Homeschoolers aren't always at home! Learning while out and about - a homeschooling day in the life

Today, Rex has his yearly hearing test. He’s moderately deaf and has been wearing hearing aids since he was two. A paediatric audiologist is only available in our regional centre, so we decide to make a day of it, as family, and a do a few things we can’t do day to day at home.

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  5.30am – I get up to do some work before we go. Holli and Asha are already awake, have fed the chickens and are tending to their goats. Over the next few hours everyone wakes up, eats breakfast, and gets ready to go out for the day.

  8am – Car time! It takes just over an hour to get to our regional centre. We spend the first half an hour in conversation, and the last forty minutes listening to our latest audiobook – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S Lewis. The girls know the series backwards, but the boys don’t, and it’s fun to see their excitement and how they incorporate the ideas and events into their play.

  9.30am – The rest of the family head to the op-shops while Rex and I go in for his hearing appointment. He tells the lady at the desk that we’ve arrived, asks politely for more batteries, and talks to her about Cairns (I’m not sure how it came up, as we’re now about 2000kms away, but it turns out they both love it there). Socialisation is not a problem when your children really do live in the real world.

We go in for an hour of tests and fittings. Rex is very excited about getting new moulds (the part of the hearing aid that goes in his ear), and chooses one in pink and purple swirls, and one bright red. These are to go with his blue and orange hearing aids. He’s been wearing aids since he was two, and at 11 he still thinks they’re a great fashion accessory.

Oh, and the messy hair? He wanted to grow long hair for the first time, and we’ve discovered it’s very curly. And rather uncontrollable. He had to take his hat off for the tests, and his hair was crazy. He’s since cut it again, and I’m secretly pleased. Letting your children decide how they’d like to look sometimes involves gritting of teeth.

  10.30am – We finish up and find the rest of the family tying an old door they found in a rubbish heap to the roof racks. They say it’s perfect as a new door to the chicken house. This is not an odd occurrence, we’re enthusiastic scavengers. They also found some folk music books (they’re preparing for busking with a violin, keyboard, ukulele and guitar) and kneepads for rollerblading at the op shops.

Door secured, we head to the local wholefood shop to pick up a bulk order.

We browse through the other products and come away with all sorts of interesting things – mung beans because Asha wants to make spring rolls, soy beans to plant, and spelt licorice to eat now. The children decide what they want to cook, what they need to buy for it, whether the price is acceptable, collect it, and write the codes on each bag.

  11.20 – Park time! Food, drink and a bit of fun. We love having playgrounds to ourselves most of the time.

  12.00 noon – We had to the stockfeed shop. The girls have an Anglo-Nubian dairy goat each, and they’re all in kid. They’ve been reading about proper nutrition and go through the available feed, looking at protein and calcium content, and decide which mix would be the most appropriate. We leave with dairy meal and copra to supplement the grain mix and lucerne from our local stockfeed.

  1.00pm – Time for our blood donation. I’m rather passionate about blood donation, and am happy I’m able to take the children along to many appointments. I have my fingers crossed that they’ll all grow up to donate regularly. The husband loves the idea but hates the process (he’s a nurse who hates getting needles), so I book him in with me and drag him along each time, and we race to see who can fill their donation bag in the least time (we compete with everything). The children sit together in the waiting room, reading and chatting, and come to the kitchen tables with us when we’re done.

  1.45pm – All done in the big smoke! We head toward home, but have a few stops we want to make. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe comes back on.

  2.10pm – It’s supermarket time. We wrote a list yesterday based on what we all want to cook for the next week. The children cook one dish a week (I try to make sure this list isn’t all cake and dessert, meals are rather important too). Shopping is not our favourite task, so we split up and grab what we need. Along the way the children indulge in one of their favourite pastimes – finding ridiculous examples of why the Australian Health Star ratings are absolute rubbish. Today’s conclusion? Rainbow cachous are healthier than butter. Sigh. How did this happen?

  3.00pm – Beach! Being winter, the weather is warm, but not hot, but the children don’t care. Swimming, digging, building, skimming rocks, and eating an entire watermelon occur.

  4.30pm – It’s time to head home. For most of the trip we listen to a fascinating show on ABC radio titled The Pirates of Somalia. It leads to interesting discussions, and the topic has cropped up again quite a few times in the weeks since – in discussions about poverty, geography, history, war, government, and commerce. For the rest of the trip we mostly sit in companionable silence. None of my children have electronic devices to distract, and I limit my use, so we’re all quite happy to relax and look out of the window.

  5.30pm – We do the chores – unpack, make sure the goats and chickens are fed, watered and secured for the night, eat our own dinner, and get ready for bed. I read aloud for nearly an hour from The Railway Children, with all of us snuggled up on our bed. This is one of our favourite parts of the day.

  7.30pm – The boys go to bed with a book, and the girls follow not long afterward. This is fairly normal. Sometimes Gabrielle will stay up longer, but Holli and Asha are always in bed with lights off before 8.00pm – they’re usually up and about by 5.30am so they need the early bedtime. This is just their natural sleep/wake cycle, which used to drive me batty when they were toddlers and were wide awake and ready to play in the dark at 5am every morning.

Overall, we didn’t do much today that would be considered educational from a school perspective. However, we used skills and knowledge about maths, nutrition, budgeting, biology, geography and social issues in our everyday life. The children practised social skills with a number of people, and got to spend time in nature. As far as we’re concerned, that’s a great, well-rounded and educational day.

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