28.02.2010 - 28.02.2010 -4 °C
For most of our half year away, we worried intermittently about what the kids were missing while they were out of school. Sure, we were homeschooling them—but we weren’t kidding ourselves about our meager talent in that area. We were resourceful, but not creative, and we had many factors working against us: lack of routine, absence of peer pressure, insufficient consequences for bad behaviour, lack of classroom materials and supports. The kids didn’t see us as authentic authority figures when it came to their educations, and it showed in the way they responded to us as students. Ciaran in particular was often extraordinarily difficult and resistant. There were countless homeschooling sessions that left us thinking it would have been more enjoyable to spend the two hours strapped to a chair with someone poking us repeatedly in the eyeballs.
But now that we’re nearly home and able to stake stock of what they did learn, we realize that while they’ll probably catch up easily on academics, “road school” is the only place they could possibly have acquired a whole slew of abilities.
Ciaran learned how to flag down a taxi, use chopsticks, walk into a restaurant and request a table for four, order food, ask for the bill, make Vietnamese spring rolls, ride, feed, bathe and train an elephant, identify six kinds of tropical fruit trees, read chapter books in both languages, swallow pills, make new friends with the kick of a soccer ball, play about 80 new Nintendo DS games, say no to touts and hawkers, and manage without toys for six months. He also perfected his front crawl.
Chloe learned the art of poi, Balinese dancing and painting, greetings and numbers in half a dozen languages, how to write a newspaper article, how to cook a Thai meal, set up a mosquito net, bargain at markets, give a good pedicure, babysit, recognize a scam unfolding, trust her instincts, perform card tricks, and fold cloth dinner napkins about 500 different ways.
Both kids learned how to handle themselves in chaotic Asian traffic, convert eight different currencies to dollars, and play the Balinese xylophone; they learned the basic principles of Hinduism and Buddhism, the history of Angkor Wat, the harm that landmines can do, and what an ashram is; they learned how to snorkel and body board, ride a camel, and spot a good used book at 20 paces; what a tropical storm feels like, how to order Indian food, and what colonialism was.
My own list is not so impressive, but I did finally learn what a SIM card is and does. More significantly, I learned that I am not cut out for teaching, that my kids are more resilient, adaptable travelers than I am, and also that my kids are less likely to catch a stomach bug during six months of rough travel in Asia than during one winter at school in Ottawa. I also learned the importance of keeping Gravol handy on long bus rides.