Daily home-schooling? Like, every day???
Ever wonder what full-time RVers do with kids? How do we juggle the RV lifestyle, home-schooling and flying the friendly skies, all at the same time? You and I both! I'm even curious to see how I'm going to describe our day-to-day life in this blog post... Here goes!
Full-time RVers, parents, home-schoolers and Flight Attendants? How in the h*** does that work?
We've been RVing full-time for close to 4 years now and we have a 5 year old son and a sassy, 3 year old daughter (seemingly going on 14, with her mother's sassiness... OMG! Please help me!!). If you do quick math, you'll notice that our daughter has never known a "normal home" other than our RV. Granted, our RV is the size of Godzilla and weights as much. We have a 44' fifth wheel Toy Hauler. I always laugh when other campers see us roll in and ask us what kind of toys do we haul, in our rig. They're expecting us to say something cool like a 2 motorcycles, one for my wife and the other, with a sidecar for the kids or a four-seater, side-by-side Polaris RZR or a sooped up, pimped-out golf cart with bright orange flames on the side... I simply respond by saying, we haul REAL toys, then I pause. Once I see their, dog-head-tilt look dissipate, I explain that we have kids toys, Thomas & Friend trains, Trolls anything and everything and the kids school supplies. They laugh and then it dawns on them, we have kids therefore, we don't have any adult toys... "Must be tough!", they respond. "Not as tough as answering this question at each campground we go to", I answer!
Moving along, we do have school supplies because our kids are home-schooled (travel-schooled or world-schooled are also acceptable terms in our home). We won't get into, why our kids aren't going to school, cause that'll be a whole other post. Before you even ask us (and I know you're just itching to ask), "Aren't you worried, your kids will be socially awkward?", let's remember that this question is, in itself, socially awkward. To question someone who lives on a campground with an incredibly open community of travelers, who all love to travel, meet people, swap and tell stories of their travels, is an ironic statement. How well do you even know your next door neighbour? Now, our normal response to the question, "Aren't you worried, your kids will be socially awkward?", is and will always be, "Am I socially awkward? No! If I'm not socially awkward, why would my kids be?". Kids pick up on everything, their geniuses for putting back in our face, what we've recently done or said. They're amazing at mimicking us, so if we talk to strangers, to our neighbours and to staff, why wouldn't they do the same? You know what's socially awkward? It's when my boy walks up to some kid at the playground and ask if he or she, wants to play. That kid will get weirded out and usually run to his or her parent because they don't know how to react to a stranger asking them to... play!
But I digress, once again! Our day-to-day Joseph, focus!
If we're lucky, our kids will let us sleep until 7am. Or I'll open one eye, only to see my daughter two inches away from my face, not saying a word, creepily hoping I'll invite her for into bed, for a morning snuggle. Seriously, how long has she been staring at me? This is just weird but she's cute as a button, so she gets away with that crap. We head downstairs and by "downstairs", I mean down three steps from the bedroom to our main living area (living room, boudoir, main entrance, dining room, library, office space and play room, all rolled into one), turn on the tea kettle for morning coffee. Once we've extracted all remanence of popcorn from the inner corner of our eyes, we realize we're missing another child, we have two... Oh, let me guess, that big lump of duvet that's giggling, is my son, hiding with the iPad that I hid the night before and clearly, didn't do a good enough job of hiding...
Breakfast while trying to figure what day of the week it is and when either one of us is flying next. (My wife and I are both flight attendants (FAs) for a Canadian Airline, hence why we presently are living close to the Toronto International Airport). Being FAs and home schoolers with no outside help from our immediate family means, one of us is always home while the other is flying the friendly skies and coming up with insightful Tips and Tricks for Air Travel (https://theoilytravelers.squarespace.com/home/2018/8/12/top-102-air-travel-tips-and-tricks-from-a-flight-attendant-couple), shamelessly plugging one of our 5 blog posts and thinking I'm so freaking clever. The Stay-At-Home-Parent-That-Day sets up the classroom in the garage part of the Toy Hauler. We'll bring clipboards (already painted with chalk paint), chalk, sketch paper, markers, crayons, books and any other tools that could lead to a fun and educational morning. Somedays, school goes on for 4 hours and other days, when the wheels fall off early, school is done within 20 minutes. I'm presently introducing French since Mimi (no, not the one from The Drew Carey Show but my wife's favourite Mother-in-Law) doesn't speak a whole lot of English and I want good, strong communication between my parents and their only grandchildren.
The afternoon consists of one of three things, groceries/errands, YMCA (you know, to socialize... LOL) or finding an adventure. We do groceries because we need to eat or else, you know, we die. The YMCA (The Early Years programs in Ontario, as seen in the picture above, are amazing alternatives too) is to play well with other kids and let other people (whom we always refer to as "Teacher Zach, "Teacher Liz" or "Teacher Kate") show, that rules don't only exist with Mommy and Daddy. They need to see other people lead with structure, discipline and love, as we do! We are very lucky in the sense that we found an amazing YMCA in Waterdown (Ontario) with amazing young facilitators/"Teachers". I've seen more mental development at this YMCA this summer, than in the past 2 years of going to various YMCAs across Canada and the US. It might be because the kids are a little older and are picking things up faster but I believe the love that they get at this YMCA, is a big reason. The facilitators are always asking for hugs, high fives and good manners, something we are also VERY big on. They also get swimming lessons weekly, which will hopefully, lead us to more educational adventures next summer, introducing kayaking, tubing and/or water-skiing. The afternoon adventures will usually consist of something that they love and we try to include something educational. My boy loves trains. I mean, he LOVES trains! We can usually find some form of train museum, train rides, train store or miniature trains somewhere close. We'll also, regularly go for a hike. If we're lucky, we'll find a Park Ranger and ask them a few questions about the park itself. The Park Ranger is always excited to share their knowledge with anyone and the kids are usually intrigued. It's a win-win! I can't wait to get our kids into Junior Rangers, Cadets, Boy Scouts or Girl Guides. You see, we knew at a very young age, our kids needed to learn by being involved. If we sent our kids to normal, public school, they wouldn't go three days before someone would recommend, they be put on Ritalin or be diagnosed as ADHD/ADD, cause they can't stay put for 2 seconds. They learn by moving. They learn by touching. They learn by being implicated. I'm not saying they'll be the next Gillian Lynne (watch Sir Ken Robinson's introduction to this wonderful woman) but it's something we need to keep an eye on.
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. Included, is the story of how Gillian Lynne became one of the most renowned ballerina, dancer, choreographer, actress and theatre/television Director.
Our evenings will consist of quiet time, dinner as a family, discussing what we liked best about our day and we'll praise our kids on something, they did very well, during the day. We find praising to be an incredibly effective, reinforcing tool to promote good behaviour. When we're doing our FA thing at 40,000 feet, I'm not going to lie, I don't give free stuff to passengers behaving badly on my flight. We also have a fun expression, "It's never really about the sandwich!". When someone gets upset on the plane, it rarely has to do with something we did, it usually goes deeper, they've been bottling something up and it explodes in the flight attendant's face. I don't reward that behaviour, so I won't do it at home either. We reward good behaviour with praises and love, and we do notice how much they brighten up with praises and they then crave for more, leading them to even better behaviour, down the road.
Bedtime is story time, one book each! If we've done our job properly during the day, they pass out pretty quickly after reading our books. Good night little ones, sleep tight. Tomorrow is a bright new day of learning!
Why do we do it this way?
Our entire educational system that we have at home, is to help our kids find what makes them happy. We don't care about names, titles, statuses, what society deems as a good job or a bad job. If they'd be happy as a Dr, then school and diplomas will need to become a reality, very quickly for them. If they'd be happy inventing a new solar system for RVs, start tinkering. If they'd be happiest, traveling the world and bringing joy to everyone they meet and become some form of philanthropist, so be it. We'll be happy, when they're happy!
We believe, like anything in life, there are Pros and Cons to home-schooling. Let's have a very quick look.
-We are directly involved in what we believe to be important tools, to becoming productive and successful young people, in society. Love, respect, compassion, empathy, involvement and manners are the foundation of our education, for the kids.
-Nothing is standardized, everything is custom made for each child since every child's learning curve is different. We take their preferred interest at the time, as a learning tool. My son loves trains and my daughter loves Trolls (then again, who doesn't love a great Troll love story?) so using trains and Trolls as a tool to learn shapes, colours, numbers and hand/eye coordination while building train tracks, was a breeze for them (Yes, they share)
-Every moment, every situation, every outdoor activity now becomes a educational tool. School for us, is not Monday to Friday, September to June. It's 7 days/week and 12 month/year. School is not a means to a diploma, to a college, to a university, to a career. School is a state of mind! Constantly finding things to learn can become a passion!
-The lack of... It's harder to... Missing out on... You know what, I've been sitting here, facing my laptop for the last 20 minutes, typing a sentence or three, then erasing everything, struggling with this portion of the post because I simply can not find Cons for home-schooling. It all comes down to personal choice.
No child comes with an Instruction Manual. No adult is given a How-To method of parenting (Holy! Could you imagine what that Billion dollar idea could look like!). As long as you do what you think is best for your child, with the information you have, no one can or should judge you. There is an "inconvenience" that comes with home-schooling where the parents, can't selfishly have some free time to themselves, without the kids around. Every year, you see relieved parents sending their kids to school. Don't worry, I love those pictures too!
Home-schooling is NOT easy by any means but we are VERY involved with our kids and we're growing as a family. We found what was important for us. We found our groove.
I implore everyone to consider the alternatives. It doesn't mean that an alternative form of schooling works for you but know what other tools are offered. We're presently looking at Government Financial Aid for home-schoolers, possibly submitting receipts for educational activities, for tax refunds, anything helps, right?
What do you want to be when you grow up? We want to be more like John Lennon!
"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original" -Sir Ken Robinson