Road schooling Canada 2015: Day 3 & 4

DSC_2683We woke at Spruce Wood Provincial Park Manitoba. We had arrived there in the middle of the night and pitched a tent as quietly as we could and everyone fell immediately asleep. In the morning we lit a fire and Hana cooked a quick breakfast  so that we could find the time for a long hike through the Spirit Sands and then find somewhere to swim because it was already starting to get very hot.

The Spirit Sands are a series of Sand dunes sacred to the traditional people of this spectacular part of Manitoba. Home to the “Devil’s Punchbowl”, the hognose snake and many pincushion cacti, it is definitely worth the 4 km hike – because with small children, you MAY wonder at some point, while climbing sand covered steep hills that feel like mountains in the sweltering heat, if it is worth it.

After returning from the hike we headed for Winnipeg and straight for the Forks. We shopped the market and picked up some fresh food for the van. We played in the gardens, and then hit the road for Ontario and drove through the whole night, and stopped at the day sight at Kakabeka falls for some shut eye. When we realized we’d pushed it too far, we headed to Thunder Bay for some coffee and breakfast, and then on to Sault Ste. Marie.

When we got to Marathon we discovered that the Highway was closed due to an accident, so we had to hang out and wait. We decided to head to Shriber Beach on Lake Superior. Wow. We had a picnic there, collected beautiful sea glass and did a little hike of the coast.

Eventually the highway opened back up and we headed towards the Saulte where our family lives, and spend a couple of days there hanging out before continuing the journey East.

Roadschooling: Northwest Canada Day 23, 24, 25 & 26

DSC_0644This was the home stretch. We hiked through the desert of Osoyoos, learned about the local aboriginal history, and ate fresh fruit and nuts in the Okanagan. The kids attended a class at a bee farm where we met up with my brother for the day. They were taught about the negative effects that  pesticides and herbicides are having on worldwide bee populations, and how that will ultimately effect human food production. Needless to say, we have learned to love bees even more – as if honey wasn’t enough reason.

On the bay back to and through the Rocky Mountains we did some more hiking and saw many animals – bears, sheep, moose and elk.

Although we had enjoyed our adventures, the kids were excited to finally arrive home and just mess around with their friends for the remainder of our stay in Grande Prairie.

Eric had transferred to Calgary so it was time to pack up and move. It was hard saying goodbye to friends and the city that I had started off hating but grew to love over time. It was the platform from which many great adventures had sprung, and you know the saying about how you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.  But it was time to start the next chapter.

Roadschooling: Northwest Canada Day 19,20,21 & 22

DSCN9895 Courtenay – Chemainus – Sooke – Botanical Beach – Vancouver

We left Ucluelet and headed for Courtenay on the east coast of Vancouver Island. We stopped along the way for a walk through Cathedral park and then in Qualicum beach for fresh clams and oysters.

We stayed in Sooke which is a new favourite place on earth for me personally, and headed to Botanical beach to do some exploring and try to spot the Orcas. It was a misty grey day and we lucked out in finding heaps of colourful sea glass and sea creatures.

Our time in Courtenay was spent with family, sharing meals and spending days on Miracle beach and Saretoga beach. We visited Eric’s uncle’s horses which was a great treat for the kids.

Hana also attended a showing of Les Miserables at the Chemainus theatre which was a huge highlight for her.

 

Once back on the mainland we spent some time in Vancouver, going to Granville island and the Vancouver aquarium. It was hard to leave the close proximity to the ocean behind, but we knew that the time had come to begin our journey east.

 

 

 

 

Roadschooling: Northwest Canada day 4 – tundra

IMG_0015On the fourth day of our Road trip we woke at 4am in a tent in Tombstone territorial park Yukon to the blazing sun. Although it was bright and sunny it was very cold. Eric started a fire as I began to transport the children back into the warmth of van. They ate hot beans while we took down the tent and packed it in. Moments later they were all fast asleep again.

It was Just the two of us on the tundra, with a pack of sleeping little ones in the back. The sun danced all over the landscape, and it was so beautiful that I was eventually overcome with emotion. Being that alone does something to you, it’s sort of like taking a giant breath out after holding it in for a long time. There was no one anywhere forever, and it was exhilarating and comforting at the same time. We drove through the mountains, watching for wild horses as the signs cautioned us to do. Sometimes we were silent, other times we talked about our hopes and dreams, our plans and our fears. It was one of those moments where we looked and really saw each other, like the focusing of a camera lens.

I had decided that I wanted the children to get out onto the tundra, and feel the treeless ground under their feet. There was a colourful mosaic of moss flowers and lichen, and it seemed to me that a picnic on the tundra would be great for lunch. We pulled over, put on sweaters and got out. Everyone went to run – but  then a strange thing happened. We sunk.

 

The tundra is not hard like it seems, it is very lumpy and in the warmer weather it is soft and squidgey. The other reason we could not picnic here was that there were birds in the ground. Birds, living under our feet were flying out as we tried to walk. Everyone was falling over, getting their feet stuck and dodging underground bird (caves?), so we just stood still for awhile, enjoying the ultimate peacefulness. The kids observed the different flowers and mosses, and crept up on some curious ground birds. Soon enough we had to continue our journey because of the wind and cold. We drove on towards the northern most part of the accessible world, and then we got nervous.

What if it rained again? Too much rain and the road would be washed out and we would be stranded. We decided that we would only drive so far and then turn around and head to Dawson city. Tuktoyuktuk was inaccessible to us anyway, so we would have to come back. As responsible decision as it was, it left us with a pang of regret. It quickly dissipated when we returned to the land of humans, and discovered the giant nail that was in our tire, slowly leaking air.

Friday Challenge: Always Something to Prove

imageI have been researching homeschoolers’ academic achievements lately to diffuse some expressed concern about what options will be available to my children later on. I am a public school supporter, and we are registered with the public board therefore I consider us “public schoolers”, and I don’t like comparing in-school students with home school students. There are brilliant teachers out there who benefit the lives of children everyday. Unfortunately, comparative analysis is the format within which I find much of the evidence that homeschoolers have a great chance of academic success. For instance:

  • Homeschoolers score 30-40% higher on standardized achievement tests than imagetheir peers. Homeschoolers score in the 89th percentile, while public schoolers score in the 50th percentile (“Homeschooling Works” and “Progress Report 2009”, http://www.hslda.org)
  • According to the U.S. department of education, homeschoolers on average test 1 year ahead of their peers. The longer they homeschool the wider the gap. By 8th grade they score on average 4 years ahead of their peers
  • The best schools in North America including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Berkley, MIT and Duke actively recruit homeschoolers. In Canada there are homeschool admittance policies for every school I looked into, including McMaster, University of Toronto, University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Brock university, WIlifred Laurier and Mcgill with the exception only of Queens. According to the “Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents”, Canadian universities also actively recruit homeschoolers
  • A higher percentage of homeschoolers graduate from colleges and universities than their peers, and once in college or university, homeschoolers maintain a higher GPA than their peers (“homeschool population report 2010” – http://www.NHERI.org).
  • In public school, socio-economic factors correlate with the success of the student. Not so in homeschooling families. The educational outcomes of homeschoolers do not correlate with factors such as parents education or income levels, (“Homeschooling: From Extreme to Mainstream”, http://www.fraserinstitute.org ).

image

A great example of whats possible: The Colfax family.

For you veteran homeschoolers out there, this is old news. For the rest of us, inspiration.

Dave and Miki Colfax homeschooled their four boys through out the1980’s. As described by them, it was mostly self lead learning, ( similar to un-schooling), accompanied by hard work helping to build and maintain their farm. So, what became of them?

Grant Colfax graduated from Harvard medical school. He is an infectious disease specialist. President Obama recently named him the  director of the White house office of  National Aids policy. John Colfax earned his MA in biological anthropology as well as a law degree from the university of Michigan. He then earned his MD from Harvard medical school specializing in emergency medicine. Reed Colfax has an A.B. from Harvard, and a law degree from Yale. He specializes in civil rights litigation. Garth Colfax is currently a computer specialist, who works with the developmentally challenged.

There is a long list of notables who were homeschooled, or imagehomeschool their children including  but not limited to: Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Taylor Swift, Venus and Serena WIlliams,  Abraham Lincoln, Michael Bolton, Franklin Roosevelt, Leonardo Da vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, Kristen Stewart, the Wright Brothers, Mozart, Hans Christian Anderson, Margaret Atwood,  Mark Twain, Robert Frost, C.S. Lewis, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Katherine Hepburn, Kristen Stewart, Elijah Wood, Claud Monet,  Winston Churchill, Margaret Mead, Julian Assange, Leanne Rhymes, Justin Bieber, Agatha Christie, Michelle Kwan, Florence Nightengale, Thomas Edison, Louisa May Alcott, Condaleeza Rice, Hilary Duff, Tim Tebow, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dakota Fanning, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilara, Pearl Buck, Theodore Roosevelt and Virginia Woolfimage

Celebrity homeschoolers: Jada & Will Smith, Bill & Melinda Gates (while travelling), Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt, John Travolta & Kelly Preston,  Lisa Welchel, Katie Holmes & Tom Cruise, Gwenyth Paltrow & Chris Martin.

The idea that homeschoolers do not take education seriously is perplexing. Whether we un-school or homeschool, we make that level of commitment and dedication because it is in the best interest of our children. We sacrifice time money and sometimes our sanity, because imagefor whatever reason, our kids would benefit from doing something different than attending public or private school. Sometimes the reason is autism, attention deficit or another special need. Other times a child needs extra attention in a certain subject. There could be time conflicts with traditional school hours and a parents work schedule inhibiting sufficient family time. Some people travel a lot, or want to study different material than what is covered in the common curriculum.There are language barriers that keep a child from reaching their full potential that wouldn’t exist at home. Some children are born athletes or musicians who want to focus their time and energy on nurturing their talents. Finally, Some families simply prefer learning together in the comfort of their home, and are able to do so.

Attending a public school is superior to home schooling for many reasons for many people. Academics is not one of them. I think that homeschooling is a viable option, and it is the best choice for us. I am convinced that homeschoolers such as my children have every future opportunity that children who physically attend the school do.  So for all of the people who have questioned the future opportunities of homeschoolers, I hope this helps ease your mind.