Before we left the UK, we made an agreement with the boys that we would take them round the world, but they had to keep up their end of the bargain: to do an hour of learning a day.
At the age of five and seven, you'd expect them to keep to this, wouldn't you? No, you wouldn't because you are a sensible human being, but I was naive enough to think that they would try- or pretend to, at least.
On the recommendation of their old teachers in Bristol, we bought each boy Singapore 'Maths- no problem!' (which will keep them in line with their peers at home) as well as reading books, english workbook, journals and drawing pads. Ha ha! Journals! So funny...
Each morning that we are not travelling or going on day trips, we have breakfast and then this happens:
"Hey, boys, let's get your books out!"
"BOYS! come on, let's do a bit of maths.. reading..we've got to find out what happens in the 13 storey treehouse?"
"BOYS!! Put the lego away, Books please!"
"Boys, please. Let's do some learning then we can do something fun. Beach? Ice Cream?"
*silence. plays with lego*
"Boys. Please stop ignoring me. Would you treat your teachers like this? If we don't do our work you will feel silly when we get back to the UK because you will be behind. Please boys, please. BOOKS."
"BOYS!!!! BOOKS!!! PLEEEAASSE!!!!!"
"Right, I'm sending your iPad back to England. Not kidding."
This usually gets them up. Often the youngest remembers he just loves maths as soon as he sits down. The eldest lolls around, fidgets, picks the paint off the door frame/ taps the table/ takes an interest in his toe nail. Sometime he yawns and pretends to fall asleep. NOT FRUSTRATING AT ALL.
Eventually he will do a sum (i.e. 5 + 3) get it wrong as he hasn't bothered to engage his brain and have a full on melt down that he is stupid and he can't do it- he WON'T do it and we can't make him. I retreat to bathroom and bite fist in frustration.
Next: stand off. We wait patiently for him to make any sort of an effort- 3 hours (yes, sometimes 3 hours) later, he does it. He realises it wasn't really that hard and can he go and play now? Meanwhile, I've turned to drink and am banging head against any hard surface whilst attempting a facade of calm. Teachers, you have my respect. I literally don't know how you do it.
I read loads of inspirational blogs about the different types of educating your children on the road, and they all made so much sense and looked so easy. I was so sure our children would be so grateful for the amazing experiences we are giving them we couldn't STOP them from lapping every kind of learning up, like sponges.
The main theories are:
World schooling- letting the world organically provide opportunities for learning
Home schooling- following a curriculum similar to school, and
Unschooling- completely rejecting the school system and letting children learn whatever they like at their own pace.
World Travel Family wrote a good piece explaining the different methodologies here
We opted for World schooling with a smidgen of formal maths & english however, I personally feel torn between them all.
Do we just let the world provide all stimulation and nurture their innate sense of curiosity? Or do we try to keep them up with their peers back home?? Are we foolish to attempt this when our children are learning SO MUCH organically that their peers are not- as it will probably balance out in the end, right?
Do we spend each day of our precious eighteen month adventure coercing, bribing, cajoling and begging them to sit down with a school book? Will this turn them off formal learning completely and do more harm than good? Probably all of the above and I am quite sure we are doing it all wrong,
The children are clearly thriving, though.
The Eldest has grown in confidence immeasurably and the Youngest can speak several words in 6 different languages. We visit museums wherever we go and access additional learning materials through YouTube and Wikipedia.
The boys know all about the delicate balance of Eco-systems, basic economics, Climate change, the formation of rocks, the rise of Communism and the Domino Effect. The American War Colonialism, The Stolen Generation, Khmer rouge, They have been a part of many religious and cultural events such as Songkran, Chinese New year, a Muslim wedding and visited Aboriginal sacred grounds. The boys have snorkelled with wild turtles, dolphins, met kangaroos and parasailed above the Andaman sea.
Are we doing the right thing? We have no idea, but as parents I think that none of us really do- there is comfort in this, at least.
Our bright, charming boys can make conversation with adults and children from all around the world with no effort, read maps, bus timetables and put up with a six hour bus journey without a complaint- but some how- give them a maths book and it's a whole different matter.