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Homeschooling on the Road, or Worldschooling

In just over a week, we’re jetting off for a three-month trip travelling around the world. First stop Hong Kong for a couple of days, followed by touring the North and South Islands of New Zealand in a campervan for five and a half weeks, on to Australia for three to visit our friends, then Indonesia for another three weeks with a final stop in Bangkok. It’s a trip of a lifetime; something we’ve been saving up for years to achieve, and to say we’re excited would be the understatement of the year!

The vast majority of the children’s learning will be hands on, experiential type learning. From a Maori cultural experience day; to a knife making course; to seeing first-hand the geothermal activity in Rotorua; to snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef; to seeing Komodo dragons; to a bubble maker SCUBA diving course; to visiting the Bajo people (living in their houses on stilts over the sea) alongside an anthropologist, there are just so many wonderfully exciting opportunities for learning in a meaningful and lasting way about the world around them.

Having said that, although we’re refocussing our educational priorities during this time, there are many simple ways to keep up with their studies in a fun way as we travel. There will be many many hours spent driving, waiting in airports or flying and we’ll use some of this time for a bit of “stealth learning”. Here’s what we plan to take with us, with the focus very much on simple, enjoyable and weighing as little as possible (one of our flights has only a 10kg/person luggage allowance…)

1. Audiobooks

We’re huge fans of listening to audiobooks in the car – they make those long, arduous journeys both an enjoyable and educational experience, allowing us time to listen to that classic novel, like The Hobbit, which would otherwise take me weeks to read aloud to them; or discover new and interesting facts through our non-fiction selections such as Great Scientists and their Discoveries. We have long campervan/car drives planned for New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia, so I’m taking a selection of fiction and non-fiction choices to while away the time whilst they stare out the window at the beautiful scenery or keep their hands busy with colouring or drawing (in the camper, they’ll be seated at a table as we drive). Here are our selections for our travels, which include a mixture of audio CDs and stories downloaded from Audible:

Fiction

History

  • Our Island Story, Volume 3 – James I and Guy Fawkes to Queen Victoria (the time period we’re starting to study)
  • Story of the World (not linked as we bought our copy in the US) – we use this as our history spine, so we’ll just listen from the section we’re up to (The Settlement of the New World) onwards in time. When we’re back in the UK, we’ll review these chapters and write summaries, but whilst we’re travelling, we’ll just enjoy listening to the fascinating stories and accounts from this curriculum.
  • Great Explorers of the World (part of the Naxos Junior Classics series which is excellent)
  • Great Victorians (another Naxos Junior Classics CD)

Science

Three more from the Naxos Junior Classics series:

Religion

2. Kindles

I’ve resisted buying Kindles for a long time, simply because I love the feel and smell of books. Yes, maybe this makes me a little weird, but give me a physical book to hold in my hand alongside a steaming hot cup of tea rather than an electronic device any day. However, given the sheer volume my two read, there is no way we could carry three months’ worth of their books with us. We’d need at least a 30kg/person weight limit to achieve this!

So, this Christmas, we invested in Kindles for the Beans (we opted for the new Kindle Paperwhites), which they’re both thrilled with. I’ve loaded them up with books from a range of literary styles – some classics (helpfully many of these are free); current fiction; poetry; historically-based fiction; fiction from the countries we’re visiting (I used the Give Your Child the World book to help with these choices); science; and riddle books. Some they’ve chosen themselves after happy hours perusing the shelves of Waterstones (I felt a bit guilty about this since we weren’t actually buying the physical books, but figured I’ve spent so much in this shop over the years, that I really shouldn’t worry!) and some I’ve selected for them.

These two small devices will provide hours of entertainment sitting at roadside cafes in Bangkok, on a boat in the middle of the South China Sea, tucked in bed in our tiny campervan home or waiting in the check-in line at the airport. There’s no way we’ll get through all the books we’ve picked, but here’s what we’ve chosen for them both (they’ll rotate between the different styles throughout the three months):

Bean9

  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (free on Kindle)
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (free on Kindle Unlimited)
  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (free in Kindle Unlimited)
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville (free on Kindle Unlimited)
  • Marine Science for Kids: Exploring and Protecting Our Watery World by Bethanie Hestermann – to support our marine biology study and our first-hand investigation of the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific (and free to borrow on Kindle Unlimited).
  • Tom Appleby, Convict Boy by Jackie French – after being caught for stealing a loaf of bread, eight-year old Tom is deported to Botany Bay, Australia. Luckily, shortly after his arrival in this new country, a kind sergeant takes Tom on as a servant, and together, they build a house; install an orchard and vegetable garden; and thrive, while many others around them are suffering in this new and unfamiliar land.
  • Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan – when a second baby girl is born to a family in China, it’s quickly decided that she’s to be sent away. The law dictates that each family may only have two children, and traditionally, a boy is much desired in this culture. To give the family a chance to have a boy, the new girl must go. Their fourteen-year-old daughter Chu Ju refuses to let this happen to her sister and so she decides to run away to make a new life for herself.
  • Six Centuries of English Poetry Tennyson to Chaucer by James Baldwin – for her to dip into and also free!
Her Choices:

Bean8

His Choices:

3. Maths

To keep up with their maths skills on our travels, we’re opting for quality over quantity! They’ll do a maximum of 12 questions a day (about 10 minutes) whilst we’re travelling from either a Schofield & Sims Mental Arithmetic: Book 4 for Bean8 and Book 6 for Bean9, or a Bond equivalent: Maths 10 Minute Tests for 9-10 year olds for Bean8 and Bond Online for Bean9.

In addition to this though, travel affords plentiful opportunities for practising their maths in real-life practical scenarios, such as using exchange rates to work out the cost of products, budgeting, translating km to miles, calculating distances to our next destination and time to drive said distance, working out time zone differences and the best time to call family, reading timetables, and so much more.

Furthermore, MrJ is a maths lover and I have no doubt that he’ll come up with some interesting mathematical challenges and puzzles for the kids to work out along our journey (often with the use of some chalk on paving stones or just written with their fingers in the sand – learning really does happen everywhere!). Check out an example of this from our trip to Thailand last year.

4. English Skills

Father Christmas very kindly left each of the Beans a journal in their stockings this year. Writing a daily entry into such a travel journal is something we’ll all do (although mine will be on the blog!). It doesn’t have to be long, just whatever they want to write and remember about the day. We’ve done this before on holidays, sticking in tickets or postcards as further memories. They both enjoy the process and love looking back over old diaries and reminiscing over shared stories. This year, they also both have their own cameras, so we’ll make sure to leave enough space in the journals to add in photos they’ve taken of each place, as a visual representation of our voyages.

I’ve also just signed up for a year’s membership to Bond Online (£55, aimed at 9-11 year-olds), which covers maths, English skills, verbal and non-verbal reasoning skills. My intention was for Bean9 to use it to practise her maths and English skills whilst travelling, but from the very first day we signed up, they’ve both been hooked! Amazingly (since they’re both very competitive), they decided to work together on the mini tests, bouncing ideas off one another, thoroughly relishing the experience and learning a lot in the process. In the first couple of days, they probably spent about four hours working on it (of their own volition). So, I would say this is definitely money well spent and takes away any requirement for carrying books around the world.

5. Spanish

I’d like to keep their Spanish language skills ticking over whilst we’re away, just so we don’t lose the ground we’ve made over the last year. As such, we’ll do a little bit of Spanish together maybe two or three times a week. This will be as simple as a Rosetta Stone lesson (10mins) and a couple of chapters of their current Michel Thomas CD (about 10mins/chapter) each week whilst we’re driving about. Some weeks it may be more and others we won’t get to it at all, but it should keep the language fresh in their minds.

In addition to the above, we’re taking the Spanish card game KLOO (Places and Travel), a game in which they have to put Spanish verbs, adverbs, nouns and adjectives together to make sentences and translate them accurately to gain extra points. My two are incredibly competitive and love trying to see who can get the longest or most silly sentence! (NB: KLOO is also available in different languages, such as French and Italian).

6. Games & Activity Packs

Children can learn so much through playing games together; it doesn’t remotely feel like work to them; and it builds a sense of familial togetherness and bonding. However, I’m conscious of space and weight restrictions, so whilst there are quite a few choices, they’re all fairly small and squeeze into little gaps in the bags.

  • A pack of cards – seriously the best bang for your buck in terms of hours of entertainment versus weight/space used in the backpack! We already play quite a few games together such as Black Lady, Gin Rummy, Blackjack and Bridge, but I’m sure we’ll pick up many more on our travels.
  • Happy Families – a super simple game that we’ve played as a family for many years. Probably one to play when we’re all a little tired and not up for anything complex!
  • Sleeping Queens – my sister bought this for Bean8’s birthday and we’re addicted – it’s fab! Another quick, simple game perfect for playing at restaurants whilst you’re waiting for your food to arrive.
  • Top Trumps – we have many versions of this game! The Beans were allowed to choose one pack each for this trip: Bean9 opted for her favourite, a Shakespeare set, and Bean8 went for a Volcanoes set, perfect for our visit to New Zealand with all its geothermal activity.
  • Dutch Blitz – a super fast-paced card games that requires quick thinking and speedy reflexes. And one where I can actually beat MrJ, so it had to go on the list!
  • Flags of the World – Bean8’s favourite game of all time, bought by a lovely friend – we couldn’t leave home without it! Hopefully the rest of us can memorise them all to keep up with him…
  • Travel Mastermind – to test our logical thinking skills!
  • SET and Swish – two fantastic games which build spatial reasoning and visual perception skills. We’ve played these in four different continents already, it only seems right to take them to a fifth!
  • A travel-sized Yahtzee – helping their mental maths skills!
  • Finally, IQ Puzzler Pro and IQ Link (which a friend very kindly bought for Bean8) – excellent individual puzzle games with varying levels and degrees of difficulty.

Alongside the above, I’ve made a them each a little activity pack for the planes, which, aside from their teddies and Kindles, includes:

7. Field Guides

The only physical book we will be taking with us is the Collins Pocket Guide to Coral Reef Fishes, since we’ll be doing a lot of snorkelling and a little bit of SCUBA diving, and it’s always good to confirm and record what you’ve spotted on each adventure. They have little log books ready to keep a note of all species identified.

We’ll also be taking the binoculars and for Christmas this year, my dad bought us the Michael Morcombe & David Stewart eGuide to Australian Birds as well as the Birds of New Zealand eGuide by Paul Schofield and Brent Stephenson, which we’ve loaded onto the iPad. I’m sure they’ll be keen to keep a list of all bird and other animal species encountered on our travels.

So, there we go – quite a list, but it should be oodles of fun! In all honesty though, we’ve never travelled for as long as this before, so we’re a little blind as to how it’ll all work in practice. This is our best guess for now. But ultimately, I have no doubt that learning will be happening in abundance all of the time, wherever they are – whether that be as they experience the pungent smell of sulphur in the volcanic regions (which I’m sure will stay with them for life); or read a good book in the corner of a Thai restaurant; or listen to the sounds of the rainforest in the Daintree National Park; or play a game with their friends in the campervan. I can’t wait to watch it all unfold 🙂

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4 Comments

  1. Wow!! That trip sounds amazing!!! I’m green with envy ><!! And happy for you guys!

    If you let me give you an advice I think you are taking too much. You dont need all of that when travelling. You'll probably end up giving most of it away and using and bringing back things you have found on the way. When I've been travelling I've always got rid of lots of things that I thought I needed (books, clothes, gadgets etc…). If you really need something you can easily find it where you are. I would take only the basics and some favorites. Things will find you and it will be more interesting 😀 All the best!! Keep us updated!

  2. Thanks so much, we’re so excited to get going now! I really appreciate your advice – packing light is not one of my better skills! I’ll have another look when we come to put it all in the bags. Thank you for following along with us. Lots of love, xxxx

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