Captains Log: Earth-date May 23 2017 The long term effects of travel, education and technology
I’ve been back in Cape Town for almost 3 weeks. It’s been a period of readjustment for all of us. Travelling, without one’s family, regularly, has unintended consequences. The more time I spend away, the more I romanticise about getting home to my people. For me, at least, there are visions of the great hunter returning to the adoring hordes. In reality, Michelle and Charlotte have built up a modus operandi for when I am away. I call it “single parent mode”. Michelle has had to become both parents and cope both logistically and mentally, which I imagine is difficult and taxing. The result is that I walk back into a well-oiled machine that has a clearly defined formula. Whilst I am most certainly welcomed home, I quickly find that Charlotte is subconsciously jealous of the time I now take from her previously undivided attention. Michelle, used to being the arbiter, judge and jury is not always happy about my opinions and input into parenting moments when I arrive back after being away for a while. This may sound obvious but it took some maturity, objectivity and a good bottle of wine for us to unpack logically, particularly because so much of it is occurring in the subconscious and emotional part of our brains. In conclusion, it is, what it is! It’s in pursuit of a greater cause, the BWT2018! We just need to be aware and manage ourselves and our emotions.
As plans harden for my next round of travel, my brain immediately tries to turn this problem on its head. If these are the unintended consequences of being separated a lot, then what are the unintended consequences of spending 330 odd days together as a family? No school, office, clients or even girls or boys nights out, to give any of us, some space? What’s more, from our rather lovely, spacious, home in the leafy suburbs of Cape Town, the majority of the year is likely to be spent in studios, or 1 bedroom accommodation, much smaller confines with less privacy than we are used to. How does that all impact the family relationship dynamics with Michelle and Charlotte? These questions crystallised even more so today, when meeting with Charlotte’s school headmaster to discuss the logistics and finances of next year. When the practicalities were dispensed with, this died-in-the-wool educator listened to us and then remarked, “At the risk of being captain grumpy, don’t ruin Charlotte’s experience of lifetime by being to prescriptive or too strict.” We had been trying to subtly impress him with our approach to “road-schooling” and how seriously we were planning to take it. Here we are again! How are we going to manage being teachers, homework givers, gym instructors, parents, husband, wife and friends, all in tight confines? The short answer, is we don’t know until we try. Like the previous example, all we can promise ourselves, is to be sufficiently self-aware and put circuit breakers in place to try and unpack issues as they develop.
Before I head into the detail of the ‘how’ of educating Charlotte on the road, I must compliment the International School of Cape Town (ISCT) and the headmaster Mr David Hunter, on their pragmatic, collaborative and fair approach to our escapade. They have agreed to keep Charlotte’s place for 2019, assist us with the curriculum and provide access to a dedicated teacher via an online resource, all at a fair price that may even enable us to assist some less privileged learners at the school at the same time.
The first interesting moment today was regarding prioritising our teaching. Subjects that are critically cumulative or Lego-blocked in their structure are more critical than those where this year’s learnings are not dependent on last year’s. Maths (euphemistically now called numeracy) and some elements of science are the two most obvious. When one thinks of algebra, geometry or formulas they all build on previous concepts thus, we were told, it is important to ensure that we keep to the curriculum and Charlotte masters the defined outcomes to ensure that she can resume year 6 when she returns in January 2019. This may seem very obvious to the reader, and it is, once explained, but it wasn’t that obvious to the Bungey parents….
Next, in Mr Hunter’s expert opinion, were those subjects, a bit like sport, that require constant practice and expansion, namely the languages and creative writing as a subset. Here, he emphasised, practice and vocabulary expansion. Charlotte comes from a long line of writers and creatives, (with a recent, weird, deviant who went into finance) so I am sure she will be just fine! Michelle is going to be the warrior on English and creative writing. As a lapsed French speaker I will do my best to keep the Tricolore flying .Spanish is trickier. We head to Argentina and Chile first. It leaves Charlotte front and centre with no comprehension by her parents. It’s interesting, dangerous and will definitely immerse her in Spanish. Several people have suggested exploring some of the language apps such a Duolingo. Whether we get what, we order, or where we want to be when we are in South America is an entirely different question….maybe Google Translate will become our best friend on our travels!
The most exciting bit for Charlotte is that, in Mr Hunter’s opinion, one on one schooling for numeracy and literacy shouldn’t take much more than an hour or two a day. My Calvinistic reaction was “that can’t possibly be enough!” But as he pointed out, we don’t have 15 other children in the class, we have a teacher/pupil ratio of 2:1 and we don’t have assembly and all the other distractions of daily school life. Her extramural activity is the rest of the trip!
Finally, history, geography, biology et al. In Mr Hunter’s words, she’ll be getting plenty exposure as we travel. His advice was to assist and encourage Charlotte to create online projects prior to arrival at each major stop. We are thinking that Pinterest may work well as the idea board repository, a little more research is required to decide if this is the best solution for the research repository though. According to him, the key is to let her define her world. This ambit of learning is not cumulative, knowing about kings and queens of England doesn’t define your knowledge of the Roman Empire. If we can let go enough to let Charlotte follow areas of excitement and interest, this should be self-fulfilling.
Technology wise, the school use Google Classroom. So her teacher will post the day or weeks exercises and assessments on that portal. In light of my comments above, of being both teacher and parent I would like to see an ability for Charlotte to, occasionally, write online assessments via the portal which are marked back at the ISCT. This will keep us honest and accountable about her real progress during the year.
In terms of keeping touch with her peers and sharing her travels with them Charlotte is adamant that she wants to create a Youtube Channel and her own Instagram account as the mediums for telling the rest of the world what she is up to. We have begun watching “how to” Youtube videos on what it takes to run and manage a successful channel. It seems, at bare minimum, this will require an iPhone, camera tripod, lots of footage and an editing app. We have started to explore the workings and merits of iMovie and other editing apps and hope to be fairly competent before we head off in January 2018.
Despite any concerns, I am extremely excited about the opportunity to interact with Charlotte for a whole year. There is a whole lot of learning and getting up to speed with technology that all of us are going to have to do to make it work to show the rest of the world, in a fun and interactive way what we’re up to. I can’t wait.
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