“I’m a swamp monster, Mummy! Rawwr!” At nine thirty on a Monday morning, he should have been sitting on a carpet in his London reception classroom learning phonics. As it was, we were in a small fishing town a few hours south of Bangkok, playing in the mud and watching last nights squid catch being boxed up for market.
One of the exciting things about spending nine months travelling last year, was the chance to try out home schooling. We’ve always gone done the traditional education route, albeit at creative school that encourages learning through play. The headteacher’s enthusiasm for our travel plans is testament to their lack of rigidity. But still, the opportunity to break free for a few months was very appealing.
There was a conflict between my natural leanings towards unschooling and the fact that we only had nine months before our children returned to school. We decided to try and impose and little bit of structure on our educating and follow the UK curriculum.
Deciding is one thing and doing is another. Our eldest child, then aged eight, played along, and over the course of the trip, finished her various workbooks and has slotted back into school with no problems. The younger two simply weren’t interested, and we took their lead. The point of the exercise was to cut loose after all. They’re naturally bright and curious, so educating them in the broadest sense was easy. But they were not schooled. At the ages of four and six I really couldn’t get too worried about this, but we failed in our objective.
I’d like to think that given time, they’d have starting reading and writing without too much prompting from us, but I fear that if we’d stayed away much longer they’d have been experts in mud and not much else. And while one part of me thinks that’s OK, I know that they’re also missing out on something great because they can’t read.
I’m pretty sure that road schooling was harder than home schooling would have been. Although we had incredible access to natural history – I don’t suppose many five year olds learnt about evolution by poking real lungfish – we had extremely limited access to books and toys. All too often the easiest option in a cramped hotel room was to watch American TV in Thai. It would certainly be interesting to try unschooling at home as a controlled experiment, and see how we get on.
I loved spending all our days together and exploring the wonders of the world unhurriedly and without agenda. My children are great company. But I’m not sure I could do it for ever. I was sad to wave them off on the first day of term in September, but I was also relieved. All that close proximity sent me slightly bonkers.
We only dipped our toes in the water of home schooling and I don’t feel like I’ve properly scratched that itch. But for now, I’m happy that someone else is dealing with the reading and writing while I’m quietly productive at home.
We still like playing with mud at weekends.
I’m taking part in Motherhood Journeys Home Education Carnival. I’ll be very interested to read the other entries.