Posts Tagged With: roadschooling

Thank You

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I remember leaving Paris last November early in the morning, taking the cab to the secure parking lot on the edge of the city where we had housed our car, then realizing that in the very rushed exit from our apartment, we had not loaded the map onto the ipad. We had no paper map, and we knew that if we didn’t get out of the city now, it would be “rush hour”, and I was pretty sure we didn’t want to be trying to navigate the spaghetti-like roads in that! We managed, though, but again, it seemed a lot more stressful than it should have been…in retrospect, we should have chilled a bit more.

Anyway, the point was, leaving Paris in such a state – we briefly considered driving straight to Brugges rather than trying to find our way to Vimy Ridge, and then on to Belgium that same day. This very humbling poem that Darragh wrote yesterday for the local Legion’s Remembrance Day Poetry Contest makes me so glad we didn’t give in to our rather pathetic impulse to take the easier route.

Thank You

Last November, I was at Vimy Ridge

As I walked up the gravel path

The huge memorial appeared through the mist

Tall and graceful yet strong and powerful it stood.

On it were precise carvings – people in cloth,

Looking up to the sky.

Names carved in marble, names of soldiers who have died for us.

As my dad lectures on about wartime, I imagine:

Soldiers crawl up the bombed trenches

Aiming and shooting

Guns fire

Mud squelches under their boots as they run

Sheltering their heads with their hands

Escaping.

A bomb drops and the earth erupts in a torn explosion

Faces.

Some dead, some wounded, some dripping with tears

All expressionless, waiting for good news.

Hope.

A soldier yells as one of his friends is taken by a bullet.

He ducks, but I can feel his tears. Feel his pain.

Rain parades onto the dead landscape

As more guns fire and bombs explode.

I look up at the huge memorial.

Strong and Proud.

A small ray of light breaks through the fog –

That ray of hope soldiers waited for and never got.

That ray of light I now look at freely.

“Thank you”, I whisper to the breeze.

But I am really whispering to the soldiers who

Saved my country and my life.

Because of them, I see this sunlight.

Because of them, I have this hope.

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Missing

missing-youI feel a sense of missing, and I’m not sure if I am missing the travel, or the “roadschooling”, or the blogging…

I think it’s a case of all-of-the-above, actually.

We have been having a few “this time last year” conversations at home lately, so that brings about many reminiscences, and it’s interesting how each person’s perception of the memory differs from the others’, or how romanticized some memories have become already…

One year ago today, we were in Sauto. I wonder what we were doing? Darragh would have been playing with the dogs, no doubt, and we would probably be heading out for a hike somewhere in the afternoon, perhaps visiting our favourite mountain river if it was a sunny day, enjoying the deep jangling sound of the cow bells as the kids try to cross jumping from stone to stone. Or perhaps Dev was “challenging” us with a more strenuous afternoon at Carancas Gorge! Maybe we stopped at Casino or Super U on the way home to pick up some pasta, or even visited our favourite bakery in Font Romeu for a box of special surprises – tarte citron, pain chocolat…mmmm. Sounds so idyllic! And it was. Except for when it wasn’t.

And then there’s the “roadschooling” – frustrating at times, and quite stressful. Wondering if we were doing enough, and if the girls would be able to manage well back in the classroom.

Of course, now I see it in that idealized way we often see things when enough time has passed to erase the anxiety. Going back to Sauto, we would have eaten our supper and our tasty bakery treats, and then settled in for a couple of chapters of Danny Champion of the World – all five of us reading and talking together, worrying together about Danny and his Dad – would they get caught or not, wondering what was really the best way to catch a pheasant. What could be a better, more authentic way to teach and learn?

Funny, isn’t it, what the passage of time does? Back in the throes of our daily life, trying to finish the house, get everyone to their dance classes, band practices, and swim meets, going to work…it all seems so hectic. We never seem to have time, and then when we indulge in a little flashback to last year, it feels like we had so much of it then. And we did. But I do remember spending much of it doing, doing, doing, or if not, planning the next thing. I also remember feeling guilty for sitting doing nothing (on the rare occasions that actually happened). I remember thinking we really needed to cram every possible experience in to every available moment.

I don’t think we value “doing nothing” enough. As a society, even. Now I sometimes wish I had spent more of last year doing just that. Because how often do you get that opportunity!?  I wonder what it would have been like to just pick a place and stay put for a few months. Live life quietly together.

Nah, we would probably have been bored!

So, back to the missing…and the blogging. I miss that, too. And I know I said I would go back and write about the places I didn’t the first time around. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. It’s not immediate enough. That’s the thing about blogging, I guess. It’s now. Present. It never felt the same going back to blog something we did a few weeks ago, so to go back to a year ago or even several months seems artificial. Unless…

Unless then becomes now somehow. Like Sauto did this week as we spent time re-reading Darragh’s memoir. Or when we got all our unused postcards out over the weekend to find something for a collage someone was making for school, or when Mairi wrote about the Lake District a couple of weeks ago because Nana is going there at the end of the month, and she was reminded how much she loved it. There are so many of these opportunities – I just need to pay more attention to them!

So, I can blog.

Roadschooling Claytons is not over.

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Blogger’s Block

I have not been blogging on a regular basis. In fact, I’m having to make myself blog, which is highly unusual. So, I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with me. I don’t have much in the way of theories, but I’m hoping something will come to me as I pen this post. Not really penning, am I? Never mind. If I just keep randomly writing, perhaps my Blogger’s Block will just sort itself out as part of the process. That is my hope.
So, let’s explore the possible causes of this affliction. Is it because I have had nothing to discuss? Doubtful. I generally have far too much to say about everything, so surely that cannot be it.
Is it because we haven’t been anywhere? Well, we have only been in England since before Christmas really, so we haven’t been “roadschooling” exactly. But when you think about it, we are not at home (which means we could consider ourselves on the road), and we are still teaching the kids on a daily basis. So, why am I not writing about our experiences? We have been to The Lake District twice since Christmas, and we are, at this very moment, in Scotland. Which definitely qualifies as on the road. So, what’s the hold-up?
I have noticed in the past that I tend to blog when an experience or place really moves me in some way, when my emotions are heightened. Often, the emotion which precedes the blogging seems to be frustration. But sometimes it’s not. It has been wonder. Excitement. Anger. Fear. But if I look at the Tag Cloud on the front page of my blog, the word challenges leaps out at me as one of the biggest.
Perhaps there haven’t been any challenges lately? Ummm…nope, that’s not it. We have recently had to abandon the Central American part of our adventure due to lack of funds, so that has certainly been challenging. That could be it – we’ve both been struggling with this decision quite a lot. It’s weird, but it almost feels like we’re selling out somehow. Like we are not fulfilling our potential or something. We have both had feelings of regret, I think. And for me, part of my discomfort about the decision is that in many ways, I feel relieved. Relieved that I don’t have to plan another, even more intense, journey to an unknown place. Relieved that I don’t have to convince the kids that this is a good idea. Relieved that I don’t have to put myself through the worry and stress of…well, of many things, actually. And I don’t want to feel this way. But sometimes I do. Because it is exhausting. Mentally. Emotionally. And even physically at times.
On the other hand, I feel like what if we haven’t done enough? Have we really made the most of our year off? Because obviously this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Will we regret not sucking up the extra debt and just going for it? Shouldn’t we be on safari in Africa? Snorkeling a barrier reef in Belize? Touring the tombs in Egypt? After all, when will we ever have the chance again? It is a dilemma.
So, why have I not been blogging about this one? Maybe because it has been a little too raw. Too close to my heart. Maybe I don’t want to feel like a failure when all these people keep saying how brave we are. And while we are on the topic of bravery, that one has made me feel a bit uncomfortable too, I must admit. Because I spend quite a bit of my time not feeling very brave at all. In fact, a whole lot of this year has made me feel frightened. More so than I would ever want to admit. So, am I brave? Some days I think not at all. And other days, I think, hold the phone – we did sell our house, take our kids out of school, and leave our home for ten months. We are going back to build a house while living who-knows-where. This is brave, right? Right. So, even if I feel scared, I’m still doing stuff. Perhaps that does qualify as brave.
I still can’t help thinking I will wake up one morning in a year’s time and think, “Why did we not do that thing we wanted to do?’. And I don’t want the answer to be that I was too afraid to make it happen.
My friend and guru Kim has a theory about my happy little life on my idyllic little Island with my idyllic country house. And my idyllic little daughters. Hmm. And my idyllic husband. Hmmmmm.
Anyway, her theory is that it made me “go to sleep”. And I can see that she’s right in so many ways. I’m not as fierce as I once was. Or as fearless. Or as adventurous. And perhaps I was never any of those things by some people’s standards, but I have certainly been less so over the past number of years. So, have I done enough to “wake up”? I guess that’s the big question.

What the hell is this blog post supposed to be about, again?!?
Oh, yes, Blogger’s Block. I think we can probably all agree that it doesn’t seem to be a problem any more. It seems like perhaps the opposite is occurring. Random Ramblings might be a better title for this post.

Anyway, I will attempt to re-commit to the blog. Now that I have shared my innermost secrets, perhaps I will feel more free to share the less complicated goings-on of the Roadschooling Claytons. Like our visit to Edinburgh Castle today. And the over-priced coffee we bought at The Elephant House so our kids could join the graffiti-loving Dumbldore’s Army in the very cafe where JK Rowling wrote parts of the second and third Harry Potter books. And the haggis we tried in Auld Jock’s Pie Shop. And so many more little tales and tidbits I’ve been keeping all to myself lately.

Yes, there really is lots to talk about. And I’m way behind!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

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2012 in Review

This is the review sent to me by the WordPress Monkeys apparently. I don’t know who they are, but I picture a Santa’s Workshop type situation, but with monkeys instead of elves.
Anyway, it was kind of fun to look at (for me), given that I felt I thrived on “comments” and “likes”. Turns out, I didn’t get many of those, but I loved blogging all the same! And I was surprised at how many posts I had actually published in 2012! I have been super lazy with my writing lately, but I will resolve to begin again with the dilemmas and adventures of 2013. We are currently on dilemmas actually, as we try to negotiate travel arrangements for the next four months. I feel kind of like we’re starting all over again, and it’s taking up a lot of time and energy. That, combined with trying to cram math into the kids while cramming chocolate into my mouth hasn’t left me with a lot of blogging time. The Christmas chocolate is almost all gone, though, so I’m thinking my general productivity should increase as the pile of chocolate decreases. That’s the hope, anyway.
Happy New Year, Everyone, and thanks for reading! Here’s to a 2013 full of exciting educational adventures! (And hopefully a beach or two – they can totally be educational.)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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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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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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