Thursday, September 13, 2012

Home(schooling) Away From Home

Kieron Ryan and Garrett Bryan

For the past year or so, my family has spent a lot of time on the road or away from home.   My husband contracts with a company located in Oregon, and while he can work at home most of the time, things go better when he regularly shows up on site.  Sometimes he travels up from California by himself, other times we go with him.

Last year I was also spending quite a bit of time up in Alaska with my mother.   Part of the time my kids stayed with their Dad, either in California or in Oregon, but part of the time they were with me.

All this adds up to a lot of departures from our normal routine.  Homeschooling obviously has huge benefits when your life requires this kind of temporal-spatial flexibility.  But of course, homeschooling in flux has its own set of challenges.  How do you homeschool when you are on the road?

Here, in no particular order, are a few suggestions for those who are spending a lot of their family time on the road or otherwise away from home.  

First, invest some of your homeschool funds in Kindles for the kids!

This doesn't replace books on your shelves, obviously.   I don't think there are studies out showing that having Kindles gives kids a learning advantage, as having as few as 25 books on a shelf in your home apparently does.

Still, a Kindle is basically a library in your purse or backpack, without the back strain.    And it works out nicely that the 19th century treasure trove of classic fiction for children and adults is all Free!  In Public Domain!    And most library systems now have Kindle book borrow capacity, though in my system I have to wade through all kinds of dreck (vampire chronicles) to find the occasional decent read (Ranger's Apprentice).

My 9 year old in particular takes his Kindle everywhere.   Right now he is reading Children of Odin, because all the Avengers' movies have made him interested in Norse myths. 

Of course, you can just get one family Kindle and share it, but there are advantages to having devoted Kindles.  My 9 year old has a completely different booklist than my 16 year old, and both are different again from my booklist.

IPads are cool too, but more expensive, and more distracting, I think, because there are all those apps.   I hope to get some facsimile tablet computer at some point, but I won't regret having the Kindles. 

Second, try checking out the local thrift stores at the place where you are staying! 

Especially, if you, like me, live in a rural mountain area with no thrift stores within 50 miles.   Here I've found enough decent childrens' books to stock a small bookshelf, and on our last trip to Goodwill, we found some great board games (complete with no missing parts) at between a dollar and two dollars.  Games are great to fill in those restless moments when the children start missing their home territory.

Tumble, Chinese Checkers, Sorry!, Mancala, Harry Potter Trivia, Poker Set, and Might Magnets all for about 10 dollars

You can also buy inexpensive art and office supplies, and even unused workbooks.    I got my 4th grader one of those skills workbooks so we can do a few minutes of math and grammar here and there.  ... which is about as much as we do at home.

Thirdly, take advantages of local nature walks, art galleries, musical or dramatic events or camps

 I put this in for the sake of completeness and because this is Chari's blog as well as mine, and that is what she would do.   And OK, I do it a little, but I am not a natural tourist or cultural seeker.    When my husband gets into tourist mode, we do a lot more than I would on my own.   When we went to Lake Tahoe this summer we went on the lake in a steamboat, and on one of those gondola ski lift things to the summit of the local hill/mountain, and to a concert.   Plus, we walked around the city quite a bit.   No matter where you are or what your budget, there's usually something to be seen, even the local playground or park.

This applies to when you are on the road, too, of course.  You can make little detours along the way.

I have a friend who has her kids keep travel journals or scrapbooks.    I haven't done this, but it would be fun to keep a family travel scrapbook.   Some people keep a travel blog, which Chari and I basically do in bits and pieces right here : ).  

Fourthly, if possible, visit relatives and old friends, and maybe meet some new people!

Maybe they will give you cookies and coffee!

Or let you hang around with their kitties

Fifthly, for those hours on the road, bring audio books or lectures

 We have listened to Lord of the Rings several times over the years, as well as a variety others.  More recently, some historical or scientific Great Courses have gone over quite well.

 Then there is always music, or conversation (just recently I ended up having a GREAT religious conversation with one of my teenagers that probably wouldn't have happened had he not been the only one awake in the car besides me during a night journey).

Aidan always insists on bringing lots of coloring pages of cars.   You can google photos of the vehicle (or horse or whatever) of your child's choice, and then convert them to sketches at Photo Pencil Sketch.   Print them out and you have a fairly adequate page for coloring.

Then of course, there is your IPhone where if you don't mind your kids getting the screen sticky, you can load your choice of entertainment or edutainment apps to while away some time.

Listening to my teenagers' music colleection is always interesting and conducive to conversation -- an eclectic combo ranging from Weird Al to game soundtracks to Frank Sinatra to Johny Cash to Les Miserables.  

Then, you can always try Non-Schooling!

That could be defined here as just living your normal family life, but in a different place.  Definitely, we've done a lot of that during the past year.   And  I will just mention that it is no small thing to live a normal (and functional) family life outside of your normal habitat.     When we come to Oregon, my littler ones get to be around their oldest brothers, which is precious and not to be despised.   And living in closer quarters (with neighbors behind the walls) and sleeping on air mattresses brings out a slightly different social skill set than we normally rely on.    So we could define Non-Schooling more positively as Family Schooling or maybe Family Living.

Aidan and Kieron having a conversation

You probably have built up various traditions for how to deal with things as a family.   Traveling is a great time to pull these out, develop them, and sometimes, realize they aren't working quite so well anymore, and consequently make changes. 

Traveling itself, even if you don't go to amazing places or do a lot of amazing enrichement activities, builds up shared memories in a way nothing else does.

 Just to keep it real, I am sometimes rather discouraged that our "shared memories" might be of epic squabbles or chowing down on some fast food meal..  However, from my own childhood memories of a LOT of family travels --  even the more humbling memories have a habit of gaining some gilding of laughter or connection when told and retold as part of the Family Legend. 

Last but not least,

Find the local church!

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity at TAC

I just mention that because one of my favorite things to look back at after traveling is the local church, especially if I get a chance to go to daily Mass or to step in briefly for prayer before the Tabernacle.    I love the way I can step into a Catholic church in any city and realize that His Real Presence is truly the center of all civilization, all culture, even if it is ignored, despised and rejected very often.

 It is sad that many times you see sacrilege and disrespect even among those who profess His Name, but all the more reason to visit with the truest devotion you can muster, even if that is only a mite, as in my own case.   You have a chance to pray for that priest who uses his homily as a propaganda vehicle for Call to Action, or the choir that seems to think that the Mass is meant to be a backdrop for their bravura acoustics..  And very often, you can be inspired and edified by examples of reverence and insight, as well, if you just look. 

And also, many times, the local church is a genuine part of history, especially if you live in California, in mission territory.

Aidan is always particularly interested in (1) the lights on the ceiling (2) the lectionary.  He often wants to take pictures of these and/or look them up on Google.  

There is a Mass Times site that tells you the mass times and locations of any city or zip code, and there is a free app that is very helpful with directions and locations, and even includes daily readings and feast days. 

A Couple of Links

If you look up road-schooling, you can find some helpful tips and shared experience.  A couple of links I found:

Several of these tips can also be applied to situations where you are waiting, say in a doctor's office or during one kid's athletic or other travels.  If you live in a somewhat rural habitat, like Chari and I do, you probably have to travel a ways for your child's games, or orthodontist's appointments, or therapy, and the challenges and benefits are somewhat the same.  

If you feel inclined, share your road-schooling or car-schooling tips in the comments!

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love hearing from our readers. Please share your thoughts or just say hello!