A Day in the Life Homeschooling/Worldschooling a 9 and 11-year-old
We didn’t start homeschooling until a few months after we started traveling full time, two big changes in our lives at almost the same time. Needless to say, there was a bit of an adjustment period for both.
We are not only homeschooling, we are worldschooling, meaning we learn from the world around us first hand as we travel. We’ve spent most of our journey so far in Mexico, with a few trips into Guatemala and back to visit the U.S.
Our routine is always changing as the place and opportunities around us do, and we’re pretty relaxed in what we do “in the classroom.” Our regular days alternate between outside activities and choosing school work that will fill in the gaps.
I’d say most of our learning is done in activities with others rather than relying on me to plan and execute it all as the “teacher,” and this makes it more of a community effort and takes some of the pressure off of me. At the same time they are immersed in the local culture and their Spanish has progressed faster than mine because of it.
An Active Day
Today is Tuesday, an activity day. We’re up around 9 and have breakfast, then go to a ceramics class from 10-12 in a local pottery studio. This is a class we created for ourselves and another homeschooling family by talking to the owner. We’ve worked with clay for years whenever there is an opportunity and my 11-year old is a natural at wheel throwing. It’s hard to travel with pottery, so we try to make useful items or gifts for others, putting thought into our creations and giving them purpose.
Then we get some lunch and take a break before heading over to the Humane Society to volunteer from 2-6pm. The girls and I are part of a surgical support team for the spay and neuter program, with them working in the recovery area as the animals wake up and me doing whatever they need such as shaving bellies or moving the animals in and out of surgery. They are practically experts now, explaining to new adult volunteers how to flip the animals over to stimulate them and help them wake up and when to remove the endotracheal tube. Recovery workers also keep track of who has had their shots and keep track of which animal goes where so they can be safely returned to their owners at the end of the day.
The veterinarians have been very welcoming with the girls. On the first day they each spent some time standing next to the table while the vet spayed a cat and she explained each organ that she was removing and what she would do next and why. I am a nurse so discussions on anatomy and body functions are common in our house anyway, but the girls were fascinated to see things like anesthesia and stitches in person. Science class in action, and they learn something new every time we are there.
At 6 we have a bit of a schedule crunch because that’s when acroyoga starts, but it’s 15 minutes away from the Humane Society. My husband Jason will come to pick us up and if the work isn’t quite done he runs the girls to their class while I finish up. Then he returns for me.
We watch the end of the class as they bend and balance with adults and other children, and then we all have dinner. There will be reading before bed to help us all settle down after our busy day, with each girl choosing to read on her own, with one of us or to listen to an audiobook.
A Home Day
Wednesday will be a less exciting day with fewer activities and more traditional homeschooling. When we hang around the house the girls get to choose what they want to work on. After breakfast we have worksheets from education.com for math, reading, writing and spelling. I ask them to do 2-3 pages of their choice and show them to me so I can help them with anything they’re having trouble with.
When they’ve had enough of paper work we watch short videos from Ted-Ed or their Constantly Curious series and then the girls write a few sentences about what they learned. If they need help they turn on the captioning and read the words along with the video, plus they can pause and copy down words that they can’t spell on their own. We try to let them be as independent as possible in their learning, guiding and helping instead of telling them what to do.
Math is a favorite of theirs (but still my least favorite subject, don’t tell.) When we’re out and about we have them add up purchases in the grocery store or make change when we pay for dinner, bringing the math of daily life to their attention because they’ll need it the most as adults.
At home we use both paper and computer resources for math. We ride horses once a week so when I found the Horse Lover’s Math books we had to try it, and the girls love learning about horses and math together. Another option for math is the online game, Prodigy, which they play like a video game but in battles they have to answer math questions correctly for their attacks to be successful. When they need help I find the questions can be challenging even for me, but with the hints we figure it out.
We’ve started using Be Naturally Curious science units, with a combination of reading and experiments on different subjects. The girls love reading and then taking action on the new information.
Technology is a big part of our world today so we use kindles and computers. They take classes online through Outschool now and then, the most recent being on creating non-player characters for their Minecraft games.
At the root of it all it is reading. I believe that if you can read, you can learn anything, so every day we ask them to read on their own or with us for 30 minutes. My 9-year-old was a bit of a reluctant reader, but with practice she is becoming better and more confident, and they both carry a small bag of books with them everywhere now.
Learning Never Stops
Our homeschooling routine is constantly changing and adjusting. The girls have a big say in what they learn and how they learn it, and we try to do what works best for them rather than force them to do what we want think they should. That can be hard for me, but when I have the urge to help them I remember a snippet that I read (I don’t remember where.) It was the idea that when you say “Let me help you,” you’re telling that person “You can’t do it on your own.” That’s not the message I want to send to them, so unless they ask for help I let them do most things on their own.
Some days we go to the ocean and study the tide pools and snorkel with the fish. We’ve visited most of the area’s Mayan ruins and can talk about the mythology and the ancient civilizations here in some detail, although we’ve barely scratched the surface. We understand the behavior of the crocodiles and coatimundis that are native to Cozumel and can tell the difference between spider monkeys and howler monkeys on sight when we see them on the mainland. We ask so many questions and point out little facts as we go, I bet we annoy some of the people who are just here on vacation, but I love it.
It’s almost time for us to leave Mexico but we aren’t sure where we’ll go next. Both girls are big fans of Percy Jackson and love mythology, so Greece and Italy are high on the list. But we’ve spent a long time working on our Spanish skills and would like a little more time in Spanish-speaking countries to practice, so Central and South America are still an option, or maybe Spain.
Learning from the world around us means that we are never out of school, and we are doing it together. This is the best part of being worldschoolers, it’s not just the children that are learning and growing, it’s all of us. I didn’t realize that when we started this path, but to help your children learn about the world they are in you have to be a part of it yourself, take an interest in it and help them to find answers to their questions about it. It is more hands-on than sending them away to a traditional school every day, and more work, but it’s worth it to all of us and I can’t see us ever going back.