The New Face of School

Unschooling the Kortman Kids

When we started off on this little trip, I had a picture on my mind of what 'doing school' on the road would look like, what I wanted the kids to learn this year and how I was going to go about teaching those things. Well, either God, the kids, or both had other plans.

For a while now we have neglected the workbooks and flashcards. The kids started off the trip intensely fighting against sitting down to do school every morning and lots of mornings we skipped school because other priorities were higher on the list for that day. Often simple things like buying groceries take more time and energy in a cross-cultural situation. However, I noticed that although I felt I was slacking off in the teaching department the kids were increasing greatly in their cognitive reasoning and use of school gained knowledge in daily situations.

Here are some examples: Alia explained correctly to Paul why the humidity is high today and then asked some pretty advanced questions about the rain/evaporation cycle of water.

Josiah, reading the sides of a Jeepney and commenting that he knows which Jeepney can get him home, "I just have to look for the ones that say 'Ma-a' on the side and then watch the people in the Jeepney to know how they tell the driver to stop."

Thys (3 year old) sitting at the kitchen table with a snack, "Hey, Mom! Here I have 3 cashews and here I have 2 cashews so that means I have 5!"

Our house caretaker was telling the kids about cobras that live nearby and Josiah asked, "Are they poisonous or are they con-scrictors?"

During a restaurant meal one evening—
Alia: Mom, what's 5 plus 4?
My typical answer to this type of question: "You tell me!"
A: 11
Mom: Nope, try again.
A, getting giggly and acting embarrassed: Oh, wait, it's 9 because 4+4 is 8 and one of the numbers is 5 so you have to add one more. I knew that!

These are just a few of the many things we hear daily. My kids did not exhibit/discuss/show any of this before leaving on this trip! I am astounded at how the lack of me forcefully instructing them has caused them to think/process and question more. It makes my heart really happy to watch them learn and grown.

I still take the time to teach about things whenever a teachable moment presents itself no matter the subject. And when we are a bit more stable we will be working a bit more religiously on reading with Alia and Josiah.

However this new phase was not my plan but has been obviously good for the kids. Instead of complaining and bulking at 'doing school' they welcome opportunities for me to explain how to figure who has the most stones in their piles faster or how that bug is able to walk on top the water.

Wait…..

Isn't that Unschooling?

Ok, so, I just sat back and re-read my post thus far and thought, Whoa! Hold on!!

That is unschooling!!!!

I felt compelled to look it up just to be sure...

"Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play,household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction." - more from Wikipedia

I never thought that I would unschool my kids but there it is! We haven't done it on purpose. However, unschooling keeps the kids and I in a better relationship with one another especially with the stresses involved with cross cultural and frequent traveling. Being in a good relationship with my kids is very high on my importance scale.

It’s still a work in progress but I am pleased with how it's is going and enjoying letting go of the guilt that came with clinging to the old understanding of how school should be accomplished. Yet another way that we have found a new sense of freedom from taking this trip.

Any other unschoolers out there what to comment on your beginnings, experiences, community acceptance, and/or give tips you learned along the way? Please give me lots to read below!

Becky Kortman

I'm a homeschooling, world traveling, Jesus follower who is a wife and mom of 4 kids, In all my travels, I am looking for places that fit with my soul and feel as much like 'home' as they can this side of heaven.

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1 Comment

  1. Cassandra

    Becky, I am just seeing this post now. Just thought I would say that we are pretty dedicated unschoolers. Although we obviously haven’t been at it a long time it is something I’m pretty passionate about and that works really well for our family. If you ever have questions or want resources, just ask. Safe and beautiful travels to your entire family my dear friend.

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