Monday, 26 June 2017

The Summer 2017 Mountain Series Episode 1: Finding Yourself in the Heat

This summer series about homeschooling was inspired by my recent family trip to the mountains, and will be added to weekly. Be sure to subscribe by leaving your email in the right-hand menu bar, or “like” our Facebook page to get updates posted directly to your timeline.

In this first episode, I want to share about how homeschooling teens can feel like the hottest journey you’ve ever undertaken.


A blog post about a hot road trip ...

No matter where you live now, you have probably taken a trip somewhere that taught you all about assumptions. In my case, I thought I knew all about packing for a self-catering trip to the mountains, having done so almost twice a year in England for the past five years.

So my brothers and I loaded up our three cars and caravanned west to New Mexico. Once we got west of Post, Texas, the temperatures soared over 111º F (44º C). 

It ultimately reached 113!

We stopped for gas, drinks, etc, and my brother who was driving the pick-up truck announced that all the food that had been stashed in the back of his truck had melted. We threw out butter, yoghurt, milk, cheese, and all the chocolate, and though the boys liked to blame me for it, I did point out that they were the ones that loaded it back there in the first place!

Anyway, in hindsight I should have realized that perishables in a pick-up bed in Texas in June weren’t going to survive a 15-hour road trip anyway, but having only experience of Lake District trips in April and September, I recognize the biases I brought to the planning stage. 

So here’s where I think our journey in homeschooling teens is like this trip into the unknown. We know what it has been like to teach our children when the stakes are low - whether we follow set curriculum, something more flexible like the Charlotte Mason method, or even unschool, we haven’t had the pressures to prepare for national exams, worry about credits and transcripts, or hone down to our child’s interests and vocational pathways.

The stakes - like the temperatures in West Texas - suddenly become higher when our kids hit those teen years. Here are a few suggestions for navigating our way through an environment out of our comfort zone.

Navigating the path ahead ...


First, give yourself some grace if you make some mistakes. Yes, we’re in charge of the planning and the execution, but if we get some of it a bit wrong, then it’s not the end of the world. Our children’s education should, hopefully, be a life-long experience, and not something that finishes at 18 or 22, so there’s wiggle room even in these crucial years of high school.

Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone who has been there before. If, for example, someone else is planning a road trip to New Mexico in the summer, I can now warn them about looking after the food on the journey. I can also tell them that there are plenty of big supermarkets in Taos so packing all those perishables was unnecessary in the first place. 

In homeschooling, there are now so many great forums and FB groups with people who’ve been there and done that, you really need only to ask.


Getting directions can be a good thing!

That being said, my third point is this: don’t just take someone’s word for it, but confirm what people say online by doing your own research, too. In the case of my road trip, I was only tagging along on my brother’s trip at the last minute, and I didn’t check out the shopping facilities in Taos for myself. As my brother is a bit more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of person, there ended up being a lot of gaps in his knowledge where I’d have been more inclined to fill them in (this theme will come up again and again in this series - believe me!).

In the case of homeschooling, I have already seen people’s advice running counter to someone else’s state or country regulations. In the UK, there are HUGE changes afoot in the national exam system as it switches from the A-E grade system to a 9-1 system, plus many of its public exams are ditching the controlled assessment for exam only, a change that favours homeschoolers - except for one important fact! These new exams don’t start being offered till 2019! So for many of you who are now entering the phase of UK exams for your teens, few people will have the experience of the new system to guide you more than saying what they did in the old system.

You have been warned!

In the US, there are still people who talk about the old SAT system rather than the new one, about dual-enrollment arrangements that are often dependent on the processes at the local college, about CLEP or AP or other advanced options that vary from university to university as to their acceptance.

It can still be a minefield for you, even with helpful guidance from those who’ve done it.

Our road trip through the West Texas oven was on Saturday. On Tuesday, I picked an apple out of the fridge for our hike up Kuchina Peak. It was covered in some strange kind of wax. I started washing it and the wax wouldn’t budge. Then I realised it was butter - the butter that had melted into the box in the back of the pick-up truck. Clearly, this apple had been in that same box, and though it had survived the heat, it still had some residue of the debacle on its skin.

Sometimes in homeschooling, there may be long-lasting effects from our past mistakes, and they can arise at the strangest times, even years later. 


It may be hot, but the sun WILL go down!

Just do what I did when I cleaned off the apple: I turned up the heat of the water to melt off the butter. You, too, can just “turn up the heat” - ie, put in extra effort, focus intently, make phone calls or write letters: in short, do what you have to do to rescue the situation.

That apple is worth saving!










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Suggestions, ideas, tweaks, or maybe you're just a happy Dreaming Spires student who wants to leave some encouraging words! Thanks for posting! Kat