“While no one would disagree that formal education does give children sound knowledge and teach them the value of discipline, rules and social interaction, it is equally true that it can also leave them occasionally feeling a little over-pressured and jaded. Travel offers a more natural and equally valuable way of learning, engaging children’s senses and instincts in a way that suits their understanding and personalities. Changing currency, communicating in a different language, experiencing new cultures and customs and exploring the world outside –these are the things that broaden a child’s view of the world and spark their curiosity beyond any classroom environment. The best part is that it all happens while they are having fun.” ~Anita Kaushal
Date: Monday, February 7, 2011
It’s early morning here in Calis and the whole house is sleeping soundly after a full day of being out in the sun on a boat fishing in the Aegean Sea. We didn’t catch any big fish as we’d all hoped to. We didn’t catch any medium ones either for that matter. We came home with a bag of four small fish the size of sardines, the smallest of which our little Edmund caught with squeals of delight. He couldn’t stop gushing with his excitement over his first catch. As soon as we got home, Peter volunteered to gut them, and I was happy to let him do so. He did a fine job in cleaning the fish and was beaming from ear to ear when we complimented him on his job well done. I guess you all know what we will be eating tomorrow for lunch. :=) [The fish was delicious by the way.]
But fishing wasn’t what was really on my heart to write about this time. The children had such a magical day that I’ll let the kids share that fish tale with you instead. I just finished the children’s mid-year homeschool evaluations this weekend so I thought I’d share a little on my thoughts with how this year of schooling has gone for us so far.
I think if I could describe our experience with our first half-year of homeschooling in one word, it would be TRUST. I am learning to trust in the natural process of discovery. To trust in my children’s innate learning capabilities, and most importantly, trust myself as their facilitator.
Before our school year began, I have to admit that I was incredibly intimidated with the responsibility of taking on the children’s education. I studied a lot about homeschooling, spoke to many homeschool moms about their experiences, attended a convention, and educated myself about the various resources and curriculum available. I thought a lot about homeschooling these past couple of years when we prepared for our nomadic life. But when it came down to doing, I was still incredibly nervous. I had many fears I couldn’t seem to shake off. Would the children listen to me as they would their teachers when I tried to help them with their lessons? Did I have it in me to be a “good teacher”? Would I be damaging the children’s education by taking them out of school for an indefinite amount of time? Would they learn everything they needed to know this year?
The list of doubtful questions went on and on, especially when people would ask me the same questions when I told them our plans. I crumbled under the look one homeschool mom gave me when she found out I was going to be homeschooling three kids for the first time while travelling. I always tried to sound confident with my decision to homeschool when I spoke with other school moms, but really, I wouldn’t really know for sure until I actually tried it.
Finally, the time had come when I had to jump in with both feet. The first couple of weeks were a little shaky, but overall, the results have been tremendous. Homeschooling is easier than I thought it would be (especially if you’re partly unschooling), and incredibly more efficient.
“Be sure that your children each day have something or someone to love, something to do, and something to think about.” ~Charlotte Mason
Of course, I’m only a baby homeschooler. I’ve only been doing this since the fall and I don’t have it all figured out yet. This is what I do know. In 3 short months, our children have experienced a rich hands-on educational classroom which has set their feet on 4 different continents. Coming from North America, landing in Europe, travelling to Africa, and resting a little while here in Asia. They are able to identify and label all 7 continents and 4 oceans on the world map, and also identify the countries and flags of Canada, USA, Spain, Morocco, Italy, and Turkey.
Through worldschooling, they have travelled to four different countries with entirely distinct languages, and have sampled a rich variety of national dishes, produce, and delicacies. They have learned the greetings of Hello and Goodbye, of Thank You and You’re Welcome for each country we’ve visited. While in Morocco, the kids were able to practice their French-speaking skills with the locals. Their worldschool field trips included: watching a bullfight in Spain; going on a camel trek and spending two nights in the Sahara desert; visiting Vatican City, the smallest nation in the world; tangibly experiencing history in Rome’s Colosseum and Pantheon; sea fishing in the Aegean Sea in Turkey; visiting numerous cathedrals, mosques and World UNESCO Heritage sites.
In Morocco we stargazed constellations and discovered the Milky Way in the Saharan night sky. We’ve read good books out loud together which have taken place in the countries we’ve visited. In Spain, we learned about the Spanish Inquisition through the novel Secrets in the House of Delgado by Gloria Miklowitz, drawing pictures of the characters of the book and learning a handful of rich vocabulary words. Narrating and writing a synopsis about each novel we’ve studied.
Through Worldschooling, they have journeyed in different modes of transportation. A plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean. A ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar. A camel ride in the Sahara desert. Rides in cars, taxis, trains, buses, on donkeys and horses.
I cannot say emphatically enough how much travel and homeschooling this year has tangibly changed my definition of education. Education is more than just books and getting excellent marks on exams. Education is not about having all the right answers. I was an honour student in school, but I can’t remember much about many of the subjects I took. The things I do remember are snippets of the subjects I was really interested about. To me, education is about learning something with a passion, and learning it well.
Education is all about becoming a life long learner. In this information age, it is easier to educate ourselves about anything. The information is literally at our fingertips. It is what we do with that information that matters.
“Self-education by means of real books, narration, first-hand experience, and observation is such a very satisfying and rewarding process that it naturally continues throughout life.” ~Charlotte Mason
Education is about growing and practicing character values such as perseverance, finishing what was started, doing something well and experiencing the pride of accomplishment. When we started homeschooling, my eight year old Peter cried out of frustration when he encountered some challenging math problems. A few months later, he’s really grown in confidence and love for math that he’s asked if he could do math in bed instead of read in bed.
Education through travel keeps us on our toes, always learning. When we lived in Edmonton, we didn’t really need much from people. We had a lot of everything and knew our way around. Now, being visitors in a different country, we need to ask for directions when we’re lost (in a different language or really good body language), or where to find the nearest grocery store or bathroom. Travel has its way of making one vulnerable to others, and in turn experience the goodness of people. Travel takes us out of our comfort level and helps in developing street smarts (and really good road crossing skills). It requires one to trust in their instincts and gut feelings on a particular person or situation. It can definitely show you what you’re capable of.
Our children have experienced now more than ever the kindness and hospitality of people in several countries. In turn, they’ve desired to reciprocate and exercise that generosity and kindness shown to them. In Morocco, they have given their food, money, and personal belongings to the less fortunate. They’ve learned to dress appropriately (no sleeveless clothing) in Muslim countries out of respect for their customs and beliefs. Education is about learning how to be a good person. It is about tolerance, respect, fairness, patience, compassion, and connecting with humanity.
“Tell me, and I will forget.
Show me, and I may remember.
Involve me, and I will understand.” ~Confucius
I am learning that education is an intuitive process, and that paying attention to a child’s interest is what will point them toward an authentic educational experience. It’s about having passion to learn new things, and believing in yourself. It is about developing self-confidence, and boldness in going after your dreams. For example, Susan loves to read and write, so she decided to write a novel. It is her dream to one day write a book which will eventually be made into a movie. Without any TV these past few months, she’s devoted her time to writing. So far, she’s written 7 imaginative chapters.
Homeschooling is a huge responsibility. I’m not complaining, I’m just being honest. Sometimes, I still struggle with doubt and fear, and wonder if I’m doing right by my kids. Certainly, I know that my teaching style is not perfect. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve failed them when I succumb to impatience, or have a difficult time answering an excellent question. Sometimes, when I panic, I think about packing for home and putting them back into school.
But then, something wonderful happens. I get to witness moments when it all comes together. When they surprise me with a beautiful thought or insight. When I see their significant progress in reading and writing. When I see my boy gather himself and tackle his math problems with determination. These little snippets give me reassurance that they are headed the right way. The beautiful thing is that we are headed that way with them.
In three short months, we have enjoyed an incredible time of family togetherness. The children always have their father with them, and they discuss current events and ideas. I think the most memorable discussion to date was when we were riding in the Dolmus (mini-bus) on the way into Fethiye. I observed the children’s rapt attention when Brian told them the story of the young fruit seller who became the catalyst for Tunisia’s revolution. It really sparked some passionate questions about revolutions and why people have them. It led to us giving them examples of other revolutions in the past such as Gandhi and his involvement with the Indian Independence Movement from the British, or the epic French Revolution and the eventual creation of their constitution which included Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.
Homeschooling is trusting in the natural learning process and focussing on the bigger picture. We have placed expectations on our children to persevere, to finish what they’ve started, to give their best, and take pride in their work. We tell them that we believe that they are capable of learning anything they set their mind to. It is our hope that they experience a richness of first-hand knowledge and use that to make the world a better place. We are holding our children close to us and setting them up to have a love for learning. We are living our education.
Written by Jenn