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World schooling, home schooling and unschooling

Exactly one year ago, the only thing I was worried about was my girls’ schooling. I wanted to move them to a different school because I wasn’t totally happy with the school they attended.  The schools I called didn’t even want to talk to me as they said their waiting lists were so long that they wouldn’t even put children on a waiting list anymore. I was so upset. I really wanted them to go to a good school with all the facilities, such as swimming, gym, computer studies, and science so that they will grow up to be all-rounders. I don’t have, and I didn’t have any ambitions for them, but I wanted them to have the option of learning about everything. Moreover, all the schools, which were so expensive that it gave me a twist in my stomach, didn’t even want to talk to me about taking my money and teaching my girls.

One night, while sitting in front of the computer and doing some research about the school, I got distracted and started browsing properties in Costa Rica. Then I thought: “Oh, maybe we could go and live there; maybe we could live somewhere else”, and then I thought maybe we could go traveling.

“Yes, what a perfect idea; let’s go traveling for a year. We can travel for a year, and after that many things can change, and we will see how it will be.”

I asked my husband what he thought about it, and he said it’s a brilliant idea. Believe it or not, three days later, I booked our first Air Asia tickets.

The first plan was that if they will lose the year of school while traveling, then it really doesn’t matter. However, when I started talking to their teachers, they all told me that they would probably learn more while traveling than sitting in the school. At the same time, they gave me a few ideas about writing a diary and what kind of maths skills they should have at different ages.

Girls doing math during our stay in Sabah – Borneo

We started with the diary. The idea was to write, at least every second day, one sentence about what we have done with an illustration. And it was a struggle, especially for Zoe. She, with her food intolerance, couldn’t concentrate long enough to write one sentence about what she had been doing in the past couple of days.  She couldn’t even think about what we were doing; it felt beyond her capacity. I was scared, and I was torn apart because she should be able to do that.

Are all kids the same ?

I have twin girls.  People generally assume that they are the same, but they are not. If I give them some maths task like: “the monkey is sitting on a coconut tree, and around her, she sees three coconuts on the first tree, then five on the other, and four on the last one. How many coconuts does the monkey see?”  Then before I even finish the sentence, Tania is screaming “twelve” while Zoe, at the same time, is asking me “What did you say?”

Zoe is not slow, and Tania is not so quick; they are just so different it’s hard to believe, and in school, Zoe would be left out with her maths skills. All school reports were placing her very high with her grades. If the school were assessing her as satisfactory did it mean that they weren’t noticing what I was noticing or that are other children which have bigger problems and then how they all can benefit from same lesson.

How did we start ?

At first, I didn’t have any concept on how to teach them.  If someone asked me, I used to say that if they lose a year at school at this age, it doesn’t matter. At least, they will see the world and learn how to be tolerant towards others. At the same time, I knew they need to improve their reading and writing skills and learn how to count, and they should learn about the countries we are visiting.

In July we started with a small piece of paper where I was writing single words and the girls were reading. After ten months, they have read more than 200 books each. Most of the books were national geographic books; currently, I think Zoe has a broader and wider knowledge about different animals than I ever had. And all this has happened in the last three months. They learnt how to read in Polish, though they aren’t as fluent as in English.

They went from writing one sentence to writing a whole page and making their own books. They write their own stories, songs, and books – mostly Tania.  And Zoe tells me different facts about animal life. It’s all about them, not me. I helped them with reading at the beginning, and then it happened by itself – that’s unschooling, and it seems to work in the environment we are making for ourselves.

We have learnt a lot about countries, different religions, and food. We have visited endless  zoos, science museums, and playgrounds in different countries.

with Iban Warrior in Borneo

We have attended cooking classes in Vietnam and chased pigeons in Taipei. We walked through tunnels made by Vietcong  and inn Borneo we learnt how to use blow gun.  We have done small things and big things, and we have bonded more than ever when they went to school for seven hours and then attended all after school activities. I do worry if they missing on something by not going to school but I’m just trying not to care. why do i think they missing because, still deep in me, there is this belief that one should sit at school to learn about everything. Besides, I’m afraid that I won’t be enough as a

 

 

washing own undies while we were living in Ko Lanta – Pranie wlasnej bielizny podczas pobytu w Ko Lanta

Weeks ago, Tania went on her own to a shop in Koh Lanta and bought eggs for breakfast. On the one hand, I would say I did things like that when I was seven, but she was in a different country, in a place she didn’t know and she helped me when I was cooking. If we would stay in Oman, I don’t think she would go shopping on her own. They know how to check in, how to find the gate at the airport, or what to do if they get lost. They know as well how to hand-wash their own underwear or use Laundromats. They wouldn’t have all these life skills if we keep living a cozy expat life.

 

What we actually do regarding schooling right now is:

We listen to lots of Audiobooks, especially when we travel – this is a big help with our most hated question – are we there yet? Every day, the girls read using the Epic! iPad app. I don’t give them the whole time to read; I actually need to pull them away from books, especially Zoe.  For her, reading works as a calming therapy. We write, every second day, in the diary about what we did – at least, a few sentences. Every other day, we write some fun sentences with new words – to practice spelling. Almost every day, we do at least half an hour of maths using the Splash Math app. Beside this, we practice counting and arithmetic when we walk or go somewhere by taxi. We played shop, for which we made our own paper money.

We do many different arts and crafts all the time – Zoe loves sewing and does different stuff like bracelets, etc. Tania has her special book for drawings and another one for writing songs.

Audiotour in museum in Meleka

World schooling – we visit endless amounts of museums, planetariums etc – and the girls love them. Whenever we can, we do either guide tour or audio guide tour. We learn about different religions, cultures, and places we visit, and we have made movies about them.

Curriculum schooling – Polish school – I have signed the girls to Polish internet school designed for Polish children living abroad. It was always a plan that they would attend this internet school so that they will learn Polish well. There are weekly webinars and lesson plan for a week. We do all webinars if we can, or we watch a movie from it later. When my mother is with us, she does lessons with the girls every second day. The girls love them. In August, when we will be in Poland, they will have an exam; when they pass it, they will get a certificate that they have finished grade one.

Learning about the bees

Unschooling – as you could read above, this isn’t exactly in line with the wide definition of “unschooling”;  I feel very conscious all the time that I have pulled them out of school.  I am responsible for that decision and I care very much that by that choice I don’t restrict their futures.  In addition, I was brought up and strongly believe that if you cannot do something, you should keep trying to understand it (unless it’s Physics of course!  LOL). We do unschooling only in letting the girls follow what they want to learn more. One this is sure, my learning and approach will develop as we plan more adventures in unschooling.

Right now, as I’m writing this, Tania is standing in front of me and telling me a story about a monster who made the sea green (her own story), at the same time drawing the pictures for the story on the blackboard, and Zoe is with her nose in the book and i know she is planning to building mailbox. I’m sure normal school is overrated.

Tania in art gallery in Bali

All encouraging to travel and world schooling comments are more then welcome

 

 

Ania James

photographer, traveller, mother of twin girls, wife, worldschooler, rulebreaker

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