A Travellerspoint blog

Adventures in road-schooling

overcast -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.

Posted by The Rymans 06:34 Tagged family_travel

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I loved this post. We have had ups and downs with roadschooling too -- often left me feeling like a bad mom AND bad teacher -- but in the end I believe our kids have learned so much more that they will actually remember for life, as well as the kinds of lifeskills that will help them throughout life. We had a pretty traditional academic program to follow, dictate by their school, which was both good and bad -- good insofar as it gave structure to our roadschooling and kept us accountable, bad in that it hampered our homeschooling and travels at times, and I often abandoned the school's program altogether to follow our own curiosity and make the most of the travel adventure. I think you have given your children an amazing life lesson in culture, geography, resiliency and so much more -- kudos to you! We've really enjoyed your blog too.

by Sarah

I smiled when I read this and thought of everything our girls have learned out of school. When we returned from our rtw trip I was worried if we'd let them down - both their teachers couldn't believe their networking skills in a totally new school where they knew no-one. They had learned how to turn any situation to their advantage and can still do it - later this week will be their first day in the spanish school system, where all lessons are taught in spanish or Valenciano (the local language) and they will be at the mercy of spanish school dinners!

They are motivated by their daily spanish lessons and are relishing the challenge, knowing that it will be hard at times but rewarding - THAT'S what we taught them in 12 months travelling, and could have left all the books at home!
Great blog - I hope you settle well and enjoy the western treats!
Best wishes
CRFS xxxx


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