Homeschooling, doesn’t officially exist in Romania. As far as I know it’s not actually illegal, it just doesn’t exist, all children must go to school. My research is hampered by the language barrier, so please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d love to hear about families homeschooling in Romania and I know that some do exist. We’ve spent a lot of time in Romania over the last 2 years, a Romanian village stole our hearts and we’ve been going back there regularly between travels.
But what about school? How do we handle home education away from English speakers, away from museums, away from most modern facilities. We feel that this removal from the modern world has been one of the most useful parts of the boys’ educations so far.
A lot of the older people here in the mountains can’t read, so starting from that basis, you can see why the kids all go to school. I only realised this recently, I went to an ATM on market day and noticed a security guard stationed there to help the old people use the machine, he was entering their PINs because they couldn’t read the instructions. ( I asked, I was told this was why).
My feeling is that this compulsory school attendance plays a huge part in the death of our local culture and way of life. But that’s another story.
It’s amazing to modern people that illiteracy still exists in Europe, but in their lives I guess it doesn’t make much difference. Existence here hinges on food, shelter and religion, I doubt their survival workload would even leave time for reading and does that even matter?
Well I can read just fine and so can the kids, so we homeschool wherever we are in the world. You can call it home education, unschooling, worldschooling or hackschooling, I really don’t mind but have a dislike for labels. To me “homeschool” covers everything.
I re-read a very popular post recently about 2 boys unschooling on a remote homestead somewhere in North America. These kids got up every morning, grabbed their knives and tools and went out to catch fish and build fires or whatever.
It’s a lovely image and we live in a place where that sort of life would be possible, but that’s never going to happen with my two. The internet and their laptops are WAY more attractive than anything outdoors, with the possible exception of snow. They love the white stuff.
So what do we get up to here in Romania, how are we filling their little heads with knowledge half way up a mountain?
Discovering wildlife and ecosystems on a wildlife walk in northern Transylvania
Homeschooling in Romania
Lets remember that these kids would have been educated under the Australian or British national curriculum, most of this stuff would never have featured. So is this knowledge unnecessary or pointless just because it isn’t taught in schools? We don’t think so. Why should the government decide what constitutes education? Their choices are too narrow for us.
Worldschooling, unschooling and natural learning from their environment
Obviously the boys know where Romania is on a map, know something of its history, language, geography, religion, climate and culture. Most people don’t.
They know about Romanian wildlife, from bears and wolves to the cute hedgehogs that the villagers’ scythes reveal deep in meadow grass.
The old traditions are all around us in the village but the communist era is still very much visible elsewhere. They know what that means through seeing and asking. We have a museum and memorial dedicated to victims of communism nearby, we’ll go next year.
They know Romania is part of Europe but doesn’t have the Euro. They’ve spent a lot of time in various European countries this year too. They know what Europe is.
They know a lot about vampires and Dracula but I’m yet to persuade either of them to read Bram Stoker’s original book. It’s on D’s Kindle, I’m waiting for him to be so bored he’ll read it. They’ve been to Bran Castle, a castle with absolutely zero connection to The Count, but marketed as “Dracula’s Castle”.
They see the villagers working so incredibly hard to feed themselves and their animals all year round. Next year we’ll be starting our own gardens, they’ll know what it takes to put food on the table and be able to produce food themselves.
They know that food production follows an annual cycle and they know about methods of preserving food for winter. They dig (see what I did!) crop rotation, pollination and germination, they don’t need to learn that stuff from diagrams.
They see the cycle of birth, life and death for the farm animals. It’s tough to watch sometimes, but it’s important for them to know where bacon comes from and be able to make their own choices about being meat eaters, or not,
They’re learning a lot about weather. It’s great to be in a country with 4 clearly defined seasons because in tropical Australia we didn’t have that luxury.
It’s wonderful to be able to compare climates as we can. If they didn’t know already, they would have learnt about minus numbers pretty quickly. We’re all a bit obsessed with temperatures and we’re forever monitoring them using various thermometers. They know what those numbers feel like and what they mean to the farmers here. They see that the temperature drops as we go up the mountain, they see the vegetation changing, this is school stuff in a real context.
They can ski! ( they learned to ski in Romania and we can go any time there’s snow)
They spend a fair amount of time outside, building damns, shelters and fires and mucking about with wood. This is supposedly how children should learn and is very good for them. But they only do this if their computer time is cut off, otherwise they’d be online all day and often are, they’re normal boys!
They don’t watch TV other than what we select on the laptops. I think that’s extremely good for them.
Admittedly, we’re having little success with getting them to hang out with local kids. Mostly hampered by the fact that they don’t want to, they’re very happy just being together or chatting to the various adults they know here. We have a steady flow of people coming through, volunteers and visitors, they’re meeting some great people of all nationalities and some make excellent role models for growing boys.
Our landlady has a soft spot for them, she takes them off to her house to milk cows and eat cake.
They’re very happy with the way things are.
We also manage to visit their same-age friends in London sometimes and will no doubt continue to find new playmates as we travel.
They have been out playing with a couple of village kids lately, I think their social contacts in the village will grow as their Romanian improves.
We had hoped eventually to be able to bring people to us, we wanted other travelling families and worldschoolers to experience life here and our building project was with that in mind. Sadly, after a year of waiting for paperwork to be rubber stamped, our plan to buy a traditional house to renovate here has had to be scrapped.
Like most kids, they love Minecraft, I’ve noticed recently that they’re playing alongside and teaming with various people known to them in the game, chatting via the miracle of teamspeak as they build and learn. That’s probably good for them.
The “School” Learning
The boys do various online courses and classes.
We have Artventure, online art classes and Studyladder, a course tied to the Australian curriculum. They also use Khan Academy, particularly for maths and the brilliant Crash Course in World History by John Green.
Sometimes they take Minecraft Homeschool courses, so far they’ve completed Introductory Science, Ancient History, and World Poverty along with red stone engineering. D LOVES these. My older son has now progressed to Open University online courses in his favourite subjects.
We use workbooks sometimes. At the moment we have books for English, Maths and Science for my younger son. I mostly like these because it gets them writing, something they never do otherwise. Yes, I’m teaching them cursive, I still think it’s important to be able to write properly even if the schools don’t.
You can see what workbooks and other resources we use for international homeschooling in this post
We don’t take workbooks with us when we travel short-term now, it’s unnecessary, they’re busy and learning so much from our destinations and I don’t want to spoil their fun.
One learned to type online, his own choice, the other will probably follow.
The elder one is starting on high school style depth of knowledge. We have books for British KS3 ( the start of high school) for Geography, RE and Science ( his choices). They basically show us what’s on the curriculum, so if we read it and find something they don’t know about, we can investigate further. The kids are still learning mostly from life and their own explorations, I just like to know what the government thinks they “should” be learning and know what would be required if they decide to take exams.
They may use the British iGCSE system, if they want to get paper qualifications. I doubt they will, I have a feeling they will have developed their own income streams by then and won’t need to work for somebody else. But who knows, if they want to become doctors or vets or whatever, that’s still possible down the line.
They read an incredible amount, this is where all of my elder son’s spelling, grammar and vocabulary come from. His spelling is great and he’s never had to memorise for tests. Still, when playing games online, they’ll shout out “Mum, how do you spell……?”. The words they ask for help with become increasingly complex.
Update: My boys now write for this website and are involved in the behind the schenes technical work too.
They’ve both been reading Percy Jackson lately and other books from the same author, their knowledge of mytholgy is immense. D is a self confessed “Ancient History Geek” and loved recent travels in Greece and Egypt. They also watch documentaries, movies and you tube videos around the topic.
I try to get them reading, or at least learning about, classic literature and poetry. They know about Dickens, Shakespeare, Kipling etc. I buy books for them whenever we’re in London, the rest of the time we download to Kindle.
Sometimes they just get inspired and go off on a tangent of self directed learning, they watched an entire series of physics videos in one day recently and immediately went out to experiment with wood. This sort of thing is happening more and more as they get older, I must admit, at one point I thought it never would.
They cook and help prepare food, on gas stove, wood stove and bonfire. These kids will never need school domestic science classes. It’s sad that schools even have to teach this stuff.
One is obsessed with the Great British Bake Off.
They do some computer coding using Scratch, Python, HTML and recently, Java. There are endless free resources for this online and it’s lots of fun for them. D is way beyond what is taught on the UK curriculum on this. I don’t know if its even on the Australian curriculum yet, it wasn’t when we left.
We watch just about every nature and travel documentary we can find on the BBC. They recently enjoyed one about Einstein too, how to get kids interested in relativity! My degree is in zoology, I know for a fact that a lot of what I did in university is in these documentaries.
All that other stuff!
How about learning to be ultra adaptable and cope with anything? That’s got to be good.
How about learning that the things most people think of as necessities, aren’t? ( heating, washing machines, running water, inside toilets)
How about learning to be happy in themselves and not rely on having organised or expensive things to do?
How about learning about community and sharing? These people are beyond generous and always help if they see a need.
How about learning that what we are fed by the media isn’t always true? Romania isn’t well represented in the British press, and most of it is lies.
I think what I like most about what the kids are picking up is flexibility. They will never be set in their ways, they will always adapt to fit the circumstances. They will never think that there is a right or wrong way to do things, they know there are many ways. They will know that they have endless choices in life and nothing is forcing them to live in one particular place or in a particular way.
They also know how damn lucky they are to have those choices. Bucharest would be another world to the villagers, let alone Bangkok.
The world is changing. Kids really don’t need to go to school any more. Families are ditching the school system in incredible numbers, I’ve been watching the change for a few years now and I love what’s happening. Join the exodus from school that Penelope Trunk talks about here.