I am a complete homeschool nubie. I’ve never been anywhere near it before. But, the more I look into it, the more it seems like an awesome opportunity for me and my kids. There are so many resources available these days, it seems like anyone can do it. It’s the perfect solution for our 5th and 6th grade kids during our Family Gap Year to South America: maximum flexibility, and minimal cost. Here’s why we’re going to homeschool during our family gap year.
Public School Is Not An Option
Where we’re going, the traditional public schools are not a good option. We’ll spend our year based out of a small village in southern Bolivia, where the teachers spend hours a day talking, and the students quietly listen and memorize. Not good. Plus they are years behind, covering materials my kids have already covered. Plus, it’s all in Spanish. No thank you.
Don’t get me wrong, immersion is awesome. But, our kids will have plenty of Spanish immersion just hanging out in town and making friends. We don’t need the frustration and stress of wasted school lessons on top of that. Our school time is not going to be wasted.
Private Schools Are Not An Option
There are some very good private schools in Bolivia, but they won’t work for us. First, there are no private schools in our neck of the woods. We’d have to send our kids off to live in the city while we hang in our rural village. Second, I’m, like, a highly frugal dude (just ask my wife!). No way am I dropping major coin to send my kids away to school when the whole point of our Family Gap Year is to spend more time with our family.
The Homeschool Option
That leaves us with the third option: homeschooling, which until recently may not have really been possible for us. Today, however, there are so many homeschool resources out there, it’s just too easy. It’s a great way to keep your kids up to speed while on extended travel. It offers complete flexibility of schedule and curriculum.
More Free Time
Even at the best schools around, a humongous portion of the school day is “down-time.” That’s just the nature of having 30+ kids of different abilities within one classroom, and only one teacher. My goal is to turn that “down-time” into “free time”. We’ll spend just a couple of hours a day covering the same amount of material, and we’ll use the extra time to enjoy life and to explore.
School is Overrated
Yes, kids need to learn. They need to progress in math and reading. But, let’s not take school too seriously. After all, kids are kids, and they’re never again going to get another chance to be kids. They will have plenty of opportunities to join the rat race later in life.
Besides, they will learn so much more just from the experience of our Family Gap Year then they would ever learn sitting in a classroom in California.
For example, we’ll cover a lesson in evolution, and then we’ll go visit the friggin’ Galapagos Islands! Do you think some kids learning from a book in California are going to have a better grasp of the concepts of evolution? Half of them probably aren’t even paying attention!
With homeschooling, we have total flexibility over both the curriculum and the schedule. Not only can we take off on exotic trips whenever we please, and bring our “school” with us, but also we get to study whatever subjects we want. Remember, we won’t be in California, so we aren’t subject to California’s curriculum rules.
I’m going to spend about 50% of our time on Spanish. If there’s one thing I want them to learn during our Gap Year, it is to become fluent in Spanish. Everything else can wait.
So that’s maybe 50% of our time on Spanish, 30% on math, 20% on science and 10% on everything else. Yup, that’s 110% total. That’s how we roll.
Homework is way overrated too. Our homework will be reading time and Spanish vocabulary, and not much else.
Plus, there will be very few tests. As their personal tutor, I will know whether they know the material or not. There’s no need to document it.
And Did I Mention Homeschooling Is Cheap?
5th and 6th grade material is not “rocket science”, literally. It’s basically standard stuff at each grade level, and it doesn’t change much year to year. It’s so freely available that you can buy complete home school curriculums on Amazon for about what it costs to print and ship a book – less than $20 for 700 pages of lessons and practice problems.
Here’s what we’re using as a general curriculum:
(That’s the 5th grade version for our daughter. We have a 6th grade version for our older son).
Plus, we’ll focus a bit more on math. We have supplemental 6th and 7th grade math workbooks with extra math problems:
Yes, that’s right. We’re upgrading each kid by a grade level in math because they’ve already covered most of the material at their standard grade level. You see why I love the flexibility of homeschooling?
I also got an extra workbook for science – 6th grade only – which both the kids can share:
Finally, the most important subject: Spanish. We have the complete set of Rosetta Stone Spanish. (DVD version only – we won’t always have an internet connection). Rosetta Stone a great way for kids to progress quickly in an immersion environment. But it’s teaching methods are a bit…. different. It kind of infers a lot of the grammar rules, rather than directly explaining them.
So, we’ll supplement Rossetta Stone with some more standard Spanish grammar and vocab lessons with this:
It’s definitely more geared towards adults or high-schoolers. Some of it is too advanced for a 10-year old, but we can still use a lot of the material for our kids.
I got all this material, plus a couple of Spanish-English dictionaries – enough material for two kids – for less than $100! (not including the Rosetta Stone….). I never imagined it would be this cheap! Now, of course, homeschooling will require a chunk of my time, which is supposed to be my most valuable asset…. so there is that.
But, I’m looking at it as a great way to spend more time with my kids. That is, after all, the whole point of our Family Gap Year. It’s not a sacrifice, it’s a privilege that I can do this.
So that’s it in a nutshell: why our best option is to homeschool during our Family Gap Year. Our kids will thrive!
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