[message type="custom" width="100%" start_color="#FFFFFF" end_color="#FBF8FF" border ="non" color=""]This is part of a series where I answer your questions. Have a question you'd like to ask? Email me.[/message]Recently I received this email from a reader:
Two years ago we lived in a farm 5 hours from the nearest village. We received guests there who came to enjoy the wonders of nature on horseback.
For four years we run the place until our eldest complained he didn't have any friends. Then we decided to move back to ____________ and give them (and ourselves) a social life. Since then we haven't been able to find a job that inspires us as we were at the farm.
Lots of ideas have passed our minds and the first was to travel the Americas with the kids. As we thought we needed stability we stayed and also the question of how to earn a living on the road kept us from going.
Now that I read your story and those of others we do see a possibility and we have many questions that we'd like to ask you if we may?
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I realize most of our questions are practical, trying to find a daily rhythm that could work for all of us:
- How do you homeschool different ages at the same time?
- At which moment do you manage to work (write etc) on the computer with the rhythm of the day (schooling, cooking, excursions) etc. I have a 4 hour a day online job. Would it be realistic to continue this while on the road?
- Do you find you have good internet access with your 3g phone in South America? Which areas are more difficult?
- What kind of food do you cook in the back of your car? Do you buy everything fresh daily? Or do you have some way to conserve it?
- Our kids go to a waldorf school here. Do you know of any waldorf homeschool curriculum?
- Have you by any chance met any hispanic families doing what you are doing?
1. How do you homeschool different ages at the same time?
The approach that I take toward homeschooling is known as the Thomas Jefferson Education (although I'm working on my own version of it, adding the educational elements of travel, and calling it a Teddy Roosevelt Education... stay tuned for more on this in the future.)
In this model, you work with children according to the stage or phase they are in... Core Phase; Love of Learning Phase; or Scholar Phase.
Younger children are in Core Phase. The goal of this phase is to teach them values -- kindness, respect, love, truth and error, sharing, etc. They spend their time pursuing activities they enjoy. (Throughout each phase, I structure their time, but not the content. Study time happens everyday. What is studied is determined by each child.)
My role as the parent is to assist, support, encourage, mentor and provide direction and help when needed. My son wants to learn how to draw, so I provide the resources, and most likely do some drawing with him -- whether that's learning together from a book, online or from an instructor.
During Core Phase we also do a lot of reading aloud -- stories from this classics list -- as well as hands on activities (building things, cooking, etc.), field trips (like this one to watch pig porn), arts and crafts, music (singing, dancing, listening to classical music), and so much more. We play games, do spelling bees, speak in Spanish and generally have lots of fun.
Currently, the majority of my children are in the Core Phase... they'll move on to the Love of Learning (LOL) Phase when they are developmentally ready, which will be at a different chronological age for each child. In LOL Phase, the focus is on adding personal reading time (with writing and discussion time as well) to the activities they're already doing in Core Phase (my oldest daughter is slowly moving into this phase), with the goal of helping them develop a love of learning by reading incredible, fascinating stories that teach important life principles.
As their reading and writing abilities increase -- (because believe it or not, even though it seems like we're just having lots of fun, plenty of reading and writing still gets done -- whether it's making signs or writing notes, reading recipes or instructions) -- then those activities become more enjoyable for them, and they spend more time doing them.
There is an entire philosophy that goes behind what I'm telling you, which I plan to expound upon in future posts. For now, the short answer to your question is:
I manage homeschooling different ages by focusing on the Phase they are in, and helping them to pursue their personal goals and interests, instead of trying to direct each child according to where they 'should' be via government school standards... I'm not concerned about that. My goal is to give my children a much better education than they could ever receive attending formal schooling, by applying principles that are proven (based on the philosophies of the 'founders' of education -- like Vygotsky, Erickson, Piaget and others).
I also focus on structuring time, not content, so I'm not stressed about trying to deliver 'lessons' to each of my children at their different age levels. (Read this article on how to homeschool without getting overwhelmed to learn more.) Basically, my children are choosing activities that interest them, and I'm there making sure they have every opportunity to pursue it.
One other critical element is that I am there modeling learning for my children. While they cook or read or play games or draw, I am there with them during study time pursuing my own studies, passions and interests. I'm learning Spanish, reading from the classics, practicing the ukulele or doing an activity with them. This is crucial!!
(Just a note: This method differs from unschooling in that as children mature and move to Love of Learning and then Scholar Phase, they are challenged more. During Scholar Phase they no longer choose everything they want to learn... they are mentored, challenged and 'pushed' beyond their personal limits, but this comes after they've already developed a voracious love of learning, and are personally up to the task. Unfortunately, this approach is usually taken in school with children who should be in Core or Love of Learning Phase and aren't developmentally ready for it, resulting in a hate of learning instead.)
2. At which moment do you manage to work (write etc) on the computer with the rhythm of the day (schooling, cooking, excursions) etc. I have a 4 hour a day online job. Would it be realistic to continue this while on the road?
The simple answer: I create a schedule or system.
Yes, it would be possible to continue your job on the road, but you would have to be disciplined, and you would need to plan for the inevitable 'hiccups' that will most likely occur.
I have found that it is much easier to work while we are renting a house in some destination that we're visiting (or at least staying in one place for a time. That's a major reason why we've been in Panajachel for so long.)
Staying in one place gives us the opportunity to figure out internet, and then be able to use it consistently. It also gives a regular routine, so I make sure I have work time everyday.
My routine (while renting or staying in one place) looks like this:
- arise early so I have time for writing and personal study
- work with my kids on breakfast and household chores
- study time together until lunch
- work time for me until dinner
- dinner and evening time as a family
- work and study time for me before bed
Of course this routine changes if we do 'field trips' or excursions, visit friends or work on other projects. But for the most part, if we're 'at home', this is what we do.
I try to follow this routine while we're on the road, but it doesn't always work as smoothly. There's countless hiccups that we can encounter. Maybe the weather is bad, or it's really cold (or hot), so instead of staying put and working/studying, we get on the road and drive. We might be in a bad internet spot, or won't be able to find an internet cafe with fast speeds.
Perhaps we'll be out of food and have to go shopping. Or the auxiliary batteries are dead so I can't plug in my computer. Or... well you get the idea. There are inevitably a lot of variables when you're actively on the road. You have to plan for these and work around them to successfully work while traveling. Or you might opt for seasons of travel and seasons of staying in one place -- it could be a new place every time, but it could provide that consistency that you need.
3. Do you find you have good internet access with your 3g phone in South America? Which areas are more difficult?
We are currently in Central America, but this answer will apply to South America as well (and most countries in the world.)
In any good size city or large town you'll be able to find internet. Most of these countries also offer internet data plans for phones. When you purchase a SIM card to use in your smartphone, then you'll be able to purchase a data plan as well (you usually pay for usage.)
Anywhere that you have good cell-phone coverage, you'll have good internet service. Remote locations are often more difficult. You might have internet still, but it will be on an Edge network instead of 3G.
4. What kind of food do you cook in the back of your car? Do you buy everything fresh daily? Or do you have some way to conserve it?
My husband built a camper on our truck, so we have a kitchen with a two burner propane stove we purchased in Mexico (our Coleman stove was dead by then).
I'll cook stir frys, rice and beans, pancakes, pasta, oatmeal, eggs, toast, even stovetop granola and anything else you can do on a stove (you start to get creative).
We don't buy everything fresh everyday, but we do shop often (partly because we eat so much too). We do have a cooler to keep some things in, like milk or eggs (which don't have to be refrigerated in Latin America).
We'll also eat out, because it's so inexpensive here. We'll buy tamales, tacos, pupusas, soup, corn and other roadside foods. It's fast, easy and really good!
5. Our kids go to a waldorf school here. Do you know of any waldorf homeschool curriculum?
I don't personally know of any Waldorf curriculum, but I did find this article about a Waldorf-inspired homeschool very informative.
6. Have you by any chance met any Hispanic families doing what you are doing?
We have met quite a few Hispanic/Latin families and couples that like what we're doing, but I don't specifically know of any that are doing something similar.
What would you like to ask me?
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