Having finally submitted her last exams, Lauren finished her school year and is officially on holiday.
I have to say, Lauren has really worked at her schooling in a dedicated and determined manner, and while there have been at times frustrations, tantrums and tears (mainly me) she has ploughed through the work and got full marks in every subject.
The maths, science, history, geography and ‘civic education’ were all a doddle – a lot of it she already knew, so after a swift review, she moved on. French language was understandably a challenge, focusing as it did this year on grammar, verb conjugation and ever more esoteric comprehension challenges – so we focused much of our time on that. The rest – sport, music, art etc. she did, but we didn’t put too much effort into, doing just what was required to pass the exams. This year was as much about learning outside the classroom as in it, and I think we have done a good job of balancing the two.
I am of course proud of her for her excellent results, obtained from working in hotel lobbies, the back of a campervan, on a cargo ship, on numerous trains or by the beach. Nonetheless, I am far prouder for the attitude she has shown, when many times she would rather have been doing something else but showed far more discipline than I in getting her head down and focusing on school.
I have been meaning to tell you about some birds that have travelled with us all the way from Dakar. There are four of them, and they come and go but seem to have adopted us as home all the way across the Atlantic.
Apparently, this is quite common and sometimes they go all the way back again with the same ship.
I don’t know what they are, and they never come close enough to get a good view, but I can watch them for ages wheeling around and diving down, disappearing below the surface for a second with the force of the impact as they hit the sea, bobbing back up with a fish in their mouths.
It’s a beautiful day today, and I am writing this up on deck. I’m in the shade, but the humid air would be oppressive if not for a slight breeze. The only sounds are the hum of the engine and the waves slapping on the side of the boat, with the occasional crackle of the radio from the bridge. We are too far out to sea to spot land, and there is just blue water and the odd cloud to be seen in every direction. The smells are the now familiar hot rubbber-oil-sea water mixture. On days like this, I could do this forever.
Yesterday we spent the day docked in Santos, the port that serves Sao Paulo. We decided to forego a trip ashore in favour of hopping on the internet through the erratic mobile signal for long enough to finish all the various exercises missing from Lauren’s schoolwork, so that she could finish her exams and get them sent off.
It was an intense day – she had to learn 2 songs, analyse a symphony, and do an art project as well as some interactive grammar exercises and some comprehension exercises, but she got it all done and I even had enough credit left on the phone to upload all the exams. It’s always a massive relief when they are submitted. We have completed four modules, and have four to go, although I just heard that the next 4 modules that should have been sent ‘mid-January’ will now only be sent mid-February which is a right pain in the whatsit.
But we will make it work.
In the meantime, Lauren gets a day off for completing her exams, and then tomorrow starts on some bits of the British curriculum I have curated, mainly coding which isn’t in the French curriculum but I think she will enjoy.
For now though, I’m enjoying the peace up on deck.
So this blog post has little to do with travel and so much to do with how awesome my daughter is. Sorry.
On trains, on boats, in hotel rooms and friends’ spare rooms, she has buckled down and done her school work, despite the many distractions on offer.
We just got the full set of grades back from the CNED system that Lauren is doing her schooling with. Those of you who have been following know that the first of 8 modules that she has to do throughout the year, covering French, Science, Maths, ‘Discovering the World’, Art, Music and all sorts of odds and sods like ‘civic education’ and ’emotions’ were rather tough on both of us.
We scanned the first set of exams in and sent them off a couple of weeks ago, feeling she had done her best but not sure if that was enough. The standard of French seemed way higher than that expected of her at her previous school and she worked incredibly hard.
She got full marks in Maths. I expected nothing less, she is far ahead of the French curriculum in Maths, as I’ve been teaching her from the British curriculum, and she does maths for fun.
But she also got full marks in everything else.
She didn’t get everything right of course, she’s not perfect 🙂 , but each ‘competency’ is marked and she needs to get above a certain threshold in each to get a top grade. And she did it. In every single subject, even bloody Art which caused more tears and tantrums (sometimes from her, just as often from me) than anything else.
And she did it in exam conditions which I am sure don’t get enforced in some households, but we both wanted to ‘do it right’.
So now we know we can do it. Which is a relief, as we are nearly through the exams for module 2!
She has remained committed and consistent in her schooling (sometimes when I’d be willing to let things slide) and we are finally finding our rhythm. Some days we do nothing, then other days we do whole chunks of the curriculum. The original plan of two hours a day after breakfast doesn’t work when daylight starts at 0900 and ends at 1500.
If she already knows stuff I don’t make her do the endless repetition (this week in ‘civic education’ it was about using calendars, something she has been able to do for a long time, so we jumped the whole section and she did that part of the exam).
Anyway, I am of course super proud of her, and also of myself as there is a lot expected of the ‘tutor’ beyond just making her sit at the books. Its been a challenge but we now know we can do it.
I’m sorry if this blog has been rather quiet lately, but we have had the rather pressing issue of Lauren’s first exams to complete.
All of this is just one module – 3-4 weeks worth!
She had to submit 6 different evaluations, which included French, Maths, Science, ‘Discovering the World’, Cultural and Civil education, Art, Music etc. They all included oral and written submissions, and it’s been intense. Our inclination would have been to dump the Music and Art stuff, and pick and choose the academic stuff, but she has to learn songs to sing and do artwork etc as part of the exams so we couldn’t.
Luckily, she sails through the maths which she sees as light relief from the rest. I’ve done a lot of maths with her independently and she is clearly way ahead of where she needs to be for the French curriculum, so she sees it as fun time.
She has shown far more discipline, grit and determination than I would have credited her with, and she has a right to be very proud. I found the whole process quite stressful, but feel we are well on top of things now.
We will get results within 10 days, but I am fairly confident she will have done OK.
One of the questions with home-schooling is how flexible to be vs. establishing a routine. I think we have got it more or less right, after a few weeks of finding our feet. I feel we both benefit from a routine, but am also not willing to sacrifice all the fun stuff we want to do this year for the sake of it.
We have been getting up at 0715, and starting school fairly strictly at 0800. Work stops for an hour or so mid-morning so that Lauren can take the dog for a walk with Lois, which she really enjoys and is good for her, and this is an opportunity for me to read ahead and prepare the next session. We work til about lunchtime and if we feel we have made enough progress, we do fun stuff in the afternoons. Occasionally we have done another couple of hours schooling in the afternoons.
We have managed to fit it around trips to see friends in other parts of the country, and there have been days when schooling has taken place on trains or in cafes. So, we are making it work. The next challenge will of course be making it work when we are ‘on the road’ rather than settled in one place, but these first 3 weeks (during which we covered 4 weeks schooling so Lauren could have this week off to go to camp) have got us well underway.
The final exam was completed last Thursday and Lauren chose lunch out followed by the cinema as her treat (we saw ‘Victoria and Abdul’ which was good but we both sobbed through quite a bit of it!). We then had a ‘Mummy-daughter day’ on the Friday and then she left for adventure camp on Saturday.
If I’ve gone a bit silent since arriving in the UK its for two reasons: first, we have been getting to grips with Lauren’s schooling, and second, I came down with a stinking cold which is still lingering. There was little energy left after mornings of conjugating French verbs and trying to follow the very structured but somewhat confusing CNED system.
For those who aren’t aware, while I was happy to go total hippy and freely homeschool as much or as little as we felt like, figuring a year travelling around the world with our eyes open would provide as good an education as the classroom, Lauren wanted to stick with the French curriculum, to ensure she didn’t miss a year, and because she genuinely likes schoolwork.
The French system have this amazing possibility to fully homeschool with the exact same curriculum as kids in France, called the CNED. They send out the workbooks and these are supplemented by online resources and interactive worksheets, and every few weeks an evaluation in each discipline is uploaded or sent for marking. Teachers then correct the work and send detailed feedback.
The books and materials (all 7kg and that’s just for term one!) had been delivered to our UK address, meaning we were starting almost a month behind. Lauren has always had excellent grades at the French school in Maputo, both in French and in Maths and what she rather disparagingly calls ‘the other stuff’ (moral and civil education, music, and the wonderfully French “discovering the world”). She is a disciplined and enthusiastic student, so I didn’t envisage too many problems.
It did, however, take us a while to get into the swing of things, but just over a week in and I think we are starting to find our rhythm. It takes about 4 hours of intense schooling a day, and one of the things I quickly learned is that you can’t actually do 4 hours of intense schooling at once. While I had fond images of us having days off then ‘doubling up’ the next day, the reality is there is only so much either of us can take at any one time.
Another adjustment has been to the level of French language and in particular vocabulary required. Of course, while the curriculum is the same, it was different having the lovely Sylvain up front explaining things clearly in multiple ways, and I am guessing some allowance was made for the fact that many of the children were not francophone. Certainly, some of the texts and poetry she is expected to read now have some very complex vocabulary which would I imagine stretch some French kids let alone an anglophone child only exposed to French at school. Still, we have embraced this as an opportunity for both of us to improve our vocabulary, and spend the first few minutes of each day testing each other on the words we have learned so far. French for larch tree, water spout or upholsterer anyone?!
I also had this idea that my job was simply to provide her with the time and encouragement to do the work, rather than actually be heavily involved in the teaching. This may be because that’s exactly what the school told me when I met with them to discuss this crazy idea of schooling on the road in a language not my own. ‘Oh no, its fine you don’t speak French as a first language (Gallic shrug) you just have to make sure she is motivée and has time to do the work’… hmm. Not so much. The parents are not given any answer sheets, so we figure it out together. At times its quite fun.
Yesterday was a good homeschooling kind of day. We are in London and it was absolutely glorious weather – mild and sunny. We had to go to Victoria mid morning for passport renewals, so we got up early, did 2 hours of French and Maths, did what we needed to do in Victoria, then decided to walk from there across to parliament square, as Lauren wanted to see Big Ben. We wandered through the backstreets of Chelsea, came across a park where we spent a happy half hour playing catch the leaves (I won! She’s faster but I’m bigger. She did get the odd elbow in the face, but that’s life right?! It gets ridiculously competitive to say all you are doing is catching leaves falling off the trees….).
Anyway, that counted as PE.
Then we meandered off to parliament, and came across a monument to the abolition of slavery, which led to a discussion about that.
We messed about kicking leaves and talked about how some trees shed leaves and some don’t and trying out all our new french tree vocabulary. Then we saw a statue of Winston Churchill, so we discussed him a bit. Plus en route we discussed the existence of two houses of parliament…. and agreed that neither of us knew why conkers are called conkers, so filed it away on the ever-expanding ‘to google one day’ list.
We saw the anti Brexit campaigners, and I said something about Brexit being a big mess. We were just passing the police outside parliament at the time and Lauren told me to be quiet ‘in case Teresa May hears’ which led to a discussion about freedom of speech in a democratic country and the generally pathetic state of British politics…..
Then it was home for another couple of hours of French and maths, plus the different states of water at different temperatures.
In the evening we met up with our friend Alicia from Mozambique – and we were so busy catching up I forgot to get a photo, so those who know her will just have to take my word for it that she’s looking great and we had a lovely evening. The funniest bit of the whole evening was when Lauren announced, after returning from the loos, that she had filled in and signed the ‘questionnaire’ on the back of the door to say that the loos had indeed been cleaned. I think she thought it was a bit like a visitors book….