Home-schooling minefield

I am never sure what people mean when they say “Oh, wow, you’re amazing!” when I tell them we’re home-schooling. Either they actually think we are, or they’re so shocked at the prospect of teaching their own children and having them around all day, or they really intended to berate me for being so irresponsible, but it didn’t come out right.

Either way, we’re far from amazing for home-schooling.  We’re lucky.  And dedicated.  And patient.  And interested in what our kids learn.  Oh, and we have no other choice as long as we’re living on this Island.  The local schools are mostly non-English-speaking and not suitable for a range of reasons.  There are two apparently very impressive International schools although, while we are volunteering, the US$25,000 per year fees are a bit steep.  The only option is to jump in yourself and seeing as we intended to be living on our yacht this year, we were prepared to do that anyway.  We had brought with us what appears to be far too many textbooks, ipads, art supplies, board games, inflatable world globes, puzzles and science kits.  If we’ve learned anything it’s that kids have different learning styles therefore one program, or curriculum, or method, does not suit all.  It’s a minefield when you start and sleep is a luxury that you can not afford while you contemplate all the ways you can mess up your child’s education, and life.

A year and a quarter on…….. it’s not a minefield, in hindsight, or at least people have gone before us and removed most of the unexploded ordinances.  It’s trying some days but overall, it’s been as incredible an experience as I’d dreamed of.  The boys are thriving. What IS a minefield is stepping through and around the ‘professionals’ who ‘know what my child needs in order to learn’.  I didn’t know where to start; they knew a lot. My naivety was simply believing this and it cost us a small fortune, on education supplies that didn’t suit our kids and were therefore only good for propping up Master 8 in his ‘school chair’.  Stacks of pricey hardcover books, tightly fitted into a pillowcase, actually make very solid walls for cubbies and ‘military (as in Lego) bases’.  There is a booming business out there in ‘special education’ and ‘specific learning disorders’.   Careers are built on children needing extra support.  Sadly, this takes away from the many genuine, learned experts who eagerly assist you in any way they can.

We are dealing with the double-edged sword of dyslexia (good and bad come with it) and it gives an extra dimension to home schooling.

what’s not to like about messing around with science kits, electricity & magnets?

One simply can’t just pay for a program and sit with your child through it.  Dyslexia requires one on one instruction, a bottomless cup of patience and a healthy sense of humour, for the student as well as the parent.  I’m sure that they will know more in the coming years but for now I’m pretty convinced that it’s a way of thinking, not a disease.  It’s estimated that 20% of us in the Western world are dyslexic and it usually runs in the family.  I consider many dyslexic traits to be of great advantage and this year Brian and I have seen a depth of intelligence and humour in our son that was being crushed by the insecurities and shame that comes with not keeping up in a classroom.  My point is, dyslexia has helped us see rather clearly that each child can not be taught the same way, at the same rate as another. Although most of the population seem to thrive in the school setting, dyslexics don’t.  Prisons and juvenile detention centres are full of them.  Left unattended, dyslexia is a fast-track to an uninspiring life, according to statistics.

We’ve been able to learn that the ominous Curriculum is simply a guide compiled by professionals.  I dispute that it suits all children in a 12-month range.  I could be totally wrong; it’s just my opinion.

Captain Cookie shares a keen interest in this year’s “Pirates, Ships & Voyages of Discovery” subject which replaced some dull thing on the Aussie curriculum.

Having read obsessively about boat-schooling and world-schooling for a decade, we were instead expecting to help expand our little ones’ brains by exposing them to new cultures, new experiences and time as a family.  It was a fairly simple remedy to some fairly significant scars that had resulted from being dyslexic, or just ‘different’ in a highly regulated mainstream system.  There are some brilliant sailors who openly share advice on fb pages and from them plus countless hours on the internet we gradually moved from ‘clueless’ to ‘confident’.  As sailors often have limited internet, schooling is often from books, excursions and just living.

This past year on land has been similar: the internet is expensive and sporadic, at best, and we are isolated from the sort of support that you might normally consider part of daily life; libraries, associations, Scout or interest groups, etc.

The merits and trials of caring for pets has been discussed at great length too. It’s amazing how you can cover breeding, nutrition and cultural differences in animal husbandry.

Our boys, who were previously very ‘close’ yet 4 years apart in age, have learned to be totally joined at the hip 😉 They learn, play and socialise together. We even have a spare bedroom now that they’re back in the same room again, just like in Australia. Their first 4 months of being separate and independent in their own rooms was marred by a longing to sleep again in neighbouring beds.  Yes, they’re normal: when tired & irritable they demand that the other is sent to a boarding school far, far away.

Actually when I am tired and irritable that exactly my wish too, but they go as a pair….


Back we go…..


OK, so the first attempt at reaching Timor wasn’t so great.  The plane made its decent but at the last possible moment the plane’s tail-end seemed to be lower than its pointy end.  Throw in a few sharp curves to port, then a few to starboard, I was getting worried. Nearly as worried as the many Timorese Catholics who were wearing out their rosary beads.  There was a lot of prayer heading out of that big bird.  For that reason I think I felt safe.  Well not safe; I had a dark feeling that Brian’s Christmases for ever were doomed, right when we were all about to start a new & exciting life together.  Convinced that the altitude would provide better reception, I too prayed like there was no tomorrow, as I shoved ipads into the arms of my children who were oblivious to the goings-on, as they’ve been on more than a few planes.

So it was to be that we landed in Dili, Timor-Leste, properly, the day after, on December 20th.  I staggered out of the plane heaving 4 bags of hand luggage as my youngest son was “too tire-yerd” while trying to maintain a steady smile in case Brian could see us from the terminal.  I certainly didn’t want to look anything like I felt.  This was supposed to be a happy day…..

Our new Dr friends have kindly allowed us to babysit their inner-city home while they holiday in Australia.  It’s a respite from the busy streets, shaded by massive leafy trees and close to the beachfront.  The garden is a labour of love for someone, a lush collection of palms, shrubbery and annuals that attracts birds, spiders, bugs and butterflies.  Home-schooling there is a pleasure, mainly due to the  classroom being an intriguing microcosm.

Izzy, the resident feline, captured the hearts of both boys.  She weaves her magic from way-before-civilised-wake-up-time til dark, swaying from loving, purring cuddle-pot to scratchy, moody psychopath.  At all times the boys are giggling, gooing and gaaing. They love her.