So one of the greatest ironies of mine and my husbands’ lives is that we’ve created the kind of life that we want as digital nomads, and yet we choose to live in Sydney, a crazy expensive place, and have chosen traditional school for our daughter instead of traveling and homeschooling as many digital nomad families do. This isn’t a blog post about the merits of homeschooling vs traditional schooling, but rather a look into why this family has chosen the path we have.
While I won’t get into why we decided to live in Sydney rather than elsewhere or to travel constantly, I did want to touch on why we have chosen the schooling that we have for Cheese.
Traditional schooling vs homeschooling vs distance education
Enrolled in a public or private school.
“Distance education or long-distance learning is the education of students who may not always be physically present at a school. Traditionally, this usually involved correspondence courses wherein the student corresponded with the school via post.” (Wikipedia)
“Homeschooling, also known as home education, is the education of children inside the home. Home education is usually conducted by a parent or tutor. Many families use less formal ways of educating.” (Wikipedia)
If you’re interested in homeschooling or distance education, I suggest reading excellent this post by Ytravelblog.
Traditional schooling vs homeschooling: what we’ve chosen and why
We’ve chosen a traditional school path for Cheese for a number of reasons.
1. She thrives on stability
Cheese is the type of kid who loves having roots. She loves feeling like she belongs somewhere and for her that means the stability of having a permanent home and being entrenched in a community.
2. The quality of teachers
Yes I’ve looked into home schooling and distance education but when it comes down to it I’m not someone who is particularly good at teaching others and I’m not skilled in a lot of areas where she has interests. At her school she has teachers who are passionate about one thing – education – and she is receiving lessons from people who are experts in their fields as opposed to my delivering material I’m either not passionate about myself or have very little knowledge of. I found out this year that her homeroom teacher is a mathematician as well as well as her year 1 teacher so the education she is receiving is being delivered by top-notch professionals in their fields rather than my bumbling through it.
3. The breadth of education
At her school right now, Cheese has dedicated teachers from a variety of areas who teach her throughout the day. She receives 90 minutes of language lessons a day and will be fluent in a 2nd language by the time she’s finished primary school. A dedicated music teacher takes music lessons and a choir teacher prepares the kids to sing at the City of Sydney Eisteddfod.
A piano teacher takes her out of class during the day to teach her piano, and the school has dedicated staff who focus on STEAM programs for the kids to participate in. When she’s a bit older there are musicals she can participate in, school excursions to NASA and foreign exchanges on the cards. All I see when I look at what’s offered for her in the traditional system is incredible opportunity followed by an even more incredible opportunity.
4. I would be a rubbish teacher
Honestly, I would be a shocking teacher. I have zero patience at the best of times and it’s no wonder Cheese doesn’t listen to me when I try to tell her something!
5. Cheese doesn’t listen to me
When I try to help her practice the piano world war three sometimes breaks out! Despite the fact that I have had rudimentary piano training, enough to know the basics, when I try to show her the right note to start on it the right fingering for a piece, she’ll completely disagree. And that’s just piano practice!
6. She is highly engaged at school
I’ve had the privilege of assisting her class a few times and I love being a sticky beak and peeking into the class before the session to see how she behaves. What I’ve witnessed at school is she is an absolute angel for her teacher. She sits up the front and watches her with rapt adoration, and is even attentive and receptive with me when I’m volunteering. It must be something about the class environment that she loves? She participates. She listens. She is a leader. She’s learning responsibility and working with a team.
7. I need to follow my own path too
This is a big one as I feel like in order to take on the role of educating Cheese myself it would mean giving up my own career even more so than I’ve already done. I gave up my full time job when she was born and decided not to return to a regular job afterwards as I wanted to enjoy her childhood rather than place her in full time care, or take a part time role that was too junior for me, which has been all I’ve managed to find available that’s not full-time.
As she has gotten older and been to preschool and now big school, I’ve had more and more time to work on my own career again and I’ve been loving getting my writing business off the ground and doing something that I’m very passionate about.
I think it’s healthier for me to be focusing on myself as well as on the family quite frankly, and I also think it’s good for Cheese to have parents who are hard working role models.
8. She craves community
As an only child, Cheese gets very bored with just me and hubby. She is always desperate for the company of other kids. Being at school means she is forming friendships with kids not just of her own age but also with her buddies in other years and kids who are in her choir and chess club.
Being with these kids day in and day out over the years gives her the stability and community she craves and it also forces her to learn to deal with other people and learn to compromise, work through arguments and learn to face mistakes.
9. The little things that make school fun
I made a rookie error last year and took Cheese out of school over special days that I didn’t think would matter, but I failed to realize that they would matter to her. She missed the school book parade and hasn’t let me live it down. She missed her dance school presentation day where she missed being given an award, as well as her kindergarten speech day where she was meant to perform with her class. Things of great importance in the life of a small child that I had failed to recognize.
What will the future hold?
Will we always continue down this path of traditional schooling? Probably not to be honest. For for time being it’s an excellent choice for our family but in the future I foresee us doing a mix of the two, with longer travel over several months while we school Cheese on the road at an age where she is able to do work that is set for her, but then return to the environment she loves with her peers at the end of it.
I’m certainly not someone who is set on education in its current form as being a perfect institution, so I am extremely open to other ways to educate her as her needs change.
What I don’t like about traditional schooling
1. I miss her
This is the biggest thing of all! I really miss her when she’s at school all day and I badly want her to be with me instead.
2. Letting go of control
I have to trust in the school that we’ve chosen and her teachers to make good decisions and treat her with respect and kindness. It’s hard to hear stories of unfair treatment or when things go awry at school and know there’s nothing I can do about it!
3. The school routine
We all find it so tiring. For digital nomads to be getting up early every day and working around school runs is pretty crazy in some ways.
4. Travelling in school holidays
While we will take time off here and there is better for her if we stick to the school holidays which makes for expensive and short travel. I really miss travelling for longer periods in cheaper times, but honestly we all start to miss home after about 6 weeks anyway and long for our simple little home.
5. The education system is archaic
From what I’ve read, the whole education system as we know it was designed during the industrial era. High school (well my experience of it anyway!) is about rote learning, with the designed outcome being a score at the end of year 12 that will get you a spot in the course you want at university. It’s certainly not designed to encourage free thinking and in a lot of ways crushes creativity.
Since we are a very liberally minded family who loves the arts, we will certainly consider other schooling options for Cheese if we find her passions lie in a direction that isn’t assisted by traditional schooling.
What are your thoughts on education for your kids? I’d love to know what you’ve chosen and why. Homeschooling vs traditional schooling: what are your thoughts?
Read more about how I balance being a mum and a freelance career here.
Read about the school run blogging rut here.
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!