Author: Jody (like you had to guess ;) )
When people first heard about us travelling around the world, many wondered about what school might look like for the girls. After all, they are missing 6 months. Although there are many ways to approach it, and certainly it is a personal choice for each family, hopefully this blog will help to explain how we have decided to approach homeschooling on the road.
Most teachers would agree it is sometimes easier to teach other people's children than your own. I was nervous about homeschooling as sometimes doing homework together doesn't always go so well. Although we have had our moments, overall it is working nicely. I think this is because we discussed our intentions for schooling with the kids before we left. This initial conversation was also a rude awakening and acknowledgement that this is 'our world trip' and not a vacation. There is a distinct difference for us. Without a doubt, these early conversations set the stage for us on the road. So glad we had them!
Dave and I didn't have a deep philosophical discussion about what we wanted schooling to look like, truthfully we had just one. It was way too late at night in late November. We stayed up until about 1 am discussing our ideas of what this might look like. We were pretty aligned. Generally, we had 3 goals for the kids and ourselves on the trip:
Having taught grade 3 and 6 before (Avery and Meghan's grades), I am familiar with the curriculum. And yes, while there are 'units' of studies, the Alberta curriculum also has skills, knowledge and competencies we feel are even more important. Like the disciplines they are a part of, our kids will continue to develop them within in the world where these disciplines exist. So how are we doing this? Although the world is not compartmentalized into specific disciplines, for the sake of explanation, this is how I'll try to explain here.
Most of our experiences on the road are immersed within science and social study disciplines. Many of these experiences naturally align to what the girls would be studying within school. For example in grade 6 Meghan was studying Sky Science prior to us leaving. Time at NASA and the equator have helped to augment the knowledge she already had of this topic. In grade 3, the social studies curriculum focuses on global citizenship. Needless to say, Avery's time on the road will easily 'cover' this. We are able to encourage connections and draw the girls' attention to them if needed during these times.
Dave and I are naturally curious people so we hope to be fostering this through modelling, slowing down to read and asking questions to experts we meet along the way. Of course we have had moments where the kids breeze through museums while we wish them to take more time, but we have also had great moments too where they have wanted to look at churches, read plaques and ask questions too.
We are also trying to be very intentional in the conversations we have as a family. Listening carefully to the comments (Avery - I'm noticing that the models in advertisements look more like us than the people in Ecuador.), questions (Meghan - What does the moon have to do with the ocean's tide?) and experiences the girls have, help us all to think and wonder. In addition, we may watch a video or read an online article to learn more about something before we visit it. For example, last night we watched a kid friendly video about Charles Darwin and evolution prior to leaving for the Galapagos Islands on Saturday.
Each of us brought a journal (Ok - maybe more than one) that we are using to capture our memories, thoughts and reflections throughout the trip. This is our personal space for making sense of our journey. We have written, drawn, painted and glued in mementos. A moment in time of who we are and our experiences. One thing we are all doing the same though is a thinking routine (for the teachers out there) called CSI - colour, symbol, image. Before we leave any country, we all capture our thinking about the country by assigning a colour, symbol and an image to the country. We take time to share it with each other. The justification of each of these ideas not only sheds light on favourite parts of the trip but also reveal deep reflections about what was important to each of us during our time in that particular country. It's one of my favourite things.
Luckily for us, our kids are readers and writers. Santa brought them each a Kindle for Christmas. Although our hope was to be able to connect to the Calgary Public Library, we have learned very quickly that Kindles aren't compatible with the library. What was Santa thinking?! So, we have been busy downloading books for them.
The girls have decided they like doing 'school' in the morning so we start each day with an hour focused here. They still haven't caught on how much actual learning they do during the day!! ;) This time usually consists of math, although we are also incorporating these applications through money exchange, time differences, determining distances, etc. During this time the girls also research any questions they have and couldn't find the answers to through our experiences. We may work on the blog (an opportunity to develop writing skills - grammar, spelling, paragraph and sentence structure). We also research the country we will travel to next. Culturegrams (a fabulous free resource available through the Learn Alberta's Online Resource Centre) is fantastic for this. It provides geographic, economic, political and cultural information as well as customs and sayings which are helpful for tourists. The girls have been great about this part of the day. Now that it's part of our routine, there is very little balking anymore. This time is also great for Dave, who usually uses this time to continue booking flights and places for our trip.
So, this is how we are currently 'doing school'. However, it is fluid and flexible as we need it to be. Already things have changed and I'm sure they will continue to do so throughout this journey. Although this sounds like a lot - it actually isn't. It is just very much embedded with each day and the experiences we are having as a family on the road.
We're the Danchuks - follow our explorations and family adventures in a wide world (2018).