Posts Tagged With: homeschooling

Stormschooling

blizzardSo, we know about homeschooling, and we have extended that to roadschooling, but we’ve got a new one this year – stormschooling. Definition: the act of trying to supplement your children’s education while you are buried under 12 feet of snow.

For us, with our youngest daughter, this has been a bit of a blessing in disguise. She has been struggling to work at the same pace as her class in math, as many children do, and although we have been trying to work with her daily at home, we often find we are playing catch-up. After an unsatisfying performance on a test, we work on the skills she hasn’t mastered yet, but by the time we get to that, the damage to her self-esteem and her confidence with math in general, has been done. Also, the daily schedule of extra-curricular activities and homework makes it hard to fit “extra” math in. So, storm days provide us with an opportunity to do some focused math work in areas where we know she really needs it, and it can be spread out over the day so it doesn’t get too exhausting. It takes me back…

She is in the same grade our middle daughter was in the year we were on the road. We used lots of different tools in our roadschooling – lots of iPad apps, as well as online tutorials like Khan Academy, games, as well as more traditional drills, and even text books. It’s interesting to see what she responds to most, compared to her sister. Lots of the tools are still good, but I find myself having to search for more exciting ones as well, or just different ones from those her sister enjoyed/tolerated. We are finding motivation a bit off at times.

So far, the best motivation has been “math prizes” – Dollar Store purchases that are bestowed upon her periodically, not just for doing the math, but for doing it with a positive attitude. That’s the trickiest part. The fact that, as far as she’s concerned, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not the teacher, and am I actually aware that place value was weeks ago?! My clever response, “Place value is every day for the rest of your life,” does not seem to provide the motivational boost I require.

A three dollar Webkin, however, combined with weather conditions that do not allow easy escape, seems to work quite nicely. Bring it on, Winter!

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Sometimes You Just Need a Field Trip.

Symptom: kids don’t want to do schoolwork
Diagnosis: too much bookwork lately
Remedy: field trip

We haven’t had many field trips since returning to England; I think we were all just tired of being on the road, especially the girls, and we were content to stay around “home” most of the time. We did have a morning in nearby Tropical World last week, but otherwise, we’ve been trying to catch up on some of the schoolwork that kind of requires sitting at a table. And the girls have claimed to be fine with that, but recent minor behavioural infractions made us think otherwise; they needed some variety. But even last night, when we announced we were going to have a day out, there was much reluctance.
They are still wary of going anywhere in case we get lost, or there are pickpockets, or the car will be broken into, or just that they will be dragged around for hours on end against their will (especially the little one). As if we would ever do that.
Anyway, Liah came round a bit when she remembered that our chosen destination had an old-fashioned sweet shop, and she was allowed to take her tooth-fairy money, so off we went to Haworth, a village about an hour northwest of us.
After wandering around the shops a bit, having lunch, and accumulating about a pound of sweets between us, we went to the Bronte Parsonage Museum, despite Liah’s quiet protestations. I wrote my honours essay on the Bronte sisters when I was doing my BA, and am a huge fan, so I was excited to go to the museum; I hadn’t been since I was in my teens. The girls haven’t read the books yet but Mairi has read an abridged version of Wuthering Heights, so she, at least, is a little bit familiar. On our way past the Black Bull pub, I commented, a little smugly, that it is the very pub Branwell Bronte used to drink in. I barely had this I-know-more-about-the-Brontes-than-all-of-you statement out of my mouth when Mairi pipes up, “And he got his opium across the street at the Apothecary”. Naturally, I demanded, “How do you know that?”, to which she replied, ” I read it at the apothecary”. Bam! Put me in my place.
Anyway, we continued to the Parsonage which everyone enjoyed. Liah thought it was fantastic, and said how glad she was we went. With the remainder of her tooth money, she bought a wooden toy soldier because that’s what the Brontes played with in “the olden days”. The other two were inspired by the tiny books the Bronte children created when they were similar ages to them, and they bought quill fountain pens to write their own.
I was, once again, amazed by the depth of their natural curiosity and love of learning that is so often missing when they are sitting in front of the books. I didn’t have to point anything out, or try to interest them in anything.They took their guide books and off they went. And as usual, I was done before the older two had finished poring over the Victorian artifacts, partly because I was so often prematurely dragged along to the next room by Liah – “Come in here. You have to see this – it is so cool! You’re gonna love it!”

For more on Haworth, check out my article at What Travel Writers Say

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Sometimes School Might Suck.

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There is nothing like another day of trying to teach stuff to your own kids to bring you down from the high of an awesome night out. I knew this would be tricky, this roadschooling business, just based on previous frustration levels when I’m helping the kids with their homework. But I guess I didn’t realize how tricky. Flashback to my “osmosis” theory where we just provide the opportunity for learning, and then it happens naturally….but, in the immortal words of Jim Royle, “Naturally, my arse”.
I know for sure my kids are unfailingly respectful in the classroom. In fact, too much so sometimes, to the point that they are afraid to ask for help or express an opinion. And that’s not what I want, but oh, how I sometimes wish that were the case in this classroom with this teacher. Because if it were, nobody would say things like this:

I’ll write, but I’m only writing one page.
Ugh, not this again. I just did five questions exactly like this. Why would I do more?
If you give me a chocolate biscuit, I’ll read that.
What is the point in learning division if its “exactly the same as multiplication”?
No, I would never say that to my teacher, but that’s because my teacher would never ask me to write something stupid like this.
Argh, would you just tell me the answer!?! I don’t need you to explain all that stuff!
Well, I suppose I’ll do it, but it doesn’t make any sense so I don’t see why I should. Why do you round up when it’s five? Five is in the middle, so why wouldn’t I round down? It’s just stupid.
I was wrong about this homeschool thing. I thought it would be fun, but it’s just boring old work and “do this, do that”.

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Practice Mini-Trip.

We just spent a night in Halifax, all of a three and a half hour drive away from us. We have done this many many times before, but this time, my focus was very different. I viewed this as a little practice for the big thing – a very tiny glimpse into what could be…Now, I know you can’t compare a 3 or 4 hour road trip with driving to Mexico (for example), but you can learn from it. And we did. On the way home, we asked the kids what they had learned from the experience, and they said “Be Prepared”. That about sums it up, and it’s really good advice. But here are a few more things we learned as the parents and planners of the upcoming trips:

  1. Having the right clothing, footwear, and “accessories” can make or break your day. We stopped in Truro at Victoria Park, a great park for hiking complete with waterfalls and streams (to play in, as it turned out). So, when we arrived, we got the kids to change from flip flops to sneakers for our little hike in the woods (sensible.), but then when they insisted on getting wet, turns out flip flops may have been more appropriate. So, now we know we need some all terrain sandals that will go in water and still be ok for hiking. Check. Also, naturally, one child “needed” to swim in the waterfall, but wouldn’t take off her pants out of modesty, so then we had the issue of wringing wet pants for the walk back to the van (I had brought towels, but they were in the trunk). So, we need a backpack of fresh clothing and a towel next time. Check. It was hot. Unexpectedly hot. Only one of us had a hat, and only one of us put on sunscreen prior to leaving the house. I brought sunscreen, but it was in the suitcase, buried under other toiletries, teddy bears and clothes. So, always have sunscreen readily available no matter what the weather when you set out. Check. And hats. We had to go back to the van a little earlier than we wanted to due to hot heads and the fear of uncomfortable scalp sunburn.
  2. Having some kind of system of organization in the vehicle can make things a lot more pleasant for everyone. After only a couple of hours in the van,  the back looked like a bomb site. Books and notepads all over the floor. Bags everywhere, random shoes in the aisle, and snack-garbage strewn around the seats. Then nobody can find what they are looking for, or someone is constantly having to pass something to someone else, and there may even be fighting in the back. So, I have asked the kids to start thinking about how to organize the chaos, because if it’s like that after two hours, I dread to think what it will be like after twelve. I need to think about this too. There must be some good ideas on this out there, so I will look. Check.
  3. Everyone needs to be assigned an individual job when we stay in hotel rooms (or anywhere, really). Five people sharing a room is ok for a night, even if it is crowded and chaotic. But what about longer stays? In order for those to work, I think we need assigned jobs, and kind of an “order of operations”. What do we do immediately upon arrival? Unpack. Put stuff away. Basically, create space. What needs to be checked during the final sweep of the hotel room before leaving? Someone could do drawers, another person bathroom and shower, another can do plug outlets for chargers etc. And because Darragh’s pj top no longer lives with us, we now know someone also needs to check under the bedding! This could save us a lot of time, and a lot of repetition. It’s efficient, and I like efficiency. It will also teach responsibility and save us money on items we would have had to re-buy if we left them in the hotel room! Check.
  4. We need to determine what makes an educational experience into a home-schooling experience. We went to the Museum of Natural History, and of course, the girls loved it, and I’m sure they learned a lot. From how big a hummingbird’s egg is, and what fox poop looks like, to how igneous rock forms. So, as we sat there watching them count the mammals in one big display case, we looked at each other and said, “so, is this it, or do we have to do something?”. Yes, folks, that was our lesson plan. This was a great lesson for us, because clearly, that is not enough. What do we do prior to the visit to set it up? How does the focus need to differ for the three ages of our kids? Do we let them choose their own learning focus? What should they be doing while in the museum? After the visit? We need to do a little more thinking around these issues! Check.
  5. Hotel rooms for five people are ok, even without a cot. Turns out, Liah likes the floor. Awesome! And just while we are on the subject of hotels, the ones with the complimentary breakfast are definitely the way to go. Such a saving for us. And a pool. Because a pool makes everything ok.
  6. The 4G ipad rocks. Yes, this is the final thing we learned on our trip. When we said, “I’m not sure if we are going the right way – I think we may have missed the exit”, the ipad and its little flashing blue dot told us we were fine. When we were trying to decide where to eat supper, we spun the wheel-of-fortune-like spinner on the Urbanspoon app and it gave us plenty of suggestions to match our taste and budget. And it takes fabulous pictures. And it turns out, there is an app that can organize my life. I got it, but I can’t figure out how to use it. 
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Is there an app for that?

So, we’ve been saving since September to buy an ipad. Yes, I know I wrote a previous post about too much technology, and yes, I am still struggling with that. However, an ipad that has 4G connectivity seems to be the best way for us to access the internet wherever in the world we may be.

We finally got it (a “Mother’s Day present” for me), and I have been up late every night trying to figure it all out and find the best apps – mostly the best apps for travel and the best apps for home-schooling and  education. What I have discovered to this point is that I need an app to organize myself and my life (and my apps). So, is there an app for that??

It seems there are millions of apps, and I want to know which are the best one to actually buy (and yes, I have read all the online articles entitled “Top Ten Apps”etc, and I’m still confused). I have downloaded quite a few free ones so far, but they just take up space unless they are actually useful. And I don’t know if they are or not.

So, is there an app that can accommodate several potential travel itineraries side by side so I can compare and see what seems like the best option? Is there an app to replace the scribbler in which we house all our notes on selling the house, building the new house and travelling? Is there an app that tells me how to teach the weird new-age math strategies to my 8 year old so that she doesn’t come back to grade 3 all old-fashioned and behind? Is there an app that will ensure my 13 year old will still know how to play the clarinet when we return so she can be in the grade nine band? Is there an app that tells me if the website that says “only one seat left on this flight” or “last day at this price” “or book now to save $500” is actually for real?  Is there an app that will measure my blood pressure as I try to get my head around all the apps? Is there a yoga app to calm me down if I inadvertently slip into panic mode and end up with high blood pressure?

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The World is a Book…

Strangely, I only just came across this quote from St Augustine over the weekend. I find it comforting. As I continue to wonder about where to travel and how to educate the kids while we do, this quote makes me relax a little bit. If the world is a book, and we are giving ourselves and our children the opportunity to explore it, this is literacy with a capital L. Global literacy. Real life literacy.

In Finland, kids only go to school for three hours a day. And I’ve read research that suggests our students are actively engaged in learning for less than that in the run of a typical six hour school day. So, my plan is an hour of numeracy each day (which will have to be scheduled and enforced because it is unlikely to happen naturally), and an hour of literacy (which will likely become several hours a day because it does come naturally!). The rest is just gravy. Thick, rich, and delicious gravy.

Looking back at previous posts, I question how and if we will be capable of educating our children while on the road. Of course we will! We’ll just be reading this giant book called “The World”.

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Global Curriculum??

 

 

I’m starting to obsess just a little bit over what we will be teaching our kids, and whether they will be able to seamlessly transfer into the next grade when we return. At first, I thought, “the world will be our curriculum…” in a kind of hippie-trance like state that comes from things not being imminent. But now, it’s imminent, and all of a sudden, I’m thinking about times tables and science concepts and literacy and project based learning and live binders etc etc, and it’s a bit of a puddle in my head. Of course, my hippie dictum is not that far wrong, and in moments of lesser panic, I can see that. The problem is, I don’t want to mess up. I don’t want to be standing in front of the best educational stimulus there ever was, and not notice it. Or at least, not know what to do with it. I could trip over a math PBL and I wouldn’t recognize it. I can imagine the wonderful writing experiences and real life publishing possibilities when they can blog to the world, but it’s the other stuff that sort of throws me. I don’t want Mairi to be sitting in a grade 9 classroom next September listening to the phrase “Remember when we did this in grade 8…” and stressing over the fact that she didn’t actually do it.

My dream for my girls is that they come back not just well educated and more globally aware, but more confident and self-assured. More ready for the trials of adolescence. More digital – real 21st century learners. More empathetic. More worldly. More everything.

I have had very high expectations for this year off, and I am just beginning to realize the pressure that these expectations are putting on me. I guess I really thought it would all just “happen”. And maybe it will. But in case it doesn’t, I’m feeling a lot of pressure to make it happen.

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Can we school our kids on the road??

Well, it doesn’t seem so long ago that we were first talking about our year off as a distant, and somewhat unlikely, event, but here it is less than one year away and it’s time to start planning! Our daughters will be 13, 11, and 9 when we embark on our journey. So now I’m wondering, can we “roadschool” them? How will this work? What will it look like? Will they be behind when they return to school?

 

And on top of all that, where will we go?

Time to start planning…

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