Dear Travel Mates,
We’ve got a month and a half left of our trip and I’m starting to feel the end. I know its true because we’re working backwards with our plans instead of moving forward.
I also know I’m feeling it because my breath feels more labored. That’s my telltale sign. When I’m anxious a deep breath feels just out of reach like a yawn that never rolls over to the other side.
I don’t want this trip to end. I don’t want the feeling that we can go anywhere to go away. I love how our path unfurls as we go. I love barely looking back at yesterday’s footprints.
It sounds like a metaphor for life itself, and yet when do we allow ourselves to truly feel the freedom we have?
This feeling suits me like an outfit that finally fits after years of feeling a pinch here, a tug there.
But there is one aspect of this trip that I am eager to leave behind for good:
Freedom shmeedom. This has been my ball and chain. Noone is fully free, right?
When Tsuri and I used to fantasize about taking a long trip around the world one of the details we couldn’t quite conceptualize was school. How would it work while traveling?
COVID gave us a glimpse into remote learning and suddenly it seemed possible.
But possible is a far cry from enjoyable.
Here’s a typical weekday for us:
I wake up at 6:30 and give myself until 8:00 to read, write, scroll, ponder, and chat with the kids in bed. Then I do exercise and then make a smoothie. So far, great morning.
Meanwhile Tsuri does work calls and makes breakfast for the kids.
And then hell descends. My youngest and middle run around playing, fighting, ignoring my calls for them to start school. My eldest sits in a corner with headphones on, “working.”
There is no role I hate more than being the Policewoman.
I tell them to work, that they didn’t do enough yesterday so they need to make it up today, that they are behind on many lessons, that we want to go have fun later so please do it now. That they won’t have a full summer if they don’t get it done.
Our day turns into a salad of them tantruming, storming off, working peacefully, refusing, hating, distracting, playing, working, melting onto the floor, yelling at me.
And I go into my cycle of begging, yelling, surrendering, doubting, putting my foot down, easing up, being a model teacher, being the teacher from hell, storming off, hiding, trying again.
All of this while I try to work, lead classes, run a business. Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about thanks to COVID.
So say it with me – AARGH!!
The first semester was hard. It took us time to adjust. The kids needed to learn the ins and outs of being independent learners, finding their list of lessons for the day, figuring out how to watch videos, submit audio files, find their worksheets..
I needed to succumb to my new OTHER full time job of submitting their worksheets. Every now and then the kids get an F on their work because it was submitted in the George Washington lesson and not the Johnny Appleseed lesson. It’s MY f*cking F.
But now that we’re in the second half of the second semester it’s even harder than the first. We’re fatigued. We’ve had enough. The trip is demanding as is.
But it wasn’t all bad. I’ve broken it down into pros and cons so you can make your own decision as to whether you might want to do this someday.
Keep in mind that real homeschoolers wouldn’t call what we’re doing homeschooling. But there was no way I was going to create three different curriculums perfectly tailored to each kid and their strengths. Sounds lovely, but it’s not me.
When we thought about doing this last summer we decided we needed to choose a school that had structure, was accredited, and would be a one-stop shop. We settled on Laurel Springs.
Pros and cons below.
Pros and Cons of Homeschooling as we’ve done it:
- The kids have developed a lot of independence. Even the 6 year old knows how to open her assignments, do the lesson, take the quiz, complete the worksheets.
- They can work anytime, anywhere. This comes in handy when you need to travel on a weekday and make up a school day on the weekend.
- They can go at their own pace. My eldest recently proposed a deal that if he finishes everything a month early he gets unlimited screentime for the rest of the month. I agreed. On the other hand my middle is about 50 lessons behind. So.
- They’ve actually learned a lot. The school is demanding and is slightly above grade level. My 6 year old wrote a research paper on gems and my 12 year old can sort of speak Spanish after starting from scratch.
- The teachers don’t let ANYTHING slide. The kids must hand in every single assignment. It made me realize how much is forgiven in regular schools.
I begged my middle son’s teacher to let some things go. Couldn’t we forget about making the volcan? Or the weather station we didn’t track for 10 days? No. We couldn’t.
- Grades are strictly based on multiple choice tests and written assignments. The kids who do better with other modalities are out of luck.
- There is no personal connection with the teachers. The kids get a list of assignments for the whole semester and they’re on their own with no face to face Zoom lessons. The teachers have live office hours but my kids never wanted to go. I do. It’s when I beg them for mercy.
- It’s a TON of work. And it hangs over us like a San Francisco cloud.
In sum, once every three days homeschooling brings me to tears. No kidding. I don’t think we would do it this way again.
The trip itself has offered great opportunities for learning. We’ve followed Lewis and Clark’s route, we’ve learned about geology at the parks, we’ve heard the music of each place we’re in, and we’ve listened to more than 18 hours of Laura Ingall’s experience as we drove past the prairie and saw the railroad her father worked on. So perhaps I have been homeschooling after all?
Anyway, the point is this. Whenever you imagine us in fairy trip la la land, remember homeschooling. It’s the whip that keeps on whipping.