Written by Rozanne Dioso-Lopez of Tomfoolery & Shenanigans.
“Mom, when are we going to do schoolwork???”
Asked in frustration, my darling 11-year-old daughter looked at me imploringly as she ran up the beach with boogie board in hand. We had been in Costa Rica for four days and she had had enough of vacation mode.
Looking up from my book I reassured her, “Monday. Tomorrow we start.”
She pumped her fist, waved goodbye, and as she turned to catch more waves, she flung her sandy saltwater hair to the side in triumphant glee.
For the first time we are traveling abroad to one location for an entire month. We decided to try an experiment.
Although one month isn’t long enough to really live in a place, it’s long enough to settle in and try to imagine if living abroad is feasible for our family.
Prior to the trip, my husband and I discussed our goals. What did we want to accomplish? Was this a sight-seeing trip? One of those busy “doing” vacations?
We agreed that we didn’t see this trip as a “vacation” in terms of our previous family travels. It was just going to be a break from the ordinary.
It was a reprieve from winter’s bite. It was an opportunity to introduce the children to another culture: eating and living local.
Can we transport our life at home to another place for an entire month? More specifically, what does homeschooling look like during this month?
Some tips on how to homeschool abroad in non-vacation mode:
Before you leave, take a break from regularly scheduled programming.
We had a one-month break from our regular rhythm of homeschooling back in December.
The kids read independently and worked on their handmade gifts for Christmas.
As a family, we did some research on Costa Rica. We cooked some Costa Rican meals at home and did some online Spanish lessons together.
The kids were so excited about the trip that it would have been next to impossible trying to get them too focus on other school blocks.
Prepare your homeschool lessons according to the kind of environment you will be living in.
For example, tropical flora and fauna nature studies would be appropriate for some of the children because our house would be in the jungle.
There would be astronomy lessons too because the sky is clear for star gazing.
Use the first few days to acclimatize and assess the situation.
We took four days to get to know our surroundings, to take trips into town to stock up on food and supplies, to begin getting to know new friends in our neighbourhood, and to go slow.
I tested out various eating times based on the new wake-up and bed times. The kids were getting up earlier and crashing faster at night. I observed the kids and their energy levels based on their activities throughout the day.
Mark a day to start a new rhythm in your home away from home.
The following Monday after our arrival marked our beginning of school, and thus, a new rhythm that had a slight resemblance to the one we had at home.
I announced the pending date and made my preparations by reading over the material I was going to present.
I decided to try a morning school rhythm since that works so well at home and made sure to set up tools that each of my children could use to help their focus while I worked with others.
Be flexible and open.
We are in a spot where the weather is unpredictable: sunny skies one day and torrential downpour for two days, a sunny morning and stormy afternoon, or vice versa.
I’ve had to adapt to the weather because good weather meant heading to the beach or running into town while bad weather meant hunkering down indoors or under our outdoor gazebo.
Keep in mind that, like at home, learning occurs all the time — so use what’s around you.
By conversing with the same local artisan or the bakery owner every day, the kids pick up a little more Spanish.
They calculate the conversion of local currency into our currency at home to manage their spending money. I told my five-year-old a local folk tale by drawing in the sand with a stick.
In the end, I wanted to have an adventure with my family while keeping some of our home routine to make for a smooth transition.
If we can accomplish this with relative ease and grace, maybe it will turn out to be more than an experiment. Maybe this is our inaugural voyage.
(Now excuse me while I grab a boogie board and join my daughter in the ocean.)
Have you ever had a homeschooling non-vacation?