Exhausted

We make Wesley a “pallet” every night from the couch’s flat bottom cushion… and almost every night he forgets to take his glasses off.  This was my view every morning as I left for school… and I wouldn’t get to see him awake until I got home at 5:00 or 6:00pm.

Zzzzzzz....

Zzzzzzz….

But school is now DONE!  (Pictures and post about school coming soon.)

I’m done for now, but I’ve left the door open to return to Chiang Mai for more classes. What’s happened since I finished school is that I realized we’re all exhausted.

Not just Wesley.  Not just Damon.  Not just me.  All of us.

We’re exhausted from traveling.

It’s more tiring that you would think.  Constantly changing hotels, packing, un-packing, researching, hurrying to catch flights, rushing to grab taxis… it’s a lot.  Believe me, when Rick Steves says “To get away from it all, you also get away from all the comforts of home,” he really means it.

That’s why we’ve decided to head home.  We thought we would travel for a year, but that was just a random pick.  I thought it would be a more meaningful trip if we got to experience a year’s worth of holidays in another country… (What would we do for Thanksgiving?  What do they do for Christmas? How would we spend our birthdays? etc.) But I think all of us are ready to leave Thailand and come home.

Once we decided to cut the trip off early, it became clear we should try to head back in time for Wesley to start public school again.  Home-Schooling was never my thing…  and Wesley didn’t exactly “blossom” using the computer curriculum.  (Well, that’s not exactly true… he did learn a lot about computers.  I did catch him reading the html code to figure out which answer resulted in a “correct” field.)  But I have definitely learned that I am NOT a teacher and I should value and appreciate the professionals who are!

So our current plan is to fly back to the USA in time for Wesley to start the second week of school (the Tuesday after Labor Day).  We couldn’t get frequent flyer tickets available before then and we were NOT willing to pay the ridiculous airfare!

If you live in Austin, Houston or Franklin… we’ll be seeing you soon!

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Things are happening…

I haven’t posted this week and it’s because we’ve been BUSY!  Here’s a short rundown of what we’ve been up to this week…

We went to Paradise Beach to try out SNUBA for the first time.  Fun times!

Damon, Wesley and I diving the coral at Paradise Beach

Damon, Wesley and I diving the coral at Paradise Beach

The visibility wasn’t great… it’s low season in Thailand.  But we had a great time and Wesley learned how to use a regulator.  It was awesome.  I’ll write a longer post on it sometime soon.  Because after SNUBA we went to Patong to do some shopping…

Jungceylon Shopping Center in Patong

Jungceylon Shopping Center in Patong

The mall there is HUGE and we were excited to do a little shopping.  We had to bribe Wesley with McDonald’s nuggets and Baskin Robbins : )  But as we were paying for his nuggets we realized we were OUT of cash.  Paradise Beach had soaked us completely.  A quick pat-down revealed that neither Damon or I had remembered to bring our ATM card.  Major fail.  We scraped together all the money we had, found a cabbie who would drive us home for 400Thb (in coins practically!) and managed to buy Wesley a single cone of “cotton candy” before we left.  Not ONE restaurant or store that we went into would take credit cards…?!

But the next day we had important business…

Wesley had to take his third grade exams : )

Wesley passes 3rd grade!

Wesley passes 3rd grade!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I looked around online for grade evaluation tests and finally found this Ohio half-test.  It seemed like a good idea to give him a test to “pass” third grade.  He even got a diploma : )

Diploma

And to top it all off… we’re moving tomorrow!  We’re packing up today to leave early on Saturday for Samui.  We have to take a bus, a ferry and a cab to get there, so it should be an interesting travel day.

Open Suitcase

Moving on to Koh Samui.

Time for School! Time 4 School!

In our search to find the right fit for Wesley to be home-schooled we finally came across a website called Time 4 Learning.  The had a program that seemed to answer all of our needs.  They had reasonable pricing, they didn’t require attendance at a physical location, you could sign up monthly, and cancel at any time.  Sign us up!

We decided to try it for a month and see if it was better than what we had been doing.  In retrospect, that was a silly thing to do… anything would have been better than what we were doing.

But we completed the first week of lessons and Wesley, Damon and I agreed, it was working out great for all of us.

The best part was it gave us a SCHEDULE.  We filled out a “Activity Schedule” for how much Wesley needed to do to finish third grade, and it gave us a weekly schedule.  We could change it as we needed (like when we had to skip two weeks in April), and it would make the necessary changes based on when you wanted to finish school and start summer.

The pros about using the Time 4 Learning system are:

Complete Mobility! – We get to have school in the hotel, the pool area, anywhere we’re at, at any time.  Adaptable schedule and mobility are a huge bonus.

School from the hotel...

School from the hotel…

Parent Login Area – I can see what lessons are coming up for Wesley and make sure we have the correct materials, books, etc.  Of course, we can’t always do this while we’re traveling, but at least this tells me what we should be doing.

Clear-cut Chapters – Each section of math, language arts, social studies, etc., is set up just like a textbook with chapters and sections inside the chapter.  It’s very easy for young students to “follow the arrow” and move from section to section, take a quiz, and then move along till they finish the chapter and take the test.

Pool School!

Pool School!

Enrollment Letter & Student Records – If you think you may be interested in registering your child back in traditional school at some point, then having good records may be a benefit.  Many states don’t check for your home-schooling “lesson plan” but if they do, you have proof of a curriculum.

Parents Forum – An open forum for parents to discuss everything from state requirements, extracurricular activities and homeschooling basics, to special needs and the best menus to serve young learners.

Grade Level – You can set your child’s grade level to wherever you think they are, not just where the state or their school would place them.  If you feel they need to review a subject at an earlier grade level you can do so easily.

After School & Summer School – Although I haven’t investigated these options I know you can use T4L as an after-school resource (perhaps for a single subject that your child is struggling with), or for summer school.

Timer & Playground – As the parent you set timer limits of how long a child “works” on school before they can go to the “playground” for games.  They have a LARGE variety of games in the playground that your child can choose from… and you get to set the timer for how long “recess” lasts in the playground.

Activity Scheduler – As a new home-schooling mom, being able to generate a schedule was amazing.  It got us started and told me how many “activities” we needed to complete each day.

Learning about shapes with toothpicks and candy!

Learning about shapes with toothpicks and candy!

Is that a triangular PRISM or a triangular PYRAMID?

Is that a triangular PRISM or a triangular PYRAMID?

Cons about using Time 4 Learning:

Activity Scheduler – I know I said this was a pro… and I was right.  It’s great for a new home-schooling family.  But after you’ve used it for awhile, you find that it doesn’t allow you to edit the schedule at all.  For example, I wanted to skip several chapters in math and get to the chapter on the Metric System.  Once finished, I couldn’t go into the activity scheduler and take that chapter out of the math he needed to complete.  It only works in a linear manner… start at Chapter 1 and go to Chapter 20.  You can’t pick and choose.

No Parent Search Option – Several times Wesley has complained that the quiz asks him questions that they didn’t go over in the preceding segment.  I have to go in manually with him and re-read segments to find what he missed.  And occasionally I’ve had to tell him he’s right.  They asked a question that they didn’t cover… or at least I couldn’t find where they did.  It would be nice to have a search option rather than the provided “answer key” that doesn’t teach why the answer is correct.

No Recommended Resources – Wesley did NOT understand some of the math concepts the way that their “edutainment” movie explained it.  That means I have to search for other ways to teach the concept… not just review the material.  Believe me, you can find tons of free quizzes and worksheets to review, but not free teaching.  (Nor should you).

As a whole, we’re thrilled with the Time4Learning program.  It’s been great for the computer to be the bad guy, not me or Damon : )  It has it’s pros and cons, but we’ll be using it as our main curriculum to finish third grade as well as for Wesley’s entire fourth grade year.

If you’re interested in signing up, check out their site at Time4Learning.  If you’d like to give me the referral (Thanks!), fill out the contact form and I’ll send you the email.

* As a member of Time4Learning, I have been given the opportunity to review their program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. For more information, check out their standards-based curriculum or learn how to write your own curriculum

Road School ?

One of the things we’ve had to do in order to take a year-long trip is take Wesley out of school.  I’ve NEVER been a fan of homeschooling… and I never thought I would try doing it for my son. But here we are… doing what we call “Road School.”

My arguments against homeschooling are probably the same as most other people’s…

  • Homeschooling doesn’t allow your child to socialize.
  • Homeschooling doesn’t provide enough extracurricular activities.
  • Parents (unless they’ve gone to college to be a teacher) are NOT qualified to teach anybody’s children… let alone their own.

That’s pretty much been my stance since Wesley started Kindergarten. When we thought about starting this trip we knew we’d have to find a way to homeschool Wes… but it wasn’t high on my list of things I was happy about : )

My cute kindergartener

My cute kindergartener

We pulled Wesley out of elementary school in November 2012… the last day before the Thanksgiving break. It was a fabulous school… and I wondered as I did it if I was making a huge mistake. I wandered around the school, saying goodbye to all the teachers that I loved (that Wesley had learned so much from) and all the teachers I wanted to teach Wesley in the years to come (that he would never learn from) and thought, “What the hell are we doing????”

Last day of "regular" school

Last day of “regular” school

I comforted myself with these two thoughts…

  • No one regrets taking the path less traveled.
  • We can always change our mind and register him in regular school.

Knowing these would be the last few weeks with our family we “skipped” school from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. January 2nd we started back for our first day of homeschool.

What a nightmare.

We had so many problems. I am NOT a teacher and Wesley is NOT an eager student who wants to learn. We were in a ridiculous power struggle almost from the very beginning. It was a terrible way to start.

Plus I found that I didn’t know half of what I was trying to teach him. (I guess I am not smarter than a 3rd grader!) I don’t know which number is the divisor and which one is the dividend… do you? I found that researching/re-learning lessons and getting them ready took as much time as actually teaching them to Wesley… it was like suddenly having TWO full-time jobs. I was completely drained and Wesley wasn’t learning.

Damon and I researched the idea of “unschooling” or “worldschooling…” and we found several blogging families who felt their children were learning successfully from it. They were all having a great time traveling as a family together and letting the world be their teacher. We thought about doing that. We could avoid the fights and the research and just focus on the fun things… let our destination be our guide as to what Wesley studied next.  We could teach him that adults never stop learning as we learned together. We would visit museums and learn local cultures and languages while Wesley learned math by reading train schedules and converting currency… it sounds wonderful.

But we couldn’t do it.  It’s something that many parents do with/for their kids… I still check in on their blogs at Worldschool Adventures, Bohemian TravelersEscape Artistes, and many of the people listed on Vagabond Families. But I couldn’t allow myself to unschool Wesley.

Mainly because our family would never actually do all those things… I’m too lazy, Damon’s too busy and Wesley isn’t interested. He wants to learn about computers, graphics and how to write his own video game… not learn a new language while listening patiently to a museum guide.

So we knew worldschooling was out… but still hadn’t found the right curriculum.

We floundered for all of January trying to figure out how we were going to do this. I researched online schools and curriculums and found that most of them were incredibly expensive, or required you to attend testing dates at specific sites. Since we knew we were going to travel, that wasn’t an option.

Then we finally found it… an online school program that was the perfect fit for us. It’s called Time4Learning.

School from the hotel... sweet.

School from the hotel… sweet.

Time4Learning is an online curriculum that you pay for monthly. You can cancel anytime and you can change grade level anytime. They don’t have too many worksheets that you need to print, and you can choose your curriculum and your schedule.

Wow… I’m sold!