Roadschooling is proving to be a mix of highs and lows for Jason and I as parents/teachers. Some days, the kiddos are up early ready to get their math lessons done before breakfast (and sometimes before mom even gets up!). Some days however, are filled with opposition, tears and drama, which are not easy to deal with, even with parent help, encouraging words, and patience (which does have a limit!). We have had more than a few instances of “let’s put it away, get some fresh air, and work on it this afternoon.” This is usually met with grumbles, and yes sometimes more tears, but usually gives the kiddos (and us too) a much-needed break.
We are fortunate to have this time to focus on the academic needs of JUST 2 tweenagers. Our teacher to student ratio is the best it can possibly be. As parents and teachers, sometimes we struggle to balance out what they should be working on academically with work, traveling days and opportunities we can’t pass up (usually sightseeing, hands-on learning, hiking, etc.). We do our best though, and mostly feel like what we are bringing to their education while on this journey is grade-appropriate, individualized to the best of our ability, and will help them grow into more compassionate and understanding people.
As a teacher myself, this roadschooling experience is proving to be much more difficult than teaching a classroom full of kiddos. I’ll be the first to admit that hearing your own child say, “I wish a REAL teacher could teach me” is a shot to the self-esteem. I’ve even heard a kid say “I HATE Social Studies,” which truly breaks my heart as I LOVE it and put a lot of effort into planning lessons.
At the same time, roadschooling is also proving to be more rewarding than I thought it could be. We get to learn about new things from naturalists, rangers, museum docents and trained volunteers, and from directly observing new surroundings. The kids are unconsciously improving their geography skills and knowledge by both looking at maps more frequently and having real-life experiences all over the US that they can draw from in the future. We have some time to let our curiosity drive some of our learning. Moreover, even with our book learning (and virtual learning), Jason and I have the opportunity to learn things we previously were unaware of. We can enhance what we read about by finding that clever documentary on The Nile River Valley or by reading that novel (currently The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) WITH Liam and Ella. We get to review our math skills by helping the kids solve their equations and figure out the difference between a complimentary and supplementary angle. Best of all, we can see where they struggle and SLOW THINGS DOWN when we need to. Do we worry that slowing things down means we won’t cover all the material we should for them? Honestly, sometimes we do (well, as a teacher, I do anyway). However, these days we’re embracing quality over quantity. And…when we have those days with learning, improvement, AND smiles, it tends to make our roadschooling struggles all worthwhile.
Here’s an example of a struggle (showing that we do indeed have them!): One of the kids is a gifted writer. They love to write and can fill pages upon pages with fiction, essay, research, and narrative. This kiddo actually asks to use some of their screen “freetime” to work on writing. Conversely, we have another child who doesn’t like to write at all. He/she reads ALL THE TIME and cheekily brings many borrowed words/phrases into verbal discussion, but can’t seem to find their voice in writing. After seeing the latest writing assignment, which was based on an experience we had in the Everglades, I was left feeling like this child needed help. What to do, what to do? A shared writing piece was just the ticket. The three of us could all contribute to a cooperative writing piece. We could work on a quality introduction, incorporate direct quotes (and lead-ins) and encourage voice and clever descriptive words (I DID review today that readers really dislike reading that a character was “nice.”). It was refreshing to NOT have any whining or tears during the assignment for a change, and by working cooperatively, I think our reluctant writer “upped their game” as far as choosing words more carefully. We were able to tackle all of those writing objectives we set out to, and we produced a piece that both met some middle school writing objectives and shared a little bit of our personalities at the same time.
Yep…roadschooling middle-schoolers is difficult, even for a certified teacher. After today’s studies, however, Jason and I are left feeling triumphant. As a bonus, it’s Friday, which means for our family, we get a two-day break from the more formal learning we do. Time to unwind, get out our rainboots, and go explore!