Category Archives for Mulberry Childhood

Want to travel and worldschool your kids? Here are 5 things you should know

Worldschooling, travelschooling, roadschooling... there are so many ways to take your kids with you and see the world, so here is everything you need to know.

By Grace Koelma | Editor of The Mulberry Journal

* A quick note to readers: This article is based on my experience being 'worldschooled' as a teenager, and the things I found helpful for learning on the road.


The biggest mistake many parents make when choosing to take their family on the road and ‘worldschool’ is thinking that their kids’ education will occur in a similar way to school, or even like more structured styles of home education. But worldschooling is a law unto itself and will be an amazingly educational journey for you and your kids, if you let it.

Relax. Let your children process and digest what they’re seeing, the conversations they’re having and the new experiences they’re immersed in. Trust that the learning is happening beneath the surface. Every so often you’ll be the audience to an outburst and overflowing of this learning, maybe in a wonderful way you weren’t expecting.

Here are a few tips for how to plan your trip to best suit your children’s learning needs.

1. Consider what kind of ‘worldschooling’ you’ll be doing

How you choose to worldschool will depend on whether you are taking your kids out of school for a few months, or are planning on continuing to homeschool them when you return.

  • Putting them back in school afterwards

Some schools and teachers will want students to keep up with what’s being learned in class so that your child doesn’t fall behind. It’s valuable to practice mathematics while you’re away, if you intend on putting your child back into school (and therefore a set curriculum and learning pace). This is because many topics in maths are building blocks for other concepts, and if you miss a key one, learning future maths concepts can be hard. So perhaps take each child’s maths textbook with you. Other subjects like writing, spelling, art, history, science, geography and health/PE can all be learned organically on the road.

  • Homeschooling after you return

If you’re intending to homeschool your kids after you return from travel, then you can go at your own pace, and choose a learning style that suits each child. To be honest, I'm a fan of unschooling for travel, there is so much to be learned simply by being immersed in new cultures and cities (more on that later!)

2. Be open to seasons of learning

Regardless of the level of structure in your worldschooling approach, your kids will naturally form rhythms of more intense and less intense learning, and you will too! It’s okay to let this process happen organically, don't attempt to stifle or accelerate it.

As notable homeschool author, Wendy Priesnitz said, “Life learning is about trusting kids to learn what they need to know and about helping them to learn and grow in their own ways. It is about respecting the everyday experiences that enable children to understand and interact with the world and their culture.”

Worldschooling boils down to this. It’s living in the present, enjoying each new opportunity and experience presented to you, and immersing yourself in culture, history and new cuisines.

3. Embrace daily journalling habits

If you do want to encourage a learning habit, start journalling what you see on your travels, and invite your children to do the same. To get them excited about the process, let each child choose a special book to write in (some kids love leather bound, others want a book with their favourite superhero on the cover). This journal can be as structured or free as they like, and include recounts of events, drawings, photos, maps, keepsakes, postcards and nature finds. The opportunities are endless.

If you do need to provide proof of learning on your travels to a teacher or a school principal, this is a wonderful way to do that, too. When I was fifteen, my family homeschooled and travelled in a caravan around Australia for 11 months. The journals I kept every day while travelling are now one of my most treasured memories of my childhood.

 

4. Be immersed in the joy of discovering new places together

Worldschooling boils down to this… It’s living in the present, enjoying each new opportunity and experience presented to you, and immersing yourself in culture, history and new cuisines. Don’t force your kids to do this, just throw yourself into it and watch as they catch hold of your enthusiasm. You’ll find endless opportunities for learning on the road: a wealth of rich history in museums and art gallery. Explore National parks (on land and in the sea – remember that in many countries, coral reefs are protected heritage area too), stop at roadside stalls and talk to buskers and craftsman selling wares on the street.

The physical act of travel is a wonderful learning opportunity as well. Enlist your children’s help in calculating the cost of fuel to drive to the next location, or how much you’ll be charged for excess baggage on your next flight. Show them your travel budget, and tell them what your spending limit is each day. Get them to help you do grocery shopping and help you cook meals, book accommodation and flights.I believe the best education is steeped in the discussion of ideas. Talk about the customs of the places you visit and why cultural heritage is important. Learn the local language, and how to respect the culture as a visitor.

 

5. Resist trying to make every experience a ‘learning experience’

There are a lot of obvious opportunities for learning while travelling… every town has museums, art galleries, wildlife exhibits and information centres. But your kids will most certainly get information fatigue if they’re towed through one row of glass displays after another. Sometimes, even regularly, it’s okay to drive past the local tourist attraction and head to a local weekend market or go to the beach and sketch the landscape.

And then relax. Let your children process and digest what they’re seeing, the conversations they’re having and the new experiences they’re immersed in. Trust that the learning is happening beneath the surface. Every so often you’ll be the audience to an outburst and overflowing of this learning, maybe in a wonderful way you weren’t expecting.

This quote by John Holt sums it up perfectly: “What makes people smart, curious, alert, observant, competent, confident, resourceful, persistent – in the broadest and best sense, intelligent – is not having access to more and more learning places, resources, and specialists, but being able in their lives to do a wide variety of interesting things that matter, things that challenge their ingenuity, skill, and judgement, and that make an obvious difference in their lives and the lives of people around them.” ~ John Holt, Teach Your Own

Have you got any worldschooling tips? We'd love you to share them in the comments below...

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Grace Koelma

Editor

Grace is a wife, mum to 2-year-old Leo, and editor of The Mulberry Journal. She believes that home educating starts from 0 not 6 years, but is glad not to have to worry about registration... yet! You can find her sharing snippets of her love of real food, picture books and homeschool on Instagram at @littlesoulfires

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Five creative play tips from Danish play expert, Hanne Boutrup

Words by Hanne Boutrup, images supplied by LEGO DUPLO.

One of the most basic but fundamental skills of working today is having this ability to think creatively.

Any adult in any profession knows everyday you have to think up new ways of doing things and new solutions, because you’ll rarely find a way that fits every situation. This is why it’s so imperative we equip our kids with the right tools from a young age to develop the skills they will carry throughout their lives; and play is the building block for becoming an effective creative thinker.

As an adult, we construct things through constructing knowledge in our head. You figure out there could be one way of doing it or there could be fifteen. You try it out, re-do it and reflect, and build again; each time makes you broaden your perspective to find the most effective solution. For young kids, this process is learnt through play as they haven’t developed the ability to process information just in their head. Just as adults do in their head, kids will use tools like DUPLO to construct and reconstruct, and through trial and error will find a solution.

Tip 1: Sit down on the floor with the kids and use a story that is the starter. Perhaps a story about two friends who live on opposite sides of the river that want to meet up, how can you build something that will help them? This will spark your child’s imagination as they think on what to build to help them. The more variety of bricks you have the greater your imagination will be. Different brick sizes and colours are also very inspirational.

Play: Cognitive skills

Any parent will know the experience where you watch the moment your child figures out how to fit the DUPLO together. They will sit and fiddle with bricks and through trial and error use their intuition to figure it out. Each time they build, they are able to transfer the knowledge learnt through their play and start to construct more complex structures each time. This process of play is how kids learn and develop the most fundamental cognitive skills that we as adults use every single day. Equipping them with the right tools is critical to this process, and building bricks such as DUPLO is, for me, one of the best, if not the best.

Tip 2: A good exercise that demonstrates this learning experience is asking them to build a bridge. Once they’ve built it once, it becomes a natural reflection for them next time they need to build it – they learn a bridge has to go over, it has to be stable and it’s a structure. Building out of DUPLO is literally building their experience and this is something that you cannot explain to kids in any other way than learning through making.

Storytelling: developing the skill

This is by far one of the most important skills we need in life, and equipping kids with the right tools from a young age is imperative. Storytelling is a big part of our imagination. Think about your everyday life, how many times a day do you have to explain things to other people? Or needing the ability to sell in any ideas you come up with through explanation. That ability to actually structure a story where there’s a beginning, middle and an end, so it’s clear for everyone else, holds their attention and most importantly convinces them it’s something worth listening to is such an important part of our communication, and not something everyone is skilled at.

We don’t learn from a blank screen, we learn from things that inspire us. Knowledge is built by adding on top of something you already know or from satisfying curiosity. This is where storytelling is so crucial for kids to build these vital skills. A story doesn’t spring out of nothing it is inspired by something, and it’s about kick starting it.

Take the DUPLO box for example, the pictures on the outside may spark the story. From there, it’s about working with kids to encourage them to continue telling it through their play and guiding them to solve problems they face throughout. It’s helping their imagination by thinking up a story, finding inspiration through their building on how the story unfolds.

Developing effective communication skills

Learning descriptive language is a whole other language development skill. What do I call this shape? How do I tell someone else to put it in that? That descriptive language and being very accurate about things, being able to understand instructions from others and listen to it or asking a clarifying question back.

It might seem like a basic skill for you now, but it’s something kids are yet to develop. I’m sure every parent has experienced the frustration of not being able to understand because kids cannot explain effectively, but for them, play is the most important way they develop their language and lean to be very specific with their language.

We don’t learn from a blank screen, we learn from things that inspire us. Knowledge is built by adding on top of something you already know or from satisfying curiosity.

Just to demonstrate the importance of developing effective descriptive language skills, think about how many times you’ve left a meeting at work feeling puzzled by what was just said, and turning to colleagues and asking them “what was that all about”. Learning this skill from a young age will benefit kids throughout their whole life.

Tip 3: There is a great exercise you can do with kids to help build and refine their storytelling skills through developing skills in descriptive language. You each need seven identical blocks, and sitting back to back, your child creates a build. From there, they need to help you to build the same thing they have through explaining it to you.

Repeat the process, each time providing feedback to your child on how they can refine their description (for example teaching them how to describe a brick with a curve and the direction it needs to face) that will help guide you through the build and each time they will learn how best to solve the problem.

Math and creative thinking

This is one area of creative play that DUPLO is probably the most effective tool I’ve worked with because it is both creative and systematic at the same time. It’s a range of things from a visual tool to help understand fractions, to identifying colour patterns and stacking them as a representation of numbers; there is just so many basic math problems that are made easier to understand with bricks.

This process of play is how kids learn and develop the most fundamental cognitive skills that we as adults use every single day.

Most children all over the world are intuitive; it’s not difficult to put bricks on a building plate and to build rows of four and rows of five, but understanding this as a representation of a number is not something that comes naturally for kids. All parents will be able to relate to kids pointing to items and miscounting there are eight items when there are only five. This is because kids can’t connect numbers by pointing, they need an item to associate with a number. Building bricks helps kids to make connections between the bricks they are stacking and the number they are up to, eventually understanding what five looks like as opposed to 10 and so on.

Tip 4: Kids are very visual in how they learn, so next time there is a math problem you are trying to explain, use aids like DUPLO to demonstrate and help them understand. It could be basic things that are easy, up to building fractions and equations. The whole DUPLO system is like a mathematical system, which is in itself wonderful.

Science and technology

Looking at the problem of building a bridge, when constructing it, you need to consider that it needs to be stable enough for someone to step on it. Then if you were to build a high bridge it would differ from what you have to consider for a long bridge. That whole science thinking is inbuilt in LEGO DUPLO. The understanding of how you make things stable or build different structures is like basic engineering. It’s a science that kids can understand - these two halves make a whole and I put that in here because it fits. It’s all about science and structures.

Tip 5: This one is as simple as giving kids scenarios and asking them what they would construct to help solve the problem. Thinking about builds that require thought on stability for differing heights, strength to bear the weight of a car or a person, etc and help them understand along the way how they can improve the structure. Building a bridge is probably the most simple way to help build this understanding, but give them different scenarios to consider. For example, ask them to build a bridge that needs to be tall, one that needs to be short, one that needs to be wide enough to fit a truck.








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Hanne Boutrup

Play expert

Hanne Boutrup is a Danish Play Expert, with more than 20 years experience across 56 countries. She has worked closely with numerous experts to develop targeted workshops that put theory into practice. Through her extensive knowledge and experience in the area she has found that children’s building bricks, such as DUPLO, is the most effective tool she has worked with for kids to build the most fundamental skills during childhood.