them how to read. If you have an older child who can read and talk, this area becomes easier. It depends on the child, but some can just be handed an e-reader or book, and will avidly read a large selection of books. For others, they may need to have assigned reading time. In our family, we find that the kids tend to use the time travelling to read. Our family will discuss books that we’ve read or audiobooks that we’ve listened to. This is done in place of having formalised book reports like you would have in a classroom.  We understand that reading, spelling, and grammar are some of the biggest educational issues for travelling families, so they will be covered in other articles.  

Foreign Languages

What about teaching foreign language while travelling overseas? You’ll hear the locals using it, and there will be a reason to learn it. Your child will probably learn a few words and phrases of the language just to get around even if you are there for a short time, or you may spend longer in that region and the child may begin to speak the language. It will seem relevant, and they will be more inspired to learn. 

Learning Maths on the Road

Math is one subject where many homeschooling and travelling families have widely differing approaches. You may choose to cover maths from a text book or curriculum. Others may make the child calculate how long it will take to get to the next town when travelling at a certain speed, calculate the amount of change needed at the shops, or convert one currency to another. The approaches taken vary dramatically on age and child, and this will be the focus of a future article.  It is just too much detail to cover here.

 

How to teach Science on the road

“I couldn’t possibly teach science, I don’t know it well enough myself”

“I couldn’t possibly teach science, I don’t know it well enough myself,” is a common stumbling block for homeschooling families, particularly as the children get older. We’ve found that travelling often helps with teaching science. We’ve found a perfect skeleton of a kangaroo with bones picked clean by scavengers. We’ve seen the effects that an ancient inland sea has had on the landscape in central Australia, and then seen sand that is half-way between being sand and sandstone. We’ve learnt about how opals are formed, and different types of rocks and how they are formed. We’ve laid on the ground staring up at the sky with a sky chart to find the various constellations and planets.

Any and all of the Science subjects can be learnt just from the places you visit. How much you focus on these, and the depth you go in to them will depend on you, your child(ren), and how interesting you find the particular topic.

Get inspiration from others

To finish with, I’d like to share a few examples that I’ve seen recently in family travel blogs:

“Soul Travellers 3” recently blogged about their sponsored travel trip to Jordan, and their daughter’s opportunity to see this peaceful country, surrounded by many others that are currently undergoing massive civil unrest.  

"Family On Bikes" have summarised some of the best learning experiences they had in 3 years of cycling from Alaska to Argentina.

“Travels With A Nine Year” recently described how she used staying in Catholic monasteries in Asia to explain some of the religion to her son.

“Vagabond Kids” shared how they experienced classic Indian transport and a traditional Indian wedding.

The kids from “The Edventure Project” shared with “The Great Family Escape” their experience of riding in the typical South American Chicken Bus.

“Our Travel Lifestyle” has discussed the logistics of carrying enough resources for homeschooling.

And across at “Livin On The Road”, my own 10-year-old son has recently shared his views on what it is like to be road-schooled from a child's perspective.

What is the right way to Home/Road School?

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to home/road school, just different opportunities to teach and educate your children. In future articles we'll be giving you some suggestions on how to take advantage of different opportunities that you'll come across every day in your travels.  We'll discuss different styles and methods, curriculums and resources.

In the comments below we'd love to hear any unique opportunities you have had to teach your children something based on the location you were travelling through. In my article above I have outlined how we taught our children about Australia’s convict past while walking around the historical prison at Port Arthur. Share with us some of your favourite experiential teaching opportunities.

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