Ah homeschooling… A topic that has always plagued the back recesses of my mind space.
If you had spoken to me a year ago I would have told you (and I’m sure I did via this blog on a number of occasions) that home schooling is not for me. Not even a little bit. If I were to stay at home to teach my children, I’d either end up killing them or hiding in the bathroom with chocolate stains all over my face. Or they’d learn about like, um, well, uh. I don’t even know. Maybe how to clean the house while I read a book or something.
I didn’t think I’d be a very good teacher or that I’d have the patience to teach them anything. I think I was also secretly afraid that they would hate it, I’d be terrible at it and that in the end I would have totally messed my kids up.
Irrational maybe. But it’s how I felt. Aside from that, I like working and wasn’t really ready to give up my day job to stay home with the kids. As much as I love them. It just didn’t feel like a good choice for us at that point in our lives with the various commitments and things that we had.
Swing life forward a year and here we are, doing a bunch of things that I never thought we’d do.
Aside from the fact that we are now very much a homeschool family, I also live in a 7,5m2 van with my family of 3 kids and a hairy husband as we travel around Southern Africa. I’ve had to shower in places that make me cringe. I have reduced my clothing to what can fit into a large backpack. There’s only space for 5 pairs of shoes. I’ve only worn 2 since we’ve left Cape Town 2 months ago (don’t tell Seth or he’ll give the other 3 away). All things that I would never ever have thought were in the realm of possibility for me. Like ever.
But here we are. We’re doing. And like with most things you do outside of your comfort zone, the beginning phase of getting into it is difficult. Really difficult. But once you’re in it, man it becomes a wonderful thing.
Why are we homeschooling?
Well, this one is pretty obvious right?! When we packed up our lives into a van we couldn’t fit the school teachers in unfortunately. I did check with Seth, he said it was a no go. Many people have asked us if we are just giving them a break for the year and well, I didn’t even know that was possible. But aside from that, we wanted them to keep learning. This journey is there to benefit them not set them back a year even if it puts them ahead in life. If that even makes sense.
What are we teaching them?
We debated a lot of options but at the end of the day we wanted them to go back to school. So we chatted to the awesome school that they are at and got the curriculum from them. We took the English grammar, spelling and the maths books and that’s what we’re focusing on. The rest (think Geography, History, Science, Life Skills, Art etc) they are getting in abundance every single day from the adventures we go on.
When do we teach our kids?
I’m not going to lie to you. The first 3 weeks on the road we did nothing. It was the holidays but still. We just couldn’t cope with trying to fit in school AND deal with getting used to living on the road. So we lassed it. Which I think is one of the great parts of home school. You can do that. But the challenge then is to actually get on it at some point. Which we finally did when we hit Addo. School became a thing and we tried to do it as much as possible.
Which wasn’t much. It still wasn’t a priority. But I think we’re getting that balance right now that we have the emotional, mental and physical space to do it. Every morning Seth does school with the kids now, aside from the move days or when we have something big on like an all day hike or whatever. I think we all work better in the routing now, so it’s been good!
How are we teaching them?
We have two different approaches.
FOCUSED LEARNING –
During this time we whip out the grammar notes or the math books and go over the last concept we did. When we’re happy that they still remember what’s what there, then we do a new topic. I saw we here, but I really mean Seth because he does this most of the time while I work. Anyway, then they do some practise exercises to reinforce the new concept.
Another part of the focused learning is doing their journals where they record fun things we did and they draw a picture. And the girls read books out loud to keep up with their reading.
ABSTRACT LEARNING –
I’m a big fan of learning incidentally. Like when you’re not thinking you’re learning but actually you now know a whole bunch more than you did before you started with whatever it is you’re doing. So we do this a lot. Here’s a few ways we squash in some stuff while we do other things:
- AUDIO BOOKS – We drive a lot. Like 67 hours of our lives so far kind of a lot. So great audio books that force them to work on their listening skills as well as all the other benefits of being read to have been invaluable. We have gone through quite a few options, keeping them varied. We have listened to the first 4 Bear Grylls books on survival in different situations, Harry Potter 1 and 2, Peter Pan, Bad Dad, Gangsta Granny, Grandpa’s Great Escape, The Lightning Thief and a few others I can’t remember.
- HIKES – This teaches a few things, like perseverance and that kind of thing. But to keep them from complaining about how sore their feet are or whatever, we do the times tables. It’s amazing how it helps them to focus and takes their minds off the strain of the hike. I love it.
- GAMES!! – We are all about the games, I love games. Any games. Bring it on. We have Banana Grams, Uno, two packs of normal cars (think Butthead, formerly know as Asshole, Go Fish, Rummy etc), Chess, Checkers and a few others I can’t think of. These teach them numbers (more so Knox than the girls), how to lose with dignity and how to play by the rules. We even added a few extra rules in Uno that have them doing their 2 or 4 times tables.
- APPS – They only play on their phones when we drive. Obviously they have the useless games of having to make hotdogs for hungry people or styling hair or whatever, but then we also have games that focus on coding. Or word play. So they get to “play” and learn at the same time.
- EMAILS – Writing in their journals can be tiring for them sometimes, but writing an email to friends and family is exciting. So indirectly getting them reading what their grandparents have sent and then responding in a way that makes sense.
So the long and short of it is that we’re not home schoolers but we’re giving it a damn good try. I think it’s going pretty well so far, but if you have any trusty things that work for you, I’d love to hear them!