“How do you educate your kids when you are on the road?” “The thought of homeschooling makes me want to vomit!” “Will I hate the kids trying to be their mum and teacher?” So many things to think about when you take the kidlets out of school for an extended adventure. Our community is filled with amazing families who are on the road, exploring this incredible country with their young children in tow. So we asked a couple of them to share their thoughts and experiences in relation to schooling.
Say hello to Emma from My Rig Adventures – here is her candid take on Homeschooling:
“I was driving along recently, with the kids in the back seat, when Dominic piped up, “Mum, why do snails leave a silver line behind them?” I thought upon it for a minute, then replied, “well, because they’ve got slime on their bodies, so when they move along the ground, they leave a wet, slimy trail behind them as they go.” This then sparked a discussion about what the word ‘slime’ meant, how snails move (I suggested we YouTube this one), the snail Indii found on the stairs the other day plus many other things, mostly snail-related. This is homeschooling (and unschooling).
We are the Riggs Family; Allan (33), Emma (33), Dominic (9) and Indii (7). In August 2016 we sold our house and gave everything away to live full-time on the road in a caravan. The best decision we’ve ever made! One of the biggest questions I get asked is, “but what about schooling, how do you educate your kids?” During our journey leading up to this major lifestyle change I spent months researching and talking to other homeschooling parents armed with my many questions (related Facebook groups were a godsend). I’d found that Distance Education was very time consuming and not flexible enough for us. There was no guarantee that we would have internet reception when they needed it; plus we didn’t want to be tied down to 3-6 hours of formal school work each day, while we were all itching to get out and explore the region around us. So homeschooling was the obvious option for us. But how does this all work without having a fixed address? Well after discussing it with the Home Education Unit of Queensland (HEU), I found that we didn’t fit in there either. Their requirements were that we must have a permanent address and that we were not to travel for more than 50% of the year. Where does that leave us? Well, we are free to do our own homeschooling, but I do keep examples to produce to authorities if need be, showing that the kids are learning and progressing.
Our style is fairly freeform, I like to call it ‘Roadschooling.’ This year I went to Officeworks and bought all of the workbooks they had, which suited our children’s learning levels. I don’t like to pigeon-hole them into age group levels as this is a very one-size-fits-all way to rate them academically. I prefer to teach them according to the level they are actually at (regardless of whether that is higher or lower than what their age dictates). These books cover the basic maths and english skills they need. We also go to Libraries and Op Shops to swap around reading books. A few mornings a week (mornings are best, as their attention span is really only available for a short burst, then it’s gone!), we do a bit of bookwork. Usually a double page of a maths book, a double page from an english book, then they read a few pages from a story book. Some days go better then others. Dominic is a perfectionist and gets completely overwhelmed when he sees a task that he doesn’t feel he can get right the first time. So this takes patience and encouragement. Sometimes I need to ditch the workbook and find another way of teaching him that is more fun and less scary for him. Indii gets overwhelmed when the task looks too long and has trouble just focussing on it step-by-step. I have also picked up a stack of educational games from Op Shops along the way, which the kids enjoy. And that’s basically it for the formal stuff, but the learning doesn’t stop there. As you can see from the snail example above, there are many opportunities that arise every day through incidental conversation that stimulate learning experiences. Chatting about random things we see, hear, touch, smell and think about are great ways to incorporate learning. Sometimes we back it up by watching a YouTube video or Google search to find out more. The kids have their own tablets and are quite proficient with searching for things online (with monitoring of course). The main thing they need help with is spelling, but that is coming along slowly. Practice and encouragement are the keys.
Getting outside, exploring, climbing, getting dirty/ muddy/ wet and playing freely are great stimulators for using their imaginations. When the kids tap into their imagination, they quite often come up with their own ideas for art and science (baking, sewing, making, testing, inventing). This is the basis of unschooling; learning through living. Think about it, how has the human race thrived for thousands, possibly millions of years (because how do we truly know), when mainstream schooling has only been around for for a few hundred years? We have always learnt from the world around us and from each other, passing down the skills and knowledge that we have to the younger ones. Learning does not stop when you walk out of the school gate, nor does it cease when you finish school or tertiary education. Learning is lifelong, from the moment you’re born to the moment you die. So for us, it makes sense to let this process grow and flourish naturally, while the kids get to explore whatever interests them and support them however we can.
Incorporating these ideals to life on the road is just perfect. From gold panning, following maps, trekking through the bush, starting camp fires, living off solar power and limited water supplies, visiting observatories, living simply without the distraction of too many material items, learning to make friends with whoever is around (young and old), visiting crocodile habitat, plus so many more opportunities are how these kids will learn and grow. So how can we educate our kids when they don’t go to school? Well, I ask you, how can we possibly live without educating them?”
A great addition to your schooling box of goodies in one of our Aussie made Travel Journals…