Our World School: An End of Year Report

For anyone planning longterm travel with kids, anyone who would like to travel and is delaying having kids to do so, or any parents who would love to travel but feel they can’t because of the kids, probably the single biggest concern is what sort of education a child will get on the road.

This is also a major source of anxiety for other family members, particularly grandparents.

Honestly? Education, once you get the hang of it, is one of the easiest things about travelling as a family. I’ve posted before about the wonders of unschooling, a child-led approach to learning. I’ve also posted about the sheer hell of imposing a school-y structure on travelling, AKA death by long division.

Most of Z’s learning is hands-on, supplemented by almost entirely self-directed reading. We spend very little time on more formal learning, though I’ve had to learn a lot myself to keep up with his questions on the places we visit.

Here’s the end of year report card on my now-ten-year-old son’s roadschooling. I’m hoping travelling parents, prospective travelling parents and, for that matter, others considering alternatives to the school system, will find it useful.
sitting doing maths in a cafe in thailand.

Writing
At school, Z’s reluctance to hand write meant he did not complete a single longer writing assignment. Using a netbook, and a small amount of the sort of one-to-one attention that most classroom teachers can’t find the time to give to able children, has transformed his writing.

He writes imaginatively and creatively, with good grammar, syntax and vocabulary, good structure and good flow. He writes happily on-screen, participates in blogs and online forums, and uses language appropriately to its context, though he tends sometimes too much to the concise.

Some standouts? An excellent piece of Vogon poetry, inspired by watching The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and supplemented by reading Jabberwocky together. A sinister story of his own initiation. Also a fine piece of instructive writing: Zombie Survival Guide for N0obs. He’s also now comfortable with formal writing, like reports and essays.

A creative response to his reading of Chickenhawk, an American chopper pilot’s account of the Vietnam War, produced some dialogue that was, err, Tarantino-esque.

One major challenge? Handwriting. While I don’t think handwriting will be a big feature of Z’s world as an adult, the men in his family are unanimous that he should not be held back by childish, ill-formed handwriting.

So we’re trialling a calligraphy-led approach, learning left-handed copperplate as an art form, in the hope that treating writing as a thing of beauty and an art form will work within the unschool format. So far? He seems to be enjoying it.

big bowl of cherries, hovering over scienceworks, melbourne

Maths
Z is an able mathematician with strong visual-spatial reasoning skills, who enjoys problem-solving and puzzles and taught himself decimal and percentages. He also has sod-all interest in maths beyond currency conversions, logic problems and whatever he needs to understand whatever he’s reading.

Yet we’ve somehow covered Roman numerals, graphs, pie charts, negative numbers, mean, median, mode, geometry, powers and squares, area, volume, nets and shapes, probability, prime numbers and irrational numbers, including pi, largely using stimuli from around us or subjects that come up in conversation. Also, err, long division…

He’s a gamer, so the BBC Bitesize maths games have proved a godsend, as has the Woodlands Maths Zone. The Primary Mathematics Challenge papers have been a great way of crystallizing learning, challenging him and exposing gaps in his knowledge.

A big gap? He’s nowhere near as solid on his times tables as he might be had he drilled them as children do in school, which slows down his mental maths.

History
This year in history we have covered: the Cambodian genocide, the Khmer god kings, the Vietnam War (and the rise of Communism), World War II in Asia, the Dutch East India Company and British East India Company’s impact on South-East Asia, Kublai Khan and the Mongols, the origins of World War I, Confucius, the Vedas, the Spice Trade, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Japanese bushido code, the road to Philippine independence and the early history of Australia.

Z has talked to survivors of the Cambodian genocide, Vietnam war veterans and Agent Orange victims, explored fighting tunnels, hospital caves and the Tuol Sleng prison, hiked the Ho Chi Minh Trail and visited the war remnants museum in Saigon. He’s visited battlefields and monuments at Corregidor, Morotai and the war museum in Penang, and handled World War II weaponry.

He’s explored Angkor Wat, one of the wonders of the world, and the Cham ruins at My Son, Vietnam, and climbed on more tanks and cannons than you can shake a stick at. Through repeated reading of EH Gombrich’s A Little History of the World, he also knows more European history than I do.

Meeting hunter-gathering nomads and reading selected extracts from Guns, Germs, and Steel has given him an insight into primitive societies, also the origins of language and scripts.

He’s made great progress on the largely Western-centred, though very comprehensive, knowledge of history he acquired by way of the Horrible Histories series back in the UK.

Geography
Z has participated in mapping our travels and studied underwater navigation while learning to dive. He knows the globe, including the major capital cities well and has observed and commented on a range of different economies and agricultural patterns. He has spent time with different types of farmers and observed the negative impact of logging and biofuels on the climate.

He has learnt about different types of ecosystems and habitat, from rainforests to semi-desert. Trips to Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary and the Brachina Gorge in Australia, Halong Bay in Vietnam and the caves of Mulu National Park in Malaysian Borneo, not to mention climbing a volcano and diving an undersea volcano, a hands-on experience of an earthquake and holding dinosaur bones have given him a good handle on geological processes.

He has studied the Mekong river, giving him insight into the forthcoming water wars and the history of the region. He has also led the way on jungle trails, developing his natural navigation talents and conducted independent shopping trips in a range of language environments.

Science
Z has studied plants and animals in a range of habitats, from coral reef to rainforest, and seen killer whales, dolphins, hornbills, tarsiers, macaques, dugong, monitor lizards, pitcher plants, eagles, manta rays, sea turtles, elephants and giant clams, among other things.

He’s stroked koalas, fed baby roos and both cared for and killed a chicken for food on the trail. He’s also studied the life-cycles and food chains of different types of creature, from coral to marsupials via plankton, strangling figs and palm trees.

Self-led study, coupled with talking to scientists, has enabled him to explore electro-physics and understand quite a bit, while qualifying as a junior open water diver and talking to experts has taught him about pressures, gases and physiology. Competition for light in the rainforest has taught him photosynthesis, which, with reading from Bill Bryson’s A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, he now understands as a chemical equation.

He has enhanced his knowledge of space, planets and star formations by using a 14-inch telesceope to observe the southern skies, made musical instruments and greatly enjoys working with his new circuit set. He’s enjoyed hands-on science learning at some excellent child-led museums, among them Scienceworks in Melbourne and Sciencentre in Brisbane.

Occasional gaming on BBC Bitesize Science ensures that he has also covered the UK science curriculum. Repeated reading of Why Is Snot Green?
and similar volumes has enhanced the science general knowledge he developed through the Horrible Science series back in the UK.

After watching turtles laying, helping to extract their eggs and releasing baby turtles into the water, he wrote a great report on turtle conservation on Pulau Derawan, Indonesia.

RE
Z has experienced and learnt about many different belief systems, and is working on a family tree of how world religions fit together.

He’s learnt about Buddhism from student monks in Chiang Mai, about Hindu gods and goddesses in Bali and at Angkor Wat, about Christianity (and its Judaic roots) at the Moriones Easter festival in Marinduque, the Philippines, and about Islam during Ramadan and Eid in Malaysia and Indonesia. He’s also learnt about a range of minority belief systems in Laos, Borneo, Indonesia and Austraia.

Attending weddings and funerals from different cultures, and visiting grave sites, has also taught Z a lot about life, death and the beliefs around them.

Art
Z draws constantly and loves making art of different kinds. Stand-out art activities from our trip: working with clay with a sculptor friend in Manila, the Philippines, designing and making two silver friendship rings and a wooden box in which to present them in Ubud, Bali, contributing to a crowd-sourced lego art project at the excellent Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia, and making a shell art piece, entirely coincidentally, on my birthday.

He also enjoys taking photos and working with them in iPhoto, making movies and editing them in iMovie, and this is something I think we will develop.

Music
While we have witnessed lots of different types of music and dance, and listened to some classic tunes, music is currently a gap in Z’s education. We’re hoping to start some formal music classes among other arts activities in Ubud, Bali in 2011, introduce him to Neil Young, and see where that takes us.

Reading
Z read early, enjoys reading and was comfortable reading anything from broadsheets to airport novels when we left. We’ve extended his reading range by reading Oliver Twist together (parts out loud, the most exciting bits independently) and he’s produced an excellent essay on social problems in Dickens. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and Artemis Fowl (new cover)series have been the bedtime reading standouts, with Clive Cussler a close second.

Languages
Z is a natural linguist who can extrapolate from related language families to put languages together, and communicates effectively both verbally and nonverbally with children from many different ages, backgrounds and language cultures.

However, he prefers not to speak a language unless he absolutely has to. He has quite a good understanding of basic Indonesian. Formal language lessons in Bali will, I hope, give him the confidence to speak rather than simply correcting me as we complete our journey through Indonesia.

ICT
Z is highly computer-literate and is now onto his second blog. He has administrator privileges on his own Netbook and uses them almost always appropriately, from defragging and retuning upwards. And, nope, he won’t be downloading Cheat Engine a second time.

Sport
Zac has qualified as a Junior Open Water Diver and has swum half a mile and the same back again through deep sea with some current, although he is unwilling to learn conventional swimming strokes. He is also happy to dive from high boards.

Though he doesn’t look it, he is physically very fit, has ascended and descended over 2k vertically in two days (a climb that many adult males do not complete), and can hike 30+k through tough jungle in a day.

He enjoys minigolf, and has played courses in Thailand, Cambodia and Australia. And he loves extreme sports, from zorbing to zipwiring and whitewater rafting.

Our 2010 travel lifestyle, where we spent no more than one week in a place, has not provided for team games or organized sport. I’m hoping that a move to extended stints of a month or so in one place in 2011 will provide more opportunities. He would also like to do more climbing.

Drama
This is currently a gap in Z’s education, and something I am hoping to address, perhaps by selecting a play as our read-aloud book and doing some arts classes in Ubud, Bali.

Socialisation
Z interacts extremely well with adults, in particular young adults, having spent a lot of time with them over the past year. He interacts equally well, though, with children of different ages and from different cultures, of whom he has met many.

When his cousins in Melbourne brought him into school for their end-of-term parties, he chatted confidently, happily and collaboratively both with his cousins, whom he loves to bits, and other children in their classes – more confidently, in fact, than he would have done before we travelled.

Over the Christmas period, he picked up with his best friend from school, who flew out to join him, as if no time at all had passed.

The family are all agreed that Z will need to re-enter the school system for at least some of the year at some point, both to allow him the space he will need to grow as a teenager and to get him access to facilities such as labs, so it’s great to see that his first year out of the system has, if anything, enhanced his coping skills.

A Caveat
I’m not a radical unschooler. So to measure Z’s progress, he sat the exams that UK children sit at the end of the school year they turn eleven. He achieved the top grade boundary (level 5) on every paper.

More to the point, Z is, as I hope readers of his old blog, The Nine Year Old Strikes Back, and his new one, A Ten Year Old’s Travels, will recognize, and I know those of you who know him know, a normal, well-adjusted and happy little boy.

I feel quite uncomfortable in writing this piece, because I feel that it makes him sound like some sort of hot-housed prodigy, which he isn’t, and me like some sort of nightmare pushy mother, which I really hope I’m not…

But I also want to share the journey we’ve come on, from “well, I’m sure he’ll learn quite a bit while we’re on holiday” to “this is actually a far better education than he would have been getting in school”, in the hope that it will help some people out there to conquer the worries about education and get their children out into the big, wide world.

I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts, whether you’ve done this, are doing it or would never, ever do it, on how best to fill the gaps I’ve identified here, and others you might see. If you’ve got any questions on how our take on unschooling works, please drop me a comment.

48 Responses

  1. I really enjoyed reading your account of Z’s education this year and seeing the breakdown of how it all fits together is going to be a big help for me next year planning Noah’s school work.

    Both of you sound like you’ve done an amazing job of working together to forward his schooling! Its not easy at times to turn a child’s interests into a complete curriculum but it sounds like you’ve gone close.

    And what I liked most about the article was you’ve accounted his achievements (which are amazing) without boasting or claiming he is an unsung genius. Not that I’m saying he’s not – its just very refreshing reading a parents account of their child’s achievements that doesn’t come across as the parent shouting off the roof tops ‘look at my kid, he’s smarter than Einstein and hence I am the best parent in the world’

    • MummyT says:

      It was so great to actually meet you guys yesterday: the kids are great. And thanks for your kind words here, too.

      I reckon with Noah you could really work the dinosaur thing — you can lead into geology, evolution, maths (their heights, sizes, the big, big numbers), arts and crafts projects… Extinction leads you into habitats. Col could do software, or lego things. If you get a big picture book, it’s a great way into reading for a bright kid who’s not so interested in it, because the long words provide so much more of a challenge than boring ole little words.

      And, curriculum-wise, it kind of does itself. Didn’t ask you if you’d done the War Museum in Penang. An *amazing* place for active boys to learn a bit of history, though I think the night stuff would be scary and you’ll probably want to keep them away from the, err, “comfort women”‘s quarters.

      • great suggestions, thanks … and hmm ‘comfort women’s quarters’ .. lovely! No we never made it there. Next time… but we’ll skip that part. Thankfully the kids missed the explanations of that at Ta Phrom in Cambodia thanks to the Spanish speaking guide. Through Dora they know a little spanish but thankfully Dora doesn’t use words like ‘concubines’ (unless you’re watching Dora on YouTube!)

  2. Bravo to the both of you. I am a big fan of “on the road schooling,” I don’t believe the “average” kid is going to miss much in public school – that he/she won’t learn on the road while traveling.

    I’d argue to say that Z is probably getting a BETTER education on the road than at home and will be a notch above his peers when he returns.

    • MummyT says:

      I hope so! And, thanks… Hope you get the most out of Australia when you visit it. We’ve decided to do a large, family drive up to Uluru from Adelaide, so we do get to see that big rock after all (sort of stuck here, waiting for the Indonesian Embassy to reopen so they can do our 60-day visas). I will pass on your congratulations to junior, who’s, err, gaming today. (Waterpark tomorrow, now that the weather has finally brightened up.)

  3. It is interesting – many people seem to believe we have started home educating/schooling our son because ‘you travel so much so you can do it on the road’. We aren’t travelling nearly as much as you, and when we are ‘away’ I feel Willem is doing enough learning just by experiencing the world around him. So I hear you on having to deal with other people assuming that your kid has to have ‘formal lessons’ all the time between the ages of six and eighteen.
    Frankly, I would quite happily travel for a year with my child and not worry about formal lessons – they are not going to drop that far behind, even if unlike us you are not home educating. Absolute worst? A highschool aged kid has to drop a year and be in a class with kids a year younger. Not that much of a sacrifice for all they will have learned in a year on the road.

    • MummyT says:

      Forrest, I can’t agree with you enough. I just did an interview with Alice, also on this comment field, and said, effectively, that with high-school aged kids rather than trying to drill for exams on the road you should gear for dropping a year — and you’ve just said exactly that!

      Where we crystallise the learning tends to be in down time. Which could be an internet cafe in some small town in indonesia, preparing for an assault on somewhere more dramatic, or Queensland in the p*ss*ng rain (no questions for guessing which I’m leaning to right now). But, yeah, much of it needs little crystallisation.

      What I’m amazed by, to be honest, is how very little written work needs to be done. I printed out some samples of Z’s written work to give to his Aussie grandfather, and I was honestly shocked by the progression. Precisely because, as you with Willem, you’ve done so little besides travel and experience.

  4. I think this post highlights beautifully – and not in a pushy parent or child genius way – that there are other options regarding how we choose to educate our children. It’s not about saying that this is right or that the school system is wrong, just that we are all allowed to think outside of the box if we so wish, and that to do so is not detrimental.

    Personally I think this experience will go far to giving Z a really great approach to life and the world we all share. Bravo 🙂

  5. i LOVE this. we unschool, and when we travel i know that our daughter learns even MORE than we learn at home.

    i think that Z has learned more in this ONE year than most kids do in the whole k-12 system. it’s crazy, how life can truly teach you, and by living such cool experiences, you can really, really get engaged with the world (and people). BRAVA!! i can’t wait to read more. and PLEASE tell me you’re not going to stop soon? you’ll all be BORED!

    • MummyT says:

      Jessie, no! No plans to stop soon. Far too much to do and see!!! I’ll update you on plans for 2011 once I’ve fully formulated them…

  6. you and Z are an insipiration, i’ve always said that. Yours is a blog i think i will remember for a very long time, and one that has challenged and changed my conservative views.

    M2Mx

    • MummyT says:

      Hello! I’m very flattered that now you are back in the world of the work and still looking after two littlies you’ve stopped by to see me. I’ve challenged my own conservative views, to be honest. I would never have seen myself as a homeschooler/unschooler, not by a long shot. I’ve never been conservative, small c or big c, but travelling has released my, well-hidden, inner hippie, and I’m happy with it. Even if Z’s long hair is now for the chop (after weeks of blowing around in the back of the ute and painful combing, he’s decided to “go for the buzzcut, mum”)…

  7. Amy says:

    Loved this post! It is so refreshing to hear about how much learning you are both doing in the wide, wide world! And because the learning is not forced, coerced or artificial it is more likely to stick.
    I am an unschooling mama now, and we are planning an open ended adventure in South East Asia next year.
    Your post has given me a great boost of confidence! Thank you

    • MummyT says:

      Thank you! I’m going to be doing more practical how-to info on S-E Asia — and reworking the site to make the practical stuff easier to find in among the travelogue. But, yes, it’s a great, wonderful easy thing to do, and it’s so great that you’ll be doing it too. Congratulations…

  8. Talon says:

    I can’t think of a better education. Beyond academics he is also learning flexibility, how to adapt rapidly to a new environment, how to work with a variety of people and how to figure out how to communicate with them, and so on. Not only will he be academically stronger, but he will be more well-suited for adulthood as a consequence. Bravo!

    I’m a single dad embarking on an indefinite RTW trip with my 9 y/o, and we’ll be doing the unschooling thing as well. He has special needs so I was concerned about my ability to cover all that he needs, but that fear was quickly cast aside as we’ve worked together on math, geography, and foreign languages. He grows and progresses far better with just a few mins with me on a subject than he has after months of traditional school. I’m excited to see what the new year will bring about for the both of us!

  9. Nicole says:

    I love this post! Youve done so much this year, so much better than being in school. We homeschool (although we’re not really home all that much) & its good to write down all you do in a year, see it all before you, helps boost the confidence. Congratulations on offering your son an amazing education. 🙂

    • MummyT says:

      And congratulations to you. It’s never something I’d have thought of doing outside the travel context, but I think combined with travel it’s incredibly enriching. Do you write down reviews of the year, too?

      • Nicole says:

        I do but really for my own records. I love giving kids the freedom and time to explore their interests. For example, my 9 y o son learned of uranium this year and became interested in radioactive materials, which led to a homemade Halloween hazmat suit costume, and then he researched Marie Curie and her discovery of radium and polonium, which has now led to a great interest in studying the periodic tables. All without pressuring from me. And I’m learning right alongside him. Those are the moments when it all makes sense and feels right.

  10. Coming late because we’ve been traveling, but wanted to say I enjoyed this and really relate because we have been world schooling our just turned 10 year old for the last 5 years as we travel the world.

    As you know I have passion about this topic and have written extensively about our experiences like:

    http://www.soultravelers3.com/2010/04/family-travel-homeschool-education-global-students-lifestyle-design-location-independent-4hww-around.html

    We actually travel the world primarily for her education and find it the best possible way to educate her for tomorrow’s world.

    We do similar things to what you mention, but we are monolinguals raising a fluent as a native trilingual/triliterate so have used both local Spanish schools ( Spain) and Mandarin Chinese ( Penang) which have really been amazing for deep cultural and language immersion.

    Our daughter also takes both piano and violin lessons ( and classes like Mandarin or other like through Johns Hopkins University CTY) via webcam skype calls and that has been fantastic.

    We also had her tested at a formal center in the USA, just to make sure that our eclectic homeschool methods were working & she tested far above age peers.

    I think the best cure for handwriting, is like most things, do it every day. My daughter had some resistance to handwriting when she was 5 and we began our journey in 2006, but the school in Spain had the kids write quite a bit daily ( dictato) in cursive and it worked wonders!!

    We are a little less gung ho on the internet things for kids than you are ( we limit screen time & control where she can go, don’t allow nintendo etc, even limit TV/films severely from research we’ve read about how it affects kids brains) so she does most of her writing by hand.

    My daughter is a voracious reader & we have her write book reports for the book she reads ( another way to get in handwriting and critical thinking). Funny, her Chinese school has the same policy and she is running through their library lickety split.

    It is not unusual for unschool or homeschool kids to be far ahead of peers and travel ( and the many opportunities that come with that including meeting scientists on the road) just makes it easier. Good choice!

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your detailed response. Calligraphy seems to be doing wonders on the handwriting, though we’re deep into Indonesian language learning at the moment…

      Z’s never been a fan of writing book reports, and at the moment I’m going with a largely unschool approach: though he does have to blog from time to time (which he prefers to handwriting).

      Glad to hear Penang is working out for you — I wasn’t aware there was much Mandarin spoken there, so it’s great to hear you’ve found a school…

      • That’s what’s great about “unschooling” each kid can find ways that work for them & I only mentioned those areas because you asked and those are things that worked for us. Unschooling doesn’t mean you never use any other method, just that the kid leads & sometimes the wiser adult can aid a child in various ways like you asking him to blog or us asking her to write about the books she reads and loves.

        Penang is probably the best place in the world to immerse deeply in Mandarin. 90% of the population is Chinese and almost all of them send their kids to Mandarin schools where they are immersed in it from preschool to University. Many Asians from Japan, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong etc send their kids to my daughter’s school ( and others in Penang) as well as it is very valuable in Asia.

        My neighbor who has lived in China for many years and who has had children in Mandarin schools in both places, says this is a much better place because it is set up for Chinese who are learning it as a second language. Even the book stores are filled with Mandarin books, videos, etc that are far superior to China and the TV shows are in Mandarin.

        All the Chinese in Penang ( like China) under the age of 40 speak and ( most write) fluent Mandarin as they learn it in school since it is the dominant language in the world and main one for Asian business. Many dialects to Chinese, but only Mandarin is dominant to them all.

        We find foreign schools the very best way to immerse deeply in a language & culture to have fluency & literacy like a native. That has been our goal with Mandarin and Spanish since birth & the schools have strengthened in a way, we as monolinguals could never do.

        You were talking before about spending time in South America before for language, but looks like you decided to stay longer in Asia & Oceana instead. Good luck with that & everything!

        • admin says:

          Your experience of Penang is very different to ours! When we were in Penang, we got the impression that it was a very culturally diverse place, with all the ethnic groups you’d expect in a colonial British trading entrepot in Malaysia. And according to these guys http://www.penang-vacations.com/malaysia-facts.html the population is, indeed, roughly 40% ethnic Chinese, 40% ethnic Malay and 20% other…

          We didn’t see any Mandarin TV. Most of the TV we saw was in Bahasa Malaysia, which is, of course, the first language of Malaysia. Nor did we notice many Mandarin books in the bookshops we visited, which were dominated by Bahasa and English.

          My impression would be that most ethnic Chinese children in Penang will be learning Mandarin as a fourth language, after Bahasa Malaysia, English and their home dialect, rather than as a second. I’m glad it’s working for you, but I’d be cautious about pushing any destination for language learning where the language isn’t commonly spoken in the streets or used for signage: my friends who have native fluency in two, three, four or five languages all spent time living in a place where they needed to use the languages.

          I can appreciate the ease of learning a new language in an English-speaking environment such as Penang on some levels but I don’t really see how it can deliver the immersion of being somewhere where no one speaks English and you need to communicate in the language you are learning..

          We’re in Bali right now, improving our Indonesian, doing arts projects and (me) working a little. Then east to Papua, back to Java, up the mainland and to China & Nepal…

          • Yes, it is true that Penang like all of Malaysia is a very multi-cultural area and one of the reasons we love it. Since you did not have your child in an all -Mandarin school in Penang, it makes perfect sense that you would have a very different experience.

            Our whole purpose of being here is to immerse deeply in Mandarin, so of course we are geared towards that experience where our child is daily immersed with everyone speaking, reading, writing Mandarin. Our PRIMARY purpose for our travel is educating our child, immersing deep in her 3 languages ( adding bits of others) and time to bond.

            Penang is an island & I was talking about Georgetown where
            we live and where kidlet goes to her Mandarin school and people often confuse the two, but wikipedia (& many sources) says this about Georgetown:

            “close to 90% of the population is of Chinese origin”

            Malaysia is known to be a country of 3 cultures ( Malay, Chinese & Indian) and that is true in Penang as well, but perhaps this info from wikipedia will clarify my points & why we picked Georgetown, Malaysia for Mandarin:

            “Penang was long the only state in Malaysia where ethnic Chinese formed a plurality…Nevertheless, the Chinese remain more visible because most of them live in the urban areas. Penang is still the state with the most percentage of Chinese……in Malaysia as a whole, the majority of ethnic Chinese speak Mandarin as their first language”

            The malls and areas that we go to, one sees about 98% Chinese. The largest malls here have huge bookstores filled with Chinese and English books with Chinese families & kids reading them. We purposely seek out the Chinese culture as that is our mission here. The gov’t says Malay is the dominant language, but the reality is different in our experience here in Georgetown. There is certainly much more English here than we ever saw in Europe ( which is a bit of culture shock for us now after so many years touring Europe).

            Also from wikipedia:

            “The Malaysian Chinese have traditionally dominated the Malaysian economy with more than 90% of the commercial shops in urban areas being owned by the Chinese. The Chinese household income is the highest among the 3 ethnic groups.”

            Malaysia is the only country outside mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau to have a complete Chinese-medium education system.

            90% of Chinese children in Malaysia enroll into Mandarin-medium primary schools and Many Chinese educated Malaysian Chinese families have taken to speaking Mandarin with their children due to the notion that other Chinese dialects are growing increasingly redundant in an era where Mandarin is increasing in importance. This has led to the emergence of a community of young Chinese who are fluent in Mandarin but unable to speak their native Chinese dialect, understand but do not speak it, or prefer not to speak it in public.”

            In order to immerse deeply in Mandarin ( reading, writing and speaking) or any language, it takes many years of effort ( especially if one wants to be equal to a native speaker which is our goal with her 3 dominant languages). Without going to an all Mandarin school here,and deliberately working consciously to improve one’s Mandarin, Penang would be a less optimal than an area where it is only spoken in China.

            BUT, if one uses an all Mandarin school here and focuses on learning the language, we find it a superior place for many reasons to immerse in the language as well as Chinese culture. We will also spend time in China, but we did not want to spend years there as spending 4 winters here is much more pleasant as well as the advantage of the multi-culturalism. There are advantages of going in and out of language immersion, so 5/6 months in the school in winter, summers in Europe & interesting places coming and going should be fun for us for the next several years as well as educational for her & best supporting her dominant languages/cultures.

            Her best girlfriends in her school are from Indonesia & Thailand, so also adds a richness to visiting those countries etc. She is friends with local Chinese, Indian, and MANY different countries here, so we like that influence too.

            We don’t watch much TV, but our Chinese landlord showed us where the Mandarin stations are & it is just another way to immerse. On outings around town, my child also usually talks to the native Chinese here in Mandarin which pleases them and gives her even more practice. There are also Mandarin after school programs and Chinese tutors that come to our home for very little money that add to her immersion. We are bonding with other Chinese families through the school environment thus learn more about the culture first hand.

            Most kids here are multilingual and the Chinese kids do have to take English & Malay classes in school, but Mandarin is the strongest language and the one most used.Even in the English class at school the teacher talks in Mandarin some to help the kids learn English as a second language.

            It certainly is helpful to be in an environment where one must read, write and speak continually in the language one is learning. The Mandarin school provides that for us here as well as many other things in the environment. As you can see by the video we recently put up, her Mandarin is better than many Chinese already and will only get stronger here as it improves daily.

            http://www.soultravelers3.com/2011/01/only-american-girl-in-an-all-mandarin-school-chinese-immersion-in-language-culture-through-school.html

            Sorry, so long, but I just wanted to clarify as it is probably difficult to understand why our experiences would be different than yours. We tend to do things very out-of-the-box & really didn’t know how ideal it was until we did it, so I just put the info here for those that might also have an interest or if you did later at some point. I know at one point you talked about having him learn Spanish through a school in South America.

            She is only 10 ( so skipped several grades & is youngest in the school by far) and in a Mandarin high school of 1000 kids, so that was not part of the plan, but is working out wonderfully. We like it that 1/3 of the students are Asians from around the world ( added to the Chinese locals) who are also learning Mandarin, so she can learn bits of many cultures as she did with her school in Spain & is not the only foreigner. Also she is learning the language properly from the start just as they do with the school kids here, so that has many advantages ( especially with the reading and writing) along with the sink or swim immersion. The fact that most of her teachers are also bilingual somewhat in English is helpful too as Mandarin ( especially reading and writing) is difficult and needs a solid foundation. There are many levels of “fluency” and our goal is not to just learn a little bit of speaking, but to be as close to fluent as a native as possible in her top 3 languages. We have been working on it since I was pregnant..so a long involved goal for monolingual parents, since kids can lose languages as easily as they pick them up.

            Enjoy Indonesia and your travels, sounds fun! Maybe we will meet up one of these days in person. 😉 We’ll be doing lots of trips around Asia while wintering here, including China and are off to Thailand and Langkawi this coming week. Excited about our first Chinese New Year in Penang!

            • admin says:

              It is a very different experience! I know some people use Penang as synonymous with George Town, but our experience of George Town was not of a place with a 90% ethnic Chinese majority and ample Mandarin spoken.

              We stayed in George Town (just off Love Lane) and Teluk Bahang in Penang, visited plenty of malls and markets, rode the buses, ate out in hawker courts, Indian restaurants, hotel restaurants and the like, and mixed with locals of all ethnicities. We read signage in Malay, heard plenty of Bahasa spoken, were understood when using Bahasa by members of all the ethnic communities, and rode the buses with plenty of schoolgirls in hijab: the 40-40 split looked about right based on our experiences.

              We attended a Japanese festival, ate in Little India and Indian restaurants and at Malaysian hawker stalls. While there may be more ethnic Chinese in Penang than in, say, Sabah or Sarawak, though there are plenty there too, it is simply not a Mandarin-led linguistic environment. We saw no Mandarin street signs. A few Mandarin storefronts, as in any Chinatown, and Mandarin-language menus. And, as in most of Malaysia, ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs dominate the small business world.

              I looked up George Town on Wikipedia and couldn’t find the references you cite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Town,_Penang. The only demographic info I could find was here, which makes no mention of the Chinese 90% majority, and goes with the 40-40 Chinese-Malay split, which would match our perspective: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penang#Demographics.

              I also looked up Malaysian languages on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysia, which says: “Chinese Malaysians mostly speak Chinese dialects from the southern provinces of China, with the more common dialects being Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainanese, and Fuzhou.” And Malaysian Languages, which says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Malaysia#Chinese_languages

              Chinese Malaysians mostly speak Chinese dialects from the southern provinces of China. The more common dialects in Peninsular Malaysia are Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainanese, and Fuzhou.[8] The dialect spoken depends on where the people originated.[3] In Sarawak, most ethnic Chinese speak either Foochow or Hakka while Hakka predominates in Sabah except in the city of Sandakan where Cantonese is more often spoken despite the Hakka-origins of the Chinese residing there. Hokkien is mostly spoken in Penang and Kedah whereas Cantonese is mostly spoken in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. However, in Malaysia as a whole, the majority of ethnic Chinese speak Mandarin, due to it being the most widespread language of business.[3] Some of the less-spoken dialects such as Hainanese are facing extinction. As with Malaysian youths of other races, most Chinese youth are multilingual and can speak up to four languages with at least moderate fluency – their native Chinese dialect, Mandarin, English and Malay.

              The Museum of Penang near the Clocktower, which has some fascinating displays, can give you a lot more information on Penang’s Chinese culture, which is a unique fusion dominated by Hakka and Hokkien. Though I can understand that in a Mandarin-language international private school catering to non-native speakers from a range of backgrounds English and Mandarin would dominate over Bahasa.

              I do also appreciate the differing levels of fluency. I’d count fluency as native speaker fluency, which does take time and immersion to achieve, where someone can switch seamlessly from one language to a second and it’s not obvious to a native speaker of that language that the person is not fluent.

              I couldn’t find the video in the link you’ve posted. Though you did explain that she’s at first grade level in Mandarin, and in a special foundation class.

              The culture in Penang/George Town is pretty unique. I really hope you didn’t miss the big Malay festival with the hooks and flagellation (I forget the name) that’s just gone. We loved the diversity, the food, the fruit farm, the war museum, the Cheong Fatt Tse mansion and the like.

              I’m sorry to make such heavy weather of this, but I think any visitor to Penang looking for a deep-immersion Mandarin language experience, and expecting a 90% majority of Mandarin-speaking Chinese in George Town, would be hugely disappointed, and would be better off going to somewhere where people have Mandarin as their first language, not their fourth, and it’s spoken in the street, such as Taiwan or mainland China, or conceivably somewhere that shares a border and minority groups, such as northern Laos, northern Myanmar or northern Vietnam.

              Anywise… Hope you enjoy Langkawi. And I hope you get to enjoy the Malaysian experience in its own right, rather than as a substitute for China. We’ll be back to mainland SEA round about the middle of the year, I think. Intrigued by the wilds of Papua before that. And we’ll probably be visiting China too… So, yes, hopefully our paths will cross 😉

  11. Sorry to belabor this, but I think we are talking apples and oranges here, so I thought I’d try one more time to clarify. You are talking about place-based immersion for conversational skills and I’m talking about School-based immersion for total literacy fluency as strong as an educated Mandarin native. We’re after that for our child in the world’s top 3 languages ( Mandarin, Spanish & English) & have raised her in it from the womb, despite being monolinguals.

    Not sure why you could not see the video of my child speaking Mandarin, but here it is ( if you look at the bottom you can see our “Pupi” video that shows her reading in Spanish at 6 or 7 while in Spain):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDe6pgl-qCg

    How long were you in Penang? ( We’ve been here for 3 months & do not have a car so always use the buses & walk). Did you have a child in a local Chinese school? ( As we do & almost all of the local Chinese do here in Penang). Do you or your child speak fluent Mandarin? Perhaps these 3 things make a big difference in our experience. I am not saying Penang is a Mandarin led environment, just that it is a fantastic place to immerse in Mandarin reading, writing & speaking through the local Chinese schools ( which ARE Mandarin led environments).

    We’ve seen plenty of Penang and have friends from every aspect and culture here and will see & experience a lot more as we plan to winter here for the next several years until kidlet is as fluent in Mandarin as a native. She is fluent already by your definition and has spoken Mandarin from birth, but the all-Mandarin school will make sure her reading and writing levels are up to high school level. And the Chinese friends and culture here as well as in China will add value and experience to it all. She will not only know the language like a native, but the culture and exactly how a Mandarin native school life is like from uniforms, to food, to holidays, to discipline masters, monitors & more.

    First, I think our definition of what fluent is varies GREATLY, so perhaps that is partly why we see this so differently. It sounds like you consider someone who can speak a language conversationally as fluent and when I say fluent, I mean someone who can read,write and speak a language like a native. Proficiency in face-to-face communication doesn’t imply proficiency in more complex academic language needed in a classroom or in life.

    My daughter can speak conversationally in Italian, French & Portuguese, some German & Greek, my husband can do that in Spanish, but I do not consider either of them fluent in those languages and your definition sounds like you would.

    If one is just wanting a little conversational Mandarin, then perhaps visiting a Mandarin speaking area of China is better. BUT if you want your child to be fluent as a native in reading, writing and speaking Mandarin, I don’t think you can do better than an all Mandarin local school in Penang like we have our child in.

    I don’t have experience in both countries, but my Aussie neighbor who is married to a Chinese man and speaks perfect Mandarin & who has lived many years in China in several places as well as 4 years in Penang & has had her 3 children in Chinese schools in both places agrees wholeheartedly with that assessment. She finds Penang the best place to learn Mandarin and they are kinder here as well. She goes to China regularly and they were just there for Christmas. We definitely think the multi-culturism and multi-lingualism here in Penang is another great advantage.

    Lots of native Mandarin speaking Chinese in Taiwan, Hong Kong etc send their children to the 5 star school my daughter attends. I’ve discussed these things with many ethnic Chinese, Malaysia and Asian folks ( most Koreans send their kids ) that we know here, so I feel very confident in this as we are choosing to do it like a local Chinese family. In the 3 months that we have been here, we talk in Mandarin daily to people ( or my daughter does) from our senior aged Chinese landlord, to people at the malls,shops, markets, hawker stands or on the buses.

    All the quotes in my last comment were directly from Wikipedia and I got it from looking up various points via google. The Chinese schools here are not international schools, but “mother tongue” Mandarin schools for the local ethnic Chinese ( says so on all their brochures, at the school and at all the Chinese schools we visited and they are VERY much part of the ethnic Chinese culture here). The international schools here are VERY different & primarily UK or US standards & MUCH more expensive ( mainly for Caucasian expats working here, not locals).

    The beauty of the foundation class at my child’s school is that even though most of the foreign kids are good at conversational Mandarin like my child, and the local Chinese kids that are the 2/3 majority in the school, they start them with the standard 1st grade written and reading Mandarin books so they can quickly catch up with the locals but have correct literacy from the start without gaps. My daughter is already beyond that level even in reading and writing, but it’s good review and she is zipping through it. Other Chinese schools here start them at grade level in reading and writing Chinese, competing with the local kids who have been working on their written and reading Mandarin from 3 years old or younger.

    Perhaps we are in an entirely different area ( we’re based closer to Batu Ferringhi & her school is in Georgetown) , but we are on buses, in the markets, at the malls, at the hawker stands etc etc every day for 3 months & see almost all Chinese. At least 90%. The other stats may well be accurate for Penang, but not what we see in daily life.

    We do see some scarfed woman, but very, very few. We see some Indians as well. We see more scarfed women at McDonalds than anywhere else and we rarely go there. The Chinese and Indian and other Asians ( like Japanese, Korean etc) seem to mix together more than the Malays ( and of course I don’t always know where each Asian is from unless I know them or ask). So perhaps that 90% is Asian and not Chinese. Lots of Asian tourists here too, so not sure who are locals or not, but I’m thinking buses are mainly locals.

    We go every Sunday to Gurney Mall & also if we need something and see about 98% Chinese ( or non-scarfed Asians) there every time. We’ve also been to the other huge mall a few times and smaller malls and shops, with the same experience. Yesterday, my husband & mother went to the wet mall in Tanjung Bungah where only locals go, they only saw ONE woman with a scarf on and almost everyone was Chinese ( or Asian) .

    We are certainly NOT missing the wonderful multi-culturalism that is Malaysia as we have friends from every culture here and enjoy that. I agree it is one of the wonderful things about Malaysia, but for us, the Chinese culture is special and OUR focus. We do know less Malay people, have only seen English signage here, but do know a lot of Indian Malays. We do hear the local language sometimes, but mostly English is dominant ( Manglish) since there are 3 cultures and all or most of the Chinese can and do speak Mandarin.

    So if my daughter talks to them in Mandarin they talk back to her in that or will switch to it if she tells them in English where she goes to school or they see her in her uniform that they all recognize.

    We did miss the Thaipusam, but that kind of pain is not what we like and kidlet had a fever that day. We WILL participate in the many happy and beautiful Chinese New Year celebrations here and more. Maybe see Thaipusam next year, but it doesn’t call to me as I find it sad & freaky, but know it is a big hit with young travel bloggers & backpackers who enjoy those kind of travel photos and freak travel thrills.

    We’re picking up a little Bahasa & Tamil, but Mandarin is a dominant world language and where our focus is. Note that under Penang in wikipedia they also support the fact that Mandarin is a dominant language here ( mentioned second after English) and that even the ethnic Chinese that speak Hokkein, read and write in Mandarin! ( That’s true to our experience these last 3 months). Your assumption that Mandarin is the 4th language of the ethnic Chinese is just wrong in our experience, but then one of us is Mandarin speaking.

    “Most Penang Hokkien speakers are not literate in Hokkien but instead read and write in standard (Mandarin) Chinese, English and/or Malay.[58]

    The common languages of Penang, depending on social classes, social circles, and ethnic backgrounds are English, Mandarin, Malay, Penang Hokkien and Tamil. Mandarin, which is taught in Chinese-medium schools in the state, is increasingly spoken.[56]

    No worries. We can agree to disagree. It’s kind of a red hat/green hat argument that is really about perspective . 😉 We ARE enjoying the Malaysian experience, do not see it as a substitute for visiting China ( we’ll go there too) but grateful we have found a perfect place for *us* to immerse our child in Mandarin and Chinese culture in this tropical paradise and multi-cultural country.

    Most western folks will not do this ( there is a reason she is the only Caucasian in the school & every Mandarin school we went to had no Caucasians & they as well as the Ministry of Education thought it VERY unusual that we would prefer to go to a Mandarin school instead of the international UK or US schools where all the Caucasians go).

    It was a lot of hard work & risk on our part, but it is working great so far and she has never known such sweet girls in school. Funnily, even though she is the youngest by far by several years and tiniest , she is still a leader and academically ahead in every area except Mandarin.

    I think I’ve just written a blog post. lol Enjoy your travels!

    • Theodora says:

      I thought I’d replied to this. But, clearly I didn’t. 1) My idea of an international school is one with children from many home countries, which your description of your child’s school fits. Or are all Asians the same to you? 2) If you can’t tell the difference between “90% Asian” and “90% Mandarin-speaking Chinese” you really shouldn’t be writing about travel, let alone languages. Or, again, are all Asians and all Asian languages the same to you? 3) You do not learn a language as an educated Mandarin native in an English-dominant environment. Asian kids go to school in Malaysia so they get a handle on both English and Mandarin at a lower price than, say, Taiwan, or the Mandarin-Cantonese-English schools in HK. Not to get educated fluency in Mandarin. 4) I find it quite shocking you’ve seen so little of Penang in 3 months as to notice barely any scarved women and no Malay signage. Both of them are found all over the island, while in Batu Ferringhi, thanks to the big hotels, you find a bunch of Saudi women in abayas. I noticed that in 10 days. It’s bizarre you’ve missed it in 3 months. 5) I’ve explained to you a number of times that I understand fluency as, well, fluency — AKA, native speaker fluency. I don’t see how else one could understand fluency. Unless one were, of course, incapable of speaking anyone’s language but one’s own, in which case, i guess, it all seems rather more impressive…

  12. Keri says:

    What an encouraging post! We travel a lot as a family, and many people just don’t understand how we can educate our kids not just out of the classroom, but out of the country, and often on the road.

  13. Ansie says:

    Thanks for commenting on my Thorn Tree RTW post and for the links. I think you have the ideal life! This post about your son’s schooling is really encouraging, although I always thought that if it’s done right this is the way schooling should be.

    I have one question: Has your son ever been in a ‘proper’ school? In other words can he compare the two worlds? My one obstacle with planning our trip is that my boys (aged 13 and 11) are not very keen on leaving school behind. I assume it is a fear of the unknown more than anything else, but still I don’t want them to feel they are doing anything against their will. Can you give me a link to your son’s blog? – it might give them the encouragement they need.
    Ta

    • Theodora says:

      Yes, he was in a primary school in London, since age 3. He keeps in touch with friends via Facebook and Skype, and spent Xmas with his best friend in Australia, so continuity of friendships is possible, which is probably one of your boys’ concerns. Rather, I would guess, than school per se.

      He feels he learns more via unschooling than in school. He has two blogs: http://9yearold.wordpress.com & http://smartass300.wordpress.com. Which sometimes tend to the sardonic.

  14. serena says:

    Hi, I have found so much interesting and helpful information in here, but I have a question….I am really worried about approaching my sons school (he is 10 i created a thread and you replied on lonely planet) He has a holiday in October and i took him out for 2 weeks to go to Thailand last month, when i returned i had a letter informing me that his absence would be unauthorised due to already having time off. I am quite angry as he spent the whole 2 weeks doing a journal from which he created a scrapbook that he has been dying to share with his class…poor mite it’s been his bag for 2 weeks and the teacher keeps fobbing him off saying that they havent got time……so they are not my fave people right now to nbe honest! anyway i digress. I suppose what i really want to know is can ANYONE actually say to me NO you cant take your son our of school for 3-6 months to travel??

    • Theodora says:

      Hi Serena! OK — there’s a big distinction between holidays in term time (which schools hate, as they cost them points on their attendance record — our borough, Hackney, fines parents for them) and longterm travel. The legal situation is that every parent in the UK has a right to home school. *But* you have to show that you are providing an education.

      Your son’s school should have a designated home education co-ordinator, who should be your first point of call — it was very easy for us because the school was onside. If they don’t, talk to the home school people at your LEA — they will have a home school coordinator. What they’ll want to see — there’s a form you fill in — is that you can cover off PE, maths, English, science, art and the humanities on your “curriculum” as you travel.

      So, I’d sit down and make a list of specific things he’ll be learning — will he be doing rock-climbing/diving/horse-riding/swimming/hiking for PE, will he be learning about Buddhism for RE with the monks, will he be learning about history in Cambodia and Vietnam (you could do a topic on the Vietnam War, or say you will), what will you do for art (will he do some classes and drawing, photography, video?), and what you’ll do about science (plant sciences and ecology are great ones to do). Break it down by key topic, then go to your home school coordinator and start the groundwork from there.

      In essence: no, they can’t say no. But play it carefully, and be nice, because if the school’s onside it’s so much easier. Though I’ve not heard of anyone that this has happened to.

      Good luck! Let me know how you get on. And, any qs, just drop me a comment.

      Theodora

      Is he doing well at school? My impression is that it’s easier to take a kid out, or schools are more supportive, if they’re already doing well. So if there are any areas he’s weak in, I’d really make an effort to address it at home, so that you can show he’s improving under your care.

  15. Holly says:

    Hi Theodora,
    I was thrilled to find your site (a little late to the party, but better late than never!). I have recently embarked on my own year (or so) of traveling with my almost 11 year old son. Our homeschooling path so far is pretty darn rocky though! So I am grateful to read about your experiences. You are fortunate that your son loves to read – mine doesn’t at all – which I’m afraid, makes that whole self-directed approach a helluva lot harder. Prying him off his iPad seems to be something I spend a lot of time doing. When he is outside and active, playing football or discovering something experientially, he is happy as a clam. As great as all that is, I don’t see how it helps with the academics, which just seem to be an unavoidable fact of life! You mention that Z is also a gamer. How do you manage his electronic time? Or is he self-regulating in that regard?
    Many thanks!

    • Theodora says:

      HI Holly,

      Thanks for your comment. First of all, our homeschooling path hasn’t been THAT easy. We’re into it now, but it’s a process of trial and error — learnings on both sides and all that. So I wouldn’t throw your hands up in despair yet.

      I’m not sure what advice I have to offer on reluctant reading. Does he like graphic novels/cartoons (and can you get them where you are…)? Can he learn by watching movies? Looking up information online? Researching projects online? For history, if you’re following your home syllabus, the Horrible Histories people made some movies or a TV series, which would be a good way for him to absorb stuff, perhaps. The other thing is for you to research the stories of where you are travelling, and simply tell them to him, and he will absorb a lot that way.

      No, Z is not self-regulating — although he’s not constantly on his computer, in fairness to him. Liking to read helps here. As does liking to draw. Does your son like drawing? That’s a good indoors alternative when prised off the computer. A line I’ve found helpful in the past is: “If we have any more arguing about computer time, you are banned from the computer for a WEEK.”

      If he’s really into gaming, do you have access to an actual computer? Z’s been teaching himself a bit of Flash, and there’s also a programme called Scratch, developed by MIT, to teach children programming — so he’d be learning ICT at the same time.

      Another thing is to get access to learning programmes that are computer based. We use Mathletics for maths, which has a game-style interface, with customisable avatars, and works much better than other approaches we’ve tried for covering the stuff that you simply need to know (rhombuses/angles). I’ve heard good things about Brainpop Science, though Z wasn’t that enthused by it. BBC Bytesize has lots of maths and science games, which again cover the KS2 learning goals.

      Science museums, and museums in general, are also fantastic ways to learn experientially — as are ruins. And you’ll be amazed how much can be absorbed that way.

      The other thing is to turn that outside stuff into learning. This is quite hard work for the parent. But… the scuba diving course taught great hard science. If you can add to the experiential learning some vocabulary of science (say habitats, life cycles, ecosystems, germination, rock formation, types of rocks), you’ll go a long way. Some national parks and nature walks, depending where you are, have really informative info… Muscles and skeletal structure is part of KS2 science, as well, and you could teach that through physical activity. Healthy eating through visiting markets and discussing types of foods…

      Hope this helps a bit. You will find your way with the learning thing, I reckon. And, given he likes screen-time and experiential learning, I’d try and deliver the academics largely through that — writing on-screen, as well.

  16. Holly says:

    Hi Theodora,

    Thanks so much for the comprehensive response! All very good suggestions. Yes, we are a very wired family (I have to be to get my own work done) so consequently, we travel with a laptop for me and iPad for him. There are obviously pluses and minuses to this, but it really couldn’t be any other way. However, on the bright side with the reluctant reading, since we’ve just discovered we can download iBooks onto his iPad he has been excited to start reading to himself some of the books we read together last year, or else he read in school. The being already familiar with the story element seems to help. I also think bringing in the technology element to the reading helps. Some people would balk at this I know. But at the end of the day, I figure the most important thing is the actual reading, not the medium!

    Thanks for the website suggestions. We have been using Kahn Academy for math which I can’t recommend enough (www.kahnacademy.org) – very cool sight. And Zooniverse is great for some astronomy lessons.

    Your comments also reminded me that there is much he gains from experiential learning that cannot be measured, per se, academically, which, thank you very much, just gave me the idea for my next blog post. 🙂

    All the best on your continued journeys!

    Holly

  17. Jennifer says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to write a quick thank you! You guys are a real inspiration as we have been living in South Korea for 6 years and are trying to plan our next locale…. the question of having kids looms, but you give me much confidence. Anyhow, fabulous to know there are folks out there like you and that I can read all about your experiences. Cheers!!
    – Jennifer

  18. Greetings and Blessings to you and your family. My name is Vivienne McNeny and as a former homeschooling Mom of four grown children, all having attended college and successfully working in their chose fields, I have been hosting my Internet Radio Program ‘The Sociable Homeschooler’ for nearly four years and am looking for new guests and fresh takes on how you did, or are homeschooling, where, why and all of the questions those mothers and fathers considering homeschooling might be asking themselves. Whether cycling across a continent while teaching your family, living in the backwoods of Alaska or midtown Manhattan, the UK, Australia or anywhere in our beautiful world, I’d like to hear from you and have you consider being a guest on my weekly show on Toginet radio

    You can find out information about me, listen to previous podcasts of my show and the vast variety of wonderful previous guests at the following link – http://toginet.com/shows/thesociablehomeschooler and decide if you think you might be interested in telling your story.

    My shows are most often done live via Skype or by phone if you don’t have Skype of if you are in a location in which the time zone makes it impossible to do a live interview, I do often pre-record shows.

    If you are interested, please let me know of your interest and send me a link to your web or blog site and we can discuss the possibilities.

    Sincerely,

    Vivienne McNeny
    The Sociable Homeschooler
    [email protected]

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