It is a question that comes up a lot on our travels. Mainly from well-meaning curious family members, but sometimes new people we have met who have never considered home education as an option before. It has prompted me consider what Eliza has learned in our almost 6 months of being away, so here is the long answer…
Travelling is a huge confidence builder. Eliza has watched us navigate around new towns and look up bus and train routes. We have made mistakes, got lost, took wrong advice but always find a way through it. She is witnessing first hand that the best laid plans often go awry, but this is totally okay.
We have made a point of teaching Eliza at least ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ in the languages of the countries we have visit. We have also looked into the culture of each country through their traditional dress, celebrating their different holidays, and trying the different foods they eat. Eliza is learning that a world exists out of what she has known, that there are very different ways to live your life, and that how we do things as a family isn’t the only way.
Travelling has helped bring history to life. We visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam after reading a few pages on Anne Frank in the Great Woman Who Changed The World book. Although Eliza listened and understood the words in the book,being in the house made her realise it was all real. It was a moving experience for us all. Whist in France we visited the Thiepval war memorial which led to many discussions about why the war happened and what happened to children her age during the war. These experiences have encouraged empathy and a real understanding better than any lesson.
TO TRY NEW THINGS
Doing what we used to do at home isn’t always possible when travelling, so we are forced to adjust and learn new things whether that’s a new transport system, or a new way to ask for things. We have always tried new food from every country, which hasn’t always been pleasant!
TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH STRANGERS
At home we teach our kids to ‘never talk to strangers’ as a safety rule. Well this rule made with all good intentions has to have some flexibility to it when travelling, otherwise it would be a very lonely experience. When we have been desperate for human interaction we have spoken to strangers and guess what… they were all lovely. All three of us have made friends that we have kept in touch with since moving on. Eliza has some business cards with her contact details on, she given these out to new friends she has made, and is in regular contact with friends from Holland and France. It’s a beautiful thing to see her make new friends all over the continent.
TIME ALONE TO REFLECT
Back home Eliza was never alone. Being a childminder meant our house was always full of children – we also lived on a friendly cul-de-sac full of people always there to play with. Being alone was something Eliza had never had to get used to until now. This wasn’t an easy thing for her to master. She hated quiet, she hated being alone, and for a while she missed the unlimited play mates she had on offer. Almost 6 months into our travels and having time alone is a regular part of her day now. That space and time to reflect on the days adventures, form her own opinions, think up some big questions and let her imagination run wild is now something she enjoys.
Patience has never been one of Eliza strong suits! She would get so frustrated when learning new things such as reading, writing and riding a bike. Her fists would clench, she’d jig about and you could see the frustration in her eyes. She wanted to be amazing at new things straight away and if it was slightly too difficult she would give up. I don’t know if it is due to escaping the fast paced lifestyle that we were used to back home, or maybe being away from the constant distractions, or possibly just part of growing up, but her patience has definitely improved. This has made learning new things much more enjoyable for both of us, and seen her make leaps and bounds academically.
THE THREE R’S
Eliza has ben working her way through the Reading Eggs program at her own pace. Reading Eggs is an online reading programme for 3-7 year olds. She completed this programme just before her 6th birthday and is now working her way through the Reading Eggspress programme for 7-13 year olds.
Eliza’s reading has come on amazingly well whilst we have been away. On top of Reading Eggs she has been working her way through Practise Your Phonics With Traditional Tales book set. She tried out the Biff, Chip and Kipper books and the Songbird books but she found them both a little dull and repetitive.
Maths has always been an enjoyable subject for Eliza, she loves finding patterns in numbers and enjoys working her way through the Mathseeds programme. She also uses Numicon to help work out trickier sums which is a brilliant hands on multi-sensory number resource. Eliza also enjoys solving the maths problems in this Bedtime Math book which contains silly storys to help visualise problems.
Writing has never been easy for Eliza, firstly you have to sit still to write – something Eliza hates to do! However, she has really enjoyed writing to her friends whilst we have been away and loves getting letters back from them too. She is really lucky to have such lovely friends back in the UK who have written to her reguarly and her writing has improved so much. It helps that she gets to write about whatever she fancies, she can let her friends know important details such as the German words for poo and bum, or let them know of her adventures and days out.
Eliza has always seen beauty in the small things all around us. The odd shaped rock, the first snow drops, the pink sky of a sunset. She notices and appreciates it all. Eliza loves being outside exploring the woods or collecting treasures from the beach. She has realised that being outside makes her happy, and if she is feeling anxious or sad she needs to go outside to make her feel right again – this is something it took me over 30 years to figure out! We also take photos of the treasures we find or bring things home to look up on Google. In Denmark we found a dead red jellyfish on the shore of the fjord. She took photos, remembered an episode of ‘Naomi’s Nightmares of Nature’ and ‘Bear Grylls survival school’ which told he about jellyfish stings, so she didn’t touch it but did give it a good poke with a stick! At home she found out it was a species called a lion’s mane jellyfish ,and found a story of a dead broken down one floating around and stinging 150 people. This lead to other searches of toxic animals and many questions. This one find lead to a whole days worth of research and learning.
On another adventure to the woods Eliza found part of a spine and hip bone. This lead on to measuring, looking up which animals live in the woods nearby, and discussions on how it could have died.
Here in Norway we can see a pair of magpies making a nest from our livingroom window, we’re currently researching when they will lay eggs, how long does the magpie sit on the eggs, and what the eggs look like. We have a wonderful view of the mountains here and one rainy day we could actually see the full water cycle right before our eyes. The rain is falling, the waterfall is running faster than yesterday into the fjord, we could then see water evaporating and forming small clouds which in turn moved up higher to join the bigger clouds. We’re finding learning opportunities all around us every day, and loving the time and space to slow down and explore them.