School has always been closely associated with structure and discipline.
Most of us were educated in a world of classrooms, bells, and rules. Don’t be late. Sit up straight. Turn your work in on time.
As we adjust to a new reality that includes shuttered schools, it’s important to remember that there are other effective learning environments, including the home. For advice on how to advance your child’s education in these unprecedented times, we spoke to some Airstream Ambassadors who “road school” with their children.
First and foremost, parents need to meet their kids where they are. Children are perceptive little sponges and, while they may appear gleeful at being out of school, they are likely feeling a lot of anxiety based on what they see and hear, according to childhood education experts. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings and constantly reassure your kids that everything will be OK
Routine is important when it comes to home teaching, but so is flexibility. Imposing too much schoolwork-related stress and structure on children might serve to heighten their anxiety, so be careful about that. Ambassador Diane Tripels sets aside a block of time each day for her kids to focus on schoolwork, but that “classroom” time can vary from day-to-day based on what else is on the agenda.
Remember, too, that your family’s learning time does not have to mirror a school day. It can be shorter (there’s a lot of non-classroom time in a traditional school day) and your kids should feel free to choose which subjects they want to focus on each day – so long as they are meeting the deadlines or benchmarks imposed by the local school system.
Be sure to include “recess” in these learning hours. You may not be able to stretch your legs in a beautiful wilderness as Ambassador families sometimes do, but a socially-distanced run around the block or park will serve the same purpose.
While all of the above insight is valuable, here’s the thing Airstream Ambassadors really want you to know about education in a non-traditional environment: The big, lasting lessons won’t come from a book or the school’s online academic syllabus. Instead, your kids will remember and embrace what they learned from hands-on practical experiences. Use this time with your kids to do backyard science projects, teach life skills (cooking, sewing, changing a tire) and explore new creative outlets.
Jonathan and Ashley Longnecker, who travel full time with their four kids, believe every moment is teachable and that academic lessons can be neatly tucked inside non-classroom experiences.
“Learning isn’t just something we do 4 hours a day by staring at books,” the couple wrote on their blog. “Learning, for us, is happening every day and in many different situations. This week our oldest wants to learn how to bake bread. But not just bake a loaf, she wants to learn the art of baking bread. She’ll research recipes that she wants to try, find the ingredients, write out a recipe card, watch videos on how to properly knead a loaf and why it needs to rise, and how long it needs to bake, etc. Heck, she’ll even be practicing her fractions because we only have 1/4 cup measuring spoon and I know the recipe calls for 2/3 cup of water.”
What might you learn from your unforeseen turn as a home school parent who works out of the spare bedroom? If you’ve thought about going full-time in your Airstream, this homebound experience could give you a glimpse of that life. What you learn about yourself and your family in this crazy time could help you make better decisions about how you want to live your life going forward. That’s the power of education, wherever it may take place.