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Hanging Out & Road School

May 02, 2007

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It is wonderful to have the luxury of time again as we have missed our leisurely lifestyle and so much is learned just in play and hanging out and reading. We did not have time to do home school while on the move in Morocco, but it was no concern because the experience was so rich with learning. I called it the ultimate unschool field trip,but it is also good to have the time to catch up with piano practice, Mozart’s new math book and such.

My goal was to move a little faster on this trip as we have so much we want to see, but now that we are into the seven month tour, I see how valuable it is to have down time as we really need time to process what we see and it is a much more relaxing way to travel. We can always add another year or two if there is more that we feel we need to see, but life needs to be lived and there is more to life
than just seeing new places.

Mozart needs time to dig in the dirt, ride her bike, play her imaginary games, build Legos, play games, jump rope etc, etc just like any other kid. I think those kinds of things are just as important as any of the other road school things we do from touring to math, music, reading or writing, researching and discussing what we see. This is a perfect spot to do all of those things and more, so we are grateful we found such a good spot and have this luxury of time.

She has a new journal with a lock and key that she loves and that gives her lots of practice writing in English and Spanish. She was thrilled to see it had a fairy on it that plays piano and violin, just like her. She also writes endless letters although I must confess, I do not always keep up with mailing them. She is keeping up with her workbook from Spain that her teacher gave her and will probably beat the kids there in finishing it.

Piano is the hardest thing to keep up with and the whole family has to adjust for those practice sessions, but it is well worth the effort. She knows over 180 chords now and her repertoire is growing. The digital piano is heavy and awkward, so takes effort setting it up and I need to go up to the bed to make room, but enjoy watching and listening to her. I really must upload some videos of her playing lately as it is fun to watch her do songs like “Doe a Deer” or “Born Free” not to mention her improv or songs she makes up. She makes it look easy and it is not.

If we stayed in one place, she only played one instrument and spent hours on practice, I have no doubt that she would be astounding as she is such a quick study, feels music deeply and her teachers are always very impressed. Studies show that great musicianship has a lot to do with practice. It is hard to know how to support a musical talent or a kid who has so many talents and to know exactly what is the best course.

I sometimes feel bad about what she is missing because she clearly has natural musical talent (and did surprisingly even as a baby which led us in this direction) but even if we stayed in one place, I would not want her (nor is she so  inclined) to do hours of practice daily. She is a child who values freedom above all, so I do not see that path for her and I do see the value of the travel for her nature.

Still it is the one area that makes me wonder. My rationalization is that she is so far ahead in this area than most kids her age, what does it matter if she gets slowed down while increasing her experience in other ways through the travels, but a parent is never sure of choices and can only hope. We are not musicians ourselves so it is hard to know what is the best way to go.

This method of study which is much less rote than most and will allow her the freedom to sing while
she plays and compose her made up songs seems more compatible with her personality than a rigorous classical competition style. It is true that she is probably handicapped some though by our travels as far
as instruments are concerned, but hopefully we can still nurture her talent in this area as we go, even
if a bit slower than it would be had we stayed at home.

She doesn’t have a piano at the ready that she can just play away at when in the mood, but hopefully the benefits of round the world travel will make up for the losses in the music area. If we were musicians ourselves we could support her more, but we just have to do the best we can. She wants to add harp now, but two instruments are more than enough on our plate on the road & she will have to master those before we take on any more. Hopefully we can make up some for our travel time when we are in our winter base as lessons and free play is much easier at that base.

It is great to be in a flat area too so that she can ride her bicycle as she had gotten a little rusty when we were in our very hilly village. She adores riding her bike and this is a great place for it. She also hops on back of dad’s bike if they are going anywhere where there is traffic and enjoys that (which looks so very European.) Dad works a little on swim lessons in our pool time & we will keep our eyes open for lessons in that as we go. She is part fish since she has been swimming from birth, but still needs to polish all strokes.

I love how she plays in nature with dirt, bugs, twigs, pine cones and what ever is handy. As soon as  we set up camp, she was busy sorting and collecting nature things and an old spoon, large plastic egg from Easter that divides into two cups and our bucket allows for endless hours of pleasure. She even uses the towels on the clothes line we put up to add to her imaginary play and create “rooms” in her outdoor home.

It is the kind of play that I think is so important and I think she gets it more on the road than if we were at home. School, lessons, play dates and such takeup so much time there. I think it is the best of the Waldorf educational ideas, to just play in nature and use ones imagination with natural objects and I think it increases her creativity. I love watching the creative ideas that she comes up with like hanging a little hair rubber band “thingie” with a long string down from the clothes line to use as her doorbell! We also put up the pup tent for added play space when we stay for a while, like here.

We often meet other people because they hear her playing and enjoy it. There was a retired couple across the way here, who so enjoyed her violin as they had a daughter who played clarinet and miss the sounds of practice now. Another “neighbor” is from the UK and they remarked on it too.

Mozart is lucky that we meet people from so many countries and here the majority seem to be from Germany, UK, the Netherlands, France and Belgium as well as the Spanish who come on the weekends.
This daily exposure also enriches her as she likes to visit with people of every age and we always hear
lots of  languages. Until we know someone, it is sometimes hard to know which language to say “hello” or “good morning” in and I often find myself using several, just in case.

There is a couple from Switzerland who winter here in a big American fifth wheeler with pull out, red dodge truck and a motorcycle for errands. (All the Europeans gawk at it as they walk by as it is an unusual sight here). Mozart made friends with them because the lady sells lovely jewelry that she makes
on weekends. Mozart loves to gab and this Swiss miss gave a beautiful red heart one to her for free as well as an inside tour which she was curious about. Another example of the great kindness of strangers on our tour.

Local ladies on a bus gave her candy, so it seems Mozart is always making out well and learning about kindness and generosity. They were surprised to see her reading a fat chapter book and started a conversation in Spanish. Our first “neighbors” here left us some tickets with a note on the morning they left and we have talked and learned things from many here from various places.

What could be better than doing math or violin practice while outside in the sunshine or reading a book under the trees or snuggled in bed? She even gets to jump robe while doing math facts, gobble snacks as she works or wear her new sunglasses if the mood fits. She graduated to her next math book and is reading the original Hiede at the moment for her chapter book and enjoying both. No wonder she prefers to home school and as I watch her, I think how lucky she is and that is how school should be...out in nature and sunshine with lots of time to move, play and get first hand experience.

As we prepare to head to Italy, Greece and Turkey we focus again on ancient civilizations. The more we know ahead of time, the richer the trip, so that is another advantage of slow travel. I have yet to get our reading lists organized (although I have listed a bunch on www.bootsnall.com under the travel with
kids section), but I wanted to add some books for kids from Morocco and one for Barcelona.

Morocco is such a rich opportunity for leaning with kids and these books will help enhance a journey there before and after going:“Islam Explained” by Jelloun, “52 Days by Camel, My Sahara Adventure” by Raskin (grades 4-6), Morocco in Pictures by Di Piazza, “Morocco, Enchantment of the World” second series (9-12 years old), “The Storytellers” and “Market” by Lewin (5-9 years old),” Ali, child of the Desert” by London, Ibrahm by Sales, and My Father’s Shop” by Ichikawi.

The book about Barcelona that we added to our Dali book (seen nearby last fall) is “Tell me about Gaudi” by Benat Cormand.

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