No Shoes. No Shirt. No School.
When an Air New Zealand deal presented itself late one night, I made the impulse buy. With one click I had committed to pulling our kids from school for three months.
That meant homeschooling. Oh F**K.
We had always dreamed of this but could never commit. I have no patience.
Justification set in. “My parents, who live in New Zealand, are slowing down.” “Travel is such an education.” “Kids are resilient.” “What could possibly go wrong?”
Then the panic set in. I hurried to arm myself with devices and apps I’d need to "keep up." As an adult, “keeping up” is something I fiercely reject. But I was deathly worried I might fail my kids. I realised how programmed we are to trust in the system, not our intuition.
I researched homeschooling and hit the forums. I called school teacher friends and panicked about my First World problem. I learned that if we kept up their Math and English, they would survive “testing.” But that meant I needed to fill in the gaps on the other subjects. More panic.
And to make matters worse, my husband’s work commitments now meant he couldn’t come at all. Oh F**K.
Fast forward six months. We are a month into the trip. The Kunkel Kids' first summer Christmas is filled with cousins, swims, fish and chips, and barefoot walks to the dairy. The freedom of these walks is so liberating that it takes them a month to figure out the purpose of a trip to the dairy is to buy lollies.
The devices had run out of power and appeal. The Pukekohe Library was now our favorite trusted resource. We went every week and joined their very awesome free summer reading programme. Academic box ticked.
Writing in journals every day was a treat. Topics ranged from "Dead Swan Found" to "What Is Good Character?" We picked them at random, writing stories and poems or drawing. No rules. Math and grammar were knocked out each morning. My 11-year-old who strugges with school math quickly realized that, at her own pace, it’s a fascinating discipline not to be feared.
All other projects were self-selected. I was witnessing my kids fall in love with learning. We took field trips often. I’d give them a budget and a map, then let them figure out where to go and where to stay. When the inevitable question came up, “Mum, can I have…?” it was so easy to simply answer, “Can you afford it?”
We were all in awe of Pohutukawas, Shining Cuckoos and The Maori God of Earthquakes, Mataoho. We learned teamwork and problem solving. And how to turn crappy days around. (Because we had plenty of those. And I still yelled a lot.)
The kids knew more about Waitangi Day than I did. Every moment of every day could offer a lesson. Once I let my intuition drive and trusted that, by default, kids are always learning, they learned even more. A fight over dishes could easily be a morning of Psychology 101.
Fast forward to today. My 7-year-old has forgotten how to tie his shoes, because he hasn't worn them in three months. They went back to school this morning. I feel sick. We rushed them out the door. I was yelling. They’ll be herded from class to class, bored to tears, I fear. But maybe I’m wrong; kids are resilient, right? Maybe we will homeschool next year, maybe not. Priorities, like work, need to be sorted first. Reality sets in.
But take it from me, if the opportunity presents itself pull them. Do it! Take them home. Book it. Watching my American born kids living, breathing, learning and basking in a real barefoot Kiwi summer has been my most prized gift as a parent. We are all better for it. If you’re on the fence, just say "F**k it." Or give me a call.