World schooling – the start of our journey of discovery
Surely it’s not legal to take your children out of school…is it? We get fined for taking them out for a week, but can legitimately take them out for a year – what kind of weirdness is that, how is that even possible!?
Luckily for us, it seems the UK system requires little more than a gym slip excuse note to remove children from the UK state education system, and it’s not dissimilar in Australia and the USA, although it looks like we definitely win on the minimal paperwork stakes. See the UK guidance here.
But whilst it might be legal, is it really possible – or desirable – to home-school your children, with no experience? Is it really possible to travel the world with your kids, teaching them as you go with no classroom experience and no intention of becoming a school teacher? And if you’re not planning on becoming a career home schooler, what happens if you plan to return to school – will your school “hold” a place for your children? And – perhaps this is the most terrifying question, what’s the emotional impact on the kids, of taking a family gap year and ultimately planning to “return them to the system” – is that fair on the children, can anybody including the grown-ups be expected to slot back into their old lives after having their eyes opened across thousands of miles and new horizons? Has anyone done this? I’ve read loads of home schooling and world schooling blogs but it’s generally a full time and long term education agenda – what are the options for those of us who really want to enjoy the benefits of coming together as a family, travelling together, planning a family gap year but – most likely, with the intention that it’s just a gap year rather than a way of life? This, my friends, and so much more, is what I hope to discover over the coming months and share with you here.
World schooling with no experience – facing our fears
I’m afraid that patience is not my special talent – in fact, if anything I’m known to have a very shallow pool to dip into – cue lots of metaphorical stubbed toes, hopping about, and hissing.
Family life for us is chaotic. Hectic. Noisy. My kids are not the quiet, studious sitting kind – at parties, when everyone else’s children are sitting nicely eating their tea, mine are the ones rolling in dirt/up a tree/tangled in branches/scuba-diving in a puddle – invariably shoe-less occasionally completely naked. They’re always on the move – so much so that even when eating my son favours half a butt-cheek off the chair in readiness for a quick exit. Perhaps they’re a little feral. We certainly spend a lot of time outdoors.
And so it has been that, in mentioning the idea of a family gap year – a world trip, a 12 month sabbattical, friends have been full of enthusiasm and nostalgia for their own travels and dreams. Then the eyebrows dip with concern or fly up with terror as they realise we will be responsible for educating our kids. I love my kids to the edge of the world and back but the combination of highly spirited, strong-willed, free-thinking, boundary pushing children and patience lacking, time-poor, over-worked parents does not make for a quiet and peaceful life.
I have never harboured a desire to be a primary school teacher. I work. A lot. I enjoy it. I love spending time with my children but I enjoy spending time apart from them too.
But…the other day, my eldest who for so long came up to my tummy (in height, I mean, not that he came up to talk to my tummy – although he does occasionally prod my tum and ask if there’s a baby in there) suddenly, I realised, comes up to my boobs! (I’ve always measured my children in the context of body parts, I’m surely not the only one).
They’re growing up. Really fast. Just like everyone says, so frequently and stating-the-obviously that it mostly slides over you. In half a decade we will have teenagers. In little over a decade, they’ll really begin to be making their own way in life – and maybe it’s a bit of a mid-life crisis and the narcissist in me that has an over-developed sense of tragedy and fear that we might die young, but – bam, the realisation that they’re just on loan to us, that this time is so special and so limited and that we’re so busy living our daily lives but we spend so little time together. As a family. Whilst we can. And I really, really want to change that.
Many of the incredible families that we’ve read about in this beginning stage of researching this trip are traveling and schooling their children on the road but were already home-schooling their children before their journey started. The travel is, for many, as much a product of home-schooling, as the home-schooling is a product of the travel. But for us, home-schooling would be brand new, unchartered territory.
Can we really home school our children?
Can I – can we – really home school or world school our children is in fact more a question of should we?
They will be 9 and almost 7 when we leave so we’re not fazed by the complexity of the curriculum or the kind of material we’d be looking to cover but…well, I struggle to get my oldest child to read to me each evening, let alone to complete homework of any kind. My son currently does some extra home work on Nessy (a brilliant programme, more on that later) but, despite his teachers claiming that the children can’t get enough of it because it’s a computer game – it’s rapidly become a nightly battle. Friends who are teachers nod sorrowfully when talking of the challenge of teaching their own children anything.
So how can we – how will we – not only adjust to spending time with our children 24/7, because let’s face it that in itself will be an adjustment – but also successfully home school or world school our children for 12 months and return them to the system relatively unscathed? (Perhaps we won’t return to the system, but – small steps right now and dealing with current realities). Should we aim for a rough routine or timetable? Do we take workbooks with us or find online programmes? Or programs!? Can we get kindle-based books with pictures, rather than lug a tonne of ever changing reading books? What are the best materials to use? Should we join facebook world schooling groups? Is it really true that with one-to-one focus you can cover an entire term’s worth of in-school learning, in just a few hours a week? Should we mirror the curriculum of the year they will be missing, in terms of subjects – geography, history, science, or just in terms of the fundamentals – reading, writing, maths?
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be digging in to each of these issues and questions and sharing my findings with you here. If you’d like to join us on this journey of discovery, sign up here for a monthly update and links to all the resources, tips and strategies we devise!