One of the most common questions we get from people we meet traveling, but especially on our social media pages is: “What are you doing about school for the kids?”
Some people are just genuinely curious. Some contact us because they're thinking of traveling longer term with their kids too and want logistical information – a sort of “how to.” Some others are clearly alarmed by our unconventional lifestyle and have even gone so far as to suggest that by living nomadically we’re somehow robbing our children of the opportunity to learn and to socialize.
Our way of life is a choice, and one that precludes us from placing our children in the conventional education system. But actually, we’ve always believed in alternative schooling. Before leaving Red Deer, Arjuna was attending Waldorf Kindergarten, which is very much based on experiential learning and educating the “whole” child. Even if we lived in a house and had the option of sending our kids to public school, we would probably still choose to educate them ourselves.
We’ve encountered families traveling in RVs who diligently homeschool their kids for 3-6 hours each day. We literally won’t even see their kids emerge until the afternoon when their work is done. This happens through textbooks and online resources. We’ve also hung out with families who live nomadically and are completely into unschooling. They don’t do anything structured and are confident their kids will learn the necessities in their own time when they express an interest. Those kids are also learning some pretty cool stuff like surfing and photography and they get to play outside all day.
Personally, we don’t follow any one model of education. We don’t even really have a set routine. How we school changes based on what we’re currently doing and where we are. We kind of home school. We sometimes unschool. We believe in the idea of world school. I guess we road school. And what that looks like is constantly changing.
Arjuna sometimes uses exercise books for writing, reading, and math. When we’re set up somewhere for a week or more, we try to do a couple of hours of conventional schoolwork per day. Like if we’re working onsite at a yoga studio and Josh is coaching the studio owner, Jenna will do school with Arjuna in the morning, then we’ll go to the beach. When we’re working, that can be a routine. We’ve recently discovered that during long driving days, we can sometimes do a bit of bookwork to break up the day, too.
Often we’re moving from place to place or we’re busy exploring sights and the outdoors. In that case, road school is a nature walk learning about different plants and wildlife. Or checking out the treasures we find strewn on the beach. Arjuna's curiosity -- what he can see, touch, and hear -- and family conversations are tools for learning about the world around us as we experience it.
When we’re checking out cities, we learn about ancient civilizations, the current culture and exhibits at museums. Arjuna has recently taken up photography and we love to see what interests him when we visit different places. He's gaining a broad perspective of what life looks like for people in different provinces, states, and countries and noticing and appreciating differences.
Sometimes road school is drawing pictures as we drive, or making a dream catcher, or doing arts and crafts. Arjuna is also learning how to play guitar.
Math happens in real life situations, like saving and budgeting (Arjuna gets an allowance for doing chores). When we go to the market, Arjuna can use his own money to buy something, but our tiny living rule is that for each new item we accumulate, we have to donate an item we no longer use. He also counts pesos to pay for a juice in the morning and figures out what our change will be.
Sometimes road school is about moving our bodies and learning about health, wellness and taking care of ourselves. Arjuna practices yoga with us at home, at studios, at retreats and at the teacher trainings we visit. Sometimes he takes surf lessons, goes snorkelling, or practices his swimming.
We want our children to learn multiple languages and be citizens of the world. We’re all constantly working on improving and practicing our Spanish. Arjuna took Spanish lessons for two weeks when we were in Patzcuaro. We've gotten in the habit of speaking in English and Spanish, so now Lux is speaking Spanglish!
As far as learning to socialize goes, Arjuna has become so much more outgoing since we started travelling. At first it was hard for him to approach other kids to play. We had to go with him and hold his hand. But now he doesn’t even think twice before approaching any kid, regardless of age or nationality, and asking them to play, either in English or Spanish. We’re also proud that he not only socializes with kids, but he can sit at a table of adults and take part in any conversation (ok – he usually dominates the conversation!).
We plan to stay flexible in our approach to road school. If we feel it’s important to follow a curriculum more closely as Arjuna gets older, we’ll do that. We think it would be a great experience to put him in a bilingual school for a semester somewhere in Central America, too, just for something new. And then there’s Lux. Maybe we’ll do something similar for her, or maybe we’ll have to go about her learning with a completely different approach based on her unique personality and whatever we’re doing and wherever we happen to be as she gets older.
Kids are sponges and they take in and apply information in such a variety of ways – in ways that conventional school doesn’t always account for. Are skills like reading, writing, math, problem solving and critical thinking important? Yes, absolutely. Personally, we're also focused on Arjuna learning to be a nice human, feeling good in his skin, exploring his unique talents, and appreciating our planetary inter-connectedness.
So are we educating our kids? The answer is yes. There is more than one way to school. Is there advice we can give about how to road school? Not really. We think families should just do whatever works for them and makes both the parents and kids happy, healthy, and well-rounded individuals who affect the planet positively.