I know right. Something that’s not a retrospective travel diary. Who’d a thought it.
I’m slogging away and trying to use what little internet time we have to keep up with where we’ve been, but this is rather timely to post now so I’m taking a break from my standard travel diary format.
School finished in Australia this week. Between getting teary at seeing year sixes and sevens celebrating their last days in primary school and wondering how on earth it is that half my friends are sending their kids to private schools next year without me having even a sniff of an idea this was happening, I’ve been thinking a lot (like a LOT, a lot) about exactly what it is my kids have learned over the past two school terms.
I recently heard ‘schooling on the road’ or ‘schooling whilst traveling’ is a thing, with it’s own real name. It’s called ‘Road Schooling’. Personally I prefer my own term that I came up with some months go. Round these parts we like to call it “Roam Schooling”. Part ‘real’* school, part home school.
You can read my initial expectations of Roam Schooling here. Suffice to say the reality hasn’t exactly lived up to my expectation of the reality. To be honest, it’s all gone to shit.
See Roam Schooling or Road Schooling or what ever you want to call it, in my opinion is one of those things where “a bit of this and a bit of that” really doesn’t shake together to make something awesome. And believe me I was expecting awesome. Awesome of the my kids have just been snatched away by aliens and replaced with education junkies thriving on book learning, who want nothing more than to sit all day and write a travel journal and paint water colours of international landscapes variety. Expectation. Reality. About as far from each other Australia and Sweden.
Of course this is just my experience, with my kids and I’ll be the first to admit my kids can be all kinds of special in various ways that other peoples children are not. But in all seriousness I just don’t know how other people manage to do school on the road and survive, never mind find their kids neatly slot back into school on their return from Wanderlust. Of course we have the added layer of emotion because our kids will be returning to a completely new school environment, one where the teachers won’t have any concept of how they have grown and changed and developed beyond academic learning. If I’m honest I really worry that my kids will be seen to have fallen behind, when I know in so many ways they have thrived and florished. This has been playing on my mind a lot.
Anyway back to Rome Schooling; this thing we’ve been doing is not ‘real school’. At least not the we have a teacher who knows what they’re talking about, who has a lesson plan, gives us photocopies of stuff, doesn’t actually make us finish all the activities in the book before we can attend to basics like eating, has a magic board, singy songy songs about letters and blends, actually knows what the full seven steps to writing success are, breaks up the day with walks to the library and the toilet and the oval, kind of ‘real school’ my kids are used to. The books from school came with us, along with a wad of photocopies outlining the projects and learning objectives that would be met by their peers for the remainder of the year. My teacher sister gave me an (admittedly awesome) set of resources and an idea of how to set a timetable but that’s about as much ‘real’ school as we’ve got. Which to many who have Road Schooled before us, is all together too much ‘real school’, whilst others think we’re just not making enough effort.
Neither, might I add is this thing we’ve been having a crack at even close to home schooling. At least not the we sit diligently in our allocated educational space and work on exciting and motivating projects selected to best enhance the personal interests and skills of each individual child and incorporate educational outcomes into ever single every event we possibly can variety that my (exceptionally inspirational and medal deserving) home schooling friends are serving up to their (exceptionally lucky) kids. Most days I’m lucky to get through the schooling experience without opening a bottle of wine never mind finding motivating projects. **
AND to make matters worse, it’s not let’s visit a different museum, gallery, monument, historical site every day and write a journal or paint a water colour picture to sum up our rich travel experiences. Because we all know we had the day with The Plan and subsequently have avoided such activities with fervor. And we’re living on farms and most of the time the kids just want to play in the mud and beat each other with sticks or make Elf-Yourself videos.
So what have we been doing? Our average school day would kick off at the allotted time (which ranged anywhere from 8am early on to 2.00pm last week) with me searching for the required books, discovering someone left all their pencils in the rain or the car or the van, looking for a lost ruler or rubber (or both), breaking up a fight about who lost the rubber or ruler, taking the baby to the toilet, making yet more food, sanctioning “drinks breaks” (FFS it is not a break if you didn’t even start already), being called to assist with some pressing task or another. An hour later I’d usually have managed to corral the children, argue with them about the necessity of dragging themselves away from training feral kittens to chase a piece of carrot on a string along a wall or other such matters of high importance and then if all the stars and the moons align everyone would sit down and work ‘independently’. On a really good day I could work one on one with one or other of the big girls on some Educational Objective deemed necessary under the auspices of the National Curriculum, whilst the baby played quietly with Lego or paints.
And if all the stars and moons didn’t align. Well let’s just leave it at saying it wasn’t very nice. Over the past five months I’m fairly sure the stars and moons were only in alignment maybe six times.
So last week I just stopped doing it. Stopped. No more.
If I make my way past the guilt that I may have single handedly ruined my children’s abilities to keep up with their peers, that they won’t be able to read, to write, to modify a narrative, to even know what the hell a narrative is in the first place, to address the core learning areas about the Colonial period in Austrlaia, to create a power point presentation with a higher ratio of informative facts to text flying onto the page, to stay focused, remember their six (and seven and eight and nine) times tables…..
If I climb over the fear that the new school will deem me entirely responsible for any of their academic short comings (and believe me, there will be short comings) and instantly strike me down as an unfit parent…..
If I put my big girl pants on, suck it up and admit I’m kind of bummed I wasn’t even a smidgen as good as I hoped I’d be at this Rome Schooling caper……
If I take a big breath and be really truthful, I have to say, it feels so, incredibly, absolutely, wonderfully, refreshingly, liberating-ly, freaking GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD to be done with school work.
Just tonight I read this blog post that has helped any concerns about quitting on the book learning evaporate instantly. This resonated the most with me;
“…subjects like maths and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community – and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are kind and brave, above all.”
If our Roam Schooling classroom has achieved nothing else it has started to shape contributors that are not just kind and brave but also creative, resourceful, mindful, adventurous, loving, helpful and hardworking.
I might not have been able to convince my seven year old that reading is not the work of Satan. I defintely haven’t managed to convince my ten year old maths will actually help her in real life. I’m the proud owner of one single artwork. But I am proud to say this trip has educated them in ways that might not pay off next week, or next year, it might not take them beyond next week, it certainly won’t get them through a NAPLAN test, but when they are twenty or thirty or forty it will be a deep, hardwired part of who they are.
Here’s a small sample of my favorite lessons from school on the road;
BE CREATIVE: make your own fun, like playing ‘double ponies’ outside the Metro in Paris.
BE ACTIVE: no matter how bad the day has been get outside and play field soccer like we did at Crooked End.
LOVE BIG: you never know where you’ll find people who are ready to nurture and love you. It might be someone elses grandma or a German WWOOFer or anyone in between.
BE KIND: to people and animals and yourself.
EAT GOOD FOOD: when you go from plain pasta with butter to wild boar, rabbit and pheasant in one week your mum will throw a party!
BE HELPFUL: it feels nice to do something for someone else, even if it’s as simple as helping your sister work out the drinking fountains
PRACTICE GRATITUDE; nothing says thank you like a hand written note.
BE INQUISITIVE; not everyone wants to look closely at the entrails of dead animals – but if you want to you should go for it.
BE TRUSTING; not all strangers are bad and if you talk to them clearly and confidently you might get something nice in return. Like sweets (if someone offers you sweets that you don’t have to pay for, that’s not so good though. Don’t trust that person!)
BE A GOOD FRIEND: may this be the first of many many improptu pedicure nights with your sisters
BE BRAVE; because nothing much else will help when you decide you want to comb a 1tonne, 5ft 6″ cow with big horns.
BE YOURSELF; even if it means being the only grumpy person in the photo – it’s ok, there’s filters for that now. Just don’t expect everyone else to match your mood.
BE RESOURCEFUL: don’t wait for someone else to fix your (constant) problem. Take advantage of opportunities when the arise!!
BE ACCEPTING: even if you think it’s just an opportunity for your big sister to boss you around accepting help can be advantageous, especially if you get to see the view of Dijon from the top of the fence post.
BE A DREAMER: some dreams come true. Some don’t. But some do – like dreaming about seeing the Eiffel Tower for four years and then actually being able to do it (rock on!)
BE PATIENT: sometimes the thing you never thought you could get used to becomes something you can’t imagine living without.
*real is simply a reflection on the schooling reality my children have experienced in their lives up to this point. It does not in any way reflect a belief that I think institutionalized education is the ‘real’ way to educate a child – just in case you were planning to get all up me on that one – take a big breath.
** this experience has done nothing but reinforce my belief in the exceptional benefits that come from home education, for both children and parents. However as my children will be returning to a mainstream school (for the foreseeable future) I felt that we weren’t in a position to fully surrender to the completely different pace (?), vibe (?), outcomes (?) of home education – i don’t know that I fully understand exactly what the difference is, maybe somonee can enlighten me. I also found it really really difficult to manage the two very different (and often challenging) personalities and learning requirements of my big girls whilst still trying to keep a four year old entertained in a limited space, or somewhere that is not her home. AND I have no patience. I’m not convinced I’m cut out for the adventure.