A word about Homeshooling

When we first decided to embark on our European tour, panic set in about how we were going to educate our daughters. Yes, traveling on its own is an amazing education, but I certainly did not want to mess it up. Their education is incredibly important to us, as is their having a fulfilling and adventure full life, so hopefully we will combine the two. With lots of research and questions asked, we embarked on our homeschooling journey.

I read that it is important to find how your child learns best and then tailor their learning with that in mind. So the very first thing we did was to give them this quick and easy test and have based their lessons from this. My oldest daughter responds well to learning by reading and kinesthetics. My younger daughter is also a kinesthetic learner, as well as auditory. All of their learning types work well with traveling, thankfully. We have lots of time to read, we are on a constant “field trip” and have had the wonderful luxury to have many long conversations that we never really had time for (so sad) in the past with our busy schedules. If you are interested in finding more about the test I gave them, it is called the Vark test.

I have written about homeschooling already on this blog, but it was before we actually tried it. We now have been going for 3 months and seem to be getting into a routine. Our not so typical routine is to sight-see one day and homeschool the next. Sometimes we school for two days in a row, sometimes we are traveling for two days. We may also spend half the day out and about and half the day homeschooling. We homeschool on Saturday or Sunday too, if needed. The girls definitely like staying in their PJ’s or comfy clothes all day, and I like not having to go through that crazy morning routine, rushing to barely get to school on time.

On days where we homeschool our schedule goes something along these lines. After breakfast, we start with some warm up logic puzzles and math word problems. I picked up a few books before we left and one of our teachers gave us a daily math problem booklet. Next, they write in their journals. Usually, there is a lot to write about from their travel adventures. They also have a nature and sketching journal where we have put in leaves and petals that we have found on walks and where they can sketch castles, country flags or anything they want to put in for their memories. We will then do some languages and I have found (through my sister) a podcast called Coffee Break French to be a quick and easy introduction to the beautiful French language. There are many different languages in this series and we will most likely try to learn a little bit for each of the countries we are visiting. To know just your basic hello and thank you is appreciated and really the right thing to do. We just learned some basic Dutch and Flemish greetings. Both girls have really enjoyed learning French and would like to continue with it, when we return back home.

After languages, we usually set into the core curriculum subjects with math, science, social science and language arts. All are done online and with textbooks and workbooks. We are using http://www.time4learning.com as our basic online course and have been supplementing with other online sources such as http://www.khanacademy.com and http://www.brainpop.com. We are reading lots of books and both girls are working on writing a story using a fun online site called http://www.nanowrimo.org. They are having a great writing project for the month of November, check it out. We bought several textbooks and workbooks before we left, as well.

In addition to the core curriculum, we have been doing small reports on each country that we have visited along with art projects relating to artists from each country. This is probably my favorite part! We have studied Monet when we were in France, John Everett Millais and John Constable when we were in England, Johannes Vermeer in the Netherlands and now Jan van Eyck, here in Belgium. You can really experience where each artist was inspired by walking in their footsteps, viewing the landscapes and cities. It really adds to our understanding.

The most challenging part of homeschooling for me has been time, it takes a lot of time to plan lessons. I want to make learning fun for them and we do not have easy access to materials so we have to get creative. It is a good lesson on making do with what we have and it always turns out to be enough. I do get nervous that we are not covering everything as thoroughly as they would be in their public school but it will all work out in the long run, I am sure!

We have two carry-on sized suitcases that have become our traveling desks. They are filled with text books, workbooks, regular paperback books, journals, files, writing and art materials along with paper. They are heavy but it is working for us so far. We also have our technological devices…Kindles, an iPad and two laptop computers, one of which lost it’s power cord (it started to smoke) so we need to fix that issue… Having all the correct power adapters are important but it really has been as simple as logging into wifi and we are off. Amazing technology!

Overall, I am happy with our homeschooling thus far. I think we are becoming better at it as we go through it. It is still a little odd for the girls to have their parents teach them though, and it is much easier for them to take advantage of us, I readily admit. We have had to lay down some rules and remind them how lucky we are. All in all though, I can honestly say that we are learning so many new things on a daily basis. I feel so inspired and alive. I see all of us growing closer to each other and connecting like never before. With their education, we are so involved that we can really fine tune areas that are needed and explore areas that they are really interested in. It is pretty great! I have never experienced anything like it.

Building an European Itinerary

To plan or not to plan…  Well, with two kids and 6 months plus of traveling it seems like we need to have at least a good idea of where we are going and have enough time in each area where we do not feel too rushed.  The really tough part is that there are so many amazing places to go and our time is going to go by so fast that the where and how long to stay in an area is a little bit hard to judge.  I guess we just need to jump right in and go for it. 

Being somewhat comfortable in France, we have decided to begin our journey in the Normandy region.  We are planning to tour the D-Day beaches, Giverny, the Abbey of Mont-St-Michel and the historic town of Rouen.  I have to say I am very excited to enjoy some of the local cheeses, one being Camembert, oh yes!  I have been told by several people who said Normandy is their favorite part of France, and we cannot wait to explore it.  We have leased a 300 year old thatched roof home, these homes are somewhat common to this area. 

Next stop will be a converted barn in Kent just outside of London.  We will spend most of October here, exploring London, gardens, castles, historic sites and hopefully taking in a futbol game or two.  My oldest daughter adores the Harry Potter series (what kid doesn’t) and so we are also planning on visiting the Harry Potter sets that recently opened in London. 

November will be spent exploring Belgium, The Netherlands, Paris and Germany, with a stop in Prague and then onto Vienna and Salzburg.  This part of our journey is not scripted and we will be on the move quite a bit.  We are going to see what areas “speak” to us and  adapt our itinerary as needed.  We plan to make it down to the Alps for the holidays and do a little skiing.  I am planning on making housing arrangements for the holidays but we will wing it beforehand.  This will be our busiest travel time and then we will slow it down again as we travel into Italy then the South of France and onto Spain and possibly Portugal.

I am finding most of our accomodations on www.tripadvisor.com, www.homeaway.com and www.airbnb.com.  Every place we stay must have wifi so we can homeschool and a washer and dryer, would be nice…  More on homeschooling later, but it has been very interesting to explore this topic.

It has been fun trying to figure out our adventure.  I have borrowed lots of books from the library, asked lots of advice from friends and spent countless hours on the computer.  I still cannot believe we are doing this.  I am trying to enjoy my daily life here, winding up school with the kids and preparing everything for our trip but I am counting the days until we board that plane!