A Road-Schooling Day


It struck me recently that I’ve said a number of times that road-schooling is hard work but that I’ve never really explained why this is so. It seemed like a description of a typical “school day” would be a good idea to remedy this.

The diary below describes a day in Emei Shan, a mountain two hours drive from Chengdu. It was Saturday. We’d hiked the mountain on Wednesday and Thursday (60km, 3,000m) and been in Leshan (to get our Chinese visas extended) on Friday. We were overdue for a school day.

BigB was in his bed reading when I looked in to see if he wanted to shower and get some breakfast. CAM was still out cold. Neatly dodging my suggestion of a shower, BigB dressed quickly and we went down to eat.

Murph went back to bed for a nap so I’m taking advantage of the opportunity, reading email and catching up on the news on our shared computer. BigB is back in the room and there is still no sign of CAM.

Our bus to Chengdu doesn’t leave until 4pm so I leave BigB a little quiet time (with his Nintendo) figuring that it’ll be easier for me to focus on schoolwork with both boys at the same time and CAM is still sleeping. I go back to the cozy cafe with my notebook and our guidebook to plan our visit to Beijing and maybe write up some blog posts. I wasn’t there 15 minutes before CAM shows up looking for breakfast. I sit with him and try to get him thinking about what we’ll do in Beijing – with very limited success. This teenager is not good in the mornings.

BigB goes off with his schoolwork, dour that I’ve extracted a promise of “at least one” book report from him. I negotiated a deal with CAM: I’ll pack his bag in exchange for no fights over school-work today. We’ll see how that works out…

We’re all checked out, bags stashed in the luggage room. Murph is helping BigB with his math. I go looking for CAM and find him reading – not doing the math he’d promised. I send him off to get his schoolwork packet from his backpack. There’s a minor drama because we only have one eraser but finally there’s quiet and both boys are working. I sit at one of the public computers to research and plan the Central Asia portion of our trip calling Murph over a few times to review some ideas.

There are people coming and going and the usual chatter between travelers sharing trip routes, stories and tips. It’s not particularly loud but I do find it amazing that my kids can work away in this environment. Apart from the odd question – or fight over the eraser (I really need to get another one) – they’re heads down on math for at least an hour.

After lunch both kids are back on the sofas in the lounge area and I’m back researching Central Asia. CAM has done his math but has pushed off writing until we’re on the bus. “But Mom, there’s wifi here, can’t I use it now and then I’ll write on the bus?”
I’ve completely forgotten to check in on BigB’s book report.

We decide to head over to the bus station – but not before the owner of the hostel tries to sell us on a private driver to the airport. After multiple phone calls and some negotiation on price we decide that it’s too expensive and revert to Plan A.

We’re finally on the bus. I remind CAM that he promised to write. It takes a mini-lecture on responsibility and follow-through from Murph to get him started. Now I remember to ask BigB to show me his (writing) work and I’m met with a sheepish guilty face. He doesn’t make any excuses for shirking but says that he finds it hard to concentrate on bumpy buses and would prefer to do his writing at the airport. I know that (a) he’ll be too tired and (b) he won’t be able to focus in the departure lounge but I cave because seriously, he has the best sad-puppy face on the planet.

After our first Chinese traffic-jam, a delayed bus and a half-hour walk (with backpacks) around central Chengdu looking for the shuttle to the airport, we’re on our way.

We’re checked in and waiting at the gate. Both kids are sitting quietly working on writing assignments. The passengers sitting around BigB are clearly fascinated by the sight of a kid typing on an iPad. Murph and I sneak off for a quiet beer.

This was not one of our best road-schooling days but it shows how disjointed the “school day” can be when you’re integrating schoolwork into travel. Personalities come into play too: I know some kids are very self-directed and feel bad if they shirk – or don’t complete – schoolwork. My kids are not like that, they’ll do as little as possible and “forget” to do work if they think they can get away with it. Distractability is an issue for both of them but they’ve definitely improved over the past eight months and, as this day shows, can work pretty much anywhere.

I have happy dreams about waving them off to school when we get back to Seattle :)

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About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

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