Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Back from Abroadschool to HOMEschool!

Oh, hi internet.  It's been a long time since I posted anything here because it got too hard to keep up while we were in London with one computer between Tim and me, lots of late nights, teaching prep, travel planning for various short trips, lots of knitting... N. fell behind on his travel journal too, and we decided that we'd each write regularly when we got back about our semester abroad as a way of processing our experiences and memories.  N. is going to write about the trip in his journal once a week, and I'll try to write here a bit more often, both about what we did last semester and what we're doing now that we're home.  

We had wonderful, rich experiences abroad and we were so proud of how much N. got out of our five-month-stay in Europe.  But we (especially N. and I) are also really happy to be home.  We left England in mid-December, were home for 12 days, then travelled right after Christmas to Washington, D.C. and Michigan to see family, and just returned home again, with great relief.  We've been thrilled to catch up with all the friends, family, and neighbors we missed so much.  And we are enjoying settling back in our nest and luxuriating in our piano, our favorite books, music, toys, nice cooking pots, cozy beds, etc. 

Yesterday, Tim and N. started their old school routine, much to N.'s delight.  At N.'s request we set the alarm, he read in bed for an hour and a half (Trains magazine and Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney), we ate breakfast, and he was at his desk in the sunroom by about 9:45 drawing while listening to Tim read from The Great Railroad Revolution by Christian Wolmar.  N. worked in his Daily Math workbook, they tried out the new microscope he got for Christmas, they read about neon in The Elements, they took a walk, ate lunch, practiced piano, and went to N.'s piano lesson.  It was a full day and N. kept saying all day how happy he was to be back to regular school, which warmed our hearts.  

Given N.'s love of routine, I was surprised at how well he thrived when we had almost no regular routine in London.  The one daily constant was piano practice, but even this happened at different times of the day depending on what outings we had planned.  In London, we were much more like "real" unschoolers.  Aside from a weekly check-in with the math workbook, all N.'s learning was experiential.  Museums, outings, siteseeing, plays, concerts, reading (independently and aloud), and self-directed writing (postcards, letters, comic books, and stories) formed the curriculum.  It would have been a shame to do anything but absorb London (and Paris, Berlin, and Florence) as fully as we could.

While I was surprised that N. enjoyed the infinite variety of our days in Europe so much, I was also surprised at his gleeful embrace of his old routine now that we are back in our quiet little city.  He loved being abroad and he misses it, but he's happy to be home.  He and I have been talking about this; how it's useful to learn about yourself that you can be happy (at least for a time) in two very different modes of life and learning.  Extended travel can give you more complex feelings about your place in the world.  We learn that we can be more flexible than we thought, but we are also left with an unresolveable wish that we could be in two places at once, that we could have the richness of our daily experiences in London and the comfort of our home life at the same time.  When we were in London, N. and I talked about how much we missed our life, but also didn't want the semester to end.  Now that we are here, we talk about how happy we are to be home, and yet we miss the inspiration of London.  While N. revels in the return to normal, I am curious to see if the old routine will in fact continue to hold or if it will be adapted as N. continues his post-Europe half of fourth grade.    
Figuring out the microscope among the comforting clutter of home!



CMR said...

YAY--we're happy to have you stateside too, though we are thrilled to pieces at the wonderful experiences you all had abroad!

Alice@Supratentorial said...

Welcome home! We got a microscope for Christmas too and I think I’m even more excited than my son. :)